John Dehlin goes in waves. This is relatively well documented, with the waves sometimes being astonishingly close together, and showing a certain amount of audience dependency. Depending on the particular part of his meander he happens to be in he may be encouraging people to stay or posting overtly apostate material. Though it could be merely a string of coincidences (best not to discount the null hypothesis prematurely), lately, he seems to be fishing for more negative attention.
He recently posted an article commenting on what he thought were the reasons that he had not yet been excommunicated in contrast with several others. This was, to give proper context, in response to an article by Kristine Haglund who had also commented on the topic. While all of the comments leading up to John’s post are interesting in their own right, and in Haglund’s case fairly good reading, the focus of this will be John’s comments.
First of all, what motivated the post? Joseph Smith gave an interpretative key for studying texts, which can be reasonably applied here: “I have a key by which I understand the scriptures. I inquire, what was the question which drew out the answer, or caused Jesus to utter the parable?” So making it quite clear that Jesus and John aren’t being equated except in applying a method of reading to both, why did he write the post? He tells us
I did feel the need to correct Kristine’s misstatement….since in reality, I explicitly declined my stake president’s request to be silent, and have written publicly about my interactions with him (Kristine has since corrected the statement, which I super-appreciate — Thanks, Kristine!!!!).
The fundamental problem he wished to solve by writing the post was that some might not understand his actions as defying his stake president, but instead see him capitulating. Now it is perfectly understandable why someone might be confused on this point. John goes in cycles, and it isn’t exactly an accident. In the comments section of the same blog post he explains,
December 3, 2014 at 7:55 am
Kristine’s article made it sound like I broadly agreed to be silent…which wasn’t true even a tiny bit. I overtly declined to be silent, but strategically chose to operate in good faith between July and mid-August — until I received a verdict. Then I disclosed all that was relevant. To me there’s a huge difference….because Kristine gives the impression that I capitulated and silenced myself based on a request, which was not true at all. And then Kristine tried to tie this non-capitulation into a theory as to why I wasn’t excommunicated….which I believe she has zero basis for (unless she knows something I don’t).
Still…I was super grateful for Kristine’s piece, and have respect for her in many ways.
Mainly, I just didn’t like that she gave the impression that I capitulated (which I did not), and that she tied it to my non-excommunication (which I don’t see as being a significant factor).
To him there is a huge difference between capitulating to, and defying his stake president, which fundamentally is about convincing his audience that he didn’t capitulate by not discussing matters publicly for an extended period of time until he concluded that the imminent threat was past. One wonders how his stake president saw it, or how John represented it to his stake president: as compliance or strategically timed defiance? And by the way: What exactly does it mean to “strategically” operate in good faith? This seems to be the real source of a lot of his problems. When one acts in good faith they do things like fulfill bargains and commitments (maybe even covenants?) they have made, and engage from a position of mutual trust. It seems like instead of acting in genuine good faith, he acts strategically to position himself advantageously. One can see, though, how an observer might be confused into thinking he was complying with his stake president’s request since he seems to have been strategically doing exactly that and now he is making sure it’s clear to everyone that he was in no sense being silent as an act of capitulation.
The first real take away from this, then, is that you don’t have to write as many blog posts clarifying what you were doing if you act in a self-consistent way, and act in genuine good faith.
Next, on to the post proper. In it, he highlights 8 reasons which he presumes explain why he has not yet been disciplined while others (particularly K. Kelly) have. First, let’s give credit where it is due: several of them are probably correct. He correctly observes that he hasn’t organized a protest at Temple Square during conference. Touche. He also makes some interesting comments about whether the organization (his or Kelly’s) were directing their messaging externally or internally, how much notoriety they attracted and so forth, which could be relevant factors.
Then in something of a nod to Kelly he turns heavily, even comically to gender issues:
6) I think that my male-ness/privilege/power certainly has/d something to do with it. Perhaps President King feels more respectful towards, or more threatened by, or more fearful of me than Kate Kelly‘s bishop did of her — at least in part because of my gender. Or maybe Kate’s leaders felt more fearful/scared/disrespectful of her because she is a woman. I don’t know…I’d only be guessing here. But I’d be a fool/blind to think that gender doesn’t matter int his regard.
