This year is the twentieth anniversary of the excommunications of the so called
“September 6” and I’ve been very disappointed to see so many people talking about these six excommunicated or disfellowed members as martyrs and heroes worthy of praise. In doing so, they often tell a one sided story about the innocent scholars standing up against the evils of the bigoted and hateful church. Unfortunately, these individuals cause immense harm to the reputation of the Church and rely too strongly on the perspective of those with an ax to grind.
In January 1994 the Church put out an official statement about the September 6 excommunications. In this statement the church outlined the doctrinal reasons for excommunication as well as the importance of keeping the church safe from heretics and those that wish to attack the core doctrines of the Gospel. The church however, unlike those excommunicated, is bound by principles of decency and confidentiality. The church does not speak openly about excommunication.
I have felt strongly to write this post and not mince words. I hope to follow the admonition of the Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants
“ 43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;”
I once found myself sympathetic to these individuals and under their spell, but now I have to admit that I have very little sympathy individuals that openly flaunt their church discipline and show no remorse or desire to return to the fold of the Church. I have no sympathy for individuals that openly criticize the Prophet and individuals that we sustain as Prophets, Seers and Revelators. I have no sympathy for those that violate their temple covenants and speak ill about the Lords anointed in the press and on blogs.
We should not forget that these individuals have been found guilty of offenses worthy of excommunication by a Church council consisting of at least twelve priesthood holders given the keys and authority to receive revelation and guard the flock. We should not forget that excommunication is a major exercise of discipline and only used in extreme circumstances. I have known many Bishops and Stake Presidents in my time in the Church and I cannot imagine a single one of them capriciously ordering an excommunication. For those twelve men, this is surely an event of much sorrow, contemplation and prayerful reflection. No one could take such a solemn responsibility lightly.
I have heard some people that I know and deeply care about speak about excommunication as if it were a minor thing. As if it had no eternal spiritual consequences and merely showed bravery and individuality on the part of those excommunicated. This is far from the truth and it is a pernicious lie
“Excommunication is the most severe judgment a Church disciplinary council can take. Excommunicated persons are no longer members of the Church. Therefore, they are denied the privileges of Church membership, including the wearing of temple garments and the payment of tithes and offerings. They may attend public Church meetings, but, like disfellowshipped persons, their participation in such meetings is limited. Excommunicated persons are encouraged to repent and so live as to qualify for eventual baptism.”
Of course, the purpose of excommunication is not merely to punish, but to rehabilitate. The event is meant to provoke an individual to realize the gravity of his offenses before God and to repent and seek to come back to the fold of God
“Church disciplinary action is not intended to be the end of the process—rather, it is designed to be the beginning of an opportunity to return to full fellowship and to the full blessings of the Church. Priesthood leaders try hard to be sensitive to the disciplined person’s needs for understanding, encouragement, counsel, and assistance. They work to see that he or she has regular visits with his or her bishop; that the person has mature, caring home teachers or other specially assigned individuals; and that his or her family receive the attention, counsel, and fellowship they need during this difficult time.
The desired result is that the person will make whatever changes are necessary to return fully and completely to be able to receive the marvelous blessings of the Church. When the person has progressed to that point, his or her current bishop or stake president has the authority to convene a new disciplinary council to consider what action needs to be taken—even if the person is now living in a new ward or stake or if a new bishopric or stake presidency is now serving.”
I realize of course, that some of the September Six (Maxine Hanks for instance) have done exactly that and have come back to the Church. Others despite their views continue to be be active in the Church. As disciples of Christ we should never turn people away. We should never make people feel unwelcome or unwanted in Church or sacrament meeting. We should always show loving kindness and hope that one day they will repent and return.
