‘The only Power to Punish the Church has ever had’?

Aaron R. aka RicoMormon 100 Comments

The Excommunication of Martin Luther

The Excommunication of Martin Luther

Hugh Nibley once said “Excommunication… [is] the only power to punish the Church has ever had”[1].  Yet, how this punishment has been used and understood has changed within the Church over time.  Therefore, what is the nature of this punishment and why does it need to be used at all?  How does excommunicating someone fit with Christ’s message to seek out the lost sheep and carry them back?

I should acknowledge that I have never been involved in a disciplinary council but do know people who have been excommunicated.  Some estimates of the number of yearly excommunications that can be derived from Church Statistics indicate that number of people excommunicated every year is between 20,000-70,000, and these are from the early 1980’s.  The large variations make me skeptical of the accuracy of these reuslts, yet they are interesting to note.  There is approximately 3,000 stakes.  20,000 excommunications indicate around 7 people per stake per year.  I think this sounds a little high, but perhaps not.  Moreover, I would be interested in seeing statistics for numbers of people readmitted after excommunication.  Regardless of the numbers it would seem that thousands of members of the Church have this experience every year.  In view of this it is worth considering in more depth.

Excommunications and Disciplinary Councils (or Church Courts) have been a part of the LDS Church since its inception.  The first revelation on this subject was received in 1830 (see D&C 20: 80-83) with the organization of the Church and the first Excommunications occurred occurring within the first two years of the Church’s existance  (see Bush)[2].  The range of activities that were punishable by Excommunication, or that required a disciplinary council was very broad.  The grievances can be categorised into five areas: Grave Offenses (Adultery and Theft), Frank Apostasy (Teaching False Doctrine), Subtle Apostasy (Disobeying Leaders), Unchristian-like Conduct and Personal Grievances (Bro. So-and-so was rude to me).  These have been restricted over time and civil matters are now encouraged to be resolved in governmental channels.  Yet that these councils still exist raises a question about their status in the LDS Church; should the Church have the power to cut people off, should it be able to excommunicate people?

In part, it seems that Excommunication is a hangover from the Isrealites conception of accountability and the community.  If an individual sinned then the whole community was punished.  Thus in order to restore ‘righteousness’ to the community, their repentance was to remove the offending part (see Josh 7).  If we reject this view of community accountability then we should also reject this form of punishment, for it does not save the individual but the community.

During the Church’s early years one factor was most important in deciding the outcome of these ‘trials’; whether a person was repentant or not.  This resulted, according to Bush, in a high level of consistency in how the actions were applied but it was not necessarily in line with the severity of the crime.  Over time the Church has attempted to formalise the procedure and outcomes of trials, this seems to have led to a shift in how situations are ‘judged’ .  There is a stronger emphasis on a specific crime being linked with a certain outcome.  This shift reflects an important rhetorical change that now describes excommunication as part of the repentance process rather than a punishment for those who were not repentant.  This leads me to my second question; upon what criteria should the Church excommunicate people, if at all?  A third related question is Excommunication necessary for the repentance process?

Doug Alder has noted that discussion around Excommunication can too readily revolve around ideas of respectability; meaning people focus too much on the negative effect of the social stigma attached to being excommunicated.  Instead, Alder argues that Excommunication can be a sacred and spiritually beneficial experience, if the person is prepared and ready.  But this raises other questions about how people can become ready for such a violent act, as described by Margaret Toscano in the PBS documentary ‘The Mormons’ and in a post by Clap Whipkey on MM.  In this regard then, what could be done to improve the process or outcomes of Disicplinary Councils?

For my part, I believe that women should be involved, especially at the High Council level and even at the Bishop level.  This move will take away some of the negative power/gender structure that seems to tied to these type confessional situations.  I believe women should be involved in the process of taking confession as well.  Moreover, it would a wonderful day if the social stigma could be entirely removed.

As a hopefull aside, J. Bonner Ritchie has also written about the Excommunication process and notes that he disliked the metaphor of court and argued instead for a move toward the metaphor of councils.  This is a shift that has occurred over recent years, so who knows who might read your comments. 

To reiterate, my questions are these?

Should the LDS Church retain the power to excommunicate and if so why, and if not why?

Upon what criteria should Disciplinary Councils judge the appropriate response to a particular ‘sin’?

Is Excommunication necessary for the repentance process?

What could be improved in the process or outcomes of Disciplinary Councils?


1. Hugh Nibley, Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, edited by Don E. Norton and Shirley S. Ricks [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1994], 420.

2. This link is to a series of three articles on Excommunication to which I refer in this post.  The authors are Lester Bush, Doug Alder and J. Bonner Ritchie.

Comments 100

  1. When does the disciplinary process become unrighteous dominion? We are told in D&C 121 that it is the disposition of almost all men to exercise unrighteous dominion the moment they are given power. What percentage of priesthood holders would be considered ‘almost all?’ That statistic makes me very nervous when it comes to disciplinary actions.

    In an address to the Relief Society in May, 1942, Joseph Smith stated that “all things contrary to the will of God, should be cast from us, but don’t do more hurt than good” and that he would “rather spare ten iniquitous among you, than condemn one innocent one.”

    Most disheartening is the fact that the leadership of the church hasn’t added to the canon of scripture since 1918, yet they are willing to excommunicate those who seek to understand the mysteries of God. As such, I would consider the September Six as being the recipients of unrighteous dominion. Those are the kind of disciplinary actions that I believe Joseph Smith spoke against.

  2. It is interesting how different church leaders approach the issues of church discipline. The most striking example that I can think of is my two mission presidents. One of them fought very hard to keep missionaries in the field (assuming that they were repentant) even when they had done some really rotten things that my second mission president would have likely sent them home in a heartbeat for (I’m assuming a lot here, not knowing all of the details). Being sent home from a mission isn’t akin to being excommunicated, but it certainly holds a similar social stigma.

    If I remember correctly as it was a long time ago, my first MP explained to me that the purpose of excommunication was to help people to apply the Atonement in their lives. Being quick to judge and give a quick and severe punishment (or any severe punishment) would more often than not cause people to leave the church and never come back, which didn’t serve the purpose intended. A couple years ago my dad explained to me that the church was excommunicating much less than it used to for that very reason. It would be interesting to see the numbers on this.

  3. I read somewhere that the church recently changed its policy on excommunication to only allow one re-admittance. IOW, if you’re ex-ed once, come back and are ex-ed again, you’re out forever (or at least the end of mortality). Assuming that’s the case, I would hope that the church would be more careful in its use of excommunication as a disciplinary tool, giving as many chances as necessary for the penitent individual who sincerely wishes to remain in the church.

    I’m okay with excommunication if for no other reason than it was documented in the Book of Mormon. When people were baptized, their names were taken that they may be continually nourished with the good word of God (Moroni 6:4). And when they apostatized, their names were blotted out (Moroni 6:7). The way we administer records in the church today is consistent with that principle. However, I’m concerned about the way we excommunicate people. I’ve never been the subject of church discipline myself, but I’ve heard there’s more than enough evidence that the lawyers among the leadership have made the church councils in their own image. If I ever were in that circumstance (heaven forbid), I’d prefer the setting be a little more private, because I’d imagine already feeling a great sense of shame that’d be made all the worse by hearing the charges read in open court.

  4. The Church couldn’t possibly survive as a coherent institution without excommunication or something like it. That is not to say that it shouldn’t be reserved for the most serious cases.

  5. 1. This is a prologue to an Article entitled Abusive Church by Ronald Enroth.
    “Abusive churches, past and present, are first and foremost characterized by strong, control-oriented leadership. These leaders use guilt, fear, and intimidation to manipulate members and keep them in line. Followers are led to think that there is no other church quite like theirs and that God has singled them out for special purposes. Other, more traditional evangelical churches are put down. Subjective experience is emphasized and dissent is discouraged. Many areas of member’s lives are subject to scrutiny. Rules and legalism abound. People who don’t follow rules or who threaten exposure are often dealt with harshly. Excommunication is common. For those who leave, the road back to normalcy is difficult. ”
    In my and my DH’s case of either excommunication or disfellowship, it was the chance that we might tell someone what was done to us that caused the disfellowshipment and we are not sure that we have been excommunicated.
    The initial action was my limiting the Bishop in his actual job by requesting, when a high school auditorium was utilized for a service, that the coffin, which he had brought to the auditorium, not be opened.
    I was the school psychologist and helping on the school side with the event by ensuring correct paperwork and being present for the students attending this after school event.
    Here is a small action that would give me hope that we are moving toward equal treatment, that might move women closer to being treated as equal souls. It would be nice if when I paid my tithing, it could be registered under my own name. I wrote the tithing forms out under my name, it was my checks from my separate account and the money that I earned, yet it was treated as if it was my husband’s money.
    He is not interested in paying tithing or in attending the temple, so when I made the request to attend, it became a condition of renewing my Temple Recommend that my husband want to attend the temple. The Bishop and the Stake President thought that my husband was paying tithing, so they made an assumption that he wanted to go to the temple.
    Whe I clarified to them that I had been paying the tithing and that he was not interested in attending the temple at this time (with my husband present as it was a requirement for him to schedule and meet with the Stake President as in my stake, it seems women cannot represent themselves in our Stake President meetings). Their answer was “He will.”
    They told me to wait until he wanted to attend and required us to redo the temple preparation classes. I told them that we completed those and remembered all the classes and teachings. They simply repeated their demands as a condition of my temple recommend. It comes from the ordered society thinking that only the elite member counts. It would be tantamount to a college’s demand that a desired brother attend a University as a condition for a sister to be accepted to the university.
    The problem with the ordered society, or separate but equal approach is it allows oppression and it allows people to not be treated equally. Equal access is denied to groups based on their gender.
    Women are required to be represented by their husbands and not accepted as equal souls.
    The Bishop then violated confidentiality, took my husband off of his scheduled teaching role and I received a 2 page scolding letter from one of the female members of the congregation. When the Bishop called me, and I explained that he had violated confidentiality therefore this was unrighteous dominion, his reply was, :”This is not the legal system, this is not the academic system, this is religion.” They know it is abusive. Over the next couple of years, it became much worse, with home visitors assigned to come to our home, which became terribly frequent, late at night and to my view, borderline abusive. Finally, after demanding that we return to attending church, and hearing my response, he stated “Oh, that never happened.”
    He was not a first hand witness to any of the events, so for him to bear false witness was interesting. This is how people of good faith are “driven” from the church. The church does not have rights established for individual members, does not have a due process system, does not have an oversight committee. These “good ol’ boys’ make up the rules as they go and are allowed to do so. If you don’t play their game, at all levels, you will be punished as the Church lacks oversight of its stake presidents and bishops. They would rather cover up discriminatory actions than address them. Currently, we are being shunned, which is amusing to me but hurt my DHs feelings when he said hi to a guy he had helped out frequently, who then ignored him.
    They no longer receive my $250 per month, as they would not even credit it under my name. They no longer receive us, as they were abusive toward us. My DH was just a witness to this abuse, but is being punished because he won’t go along with the cover up. This is the LDS Church, in action and action speaks louder than words. It will be a beautiful day when every child of God who is capable, is also able. Until that day, the church is being run like a boys’ club and they defend sexism to a level beyond Masonic complexity. The simple truth is that we are all God’s children and we need to lose the sexist attitudes. Currently the excuse and the attitude is “God is male, therefore only men are godly.” Are we ready to be enlightened again?

