9/14/2009

This post, brought to you by the letter "A" (or, John & I go to LDS court)

My husband was excommunicated from the LDS church last Wednesday night by a council of 12 men led by the three members of our Stake Presidency. Other relevant officials, such as our bishop, were also involved in the proceedings.

I will run through a brief summary of the events and then offer some of my observations about them. Note: to protect the privacy of the people involved, I'm going to discuss some of the actions more generally.

1) We arrived at the appointed time and were asked to wait in a small foyer while the men convened. There was a bit of small talk. I knew most of the men involved with this event and greeted them by first name (I knew more of them than John because of my previous stake-level callings).

2) We were ushered into an office to meet with the man who was officiating at the event. He stressed to us that the event was sacred and should not be discussed, adding that it would not proceed if we insisted on recording any part of it. We affirmed that we would not record it and then he explained to us how the evening would proceed. John was charged with being in apostasy, which our church leaders defined using the CHI definition: "to repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders." We were told that if John didn't deny those charges, the procedure would be over rather quickly. John then requested that whether he accepted or denied the charges, he wanted me to have the opportunity to testify on his behalf. The leader agreed to this.

3) We were led to a side room to meet briefly with our bishop. We exchanged pleasantries, having only met him once before.

4) John was ushered into the Council room. He can speak best on what happened at that point. He did not deny the charges. This portion of the evening was the only time that I was left alone.

5) I was then led into the Council room. To draw a picture for those who have never seen one before: it is a long, rectangular room with a gigantic T-shaped table in the middle. At the head of the "T" sat the Stake Presidency. The room's long walls were lined with about ten men sitting on each side. At the far end of the table from the SP there were two folding chairs. That is where we were directed to sit. When I entered the room everyone was standing. Every man in the room except for John was wearing a dark suit, a white or pastel-colored shirt, and tie. Most of the men were 50+ years of age. There were numerous familiar faces. I will admit that the scene was daunting. I think I even visibly startled for a moment at the sea of suits.

6) After a bit of small talk, I was then asked to offer my opinion on whether John was in apostasy, and was read the above definition. I sat in silence for a few moments, realizing that I could not answer that question.

7) I then explained that I could not answer the question posed to me because I felt that the question was worded far too vaguely for me to answer definitively. I noted that words like "public" and "deliberate" were terms that were open to a variety of interpretations. I then stated that my purpose in testifying was to speak about John's intentions and his character, and to offer my observations that his writings online were in line with his ongoing search for truth, and that I saw no inconsistency between his recent behavior and his decision 20 years ago to be baptized into the church even knowing that doing so was against his family's will. I emphasized that John intended no malice with his writings, that his intentions were to speak truth rather than to destroy faith. And so forth. I believe I spoke for about 5 minutes.

8) I was then asked if I loved John. And he was asked if he loved me. We were led into a small room to meet with our bishop. At this point, I believe the council members were praying to know the Lord's will about the court verdict.

9) My favorite part of the evening was my chat with the Bishop. I suspect that I might have freaked him out a bit with my non-stop description of our family's faith journey. In any case, I got some things off my chest & found a listening ear.

10) John was invited back to the Council room. He can fill in what happened there.

11) John retrieved me from the small room where I was waiting and the various men milling around in the hall made it clear that the meeting was adjourned. I followed John out the door into the night air, the bishop walking alongside. But no one had yet told me the verdict, and there was some awkwardness to the final exchanges between us and the Councilmen. As we neared the car I turned to John & Bishop and asked. They had supposed that I knew John was ex'd. It was a strange end to an odd night. I had thought that there would be a final meeting with a church official to explain the consequences of the ex'ing, specifically how it would affect my temple ordinances, and I felt a bit lost by not having had that. As we drove away John said that the consequences of the ex'ing were never explained to him, either, and that the verdict was given that he was in apostasy and something about excommunication was mumbled afterwards. (I should note that the room where the council was held was gigantic and the man conducting the meeting is so soft-spoken that it was nearly impossible to hear anything he was saying from where we sat.)

Here are some of my initial thoughts about this experience:

--We were told at the beginning of the proceedings that there was little doubt that John would be found in apostasy due to the clarity of his web writings. I found this declaration off-putting given that John's request to know specifically which of his writings were 'apostate' was not considered relevant. The only detail that was offered was a confirmation that he was not being called to court for his stand on Prop. 8.

--Holding a court for 'apostasy' is confusing to me, perhaps because the reasoning behind such activities is never explained. If I had not heard of the September Six, I doubt I would have even known that there was such a thing as a court for apostasy--this is not mainstream Mormon stuff. There is never a point in LDS ritual where members make a covenant to not criticize their leaders or the church (note: there is a moment in the temple where one promises to avoid all lightmindedness, loud laughter, evil speaking of the Lord's anointed, the taking of the name of God in vain, and every other unholy and impure practice. I had always assumed the "evil speaking" bit to mean saying lewd or rude things about church leaders, not critique of church policies--and the meaning of these archaic phrases is never explained in the temple. Also, given that I've never heard of anyone being ex'd for swearing or laughing, it seems a highly selective and arbitrary criteria for cutting someone off from the church). Yes, there are prophetic warnings about avoiding personal apostasy, but I know of nowhere that members are given the handbook definition of apostasy as a behavioral guideline. We did not even know how this term was defined until we asked for clarification prior to the court. I would add that even with the definition given to us I had no idea how it applied to the fuzzy space of internet writing.

