Is excommunication the worst the church can do?

For the discussion of spirituality -- from LDS and non-LDS sources
Post Reply
User avatar
SamBee
Posts: 5655
Joined: 14 Mar 2010, 04:55

Is excommunication the worst the church can do?

Post by SamBee » 23 Apr 2021, 04:48

From the thread on the therapist being ex'd.

A quote from this article
https://www.yahoo.com/news/mormon-sex-t ... 21431.html
While not a lifelong ban, the withdrawal of a person's membership by church leaders amounts to the harshest punishment available for a member of the faith.
I'm going to quibble about this. Excom is bad. But there is a level above this. You can be banned from all church buildings... We have someone in our area who is banned from them (by court order I think). I don't think his case was properly or fairly handled, but he is severely mentally ill (plus diagnosed) and potentially dangerous. (I've met him and can vouch for this. I ran into him by accident and talking to him was like walking in eggshells. I don't like to judge, but he is difficult, and he's also physically big.)

At the other extreme, we have a sister who comes to our ward who is lovely and takes part in activities. I didn't know until last year but she is excom'd. She told me her story, and if I had my way, I'd bring her back in. She appears to have been the victim of rumors. I don't know both sides of the story but her behavior in the time I've known her has been exemplary. I value her as an active member of this ward, even if her official status is bad. She grew up in the church, and is now in late middle age.

When I learned about her story, I actually contacted the bishop in my capacity as a ward council member and asked him to review her case - she had spoken to me and a counsellor to the bishopric, so not completely confidential. (The bishop was moving out of the country at the time so washed his hands of it - a great guy but not his finest moment.) She appears to be of good character and has even tithed since being ex'd. I feel it is cruel to her, and even if she did what is claimed, which I'm not sure she did, it is years ago.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

User avatar
DarkJedi
Posts: 7396
Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: Is excommunication the worst the church can do?

Post by DarkJedi » 23 Apr 2021, 05:38

I guess it really is a matter of perspective. My personal point of view is that excommunication (or withdrawal of membership as it is known today) is human/earthly/church only. I don't believe it is part of the gospel and I believe it has no eternal consequence. Were I to be ex'ed it would bother some of my family way more than it would bother me. I could join some other club if I chose.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

User avatar
nibbler
Posts: 4592
Joined: 14 Nov 2013, 07:34
Location: Ten miles west of the exact centre of the universe

Re: Is excommunication the worst the church can do?

Post by nibbler » 23 Apr 2021, 05:45

From an unorthodox perspective it's similar to the analogy we draw at church to explain the authority of the priesthood. A cop pulling you over for speeding and giving you a ticket vs. the local butcher pulling you over for speeding and giving you a ticket.

This is the butcher calling you in for a membership council.

From a full orthodox believing perspective it can be a hefty punishment. From the handbook (32.11.4):
  • All ordinances are revoked.
  • All membership privileges are withdrawn, usually for at least one year.
  • A person is eligible for readmission by baptism and confirmation only after genuine repentance, a membership council, and, if necessary, First Presidency approval.
  • A previously endowed person is eligible to receive a restoration of blessings only with First Presidency approval and after at least one full year from readmission (see 32.17.2).
  • For a previously endowed person, the “Restoration of Blessings Required” indicator is removed from the membership record only after the ordinance is performed (required annotations remain; see 32.14.5).
There's some grey area when it comes to exactly what "revoked" means but if you believe the ordinances of the church are necessary for salvation and your ordinances are revoked you likely believe that you will not be saved until you get all ordinances restored. They kick you out of the building, you can't get in the building. They kick you out of heaven, you can't get into heaven.

Our church doesn't typically actively shun people when they're excommunicated, at least not to the degree that some other churches might. That said, I think we do passively shun people. Passive shunning from a community that defined your identity is a punishment. From that perspective I'd say that being banned from the building is worse, it's a much more explicit form of saying, "we don't want you."

Not sure what to say about the excommunication of Natasha Helfer. I found that it made me angry, and it's been a while since I've felt truly angry about something church related. The church is now weaker for it IMO.

I guess excommunication is no longer a local matter, what with a stake president from 1000 miles away calling a council. I understand her records were there, but have the decency of sending records to the right unit before going to those extremes.