  6. “Should the LDS Church retain the power to excommunicate and if so why, and if not why?”
    It is certainly within their rights to do so as a private organization, so yes, I think they should retain that power from a legal standpoint.

    “Upon what criteria should Disciplinary Councils judge the appropriate response to a particular ’sin’”?
    I’m a big believer that each situation should be judged individually, and in the most merciful way possible. Since there are no two situations exactly the same, it’s not fair to apply blanket rules IMHO.

    “Is Excommunication necessary for the repentance process?”
    I don’t think so. In fact, I think it has a more negative effect than positive. The community, church, and individual all suffer. Even from the church’s standpoint, if we can learn anything from history, it’s that every organization needs heretics for progression. I think the church should WANT those who think different, even if (especially if?) it doesn’t agree with the leaders.

    From a development standpoint, modern psychology tells us that people respond better to positive encouragement than negative. I would ask, what is the purpose of applying punishment as a form of helping people? How does it help them? Would it help them more to be allowed to stay? How would Jesus Himself resolve such issues? Would he excommunicate people? I tend to doubt it. I really don’t see anything in the New Testament that would suggest that Jesus would be amenable to His organized church excommunicating people. Even more so for things like disagreeing with, or even speaking out against church leadership. I mean isn’t this exactly what Jesus did? I see excommunication for apostasy as an attempt to preserve an organization and authority of its leaders.

    In my view, punishment is something I expect my gov’t to administer. I expect them to do this in order to protect the rest of us from people who have demonstrated that they don’t respect the rights of others. But I don’t see why a religion should fall into this same camp given the very nature of their message – love, repentance, forgiveness, etc. Are they pretending to protect those with fledgling testimonies? This argument doesn’t hold, for me, on many levels – the least of which is that the internet has every “damaging” thing and more. If we start down the road of trying to do everything we can to protect those with fledgling testimonies, a very scary Orwellian future comes to my mind.

    So, is there anything that someone should get ex’ed for? Maybe if they are actually starting their own church. Otherwise, I don’t see much, especially if our mission is to administer to those who are sick.

  7. what’s up with that graphic? It doesn’t have anything to do with the post and “Hot Mormon Muffin”? Please. She isn’t even wearing garments. I think it’s incredibly sad That I notice these things now. I need a break.

  8. “The church does not have rights established for individual members, does not have a due process system, does not have an oversight committee. These “good ol’ boys’ make up the rules as they go and are allowed to do so. If you don’t play their game, at all levels, you will be punished as the Church lacks oversight of its stake presidents and bishops.”
    Well said Jo. I have often found it mysterious that an organization with such smart, inspired men don’t take a lesson from modern democracies. The ideas of modern democracies work, and keep abuses of power at bay. Why would the church be immune to these kinds of abuses given that it is run by humans? If it’s not immune why not put in some checks and balances? It seems like what we’re saying is that we are so confident in our ability to receive revelation from God about who should serve, that we must deal with the consequences of unrighteous dominion.

  9. I remember my mom (who is a genealogist) finding records of ancestors who had joined the church in England in the early days of the church. A large number of them were excommunicated for all kinds of reasons – the funniest reason given was “untidy home.” So things have probably improved a bit since those days. If not, if my home teachers report what my house looked like last time they came over, I could be in big trouble.

  10. “It seems like what we’re saying is that we are so confident in our ability to receive revelation from God about who should serve, that we must deal with the consequences of unrighteous dominion.”

    That is what they are saying, checks and balances would undermine that premise so it’s not going to happen.

    The Church absolutely has a right to excommunicate members who violate Church policy. Inherent in this right is the propensity for abuses locally and institutionally, including defamation. This notwithstanding, the Church also must protect it’s interests, and at times that includes terminating membership. Employers will terminate employees for non-performance, or for conduct that could negatively affect the corporate mission, or brand. However, these actions are measures taken to protect the institution, not to rehabilitate the “offender”. I would argue that the rhetoric “excommunication is part of the repentance process” is a PR attempt of spinning the harshness of excommunication in a more positive light. It also suggests a certainty of guilt upon the excommunicated member, and causes the Church to appear as the benevolent party, thereby disqualifying any questions of abusiveness.

    This is not to say however, that excommunication = abuse of authority. There are times where this measure is essential for the protection of the group. John C. Bennett comes to mind here. Had he not been excommunicated, views of authority from the general membership during the Nauvoo period would have become lessoned. When apostate notions are taught as authoritative, eventually it is better to preserve the theology at the expense of the member if they persist in challenging authority and skewing the Mormon view of things. This is not an ant-Christian position either. While the general Christian perspective advocates a loving Jesus who healed the sick and forgave the adulterer, it should be remembered that even in the New Testament we have the Saviors stern warning’s that there will come a purging. In many of his classic parables, The Ten Virgins, The Talents, The Sheeps & The Goats (All in Matthew 25). The parable of the Ten Virgins is particularly poignant for the imagery it conjurs, and that of the Savior himself standing at the door and literally shutting it in the faces of these five slothful virgins. His words are particularly strong to them just before he does so, “Verily I say unto you, I know you not”.

    Disagreements on doctrine are pretty cut and dry. The Church may take a position, for example, we no longer practice polygamy. Having been emphatic about that point, any members who would persist in that practice can be justly excommunicated with little resistance from the Church core membership. On the other hand, Church scholars who will critique Church policy, practice, and teaching’s on polygamy – and with just cause in historical support – becomes the controversial matter. After all, the general position is not to so much alter Church culture and practice, as it is to challenge the Church’s claims to divinity, and with it the implications of holy integrity and consitency. For me this is where Church practice on discipline really just breaks down.

  11. My husband served as a bishop, and I saw people transform their lives, repent and return to full activity after he help them work through the repentance process, which sometimes included excommunication. I have witnessed the miracle of a mighty change of heart, when people humble themselves, turn away from sin, and turn to Christ.

    I have also seen the negative side of excommunication. Sometimes excommunication is used punitively and maliciously, especially when the accuser has connections with Church leaders. Two examples: A close friend was groomed and then sexually assaulted by her branch president in a resort community. She became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter. Very penitent, she confessed her “immorality” to her bishop and was excommunicated for over two years. The perpetrator, a closer relative of mine, had molested countless young women over the years. His punishment: A nine-month excommunication. I can’t help but wonder if his close friendship with several general authorities didn’t influence his stake president to give him such a light punishment.

    A second friend was horribly abused by her bishop/husband. When she left him, he created some bogus charges against her, and she was disfellowshipped. (He accused me of having a lesbian relationship with her when I attempted to help her, and I was called in to my bishop’s office. My husband was told by her stake president that if we lived in her stake, he would have been excommunicated because we helped her escape her abusive husband.) My friend’s husband currently serves on the high council in his stake. One of his closest friends in a prominent GA. The documentation from doctors, police officers, and others regarding his abuse of his wife was disregarded by my friend’s stake president.

  12. “Is Excommunication necessary for the repentance process?”

    Christ didn’t think so. He didn’t tell the prostitute to “Go thy way, find your stake president and have a disciplinary council.” I have also been told by several bishops and stake presidents that those who are excommunicated rarely come back. Hmmm…maybe it isn’t the person but how the Church is disciplining them? I think excommunication is a gross practice that is hurting the Church and its community more than helping.

  13. I have known a few people who have been excommunicated, and they have all been rebaptized and seem to be doing well, so for them, I believe excommunication was beneficial to them as part of their repentance process. I do think it can be a positive experience, and usually is from what I’ve seen, but I also wonder about the seeming lack of “checks and balances”.

  14. Re #3, without details… a man (here) who did serious damage while he was bishop was excommunicated several years ago, for the 3rd time. He was rebaptized,again, last month, 3rd time. It has caused no end of stir… at each Going, and each Return, but this last one has been especially tough. Repentence is a true principle, but only if applied. Interesting topic; I’ll finsih reading now, just an input that the process seems to be unlimited, at least here and in this case.

  15. I would like to ask a question.
    How would one know if they have been excommunicated or just disfellowshipped.
    We know that we are disfellowshipped as my DH was never called to teach again. He was a high priest. I was not called again to transport or bring food to people. We stopped attending church in our ward, due to the cover up of the abuse. We asked that our home visitor give us a break from home visits, due to his bearing false witness to an event he did not witness, first hand.
    We had been previously told that we would have to get permission from the stake president. Since the stake president required that my DH schedule the meeting and attend the meeting, in a phone call that was overheard by a teacher who was sharing my office. I refused to schedule another meeting with this guy, who already showed just how sexist and unjust he was, by disallowing me to renew my temple recommend until my DH wishes to attend the temple.
    I had asked that our names be left on the records, as we attend church services when we are out of this very provincial city and stake. The last visit, from a sister, demanded that we move our records or remove our names from the church. I said we were just inactive, and do not wish to remove our names. I just don’t know where we stand and I am tired of getting bullied by this group. Is there a way to check to see if our names are still registered with the LDS Church, without having to contact this provincial and sexist group of Mormons? I don’t want the harassment to resume.

