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
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
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.