--The actual physical dynamic of this event was very strange. We were constantly being ushered in and out of the various rooms. At one point I requested to sit in the foyer outside the council room rather than having to walk back to the holding room down the hall. My request was denied, which seemed very strange. I suppose there is a very rigid protocol that's being followed, but the rules weren't all explained to us and it just felt weird to be led back and forth and all around every few minutes. As I've reflected on why we were carefully corralled and escorted during these proceedings I wondered if there was a concern that we would initiate a protest or invite protesters to 'storm the building.' I have no idea, but it was very strange, indeed.

--John has said that he's satisfied with all that happened. He went expecting to lose his membership and he encountered no surprises there. I couldn't help but find it oddly harsh to have the council only interested in the answer to a single question as a litmus test for a 20-year investment in the church. They didn't care about John's intent, about any of his devotional practices, about his adherence to the commandments, etc. They didn't ask about any unorthodoxies in the realm of sexual behavior or Word of Wisdom (note: typically excommunication in the LDS church happens because of sexual indiscretion). It hurts to know that the church had felt it appropriate and necessary to excommunicate John, when someone like my high school boyfriend who was baptized & active for all of one month is still considered a member in good standing.

--I got the feeling from some of our interactions with church leaders that they expected us to be belligerent or to make a scene at this occasion. Though these were all subtle impressions, it reinforced my sense that all 'apostates' are painted with the same broad brush. John and I have repeatedly affirmed that we would not disrupt meetings or violate the sanctity of church spaces--doing so would be inconsistent with our values. However, overall, it may be that the stigma of the letter "A" will now speak more loudly than anything else John says or does from now on within the Mormon community.

--I don't yet know how this excommunication will affect me or our children. From what I gather, the sealing ordinance that occurred when we married in the Los Angeles Temple is now dissolved (this is the ordinance that binds me and John and our children together in the hereafter). Most Mormons are asked on an annual (or biannual) basis whether they affiliate with or are sympathetic to apostates (or apostate groups). This is part of the list of questions that they must answer to qualify for a temple recommend. Because of this question, I suspect that many active LDS will be wary of being friendly with me or John. When I was more embedded in the church myself, I remember feeling some concern about developing close friendships with excommunicants--I was concerned that doing so was a step forward onto the slippery slope of my own apostasy.

--In this write-up of the events, I've attempted to be fairly objective in my understanding of what happened that night. For those who might not know me (or my blog), I want to make it clear that I do not support the holding of LDS church courts for apostasy. Such events reinforce a hierarchical/patriarchal approach to spirituality that is repulsive to me. While I respect many of the men who participated in this event, I do not respect the reasoning behind it. In my mind, it is an act of violence to cut someone off from the body of the church, essentially 'damning' them from affiliation with church members and from the celestial kingdom (or Mormon heaven) in the afterlife. I see nothing of God or of the divine in such actions.

60 comments:

Gary said...

I am a member of the Roman Catholic church, which makes what I say somewhat irrelevant, but once long ago, I read a meditation that said we must pray for grace to live within God's holy mystery.

I try to live by that, which makes understanding other people and their actions a bit easier.

AmyB said...

Thanks for writing this up, Jana.

I'm just curious, you mentioned that you and John sat in folding chairs. I'm assuming that all of the men were in nicer chairs. Is that assumption correct?

The description of ushering you around to different places strikes me as classic alpha male or behavior consistent with a dominator heirarchy. It's showing you that they are the ones with the power.

It sounds to me like you both handled it with grace. I have to admit that reading it made me feel queasy. I don't think I could have handled such an event so well.

btw- I love the small detail that you greeted the men by first name.

littlemissattitude said...

I suspect that the "in and out of rooms" thing, and the refusal of your request to sit in the foyer, had a lot to do with the general feeling I've always gotten from church authorities on all levels that they must feel "in control" of a given situation at all times. They seem to need visible, tangible evidence that they are "the authorities" and can tell their subordinates (the membership of the church, if not the rest of the world) what to do and think, and when and where to do it.

As far as the general issue of excommunication for apostasy, I wonder if the church realizes that it is divesting itself of some of its best and brightest (as I would consider both John and yourself to be) simply because those individuals actually think about issues, want to discuss them, and might not always agree right down the line with the leadership on those issues.

Again, I think severing individual members from the church for disagreeing (which, at bottom, what apostasy is) is a manifestation of the need of church leaders to feel in control at all times. And, yes, I believe the leadership believes they even have a right to control what church members think.

