I was reading about the members of the original 12 Apostles and realized that many of them were excommunicated due to apostasy. It happened to a lot of other members of the twelve that succeeded them. What kind of apostasy did they commit?
Thank you for your question. The lives of the apostles can provide great lessons to Latter-day Saints. While most of those lessons are positive, there are some sad examples we can learn from as well.
As of the most recent general conference, one-hundred members have been called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Thirteen of them have been excommunicated. Of those thirteen, eleven were excommunicated for apostasy and two for violations of the law of chastity.
Eight of those who were excommunicated for apostasy either wrote or publicly preached that they did not follow the prophet or that the Church was not true. Three repeatedly disobeyed instructions from the prophet.
Clearly there is a lesson in our own lives as we see the causes for their excommunication.
If you’re interested in the situations that prompted these behaviors, five became disillusioned after the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society. Three either rebelled against or struggled with the succession in Church leadership to Brigham Young. Three struggled with either the institution or the cessation of polygamy, including one excommunicated for adultery rather than apostasy. One believed the atonement was not essential for salvation and preached that doctrine openly despite clear instructions not to do so. The only other excommunication took place because the apostle repeatedly committed adultery.
Nine were excommunicated between 1838 and 1848. The last excommunication of an apostle took place in 1943 because he took a plural wife in secret.
There is also a lesson in the purpose of excommunication. Six of the apostles who were excommunicated were later rebaptized into the Church where they remained for the rest of their lives. Two additional apostles were rebaptized under the direction of the President of the Church posthumously. So we can also learn that redemption is available for all.