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If Mormon critic John Dehlin is excommunicated from the LDS Church, it could cost him more than his membership.
It could affect his livelihood as well for good or ill.
After all, Dehlin, who is scheduled to go before an LDS disciplinary council Sunday, earns his living by exploring controversial issues in Mormonism through podcasts that trouble his ecclesiastical leaders.
Dehlin is one of the directors of Open Stories Foundation, a nonprofit organization he founded in 2010 to create "online and in-person environments that allow for authentic self-expression and the open discussion of Mormonism."
Under that umbrella, Dehlin has conducted interviews with well-known Mormon thinkers from all sides of the belief spectrum including devout historian Richard Bushman and outspoken dissident Grant Palmer, as well as apologist Daniel Peterson and excommunicated writer D. Michael Quinn.
The foundation's purpose, its website says, is to "1) support individuals in Mormon-related faith crises; 2) save marriages; 3) heal families; and 4) celebrate, challenge and advance Mormon culture in healthy ways."
Donations support its various programs, the bulk of them going to pay Dehlin.
For his work, Dehlin received nearly $90,000 in 2013, according to the foundation's public financial records.
Out of that, Dehlin said Thursday, he had to pay taxes and insurance, ultimately netting between $60,000 and $70,000.
The Logan researcher formed the foundation just as he was starting work on a doctorate in psychology at Utah State University.
Some years earlier, Dehlin had conducted podcasts under the name, "Mormon Stories," but discontinued that effort in 2008 to focus on applying for graduate school and to sort out his own feelings about the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The podcasts had become popular, so Dehlin approached his former listeners about launching a foundation to produce more interviews if they would financially support him as he pursued his graduate degree.
"Your donations will go toward tuition, groceries, insurance and any other expenses I incur," the podcaster told them. "What I'll give back is building resources to meet your needs."
The positive response to a revived "Mormon Stories," Dehlin said, was immediate and has remained steady.
Until recently when contributions soared.
"For every donor that withdrew, four or five more have been added," Dehlin said. The excommunication threat "has really motivated a lot of people to increase their support."
Other Open Stories podcasts have a different emphasis but share common goals:
"Mormon Matters" • Moderator Dan Wotherspoon, former editor of Sunstone magazine, poses questions about news, issues and beliefs to a panel of commentators.
"A Thoughtful Faith" • Gina Colvin conducts interviews with Latter-day Saints working to maintain some attachment to the faith.
"Mormon Mental Health" • Natasha Helfer Parker focuses on emotional, sexual and relationship issues.
"Gay Mormon Stories" • Daniel Parkinson explores lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
Together, Dehlin said, the various sites have produced more than 1,000 podcasts in the past five years,
"John doesn't micromanage us," Wotherspoon said. "He empowers people and is completely generous. I love that about John."
In May, when Dehlin received his first threat of church discipline, he and his wife, Margi, told his lay leader, Logan North LDS Stake President Bryan King, that they would quietly resign their membership.
But King said he would have to make Dehlin's church status public to his LDS stake (which includes thousands of Mormons in the Cache Valley), and so the couple believed they had no option but to share the news of the action against him with the media.
After six months of back-and-forth with King, the disciplinary hearing is set for Sunday.
For his part, Dehlin expects to be booted from the faith.
"I don't think I am being excommunicated for doubts about Mormon truth claims," the podcaster said. "I think it's because Open Stories Foundation has been too influential."
The irony, he said, is that this action is likely to make it "more influential."
Whatever the outcome, Dehlin plans to capitalize on the momentum.
In a year-end podcast, the charismatic host promised even more support for those "transitioning away from Mormonism," including interviews, podcasts, websites, workshops, radio/TV programs, books and more academic research. He offered to help listeners create "Cyber Wards" of like-minded friends and is opening his private counseling practice to help "progressive and post-Mormons."
Whatever happens, he said, this is his life's work and it will continue.
Pro-Dehlin vigil set
An LDS disciplinary council to decide if "Mormon Stories" podcaster John Dehlin is guilty of apostasy is scheduled for Sunday in North Logan at 6 p.m.
That night, some of Dehlin's friends and supporters will gather for a candlelight vigil at 5:30 on the grounds of the LDS North Logan Stake Center, where the hearing will take place.
Dehlin's ecclesiastical leader, Stake President Bryan King, told the Mormon critic in a letter that neither the podcaster nor his wife, Margi, could record the proceedings nor bring in anyone else to take notes.
In the letter, King also declined to say whether the council will inform Dehlin of its decision Sunday night.