  16. re 7: The Hot Muffins graphic was the new calender of the man who was excommunicated for doing a ‘hot’ missionary calender. sorry it was a subtle reference to excommunication. i should have been more explicit.

  17. re 1: I am aware of instances when Joseph excommunicated people for teaching false doctrine and at others he was very relaxed. In some ways I think he was unsure about how this power should be used.

    re 2: I think this is one of the real issues that church has. it seems that as it has moved toward formulating procedure it has moved away from repentance being the central issue which i am not sure is a good thing. However, by focussing on this perhaps there will be increased difference between cases. How could the Church reasonably reduce these discrepancies.

    re 3: I believe that this tendency to be like a court is less so than it used to be. but there is still a tendency to have that situation. the difference being how the decision are made and how they break up the ‘jury’ or high council in stake situations. My personal feeling is that the way excommunication is practiced is not congruent with the idea that it is a part of teh repentance process because they take their names from the records. They don’t need to be removed, it could just be a status. if we remove the names people will lose contact with them and forget. I am aware of many situations like this. i think if the church maintains it is for repentance then they need to change the record system.

    re 5: I am sorry you have experienced that. I can only say that your experiences of tithing and the temple are very different to mine and I hope that they are infrequent. in re 15: usually you receive a letter saying that you have been. but i am sure you could contact church headquarters.

    It seems that the issue of apostasy is one that is difficult to decide because of what it entails, but few people have mentioned moral issues. For example, I think people guilty of child abuse should perhaps be excommunicated. To protect those who are in the ward/stake. Is this unchristian?

    re 12: But is it ever justified? As above? I agree it is used too often. but what purpose does it serve. My feeling is that using it as a punishment is not going to work. But developing another criteria is difficult. the repentance one works but it is difficult when applied to the apostasy examples cited earlier.

  18. I think that it is a mistake to be too lenient in the case of serious sin. If too little is done the guilty party will figure that what he/she did was really not that big of a deal. They can violate temple covenants and all they have to do to repent is refrain from taking the sacrament and not hold any callings for a while. All they get for committing adultery or apostasy is a slap on the wrist. Trivializing serious sin and covenant breaking only encourages more of it.

  19. I think the Church excommunicates when people are convicted of a serious crime? Due to both my brother and FIL’s convictions in a court of law they have both been excommunicated. I’ve heard that when someone’s been through the temple and commits adultery or fornication they’ll be disfellowshipped and then if they’re not repentant after that they’ll excommunicate them. Maybe it’s to “protect” the sinner so if they’re still sinning sort to speak when they’re excommunicated, then it isn’t “as bad” since they’ve been relinquished from their covenants in the temple. Don’t know if it’s true, just what I’ve heard. So I agree that I don’t think their names should be removed unless people actually request that. That way people can still be looked up on the records and taken care of even if they’re in “excommunicated” status. But I do feel that their are certain sins, etc that call for excommunication if just for the purpose to let victims and perpetrators know that we are taking these things seriously. I have two friends, twins, and their father abused them and their siblings and mother for years and when it finally came out the SP and Bishop hardly did a thing till charges were brought and he was finally convicted, and even then it took a bit for him to get excommunicated. So in those instances I feel that is important to excommunicate.

    Jo, I’m really sorry you are having those experiences in the Church. I’ve never experienced that I know friends whose DH has gone inactive and yet she has still been able to get her recommends and such. I hope things get better.

  20. 17. Andrew Reeves

    I don’t think the practice is ever justified. What situations can you think of where it is justified, and why?

  21. To elaborate my position, I believe excommuncation is a form of negative reinforcement – repent/change or it will result in negative consequences. Modern psychology has shown that negative reinforcement can be damaging to one’s self esteem and fortitude. Excommunication has the same negative effects as a father beating his child. It also suggests that man has the power to determine salvation (through disciplinary councils) and not God or the individual and God.

  22. Thank you for your answers. I agree that the process is vague. Does anyone know how to get a current copy of the “Handbook of General Instructions”. This is some manual that is given to priesthood holders and there is apparantly a reluctance to make it available to everyone. I would like to go on line and look up a few things. The Wikileaks one was 1999 and I think it was outdated. I would prefer reading a “pedigreed” copy, so I know it is authenticated. Here is a new twist, I walked outside to give some instructions to our landscaper instructions for tomorrow and saw a city council candidate sign stapled to our fence. This candidate was the home visitor, who had been coming to our house as often as twice a week to “teach” us. He was the one who asked us to come back to church and I explained that I didn’t wish to attend due to unrighteous dominion. When I explained that I did not agree with how I was treated, with the first example of “women should be able to schedule a meeting and meet with their stake president without requiring their husband to schedule and attend the meeting. He looked right at me and interrupting, said, “That didn’t happen.”
    I asked my DH, why would you want to vote for a guy who is willing to bear false witness against us. My DH replied, “I looked at all the candidates and thought he was the best one.” I said, “He’ll need to learn to say. “I can’t speak to that, as I wasn’t at that meeting, rather than bear false witness against people.” My DH said, “He only did that because the Bishop was pressuring him.”
    I said, “Well, then he’s morally weak.”
    The sign is still up and we haven’t spoken about it again. What do you think?

  23. Back in my early university days I remember talking to friends who had broken the law of chastity.

    Some were fine to go to their bishops because they new from previous friends who had gone through similar things how the bishop would react and likely consequences. Others were afraid to go see their bishop because he would be very severe with them, they were afraid of getting excommunicated.

    Many of them would transfer their records to a student ward where the bishops dealt with this more often and had softer more human approach.

    It makes one wonder where is the divine inspiration in any of it if you can shop around to get better results.

  24. re 20 & 21: I understand your critique. I agree that excommunication does have an impact upon the individual unless it is god’s will. Even from a doctrinal standpoint unrighteous excommunications are not ratified by God. So for me I would argue that they are organisational tools. I am not trying to set out general rules myself but I could see how it would be good for the Church to excommunicate sexual predators, for the safety of others. Again I could see that rape or murder would be a similar case in my mind. As mentioned above the experiences of some going through excommunication has been positive, so the idea of negative reinforcement is not correct in all cases.

    I guess as I think about these situations I have some sort of sense of sliding scale of sin. How bad are certain crimes? I am not sure if this is justified. I wonder about the idea of protecting the good name of the Church as well. Is that really something to consider. I see saving the individual and also the protecting of others as the important ideas.

    re 23: As with most decisions in the Church I believe that we do it mostly on our own. So inspiration may be involved some times but I believe that might be the exception rather than the rule. I think we are all learning to listen to inspiration or divine direction. Therefore I think it is inevitable that we get some discrepancies. So are you saying that we should definite guidelines from headquarters?

  25. 24 Aaron

    “As with most decisions in the Church I believe that we do it mostly on our own. So inspiration may be involved some times but I believe that might be the exception rather than the rule.”

    I think your on dodgy ground!

    I hope you don’t mind me telling you how this church was inspirationally designed and works
    The authority the Stake President or the bishop has goes from god to the prophet to a bishop it’s totally seamless!

    So if the prophet were to do a test to bishops whether they would hold a church court on someone and put it out to 100 bishops around the world they would all get the same answer because it comes straight from god to his appointed servants that’s what makes us different from the rest of the religions and why the church is true!!!

    If they would get different answers than what is the point of the restoration we would be just the same as other church’s!!!

  26. Post

    re 25: The Church is under no illusions that your test of 100 bishops would get all kinds of responses. It is exactly for this reason that they have developed the handbook of instructions adn given guidelines about how to administer Church Discipline. I think people who believe what you said about the Church are on dodgy ground. I think defining what is different about our church from other church’s cannot be based upon what we as imperfect do. Regardless of whether that person is a prophet or a Bishop. For me this includes the struggle that individuals have to understand the messages God is trying to give to us, whether we have the holy ghost, priesthood, light of christ or whatever you call it. Authority may come down to an individual but that does mean they fulfill their duties perfectly.

  27. James:

    I think you’re on to something here, though I think it’s not the point you were trying to make. The main reason so many people feel like they can go to different Bishops to get different results, is because practical experience bears this conclusion out. My experience with different Bishops has shown that no two will come to the same conclusion. This reality forces us to rationalize a number of conclusions:

    1) Some Bishops are in tune with Spirit, while others are not because-
    a) In spite of their best efforts, a personal failing is impeding their entitlement to the Spirit
    b) They are letting personal pride influence their decision making
    c) etc

    2) God needs certain Bishops with certain personalities to be in certain wards at certain times. This rationalization is akin to the old Brigham Young vs Joseph Smith dichotomy’s. Joseph Smith had just the right tempermant to restore the gospel, while Brigham Young had the grit to lead the LDS migrations from Nauvoo. In other words, at times the Lord recognizes that a specific ward may be in need of a Bishop who naturally possesses a highly compassionate personality, that God can enhance upon through the Spirit, while at other times the ward may require a harder/more stern Bishop who can keep a steady course to fulfill God’s purposes.

    3) God largely leaves man independent for making judgements, such as in the case of Church discipline, by only influencing decision making with either occassional, or subtle, “promptings”, and reserving greater force of influence for rare and big matters. In other words, God largely supports the decision making of his Bishops, and recognizes that there is often times more than one correct way to manage a situation.

    4) God’s influence upon Bishops is absolute, to the point where each Bishop (excepting the most extreme cases of a “wolf in sheeps clothing”) effects judgement in exactly the manner God wills, implying that any “good” Bishop would have made the same exact decision in the same situation. This perspective puts the onus upon the member to see the office of Bishop in this light, by dismissing nuances and “apparent” inconsistencies as subjective flaws of their own perception, as opposed to objective realities.

    5) (my perspective) – Bishops are no more inspired than you or I, and therefore perception likely mirrors reality in this case.

  28. “The Church is under no illusions that your test of 100 bishops would get all kinds of responses. ”

    You maybe the exception in your thinking but I would think many bishops more than half would disagree with you.

    “It is exactly for this reason that they have developed the handbook of instructions and given guidelines about how to administer Church Discipline.”

    I would like to think or hope this helps but if they for some reason don’t think much of the member this could sway what happens in the court.

