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In a kind of "Odd Couple" pairing, well-known excommunicated Mormon John Dehlin has joined forces with nationally respected LDS scholar Patrick Mason on a joint blog titled "Mormonism Inside and Out."

The weekly exchange was the brainchild of Patheos, a nondenominational online media company, and lives on the interfaith site.

Dehlin, founder and host of the popular "Mormon Stories" podcast, was booted from the LDS Church in 2015 for "conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church," but the disciplinary letter from his lay leader in North Logan called it "apostasy."

Dehlin, who earned a doctorate in clinical and counseling psychology from Utah State University, continues to focus his attention on the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — now as a critic.

Mason, head of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University in Southern California, has written several books on LDS history and belief, including one on 19th-century anti-Mormon violence. He earned a master's in international peace studies and a doctorate in history, focusing on American religious history, from the University of Notre Dame.

"Given everything I was seeing in the church the past few years, in particular the pain of people leaving the church and those who were watching them leave, I decided to enter the fray," Mason writes in the introductory blog post. "Late last year, I published 'Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt,' which tries to address some of the major issues facing people, not so much with a detailed rehearsal of answers but rather providing a different paradigm to think about church history, prophets, and in general just ministering empathetically toward those who have questions or doubts."

So far the two have wrestled with ways of knowing and whether religious feelings are manufactured. But the blog promises to tackle, according to a news release, "countless facets of LDS life, including women's issues, LGBT issues, prophetic fallibility, racial inequalities past and present, tolerance for dissent, family shunning, the reliability of scripture, and whether secular Mormonism is possible."

The goal, Dehlin writes, is to "model ways to improve the discourse between believers and nonbelievers" and to dispel "false stereotypes ... surrounding both orthodox Mormons and liberal/post-Mormons."

Mason adds he would like to help build "bridges of understanding, compassion and empathy."

When presented "three-dimensionally," Mason says, humans "are always more interesting and surprising than the stock characters we make of them."

And so the dialogue begins.

Peggy Fletcher Stack

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