I also believe that the "official" definition of apostasy is left fuzzy so that the leadership can apply it as they see fit rather than in a fair and consistent manner.

deb said...

It's always been my understanding that god is about mercy, kindness and compassion, although I have yet to find a church that embraces those beliefs.

I hope you both are well.

Elissa Minor Rust said...

So, given that they were so adamant you not record the event (seriously, what are they afraid of there?), does this post now put you at risk? I am wondering if you feel as if you personally are being "watched" at this point in terms of your online writing. What are the chances they will stop at John and not do the same to you?

I really do admire how you both handled the situation. These men tried everything in their power to show dominance and control over you, to instill fear, to make you feel like lesser beings in God's eyes. And you came through with peace and dignity in tact. I imagine your calm demeanor must have been a bit unnerving for them.

Anonymous said...

Sounds pretty standard -- the entire process is designed to let you know who has the power and who doesn't. John dared to be honest and independent, and hierarchies don't take kindly to that. The best way to keep the herd in line is to show them what happens to a maverick.

jana said...

Elissa:
Two things that were undoubtedly unnerving to the men involved:
1) I smiled the entire time
2) I refused to shake anyone's hand--it was just too hard hard for me to play all nice and friendly at an event that I felt was so wrong.

The 'recording' part was meant to prevent any audio recording of the event (which we did not even consider doing).

As to the possibility of my being called in, too...it is possible. We'll see if/when that happens.

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

Thank you very much for sharing this Jana. I can't even imagine how painful or upsetting it must be. Having now been out of Mormonism myself for a few years, whenever I'm reminded of how rigid the patriarchy is and unbending the rules of behaviour, it makes me sad and angry.

I felt very moved when you said, "I do not respect the reasoning behind it. In my mind, it is an act of violence to cut someone off from the body of the church..."

It feels very much the same to me. The emotional violence I experienced which caused me to resign my membership is something which disturbs me to this day, and even worse is knowing it is still happening.

Tiffany said...

Wow, what an interesting bit of ritual. Pretty much worlds apart from Quakerism. So, is it possible to be both Mormon and Quaker? Not to put you on the spot, but I am curious...

Julie said...

When I decided to leave my congregation--when my local congregation (UCC) voted to condemn gay marriage, going against the overall denomination's support of gay marriage--a friend suggested to me that I wasn't leaving the church . . . the church was leaving me. And I think this kind of applies to your situation, too. Thankfully, there are many, many kinds of religious flavors to try, once you've determined that one is kinda bitter.

wren said...

I'm surprised they said it had nothing to do with his opposition to Prop 8. I've read at least 1 story of a member disfellowshiped his vocal denouncement of the church's involvement with it.

When I testified (not to be supportive, however) at my ex-husband's council, I was lead to a bishop's office to wait and was amused to find a soft chair, glass of water, and a spread of recent Ensign magazines set out for me.

Cuz, ya know, nothing makes you feel better about such a dismal event than to read some stories about happy forever families that are working out. LOL

Jana, do you plan to leave your name on the church records for now?

littlemissattitude said...

RE: wren's comment...I have to say that I don't really buy the church disclaimer that the proceedings against John had nothing to do with his stand on Prop. 8. They've been known to dissemble before regarding the reasons for particular excommunications, and I would be surprised if it wasn't at least a factor in their deciding to act against John, despite what they said.

Equality said...

I wonder why John admitted to the charge. Perhaps if he had denied it and asked for greater specificity in the charges and the "evidence" they supposedly had against him, it would have been illuminating. Do you think that by admitting the charge, the Mormon leaders were let off the hook? If I had taken the time to go through with the Kangaroo Court, I think I would have asked them some pointed questions about why they thought I was in apostasy, how they came to the decision to hold a court, etc. I would have wanted to know what I had said that was untrue or inaccurate. If the glory of God is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth, and if the church stands for truth as it claims, then if what John has written is true it cannot, by definition, be in opposition to the church, can it? Unless the church does not really stand for truth and John's crime was in speaking truths the church finds not useful. It would have been nice to have seen them smoked out on that issue.

Of course, I am saying this not by way of criticism. I chose to go the easy route and just resign rather than go through with the Star Chamber. My hat's off to both you and John for the way you exhibited such grace under pressure. Every time I read one of these accounts, I just shake my head in disbelief that anyone thinks this is the way so-called Christians ought to behave. The men who continue to perpetuate this antiquated ecclesiastical discipline system really ought to be ashamed of themselves.

On the question of evil speaking of the Lord's anointed--every member who goes through the temple is "anointed" so I guess any member of the church who speaks evil of you would be guilty of breaking that particular covenant.

angryyoungwoman said...

Thank you for posting this, Jana. I found what you said about all the "suits" interesting. Since I left the church, I've found that I have a great mistrust of men in suits. They equal betrayal, I guess.

The entire process is interesting. My dad is on the other side, sometimes part of these "courts of love." I still don't understand how a roomful of men can judge someone on their spiritual journey.

