Saturday, September 14, 2013

Excommunication And Disfellowshipment Enable The LDS Church To Remain A "Hospital For Sinners" Without Becoming A "Country Club For Sinners"

On September 14th, 2013, Wheat & Tares published an interesting poll asking readers to choose which actions should result in excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So far, there is a clear-cut consensus that the "biggies", to include pedophilia, selling temple secrets, and committing fraud with Church funds, should result in excommunication. Many also chose publishing anti-Mormon materials and domestic violence as excommunicable offenses; I did not because those can be too subjective. The "anti-Mormon" dividing line can be ambiguous, and domestic violence often can be a "he said-she said" type dispute.

However, there were two comments appended which attracted my attention and which warrant further discussion. Screenshot below:

Click to enlarge or go HERE for original

Molly's comment reflects extreme libertarianism. Since no human being is infallible, no human being can be entrusted with absolute sovereignty over his or her own life, since most everything one does can affect someone else. Organizations have the right to set conditions of affiliation or membership. Diversity isn't merely the right to associate; it's also the right not to associate. Libertarianism requires an advanced level of political, emotional, and spiritual maturity not normally available in any human society and, with the possible exception of the Nephites during the 200 years after the appearance of Jesus Christ on the American continent (see 4 Nephi), generally beyond the capability of human beings to achieve. Libertarianism mostly likely will work best only after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, when the only people who will survive that experience will be those who possess the requisite maturity.

But the second comment by Dba.brotherp is of greater interest. Dba.brotherp correctly states that a church should be a "hospital for sinners". But even as a medical hospital imposes conditions of admission and treatment to ensure a safe and sanitary environment, so a church must also impose conditions of membership to prevent the "hospital for sinners" from becoming a "country club for sinners". Jesus Christ wasn't a pot-smoking hippie who spent 33 years nodding and smiling and passing out loaves, fishes, and doobies to the masses. He was a Savior who condemned sin and told us to "be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48), and "I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance" (D&C 1:31). The latter statement was not meant to imply that we must become perfect while we abide in the flesh, but to tell us what we would have to do in order to be admitted to the Father's presence once again in the future.

While excommunication means severance of membership, it does NOT necessarily mean severance of fellowship. Excommunicants can still attend services, and local ward leaders will continue to fellowship those who actively strive to work their way back to membership. In fact, as I pointed out in my October 2010 post entitled "LDS Prison Ministry: LDS Outreach At The Utah State Prison Proclaims Liberty To The Captives And Offers Salvation To The Fallen", the LDS Church will reach out to those who are in prison. And not just to Church members, but also to excommunicants and "nevermos" (slang for those who have never been Church members). The details are put forth in a paper entitled "Providing Support for Those in Correctional Facilities".

We must strike the sensible middle ground on this issue. While a church is supposed to be a "hospital for sinners", having membership standards and enforcing them through Church discipline prevents it from becoming a "country club for sinners".

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