The final reason given for John Dehlin’s excommunication (see here) is the following:
“Your statements and teachings that reject The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as being the true Church with power and authority from God.”
This is the crux of Mormonism, the main issue. Mormonism is not just a faith tradition, it is an organization that claims to have divine power and authority. Greg Trimble rightly points out that this claim seems crazy to most people. If God’s one true church is the Mormon church, then God sure has a funny way of doing business.
But why do so many people believe that the Mormon church is the one true church? Why do so many young men and women leave their lives for 18-24 months to tell people that God asks us not to drink coffee or tea and that this same God also asked Joseph Smith to marry a bunch of women? Why do people believe that this organization, with all of its embarrassing blemishes is actually the work of God? That God really didn’t want black people to enter the church’s holy temples until 1978? How can they accept such absurdity? I think the answer lies within each one of us.
I cringe now when I read my patriarchal blessing. It talks about how special I am, how I was reserved to come forth in these latter days! I went on a mission believing that I had a true message to share with people. I was fortunate to have access to the Gift of the Holy Ghost and other sacred ordinances that other people needed. I was special.
Now that I have left the church, I have realized one thing: I am not special and I never was.
All of those moments that the Holy Ghost witnessed to me? People in other religions have exactly the same experiences. That close relationship that I had with God? Other people have that too. That strong sense of right and wrong that I got from the teachings of the Prophets and Apostles? Everyone else has equally strong convictions of right and wrong. I am finally realizing now, a year after leaving the church, that there is nothing special about the Mormon church. Mormons have no privileged access to God, or the atonement, or Jesus Christ. Mormons are not special, and there is nothing unique about the Mormon church that gives its members extra spirituality. To believe such is only to be ignorant of the many faiths and even non-faiths of the people around us and their own life experiences.
The problem with me as Mormon Missionary 10 years ago is not that I needed to speak more loudly, but rather that I needed to listen more carefully. Then I would have realized that in fact, we’re not all that different. We are all in the same situation, Mormons and non-Mormons, trying to do our best to make our way through this life.
Here is the simple truth: we are not special, and neither is our church. I agree with Dehlin that the church is not “the true Church with power and authority from God.” And just like Dehlin, I no longer belong.
- Episode 29: Christian vs. Mormon view of the Atonement
- Episode 30: What the church does well and how to find those things now