More evidence of John Dehlin’s economy with the truth

In my last post, I pointed out how John Dehlin neglected to release a document that disputes the narrative he wishes to spread regarding his pending Church discipline.

Specifically, he did not release an August 11 letter from his stake president until later.

Now, a perceptive observer has done a bit of forensic analysis on the documents.

This observer points out that the version 3 of the letters has the following file properties:

Version 3
Creation date: Wed 14 Jan 2015 07:55:23 PM EST
Last edit: Thu 15 Jan 2015 02:56:36 PM EST
Tool to create: Mac OS X 10.9.4 Quartz PDFContext

And, the hidden packet with the August 11 letter has these properties:

Dehlin-King correspondence
Creation date: Wed 14 Jan 2015 07:55:23 PM EST
Last edit: Wed 14 Jan 2015 09:23:30 PM EST
Tool to create: Mac OS X 10.9.4 Quartz PDFContext

I’ve bolded the key data.

It appears that the packet was originally created with the letter in it. But, it was edited to remove the inconvenient letter that might lead the press to tell the true story, instead of the story that Dehlin wanted told. But, that creation date still shows in the Dehlin-King correspondence file, which has the incriminating August 11 letter.

(And, the edit to “Version 3″ occurred before the release of Dehlin’s press release (which has a creation date of Thu 15 Jan 2015 07:00:50 PM EST).

Full details are here.

This is one more good example of what has gotten Dehlin in trouble–a lack of forthrightness, and a willingness to distort and spin information to make himself look good and the Church look bad.

Dehlin has yet to even acknowledge his deception regarding the August 11 letter, or the implications of its contents for his claims.

I wonder if the media is paying attention? Surely they can’t be OK with being used.

Files in question

Dehlin screenshot 11 Aug link

Summary

A non-tech savvy friend asked for the “neaderthal’s” version. Here was my attempt:

  1. Dehlin makes a packet containing all correspondence between him and stake president.
  2. Prior to releasing his press release, he then EXCISES the 11 August letter from that packet.
  3. However, he gives the game away because when he quietly releases the complete packet, we see that it has the precise creation date as the 1st (incomplete) packet. But, the 1st (“Version 3″) packet was edited at a later date than the complete packet–probably to REMOVE the offending letter.

So, he didn’t just MISS the letter. He had it, cut it out, and then snuck the original file packet back on the site after the initial round of media stories broke.

John Dehlin and media manipulation

Some readers will know that John Dehlin, an LDS member who has long argued against core LDS doctrines, has announced that he is on trial for his membership.

Dehlin has demonstrated his usual skill at manipulating the media, aided perhaps by reporters who are too sympathetic and not inquisitive enough. Recent events give us another glimpse into his tactics. Dehlin announced his council and provided a copy of the normally-confidential documents exchanged by him and his local leader, the stake president. These are linked to here, and are apparently up to version 4. (They were version 3 yesterday). [I link to them here on my site, in case later changes by Dehlin obscure this evidence.]

Ad hominem to start off

One reporter was savvy enough to get a quote from Steve Evans, who suggested that it was unlikely that Dehlin’s support for gay marriage and the Ordain Women movement were behind his discipline.

(It’s also funny to see him resort, as he always does, to using “Mormon apologist” as a smear. I know Evans and consider him a good friend, but I also know Mormon apologetics–and that just isn’t an area that Evans has been much involved in. But, for Dehlin, “apologist” is an all-purpose ad hominem smear–see here on pp. 8-11 for numerous examples. The “apologist” serves as Dehlin’s sociological folk devil. Ironically, he too is an apologist for his own views, and has followers that are apologists for him too. To reason is to apologize, in this sense.)

Trying to rebut Evans’ view

Since this is the narrative which Dehlin has been keen to play up, it is not surprising that he would wish to rebut Evans. Today, he wrote:

In the letter I received on August 7, 2014 from Dr. Bryan King, it lists as #3 on his list of conditions for continued membership:

“Stop promoting groups or organizations that espouse doctrines contrary to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

In my August meeting with Bryan King, I asked him to clarify specifically which groups or organizations were problematic. In that interview (with my wife, Margi, present), he explicitly mentioned both Ordain Women, and my public support of same-sex marriage as being problematic. When asked directly if my public support of same-sex marriage was a problem, he answered, “Yes.”