    Below is a good example of if the Prophet doesn’t think much of someones character don’t you think that would sway how the 12 and the whole church would judge him.

    ” I presume that Brother Marsh will take no offen[s]e if I talk a little about him. We have manifested our feelings towards him, and we know his situation. With regard to this Church’s being reconciled to him, I can say that this Church and people were never dissatisfied with him; for when men and women apostatize and go from us, we have nothing to do with them. If they do that which is evil, they will suffer for it. Brother Marsh has suffered….

    He has told you that he is an old man. Do you think that I am an old man? I could prove to this congregation that I am young; for I could find more girls who would choose me for a husband than can any of the young men. Brother Thomas considers himself very aged and infirm, and you can see that he is, brethren and sisters. What is the cause of it? He left the Gospel of salvation. What do you think the difference is between his age and mine? One year and seven months to a day; and he is one year, seven months, and fourteen days older than brother Heber C. Kimball. “Mormonism” keeps men and women young and handsome; and when they are full of the Spirit of God, there are none of them but what will have a glow upon their countenances; and that is what makes you and me young; for the Spirit of God is with us and within us.

    When Brother Thomas thought of returning to the Church, the plurality of wives troubled him a good deal. Look at him. Do you think it need to? I do not; for I doubt whether he could get one wife. Why it should have troubled an infirm old man like him is not for me to say.[4]”

  29. I believe these words of the Savior best describe the excommunication process:
    “But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people, for behold I know bmy sheep, and they are numbered. Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them.” (3 Nephi 18:31-32)

  30. 27 Cowboy

    Thanks Cowboy will read what you have said in more depth in a minute but this stuck out

    “God needs certain Bishops with certain personalities to be in certain wards at certain times. This rationalization is akin to the old Brigham Young vs Joseph Smith dichotomy’s.”

    So do you think this applies to prophets as well? Brigham young banning black members from the priesthood because God needed someone like him to do his will, where Joseph Smith maybe not strong enough to do what was needed!!

  31. 27 Cowboy

    “God largely leaves man independent for making judgements, such as in the case of Church discipline, by only influencing decision making with either occassional, or subtle, “promptings”, and reserving greater force of influence for rare and big matters. ”

    Are you saying that someones church court may not be a big enough thing for God to use his greater force on those that stand in judgement.

    “In other words, God largely supports the decision making of his Bishops, and recognizes that there is often times more than one correct way to manage a situation.”

    You maybe dis fellow shipped or put on probation but your either excommunicated or your not!!

  32. James:

    The list I just drummed up was not intended to reflect my personal position in it’s entirety, but if you want to know what my perspective is, #5 is more of my take on matters. The list was an attempt to enumerate several possible, though not necessarily comprehensively, possible rationalizations that I have both heard and can concieve, to explain away the observation that Bishops counsel appears to vary from Bishop to Bishop, in terms of both position and severity. So option #2, which serves as the basis for question to me does not reflect my personal take on matters at all. To answer you’re question simply however, I can see many individuals who would adopt that line of reasoning coming to the conclusion you mention, that perhaps Joseph Smith did not have the will to institute the Priesthood ban. This position of course assumes that said ban came from God.

    Without trying to turn this into a discussion about the Priesthood ban, dismissing the usual ethical criticisms of the ban, I think the history of it is directly related to the question at hand. How do we rationalize the ban in the context, of the contemporary teaching that the theology behind the ban was a relic of 1800’s folklore? We currently have modern Prophets challenging former Prophets on this matter? Using this example, taking a position that Church leaders are error free is an uphill battle at best. Taking this into consideration it is inconcievable for me to conclude that Bishops will almost always execute their office in exactly the manner God wants. At the same time, particularly at the level of the First Presidency, this sort of what the Church teaches – so I think I understand the basis of your initial comments (#25), even so again, the is the trouble for me is experience does not bear this out, so I am left to conclude “the Church say’s one thing, experience suggests otherwise, I’m going to go with experience on this one”.

  33. James (#31):

    I am saying that this is a position some people may take, but again it is not my personal position.

  34. “You maybe the exception in your thinking but I would think many bishops more than half would disagree with you.” (James)

    I hope not. As I said I don’t think this view is going to lead people good places. It is dodgy ground. As you highlight I do not doubt that abuse of powers goes on and this is why I support the work of Lavinia Andersen and Co. who document such cases. I wonder whether without the guidelines there would be more abuse or incongruency?

    The example cited is interesting. I don’t think it shows brighams dislike for Bro. Mrsh it just shows insensitivity. he is trying to teach a principle (not a good one) and just chooses a bad example and a bad time to do it. I have seen that lots of times. It was not a good moment for Brigham.

    re 29: I think that is a great scripture and reinforces my view that we should not wipe peoples names from our lists unless they request it.

    re 31: Is this situation serious enough? I think an interesting case here is Grant Palmer’s trial. I am not making a judgment about the decision, but Grant Palmer after being disfellowshipped went home and had an important spiritual experience when he felt God’s love for him. I am not going to interpret that but merely say that sometimes we are unwilling to receive inspiration because of our prejudices, and unfortunately this applies to everyone even those called to lead. It seems he was open to that experience when maybe his leaders were not. Alternatively because he thought he was right he may not have been able to sense that God did think he was wrong. Either way we can all block certain messages and allow others (or interpret them different ways) depending on our paradigm.

  35. “The example cited is interesting. I don’t think it shows brighams dislike for Bro. Mrsh it just shows insensitivity. he is trying to teach a principle (not a good one) and just chooses a bad example and a bad time to do it. I have seen that lots of times. It was not a good moment for Brigham.”

    To be honest that example from Brigham Young is more often than not employed by Church critics to show the absurdity behind LDS concept of Prophets, ie, possessing truth from God. Looking back to my Gospel Doctrine class, and many of the aged Brethren in there, I’d be willing to take Brighams bet that I could get more Women my age than any of them could. I’m not sure, anything LDS about these men has slowed the aging process.

  36. Joh M. This is a beautiful quote:
    “But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people, for behold I know bmy sheep, and they are numbered. Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them.” (3 Nephi 18:31-32)
    I agree that excommunication should be very limited.
    In my experience, this lovely scripture has been used primarily to justify the return of sexual predators to full participation in the LDS Church. However, my experience may be limited as my profession as a school psychologist/school counselor may increase my knowledge of these sexual predators, even the ones who are considered “family reunified”, meaning their group therapy is completed and they are returned to home of the children they molested.
    Educators, unlike lay ministry, are mandated reporters of child abuse, and our confidentiality is limited by this requirement. If we do not report abuse, our credentials and employment can be taken from us, through a state ethics board complaint process. This is why we are insured by our districts as we are subject to an accountability process. I would wish a similar procedure and similar accountability process on our lay ministry, especially when it concerns the safety of children. Sexual predators have high rates of recidivism (reoffending), when exposed to children.

  37. re 36: In my experience there is a requirement upon Church leaders to do that as well, but aybe I have misunderstood what you mean. I should say that those who confess are told to go to authorities as part of the process of repentance. Or in the case of the abused coming forward then the leader is told to encourage them to go to the police. I think the difficulty arises when the person who is abused makes a statement but won’t go to the police and the person accused denies it. Also, i know the Church wants to limit its involvement. I could see a Bishop being released for hiding this. But I bet there are exceptions. Do you think that sexual predators should not be allowed to return, or are you arguing that tehy should return but not be exposed to children?

  38. When a sexual purpetrator confesses to a church leader, it is suggested that they encourage the sexual abuser to go to the authorities. It is apparantly on the honor system, so you can imagine what happens next.
    The child who is abused, and has reported through a mandated reporter, may be taken to church and “strongly encouraged” to recant. I’m saying this in the most gentle way possible. Children are not the best reporters under these circumstances.
    Lay ministry are not mandated reporters, Educators, who are mandated reporters are required to report the abuse, they take the ethical responsibility of their office and do what is required to protect the child. This is not always what happens in church as the recommend is to encourage the child to go to the police. Also, when we have traditional roles of adult males in power and female children in subjugation, speaking truth to power becomes even more challenging for our daughters in the Church. The idea of bringing police into the situation is frightening for them and the Priesthood is encouraged to stay out of the situation, so the child goes to the adult and the adult does not follow through in advocating for them. The Bishop is advised to step out and not act as a support for the child. So children who are abused would be better served if they were directed to report to an educator or counselor at their school, not some guy, who most likely has no training in this area and is not mandated to do anything but suggest police involvement.
    Male children also are targeted for abuse but are less likely to report because of the stigma of shame and the misguided idea that having been abused by a male, it makes them “gay”. The double stigma in the LDS Church that is carried by these young boys causes so much emotional turmoil that they often demonstrate more trauma in their lives than other abused children. Remeber, there are two general types of sexual predators, fixated and opportunistic. Some are both, demonstrating a preference for a certain gender and age but will take advantage of any child if the opportunity arises.
    Regarding sexual predators returning, yes, I am in agreement that they should not be turned away, but they should not be allowed in positions of authority, or be allowed to be in contact with children. Many sexual predators are not on the local sheriff’s lists as there are various ways to stay off of the list, either by agreeing to a diversion program or plea bargaining to a lesser charge. Level II and above are the only sexual predators whose names and pictures are published locally. You can look up those sexual predators through your local sheriff’s office, if they have registered.

  39. James:
    Re: “the handbook of instructions, which gives guidelines about how to administer Church Discipline.”
    Where is this published online and how do I get a copy of both books?

  40. Good luck with that one, Jo….anybody who ever had a copy of that for sale could retire. I’d sure buy one.

    Excommunication is a really big deal in southern Utah, socially.

  41. So, how do we, as members, know if what we are being told is in keeping with LDS Church policy, if the policy is kept a secret. Is it a way to keep us from knowing what to expect from our own religion?
    In education, we hand out procedural rights booklets to every parent, especially when disciplinary or special education is involved. I have a stack of 40 in Spanish English and one or two in Russian in every office at every building assigned on my caseload. I don’t understand why the LDS Church would want to restrict access to their handbook of instructions from their members. My brother keeps quoting from it and I want a copy, so I can better know what to ask and how to discuss church doctrine with him. What do I need to do to get one, grow new body parts?

