I have a friend who is not bothered by the fact that the Mormon church handles excommunications from the top down. The idea being that the Church’s reputation and the Flock must be protected. However the scriptures tell us a different story, not only is it against God’s word, it’s happened in the past and we have the benefit of their failures to prevent us from repeating the same error.
Rather than quote all of the scriptures talking about how the church is supposed to handle the excommunication process, I would prefer you read two very good posts on the matter, First is, “The Latter-Day Apostasy” and second, “The Doctrine Against Dissent.” These articles explore the matter further than I could take it. Although I don’t agree 100% with either article, it is excellent and worth a ponderous read.
Let’s take a look at the church’s official statements about “top-down” discipline. I have copied a post from the blog of Denver Snuffer under the title: “Church Discipline Top-Down” This article gets to the heart of the matter. You can read about Denver’s excommunication here, “The Facts.”
The LDS Church issued the following statement posted on its website. I have copied and pasted as it appears in the original:
SALT LAKE CITY-
The Church issued the following statement today in response to questions from the news media regarding Church discipline:
“The Church is a family made up of millions of individuals with diverse backgrounds and opinions. There is room for questions and we welcome sincere conversations. We hope those seeking answers will find them and happiness through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Sometimes members’ actions contradict Church doctrine and lead others astray. While uncommon, some members in effect choose to take themselves out of the Church by actively teaching and publicly attempting to change doctrine to comply with their personal beliefs. This saddens leaders and fellow members. In these rare cases, local leaders have the responsibility to clarify false teachings and prevent other members from being misled. Decisions are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters.
“Actions to address a person’s membership and standing in their congregation are convened after lengthy periods of counseling and encouragement to reconsider behavior. Ultimately, the door is always open for people to return to the Church.
It is not true that discipline involving controversial members is exclusively the responsibility of “local leaders” acting independent of influence from the hierarchy. The hierarchy imposes their will from the top-down by instructing the local leaders on what they must do. In my case the news came directly from Elder Russell M. Nelson of the twelve, who presides over the Strengthening the Members Committee. Usually the news comes through Elder Whitney Clayton, one of the seven presidents. He was also involved in my case, but the original pressure came through Elder Nelson directly.
The assertion by the church in their press release that “Decisions are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters” is false. In the case of public, controversial members, it is a lie. I am far more disappointed the church would lie about what they do than I am at their inappropriate top-down behavior. The reason they lie about it is because they are violating the scriptural pattern for discipline. LDS scripture requires discipline to be local. It isn’t, so they lie to make it appear that way. Morally, lying to cover up their wrong doing is worse than admitting they manipulate local leaders. Now they are responsible for doing both. They should be more honorable.
Another excommunication happened this month to a couple in Arizona. The Stake Presidency threatened to ex the whole family if they didn’t stop worshiping the way the scriptures inform us to. The couple shares what happened next: “Texts”
Following our meeting with our stake presidency my wife and I determined that we needed to make a statement of how we were proceeding in our worship, so I sent the following text to my Bishop and Stake President:
“Prez Barker and Bishop Walch, this is Jon Durfee and family. You told us to stop doing ordinances or all who are baptized members would be ex’ed. We as a family intend to continue to follow the doctrine of Christ as found in the scriptures including the ordinances that we may obtain the power to see His face and live. (D&C 84). If you must take action: “That thou doest, do quickly”.”
This is the reply from the stake president:
“Doesn’t read like a removal letter! . I did get some guidance from Salt Lake about children. The thought there was a that it did not make sense to have disciplinary Council for them. It seems like we could handle those as informal probation matters, taking away any recommends for the 12 year old and ups might have and restricting use of the priesthood. If they want to request a name removal as to the children, they can do that. That was the thought from the staff person in Salt Lake.
I will be visiting with Elder Greer and Elder Corbridge this week. Until then , other than having to address the removal letter from the (name withheld), let’s just stand still.
You are doing a terrific job!” President Barker
Are you confused? So was I! Was he really praising me for “doing a good job”? What’s this about a removal letter? Was he expecting me to submit one? And what’s this about “guidance from Salt Lake”? I thought these excommunications were only from the local stakes and were local matters!? Are the leaders in Salt Lake lying to the public on this policy? If it’s local, and not central, why would he need “guidance” from the higher ups? He is “standing still” until he “visits with elder’s Greer and Corbridge (later) this week? If he stands still until he receives instruction on how to proceed, who is really responsible for any and all action taken against me and my family?
