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Diff’rent strokes: Excommunication

January 5, 2009

Excommunication is a step whereby a member is relieved of all responsibilities of Church membership including paying tithing, wearing of the garment (if endowed) and active participation in Church meetings. But much is lost as well. For example, a priesthood holder is no longer able to exercise his Priesthood and there is the loss of the Holy Ghost as a constant companion, as if never baptized.

The purpose of excommunication is to assist the member in repenting of their sin and feeling the “godly sorrow” necessary. The loss of church membership should be felt as a significant part of that sorrow associated with repentance process. It is to help focus them and is not meant to “free” someone from the things that they “know” and have become responsible for as a member of the Church.

That’s what some people literally believe. I can understand why people would see it this way — at least, from a faithful perspective. I can even see how some people who are excommunicated but who still believe can still be absorbed in this kind of mindset, which will drive them to conformity, repentance and reconciliation with the church eventually.

But…I dunno. I just don’t see it. And I know enough others who don’t view excommunication like this at all. After all, these quoted paragraphs were written in response to another’s quote:

”I really feel sorry for my family,” Hardy said. ”They are going to be so sad. But I feel empowered and free and I feel like I no longer have to apologize for anything.”

That sounds closer to what excommunication might sound like to me, but then again, I’m not out doing all I can to get excommunicated at this time.

The very terminology used clued me in to a profound difference in perspective. The first writer mentions that excommunication should be a part of the sorrow with the repentance process…but what if one is only sorrowful because of the church? Wouldn’t that person feel empowered and free — certainly not repentant — to have that load lifted from him?

It seems that if that is the case, then the church should think up new disciplinary actions for these members if they have certain goals of excommunication.

Of course, that quote is borne from a faithful perspective. It assumes that one recognizes the Priesthood and/or the Holy Ghost, and that one associates these things with the church (so losing the church would be the loss of these things). This argument fell particularly flat against me — I’ve never been much a believer of the priesthood (oh, so blasphemous!)…and I admit that I’ve rolled my eyes in church when someone’s talked about wanting a blessing. I feel the same now as I felt before I was baptized, so I assume that if I were de-baptized (if excommunication truly serves as that), I wouldn’t feel particularly different. So, these aren’t convincing reasons. The things I have consistently appreciated about the church, I actually can get outside of the church. Oops!

Oh well. I thought it was an interestingly different perspective.

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  1. The problem is that you get a skewed picture of why excommunications are being done if you rely only on the online picture.

    Think about it – who is going to go on some ex-Mormon blog and declare “I was excommunicated for beating my wife every night, but the bishop was totally unfair in how he handled it”?

    Or who is going to admit to raping their daughter, or any other crime online?

    Not a lot of people. Yet we know simply from domestic violence stats that this stuff has to be going on LDS wards, and it just has to be a big problem that bishops deal with.

    But it’s completely absent online.

    In fact, if you try to bring it up, you risk other ex’ed Mormons yelling at how you are trying to dismiss their position by smearing their character (and perhaps rightly so – you don’t know them from Adam after all).

    But the end result, I suspect, is that the real reason for MOST excommunications in the LDS Church is almost completely unreported online.

    I would imagine that excommunications for “apostasy” are absolutely dwarfed by the excommunications for domestic abuse or criminal activity. Utterly dwarfed.

  2. I guess I would imagine that there is a skew due to who advertises online vs. who doesn’t too, but at the end, I don’t see it likely for too many of any party to default to using excommunication as a tool to help in the “repentance of their sin.”

    If someone gets excomm’d for criminal activity, that looks more like the church covering itself. I don’t think of the member coming back, if that is even possible.

    As a repentance tool, excommunication still seems weak.

  3. I suppose so.

    I’ve also heard of excommunications to “protect the flock.” You don’t want an unaware new Church leader calling a guy who was caught abusing his son last year to teach in Primary. Which falls under “covering butts” I guess, but it’s also about genuinely protecting people.

    Which you are correct, has nothing to do with repentance.

    I imagine that has more to do with how the person being ex-ed views it.

    My only point was that the “proudly excommunicated” that you often see boasting on or whatever, are probably not exactly representative of the target population of your inquiry.

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