  42. Yes Jo, frankly that is what you will have to do. But, you will also have to grow new body parts and become a Bishop. It also may be helpful to know that the Handbook of Instructions is not one size fits all. There are levels to them, and in a Bishopric, generally only the Bishop will be given a “full” copy with instructions for Bishops, Cousellors and Clerks usually recieve an abridged copy. I believe their is also a version for Stake leaders, such as the Stake Presidency.

    As a side note, there have been several instances where internet sites have posted copies of the Handbook, only to be swiftly met with a copyright infringement violations and legal enforcement towards removal – so the Church takes safeguarding their handbooks very seriously. They really do not want the contents of the handbook to be brought into mainstream awareness.

  43. DrewE-the story of the woman taken in adultery is a later addition and likely apocryphal, which is too bad because it’s a favorite!

    I think of excommunication as similar to parental tough love. Should you ever kick your child out of the house? Yes, but only when nothing else will do the trick.

  44. “There are levels to them, and in a Bishopric, generally only the Bishop will be given a “full” copy with instructions for Bishops, Counselors and Clerks usually receive an abridged copy. I believe their is also a version for Stake leaders, such as the Stake Presidency.”

    I do not believe this is the case.

    There is a Book one for bishoprics and Stake Presidencies. Each Bishop and counselor, Stake President and Counselor receive a “full” Book 1. It is also for Mission Presidents, District and Branch and AAs and GAs. Book One is held pretty close to the vest and should be handled down when new leadership takes over. I would be surprised if the Bishop was unwilling to address a specific question about the GHI

    There is also Book 2 which is for the Priesthood and Auxiliary Presidents. Some get a full book 2 and others than get their section. The sections are readily available,

    You’re making it much more mysterious than it needs to be. It is policies, procedures, and responsibilities manual.

  45. Jeff:

    I think your clarication is likely more correct, after now having had a quick discussion on the matter with a client/friend. In the Ward where I was one time the Ward Clerk, our Bishop kept Book 1 exclusively to himself, and gave Book 2 to each of his counsellors and myself. Looking back however, he was a Bishop with several years leadership experience serving with two junior counsellors, and me (I also would be considered junior in that context), so perhaps he was just trying to be prudent. It sounds like in many wards, both Bishops and their Counsellors will be given access to Book 1. That being said, while it is a “policies and procedures manual”, it is a bit mysterious. After all, if it was a policy manual that dealt strictly with how tithing is to be counted, or who was responsible for making sure the doors were locked at night, I can’t imagine the Church going to such lengths ensuring that the general membership does not have access to the manual. The mystery lies inherently in the way that access to the book is exclusive to Ward…. leadership.

    The manual among many things coaches a Bishop on Church policies relating to member worthiness, and Church organization. It explains in detail the purpose and structure of quorums, and auxilaries. Included in that is the manner in which said Quorums and Auxilaries are to function. It also includes Church protocol for Bishops counselling members. It clarifies contemporary Church thinking on worthiness matters, as well as setting standards in Church discipline, ie, “such and such offense should generally result in either, excommunication, disfellowship, exclusion from participating in Sacrament, etc”. On one hand, to be fair to the Church one possible reason for not allowing the handbook to make the rounds through the general membership is to protect the structure of authority in the Church. In other words, we don’t want members challenging Bishops on how to effectively manage Church structure or discipline by hanging a procedures manual over his head. Instead it is a tool allowed to give him the ability to filter instruction down. Also it could be to protect the station of Bishop as a Judge in Israel, as opposed to giving the impression that Judgements are actually defined in a fifth volume of scripture.

    On the other hand, I could also challenge that part of the reason for the ultra-secrecy behind the book is to maintain Church structure, while also protecting Church image. The handbook would be seen as a natural target for criticisms surrounding sexism, sensorship, and or elitism. It could also expose the Church succinctly for evolving policies, and questions surrounding the authenticity of the “revelatory” abilities of particularly local authorities.

  46. “It could also expose the Church succinctly for evolving policies, and questions surrounding the authenticity of the “revelatory” abilities of particularly local authorities.”

    I kind of doubt this. There are not that many things in the book that are so secret that anyone would be so disturbed by ‘getting out.” Just as in business, managers have access to more information about how the company works than an average employee.

    If you’re really all that interested the 2006 book is available on line. The new one is probably not that different.

  47. I think that Excommunication has very little to do with punishment and even less to do with aiding the repentance process, however I think that there is much misunderstanding and perhaps occasions where this procedure has been misapplied . it is little to do with punishment because if that is the motive then it fails to fit with the teachings of Christ. it is even less to do with facilitating the repentance process because Excommunication is seldom used when a less active returns to the flock. what I believe Excommunication should be used for, is found in the route meaning; Communication, I have never been involved in this procedure and so I might be a little nieve however I was horrified to find that some one who was excommunicated for sexual sin, was unable to receive Home Teachers, again not seeming part of the repentance process. However there are occasions for the unrepentant that would seek to draw others away, or seeking the justify there position are not permitted to communicate to others as a member. although as taught in 3Nephi Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them.” (3 Nephi 18:31-32)

  48. Evolving attitudes about the nature of certain sins, homosexuality comes to mind, may be reflected in print in a Church manual. This could challenge the Church’s historical credibility because while I concede that many shifts in Church attitude are not exactly secret, the manuals could much more accurately pinpoint when certain attitudes shift by noting clear shifts in policy. This could be really indicting if these shifts strongly correlated to a simultaneous change in leadership, a correlation which I think would be largely expected but still damaging to the Church’s overall image. That being said, I am not exactly sure what the specific details are of homosexuality as mentioned in the hand book.

  49. Perhaps I am misinformed, but my understanding was that the term ex-communication, particularly as it relates to religious social status, was from a similar root as “communion”. I thought it was referring to the Catholic concept of Holy Communion, where partakers of the Holy Eucharist are brought into a state of Divine Fellowship with God and the Church. The inverse of such a blessed association was to be “ex-communicated” from that (those) society, similar to being literally expelled from the presence of God, at least in a manner of speaking. I’m not sure that it was intened to suggest necesarilly a severence of communication from the Church, though perhaps that was implied, ie, the historical Christian penchant for shunnings.

  50. Jo,

    If you were in my ward and wanted to know what the handbook said about church discipline, a member of our bishopric would probably be willing to sit down with you and let you read it, or perhaps even make a copy of that portion for you. Like Jeff says, its really not that mysterious, but there is emphasis on using the sections that are pertinent to your stewardship. I don’t know what other Bishoprics would say in response to a request like that, so I’m only estimating a response based on my ward experience.

  51. “Excommunication… [is] the only power to punish the Church has ever had”

    There is the mythologic rite of dusting off the shoes…..

  52. “the story of the woman taken in adultery is a later addition and likely apocryphal”

    Where can I read more about this???

  53. 24. Aaron

    I understand your logic in regards to sexual predators, but I would ask what the benefit is of excommunicating them? If the benefit is to ensure those attending Church are safe from criminals than wouldn’t it be easier to ask that person to stop attending? Also, even if you excommunicate someone they can still come to Church thus not ensuring the safety of other Church members even when a sexual predator is excommunicated.

    I do agree that excommunication is an organizational tool but I find that to be a problem. Excommunication has been used as a tool by the Church to ensure its culture remains deeply rooted in its mythology. Speak against the mythology – excommunication. Don’t follow the rules – excommunication. If we proclaim to be a Church of sinners, then why do we cast out sinners?

    I still maintain that excommunication is a form of negative reinforcement. It is a punishment, correct? Someone can be punished and still grow from it, but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer a punishment.

    42. Jo

    Why does the Church keep it away from the general membership? I think it is because policies change and the Church has enough to explain in regards to the doctrinal, scriptural and temple changes it has made.

    44. Hawkgrrl

    If you know that, then I assume you also know most of the Bible is suspect. Why do we teach from the Bible at all if we know it isn’t the true source of Jesus’ teachings, but books written up to 200 years after his death? I find the story of the prostitute to be just as valid as the rest.

    50. MrQandA

    When Christ was on earth and led his Church he did not excommunicate. So I disagree that the practice in any way can be done in the Spirit of Christ.

  54. I have served on disciplinary councils, and my experience is they were all very spiritual and opportunities to teach principles of the Atonement. I have heard experiences where they were pretty emotionally charged and not so uplifting, but never experienced them.

    Excommunication from the group is a way to help the individual understand the serious nature of some some sins. I also think it is used by the church to separate apostates who are like the wild branches of an olive tree that, if not removed, will weaken the rest of the tree.

    All are invited to come back, but the first 2 principles are faith and repentence, which establish terms for re-admittance. As long as they meet those conditions according to a judge in Israel, they should be welcomed back with a big banquet, like a prodigal.

    Some people really learn a lot about what they want when they are removed from it and feel the absence of it.

    If it is a serious sin, there is a serious consequence. I see nothing unloving about that teaching principle.

  55. #56 – Christ’s example showed that at times he had to correct people, but always with love and purpose. He drove money changers out of the temple because what they were doing was acceptable inside the temple. But the individuals were welcome in the temple if they left their worldly desires outside.

    Marvin J Aston said:
    “One of my favorite “cry out during the night children’s stories” is about a four-year-old boy who came during the middle of the night to his parents’ bedroom, sobbing and crying. His mother put her arms around him to give comfort, saying, “What happened?”

    He said, “I fell out of bed.”

    She asked, “Why did you fall out of bed?”

    And he cried, “Because I wasn’t in far enough.”

    It has been my experience that most people who fall out of the Church do so because they were not in far enough.

    At one time I was visiting with an excommunicated member of the Church. I told him he had been disciplined and was out of the Church so it would now be possible for him to come back in, with greater strength and appreciation for the gospel. Thank God the great majority realize that every policy and standard recommended is to keep them in comfortably and securely and not drive them out. I have always thought the Savior, Jesus the Christ, drove the money changers out of the temple so they could come back in with righteous desires and new commitments.”
    source: Marvin J. Ashton, “He Is There,” New Era, Oct 1993, 4

  56. (edit)
    …He drove money changers out of the temple because what they were doing was NOT acceptable inside the temple…

  57. DrewE-yes, a valid point. Although based on it being a later addition, it’s even more suspect, IMO, but it all is to some extent. So it The Word poem at the beginning of John (another favorite!)

