I have a question that I am not sure there is an answer for, in fact it may not be so much a question, but rather some frustration. My wife and I were excommunicated about 18 months ago. We have struggled ever since to return to the church. We have attended church on a weekly basis, but it seems as if we are a very low priority to the church. It sometimes takes us up to two months just to get a meeting with our Bishop. When we meet with him, he gives us no plan, has set no goals for us and has not even asked us to do anything such as study scriptures or “The miracle of forgiveness” (we are doing these things on our own). We have not even had a prayer with the Bishop in any of our “interviews.” We live in a small town with just four wards and while we no longer live in the same ward as we did when we lost our membership the rumors still fly. There are some in church who treat us as though we have some disease and are therefor to be avoided at all costs. There are others who openly make comments about us even being in church. I had one brother in Priesthood meeting a couple of weeks ago look directly at me when answering a question and said “How many sinners does it take to defile a temple.”
I guess what I am trying to say is that it is all very discouraging and seems as if we are NOT even wanted back in the church. Would you have any suggestions as to what we could do or perhaps whom we could contact for help or counsel. (We get the same from our Stake President who lives in my previous ward)?
The road back is never easy, but it seems to me that you are doing the right thing. You must remember that your relationship is with the Lord, Jesus Christ, not with the members of his Church. If you show the Lord that you are repentant, and if you obey all the laws of the gospel, He who is quick to forgive and quick to save will bring you back.
There is no principle of the gospel that you cannot obey as non-members. There indeed are some practices that will be denied to you, such as partaking of the sacrament or entering the temple, but the principles of the gospel may be observed by all. It is my understanding that tithing is not accepted from those who have been excommunicated, but there is nothing to prevent you from putting ten percent of your increase away, to be paid when you are again baptized. That kind of obedience is the obedience of faith.
I am delighted to hear that you continue to read the scriptures That is so very important as an avenue to stay close to the Spirit and to keep one’s mind focused on the things of eternity. (I had one good friend who was excommunicated who got up at 4 o’clock every morning and read the Book of Mormon for two hours. After he was rebaptized he became one of the most faithful and strongest members of the Ward).
Concerning how you’re treated by other members of the Ward- This presents a wonderful opportunity to make a real part of your lives some of the fundamental principles of the gospel- particularly to judge not and to be forgiving. We must remember that not only yourselves, but others also are struggling to overcome temptation and to understand and put in practice the principles of the gospel. They are responsible for their own actions, and will no doubt learn by the mistakes that they make. Someone said, “How many people are kept out of the Kingdom of God by the unlovely characters of those that profess to be within.” Hopefully, you will not let the actions of any other person deter you from your love of the Lord, and from taking every step to qualify for re-entrance into his kingdom. I would suggest that you continue to importune your bishop for periodic interviews to appraise him of your intentions and of your progress toward righteousness. The Lord will take care of you.