Maybe this is a not having both sides of the story thing but it's not very Christlike to ban people from using the restroom and it's not Christlike to call the cops on people holding a vigil.
I'm not running away. Im already gone.
— Kami Garcia

User avatar
SamBee
Posts: 5655
Joined: 14 Mar 2010, 04:55

Re: Is excommunication the worst the church can do?

Post by SamBee » 23 Apr 2021, 08:11

I think it depends on what you are exed for. I mention two examples above. One is aggressive and banned, and the other is mild-mannered and active. The former needs medical treatment and the latter reconciliation.

Obviously the worst case misdemeanors are murder and rape, and variations thereof, but most members don't go down those avenues. If you are falsely accused of these then that is a horror story all of its own. There is a level of notoreity that comes with these that goes beyond excom. Most people outside the church will shun you too.

The worst things the church can do are go to the official legal system or unofficial - people cutting you off or being abusive. Then there are strange scenarios like Brother Hamula - I've no idea what he did but it leads to speculation, for precisely that reason.
nibbler wrote:
23 Apr 2021, 05:45
Our church doesn't typically actively shun people when they're excommunicated, at least not to the degree that some other churches might. That said, I think we do passively shun people. Passive shunning from a community that defined your identity is a punishment. From that perspective I'd say that being banned from the building is worse, it's a much more explicit form of saying, "we don't want you."
Depends what it's for. If I get exed for a one night stand or becoming a Buddhist, it's not on a level with certain other things. A big shouting match in public is another step up from that. And if I hold a knife to a leader's throat or break a window etc. That's another step up again and will probably land me in jail too. And so on up to the worst case scenarios of sexual assaults and murder.

I do support the first guy being banned from the buildings. I have met him and could deal with him. He had a quarrel with someone on our area leadership. He was maybe unfairly treated. I don't know. I suspect it was badly handled. But he has an edge which makes me support that decision. I've experienced it myself though we didn't fight. It sounds patronizing, but I hope he gets the help he needs. There are some non-church issues there. Maybe the church accelerated them.
Not sure what to say about the excommunication of Natasha Helfer. I found that it made me angry, and it's been a while since I've felt truly angry about something church related. The church is now weaker for it IMO.
My last one was the declaration about children of gay parents. Thankfully reversed. It's one thing to go after gay people, but it is another to go after the children of gay parents. That's a double whammy. One can argue in the first case, those are people's innate impulses, but their actions involve some level of agency. In the second case, children are being punished for another person's actions. So it even managed to annoy people who were not that LGBT friendly. One of my high school exes is bi (leaning heavily towards women) but I didn't know that early on - conceivably (no pun intended) she could have married me without me knowing this, we could have had children and then separated, before she went off with a woman - then my children would be barred from being bap'd etc in that scenario.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

Minyan Man
Posts: 2025
Joined: 15 Sep 2011, 13:40

Re: Is excommunication the worst the church can do?

Post by Minyan Man » 23 Apr 2021, 08:36

As an organization & as members, we can really complicate the hell out of what it means to be a "follower" of Jesus Christ & to define what
it means to be a member of His church. If Christ were on the earth today, would He make it this complicated?
Are there any examples in scripture where He excommunicated anyone?

For me personally, excommunication will come on the day of judgement. If then.
(I hope this isn't off topic.)

User avatar
SamBee
Posts: 5655
Joined: 14 Mar 2010, 04:55

Re: Is excommunication the worst the church can do?

Post by SamBee » 23 Apr 2021, 14:22

Minyan Man wrote:
23 Apr 2021, 08:36
If Christ were on the earth today, would He make it this complicated?
Are there any examples in scripture where He excommunicated anyone?
Good question. He was never very complimentary about someone betraying him, before Judas was named.

The short answer is that Jesus did not establish a church in the modern sense:
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses even to listen to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17).
Jesus did give a number of people a stern warning. The Pharisees, rich people and people who attempted to stone the woman caught in adultery.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

Roy
Posts: 6291
Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Is excommunication the worst the church can do?

Post by Roy » 27 Apr 2021, 09:13

I do believe that theologically excommunication is the worst. I have heard that it is the equivalent of of having one's name "blotted out of the book of life." If I were not allowed in the church building for safety reasons but my ordinances were still in force that would not seem all that bad to me. I guess that says something about my personal needs to socialize and interact with ward members in person. :P
Minyan Man wrote:
23 Apr 2021, 08:36
Are there any examples in scripture where He excommunicated anyone?