While it is impossible for anyone to accurately weigh the various factors that contributed to the decision to hold a disciplinary council, it is very accurate to say that my support for same-sex marriage and Ordain Women was a main factor (#3 of 4 specifically listed).[1]

Dehlin includes a hotlink on the text letter I received on August 7, 2014 from Dr. Bryan King. This link goes to a slightly different package of letters. It is available here.

A significant omission

The package appears the same, and it is—with one addition. In the package is an 11 August 2014 letter from Dr. King, Dehlin’s stake president. Dehlin nowhere draws attention to this sudden addition to his packet of materials. He does not even mention it in his rebuttal to Evans. This is unfortunate, because it speaks directly to the issue he wishes to rebut. President King’s August 11 was written in response to Dehlin’s 10 August letter. He writes:

Thank you for sending the [August 10] letter from you and Margi. I fear that in my willingness to engage in a discussion on all of the issues that you chose to address during our lengthy conversations, the direction of my true concerns may have not been clear.[2]

Thus, President King writes to correct what he sees as a misperception on Dehlin’s part. What is that misperception? Unsurprisingly, it is precisely the narrative that Dehlin is now trying to sell to the media. President King continued:

I am focused on five core doctrines of the Church: (1) The existence and nature of God; (2) Christ being the literal Savior of the World and his Atonement being absolutely necessary to our salvation; 3) the exclusive priesthood authority restored through the Church; (4) The Book of Mormon as scripture and the revealed word of God; and (5) the governance of the Church by doctrine and revelation through inspired leaders. As you know, and as my letter outlined, in the past you have written and spoken out against these core doctrines on numerous occasions and in numerous public contexts…. If you are prepared to renounce your previous statements we can move forward together.

Note that it is these statements which King believes Dehlin must renounce. He says nothing–in this clarifying letter–about the other matters that Dehlin wants to make the focus of his narrative. President King seems aware that Dehlin is preparing his letters with an eye to shaping the narrative that he will eventually wish to spread to his followers and the media:

…as I read your response, it reinforced my concern that your letter is an attempt to produce an official document of what occurred during our meetings. I feel that it is impossible to fully recount the spirit and context of our discussions in a written document.

Thus, President King has seen Dehlin’s document, and does not agree with Dehlin’s slant on things. President King has even written this letter to correct the written record. Yet, Dehlin tells the media none of this, does not include this letter in the packet he has released, and has quietly slipped it into this second collection of documents without noting his previous omission, and without citing it. President King concludes:

I hope that in the spirit of confidentiality, you will not be releasing it to the media and posting it on your web site. I hope that I am mistaken about this, because I believe it would undermine the trust we need to have in order to move forward. But if you nevertheless decide to post your letter, I hope that you will have the fairness to post mine along with it, making it clear that I presented my letter to you at the beginning of our meeting and that it contains the true focus of my concerns about your conduct.

Conclusion

President King is certainly not naïve—he predicted Dehlin’s course exactly. He is quite right that in the interest of fairness, Dehlin ought to provide all the data to allow easy comparison. I suppose that by putting the highly significant August 11 letter somewhere on his website, buried in a file that appears to be a duplicate of something he has already released, Dehlin has technically made the material available. (A search of “August 11,” however, turns up nothing. If you don’t know the letter is there, buried in what you have already seen, you will miss it.)

So, I don’t know if I’d really call his treatment of the matter open, honest, or fair. And, the initial rush of media stories has been written without access to this significant and telling piece of information.

Here’s hoping someone in the media is paying attention.

Dehlin has misrepresented matters to them using precisely the same tactics that he has used toward and about members and doctrines of the Church—spin, significant omission, and an avoidance of anything that challenges his narrative.

It seems, according to his stake president, that it is Dehlin’s repeated and open attacks on foundational LDS doctrines that is the key issue.

And, such tactics are not new for Dehlin–as I demonstrated at length years ago. Dehlin likewise tried to censor and hide my report–as I detailed here. Many others have had the same experience (this blog is collecting such examples, to which readers can add if they wish).

He certainly doesn’t want anyone to see data which challenges his version of matters.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.


 Endnotes

[1] John Dehlin, “Reasons for Disciplinary Council,” Mormon Stories (17 January 2015, as of 20h01 MST).

[2] Bryan King, letter to John Dehlin, 11 August 2014.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

“However” organizations versus “therefore” organizations

President Boyd K. Packer tells an interesting story:

Professors from Harvard University who were members of the Church [of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] invited me to lunch over at the Harvard Business School faculty dining room. They wanted to know if I would join them in participating in a new publication; they wanted me to contribute to it.

