At 18, my girlfriend and I had sex. We went to our separate bishops to repent, she was put on a short period of probation. I was disfellowshiped. I’m concerned my past “could” remain on Church records, and that the Church might disqualify me for future callings.
There are many saints in the scriptures, who have committed vile sins, repented, and then called as apostles or prophets. Does the Lord look less favorable upon repentant souls of the Church today than He did in then?
Thank you for your question, I appreciate it. I pray that the information I share may be of some comfort to you and others who have felt the same way before.
As you are aware, each baptized member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a Membership Record Number (MRN). This membership record, for the most part, is simply a record of your contact information plus other additional milestones and ordinances in your life such as: temple marriage date, mission served, baptism date, children, etc. Membership records are designed to help Church leadership better serve you and your family, especially if you have relocated to a new area. Each year members are given a copy of their record to review and make sure the information is accurate and up to date. Long story short, membership records offer Church leaders a quick way to get to know you better. Aside from major life changes (i.e. a new birth, priesthood ordinations, relocation) your record basically remains untouched unless a Church leader needs to view it for some reason.
It should be noted that the ability to view membership records in a Ward is limited to either the Bishopric or the individual member themselves during their annual review. With good reason, records of other members are not accessible to the general membership due to privacy concerns.
Individual membership records may contain annotations related to either ongoing or past disciplinary actions. While these annotations may exist, it is vital to understand both when and why they may exist.
A disciplinary annotation in your membership may appear for three main reasons:
1. It may serve as a reminder to your current Bishop that you are still working on resolving an ongoing disciplinary issue.
2. Should you relocate to a new ward while still in the process of an ongoing disciplinary action, this may allow your new Bishop to identify where you are in the repentance process and help you successfully continue forward.
3. It may be there to restrict you from some future callings even after a disciplinary action has concluded.
One’s ability to hold church callings may be limited or restricted during ongoing church discipline whether that discipline is: formal probation, disfellowshipment or excommunication. During this time an annotation is placed on an individual’s record reflecting the member’s current status. In the vast majority of cases, once Church discipline has been concluded/resolved any disciplinary annotation on the membership record is removed as if it had never taken place. This means in no way does your record, whether it be 10, 20 or 30 years later reflect any past Church discipline.
In a recent conference talk entitled The Priesthood and the Savior’s Atoning Power, Elder Dale G. Renlund shared the following story:
During a weekend, I had two assignments. One was to create the first stake in a country, and the other was to interview a young man and, if all was in order, restore his priesthood and temple blessings. This 30-year-old man had joined the Church in his late teens. He served an honorable mission. But when he returned home, he lost his way, and he lost his membership in the Church. After some years, “he came to himself,” and with the help of loving priesthood leaders and kind members, he repented and was readmitted by baptism into the Church.
Later, he applied to have his priesthood and temple blessings restored. We set an appointment for Saturday at 10:00 a.m. at the meetinghouse. When I arrived for the earlier interviews, he was already there. He was so anxious to have the priesthood once again, he just could not wait.
During our interview, I showed him the letter explaining that President Thomas S. Monson had personally reviewed his application and authorized the interview. This otherwise stoic young man wept. I then told him that the date of our interview would have no official meaning in his life. He looked puzzled. I informed him that after I restored his blessings, his membership record would show only his original baptism, confirmation, priesthood ordination, and endowment dates. He choked up again.
I asked him to read from the Doctrine and Covenants:
“Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.
“By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.”
In some cases, however, those annotations will never leave an individuals record and will affect their ability to hold some callings in the Church. On the Church’s Newsroom website, in an article called Church Discipline, we read the following:
Will the discipline remain part of their Church record?
For most disciplinary actions, no record of the discipline is retained once the person has been restored to full fellowship. Following restoration after loss of membership, a new membership record is created with the original dates of baptism and other ordinances, with no record of the loss of membership.
In some cases, including domestic abuse, incest, sexual or physical abuse of a child, plural marriage, predatory activities or embezzlement of Church funds, a permanent annotation remains on the record of the individual to ensure they are never again in a position to harm another.
The Church has a responsibility to the repentant person, but it also has an equal obligation to protect others/the innocent. The Church restricts certain callings/positions in an effort to both protect the innocent and not put that person in a place of potential temptation again.
Callings come to us for a variety of reasons. In like turn some callings seem to elude us despite our willingness to serve. Unless we have been involved in a case, as outlined above, once Church discipline has successfully concluded, no record of it will remain on your membership record, thus leaving the door open to an individual to serve in the next calling that our Father in Heaven sees fit i.e. Relief Society President, Bishop, YW counselor, etc.
Stephen I hope you find peace in this answer as you move forward. Thank you again for your question.