Rockelle said...

Jana,
I am wondering if John wore that gay t-shirt to his court?
I also wonder how you feel about your temple marriage. If you dont believe in it anymore then it shouldn't bother you if this causes the sealing to be null and void. Did you ask whether the kids are still sealed to just you etc?
Does part of you still cling to the belief? I can imagine that a small part of you still wants to believe, after all it was how you were raised, its a part of you, your history, your life actually.

thinking of you here in Oregon!
~Rocki

Clay said...

Perhaps to offer a charitable explanation for the controlling nature of Mormon leaders... I think it arises from the belief that submission and humility are like keys which unlock a self-imposed prison separating you from God's blessings. This idea is shared by many more inclusive religions, too. It is equivalent to the idea that freedom is achieved by accepting what is and working with it rather than living in resistance.

That said, the control behavior is a lot like being a strict parent. It's really very easy to fall into the pattern, and very normal and human. It comes when one is in a position of stewardship, feeling responsible for the welfare of others (in this case, the eternal spiritual welfare of our souls). Its like spanking a child to teach them not to hit someone. Too much emphasis on achieving the end result to realize the damage that the means is doing.

But to be fair, most of these men are coming from a love motive, they are just acting out on auto-pilot, thinking that we all will really benefit in profound ways if we just submit to God (via His chosen representatives). Many of these men do things which seem lame at face value, but they are also mostly appendages of a giant machine. This doctrine of submission applies to them, too. They act against their own conscience in some of these matters, writing it off to the belief that their conscience is in the wrong when it doesn't match up with the machine.

jana said...

AmyB: I do think that men's chairs were nice ones. I didn't make note of it while I was in the room, but if memory serves, the high council room chairs are fancier than your average office chairs, and certainly more so than the folding chairs where we sat.

Tiffany: I claim the hybrid identity of Quaker-Mormon. And so far, so good :) The Quakers were just fine with that, btw, when I applied for membership in our Meeting. I'm not yet sure about the LDS...

Rockelle: Those are complicated questions...I'd have to say that my desire to know how John's ex'ing impacts my ordinances is a separate issue from how I view or value those ordinances.

Megan said...

I admire your courage - and John's - in facing this court and grasping the opportunity to try to convert the institutional act of violence to one of mutual understanding and respect.

I'm still digesting your description of events but my initial reaction is how, as so often, there is a contrast between the institution and the individual. It's such a Mormon cliche that 'the church is perfect, the member are not.' We all have examples of that excuse being made (I won't go into the obvious damage caused by once again laying blame on the members and ignoring the faults of the organization). In this case though it seems to me that the church, with this odd ritualized excision of honest members, is acting with hatred and disdain while the individuals were, at least trying in difficult circumstances, to show compassion and love.

Thank you both for sharing, I think this sort of openness, particularly expressed the way you do with such honesty, is vital.

bwalden said...

Thank you Jana, for sharing this.

mraynes said...

It disturbs me that the stake president didn't take the time to explain to you what their decision to ex John meant. You took the time to be there, you testified in his behalf and affirmed your love for John when they asked. To not tell you what the excommunication would mean for you seems very inconsiderate. But like you said, this was a violent act and most perpetrators of violence don't feel the need to be considerate. The whole thing sickens me.

I'm really glad you wrote this up, Jana. I think it is so important to document these events even if they are one-sided.

jana said...

mraynes & others:

I want to affirm that while I believe the act of holding the court was a violence, we were treated kindly be everyone there. There were no heated words whatsoever.

We met with our leaders at several points during the evening and I could have asked more about the ordinance issue at one of those moments. However, it seemed preemptive to do so until the verdict was announced. I did ask my Bishop as I heard the verdict (he was walking alongside us) and he had no idea about how it would affect the various ordinances (not that I blame him--he's new on the job and I'm sure a court for apostasy was a bit out of his zone of experience).

G said...

thank you for writing this jana.

amelia said...

just wanted to say that if associating or affiliating (or whatever word they use) with you and john is grounds for not holding a temple recommend, i'll have to make do without one. it would be a supremely stupid reason to give up such good friends. :)

i'm glad you took the time to write this up. it's so important for the light of day to shine on such meetings and it won't happen if people like you and john don't tell the truth as you experience it. thank you.

Anonymous said...

I have to ask... What do you think Christ Jesus would think of this? I think of scene from the Bible where Jesus takes a whip to the merchants tables.
I say find another church that follows ONLY the Bible, not any other book. Another book is the definition of apostasy. Read the bible carefully, it spells it out in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers... in fact over and over.
If your in the O.C. Turn on the KWVE 107.9 radio station and start getting fed. May the Lord Jesus fill you and your husband up with the Holy Spirit and heal you from this experience.
In Christ,
Cass

Caroline said...

Like you, Jana, I think of ecommunication as a violent process. I question why it's necessary when the vast majority of other faith traditions manage just fine without it.

I've been thinking of you and hoping that you both are ok. Thanks for posting this.