I know that as a disciple of Christ I am called to show love to individuals that are excommunicated or leave the Church. On my mission, I taught less actives and invited them with all the tenderness of heart to come back to the Fold. Our goal cannot be to isolate or to hate or vilify needlessly. But, we also need to be careful to not support those that are teaching false doctrine or in opposition to the church. We should not even give an appearance of solidarity or agreement with such individuals. In our desire to love and invite, we should remember the admonition of Elder Holland in his recent CES fireside
“Having said that, I remind us all that while reaching out to and helping back a lamb who has strayed, we also have a profound responsibility to the 99 who didn’t—and to the wishes and will of the Shepherd. There is a sheepfold, and we are all supposed to be in it, to say nothing of the safety and blessings that come to us for being there. My young brothers and sisters, this Church can never “dumb down” its doctrine in response to social goodwill or political expediency or any other reason. It is only the high ground of revealed truth that gives us any footing on which to lift another who may feel troubled or forsaken. Our compassion and our love—fundamental characteristics and requirements of our Christianity—must never be interpreted as compromising the commandments. As the marvelous George MacDonald once said, in such situations “we are not bound to say all that we [believe], but we are bound not even to look [like] what we do not [believe].”
It is interesting that so often those that rally against the Church tend to gravitate towards issues of sexuality and gender roles. So much of the attack of the Church comes from a disagreement with the Proclamation of the Family, Law of Chastity and the attendant gender roles that follow. Declarations of Feminism, defenses of homosexuality etc… all of these at their core come from an unwillingness to follow the simple and absolute standards set by the Lord and instead are an attempt to institute a standard of morality based on the will of the World. As followers of Christ this we cannot do!
The Apostle Peter warned about such apostates among the faithful in 2 Peter
1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
10 But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
11 Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.
12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;
14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
Equally strongly, J. Reuben Clark explored some of the statements commonly held by these heretics regarding the divinity of the restoration and its work and echoed this strong warning:
“Brethren, this whole brood of false propaganda is an insidious approach and attempt to destroy the gospel plan and to overturn the Church. We must be on the lookout for it. We must fight against it wherever we find it. Hunt out those who preach it, seek to win them to a knowledge of the truth, seek to bring them really into the Church, because as they now stand and as they teach and believe they have no place among our membership; pretending membership they are worse than wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15); they are as it were, Satan trying to appear as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).”
Because of the covenants I have made with God I can not and will not attend events that give excommunicated individuals a platform to criticize the church and spout false doctrine. I can not and will not affiliate with such organizations ( such as Sunstone) that give voice to those that seek to destroy the work of God.
“choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”
The following is a statement released by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve:
“In light of extensive publicity given to six recent Church disciplinary councils in Utah, we believe it helpful to reaffirm the position of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“We deeply regret the loss of Church membership on the part of anyone. The attendant consequences felt over time by the individuals and their families are very real.
“In their leadership responsibilities, local Church officers may seek clarification and other guidance from General Authorities of the Church. General Authorities have an obligation to teach principles and policies and to provide information that may be helpful in counseling members for whom local leaders are responsible. In matters of Church discipline, the General Authorities do not direct the decisions of local disciplinary councils. Furthermore, the right of appeal is open to anyone who feels he or she has been unfairly treated by a disciplinary council.
“It is difficult to explain Church disciplinary action to representatives of the media. Considerations of confidentiality restrain public comment by Church leaders in such private matters.
“We have the responsibility to preserve the doctrinal purity of the Church. We are united in this objective. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught an eternal principle when he explained: ‘That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy.’ (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 67).
“In instructing His Twelve Disciples in the new world about those who would not repent, the Savior said, ‘But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people.’ (3 Ne. 18:31; see also Mosiah 26:36; Alma 5:59.) The Prophet also remarked that ‘from apostates the faithful have received the severest persecutions.’ (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 67.) This continues to be the case today.
“The longstanding policy of Church discipline is outlined in the Doctrine and Covenants: ‘We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members … according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; … They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship.’ (D&C 134:10.)
“Faithful members of the Church can distinguish between mere differences of opinion and those activities formally defined as apostasy. Apostasy refers to Church members who: ’1, repeatedly act in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders; or 2, persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority; or 3, continue to follow the teachings of apostate cults (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority.’ (General Handbook of Instructions, 10-3.)
“The general and local officers of the Church will continue to do their duty, and faithful Church members will understand.
“As leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we reach out in love to all and constantly pray that the Lord, whose church this is, will bless those who love and seek divine truth.”