Last Sunday, Sam Young was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for standing up against the policy of the church that requires children to be interviewed by adult males behind closed doors. Most of us knew what the outcome would likely be. They don’t call a disciplinary council to ascertain things and then decide; they already know what’s going to happen.
They also call these councils “courts of love,” but they are not.
The process of excommunication from a church is a horrible and isolating experience. It is traumatic and can lead to a lot of harmful things down the road for a person. Its purpose is to banish, shun, and shame a person from the church community. It is not a Christlike way of resolving issues. It certainly isn’t His example of “Go and sin no more.”
Excommunication was a big deal in early churches history (back when they used to burn witches at the stake and kill people for Christianity’s sake); but today, most Christian churches recognize that Jesus’ Atonement is enough to forgive the standard no-no’s.
Even Mormons have decided that excommunication is an extreme thing to do. Mormons usually don’t excommunicate murderers, attempted murderers, rapists, sexual abusers, spousal abusers, people who beat the crap out of other people, adulterers, fornicators, or those losers who leave their families high and dry.
However….We Mormons have standards. There are a few exceptions to the excommunication rules. There are just some things that are just so heinous, so bad, so awful–that Christ himself would walk away.
- If you join another church.
- If you oppose Church leaders.
- If you oppose Church leaders after you’ve been told not to by your Church leaders.
- If you believe things that are contrary to what Church leaders believe, even after your Church leaders told you not to believe them anymore.
- If you are in a same-gender marriage.
In these five instances, you get automatic walking papers. You get shunned–blamed–shamed–and thrown out of your Church community. You lose your spouse, your children, your friends, your community, your dignity, everything. Sometimes you even lose your job.
But hey, I mean, you gotta admit, these are some no good, very bad things right? People who do those things deserve to be excommunicated right?
Worse than murder? Child abuse? Rape? Adultery? Skipping out on your family?
Does this seem a little….odd to anyone else but me?
The process itself has been called by the Church as a “court of love.”
But is it?
Read the process & rules of the council and ascertain for yourself:
The decision makers: If you are a Melchizedek priesthood holder, it is a Stake Council, so the Stake President, his counselors, and 12 High Priests are present. All men. They all have input, but the Stake President makes the final decision. If you are a woman, or not a Melchizedek priesthood holder, it is the bishop and his two counselors. All men. They all have input, but the bishop makes the final decision.
1. You receive a letter that says that a council will be taking place, and the time, place and date; and that you are invited to attend, but aren’t required to attend. They say you can submit a response in writing.
2. They tell you what the charges are (if it’s not some heinous crime, or action involving your spouse, it is usually for opposing church leaders).
3. You have to sign an acknowledgement and agree to not record the proceedings, and if you don’t sign, then you can’t submit any evidence in your behalf.
4. You can call witnesses to speak in your defense, but witnesses must be identified to the bishop or Stake President by name, ward and Stake in writing at least three days in advance; and must list the subject matter to which they will be testifying in your behalf. All witnesses have to be members in good standing of the Church. The bishop/Stake President will do the same should he call witnesses. Testimony must be related to the charges.
5. You are given a strict time limit (up to the church leader). 15 – 45 minutes to present your case and witness testimony.
6. You are not allowed to ask any questions during the council. Your witnesses and leaders’ witnesses may not ask questions during the council. The leaders, counselors, and high priests can ask questions during the council.
7. You can avoid having the council by asking to have your name removed from the records of the Church first.
8. No action will be taken during the council. You will receive a written decision in a few days.
9. (The decision is almost always disfellowship or excommunication).
10. When membership is lost, to a Mormon this means you are no longer a part of the Body of Christ. Your baptismal covenants are void. You cannot partake of the Sacrament. Your temple sealing is void (you have lost your spouse here and in the eternities). You are no longer sealed to your children (you have lost all your children here and in the eternities). You can attend Church meetings but you cannot participate in any way (you can not speak, or pray, or serve). You can not pay tithes or make offerings.
11. You have 30 days to appeal the decision in writing. You have to clearly outline the alleged errors or unfairness. If you appeal, the letter has to be sent to the person who excommunicated you first, and then you have to trust that it will be forwarded on to the First Presidency for review. You may or may not receive a letter back from the First Presidency.
12. Should you ever desire to return, you must wait at least one year (possibly more). You must demonstrate with word, action, and deed, that you were wrong (and if your excommunication was speaking against Church leaders, publicly denouncing your previous actions). Church leaders may or may not decide to reinstate you. You will have to be re-baptized, re-sealed, etc.
Does this sound like a court of love to you?
Brother Jake explains it best here.
Look. I write my feelings in snarky ways because if I don’t, I will cry more and get more depressed more than I already am over this whole mess. I chose this Church. I believe it does good things. I love the heritage, the people. It’s my heritage, my people. Please don’t write me hate comments and leave anonymous letters on my car about me daring to question a decision by The Brethren.
Yes, I have a mind of my own, and yes, I’m going to use it.
So why in the world did they excommunicate a member in good standing for bringing light to, and speaking out about a harmful policy, but they didn’t do a darn thing about the MTC President that raped a bunch of girls at the MTC?
Oh yes, I forgot. Raping a bunch of girls doesn’t warrant excommunication.