In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints excommunication is practiced. This is done as a penalty to save the soul of transgressors, save innocent people and to protect the name of the Church. The excommunication process of the Mormon church is a well thought-out process with many parts.
Excommunication from the Mormon Church
Latter-day Saints are Christians who have Jesus Christ in the center of their religion. They do believe in God, but they see Jesus as a God as well. Furthermore they believe that they are all children of the father God, therefore they call each other brother and sister. The Mormon Church is a Church who values the family, in fact, they stress it a lot. Latter-day Saints now have four books of authority. The Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.
As with all Church movements there are rules to live by. The Mormon Church has that as well, there are rules to live by and covenants to make with God.
Covenants made with God
- Baptism. When a kid is 8 years old, it reached the age of accountability. Therefor these children can be baptized.
- Confirmation. This means that the initiate becomes an official member of the church.
- Sacrament. Taking a sacrament is done weekly during a sacrament meeting. In the LDS Church this is commonly refered as the ordinance.
- Celestial marriage. In the marriage ceremony a man and a woman make covenants to God and t each other. They are husband and wife for time and all eternity.
Before heading over to how the process takes place first something about when a council is mandatory, appropriate and when it's not appropriate.
- Murder. 'Unjustified and deliberate taking of a human life'. (Killing by soldiers or police doesn't count)
- Apostasy. This is about members who 'repeatedly act in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders'. This means also people who join another church and people who speak as if it is Church doctrine, but it isn't.
- Incest. Sexual relations between a parent and a child, or sexual relations between siblings.
- Serious transgression while holding a prominent position. Serious transgressions are: 'deliberate and major offense against morality' and 'attempted murder, rape, sexual abuse, spouse abuse, intentional serious physical injury of others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations, deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, robbery, burglary' and many more.
- Pattern of serious transgressions.
- Serious transgression that is widely known.
Possible reasons for disciplinary council
- Serious transgression
- Abortion. If a member arranges, submits to, performs, encourages or pays for an abortion a council may be held.
- Transsexual operation.
Things the Council doesn't deal with
- Failure to comply with church standards.
- Nonpayment of debts.
- Civil disputes.
Mormon Excommunication Council
If a disciplinary council is necessary it will be convened. The purposes of these councils are to:
- Save the souls of the transgressors
- Protect the innocent
- Safeguard the purity, integrity and good name of the Church
There is an interesting structure in these councils.
Ward Disciplinary Council
These councils are convened by a bishop of a ward. A ward is a congregation. The council consists of the bishop and his two counselors. In the cases this councils comes together there should be an unanimous decision, but the Bishop always have the final say.
Stake Disciplinary Council
This is a bigger council for when 'more important' people, who are holder of the Melchizedek priesthood, are accused. This also happens when the accused is family of the Bishop.
Here the council consists of the stake president, the two counselors and twelve members of the stake high council. The members of the high council are divided, half of them speak on behalf of the accused while the other half speak against them.
The stake president makes a unanimous decision with its two counselors where again the president has the final say.
Mission Disciplinary Council
The Mission President can convene a council if a full-time missionary should be trialed.
Mormon Excommunication Process
Presenting the evidence
First of all the council will state the reported misconduct. The accused person can now deny it or admit it. If he admits, there will be no further trial and there won't be any need for evidence.
After that the evidence will be presented. This can be done through a witness with an oral statement or a written document. The accused person can now ask question to the witness. After that, the accused will present evidence which speaks for him/her. During all this, the council can ask questions as well.
Nobody is actually under oath and the council doesn't fall under government rules. The leaders are instructed though (by the Church) to have fair and considerate of the feelings procedures.
The decision will be made by the council. The decision will be:
- No action. The council is not impressed by the evidence and they can even determine that the offence hasn't taken place.
- Probation. The accused will be suspended to the right to partake of the sacrament, hold a church calling, exercise in priesthood or even enter the temple.
- Disfellowshipped. Being disfellowshipped means that you are still a member of the Church, but you are no longer in good standing. The member can attend public meetings, but cannot teach lessons, partake of the sacrament or vote. Disfellowshipment is a severe action and adequate for most transgressions.
- Excommunication. The most severe action: the member isn't a member of the Church of Latter-day Saints.
The accused member can appeal the decision within 30 days. If this happens the decision can be changed or left in its original decision.
The decision is not taken public, not even in public Church meetings unless the case involves:
- The preaching of false doctrine.
- Transgressor who is the predator.
- Participation in plural marriage, cultist teachings or ridicule Church leaders.
You see, excommunication is a very severe punishment and it is taken in good consideration before something like excommunication from the mormon church actually happens. There are also several Mormon Excommunication Stories available to read more.