BTW, I don't know how you managed to smile the whole time. Your ability to do that in the face of such a disturbing situation is like a super power. :) Well done.

Ali Schmidt said...

Jana,

I have been thinking about your description of the events of last week as you described them to me over tea last evening and they have weighed heavily on my mind.

I am saddened that the situation was handled with a certain amount of cowardice, when they went to so much trouble to express their power or hierarchy over you both.

I feel for your need for the answers that were not given with regard to the actual charges against John as well as their lack of fulfilling their obligation to educate you both about what the details of excommunication means, and how it will impact your lives, let alone offering John an opportunity to ask questions and even possibly to learn, at least in basic terms, what he should do, if it were his desire to regain his full membership and temple blessings.

I am so dismayed that they felt the situation was best handled with vague and minimal interaction with you both in your respective experiences in this court. How bewildering and frustrating!. I can only surmise that you are correct in supposing that the men on that disciplinary court felt threatened.

You both handled the situation with grace and calm, and might I add that I do also love that you refused to shake their hands and called them by their first names!

I do so hope that you will find the answers you need!

Lastly, I enjoyed making soap with you and think we should whip up a few more batches soon!

Much love to you both!

Anonymous said...

Don't mind. Churches are communities, they set up their own rules concerning policy ...

So you can feel free to take it like if any "profan(e)" enterprise would have dismissed him, because his appearance didn't fit.

So, if he joined this church to follow the church, he might to be pitied because of the loss, if he got baptised to follow god, he should not hesitate:

1Joh4,16b: Gott ist die Liebe, und wer in der Liebe bleibt, bleibt in Gott, und Gott bleibt in ihm.

Sorry for the german, but my english is not good enough to translate proper.

further:
1.Joh4,17) Darin ist unter uns die Liebe vollendet, dass wir am Tag des Gerichts Zuversicht haben. Denn wie er, so sind auch wir in dieser Welt.

this is from the german "Die Bibel", Einheitsübersetzung (oecumenic bibel)

If i was to give it a try, i would translate: 1Joh4,16b:
Gott ist die Liebe,
God is the love
und wer in der Liebe bleibt,
and who remains within the love
bleibt in Gott,
remains within god
und Gott bleibt in ihm.
and god remains within him

churches and their officials suffer from lack of awareness, that god is not in need of churches, and on the other hand they suffer from their own needs-set-up beeing overwhelming any ... 1.KOR13ff

That's how life is, not god.

From Bavaria, Germany, L.Janssen

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

Also wenn ich Sie richtig verstanden habe, meinen Sie denn dass die Kirche vollkommen Recht hat ihn rauszuschmeissen weil das praktisch die Regel der Kirche sind. Und auch aber dass eine Kirche nicht für Gott sprechen kann weil sie nur Organisationen aus Menschen sind? Sie sagen dass solange man Liebe hat ist er vor Gott gerechtfertigt, egal was er sonst glaubt (z.B dieser Mann glaubt dass Schwulen die gleichen Rechte haben sollen wie alle Andere).

Anonymous said...

in reply:

Yes.

Eine Kirche spricht für die Kirche.
Sie kann von Gott sprechen, aber nicht für ihn.

Mit "Gott ist die Liebe" ist eigentlich alles gesagt, mit "in der Liebe bleiben" das "Bleiben in Gott".

A church remains a church. A church can talk about, affirm to act in behalf of god, no church is god.

"God is the love" (1joh14,b)says already everything. "To remain within the love" concerns "remaining within god".

1.Kor13ff figures out clearly, that love is superior to faith.

Churches talking "sounding brass" and "tinkling cymbal" which forget about love and mercy may preclude gay people who turn towards god wishing for his all-embracing love and grace - will god do?

1.Kor13:When I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And if I could prophesy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and have all faith, so that I remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

Love, and have a nice day ...:)

Chris said...

My research of the hymn "He forgets not his own" led me to the page (timesandseasons.org) where I noticed in a side-bar a link to this blog title about excommunication.

It comes across as a fair, factual and fascinating account. I hope it is a subject (not your specific situation, of course) that get's discussed not only within the LDS but within other denominations as well.

Faith is the true shibboleth. Can one have faith in our savior even after a disappointment or after losing some faith in a long cherished organization? I believe so ... for if that is not the case then surely I am a pilgrim awandering.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you feel that the court was an act of violence. Perhaps it was handled as well as it could have been.

I am sure that many active LDS people see some of what John has written and posted over the last few years as acts that personally violated them.

Either way, John has now been removed from a club that he didn't want to be a part of anyway. Why do you find this so troubling?

Anonymous said...

I am sure the men involved in this proceeding did not realize that no one has fully explained the effect of your husband's excommunication and would be jump at the opportunity to explain further. An excommunicated person is still welcome to attend all public meetings, including sacrament service, but their involvement is limited. It has been my experience that when an excommunicated individual continues to attend his regular Sunday meetings, the congregation (except for those involved in the excommunication proceedings) is none the wiser, except they may notice his refusal to partake the sacrament, which is not too uncommon a thing to see.

