LDS church excommunicates podcaster for ‘public opposition to the Church and its leaders’

Composite image. Inset: Bill Reel, host of the "Mormon Discussions" podcast, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of Bill Reel. Background silhouette of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Salt Lake City Temple by Fintastique/Can Stock Photo Inc., St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A Washington City man has been excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for what his local congregation’s leader calls apostate behavior and deliberate public opposition to the church and its leaders.

Bill Reel was hand-delivered a letter from church personnel informing him of his dismissal from the church Sunday afternoon.

Reel, who once served as a bishop for the church, hosts the “Mormon Discussions” podcast, a series of regularly released audio programs examining often controversial subjects concerning the church, such as policy on LGBT issues and the involvement of the church in Utah politics.

In one of his recent podcasts, provocatively titled “Elder Holland – Liar Liar Pants on Fire,” Reel accuses Jeffry R. Holland of lying to members on multiple occasions. Holland, who is from St. George, serves as an apostle, one of the highest-ranking church positions.

Reel released a digitized copy of his excommunication letter Monday. The letter is signed by Emerson Carnavale, who acts as a stake president overseeing a conglomerate of congregations in and around Washington City.

Prior to his excommunication, Reel participated in a church disciplinary council Nov. 27 organized by area leaders in order to address what they call his “apostate behavior.” The council’s decision, as written by Carnavale, reads as follows:

After many thoughts and prayers on this matter, we have determined that your views and behavior are apostate, and that there is no indication that you are willing to work on realigning your views or on changing your behavior. You have shown no remorse for your actions as you continue to act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church and its leaders. Therefore, the decision we have made is to excommunicate you from the Church.

Carnavale writes that Reel has been publicly sharing his opposition to the church in an effort to persuade others to his point of view.

In a statement written in response to his excommunication, Reel says the letter represents “just more of the many games that Mormonism plays,” explaining that it speaks in generalities rather than addressing what was actually said during the disciplinary council.

Bill Reel, host of the “Mormon Discussions” podcast, wears a tie in support of the LGBT community, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of Bill Reel, St. George News

During the nearly two-hour proceeding, Reel, alongside his wife, outlined a substantial list of grievances to the gathering of men known as high councilors – locally-based members of the church’s priesthood.

Topics he addressed included what he calls “messy” historical inconsistencies in the church’s doctrine and scriptures, “unhealthy” church practices regarding its treatment of women and LGBT members and alleged dishonesty on the part of top church leadership, among other issues.

While Reel and all of the participants were required to sign nondisclosure agreements in order to participate in the disciplinary council, an anonymous third party who did not sign the NDA reportedly “infiltrated” the council chambers prior to the meeting and set up a recording device. The recording was released by the “Radio Free Mormon” podcast Sunday night.

Reel told St. George News he was aware that the anonymous third party was going to make an attempt to record the proceeding but that he wasn’t working with or encouraging the individual to do so.

“I wasn’t in on it,” he said. However, he verified the authenticity of the audio for St. George News and pointed out some candid responses from the high councilors.

On the recording, one unidentified high councilman explains how Reel’s criticism makes the church appear:

I think that the purpose of the council, as was mentioned at the first — now, your integrity is not in question at all; it isn’t — the purpose of this council is to look at protecting the integrity of the church. And you mentioned that as well. … But I believe now that pretty much as you outlined every step of your presentation, if you take all that, there is no integrity left in the church.

And so that’s a problem. There are a lot of nuances there. You are a very intelligent man. You’ve looked at sources as you’ve said on both sides, all the information there. It leaves the church with zero integrity — that we’re all here to protect, and I think it’s important – critical, in fact.

This section of the proceedings seems consistent with previous statements from the church. In an article on MormonNewsroom.org, they state that protecting the integrity of the church is one of the key reasons for holding disciplinary councils.

“The Church teaches its members to follow the example of Jesus Christ in leading moral, faith-centered lives,” the article reads. “Anyone who does not meet these standards and significantly harms the integrity of the Church by their actions may face Church discipline.”

The full audio and transcript of the proceeding is available on the Radio Free Mormon website.

In Reel’s post-excommunication statement, he addresses what he calls the lack of transparency on the part of church leadership.

