Excommunicable Offenses (Weekend Poll)

September 14, 2013

Smart alecks on the inside track to excommunication.

What should be considered grounds for excommunication? Being a pain in the tuckus?  Actions that harm others only?  How do we gauge spiritual harm?

What actions should usually result in excommunication in your opinion? (Choose all that apply)

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Discuss.

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32 Responses to Excommunicable Offenses (Weekend Poll)

  1. NewlyHousewife on September 14, 2013 at 6:41 AM

    How does adultery resulting in a child differ from adultery not resulting in a child? It’s still adultery.

    I’d also add murder to the list, and terrorist acts along with threatening ward members.

    I don’t think facilitating an abortion should be an excommunication offense simply because no abortion is cut and dry and the majority of abortions are a result of pregnancy with contraceptive use. Same thing with denouncing the bishop. Are we talking mental illness? A bad bishop? Or someone who feels duped?

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  2. whizzbang on September 14, 2013 at 6:50 AM

    I think there are guidelines with every situation being different. So, if someone was fornicating around and getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant and they were unrepentant then sure I can see excommunication being a possibility. Whereas if if someone you knew got pregnant or raped or something and you paid for an abortion then I don’t know if I would ex something for that. That actually happened to an elder in my mission, he paid for an abortion for his girlfriend when he was back home, but it wasn’t his, why he paid for it is beyond me, but this came to light when he was on his mission and they just sent him home but didn’t ex him from the Church

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  3. Lorian on September 14, 2013 at 9:41 AM

    I’d like to know why murder and rape aren’t on the list. I’d say that between murder, rape, child molestation, child abuse, and abuse of an animal, those would be about the only one’s I’d consider. That said, I’m not a big believer in excommunication. I don’t really believe that *any* church authority figure from *any* religion has the actual ability to cut us off from our spiritual connection to God. Only God and we, ourselves, have that capability.

    I think temporal excommunication is more about human beings expressing their displeasure with one another, and I think there are better, more constructive ways to do that than telling someone, “I’m the boss of your church, and I speak for God! God doesn’t like you any more, and God says we don’t have to play together now! Neener-neener-neener!” Things like excommunicating someone for publicly disagreeing with church authorities, or speaking about things that are different from standard church doctrine, are what convince me that excommunication is most usually about human beings wanting to assert their own authority and wield power over other human beings, rather than anything to do with what God wants from us.

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  4. hawkgrrrl on September 14, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    Poll amended! That was apparently an oversight. The list got long . . .

    I kept thinking that so many of these are subjective. For example, what I call a history book, an overzealous and under-read bishop could call anti-Mormon. What I call an underwear ad, a sexually repressed SP could call pornography. What I call fraud, the sister using the ward list to do it could call a great scented candle opportunity.

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  5. Molly on September 14, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    Would you consider adding an option to vote for the idea that churches shouldn’t excommunicate anyone, ever? I would be interested in finding out how many people feel that church membership status should be entirely up to the individual.

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  6. dba.brotherp on September 14, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    I like Lorian’s thoughts on this. To me, excommunication is a spiritually violent act. Excommunication is essentially taking away an individual’s chance to get to heaven. Excommunication also makes the church look like a “country club for saints” instead of a “hospital for sinners”. After all someone’s got to be terribly “sick” in order to be ex’d, right? If someone rapes, murders, abuses, that person should be put in jail but they should still be part of the fold and ministered to.

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  7. Douglas on September 14, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    Methinks for #5 and #6, there’s an entire misunderstanding of the purpose of Church discipline. It’s the sins and the failure to repent thereof that separate one from Heavenly Father, not an administrative action. No one on Earth can dictate the actions and/or attitudes of Heavenly Father and His Son. In general, there are three reasons for Church discpline (no action, informal probation, disfellowshipment, or excommuncation)
    1) Protect innocents from harm that would result if the unrepentant were to retain his membership.
    2) Protect the good name of the Church (not generally applicable to most members)
    3) The most important: to bring the offender back to the Savior. In some cases, being cut off from Church membership is necessary in order to impress the seriousness of the offense(s). This isn’t necessarily a reflection of their state of repentance. A person who has been recently ex’ed may be quite repentant and in good favor with the Lord.