When I was in high school my friend's father was excommunicated for adultery. He continued to attend his meetings and the family sat together and participated as always. I had no idea anything had occurred until some time later they scheduled his rebaptism. The family has been faithful temple attenders since that time and their children are active and happy in the gospel.

I am new to your blog and not sure whether you were active in the church before, but I can't imagine a better blessing for your children than to continue (or begin) to attend church meetings as a family and at least allow them the privilege of maintaining those relationships and progressing in their own faith.

Here is an Ensign article that discusses the church discipline process. This is not a hidden process, but something those involved in find quite difficult to discuss. They may attend public Church meetings, but, like disfellowshipped persons, their participation in such meetings is limited. http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&sourceId=edc72150a447b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____

Clay said...

anonymous:

1. The purpose of such an action is to separate dangerous elements from a community, like extracting cancerous tissue. But John had already extracted himself. He was not going around bugging faithful members or tearing down their personal faith. He is also no real threat to the church. The only thing left that excommunication accomplishes is retaliation... i.e. violence.

2. John posted his own personal feelings about his own personal experience on a blog that openly advertises that it is skeptical and "sacrilicious". A) caveat emptor. One should understand that its not meant to be a faith-promoting site, and B) how do you or any other faithful Mormon have such shared ownership with his personal experience that his choice to discuss it (quite civilly) should be any of your business, let alone a violation of you? He was talking about his own life!

3. Mormons are funny in how seriously they take their own membership in the church, and how much of their lives and energy they give to it, but then so easily will tell someone to just let it go like its a f***ing jelly of the month club or something. Look, regardless of what the excommunicant feels about the validity of eternal saving power in the church, the church itself, and the men in authority, believe that it has saving and sealing power. When they ex someone, they know that the person might not return, and they believe that if they don't return they will not have a chance for eternal life sealed to their loved ones. They are symbolically cutting you off from what they see as the best blessings, including life with your own family. It doesn't matter if you believe they have that power or not, the fact that they believe they have it and are willing to use it on you in such a way...hurts.

jana said...

anonymous (9:58): I'm going to assume that you're not LDS because you don't seem to know the difference between membership in the Mormon church and a "club." It would take 3 or 4 or 5 years of blogposts to explain why this is hard for me. With all due respect, dive in and read further into the archives of my blog if you really want to know the answer--k?

Anonymous (10:25): From all that I've read of other church courts, an explanation of how to re-enter the church is part of the protocol. I'm not sure why it was left off of John's court proceedings. But I'm assuming the info will be included in the follow-up letter that he receives about the verdict.

xJane said...

Thank you for sharing this. I also find it odd that a "court" was held with the verdict already known to all participating (except you, as you noted). Kangaroo comes to mind for some reason… Further, that the actual evidence for the forgone verdict was not presented to the (I hesitate to say "accused") convicted goes toward showing that this was no court at all but a mockery of one. Finally, a lack of discussion of the consequences of the verdict proves all this.

The pageantry of moving you back and forth had some meaning, no doubt, but without explanation, how were you to know? I find it especially disturbing that you were not told the verdict/consequences since, as you noted, it has a direct effect on your ordinances despite lack of action on your part.

All very interesting. Thank you for this insight to the LDS church.

JF said...

Jana -

I've been following your husband's story on his blog for a while, and your blog as well since the excommunication. My heart goes out to you two as well as to your children!

I've been on the church authority side of a few excommunications, and each one has been very emotionally draining. I dread attending them. I can only imagine how it must have been for you two.

Let me just say this -- please don't leave the church behind. I think Mormonism is a big tent with lots to offer. Be patient, try as hard as you can to keep practicing the whole faith/hope/charity concepts with your local leaders.

Someone who set (I think) a decent example of this was Sterling McMurrin. He was always on the "fringes" but had a close relationship with his local leaders, as well as (and maybe this is the key?) several high leaders of the church. David O. McKay told him, "You just think and believe as you please."

McMurrin had issues with a handful of church policies/doctrines, and criticized them, but somehow he was able to maintain a good relationship with church leadership. Interesting fellow.

Anyway, all the best to you guys!

Jacob F.

Goldfish74 said...

You know, these guys releasing you from the Mormon church may be a Divine act of inspiration. Maybe God used these men to release you from this. I don't mean your Mormon friends and family. You can still keep them as long as they keep you.

These men labeled you apostates, but really in doing so, maybe God was allowing you to begin a new phase of your life.

rainey said...

I was struck immediately by the image of two folding chairs (you weren't expected?) in a room equipped with an elaborate table for exactly that proceeding. As others have said, that's a clear indication of a control/dominance display.

Likewise the shuffling from room to room. If they didn't have a task or discernible purpose for your being in a locale you can assume it was keeping you under reigns or flat out issuing commands in order to elicit compliance. Control.

