When one is excommunicated from the LDS Church, he is provided instructions by the Bishop or Stake President as to what he can and cannot do. Given that the church just severed the relationship with the individual excommunicated you would think the instructions provided are no longer applicable. It is assumed they are given with the intention of helping the individual make their way back to baptism again within a short period of time, even as little as one year.
Instructions Provided When Excommunicated
It has been my sad duty over the years to write and deliver the notice to appear, then to write the summary of the disciplinary council for the report sent to Salt Lake, and the instructions given to the individual who has been the subject of church discipline. Frankly, I have found it a difficult process. It requires that I listen intently and take copious notes so as to capture the essence of what transpired, what was considered, what was decided and finally, what instruction was given.
Alternative Method – Administrative Action
I’m sure you know that many individuals forgo the trauma of a disciplinary council and elect to simply resign their membership. The Stake President is supposed to contact the individual and make sure they are aware of the seriousness of what they have just done. Most Stake Presidents I have worked with have been hesitant to perform this duty, and, in fact, have let it drag on for a year or more before executing that final step which cuts the individual off from the LDS church.
Rights, Privileges and Authority Removed
They are supposed to instruct them what they are giving up, such as all rights to the priesthood, to the temple, to the sacrament and any claims they may have on others such as the sealing of a spouse or even children born in the covenant. As with any individual excommunicated, they are told they may no longer wear the garment of the holy priesthood, may not exercise priesthood authority, may not speak in church, offer prayers, serve in any church callings or pay tithing.
Defending Oneself in a Disciplinary Council
For many individuals, this is a relief. For those who chose the administrative action (no council), it is fairly obvious they no longer believe and simply wanted to stop being bothered by home and visiting teachers. For those who elected to go through the formal council proceedings, one can assume they had hopes to avoid excommunication. In other words, they believe in the cause of the church, enjoyed the privileges of membership and were willing to petition to retain them.
Apostasy is a Whole Different Animal
In the case of someone accused of apostasy, the case has pretty much been decided before the council is held. Either the Stake Presidency has received instructions from the Area Presidency to “take care of it,” or they have decided on their own that the member is too much of a pain in the butt and can no longer put up with the things he or she is sharing among church members that are out of line with accepted church doctrine. Of course, they are supposed to have been warned.
Role of a High Councilor
The wheels of the church grind slowly, but they usually grind smoothly. It’s a bit of a burden to serve on a high council. Besides speaking in church each month, attending early-morning stake council or high council meetings, High Councilors are to serve as advisors to the Stake President in disciplinary councils. They are supposed to be evenly divided with half to see that the interests of the church are met and the other half to see that the interests of the individual are represented.
Apostasy Usually Decided in Advance
In reality, the high councilors probably know nothing of the circumstances regarding the man or woman being tried for their membership until a few minutes before the council begins. It’s pretty hard to represent someone being tried for apostasy when it is clear the “apostate” knows more about church doctrine and history than you do. Therefore, apostasy is usually decided based on the attitude of the individual – if he or she is willing to do whatever is asked of them by the SP.
Keep Your Beliefs to Yourself
I have now had several online friends – fellow bloggers – excommunicated for apostasy because they wrote things in their blog indicating they believed something was missing from the church. Apparently you can believe what you want about the church as long as you don’t share it with anyone else. I even had one individual in a previous stake claim he had just as much right to lead the church as the then-prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, but he also had extenuating mental issues.
I Sustain the Leaders of This Church
I think it’s a little foolish to be so “in-your-face” in your comments about the Brethren or about the Prophet in particular. Unless you are so ticked off at what they are teaching and feel they are perpetuating a myth, then you might want to hold back on the public statements opposing their actions. Lest I be accused by any of being an apostate, let it be known here and now I love the Brethren who lead this church. I sustain them and accept their leadership, guidance and direction.
Open Dialog, Free Speech and LDS Bloggers
As I wrote for many years, if the Brethren or my local leaders ever felt my blog was out of line or too provocative or placed the church in a bad light, I would gladly change it or remove it. I had even expressed that I would have no problem discontinuing the blog altogether, although of course with the Internet Way-back machine, what I have written is preserved for a long time, or at least as long as there is electricity and the server on which it is stored is not nuked by an EMP.
