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Question

 

Dear Gramps,

I’m curious, did the church change its policy of announcing when people in the church are disfellowshipped or excommunicated?  I recall when they used to announce these actions in Sacrament Meeting.  Thanks.

Mike

 

Answer

 

Mike,

In order to understand the Church’s policy on this matter, it is important to understand first that when someone is disfellowshipped or excommunicated, it is done with love in order to help them, not as a punishment.  When we are baptized, we make binding covenants with our Father in Heaven. Later as we grow in the gospel we may attend the temple and make more covenants with God.  When a person chooses to live in such a way that they are breaking their covenants in substantial ways, it is a serious matter. They are putting themselves in a position to reap condemnation, for the Lord will not be mocked.

Being disfellowshipped or excommunicated frees them from the covenants that they chose not to honor, and also releases them for the expectations (and blessings) associated with those covenants. A person who is disfellowshipped or excommunicated may choose to return to living the gospel and keeping the commandments and reenter into those covenants at a later time, when they are ready to accept the responsibility associated with those covenants.

Each disciplinary case is handled individually with the best interests of the member in mind.  Generally speaking such things are not announced publicly.  However, there are sometimes exceptions.  If the offense was preaching false doctrine, or plural marriage, the disciplinary actions may be announced to make clear that the Church does not condone such teachings. While the disciplinary action may, in rare cases, be announced, the details of the disciplinary council never are.

‘What details are shared about the discipline?

All Church discipline is carried out in complete confidence. Church leaders have a solemn responsibility to keep confidential all information they receive in confessions and interviews. To protect that confidence, the Church will not discuss the proceedings of a disciplinary council. A confidential record of the proceedings is kept by a clerk, but even if an individual decides to publicly share information about the process and seeks to position that process in their own light, the Church will be circumspect in any public statement. In rare cases, the decision of a disciplinary council may be shared publicly to prevent others from being harmed through misinformation.”  Church Discipline

There have been a couple cases recently in the news/media about individuals who were excommunicated.  In those cases, the individuals involved chose to announce their status. Only at that time did the Church respond for clarification purposes.

Generally speaking, disciplinary actions are private and personal and done in an effort to help the individual.  It is hoped that such persons will change their behavior and return to Christ and fellowship in His Church. Elder M. Russel Ballard spoke of this invitation to return:

 

 The First Presidency has extended this special invitation:

 

“We are aware of some who are inactive, of others who have become critical and are prone to find fault, and of those who have been disfellowshipped or excommunicated because of serious transgressions.

 

“To all such we reach out in love. We are anxious to forgive. …

 

“We encourage Church members to forgive those who may have wronged them. To those who have ceased activity and to those who have become critical, we say, ‘Come back. Come back and feast at the table of the Lord, and taste again the sweet and satisfying fruits of fellowship with the Saints.’” (Church News, 22 Dec. 1985, p. 3.)

A Chance to Start Over: Church Disciplinary Councils and the Restoration of Blessings

For more information on this topic, this talk by Elder Ballard would be an excellent place to start.

 

Gramps

 

 

 

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