Those two were obvious from the outset. I think they would have been the defining sense I took from your recounting of events had you not closed with their failure to explain your new circumstances to you. No doubt they were more clear with John, but you remain (I'm assuming, not having read any of your previous entries) a faithful member. Where is the support, the clear reaffirmation of your status, the hopes for your future, the actual pastoral concern and support from a whole phalanx of the highest ranking members of the local and area organization for one of their own who is hurting?

Telling! Cold, contrived and telling.

Kristen said...

the council members were praying to know the Lord's will about the court verdict

Isn't it funny how the lord's will aligned with their opinions? AS The Church Lady would say: Isn't that conv-e-e-e-nient?

I think Mormonism is a big tent with lots to offer.

I think that mormonism is a big tent the way the republican party is a big tent: everyone is welcome, as long as you think what we want you to think.

Anonymous said...

"Someone who set (I think) a decent example of this was Sterling McMurrin. He was always on the 'fringes' but had a close relationship with his local leaders, as well as (and maybe this is the key?) several high leaders of the church. David O. McKay told him, 'You just think and believe as you please.'"

It helped in McMurrin's case that President McKay stepped in to halt disciplinary proceedings that some members of the 12 were trying to initiate again McMurrin.

Jana, God bless you and your family in every way in your lives and in your faith journey.

DavidH

Anonymous said...

I just recently read about your husband's excommunication from the LDS Church. I am empathetic to the pain you feel and will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

Although I consider myself a devout Mormon, I am not unsympathetic to those whose journeys of faith take them outside the confines of the LDS Church. I hope and pray that you and John can find peace and joy in life, regardless of your religious affiliation...I am certain that you will. :-)

I admire your steadfast devotion to your husband and willingness to stand by his side during the council.

May God bless you and your family with an abundance of peace, love, joy and prosperity.

Shelly! said...

Thank you Jana.

shannon j said...

Wow, I had no idea that people get excommunicated for apostasy. I think I'll have to digest this for a little while...

James said...

"I had no idea that people get excommunicated for apostasy..."

I find it hard to believe that adults that have been members of the LDS Church for more than about 2 years do not know this.

What do you think all the early saints that turned against JS were excommunicated for? Having too much sex?

Does anyone ever listen in Sunday School anymore? I don't know if the Church would have way fewer members or way more members if people would actually study what they believe in. I feel the same way when people are shocked to know about other issues in early Church history - polygamy, women giving blessings etc.

If you rely on going to Church once a week to teach you your religion, you are dropping the ball in a huge way. People need to get on the stick and study more on their own like every Church Leader since day one has stressed.

jana said...

James:
For all of us clueless folks, do you want to post a list of links to recent talks or church lessons about excommunication for apostasy? Though I know the 19th-century stuff is fascinating, can you draw from contemporary sources about such excommunications (because we all know that the church was pretty different back in JS' day)? Thanks!

JohnR said...

James, not feeling the love, man.

amelia said...

just wanted to thank kristen for this:

"I think Mormonism is a big tent with lots to offer.

I think that mormonism is a big tent the way the republican party is a big tent: everyone is welcome, as long as you think what we want you to think."

i read the original comment and couldn't help snorting. a more ridiculous description of the LDS church as it operates now i could not imagine. the church may allow anyone to join, for the most part, but they don't allow people to be themselves once they have joined. if anything, john's excommunication underscores the fact that the LDS church attempts to control its members ideas and willingness to give voice to them; and when it can't, it cuts them out. not exactly my image of a big tent...

Zenaida said...

James, I can't imagine how studying more would induce me to change my views about "other issues in early Church history - polygamy, women giving blessings etc. " I grew up in the church, without this as much of this level of the kind of in depth study you are saying we have all dropped the ball on, I will grant you. But, it seems like it should not feel like such a betrayal when you do start to study these other issues. Shouldn't Sunday School match or at least address what has been said in the past in a way that does not create such wide gaps in knowledge, leaving the individual lost in confusion about which points to trust? For example, the Journal of Discourses?

jana said...

An update/addition to my earlier comments:
John and I talked a bit more about his court tonite (the parts that happened when I wasn't present) and he remembered that the leader did mention briefly that John would be welcome back with open arms should he want to return. It may be that there were some steps outlined for how to do this, too. You can read John's upcoming post for further details on what was said--ok?

For now, I'll stick to talking about the parts that I was involved in.

Rich said...

Jana,

I felt pretty sad reading this (thanks for taking the time to articulate your feelings so vividly). I hope you both find the peace you are seeking.

Brecken said...

Jana, I LOVE having your account of this! You pick up on those things I'm interested in, too -- how the room is laid out, the weirdness of having to shuffle about from room to room, the abrupt ending with no chance for closure on your end. The voice of "the one out in the hall" is usually silenced, and I love that you are bringing that voice right into the conversation, where it belongs.

"Wendy D" said...