They were generous in their compliments, saying that because I had a doctorate a number of people in the Church would listen to me, and being a General Authority,…I could have some very useful influence.

I listened to them very attentively but indicated at the close of the conversation that I would not join them. I asked to be excused from responding to their request. When they asked why, I told them this: “When your associates announced the project, they described how useful it would be to the Church-a niche that needed to be filled. And then the spokesman said, ‘We are all active and faithful members of the Church; however,…’ ”

I told my two hosts that if the announcement had read, “We are all active and faithful members of the Church; therefore,…” I would have joined their organization. I had serious questions about a “however” organization. I have little worry over a “therefore” organization.[1]

The above story is about a specific religious denomination and a specific organization, but that really isn’t what I want to point out. For Pres. Packer, his faith was his item of ultimate allegiance.

We all have one—and it’s interesting to think about what it might be. It can be useful to fill in the blank:

“I am [blank], therefore….”

There are many options:

  • A believing Catholic
  • A skeptical humanist
  • A red-blooded American
  • A police officer
  • An intellectual
  • A parent to my children

What would you put in the blank, such that you cannot picture yourself ever saying,

“I am [blank], however….”?

Ultimately, we have only one thing that always yields a “therefore”—everything else will, when push comes to shove, be a “however” that bows to that “therefore.”


 

[1] Boyd K. Packer, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1991), 113.

On bracketing the truth

It is common, in some circles, to hear people talking about “bracketing” truth claims—to lay aside any consideration of whether certain ideas (often with religious implication) are true, and simply talk about the ideas in an entirely secular context. For example, one might discuss the resurrection of Jesus without trying to address the idea of whether Jesus actually rose from the dead. Instead, one might focus on what early Christians understood by the claim “Jesus is risen.”

Such an approach can be appropriate, at times.

Unfortunately, those who adopt it have a depressing tendency to declare that their approach is the only legitimate way to do valid scholarship on the topic. Thus, anyone who does not bracket the truth claims or implications of the resurrection is said to obviously be engaged only in polemics, or apologetics, or narrow sectarian discourse unworthy of attention or respect. To challenge such notions in print is seen as boorish and unbecoming. Curiously, this perspective is generally just asserted—not argued with evidence and logic—and generally comes heavily larded with a large dollop of disdain. (I speak, on that front, from some personal experience.)

But, leaving aside the obvious intellectual problems which such a stance raises, there are substantial risks for the Christian disciple, for the covenant Latter-day Saint.

Check your religion at the academy door?

All too often, this type of approach is essentially “checking your religion at the door.” But, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was pretty scathing toward anyone who’d consider that, in any context:

We check our religion at the door”? Lesson number one for the establishment of Zion in the 21st century: You never “check your religion at the door.” Not ever.

My young friends, that kind of discipleship cannot be—it is not discipleship at all. As the prophet Alma has taught the young women of the Church to declare every week in their Young Women theme, we are “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in,” not just some of the time, in a few places, or when our team has a big lead.

“Check your religion at the door”! I was furious (emphasis in original).[1]

It is true that the “at all times” and “in all places” and “in all things” would seem to leave relatively little wiggle room—especially when the subject of one’s work bears directly on that witness of God. I don’t see how a Christian could approach the resurrection neutrally, and I think it would be spiritually dangerous to try, and intellectually self-deceptive to believe one could.

Let Your Faith Show

Elder Russell M. Nelson seems to be of the same mind as Elder Holland, and applied the ideas specifically to political, academic, and intellectual work:

Clinicians, academicians, and politicians are often put to a test of faith. In pursuit of their goals, will their religion show or will it be hidden? Are they tied back to God or to man?

I had such a test decades ago when one of my medical faculty colleagues chastised me for failing to separate my professional knowledge from my religious convictions. He demanded that I not combine the two. How could I do that? Truth is truth! It is not divisible, and any part of it cannot be set aside.

Whether truth emerges from a scientific laboratory or through revelation, all truth emanates from God. All truth is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet I was being asked to hide my faith. I did not comply with my colleague’s request. I let my faith show!

In all professional endeavors, rigorous standards of accuracy are required. Scholars cherish their freedom of expression. But full freedom cannot be experienced if part of one’s knowledge is ruled “out-of-bounds” by edicts of men.[2]

If that’s what he thinks about medicine—a subject relatively untouched by most LDS doctrines—what of fields that touch LDS truth claims more intimately?

Every essay a testimony?