In addition to Jesus not having founded a church in the traditional sense, Jesus also does not seem to have set forth a clear theology.
However, going back to my example of having one's name blotted out from the book of life, we do have this reference from Revelation 22:19
“And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book”
The book of revelation was not written by Jesus but it does give an example the followers of Jesus were threatening to exclude others from salvation from a fairly early date.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

AmyJ
Posts: 1009
Joined: 27 Jul 2017, 05:50

Re: Is excommunication the worst the church can do?

Post by AmyJ » 27 Apr 2021, 12:50

To me, the debate really is "Is Excommunication Prescriptive or Descriptive"?

I think we treat it as prescriptive in the sense that church members act in ways to avoid excommunication. I think it is also prescriptive in the code of behavior of other members towards an excommunicated member - which is loosely followed or ignored, depending on leadership roulette and magnitude of sin, among other factors. I think it is also used as a prescription for other community members - it identifies a line drawn by community members in authority that will not allow unauthorized community members to cross.

It's far messier to treat excommunication as descriptive because not only is it a mental paradigm shift from "how to pass judgement" to "how to pass mercy" onto the excommunicated person, but it also involves potentially trying to extend mercy to other injured parties. How do we as a community support the sinner? That is really the problem.

It is my understanding that those groups of people who have the authority try to shift from the initial prescription to a description while in the process of completing an excommunication - and their mileage varies about success in the process. A factor that will hinder this process considerably us placing the authority of this process solely in the jurisdiction of male community members or not providing additional female support and/or counsel - especially for excommunicating female community members. Another factor is really the end game of those members in authority to excommunicate another person - are they trying to create a scrape goat or redeem a sinner? The former is for people who are pioneering change on a timeline that is not on the leadership's timeline, the later is more universal.

Excommunication may work to redeem a sinner. There are rebaptism "success stories".

Excommunication may work to send a clear community message that members are not authorized to advocate for those changes because they are undercutting the authority of those community members (examples include the September 6, Sam Young, Ordain Women Movement, John Dehlin, etc.).
But a side effect of writing those "prescriptions" is losing community members who see the handwriting on the wall and slip out of the community before they are "caught" in "breaking the rules" enough to merit an excommunication.

User avatar
DarkJedi
Posts: 7396
Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: Is excommunication the worst the church can do?

Post by DarkJedi » 27 Apr 2021, 13:55

I think this Salt lake Tribune article (written by Isaac Barnes May and Samuel S. Wells, neither of whom I had heard of before) is appropriate to the discussion. https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2021/04 ... atter-day/

Excerpts:
After the American Revolution, philosophies of freedom and individual rights took hold in the new nation, affecting religion as well as government. Persons placed on trial by their congregations expressed anger when they believed meetings denied them rights to call witnesses in church courts or to publicly plead their case before their accusers. For their own part, ministers increasingly sought to protect these procedural rights.

Smith took such calls seriously, canonizing protections in Latter-day Saint scripture known as the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C Section 102). As Smith formalized church disciplinary procedures, he organized a “high council” to judge members who disobeyed church doctrine or conventions. The council, made up of high-ranking male church officials, was to present “evidence” on both sides of cases with both “equity and justice.” Indeed, in particularly difficult situations, members were assigned (by lot) to speak on behalf of the accused.
Yet, by the middle of the 20th century, a growing community of dissenters among Latter-day Saints discovered a disciplinary process that seemed to be rigged against them when they sought to address personal questions over issues of church history, gender and sexuality, and the racist treatment of African Americans in the church.
It is lamentable that two centuries after Smith wrote it into scripture, local Latter-day Saint disciplinary hearings have yet to live up to the procedural “equity and justice” their revelations originally seemed to promise.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

User avatar
nibbler
Posts: 4592
Joined: 14 Nov 2013, 07:34
Location: Ten miles west of the exact centre of the universe

Re: Is excommunication the worst the church can do?

Post by nibbler » 27 Apr 2021, 14:13

These days the system borrows more from the kangaroos in Australia than it does from the rights in courtrooms.

There's my dad joke for the day. Quota met.
I'm not running away. Im already gone.
— Kami Garcia

Post Reply