**Brecken, we have mutual friends in Laura Woolsey and Scott Bramwell. Sunstone introduced me to John and Jana.**

Thanks for your posts, John and Jana. They almost make me wish for an LDS disciplinary trial for myself. Heaven knows I get under the skin of plenty of members.

At my court, I picture myself added some levity to the mix with comments such as, "Why didn't anyone call to tell me I had to bring my own seat pillow?" or "Are any of you sweet men willing to swap your fancy soft chairs with me?" or "I didn't realize that when I was going to be in the hot seat that it was actually going to be a cold folding chair!"

Life is such an adventure, and I wish you both well in whatever the coming months and years bring. You are ambassadors of truth and integrity. Continue seeking and taking the high road.

Rockelle said...

Amazing how many people have commented. All thos anonymus responsed though are SILLY.
Be Brave and not hide.
Jana,
I want you to know....no matter what, you are still dear to me. I am sorry for the hurt you feel and for the confusion that I think you feel.
. I know you are a good person and i think it was brave of you to share.
Thanks for doing it!
love, Rockelle

John (with an h) said...

After reflecting about this incident, I guess the focus of incident was on John and his court, not the sealing status of you and your children.

After reflecting even further, I decided the process was so formalized and planned out that it was unforgivable that someone wasn't ready to address this issue with you.

Goldfish74 said...

The idea of any church that believes in Christ excommunicating someone for anything other than grievous sins against Christ like fornication, adultery, or murder to me is unjustifiable. In fact, I think the real apostates to Christianity are people who would label someone an apostate for having an honest question, and then refuse to answer that question.

So, I wouldn't take being called an apostate by some people very seriously unless it were for sexual sin or more serious crimes.

Labels are things that some people try to attach to us which do not define who we are, and certainly aren't an indication of our spirituality and loyalty to Christ.

anne said...

Hello Jana.

I'm touched by your words, your clarity, and your charity. I do not know you or John well, but I would want you in my home, around my family any time. I know very little of the actions that concerned the church leaders, but I know that my experiences of your words, John's words, both your writings, and your desires for each other and your children is of good report. By that I mean that your questions have pushed me to think, to ponder, and to strive to live more fully and more aware of others.

I so appreciate your efforts to find answers and your willingness to share your wisdom with others.

Anonymous said...

i am curious if you still believe in the "mormon heaven" or the celestial kingdom anymore. do you believe that you won't be with your children in the afterlife? what does quakerism (sp?) teach you about the afterlife and being with those you love?

Anonymous said...

Just to let others know, the T-shaped table is a fairly standard arrangement for this particular type of meeting room in LDS stake centers everywhere. There are typically rolling chairs at the head and along the sides of the T. The dimensions of the room make it difficult, though not impossible, to place rolling chairs at the opposite end of the table from the head. There is usually a perimeter ring of upholstered (but not rolling ) chairs against the walls of the room and that leaves very limited space between the table-side chairs and the wall chairs at the end that was described. I do not know if it is customary for individuals in this type of court to be seated at the end of the table opposite from the officer that presides, but that would place the person in the direct visual line of the man who directs the decision of the council. I would think it would, nevertheless, be important to make it as comfortable for the participant as possible and it would seem that something better than a cold folding chair could be arranged. The attire of the 12 men described is the typical dress code for all meetings of that group, most of the time being more routine business. It is a "Sunday best" theme, reminiscent of the past formality of American culture when ties and suits (or at least sportscoats) were typical for community events and nights out. I prayed for all of those that would be involved in this council. Doing so increased love in my heart for John and Jana, even though I know very little about them. My eyes see no "A" stigma on any member or former member of the LDS church. I try to be an example of this in word, example, and deed.

Anonymous said...

Also agree that the chairs/tables setup is due to room sizes and available products worldwide.

But the disciplinary council has 3 main purposes, either to 1) to help the sinner repent 2) To protect the good name of the church and 3) to protect the innocent members of the church. I'd guess that the stake president judged it necessary to tell the other members in the stake that your husbands views were not doctrinal or appropriate, since there isn't any morality sins here, clearly. The term 'apostacy' isn't 100% what this is but its the only term one can use in the proceedings and the later forms and records. The church should probably come up with a different term for this today in this cyber world.

Also they probably sent you down to a far room to not hear what the private discussion was during deliberations (as in jury deliberations being private) We also adopted this last year when we realized that the person concerned heard all we were saying across that very thin wall.

About the 'sealing' questions, we teach that the "blessings" of the sealing are still enforced and available to you and the children, but not to your husband. But it's rather irrelevant if you love and prefer your husband off course.

jana said...

Anon:
But the SP didn't make any announcements to the Stake abt the matter, so how could the Council have been held to "tell" anything to the Stake?

I fail to see how my love for my husband is relevant to whether he loses his membership (and attendant temple ordinances). Why does that matter at all? As far as I know, I can't love him into the Celestial Kingdom--right?

And I'd be curious to know how the term Apostasy is used in later forms and records (as you mentioned). When I asked for details about this, my SP was quite evasive. Please explain what you can from your experience.