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This past Sunday, September 14, 2014, there was a large multi-stake conference broadcast made available to those in Utah and Wasatch counties. This broadcast included addresses from Elder C. Whitney Clayton of the Seventy, as well as Elder Richard G. Scott and Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Twelve, and Sister Carole M. Stevens of the General Relief Society, which many found to be uplifting. In response to what one of his followers wrote to him about the conference, John Dehlin recently posted on his Facebook account:

From a listener: “Just wondering if you heard of the talk Elder Clayton gave at the Utah South regional conference. He made direct reference to bloggers and those on the internet with weak and dwindling faith and said they are like the inhabitants of the great and spacious building mocking those who partake of the fruit. He warned that those who listen to these voices may lose their family, friends and good names. It was very strongly worded. I’m trying to find a transcript of the talk but have been unable to do so. ”

If anybody happened to record this talk, please message me. If anybody ever attends another L. Whitney Clayton stake conference talk (or any GA talk for that matter), I hope you will consider recording.

These talks should be recorded for history’s sake. They’re important.

This is an interesting request for several reasons. One reason is because Dehlin is here advocating for people to record someone without their permission in an environment where they in fact specifically request not to be recorded, which seems concerning. The official statement from the church on these situations is this:

From time to time, statements are circulated that are inaccurately attributed to leaders of the Church. Many such statements distort current Church teachings and are based on rumors and innuendos. They are never transmitted officially, but by word of mouth, e-mail, or other informal means. Church members should not teach or pass on such statements without verifying that they are from approved Church sources, such as official statements, communications, and publications.

Any notes made when General Authorities, Area Seventies, or other general Church officers speak at stake conferences or other meetings should not be distributed without the consent of the speaker. Personal notes are for individual use only.

Dehlin’s post is interesting because it is a classical example of exactly what the church is talking about. He has published a partial and fairly distorted hearsay version of Elder Clayton’s remarks, that indicates a church disapproval of those who are struggling, when it seems fairly clear what is being addressed (after a bit of untangling of things the author conflated) is not those who struggle, but instead those individuals (including some bloggers) who, considering the imagery in the vision of the tree of life, have dissented from the faith, and proceed to criticize [1], mock [2], and otherwise seek to turn others away from participation in the gospel [3]. Unsurprisingly, other listeners came away with a very different experience from Dehlin’s supporter. See, for example, this lovely post or this one.
This illustrates the danger of spreading gossip. What is, in fact, a lovely and well-considered talk which apparently at least one person saw as being encouraging of deepening discipleship becomes misconstrued through a process of distortion and insinuation as persecuting and threatening the weak. This should be remembered, and used as a cautionary tale for those who spread gossip. I would therefore caution John to be extra careful about this, because as a public figure it is irresponsible to spread gossip; especially gossip that might make others—including particularly those in a vulnerable condition—feel like they are being persecuted when in fact nothing of the sort is happening in reality.

[1] One example of some of his criticisms of the church and its history and their shortcomings
[2] (an example would be when John Dehlin (10/6/2013) posted “Oaks Fail” on Facebook after a particular conference talk)
[3] On page 57 of a review of Dehlin’s writings he is quoted as saying, “I would guess that many more people have left the church than have stayed because of my Internet work—and I’m perfectly happy if they’re happy.”

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