High-profile cases of Church discipline have recently made national headlines, leading some people to question the need for excommunication.
Church disciplinary councils lovingly invite those who seriously transgress to repent and start over with the full blessings of the gospel. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote an Ensign article in 1990 explaining the nature of disciplinary councils.
Elder Ballard recounts that when he was a child, he sometimes came to the dinner table dirty, only to be sent to wash before coming back. Similarly, “the servants of the Lord occasionally find that they must, in loving concern, send some of Heavenly Father’s children out the door so they can return clean once again.”
Elder Ballard explains that with love and concern for the person as their driving motive, Church leaders prayerfully match the level of discipline to the sin. Often, no disciplinary action is needed. However, for more severe sins, privileges such as taking the sacrament and going to the temple may be restricted. In rare cases, a disciplinary council may decide that formal probation (disfellowshipment) or excommunication is necessary for full repentance.
Regarding Church discipline, we should remember that the Lord has said, “Whom I love I also chasten, that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation” (D&C 95:1).
Love and assistance are available to those working through the repentance process. As they make the necessary changes, they can receive the full blessings of the gospel.
Disciplinary action is a chance to start over, correct course, and return clean to the presence of the Lord.
—Ariel Szuch, Mormon Insights
Photo of Christ comforting the woman caught in adultery courtesy of LDS Media Library