A Preview of Things to Come
I shared in a recent post a conversation I had with the Lord in which I asked for and received his permission to share a few things on my blog in the months to come that I have been hesitant to write about for fear of offending the leaders of this church or causing others to doubt their own testimonies and commitment to the church. I still feel strongly one should look for the good in all things, especially when you have invested a lifetime of time and money to building a good cause.
An Honest Seeker of Truth
I am going to explore a few scriptures and offer alternative interpretations of those scriptures. I am also going to be looking at a few events in our church history and noting interpretations of those events that differ, sometimes radically, of the “standard narrative” we have all been taught or grown up with all our lives. Please don’t label me an apostate or trouble-maker. I believe I am an honest seeker of truth and have felt led to these conclusions by much pondering and prayer.
Living With Difficult Church History
You may think I am parroting the views of Denver Snuffer and in fact, I will be quoting some of his insightful points, but only because he has been bold in bringing them to our attention. I did not hear about these things first from Denver. I learned them in my youth from my mother in the things she taught me and books I read, or I learned them later as I felt led to certain sources that one can find online which were not available until recently. The Internet has changed everything.
Troubling Issues in the Standard Narrative
You may ask why I choose to do this. You may wonder if I am looking to force the Brethren to take action. No, I am only looking for certain troubling issues to be addressed. I recognize that I am in the minority in this church. Some estimate that as few as two percent of the LDS members actually do any serious study of our history and the evolution of our doctrines over time. And if we are to believe John Dehlin (which I do), the Brethren have decided we are irredeemable.
Home Sanctuary – A Sacred Altar
Up until recently I was greatly concerned about missing out on the blessings of the sacrament and the temple if I were to be excommunicated from the church. With what I have learned about the home sanctuary in the last few weeks that concern about the temple has been resolved. And with what I have determined in my own mind about priesthood authority and priesthood power, remembering the Lord through administering the sacrament in my home is no longer an issue.
Bishop Holds Keys to Administer Sacrament
I know what you’re thinking, “Brother Malone, don’t you know that the Bishop holds the keys of administering the sacrament? You can’t do that without his permission.” Well, if the church cuts me off, then they no longer have any say about what I do in my own home, do they? Let me make it clear my issues with the church are not with my local priesthood leaders. I have many times expressed my love for them on my blog and will continue to do so. My issue is priesthood.
Sealing Power Received by Voice of God
The bottom line for me is I am not so sure the higher priesthood can be passed from one man to another. It can only be received by hearing the voice of God or by receiving it directly from God by the laying on of hands – the Lord’s hands, even Jesus Christ. Even if one receives this higher sealing power from the Savior, it cannot be passed on to another. Each man must receive this power for himself. I’m not saying the church doesn’t have authority because I know it does.
A Kingdom of Priests with Priestly Authority
I liken the authority of the church to that of the tribes of Israel after Moses and before the advent of the Lord in the Meridian of time. It is a priestly authority, authority of the Aaronic priesthood, or a type of authority that invites us to go and get the real thing, the power of the priesthood from the Lord and Master of the universe. I know this is quite a claim. We teach Peter, James and John gave this authority to Joseph and Oliver and I have no doubt they did. But was it later passed on?
Seek to Behold the Face of the Lord
Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer were asked to choose the twelve apostles. They did so. After they were ordained, Oliver gave them this charge:
“…it is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven for yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God. That is more than the testimony of an angel. When the proper time arrives, you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. When you bear testimony that you have seen God, this testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out; although many will not give heed, yet others will. You will therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from heaven.
“Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face. Strengthen your faith; cast off you doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid His hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same. If the Savior in former days laid His hands upon His disciples, why not in latter days?”
Filed under: Doctrine, Mormon culture, Personal Revelation Tagged: | Administrative Action, Apostasy, Charge to Apostles, Church Discipline, Church History, Denver Snuffer, Disciplinary Council, Excommunication, Free Speech, High Council, Home Sanctuary, John Dehlin, LDS Blogging, LDS Church, Open Dialog, Priesthood Authority, Rights and Privileges, Sealing Power, Standard Narrative, Sustain Church Leaders