This is comical because the way he has stated it he is certain their is a relationship between his “male power” and his not being disciplined as if he has been saved by the old MoJo. But he’s not sure exactly sure how this alleged gender-originated salvation works because it can apparently have completely opposite effects—was Kelly excommunicated because church leaders fear women or was he saved because they fear men or Dehlin’s intense male-ness? He is the one working on a psychology PhD so I shall defer to his analysis in which he asserts the possibility that his stake president feels “more threatened by, or more fearful of me… …at least in part because of my gender.” since as he puts it “I’d be a fool/blind to think that gender doesn’t matter int his [sic] regard.”
One wonders when one sees this if he is fishing for a disciplinary hearing. It could be that he has determined that that would work well in his narrative (one might say his Mormon Story, as that has a nice ring to it). But in order for that to really work well he has to catch a fish while convincing people that he wasn’t particularly trying, similar to his approach to placating his stake president through acts of “strategic good faith” highlighted above. No one cares (beyond sorrow for having lost his soul) if he simply resigns, and I think he understands that. If he can get himself cut off without too many graphic stunts he can still gather some martyr points from some corners of the internets.
So what sort of bait will he fish with?
5) My situation was also different from Kate in that (as I understand it) her leaders worked with her over a period of months in some capacity. In my case, I received my letter threatening a disciplinary council HAVING NEVER MET MY STAKE PRESIDENT. I think that once I brought this fact to light (thank you New York Times!!!), it was super embarrassing to President King, and I believe that this (in effect) shamed him into making it appear as though he was giving me due process (i.e., showing charity or a good faith effort at rehabilitating me). I believe that his is what the last few months have been for him. I also believe that he sincerely wants me to “repent.”
This is interesting because he isn’t exactly presenting events with an even hand. The letter from his stake president was in response to him giving do not contact instructions to his bishop, a fact which he declined to mention until shamed into it by various parties on the internet. He then leaked this private letter to the New York Times (“thank you New York Times!!!”) indicating it was part of a purge without giving any particular reference to anything he may have done to elicit the letter until much much later. He thus allowed himself to more or less use Kelly’s trial for his own benefit. Again, it isn’t hard to see why people would be confused when you indicate you are part of a persecuted group and leave out a key piece of contrary evidence. In any case, he seems to presume that others approach him with the same less than good faith with which he approaches them. He indicates his view that his stake president was forced by his NY Times play to “[make] it appear as though he was giving me due process (i.e., showing charity or a good faith effort at rehabilitating me).” So he thinks others are making a show of rehabilitating him just as he is making a show of being strategically compliant.
This is probably the second major take away from this: if you presume good faith in others it tends to lead to more positive interactions with them. If you approach others with the same suspicion and distrust that your own actions warrant, you tend to see others in a really negative light, which is ultimately kind of draining.
He finishes that section with “I also believe that he sincerely wants me to “repent.”” Repent is of course in quotes, perhaps indicating some uncertainty about its real or presumed meaning from the perspective of the blog’s author.
His last paragraph is kind of telling as to what stage the game is in for him,
If you forced me to speculate….my guess is that a disciplinary court will be held for me within the next 1-12 months…and that they have only been delaying because of some of the reasons mentioned above. In other words…the delay is due to their desire to protect themselves and their power, and to minimize the possible collateral damage to the church…and not for any other reasons….and certainly not because they are operating in accordance with God’s will.
I could be wrong…but that’s my impression.
This constitutes one of the sadder misuses of the set-a-date program I’ve seen. He clearly expects and I would speculate is planning for an exit in that time frame. He is clearly positioning himself to be excommunicated somewhere in that range. This explains the significant uptick in remarks directly impeaching the authority of church leaders saying explicitly that they don’t speak for God [link], and in this case stating that “they are not operating in accordance with God’s will.” This is again presuming extremely bad faith, and suggests an approaching point of bifurcation for him.
The final comment that will be discussed in this post is his comment on the Book of Mormon on his Facebook properties of 12 December, 2014. On that occasion he states:
Calling the Book of Mormon “Bible Fan Fiction” makes perfect sense to me. It’s possibly the best 3 words I can muster to describe exactly what the Book of Mormon is.
I think his self-imposed (albeit speculative) excommunication timeline seems to be unfolding according to schedule.
“… I do believe that a disciplinary council for me is inevitable,…” -John Dehlin