(RNS) Two high-profile Mormons, John Dehlin, the founder of Mormon Stories, and Kate Kelly, the founder of Ordain Women, are facing disciplinary hearings that may result in their excommunications from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

How do Mormons decide who can be excommunicated? It all rests on the work of disciplinary councils.

Here’s how they work:

  • When an LDS bishop learns of a serious transgression, usually by a confession, he counsels with the member. If the sin is not grievous, he may decide that no disciplinary action is needed.
  • The bishop can also place the member on informal probation, temporarily restricting privileges such as taking the sacrament (communion), holding church positions or entering Mormon temples.
  • In serious cases, church disciplinary councils may be held. The faith’s governing First Presidency has instructed that they must be held in cases of murder, incest or apostasy, or when a prominent church leader commits a serious sin.
  • At councils,  the member is asked to discuss the concern, including what steps he or she has taken toward repentance. The member may bring witnesses. Afterward, the member is excused. The leaders then confer, pray and reach a decision. It may or may not be reached and announced quickly.

The LDS Church says the purposes of disciplinary councils are to save the souls of transgressors, protect the innocent, and safeguard the purity, integrity, and good name of the church.

Council discussions are confidential.

Councils can reach four possible decisions:

  1. No action.
  2. Formal probation (a temporary state of close supervision).
  3. Disfellowshipment (the member may not hold a church position, enter temples, take the sacrament or exercise the priesthood, with other instructions possible)
  4. Excommunication, or loss of membership.

Members are soon given a letter outlining the decision along with any instructions. At that point, they have these options:

  • Members are told they may appeal the decision.
  • When leaders feel the member has progressed sufficiently, the bishop or stake president has authority to call a new disciplinary council to consider restoring full fellowship. That may include rebaptism for someone who was excommunicated.

YS END DAVIDSON

10 Comments

    • Scientist Sophie

      @Atheist Max – it’s easy, we got tired of looking for the “missing link” between man and apes and trying to scientifically prove that giraffes and palm trees came from the same single cell. So we figured that there must be a greater power than us in the Universe. Don’t worry, you’ll get there eventually, just keep trying.

      • @Scientist Sophie,

        By ALL means bring it on – let’s hear your Creationist nonsense.
        Not enough of it in the news lately. :-P

        Where shall we begin?
        Or would you like to pursue the possibility that leprechauns are real?

  1. No, this is not banishment. In the case of people that have decided to start evangelizing a different set of rules (doctrines) within a group with voluntary membership, the group has the option of deciding that the individual needs to start their own group.

    they are still welcome to associate with the group (the church), their status in the secular community, their home, possessions, and all other worldly trappings are unaffected.

    All that changes is that they are not members of the group anymore because they have said they want the group to be different. The group disagrees, as is their right as well.

    Your rather cursory review and your inflammatory rhetorical flourishes are not very adult responses to the article. Have you been hurt by something this raises a memory of?

    • I agree, don’t like an organization whether it be your church or the Tea Party, you are free to leave. It isn’t banishment. That is silly. This lady has make it clear she wants to change the Church and it does not agree nor do the members so she needs to find or start a church she likes. I am a Mormon.

  2. This summary is a bit lacking in details that will help those who are not members of the church understand what is actually occurring in a church discipline proceeding. While it is very sparing in details of the process, worse is that it lacks any discussion whatsoever of the purpose of discipline in the first place. Any discussion of the proceedings without first establishing the purpose is going to present a rather incomplete and probably misleading picture.

    A key point in the recent news stories that has gone largely unnoticed by the uninitiated is that Mr. Dehlin was first contacted by his Stake President before any action had been taken. From the Deseret News article:
    “A second LDS activist, John Dehlin, said he received a letter Monday from his stake president in Logan, Utah, asking if Dehlin’s recent actions meant he wanted to remove his name from church records. If not, President Bryan King wrote, ‘then I think we are to the point where I should convene a formal disciplinary council on your behalf for apostasy.'”

    Why did he ask if he would first like to remove himself from the rolls? Because there is absolutely no point in engaging in church discipline for someone who doesn’t subscribe to the doctrines of the Church or desire to follow its teachings. Discipline is not punitive. Unlike court judgments, it is not an exercise in discouraging undesired behavior by meting out punishment. It is intended to help a willing, believing disciple* to bring their conduct in line with what they themselves have stated they believe to be doctrine. The whole structure of the proceeding falls apart when the subject is unwilling or doubts the authority of those administering it.
    *—Hence “discipline”… get it?

    I’m sure the snarky Atheist who left the first comment would be only to happy to point out that this is for the very simple reason that the only authority such a counsel has over your life is the authority you yourself give it. If you no longer believe it, then why are you even there? Take your marbles and go home! That wise stake president would much, much rather not go through the process of excommunicating Mr. Dehlin, because he could accomplish the exact same thing himself by simply writing a letter to have his name removed. Neither action results in ostracism or shunning. Neither means he will be unwelcome in meetings or gatherings. It just means he’s not a believer and that he’s no longer under the obligations he took upon himself when he joined through baptism. It really is that simple.

    That covers the first and most important reason for church discipline. There are some other reasons related to protecting the innocent and safeguarding the name of the Church from being tarnished by the actions of a church member or leader. Like any organization, the Church has a right and obligation to police its own membership. If I fundraised for abortions, I’m pretty sure that NRLC would kick me out. If I protested at an abortion clinic, I’m likewise certain that NARAL would send me packing. If I protest basic doctrines of a church and pitch my beliefs to other members, why on earth should I expect to remain a member in good standing of it?

    Good references for understanding LDS church discipline:
    https://www.lds.org/topics/church-disciplinary-councils?lang=eng
    https://www.lds.org/ensign/1990/09/a-chance-to-start-over-church-disciplinary-councils-and-the-restoration-of-blessings?lang=eng

  3. Kate Kelly does not represent me, or any other LDS woman I know. In fact, a Pew survey found that over 90% of LDS women did NOT want the priesthood.
    Not only is Kelly not helping the women of the church, she’s definitely HURTING teh women of the church. And by telling the world about her possible excommunication, she is adding insult to injury.

  4. Why hasn’t the LDA Church excommunicated U.S. Senate Majority Leader harry reid? He is EVIL, and his actions as a terrible anti-American Senator would MORE than justify excommunication from the mormon church, as his actionsare totally contradictory to the Mormon doctrine. Somebody PLEASE tell me what we need to do to get that worthless P.O.S. excommuniacated from the church, and his son, too, to set an example and PRECEDENT that no matter WHO you are, you cannot get away with it!

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