“Mormonism can not stand an honest investigation,” he writes. “I learned this the hard way. Mormonism itself does not trust the truth seeker to explore both sides objectively and dissuades one from such a course at every turn and hence it poisons the well of every data point that seeks to expose its shadow.”

Citing the privacy of individuals involved, church officials previously said they do not comment on disciplinary proceedings.

Read more: Southern Utah man who served as Mormon bishop faces excommunication

Multiple attempts by St. George News to reach someone from the church following news of the official excommunication were unanswered.

Reel previously told St. George News that he didn’t want to be removed from the church.

“I don’t want to be severed from my tribe,” he said. However, since his excommunication was made official Sunday, he said his wife and four children all “united” in a decision to resign their membership as well.

“I wouldn’t go back,” Reel writes in his statement. He continues:

This journey wasn’t easy. It hurt and at some points it hurt a lot. Learning your Religion and the God your religion handed you are not what was claimed is chaotic and imposed a ton of anxiety, hurt, anger, and grief. But what I have gained from this journey I wouldn’t trade for anything. Empathy, Learning to value authenticity over belonging, appreciation for diversity, learning to claim my independence, recognizing the moral authority within myself, and learning to confidently stand on my own ground and for my truth, oh…. and the Best friends in the world!

In the disciplinary letter, Carnavale likewise writes that Reel and his family can still look to the church for support in the future, regardless of his excommunication.

“We are still your brothers and sisters in the lord, and you are a son of our Heavenly Father and He loves you,” Carnavale writes. “We will also be here to extend a hand of help and assistance whenever needed.”

Email: jwitham@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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37 Comments

  • bikeandfish December 5, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    The Mormon church is going through its own maturation like every church has throughout history. Except its happening in the Information Age with millions of eyes watching in real time as its leadership scrambles to eliminate anyone critical of its earthly policies and behavior. At some point they will reach of critical point where enough of its ranks won’t tolerate such authoritarian meddling in individual lives. And it won’t be a pretty reorganizing. The Mormon church is fighting a losing battle within its own ranks.

    • KR567 December 5, 2018 at 6:16 pm

      it is coming under some very severe negativity from the outside ( as normal ) but now it’s a whole new ballgame.
      Not only is its rank walking away they are also using the media to expose the what’s and whys of the Church . and there is nothing the church can do about it.
      the church is fighting a losing battle within it’s own ranks is a very true statement
      and the free access to the media makes it impossible for the truth to remain hidden from society.
      It wont happen over night buts it’s coming and the church will no longer run capital hill ( SLC ).

      • Comment December 6, 2018 at 12:17 am

        This is one of the longest comments I’ve ever seen from “striker”. But I do agree with you there buddy 😉

        • KR567 December 6, 2018 at 4:06 pm

          I’m not your friend

          • Comment December 6, 2018 at 8:30 pm

            This I’m thankful for. Cheers Dump 😉

  • CADET321 December 5, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    ThE ChUrCh Is eViL, sToP gIvIng ThEm MoNeY aNd GiVe iT To mE. lOoK i’Ll mAkE YoU a PoDcAst

  • Craig December 5, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    The gentleman seems like a honest man who sincerely fdisagreed with his former Church. I home he finds a new Chirch home for his family and him.

  • Kilroywashere December 5, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    What would the REAL JESUS CHRIST think of all of this. He was a kind of radical, and is reported to have stood up against the religious practices of the Jews. If he were alive today, maybe he would also provoke the wraith and disdain of imperfect human beings that are in religious positions, and be excommunicated or kicked out of the particular religious body as well. What was it he said,???? Something like “judge not and ye shall not be judged”.???? , Follow your heart, all of this is MAYA, the spirit is inside us, so maybe God / universe is doing you a big favor. Dont get stuck on religious dogma, it is all a creation of man. There are many other religions to choose from, and lots of Christian churches around here. ( but no Buddhist temples… darn it! maybe one day one will be built in S. Utah) GOOD LUCK

    • ladybugavenger December 5, 2018 at 7:37 pm

      Matt.7. [1] Judge not, that ye be not judged. [2] For with what judgment ye judge, yeshall be judged: and with what measure yemete, it shall be measured to you again. [3] And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

      • ladybugavenger December 5, 2018 at 7:43 pm

        For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you.

        • ladybugavenger December 5, 2018 at 7:48 pm

          Reap what you sow.