    Going back to the analogy of tough love, you only kick a child out of the house because they are tearing the family apart through destructive behavior that abuses the rights of the other children in the house, IMO. If you kick a child out for less than this, such as for simply not following the rules or being a bad example to your other children, then IMO, you haven’t done your duty through love to support your “difficult” child. Some excommunications are doubtless premature (crowd control), or done as a deterrent to others (Sept Six?) or are unrighteous dominion. But I don’t believe that’s usually the case.

  58. Heber13, #160. “He drove money changers out of the temple.” I wonder if placing a wife’s contributions under her non-contributing husband’s name and then requiring him to wish to attend the temple as a condition for her temple recommend renewal would count as “money changing.”
    I enjoyed your story by Marvin J. Aston. For me, the experience was more a push out of bed by these guys to pursue and gain control of my DH, whom I affectionately nicknamed, “The object of their affections.” Since I have not grown the desired priesthood body part, it is unlikely that any action will be taken to invite me back to “bed”. The Bishop did, however, break confidentiality and attempt to “cast out” his own version of what happened, resulting in my receipt of a flaming letter from a woman in the congregation, giving her opinion of “my situation”. Toss me out and call me names.
    Rigel Hawthorne, #53 re: “If you were in my ward and wanted to know what the handbook said about church discipline, a member of our bishopric would probably be willing to sit down with you and let you read it.”
    I’m not reassured that this particular bedtime story would convince me to climb back in after being “kicked”.
    I still want to hear it if you wish to quote it to me.

  59. 61. Hawkgrrrl

    Pick one of the many other stories in which Jesus forgives a serious sin immediately through his grace. And since you mentioned the Apocrypha there is a good possibility that excommunication came from Catholicism. Also – the Churches that are still practicing excommunication – Catholic Church, Lutheran, Episcopal Church. My opinion is that this practice was passed down from the Church some leaders used to say was the Great and Abominable. I think that is interesting 🙂

  60. re 45-6: On the manuals thing. Jeff is right. but it can be so difficult to get new ones so that as they are lost people don’t get them like in your situation cowboy. I have been in situations where I did not have one and where i have had one. I have read both the old and new and there is very little that has substantially changed. There is very little doctrine. They are for the most part very boring. The section of disciplinary councils does not give specific outlines of what must happen in a disciplinary council, except for murder. Every other situation has a ‘may’ or ‘could’ in association with it.

    re 50: not receiving HT is a decision of the ward not a policy.

    re 51: To get a good flavour of the evolving nature of sins in manuals you can read either the Lester Bush article in Dialogue on Excommunication or Kimball article in BYU Studies on Confession in the LDS Church.

    re 52: I was under the impression excommunication was a permanent severing of ties between God and his people. The concept of a holy community is important as I mentioned in the original article.

    re 54: I had not thought about that. It is so ambiguous and so much folklore that it does not even seem real.

  61. re 56: I am kind of assuming that this becomes part of the excommunication. Sorry I should have been clear. When going through a disciplinary council the usual practice is that between the people involved you come up with a list of things that need to change. One of those in the case cited would usually be you are not allowed to come to Church. I think what I explained was unclear. I think that if a sexual predator is repentant then I don’t think they should be excommunicated but they should be asked not to come to church. I think if they are unrepentant then I think they perhaps should (but I am not a fan of hard and fast rules). The issue is that the church facilitates their access and gives them a cloak to cover their intentions. I think agree with Hawkgrrrl 61 in this instance. My issue with it is some parents have less tolerance for what is tearing the house apart.

    Also, I am not sure I could argue that Christ did not practice excommunication. The idea of the unpardonable sin sounds as much like an excommunication as anything else, if not more so. You can come back from Excommunication.

  62. 52. Cowboy, from what I have studied I would agree that excommunication stems from Catholic communion. I was attempting a crude observation of the word in a new context to make a point. please don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, which I believe is sound advice for many diciplinarary councils should take on board.

    56. DrewE, I completely agree that nowhere is it documented that Christ Excommunicated someone, however within the three years of his Ministry only a handful received the necessary ordinances that if broken would result in Excommunication. It is also clear that after Christ’s mission on Earth his Apostles used the threat of Excommunication as a method to warn an rebuke.

    64. Aaron, I hope that is the case it seems a very arbitrary punishment, however in defence of my priesthood leaders, when the excommunicated’s name is removed from the records is it not implied that they are no longer on the HT list? under these circumstances my Bishop did a superb job of ensuring the individuals needs were met. however all the same.

  63. I kind of look at excommunication in two ways. First, it is not the start of a process of separating a person from the rolls of the Church but a midpoint along the person’s own journey. If a person commits the kind of sin worthy of calling a DC, then it is they who have separated themselves from the Church at the point and excommunication is the formal process of relieving one of their Church responsibilities (Covenants, etc) until full repentance is achieved. It is not very different than someone who desires to be baptized but has to clear somethings up, except that the time period is typically longer.

    The other way to look at it is that is to show the person their is a grave consequence to certain actions and activities. I suppose you could call that a punishment of sorts. but that is really not different than ending up in the Terrestrial or Telestial kingdoms. We are separated from God.

    I understand that excommunications are getting rarer and rarer. That many situations, even with priesthood holders are not coming before a DC like they would have in the past.

  64. Simple question. With all of the focus on policy and procedure on this top-down organization, where are the rights statements that promise fair treatment to individual members? We have developed individual rights statements in education for students. Has someone developed a set of individual rights promised to individual members of the LDS Church?

  65. 68. Jo

    Please elaborate as to what you would consider “rights”.

    To my knowledge, no such rights statement has ever been drafted and I highly doubt that the Church would ever issue such a document. I do not believe there are any individual “rights” promised to individual members of the LDS Church. What others may consider as “rights” the Church considers as privileges and those privileges are predicated on obedience to commandments and adherence to sacred covenants.

  66. 68. Jo

    The closest thing I could think of a rights statement are the Articles of Faith. Examples:

    2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression.

    3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

    Notice in verse 3 the words may, obedience, laws and ordinances. I believe members of the Church would swap the word “rights” for “blessings”.

    “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated— And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130: 20-21)

    Your thoughts?

  67. Maybe it is because I would consider myself liberal that John M’s statement in #70 bothers me. It is not that I disagree with him, because I think he is right. What bothers me is that members don’t have much protection in their Church membership. In a perfect world priesthood holders would always get it right. But since we know it is not a perfect world, and as D&C says unrighteous dominion is common when a man gets power, should’t members have more rights and protection? I think a lot of mainstream members have a strong tendency to point out the abuses caused by the leadership of other faiths, but in comparison I’m not really seeing what makes the Mormon Church any less vulnerable to the same abuses of power. In fact, the older I get the more authoritarian and abusive the Church seems. The principle of teaching someone the truth and letting them govern themselves doesn’t seem to be important in our culture anymore. With such a strong emphasis on obedience how can members find the freedom to make choices for themselves without being forced or pushed into agreeing with the Church and their priesthood leaders?

  68. The decision of any disciplinary council can be appealed (Bishop”s Court to the Stake Presidency, Stake Court to the Area Presidency). If the decision is upheld, it can then be appealed again to the First Presidency. How often are outcomes overturned? I would venture to guess very rarely. In my years of experience, I have never seen or heard of a decision being overturned.

  69. 73 John M

    I served on the High Council for 5 years and never new until recently that DC’s could be appealed!
    I wonder how many members have gone through a court of love felt that it was unjust ruling but didn’t know they had the right of appeal?

  70. 74. James:

    In the Church’s Handbook of Insturctions Book 1 / Church Discipline / Procedure of the Council it specifically states: “The presiding officer explains the person’s right to appeal and closes the meeting with prayer.” There is an entire section regarding appeals that the presiding officer is supposed to explain in detail to the member. If this was not being done during disciplinary councils in which you participated, that is very unfortunate.

    Also, I mis-spoke in an earlier post. An appeal of action of a ward disciplinary council is to the stake presidency (and high council). An appeal of the action of a stake disciplinary council is to the First Presidency.

  71. I wonder how the concepts from Warner’s Leadership and Self-Deception play into this discussion. Those who have left the church (that I have observed) seem to develop a fixation on their treatment in the process and minimizing their actions that led to the discipline. The focus shifts from the process of repentance to self-justification – a form of confirmation bias.

    Certainly revelation in disciplinary courts is screened through the leaders background, temperament, and spiritual philosophy. Otherwise, those 100 leaders would arrive at the same conclusion every time. A difficult question is – why does God allow men and women in positions of authority do such boneheaded things? Why didn’t he force Brigham Young to see beyond his cultural/historical biases? Why doesn’t he force the Relief Society President to hold her tongue rather than give offense? Why did he allow me to make the mistakes I have made when in leadership positions?

  72. #62 “resulting in my receipt of a flaming letter from a woman in the congregation, giving her opinion of “my situation”. Toss me out and call me names.”

    Flaming letters are totally inapporpriate. Calling names are equally inappropriate. That is not part of the process. At some point, though, more important than what others say or do or don’t say or fail to do, most importantly the individual has to humbly seek the Lord for forgiveness and determine if “getting back in” is the right choice for them.

    My experience has been leaders want nothing more than that return. Of course, my experience is admittedly small.

  73. Jo, the Church Handbook of Instructions is full of rights statements – or, more accurately, statements regarding how members are to be treated. Generally, the problem is when those statements aren’t followed by leaders.

    Frankly, I hope the Church never publishes a separate, specific list of rights statements – and, no, I’m not going to articulate why I feel that way. I just believe it would be a nightmare.

    Fwiw, I have been involved in multiple disciplinary courts – at the ward and stake level. Every one was conducted carefully and prayerfully – one taking multiple hours and ending past midnight because of the complexity of the situation. I know there are too many where the ideal is not followed, but I believe the large majority are as close to ideal as is humanly possible to be. However, even in many of those cases, there are those who aren’t satisfied – no matter what the official decision is. After all, many courts involve members who disagree with each other – and who go into the meetings having already decided what they believe the outcome should be. In many cases, no decision will be seen as correct by everyone involved – and in those cases, those who disagree are going to feel violated in some way. There simply is no way around that, unfortunately, even when the decision is “right” in every important way.

