We’ve all seen the headlines:
- Excommunicated: LDS Church boots creator of ‘Men on a Mission’ calendar
- Local gay Mormon faces excommunication
- LDS author facing excommunication
Note: The links are all active
Where do these headlines come from? The Church or the individuals themselves?
There was a time (and perhaps still is) when church discipline was a private matter, between the individual and Church Leaders. Church Discipline, for those who are unfamiliar is explained here in an article by Elder M. Russell Ballard. It is not my intention to debate Church Discipline in this post, though I suspect some comments will be directed toward that.
Let’s take the case of the recent church discipline against the “Shirtless Missionary Calendar” maker, Chad Hardy. It’s not likely that the Church made this public, but Hardy himself in an effort to gain publicity and drum up more business. His sales statistics and website address feature prominently as part of the articles written about him.
In other cases, the press was designed to tell the disciplined person’s “side of the story” even though the Church would not reveal its side in any case. Thus was the case of the so-called “September Six.” Maybe even in an attempt to pressure the church not to proceed with the action.
I found that in some past issues of the “Improvement Era” names and reasons for church action were recorded, but certainly that has not been Church practice for many, many years. On a rare occasion, it will be announced in Church, which I only remember happening once in my 26 years in the Church. The Ward Clerk was excommunicated for a second time for adultery and the Bishop announced it to the Melchizedek Priesthood. Most of the time, only those who need to know about a particular member’s status know unless he/she reveals it.
What I don’t understand from the Hardy case was a statement he made in the article.
”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.”
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.
From what I gathered in the article, Chad was no longer active in the Church and may have had “other issues.” But, in the end, I think he will be held accountable for what knowledge he did have and will not be “free” to do whatever he wants in this life. I hope he re-considers his statements and is someday welcomed back in full fellowship if he desires it.