    The one “gripe”, if it can be considered that, is that too often the Church discpline is too capricious. It varies greatly from time to time, between one stake or region and other, or even between tenures of bishops and Stake Presidents. I realize that in light of the three objectives stated above that there has to be a great deal of flexibility, nevertheless; my impression is that at times Church discipline is not fairly meted out. A by-product of picking officials from the “hew-mon” race, I suppose.

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  8. whizzbang on September 14, 2013 at 4:04 PM

    I absolultely agree with no. 7. The scriptures tell us to visit the sick, needy, visit in prison and in the Book of Mormon it says we aren’t to cast off but to continue to minister to people, if they want ministering to. Right now down the street from where I am is a lady who was exed and everybody and their dog has been over there trying to get her to come back to church and gte back into Church but she is stubborn!! haha! she comes for some stuff and like it’s all her who won’t stay and won’t call to meet with the stake pres. she says she isn’t ready but ack! like what more can we we be doing for her, I dunno!!! she just needs to get over herself and we want her back in but we can’t force her back in either

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  9. dba.brotherp on September 14, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    I think Douglas brings up interesting points but I am having a hard time understanding point 1 and 3 that he makes. For point 1, if one is ex’d how does that directly protect innocents from harm. Being ex’d doesn’t stop one from going to church, writing books, and speaking to people, promoting their point-of-view, etc.

    For point 3, we all sin but not everyone is ex’d. I don’t understand how one can say excommunication is about bringing the offender back to the Savior” yet say excommunication “isn’t necessarily a reflection of their state of repentance” and “A person who has been recently ex’ed may be quite repentant and in good favor with the Lord.” Those statements seem to contradict each other.

    The only reason, I can see, for excommunication is point 2. Excommunication tells the public/membership that the person who is being ex’d is not to be trusted. Thus preserving the good name of the church. I also agree with Douglas that church discipline is far too inconsistent. I think this is partly due to “being human” but also partly an organizational failure.

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  10. whizzbang on September 14, 2013 at 4:59 PM

    @9-I obviously didn’t come up with these rules but let’s say someone abused little kids or molested teens, got convicted, went to jail, got exed for it and now got out. I don’t know if serving in the nursery or YM/YW would be there first calling and I wouldn’t trust them around kids in the future, in the church or not in the Church. That’s to say nothing about probation and all the legal ramifications. I think protecting the innocents is for any possible future temptations for them and for others, to protect themselves as an innocent person and to protect someone else as an innocent person.

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  11. dba.brotherp on September 14, 2013 at 5:21 PM

    I understand your concern whizzbang. I too wouldn’t trust an abuser around anyone. But being ex’d doesn’t stop one from going to church and abusing while at church. Also as a side note, apparently the church doesn’t comment on why a person is ex’d. So I still don’t understand why people say excommunication protects the innocent. Does anyone know if the church even confirms or announces that a person has been ex’d? I believe that they used to but I’m not sure if they do now.

    So this leaves me with protecting the good name of the church as the only reason why excommunication takes place.

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  12. katie88 on September 14, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    I feel conflicted about the manner in which LDS Church leaders practice excommunication. Some offenses which seem benign are found unacceptable while other offenses that are so dangerous are overlooked. For example, when Lavina Fielding Anderson documented instances of ecclesiastical abuse in the Church, she was excommunicated. However, I know several Church leaders (bishops)who have preyed on , and in one case impregnanted, innocent young women, and because they were close friends with high church leaders, their offenses were ignored or mildly punished.

    I find the unrepentant sexual abuse of children especially heinous. However, when we consider murder, we must remember that Moses and Paul had participated in murder and yet clearly were fully forgiven by the Lord. Although the Church believes David was not fully forgiven for his murder or Uriah, his Psalms are some of the most inspiring words found in the Scriptures.