  74. One more quick comment:

    If procedures are followed properly, it is impossible to be disfellowshipped or excommunicated without knowing about it unless the person ignores the hearing, changes address and avoids the leadership – or is unable to be located. In the latter case, those steps are taken only in cases of extreme need and seriousness – and overwhelming evidence.

    Iow, it is required that a member who is disfellowshipped or excommunicated be notified of the hearing and be told of the outcome at the end of the hearing, whenever possible. It’s not something that is done in steps (the hearing then the decision) and kept secret. If that doesn’t happen, it is a serious breach of protocol.

    So, if someone is unsure of whether or not they have been formally disciplined, chances are extremely high that they haven’t been.

  75. Ray,

    I remember when I first read Jo’s account there it just didn’t make sense. I’ve been involved in councils and a clerk, ward and stake, and a bishop’s counselor and the procedure was black and white in terms of the notification before and after, specifics about what the outcome entails and procedure for appeals. I need a few more facts before accepting this at face value.

  76. Re #59

    I think Elder Aston’s talk is meant to be more humors then serious. While there are many who fall out of activity in the church because they want to pursue a different lifestyle and were never actually “converted”. There are a growing number of members who at one point in their lives were about as far “in” as one can be. I’m talking missions, temple marriage, years and years of activity and leadership calling only to discover that they had been deceived. And while I would agree that the church is becoming more open about its history, the fact remains that many of these “disaffected “ sorts didn’t fall out of bed because they weren’t far enough in. Usually, just the opposite-They were the ones most adamantly following the principles and defending the faith. Just saying…

  77. GBSmith, Good point as I have had a difficult time explaining what occurred in terms that are easily understood to bloggers. I guess I didn’t want to be “tiresome” by stating what occurred in the same way each time. I would need to know from you what you find confusing. Here is the timeline for the events.
    1. Husband and wife are active in the LDS Church. DH paticipates in the high priests group where everyone else has been married in the temple. Wife participates by bringing food to families in need, driving people to appointments and presenting information on special education. Bishop, who works in funeral services, gets along well with the husband but does not like the wife because she put limits on his ability to have an open casket service at a high school auditorium when acting in her administrative role for the school (casket was allowed at the memorial service, but not allowed to be open). (2004)
    2. Husband was allowed to “teach” in classes. Wife was no longer allowed to “teach” after the casket incident. This was not directly stated, but no verbal offers of further workshops regarding children and learning were accepted by the Bishop.
    3. Multiple efforts to encourage husband to attend temple resulted in little success.
    4. Wife requested an interview with the Bishop to renew temple recommend.
    5. Bishop determined that before the wife could be interviewed, wife would have to come to him each month for a year and ask “What more can I do.” Wife, who was simply there to renew her temple recommend, explained that this is not a usual requirement, and asked for someone else to interview her as she felt that the Bishop had embellished the process, creating a new criteria in order to be interviewed (We didn’t even get to the interview). The Bishop was asked for due process, exactly, “What is the next step to have someone else interview me?” The Bishop’s reply was that I could be interviewed by anyone else and that wouldn’t change anything, as it is his decision and only his decision.
    6. Call made from school district office, overheard by another educator, where the stake clerk made the requirement that the DH had to make the call and had to attend the meeting with the SP.
    7. Wife calls husband and tries to explain the requirement. He explains that he has a tight schedule of meetings and could she just tell them that he asked her to schedule the meeting. Situation was reexplained to DH until he understood that wife was disallowed from scheduling appointment. The other educator was still in the room during this series of calls between the Stake Clerk and Wife and Husband.
    8. DH scheduled and attends first meeting with SP, who gives the temple interview and then states that “If it were my decision, I would give you the recommend, However it is the Bishops decision and I will talk with him and we can meet again.
    9. Letter is received by wife from woman in congregation who has learned of “the situation” from the Bishop. Woman calls wife on same day and wife states that the Bishop has violated confidentiality, Bishop calls wife and a discussion occurs where Bishop explains that confidentiality is “whoever he thinks needs to know.” Wife explains and gives examples from state school counselor ethics of definition of confidentiality.
    This is the discussion where the Bishop, after some discussion states, “This is not the legal system, this is not the academic system, this is religion.”
    10. Wife and husband attend the SP meeting where it is clarified that tithing contributions are mistakenly listed under husband’s name. SP makes the condition that the wife should wait until the husband wishes to attend the temple and then they can go together. It was clarified, in this meeting that the wife was only seeking to have her endowments, not temple marriage. SP indicated that he understood this and repeated that wife should wait until the husband wanted to seek his endowments too and then we could have them together and then be married in the temple. Both Husband and wife explained to the SP and Bishop that the husband was not seeking temple endowments. Answer from both Bishop and SP was “He will.”
    Call received from Bishop to wife, in this conversation wife mentions that this ward may not be a good fit and another ward would be sought that might have a less provincial tone and culture.
    Bishop states that husband and wife are required to meet with SP to gain his permission to attend another ward. Wife refuses to repeat the SP meeting process. Wife offers Bishop her professional services, to teach a workshop, using graduate level curriculum on confidentiality, or to provide a male teacher from a reputable organization to come and teach the workshop. Both requests are denied.

    Husband’s teaching schedule is changed and he is no longer assigned classes to teach in priesthood meetings. Wife continues to fulfil requests by RS, but now has sisters calling her to check to see if she has fulfilled her callings. RS sisters begin to ask questions about “the situation” then advise wife to ‘pretend it never happened.”
    Call made to a GA for clarification of temple recommend process and GA refers wife to SP as they do not take calls for clarification from members, only Stake Presidents.
    Stake president calls and leaves message requesting wife and husband to schedule a meeting with him. This never occurs as husband requests that wife let them fade out of the local ward/stake rather than deal with the church directly. Paricipation in church and church activities drops and husband and wife stop attending. Tithing settlement is received, showing all contributions in Husband’s name. Wife calls stake clerk and asks that tithing contributions be properly recorded under her name. Tithing settlement is received, showing husbands name crossed out with wife’s name scribbled in the margin. Wife’s accountant is amused by this but states that it will be no problem as the IRS is familiar with LDS practices and will allow the contributions under the wife’s name. Wife receives hilarious sympathy cards from her husbands family as the accountant is a relative of her husband.
    Home teachers escalate their visits in frequency and length of visits, to husband and wife. Husband asks home teachers to call before visiting, and wife and husband do not pick up the call so home visitors begin “ambush visits” by stopping by later at night and without warning. Home visitor makes a request to wife that Husband and Wife attend Church. Wife explains that the ward has demonstrated sexist behavior and gives the situation where husband was required to schedule and attend the SP meeting as an example. Home visitor, who had not been involved in any of the meetings, tells wife, “It never happened.”
    Wife asks for “a vacation” from home visits.
    RS sisters call wife, to arrange assignments and home visits. Wife explains that husband and wife are now inactive due to a situation of unrighteous dominion. More calls from various sisters are made to wife and receive the same request to allow husband and wife to have “a vacation” from home visits.
    Sister arrives at wife’s house late at night and in discussion states that husband and wife need to either move records to a new ward or remove their names from the Church. Wife states that they are inactive, as they were required to get permission to move records. Wife states that she wishes to remain on the Ward list as an inactive member, and have a ‘no home visits’ note by their name. RS sister states that that wife cannot do this. Wife assures her that husband and wife will physically move eventually and then resume participation in a new stake and new ward.
    After about one year, it was observed that people in the ward, not involved in any of these contacts, were consistently shunning both the husband and the wife. For example, if passing in the local grocery market, they would not respond to a “Hello” and exibited behaviors that appeared either angry or embarrassed, such as strong avoidance behaviors, including moving to another register line that was longer, changing direction and walking away when the Husband or Wife were sighted. Facial expressions included recognition and panic. Odd behavior of people to whom we know only through prior church attendance. I found this amusing and interesting, while my DH was surprised and saddened by the situation as he had helped the guy frequently with moving and with the boy scout activities.
    Wife’s brother, who has answered questions for her before as he has served in higher level roles in priesthood, explains to wife that some stakes allow women to attend the temple on their own and some require that women’s husbands be endowed first. He agrees that there is not a consistent policy as stake presidents have broad discretion in operating their stakes.
    There has been little discussion regarding this situation as the Husband does not wish to discuss it and religion is generally a subject that is not discussed at work or in social situations. I have been asked by many educators, who heard about the phone call, trying to schedule the SP visit, from the other educator in the room. I have answered their questions in the best way that I can, but am embarrassed and tend to explain that this is not the way that the LDS church operates. I have been teased by some of the female educators, who laught and say, “What did you expect, after all, polygamy should have given you a clue.”
    Educators have been very amused by this and I am avoiding discussing it with anyone in my life as it serves no purpose and could make me appear less professional. Luckily, there is not much discussion regarding religion in my social circles. My family has asked a time or two about the resolution of the situation. They are reassured as I attend church when visiting them or on vacation with them and support my daughter and her husband. My Husband and I attended my first grandson’s blessing and my husband was in the circle. We are supportive of their participation in the LDS Church, and they have not experienced unrighteous dominion. These on line forums are the only place that I have found to even discuss this situation, which occurred in 2007 – 2008, as the LDS Church did not offer a satisfactory process of clarification and resolution. I am truly grateful for having a group available to provide advice and clarification. Thank you for all that you do for those of us that have faced difficult situations. I’ll answer clarification questions for you, if you need that for face value.

  78. Jo, I am going to try very hard to choose my words so that there is no misunderstanding. Please read my comment in the spirit in which it is offered:

    Let’s let this drop. There is nothing that can be done to change what happened, and this narrative makes it abundantly clear that there was ample “fault” from all parties involved. Honestly, after reading your summary, I can’t see any way it could have turned out differently. I mean that. Everyone involved seems to have had strong feelings about how things should have happened, and most seem not to have been interested in letting it happen any other way.

    I am very glad you are able to attend when visiting family, and it is obvious that no formal disciplinary actions have occurred. I am deeply saddened that your situation escalated to where it did, but fortunately there was no official disciplinary action taken.