          Or in the worlds term: karma

      • jaltair December 6, 2018 at 12:41 am

        Commentary on the verse:

        “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:1-5 niv”

        Jesus was explicitly rebuking the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who were quick to see the sins of others but were blind and unwilling to hold themselves accountable to the same standard they were imposing on everyone else.

        • ladybugavenger December 6, 2018 at 12:55 pm

          Amen

        • ladybugavenger December 6, 2018 at 12:59 pm

          Most unbelievers stop at Do Not Judge, but that is not what the bible says….

          they never complete the verse as you have Jaltair

    • michael bodell December 6, 2018 at 5:44 am

      You do know that the REAL JESUS CHRIST is somebody that absolutely nobody can prove ever existed, right?

      • Whodini December 6, 2018 at 7:20 am

        Michael- please do your research, there is plenty of evidence that Jesus does exist. When I left the church and sought him out, he came flooding into my soul with so much love it’s amazing. If you don’t want that answer, would you consider just telling only yourself that Jesus, the only perfect human to walk this earth, died a wrongful death, but did it willingly because he loves us that much and his death saved us, or you can deny him and not exist after this pathetic earthly existence ends. Hope you know that God exist at least, you think this world just created itself by slamming itself into other rocks and miracles slammed themselves together?

  • mesaman December 5, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    It is to our good fortune that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints does not have to answer to you. It will exist long after you have found your graves.

    • Kilroywashere December 5, 2018 at 7:26 pm

      I gather Mesaman you are a Mormon by the comment you made. If that is the case then pouring salt on the wound of another who was a member of your religion reflects badly on you and your Church. Hope it is sarcasm, but if not, who cares, it’s your church you do with it what you want. Surely love is missing

    • Comment December 5, 2018 at 8:20 pm

      wow!? or Woah!?

      Which one is a fitting reply I’m not sure

      • Kilroywashere December 5, 2018 at 9:54 pm

        Woe. I think answers your question Comment . As in woe is me. Fortunately the Church of Kilroy doesn’t have to answer to you, Comment, but we will anyway just for the hell of it. “Different orbits for my bones, not me, just quietly buried in stones” By the way, your a grammar guy, Is that “you” singular, or “you” plural. ?

        • Comment December 5, 2018 at 10:50 pm

          M&M’s ‘you’ is most definitely plural. He’s angry at the whole lot of you wicked gentiles. When you’ve dedicated your whole life to such a religion and start to discover the truths of it, it can upend your entire worldview. It might not even be that he’s finding truths, but his whole world has been shaken up by the leadership. Cutting church down to 2 hours! Canceling home teaching! We can’t say mormon or lds anymore! These changes may not seem much to a gentile, but to a lifelong diehard LDS’er like M&M these changes are earth-shattering. It also makes me wonder if mormonism in its current form is actually dying out. I’m hard on M&M at times, but I do have a certain respect for him and I get why he’s upset.

    • 42214 December 5, 2018 at 10:48 pm

      Who does the church answer to? Jesus? He’s been dead for over 2000 years. I think the most important interest the church answers to is the IRS. That speaks volumes to the integrity and sanctitiy of the Mormon church.

      • KR567 December 6, 2018 at 4:08 pm

        They answer to the CFO lol !

    • Whodini December 6, 2018 at 7:25 am

      Free Masons that is what it is, it’s a cult and of course there are many because the persons all seriously break the laws and get away with it because the church doesn’t report the crimes to authorities. I have proof of this, from my own personal experience and the guilty party wrote me a letter stating his crime.

    • Maggie December 7, 2018 at 10:43 pm

      Yes, and, thankfully, my plans are eternity at Fiddler’s Green and not in some Mormon/LDS hellhole….

  • Red2Blue310 December 5, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    I’d remind this guy that NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF JESUS. LDS be damned.

    • jaltair December 6, 2018 at 12:43 am

      Amen to that! We can’t even separate ourselves from the love of Christ.

