Mormon Excommunication Explained: An Act Of Love.

Mormon Excommunication Explained:

An Act Of Love

Much in the news has been talked about in regards to Mormon excommunication proceedings for some people (John Dehlin, and Kate Kelly). I want to clarify a few things.

Excommunications in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints commonly referred to as “Mormons” are different than most excommunications in most churches. We are not seeking to punish people for asking questions, questions are good, and encouraged (goodness knows I’ve had enough of them!). Excommunication in Mormonism is an act of love and mercy. Unlike so many other churches, who believe in banishment, shunning, and shaming, in the LDS Church, we strive to follow the guidance of Christ, as outlined in 3rd Nephi 18:22-23, 28-32

22 And behold, ye shall meet together oft; and ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not;
23 But ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out; and if it so be that they come unto you oft ye shall pray for them unto the Father, in my name…

28 And now behold, this is the commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it;
29 For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him.
30 Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out from among you, but ye shall minister unto him and shall pray for him unto the Father, in my name; and if it so be that he repenteth and is baptized in my name, then shall ye receive him, and shall minister unto him of my flesh and blood.
31 But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people, for behold I know my sheep, and they are numbered.
32 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.

Notice no shaming, not shunning, no banishment, nothing negative. The motives of excommunication are love and concern for the welfare of the soul. Some may ask, how does that work, how can it be an act of love? Well to answer that, you need to understand some basic Mormon doctrine.

In the LDS Church (Mormons), we believe we can enter into promises with God, we call these promises covenants. These Covenants are two-way promises, we promise to do certain things and we are promised blessings for doing so. At the same time, we accept that if we do not keep our covenants, it is counted as grievous sin.

Breaking your covenants you’ve entered into, is a big deal in the church. As Christ said it is “Drinking damnation to your soul.” So, with that basic understanding of covenants, we can now talk about how Excommunication is an act of love and mercy. When someone repeatedly breaks their covenants and refuses to repent or fix the problem, they are heaping sin upon their heads, a disciplinary council is called and excommunicated is discussed. What excommunication entails is the dissolving and “blotting out” the covenants they had entered into. In the eyes of God, it is as if that person never entered into those covenants. The purpose is so that they no longer have that higher level of accountability because they can not break a promise (and commit sin) for a promise that has been erased.

 

Excommunication is an Act of Love.

Priesthood courts of the Church are not courts of retribution. They are courts of love. Oh, that members of the Church could understand this fact.”
Elder Robert L. Simpson

So, when someone does something that violates the covenants they’ve entered into, such as not following the Prophet by actively protesting to get the church to change doctrine on Gay Marriage or Ordination of Women, they are normally excommunicated.  They are not excommunicated for not understanding or agreeing with the doctrine, they are excommunicated for protesting and fighting against the Prophet. This is so that they are not heaping additional damnation on their soul, as we have covenanted with God to follow Him and His prophets. So, in that sense excommunication is an act of love, and it is part of the repentance process.

“excommunication can be the first giant step back, provided there follows a sincere submission to the Spirit and faith in the authenticity of God’s plan.”
Elder Robert L. Simpson

"excommunication can be the first giant step back, provided there follows a sincere submission to the Spirit and faith in the authenticity of God’s plan." Elder Robert L. Simpson

 

The end goal of every excommunication is that it spurs the member to true repentance and coming back and enjoying once again all the blessings that come with full fellowship and membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, namely the Covenants and blessings associated with them.

Christ does not take joy in damnation, He only takes joy in the salvation of souls. We know that we must repent of our sins to be saved. Therefore, in His Church, it is the same way, we seek not to damn souls, but to help them repent and come unto Christ. For some people, the best course to true repentance is excommunication.

“there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the atonement of Christ.”
Boyd K. Packer

"there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the atonement of Christ." ~Boyd K. Packer

Please note. I am not a spokesperson for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I am just a member trying to explain this topic so people better understand.

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  1. Pingback: How The New Mormon Same-Sex Marriage Policy Strengthened My Testimony - MyLifeByGogoGoff

  2. I am a devote member of the church but I don’t think that explaining it in that form was the best way. Its like saying oh you messed up well lets erase the mistake then you can come back in a year.

    • I think you missed the entire point of the article. It is saying when you have sinned and violated your covenants and your actions are inflicting self-harm it is better to dissolve said covenants than to heap punishment for breaking them.

      That is not saying that said actions are no longer a sin, it is simply making them not a double whammy of a sin plus a broken covenant.

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this difficult topic. I have a couple of questions:

    1. How much first-hand experience do you have participating in church disciplinary councils, either as a participant, witness, or member of a bishopric, stake presidency or high council?

    2. What experience do you have, if any, participating in the disciplinary actions of other churches?

    • My dad and cousin both have had disciplinary counsels. My dad when I was 8 and he stayed in full standing. My cousin was excommunicated when I was a young kid. Then as a missionary, I worked closely with half a dozen members who had been excommunicated. And my brothers, friends, and teachers have participated as members of high councils in almost 100 disciplinary councils.

      And as a missionary, I worked with about a dozen people who had been excommunicated from different churches. Including from the Catholic and Jehovah’s witnesses church.

      A fallacy is to think experience must come first hand. I’d rather learn from the mistakes of others than repeat them.

  4. I am a person who has been excommunicated from the LDS church. Without getting into the reasons why, I would like to voice my opinion by saying that I agree with this article. I made some severe mistakes, spent a short time in jail, and was excommunicated as the result of a disciplinary hearing. I didn’t really expect that outcome, but I also recall feeling that it was the right thing to do. I remember feeling very pained, distraught, and ultimately very empty. But I also remember feeling the overwhelming love from the men in that counsel. Several of them we’re friends I had gotten to know during my time in that particular ward. I received hugs and hopeful words as I left the room. It was a similar feeling as that of a tragic event, like a death in the family, where everyone showed me great sympathy, and the shared sorrow was very real. Over time, I have come to see the wisdom of that decision, and I know it was the best for me. God doesn’t kick people out, he gives them what they need to have the best chance to find repentance. If I had simply been disfellowshipped, and on “probation” for a year or so, I would not have had the right mindset needed to fully repent. I probably would have gone through the motions, without any real repentance taking place. That’s my personal experience, and I thought it might be relevant to share it.

    • Thank you for your courage in sharing what had to have been a very painful experience for you. When we have painful experiences and we share I think it adds value to the experience by encouraging and reflecting back on the lessons we have learned. I think it is an extremely relevant comment.

  5. Is being bipolar or schizophrenic something that mormons should be excommunicated for? What if they lie a lot because of these mental Illnesses and it hurts others?

  6. So with this. This may how it should be done, but from what I heat or is not like this. Especially for the LGBT community and especially for those that do not conform to the gender norm. It is used as a way to intimidate and shame. I have been hearing that if they don’t get a divorce both would be exed. (Way to keep families together that are built on real love, not) so say it may be out of love but lately it’s out of control.