    On a strictly personal level, I hope you can find a way to let go of this. It can’t be changed, and it absolutely is atypical – and, frankly, it happened as much because of your actions as it it did because of the Bishop’s and Stake President’s actions. There doesn’t appear to have been ANY “bad men (or women)” in this situation – just people who couldn’t communicate properly and acted defensively all around. This is exactly what I meant in my earlier comment that sometimes there simply are people who see things very differently and irreconcilably.

    I’m not saying one party or the other was right or wrong. Based strictly on what you just shared, I’m saying I think the result was inevitable given the personalities involved – and if you can accept that, you might be able to find a way to let go and re-establish a degree of peace concerning the whole thing.

    God bless you as you move forward to be able to stop looking backward.

  79. I guess I would like to hear from someone with a thoughtful insight into how procedure was applied in our situation:
    e.g. John M. #71’s comment:

    The closest thing I could think of a rights statement are the Articles of Faith. Examples:

    2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression.

    How would basing my temple recommend renewal contingent upon the behavior of my husband, and not on my own behavior, not be a violation of the article of faith “punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression.
    Except my DHs name is not Adam.

  80. Jo-I don’t think you are asking the right people. It sounds like procedures were not followed by your local leaders, but no one here speaks for them.

  81. Thank you hawkgrrl. I have already heard from my local Bishop and Stake President in the meetings that I described. I do not think my situation is as unusual as some imply, per my brother’s comment that stake presidents have broad discretion in how they operate their stakes. The LDS Church does not have an oversight committee to clarify procedure and policy so members end up leaving the Church, rather than put up with the politics that occur after unrighteous dominion by leaders.
    I wish, for everyone, that a consistent set of member rights could be developed, along with a best practices procedure, due process and oversight process. It isn’t there and the current process does not work.
    I reviewed the Wikileaks “Handbook of Instructions” and did not find a set of identified rights for members. I do not believe there is one and that the LDS Church operates top-down and charismatically, with each SP operating his stake in any manner that he pleases. Could we develop a proposed set of inalienable rights for members of the LDS Church on Mormon Matters?

  82. “Could we develop a proposed set of inalienable rights for members of the LDS Church on Mormon Matters?”

    Interesting, to say the least. With all the wild speculation we have done in the past, I don’t see why we couldn’t at least discuss what those rights would be.

  83. Lots of attempts to shut down the discussion on “do members have any rights in the LDS Church” which is on this topic of punishment.
    I’d like to hear an on point and well thought out reply from someone who is not a “dead horse”, John M. #71’s comment:

    The closest thing I could think of a rights statement are the Articles of Faith. Examples:

    2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression.

  84. I’m kind of on Jo’s side. Because that unrighteous dominion thing causes all kinds of trouble and if an practicer of unrighteous dominion causes someone to become disgruntled and (in my case hysterical) about the church, who’s at fault? I don’t totally buy that “you choose how you feel” stuff. And it sounds like somebody really did practice that in her case.

    Plus I totally, without reservation, hate all the secrecy that surrounds the handbook. I have future plans, but I don’t want to reveal them now.

    “Let’s let this drop” Translation: “Jo, shut up and go away, we’re bored with this topic.” Come over to Mormon Mentality, we let people argue till they die of exhaustion.

  85. Thank you Annegb:
    I was waiting for an judicially sensitive reply and yours pleased me. I do not believe that this group is “bored” with this topic, as there is more to it than that.
    Thomas Sowell, one of my favorite writers said it best in “Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality”:
    Straw men need to be examined not only in themselves, but also as indicators of what positions are too weak to defend in any other way. Many of these positions involve discrimination and policies for dealing with it…..The issue here is not whether any discrimination exists, The issue is what is used as evidence is in fact evidence”
    I provide a true case and it is attacked as “tiresome”, “ample “fault” from all parties involved” or Ray’s comment: “There doesn’t appear to have been ANY “bad men (or women)” in this situation – just people who couldn’t communicate. Also, instead of looking at the facts as it reflects a larger issue, it is dismissed as a personality problem.
    In a larger social sense, which you Annegb understood, the question is whether this example clarifies the discrimination that occurs in the LDS Church. The identification of the Articles of Faith being the closest thing to a rights statement for members should be explored. Let me know if Mormon Mentality has had the audacity to tackle that subject.
    The other “dead horse” comments are simply to obscure or dismiss a discussion, without much analysis.
    We are having a great discussion on Feminist Mormon Housewives over Jimmy Carter’s letter of resignation due to discrimination of women in the Southern Baptist Church. There is a lively group there and I think you would enjoy the thread annegb.
    Hawkgrrl was correct in her appraisal of the “right people”.

  86. Jo,

    I just read your summary of what happened. I think the problem is that the GA will always support the lower level. There is no place to go to for help. I believe in time things will have to change. Most leaders are wonderful, yet when there is a bad apple, no one will intervene.

    God Bless.

  87. Jo, My response was to you personally – asking that you and I let go and let it drop. I apologize if that wasn’t clear and led you to think I was trying to “shut down” the thread. I wasn’t.

    I tried to be careful and thoughtful and honest. You replied with sarcasm and insults. THAT is why I asked to let this drop between us; there is NO constructive discussion possible when you dismiss anything that doesn’t agree with you 100% – and you have done that to me at every turn here, even when I agreed initially with the basic premise of your concerns.

    I’m not going to continue to respond, so you got your wish. I sincerely hope you can find a way to recognize your case for what it appears to have been – a combination of strong-willed people who refuesed to listen to each other, church leaders who did NOT dispcipline either you or your husband and your own inability to grant them even that small token of understanding.

    It really is instructive when crazywomancreek, GBSmith and Ray agree completely about something. You have performeed a modern miracle, and the irony is that you appear not to realize why.

    I am letting it drop. I absolutely will not insist it stop; that is not how we do things here, so I hope somehow there can be constructive discussion of multiple perspectives – not just from those who agree with you.

  88. Ray: You missed something. My DH was disfellowshipped and bullied. He was a relatively new convert and I have been careful to not put pressure on him, So the Bishop and SP decided, on their own whim, to put significant pressure on him, by making my temple recommend conditional on his wishing to get his endowments. That was bullying him. You don’t have to agree or even respond, just know that some perfectly innocent guy was punished because he stood up for truth, equity and fairness. We met more than once with the SP, the Bishop and I rose above and reached out in love to correct the problem, because I didn’t want to believe that the Church that I had known all of my life, would operate in such an ignorant manner. I know you were sincere in your belief and some of your statements given here are telling.
    So why wouldn’t you want a statement of individual rights to protect individual members from this type of abuse?

  89. Jo, a final word from me in regards to your reference to the article of faith about Adam’s transgression. It refers to original sin and the LDS Church’s repudiation of the doctrine. That’s all. You can’t make it into something else. Like Ray, I’m sorry for your trouble.

  90. GBSmith:
    Regarding #71, John M.s comment: “The closest thing I could think of a rights statement are the Articles of Faith. Examples:

    2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression.”

    Along with supporting scripture:
    Rom. 14: 12
    12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

    John M.’s view of this Article of Faith was in relation to the rights of all “mankind” to be accoutable to God for their own actions and not someone else’s. The context in which it was brought into this discussion was in support of individual rights and accountability. It relates to original sin as it reinforces the idea that men are responsible for and punished for their own sins.
    It was meant to support the idea of individual accountability which is based on the idea of individual responsibility and therefore, assumed abilities or rights to make decisions and act on those decisions.

  91. Thank you for the practice of discussing ethics and religion. I have been invited to be on a state advisory board for ethics in my professional field.

  92. Let me see if I can help . . .

    Having been a part of Church disciplinary councils, and given my other experience, here’s my take.

    1.  Should the LDS Church retain the power to excommunicate and if so why, and if not why?

    Absolutely.  For two reasons:  to disassociate itself from those that are harmful to others or to the Church in general; and to help those that are harming themselves spiritually make things right with God.

    2.  Upon what criteria should Disciplinary Councils judge the appropriate response to a particular ‘sin’?

    The criteria is very clear, is based upon priesthood keys and authority, and is outlined in the Church Handbook of Instructions given to appropriate Church leadership.  Authority and Keys pertaining to these things are discussed in the Doctrine and Covenants.

    Ultimately the goal in any and every disciplinary council is repentance and full fellowship with Christ, regardless of the outcome or decision of the council.

    Things that councils are instructed to consider include:  confession, honesty, true repentance, age and accountability of the individual, damage done to oneself and others, covenants made, and the individual’s desire to make things right with God (to name a few).

    3.  Is Excommunication necessary for the repentance process?

    Some times its required.  Sometimes not.

    4.  What could be improved in the process or outcomes of Disciplinary Councils?

    The process and it’s outcomes, as I have personally witnessed it, works pretty well.  As you mentioned, a Disciplinary Council can be a very sweet spiritual experience . . . or quite sad.  That depends more on the attitude of the individual being counseled than anything else.  Those present who are part of the council consistently are filled with genuine love and concern for the person called before them.  Every time.What could be “improved”, if you will, is for each of us to gain a stronger testimony of Christ and the Power of the Atonement in each of our lives.  That, and perhaps us being less rebellious against the commandments of God in the first place . . .Of course, if we were great at that as a whole we wouldn’t need Disciplinary Councils . . .My admonishment to anyone who in reading this has been hesitant to meet with their Bishop because they “fear the punishment” is to make the call and set the appointment right away.  Fear is one of Satan’s most powerful tools, and as the Scripture Mastery teaches, the longer we procrastinate the day of our repentance, the harder it will be to repent.Fear not the judgement of man, but the judgement of God.  We must all do all that we can, everyday, to be better than we were the day before.  Repentance is something we all must do, and do regularly.  And there are few feelings as wonderful as that which comes from the Love of Christ and setting things right.

    If you’re not sure if you should talk to your Bishop, or Stake President, error on the safe side.  Make the call.  Right away.  You’ll be glad that you did.Repentance may not always be easy, but it’s always worth it.

    Even though you may be fearful, or lonely, or frustrated, or bitter, everyone is worthy of and entitled to the Love of God.

    Endure ’til the end!
    – Bro Jo
    “Dear Bro Jo”  http://www/dearbrojo.blogspot.comBro Jo’s books can be found at DeseretBook.com and Amazon.com

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