I started thinking about excommunication because of a couple things. The first is that there is a somewhat prominent LDS blogger who is being excommunicated–Denver Snuffer (I don’t personally care for his ideas. He writes about the church losing the gift of revelation after Joseph Smith died, which is what the church is taking issue with). The second is because I realized for the first time that every Bishop and Stake President has a different idea of what constitutes “apostasy” and it is kind of luck of the draw how extreme a line people draw. Thank goodness I have a very understanding bishop, but the idea of luck of the draw in the leadership you happen to have being involved is scares me. I feel like I need this journey and this blog, and I love to sometimes discuss my ideas on social media, and I would love to occasionally share my ideas in church. But there is always this remote possibility that something like what I am doing would be perceived by someone as apostasy, which is punishable by excommunication in the LDS church.
So here’s my take on excommunication. There has to be a better way! On one hand I see the need for a system to kind of sort the people who would make good leaders from the ones who wouldn’t. What I mean is, you wouldn’t really want someone like me, with my current ideas, to be the Bishop of your ward, if I was going to stand up there and make it my goal to educate you about my views on Sunday (maybe someone with my views could still be a Bishop so long as they weren’t going to do that though…maybe?). I see that people starting debates and bringing up controversial ideas all the time at church would be disruptive to the spirit of the meeting and the experience that members are going to church seeking.
On the other hand, excommunication is brutal! They terminate all of your eternal blessings (which if you still believe in those blessings, is a BIG deal). Sometimes this happens for something like deciding to write a book about your beliefs that happens to not agree with the church’s teachings. Or this happens sometimes for sharing true, but disruptive, information repeatedly at church, even when asked to stop sharing your ideas.
I can see a need for some control in order to preserve the purpose of the meeting: faith and the spirit. But I also think excommunication is the worst possible way of doing this.
I have listened to people who have gone through the excommunication process say that the process is humiliating and degrading. Lots of people after being through an experience like this decide they simply cannot belong to an organization that treats people like this. The church believes the process is love, and some members who go through it would agree, but for many other members it is an extremely negative experience.
With lay, untrained leadership, any priesthood holder, with any set of ideals, can hold any position in the church. That is good in some ways and frightening in others. But couldn’t there be some other process where maybe a “stamp” was put on your church record stating that as long as you refused to respect the purpose of the meeting, then you could not hold callings A through S, and achieve the same effect? Isn’t there a better way of saying, “yeah, you screwed up,” without ending that person’s sealing to their spouse and children and changing their relationship with one of their most important support groups?
It seems REALLY harsh, and to me it seems like there has to be a better way.
Just a thought.