It’s like he was talking to someone else! Then came the next text:
“The message I sent was intended only for Bishop Walch. If it also went to the Durfee’s, as it now occurs to me it may have, that was not intended. It should be returned.” President Barker
Oh. Ok. I’ll just return a text message? How do you do that? Too late! The damage is done! Apparently at least three quorums are involved in our excommunication! Incredible!
As these Stake Presidents continue to work in secret with Salt Lake leadership, more of these stories will begin to emerge. It is amazing to me that my church is doing this. This is a different story than the official statement entails. I am concerned, and I will explain why.
The Book of Mormon is a book of prophecy. Stories and experiences were carefully selected by prophets who saw our day. They could have chosen hundreds of other stories and events to foretell what we can expect to experience during our day. So it is sobering to think that we can expect what happened in the Book of Mormon to repeat in our day.
As we are in the midst of many signs and wonders from heaven it makes one contemplate how close we really are to the Lord’s second coming. By looking at the events leading up to the Lord’s first coming, we can get an idea of what might happen before His second coming.
75 years before the coming of the Lord, Alma was sent to a people who were in a apostate. Nevertheless Alma was commanded to deliver a message. After the message was given, the church leadership sought to know what people were thinking. This was done in secret.
And it came to pass that after the more popular part of the Zoramites had consulted together concerning the words which had been preached unto them, they were angry because of the word, for it did destroy their craft; therefore they would not hearken unto the words.
And they sent and gathered together throughout all the land all the people, and consulted with them concerning the words which had been spoken.
Now their rulers and their priests and their teachers did not let the people know concerning their desires; therefore they found out privily the minds of all the people.
And it came to pass that after they had found out the minds of all the people, those who were in favor of the words which had been spoken by Alma and his brethren were cast out of the land; and they were many; and they came over also into the land of Jershon. (Alma 35:3–6)
False Rulers, False Priests, and False Teachers are the ones who do this. After several years pass by, and just prior to the first coming of the Lord, the false High Priests take it a step further:
And there began to be men inspired from heaven and sent forth, standing among the people in all the land, preaching and testifying boldly of the sins and iniquities of the people, and testifying unto them concerning the redemption which the Lord would make for his people, or in other words, the resurrection of Christ; and they did testify boldly of his death and sufferings.
Now there were many of the people who were exceedingly angry because of those who testified of these things; and those who were angry were chiefly the chief judges, and they who had been high priests and lawyers; yea, all those who were lawyers were angry with those who testified of these things.
Now there was no lawyer nor judge nor high priest that could have power to condemn any one to death save their condemnation was signed by the governor of the land.
Now there were many of those who testified of the things pertaining to Christ who testified boldly, who were taken and put to death secretly by the judges, that the knowledge of their death came not unto the governor of the land until after their death. (3 Nephi 6:20–23)
We have been warned that these secret combinations amongst the hierarchy of church leadership will once again make an appearance in these the last days. Could this be pointing to us? Could it be happening now?
In each of the stories above, false priests worked in secret and in darkness to cast out the saints. Nephi warned us that such things will happen again, “Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark. And the blood of the saints shall cry from the ground against them.” (2 Nephi 28:9–10)
It will be the Lord who will destroy secret works, “Wherefore, for this cause, that my covenants may be fulfilled which I have made unto the children of men, that I will do unto them while they are in the flesh, I must needs destroy the secret works of darkness, and of murders, and of abominations.” (2 Nephi 10:15)
Thankfully in the end nothing will be secret, “There is nothing which is secret save it shall be revealed; there is no work of darkness save it shall be made manifest in the light; and there is nothing which is sealed upon the earth save it shall be loosed.” (2 Nephi 30:17)
This post came about because of the post entitled, “Lehi’s Message.” The Book of Mormon is a revelation indeed. Much to ponder.
Wow! I can’t imagine the “awkward” feeling Pres. Barker must have felt, realizing Jonny received that text. It is as if it is all just one big, super-uber popular “Club”. I remember teaching people on my mission, and after baptism and confirmation, thinking, “Is this all?” Move along, find more and more and more and endlessly more. We were supposed to set up follow-up lessons, but there was little encouragement to follow through with all lessons afterward. It was the ward’s job, and the missionaries just moved along. That might be a fine philosophy, but it was an interesting realization for me, that something was missing. Knowing that discipline continues to go up several “levels” drives home the point that it feels more like a fraternity or corporation than a church of God. Where is God in all of this?