I just recently re-joined Facebook and I have noticed a lot of topics that pop up on my time line that are somewhat negative about the gospel. I am so tempted to read up on what is happening in the Church and its disciplinary actions against some controversial members or former members.
I’m particularly interested on hearing about the reasons why devout members leave the Church because I want to study it out in my mind and argue it away. Is this detrimental or a good thing?
Indeed there are a lot of things in the media these days about the Church–some good, some bad, and nearly every point in between. Before you click on those links, a useful question would be “Will this build my testimony, or challenge it?” I want it understood that a challenge to your testimony is not a bad thing. It’s one of the ways we grow in the gospel. However, we already know that Satan is attacking us on all sides. Do we really need to seek him and his followers out?
Researching such material can be helpful, educational, and even faith-building. From personal experience, I must caution you that sincere, and regular personal prayer tied directly to such research is the first and most important thing you must do to avoid the pitfalls and other traps of Satan.
There are better ways to build your testimony. The truth is what it is, and it is twisted, misrepresented, ignored, and abused in countless sickening ways in the hands of those who would see this Church crumble apart. Without enough care, you will not be able to tell the truth from the lies, and you will risk falling away from the Church yourself.
As for disciplinary councils, I’m afraid you’ll never be able to research them completely. The Church, as a rule, never discloses the proceedings. They are private, and deeply personal events in a member’s life, regardless of how they view it themselves. Because of this, you’ll only be able to read whatever it is the individual themselves have written, and there’s no guarantee that what they write is the complete truth of the matter. In fact, such is very rarely the case.
The most common reason for a disciplinary council is when a member has committed such serious sins that the normal path of repentance is not adequate. Higher profile situations are when a member has been attacking the Church, its doctrines, or its leaders in a public forum for some time. In either case, it is never the desire of the Church to cut one off from salvation for all eternity. Rather it is a last step effort in beginning the repentance process with that member, that they may retain the blessings of the gospel. Thus, the outcome of a disciplinary council varies according to the reaction of the member.
If they are humbled, and see where they’ve taken themselves, the repentance process begins immediately. Sometimes even then an excommunication takes place, but with an eye toward the member regaining their membership in the future according to their individual situation.
If they are not humbled, (and frankly, these are the ones you hear about more often) and the member rejects any notion that they are in the wrong, then excommunication takes place. By excommunication it is meant that the individual loses all blessings, promises, authority, and other benefits with being a member of the Church. If a male is excommunicated, he loses all authority in the priesthood and it is taken from him by the same God who gave it to him.
Again, this is not meant to be a permanent end, however many people who are excommunicated seem to treat it that way. When the time comes that someone wishes to return to the Church, they are welcomed with open arms, so long as they are willing to humble themselves before the Lord, as is required of us all.
I pray that the Lord will bless you with wisdom in your efforts. Never cease to reach out to Him for all your needs, and may God be with you always.