Friday, February 22, 2013

Excommunicated Mormon Warns Against The Loss Of The Holy Ghost, Says It's An Intense Physical Feeling Of Loss And Emptiness

Each year, a number of people sever membership with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for a variety of reasons and under different circumstances. Many decide they cannot reconcile themselves with alternative Church history or with unique practices such as temple ceremonies, and so they resign. But some are excommunicated, almost always for legitimate cause (although some devout Mormons have question the excommunication of Dr. Melvin Fish, who deflected one attempt but was nailed on the second attempt).

One such excommunicant has shared his testimony on the LDS Freedom Forum. Towards the end of the thread, he reveals he was excommunicated for adultery:

A Voice of Warning

Postby skmo » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:45 pm
This is part of my testimony to you all, I hope none of you have to learn this same lesson I did.

As some of you may know, I was excommunicated in the Summer of 2012. My wife had left me at that time (we have since reconciled) and I had a High Council Court at which I was excommunicated. As I left the building I had the most intense feeling of loss. I had never known such a feeling of emptiness. I know first hand what the loss of the Gift of the Holy Ghost feels like, there is a physical feeling associated with it. a most terrible feeling. I pray none of you need to find this out firsthand, it is thoroughly horrible.

We know that the idea of a lake of fire and brimstone where people are eternally burning and yet never consumed is just a figurative device, but say with all candor that the idea that you all alone and without the companionship of the Holy Ghost is real. It is my most fervent prayer that you take heed from one who has walked the path of sin that you live in accordance with the principles we know to be true so that you may keep this wonderful gift.

I cannot tell any of you the way to choose right for yourselves, we all seem to have differing views on many points. I can, however, offer you my testimony that the Gift of the Holy Ghost should never be taken for granted. Do NOT make choices in your life that would cause you to lose this blessed gift.

In the LDS Church, adultery is considered the second most serious sin, next to capital or first-degree murder. Consequently, the penalty levied for adultery will almost always be excommunication rather than mere disfellowshipment or probation. Note that the man didn't just confess his sin to his wife and the Lord; he also confessed it to his bishop. In October 1955, Elder Marion G. Romney, then an Assistant to the Twelve, gave counsel as to what sins needed to be confessed to a priesthood leader, saying “Finally, where one’s transgressions are of such a nature as would, unrepented of, put in jeopardy his right to membership or fellowship in the Church of Jesus Christ, full and effective confession would, in my judgment, require confession by the repentant sinner to his bishop or other proper presiding Church officer”. This is backed up scripturally by Mosiah 26:29 and D&C 58:43. The bishop will then convene a disciplinary court for an offender who either holds the Aaronic Priesthood or no priesthood, or else forwards a recommendation for a disciplinary council to the stake president for a Melchizedek Priesthood holder.

The Disciplinary Council was once called a Church Court, then they went to the other extreme and gave it the Orwellian title of Court Of Love. Disciplinary councils do not approach their task joyously; they enter into it with a heavy heart. Tim Malone, the editor of Latter-day Commentary, has participated in a few dozen disciplinary councils and provides some insight into their workings (after the jump):

I feel blessed to have served with men who loved the Lord and wanted to do his will. The Stake President with whom I served as a High Counselor is now a Mission President. He was and is a kind man, who always exhibited great care and concern for the welfare of the individuals who were called into judgment under his tenure. Let me share just one example of his kindness.

I recall an elderly gentleman who had been excommunicated for teaching false doctrine. It was evident the man had some mental and emotional problems. But he wanted to come back into the church. For those who don’t know, a disciplinary council must again be convened to reconsider the original evidence and to determine if change is evident and sufficient to be baptized again.

This stake president went out of his way to ensure this elderly man and his family members were comfortable with the procedure. He had his executive secretary sit with the family members the whole time the disciplinary council was being held. He sent his clerk out to the waiting area to keep the man and his family informed while we deliberated his case in the High Council room.

Again, for those who may not be aware, in a Stake disciplinary council, half the High Counselors are assigned to look out for the interests of the person whose case is being heard. The interests of the church are the primary concern of the other six High Counselors. I have sat on both sides of that High Council room. In my experience it seems to be a fair and equitable system of justice.

In every disciplinary council in which I have participated, both as a bishopric member and as a High Councilor, without fail, mercy and love have been the prevailing concern. I said I dislike disciplinary councils. At the same time, I can tell you that it is in these councils that I have felt a strong closeness to the Lord as I have witnessed an outpouring of his love for these individuals.

Tears have almost always been shed by most of the grown men in the room as, in the end, we either brought the individual back into the church or pronounced that he or she would no longer be considered a member of our church. Tears of joy or tears or sorrow were accompanied by an overwhelming witness from the spirit to each of us that the will of the Lord had been done.

As you can plainly see, every effort is made to ensure the individual called before the council is treated humanely and not belittled or humiliated. But there simply is no way to sugarcoat an excommunication -- the person has just been told that he has been formally severed from the body of Christ, although he is still welcome to attend services and to strive to work his way back to formal membership. An excommunicant must wait at least one year to apply for membership again. But church members are no longer taught to snub or shun an excommunicant.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is nice to read/hear about a church court where love and concern was shown. I personally know of a church court where the person involved was treated horribly by the court. The parents of this person were/are very faithful, active members, and the father a former Bishop and in the Stake High Council. The parents of the person called to court were shook up by the process and how their child was treated, and the horrible way some treated them! They stayed true to the church but their views of leaders was changed, they learned that some leaders do abuse their Priesthood authority which is very disheartening. It is hard to separate the people from the church but it must be done because people can and will be jerks regardless of how religious they are. It would be nice if there was a better way in the church to deal with abusive leaders.