Disciplinary hearing for Mormon man facing excommunication

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Mormon man well-known for running a website for church members questioning their faith will have a disciplinary hearing Sunday night to determine if he'll be kicked out of the religion.

John Dehlin's meeting with regional church leaders is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday in North Logan. It's unknown if leaders with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will inform Dehlin of their decision Sunday night, he said.

Dehlin said several of his family members, including his father and brother, plan to speak during the hearing to make a case for him to be allowed to stay in the faith. Dehlin's supporters plan to hold a vigil for him outside the hearing.

Dehlin is accused of apostasy, defined by the church as "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."

He could be censured or excommunicated, a rare move that amounts to the harshest punishment available for a church member.

Dehlin said this week he expects to be excommunicated, and has mixed feelings about the upcoming meeting Sunday night.

"I'm eager for this to come to a close, but excommunication is a process I wouldn't wish on my enemy," Dehlin said. "It feels like a comprehensively unfair and unjust process."

Mormon church leaders have said they won't discuss Dehlin's case out of privacy concerns.

Dehlin said he was told last year that his website Mormonstories.org and his public support of same-sex marriage were reasons he is being accused of apostasy. However, letters from church leaders that Dehlin has released focus on Dehlin's questioning of key church doctrine, the forum he provides via the website for doubters, and him becoming an ordained minister in another faith.

The documents do not mention his support for gay marriage. Dehlin said church leaders have verbally mentioned his support of gay rights even though they are not in the letters.

Dehlin, 45, is a married father of four who has been a Latter-day Saint his entire life. He is a doctoral candidate in psychology who previously worked in the high-tech industry.

Dehlin says he would like to remain a member of the faith, but won't give up the website or pull back his support for gays and lesbians. He has faced church discipline multiple times over the past decade.

Dehlin's hearing comes eight months after the church excommunicated Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, a prominent Mormon women's group that staged demonstrations in a push for women to be allowed to join the faith's lay clergy.

That move sent ripples throughout Mormon communities around the country and was described by scholars as boundary maintenance and a warning to others.

Scholars say Kelly and Dehlin are the most high-profile examples of excommunication proceedings since 1993, when the church disciplined Mormon writers who questioned church doctrine, ousting five and temporarily kicking out a sixth person.

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