  • jpff December 5, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    Mr. Reel knew exactly what he was getting into when he decided to deride the LDS Church, call its leaders liars, and hold podcasts on issues where he opposed the Chruch’s stance. While it is true that the LDS Church has many items in its history that are not positive or upbuilding when brought into the light, it serves a great purpose for those seeking a connection with a Supreme Being, just as many other religions do. The fact that the Church does not speak publicly about the proceedings leading to the excommunication does not mean that Mr. Reel, who has quite openly taken his “case” to the public, should not have been excommunicated. Having been a Bishop himself, he saw the guidelines that could lead to what happened to him, and the LDS Church does not owe an explanation to the public for its decision in the matter.
    I, along with many other LDS Church members, wish Mr. Reel the best of luck in his search for a place that will give him and his family the sense of purpose that they will be seeking, whether it be in finding membership in another church or just enjoying life tearing down the one he left. Has anyone ever noticed that, in the past, people have made big news for a few days as they raised their cries to the public as they were processed for excommunication, and now most of us cannot remember their names?

    • iceplant December 6, 2018 at 1:02 pm

      This made me throw up in my mouth.

  • tbmdude December 6, 2018 at 7:33 am

    It seems to me that if Bill is all about preaching HONESTY, TRUTHFULNESS, and TRANSPARENCY then maybe he needs to be HONEST, TRUTHFUL, and TRANSPARENT as to where the recording REALLY came from otherwise he might lose a lot of the credibility that he thinks he has gained up to this point. At this point, all he is trying to do is gain more publicity (because he is sure to lose listeners after this ordeal) and push his agenda on others, hoping to find someone who’s faith might not be as strong as other’s and thinking he can help them with their transitioning when all he is really doing is manipulating them to believe in whatever he says. #doublestandard #billistheliarliarpantsonfire

  • HerePliggyWiggy December 6, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Church?

    • iceplant December 6, 2018 at 1:08 pm

      Not really.
      ‘Cult’ is a more appropriate title.

  • Maggie December 6, 2018 at 8:00 am

    Wow! Shock! I am in shock! The Mormon (oh, sorry they don’t like that tag anymore) LDS church has excommunicated a man for not automatically condemning members of the LGBTQ community to the outer darkness, that the idea of having someone ask your child some extremely personal questions in a ‘one on one’ meeting with someone who could very well be a pervert, for thinking that women aren’t sweet keeping little doormats and should not be treated as such, and last but certainly not least, think that maybe opening the priesthood to women might be an idea whose time has come. Sure. Why not? Sounds like the nonsense I heard from my ex, and I can tell you from personal experience that the church doesn’t care for its members being married to ‘gentiles’. And no, he is not allowed to either marry or baptize me by proxy, not now or when I’m dead and he certainly isn’t allowed to ‘call me into heaven’. Sorry, the Mormon, no, LDS idea of heaven is strictly a man’s world and this is one non-sweet keeping woman who would rather roast in assorted ‘gentile’ hells than join in the adoration of a con man and assorted sexual predators. Good luck, Mr. Reel, you are going to need it. As for the LGBTQ community, be patient. Wait a few years. Someone in Salt Lake is going to crunch a bunch of numbers and realize just how much money they are losing in tithes, and suddenly, there will be a new Manifesto similar to the one that ended polygamy! Or even a Revelation, although I don’t think it will ever go that far. As for me, I’ll be a happy little pagan enjoying an LDS free afterlife. Am I still angry, yes, I am? And until I get an apology from both my ex and the Mormon church or whatever they are calling themselves these days, I will stay angry…..

    • Comment December 6, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      Well, if you haven’t paid in much they simply won’t care. It won’t be any loss to them. Your value will be determined by how much you’ve paid in. That’s the way it was for me because I simply didn’t pay. I’m still a member but I’ve long since come to terms that I’m of no value to them.

  • Carpe Diem December 6, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    Why does the COJCOLDS always come off as if they think too much of themselves? Paranoid much?
    If I wore that yoke I would feel freer if I cut it.

  • Walter1 December 6, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    I feel for the Mormon people. I pray that they will find the truth and be set free from the bondage of the LDS church. Jesus Christ is the answer and Christ alone. The Mormon people have been led astray for over one hundred years. The Mormon leadership will be held responsible for their deception. The unraveling of the LDS Church has begun and it unfortunately will not end gracefully.

  • iceplant December 6, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    What the Mormon church fails to realize is that, in the information and technology age, excommunicating people like Bill Reel is no longer a shameful thing. If anything, they’re making him stronger and reinforcing peoples feelings on the matter. Probably a better way to go out than simply asking to have your name removed from the records of the church.
    More power to truth tellers. The sham put on by LDS leaders is falling apart.

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