Does this mean, then, that every written work need include a bearing of testimony? Hardly—the audience and venue may or may not make that appropriate. But, C.S. Lewis’ intellectual mentor, George MacDonald, gave a wise caution:

Is every Christian expected to bear witness? One who believes must bear witness. One who sees the truth must live witnessing to it. Is our life then a witnessing to the truth? When contempt is cast on the truth, do we smile? [When the truth is] wronged in our presence do we make no sign that we hold by it?… I do not say we are called upon to dispute and defend [against falsehood] with logic and argument, but we are called upon to show that we are on the other side… The soul that loves the truth and tries to be true will know when to speak and when to be silent. But the true man will never look as if he did not care. We are not bound to say all that we think, but we are bound not even to look [like] what we do not think.[3]

Sadly, too many are so worried that their faith might show, that they end up looking like that which they do not really believe, and do not really think.

This impression is only strengthened when they attack, ridicule, or with a sneer dismiss others who do let their faith show more overtly in their academic work. One wonders if this is to avoid feeling guilty for their own lapses, or if it is part and parcel of assuring others that they really are on the academic, secularized “team.”

“Satan need not get everyone to be like Cain or Judas….He needs only to get able men … to see themselves as sophisticated neutrals.”[4]

Such decisions cannot but have spiritual consequences—what one starts doing merely to avoid making academic waves soon shapes one’s views. That which we defend and advocate—or which we refuse to defend or advocate—affects what we end up believing. This should not surprise us, if we consistently exclude (or actively avoid) spiritual evidence, since such evidence cannot but bear on many questions of ultimate importance:

In our own time, Joseph Smith, the First Vision, and the Book of Mormon constitute stumbling blocks for many—around or over which they cannot get—unless they are meek enough to examine all the evidence at hand, not being exclusionary as a result of accumulated attitudes in a secular society. Humbleness of mind is the initiator of expansiveness of mind (emphasis added).[5]

Compartmentalization and citizenship

Thus, compartmentalization or bracketing has real risks:

The mind can become “hardened in pride” (Daniel 5:20; Habakkuk 1:11). And it can also engage in self-deception, as Korihor finally acknowledged (Alma 30:48–50). The mind can let itself become defensively compartmentalized, a fortress astride the path to faith (emphasis added).[6]

And, some of that risk derives from the “incessant requirements” of an academy jealous of our mental and procedural allegiance:

For the academician in his search for truth and in his efforts for its preservation or dissemination, the admiration and esteem of his peers is both useful and desirable. But these too can be easily corrupted into an inordinate desire for “the praise of men.” Sophistry can come to be preferred to simplicity. The language of scholarship, necessary in its realm, can come to be preferred to the language of faith. Once again, even for the person of faith, the incessant requirements of such associations can come to cloud one’s perspective.[7]

But, if we were to follow the apostles on this point, doesn’t that risk putting one’s academic career or reputation in potential jeopardy? Yes, indeed it may. But, we were warned about such risks:

For one reason, it is unfashionable to be spiritual. A genius possessed of religious faith is sometimes tolerated among colleagues in the business, academic, or political world. His bilingual ability to converse in the language of his professional realm and in the realm of faith is noted but not often applauded.[8]

Still, as Elder Maxwell cautioned years ago:

The orthodox Latter-day Saint scholar should remember that his citizenship is in the Kingdom and that his professional passport takes him abroad into his specialty. It is not the other way around.[9]

Ultimately, if my citizenship is not obvious, do I perhaps have a problem?


 

[1] Jeffrey R. Holland, “Israel, Israel, God Is Calling,” devotional address, January 2012.

[2] Russell M. Nelson, “Let Your Faith Show,” general conference, April 2014.

[3] George MacDonald, Creation in Christ (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw, 1976), 142. Elder Holland quoted a portion of this, and replaced “think” with “believe”—I think either or both apply.

[4] Neal A. Maxwell, Deposition of a Disciple (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 88.

[5] Neal A. Maxwell, Meek and Lowly (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1987), 76.

[6] Neal A. Maxwell, Whom the Lord Loveth: The Journey of Discipleship (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2012), kindle location 813.

[7] Neal A. Maxwell, Sermons Not Spoken (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1985), 10–11.

[8] Sermons Not Spoken, 12.

[9] Deposition of a Disciple, 18.

