UPDATE: A couple years later, my perspective on both the LDS Church and John Dehlin are very different. I like one a lot less and the other a lot more. This post came from a place of deep insecurity. When I wrote it, I was overeager to deflect from the LDS Church's own racism problem, which simply has no adequate defense, and to exploit the perceived vulnerability of one of its most formidable opponents, whom I knew couldn't be defeated by facts and logic. I see now that I was cowardly and childish, and if I'd actually had enough influence to do the damage to his reputation that I wanted to do, I would feel really bad about it. With this disclaimer, I'm leaving the post up as a reminder of my folly and an example of how apologists should not behave. My assessment of Madeline Liebreich's remarks hasn't changed. [END OF UPDATE]
John Dehlin, host of the Mormon Stories podcast, is a career apostate - that is to say, one who makes his living trying to deconvert people from his former religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His views and goals have been all over the place. In 2010, when I had my own faith crisis, one of the first resources I found was "Stay LDS/Mormon", a website he founded. But by 2015 he was excommunicated for publicly arguing against the Church's core truth claims - or as he and his followers called it, "asking questions".
Of course, he fought tooth and nail against being excommunicated because it would reduce his credibility with believing Latter-day Saints, and it has. So now he doesn't even bother trying to obfuscate his true agenda. From observations and one brief personal interaction where he actually blocked me on Facebook for asking a question (He posted something that purported to be from an anonymous source working at church headquarters, I asked why we should trust this source, and he blocked me), I believe him to be a liar, a coward, and a hypocrite. Recent events have somewhat bolstered this impression. On April 18, the StoneXVI podcast released a video called "The End of John Dehlin." Whether that is the case remains to be seen, but it's certainly gotten his attention.
The video was originally made by Kwaku El back in December. As you may recall, Kwaku is not my favorite person either because I don't appreciate the huge dance parties he hosted at the height of the pandemic or the tasteless videos he made for FairMormon, but I support him in this particular endeavor. The video claims that when some Deznat cultist made a meme about John and Jeremy Runnells getting murdered by a baseball bat that represented Kwaku's show, John lied about being afraid for his life and he lied about calling the police. The video also highlights his hypocrisy in not batting an eyelash when one of his podcast interviewees, a very unhinged apostate named Mike Norton who films temple ceremonies and posts them on YouTube, threatened violence if he ever sees Apostle Dallin H. Oaks in public. The video also documents allegations of financial mismanagement and discrimination against women in his "non-profit" organization, and sexual assault against one former employee.
John Dehlin responded by addressing none of the allegations, but instead republishing a laughably vague and evasive statement from December that basically says "I'm not going to explain anything, but trust me, I'm right and they're wrong." He explained, "I used to feel the urgency to respond publicly to the smears, but such responses are usually unwise, since my public responses then help to advertise the smears, which literally never stop. If I were to respond to every smear it would become a full time job, it would drain me of all my emotional energy, and I would never create anything meaningful. Responses also reward those who lie/smear with the attention they crave." I mean, if someone accused me of sexual assault I would definitely not just sit there and take it, but you do you, man.
My favorite part of the video, though, is a clip from a Zoom conversation he had last year with Los Angeles attorney Madeline B. Liebreich, Esq. They were talking about Kwaku and how stupid he must be to convert to a church with so much racism in its history, and as liberals with a superiority complex sometimes do, they thoughtlessly put their own racism on display.
John Dehlin: "Super weird, and I don't mean to attack anyone, but like, that an educated person of color who's a teen or in their early twenties, in 2018 or 2017 or whenever Kwaku converted, with the internet, can you imagine an intelligent person of color ever deciding to join Mormonism? Like isn't that, like I don't wanna be mean or insulting, but isn't that story in and of itself kind of... mind-blowing? That's like some serious internalized hatred, self-hatred, because like, how in the world can Mormonism not be racist, like - I'm racist!"
Madeline B. Liebreich, Esq.: "He doesn't speak like many black people do. He has like a very English venacular, he doesn't have like a black dialect. So he speaks like a proper white person raised in Utah. So he's the perfect figure for Mormonism, because he basically seems like a white person with dark skin; the way he talks, the things he likes, the way he dresses, so... yeah."
Because the full video is half an hour long, and because I wanted some of the attention for myself, I isolated this clip and reuploaded it. The first comment was "When is Kwaku going to come out of the closet?" I deleted it for being spam, but I wish I had held onto it as a demonstration that liberals with a superiority complex have no problem doubling down on racism with a bit of casual homophobia. In fairness, Madeline's remarks here are ten times worse than John's, and very disturbing to hear from someone in the legal profession. There are many racist idiots in the Church - I see them in Deseret News comment sections every week - but what she did here was project her own racial biases and stereotypes onto countless people she's never met to make herself feel superior to those dumb Mormons. I shared this quote from her on an Instagram photo where she was pretending to respect Kwaku. She blocked me within an hour.
By the way, if you're saying "But I'm sure this clip was taken out of context" - you're probably right. Let's see what context could possibly make these words less racist. Oh, that's odd. John Dehlin seems to have quietly deleted the original video as soon as StoneXVI shared this clip. So much for that hypothesis.
On April 27, Donald Trump's three black supporters discussed the clip on their podcast "You Ain't Black" (obviously named for Biden's infamous quote asserting that black people need to vote a certain way because of their skin color). They laughed in disbelief at how racist it is. While I don't share their politics, I fully support their mission of calling out the hypocrisy of liberals with a superiority complex.
John Dehlin's first response was to block the producers of "You Ain't Black" on social media, but it didn't take him long to realize how screwed he was. The next day, looking a bit haggard, he stopped ignoring/covering up this scandal and posted an apology for setting himself up as an authority on what beliefs intelligent people of color should or shouldn't find credible.
"I shouldn't have said it, and it was wrong. The truth is I don't even believe that..." Then why did you say it, John?
UPDATE: One member of the "You Ain't Black" podcast crew was so pissed off that he made his own solo video, almost as long as the first, to explain just how wrong John's and Madeline's (or as he called her, racist Karen's) comments were.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.