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  13. Will on September 14, 2013 at 7:43 PM

    I think Douglas touched on it, but excommunication is a fresh start for those with a broken heart and contrite spirt.

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  14. IDIAT on September 14, 2013 at 8:00 PM

    Is membership in the church a privilege or a right? I suspect one’s view on excommunication turns on the answer.

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  15. [...] this to Denver Snuffer’s book (which, yes, he was excommunicated over — leading to an interesting poll about what offenses should warrant [...]

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  16. Gary on September 15, 2013 at 5:22 AM

    I was excommunicated over 30 years ago and was re-baptized in June of 2011. Excommunication was an act of love that I needed to help me recover from my addictions and find the pathway back to God’s church. It is a step that is necessary in some cases and should only be determined through the proper channels and lots of prayer by those overseeing the church court. It is an important step in the process of finding forgiveness and accepting the gift of the Atonement. For me it lifted the guilt and accountability I had from not living up to the covenants I made in the temple. It is a serious step that should only be implemented by those in authority and with lots of prayer.

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  17. Douglas on September 15, 2013 at 1:08 PM

    IfyGary – Welcome back! My brother, you needn’t qualify yourself in light of past mistakes. That’s one advantages of having been ex’d and then made your way back (b/c not all do). You’ve been given a “fresh start”, not unlike a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Except you don’t have to live with the years of being a (financial) pariah. In general, one is eligible for rebaptism after a year out, and then full restoration of priesthood and/or temple blessings a year after that. However, the repentant will do what it takes.
    That’s why we shouldn’t turn our backs on those that have stumbled. We practice disfellowshipment or excommunication, not shunning.

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  18. MH on September 15, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    Regarding shunning, Lavinia Fielding Anderson has attended church faithfully since her excommunication over 20 years ago. One High Priest was trying really hard to avoid letting her touch the sacrament tray. She grabbed the tray, glared at the gentleman, and passed it to her husband (without partaking of it as she has been instructed.) Sometimes people with good intentions act really stupid towards excommunicated members. Lavinia felt as if she were a leper or something.

    While I am grateful that Gary (and Maxine Hanks and others) have re-joined the church, the statistics of excommunicants rejoining is dismal. As a form of repentence, I can’t help but think that other punishments (such as disfellowshipment) would be a better form of punishment. A Jewish friend of mine said it is impossible to be excommunicated from Judaism, even for murder. Their philosophy is that God is your judge, not man. I frankly like that philosophy. It seems that man (such as the Apostle Paul consenting to Stephen’s death) often gets it wrong. Even Moses was guilty of killing a man, yet not excommunicated–in fact both Paul and Moses became great prophets and apostles. God’s ways are not man’s ways, and I shudder when I think of sometimes how good men get it wrong sometimes.

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  19. h_nu on September 15, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    MH,
    Hopefully you recognize the Jewish religion is somewhat different than the Mormon one.
    For instance, it lacks any sense of unified hierarchy, or priesthood.

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  20. Mormon Heretic on September 15, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    Yes, h_nu, I recognize that. But doesn’t the LDS claim that we have restored the ancient Jewish Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood? Maybe we shouldn’t be so hierarchical? Jews have never (so far as I can tell) imposed excommunication upon any members–it is strictly a Christian invention.

    On the other hand, they have been known to execute via stoning or other method. Given that choice, I’ll take excommunication vs stoning, but still I think excommunication is used far too often, and it is used unjustly and unreliably in many cases. Like I said before, the great Jew Saul/Paul consented to the excommunication/execution of Christian martyr Stephen. It is unjust and unreliable despite the good intentions of the leaders.