The ninth commandment is neglected, being seldom discussed at any length. There are so many different ways to breach “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). We can spread falsehood knowingly and maliciously rather than inadvertently. Perhaps that is the worst form of breaking this commandment. We can also spread falsehood by simply passing it along in the form of idle gossip without malicious intent, which is somewhat mitigating. Either way, the innocent victim usually experiences a double blow: first, damage to his self-image/self-confidence; second, the diminished regard of others. Additionally, the victim probably comes to have diminished regard, even anger, toward those who so traffic in untruth.

– Neal A. Maxwell, That Ye May Believe (Bookcraft, 1992).

It is interesting, and telling, that the victim in this case also has the added burden of struggling against a sin that he or she would not have been liable to: harsh feelings toward the gossip. The victim of gossip must overcome these feelings, but that doesn’t mean the gossip is guiltless of inducing the sin either.

I always sobered by how evil–or even careless–acts tend to ramify and spread. One hopes good acts are as hardy.

Neal A. Maxwell on bearing false witness

Is delusional too strong a word?–Part III

Part III: A serious conclusion: What if I have questions?

 

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve’s statement read, in part:

We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding. We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from Church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them.

Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.[1]

Kelly, certain that this cannot possibly apply to her and her group, has now declared that this means that:

“Now questions [about women’s ordination] can be asked in every ward and every branch in every place in the world…. The prophet of the church said it’s OK.”[2]

In one of the drier moments of understatement you are likely to see this year, the Tribune then noted, “Few other Mormons read the statement in the same way.”

(Doubtless accurate, except Kelly is not a Mormon anymore, having been excommunicated. More properly, then “Few Mormons read the statement” as she does.)

But, seriously folks….

However, in an effort to help Kelly’s apparent difficulties with either honesty or reading comprehension, I close with the advice which Brother Otterson of Church Public Affairs offered to those who do have genuine questions or concerns about this issue.

Otterson responded directly to the concern that, “There is nowhere for women who don’t feel safe in their wards to have a conversation about some of their negative experiences that isn’t seen as subversive.”

This is a fair and legitimate concern, and I think much of the rather limited success that OW and Kelly have had is due to this type of issue—I think the vast majority of LDS women are not really comfortable with their goals, tone, or approach. But, they are at least saying something, and that can be refreshing to those who genuinely have concerns in this area—often with considerable justification, as Elder Ballard has been telling us for at least two decades.

So, what does Church Public Affairs (and, thus, those to whom it answers) recommend in such cases?

This is a serious question and I think is the kind of discussion that the Brethren welcome as they seek to understand the concerns of the members. My advice is to be patient, and trust in those whom we sustain as apostles and prophets and the revelatory process.

As we have said, most bishops, stake presidents and local leaders do a remarkable job. Sometimes, men and women in wards take offense when counsel is given. And, yes, sometimes we don’t handle things well.

First, local leaders should always be given a chance to listen. If approached prayerfully and sincerely, most will.

Second, every member, whether man or woman, should initiate such an interview with a willingness to take counsel as well as deliver a message.

Third, every ward also has a Relief Society presidency. While matters of personal worthiness must remain a matter between the member and the bishop who is a “common judge,” other matters of personal concern to a woman can be voiced privately to faithful Relief Society Presidency members and other local leaders. Without becoming an advocate, such a confidante could not only offer counsel but could be invited to accompany a sister to see a bishop or a stake president in some circumstances.[3]

Note the recommendations: these are private conversations (not held in media circuses), conducted locally (instead of trying to force events at the general Church level), and they are conducted in a spirit of meekness. We do these things individual to individual, and there is nothing about trying to drum up support or stir resentment or pool our grievances with others, in person or on-line. And so, unsurprisingly, this has not been welcome advice in some quarters.

None of that advice has been taken by OW and Kelly, which sadly—but unsurprisingly—has led to her excommunication.

(Indeed, the only ones who seem surprised at her excommunication seem to be Kelly and her supporters—which again makes me wonder about either delusion or dishonesty.)

The Lord’s way has never been about public spectacle, confrontation, unilateral demands, or posturing.

Instead, sincere members who love each other and the Lord seek only to do his will, and to help each other bear the separate burdens that come to all in different forms.

I trust my readers will be more perceptive and more teachable than Kelly has been. She has had ample opportunity, but seems unreachable.

It almost makes you think she wasn’t actually asking a question at all.


Endnotes

[1] The Council of The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, letter (28 June 2014).

[2]Top Mormon leaders repeat ‘only men’ qualify for priesthood,” Salt Lake Tribune (28 June 2014).

[3] Michael Otterson (Managing Director, Church Public Affairs), “Context missing from discussion about women,” letter (29 May 2014), 3, emphasis and bold added.