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  21. IDIAT on September 15, 2013 at 5:12 PM

    MH – out of curiosity, how many disciplinary counsels have you participated in where the decision was excommunication? I’ve been involved in about 25 counsels over the course of my 34 years as an adult, only one of which resulted in excommunication for a clearly unrepentant fornicater. I’m trying to figure out your data for the belief that we resort to excommunication far too often. Unjustly? Unreliably? There is certainly an appeal process in place. i don’t think anything as serious as excommunication is given a perfunctory glance and a rubber stamp. As an aside, I don’t think the “Jewish” priesthood was restored.

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  22. Jenn on September 15, 2013 at 5:56 PM

    Seriously? Praying for heavenly mother is worthy of excommunication?! I can’t fathom anyone’s justification for that.

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  23. Mormon Heretic on September 15, 2013 at 6:59 PM

    I’ve never been involved. But I am well aware of the Sept Six, as well as other intellectuals (Simon Southerton, Grant Palmer, Denver Snuffer, etc) that have been harassed out of the church. Those are the cases I’m talking about that excommunication doesn’t fit the crime.

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  24. hawkgrrrl on September 16, 2013 at 12:58 AM

    It’s been justification for firing someone from BYU. Er, not giving them well deserved tenure.

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  25. Sandy Liscom Emmons on September 16, 2013 at 1:08 AM

    For me I think the punishments implemented are way too random and subjective. Some Bishops or Stake Presidents excommunicate too frequently and almost enjoy the power they have over the spirituality and progression of those entrusted to their leadership. Others never do it. It is well known that inequity is displayed depending on region or even from one stake to the next. My husband was x-ed for threatening a Bishop. He never did any actual harm as the threat was over the telephone. He was tired of the Bishop calling him at least once a week harassing him and trying to get him to quit smoking and take his family to the temple to be sealed. He had a desire to go but needed the space to work through it in his own time. You can’t bully someone onto the straight and narrow path. I agree with the statement made that disfellowshipment is more appropriate but that excommunication should be done only in extreme cases.

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  26. Kullervo on September 17, 2013 at 3:26 PM

    As far as I know, serious and unrepentant heresy is grounds for excommunication (or anathema) in every Christian church that has any kind of church discipline.

    As for the rest, I think it has everything to do with specific facts and circumstances: 1 Corinthians 5 talks a lot about why there should be excommunication / anathema / disfellowshipping, and it specifically references fornication, but it talks about it in general terms that could apply to any sin situation. The issue is the effect of the sin on the church.

    I mean we are all sinners and we all sin, but the message in 1 Cor 5 about the leaven is that certain sins taint the body of Christ, not because they have discrete seriousness, but because they are destructive to the Church as a body for some reason (whether it’s heresy/false doctrine, a sexual affair, gossip and backbiting, or just doing something that casts the church into disrepute).

    The notion that somehow sexual sin is the sin next to murder and should necessarily presumptively jeopardize your membership regardless of context is unbiblical and false.

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  27. Sandy Liscom Emmons on September 17, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    Specifically Adultery has much steeper penalties associated with it than fornications. See Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22,Matthew 5:28, 3 Nephi 12:28, D&C 63:16, Hebrews 13:4,and the one everyone quotes most Alma 39:5, also D&C 42:24, D&C 42:75. D&C 42:80,and D&C 132:41

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  28. jmb275 on September 20, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    Hmm, I think what I discovered in taking that poll is that there is very little that I find so horrendous as to revoke someone’s Gospel blessings for. I suppose I understand why the church wants/needs to police the borders but I can’t say I’m of the same opinion.Come one, come all, come feast at the table of Christ with us!

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  29. truz5th on September 26, 2013 at 6:13 PM

    Having lost my way a few years ago (drugs, adultery) I was actually anticipating excommunication and was surprised when the bishop and stake president decided on probation.
    I realized that I was being much harsher on myself than the Lord, the church or my wife.
    I had stopped using and had sought my wife’s forgiveness a couple of years before I even returned to church. My heart was broken and contrition had become a way of life.
    This factored heavily on the decision and showed that excommunication is not a strict black or white issue.

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