Friday, June 12, 2009


A college friend of mine observed that she had known that I had been raised mormon, but at the time she didn't think anything of that.

She mentioned she had thought it was another mainstream religion, much like the Presbyterians or the Methodists. I left mormonism before attending college, although my name was still officially on the LDS/mormon books.

And it is, of course, partially true. Partially because I believe mormons are sort of like mainstream Christian religions.

And partially because I didn't really want to talk about all that ways that mormonism is NOT like a mainstream Christian religion. And this is definitely a topic I could and still can discuss for hours on end. I will probably post more about that at another time.

I've spoken a little about my attitudes towards mormonism and my own experience here (one thing), here(Mitt Romney and mormon doctrine) and here (to each their own).

One of the ways that mormonism is NOT like mainstream Christian religions is that they excommunicate members for apostasy.

The practice is still alive and kicking, as it appears that my friend John from mind on fire may shortly be excommunicated.

The farther away from faithful mormonism I get, the more that I forget about this type of stuff.

But really - when is the LDS church going to realize that it's a bad idea to "fire" your voluntary members?

It's one thing to take this step when someone is a violent criminal or convicted felon. To request that if they are still an active part of the community - to reduce their activity to protect other members of the community.

It's quite another to request that someone leave a community simply because they're saying something you don't like. And they're not speaking hate speech. They're simply stating their point of view and their experience.

The reasons behind "firing" volunteers who say something you don't like is difficult to discern (and changes depending on who you are talking to). Supposedly, in John's case, he was revealing secrets that he had promised not to reveal.

Honestly, it's hard to imagine the Christ from the King James' Version of the bible acting this way.

From my understanding, Christ's message (i.e. the new commandment) was "love one another".

It really wasn't a message of "keep these secrets, or else".

His message was "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Now, whether or not I personally believe Christ was a historical figure is not a factor in this debate - simply that this is my interpretation of what he is quoted saying in the bible.

The theory is that by excommunicating dissidents, LDS church leaders are maintaining discipline within the church.

That sounds strikingly familiar to what happened to Galileo Galilei, who was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic church for suggesting that the earth was not the center of the universe.

This is an article from the pbs special on the mormons about excommunication (for my readers who weren't familiar with the process). This is the wikipedia article about the practice, with other religions noted.

Do I believe the LDS church has the right to excommunicate its members? Yes.

People also have the right to burn books, that doesn't mean I agree with the practice.

Do I think excommunication for free speech stays in line with Christian theory and theology (noted above)? No. Particularly when the free speech is simply vocalizing one's own opinions and experience.

Do I think organizations have a right to protect their trade secrets? Yes.

But again, I don't think this falls into line with the message of Christ from the bible. I'm not sure that Christ (as written in the KJV) would agree that keeping trade secrets are essential for salvation.

Or that keeping secrets are essential for someone to remain in a community or congregation.

And most importantly, that the church leaders could determine whether or not someone should be saved - or if they had sinned.

In the very least, he (Christ) is reported to have said:

(KJV Matthew chapter 7, verse 1 - from the Sermon on the Mount)
1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and
then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s

My sympathy to John and his family through this process. I stand behind what I wrote that it takes courage and strength to live with integrity - whatever that means for my various readers.


jana said...

thank you so much. :)

Freckle Face Girl said...

I agree a church can do it, but it seems ridiculous.

My brother is also going through the process of possibly getting excommunicated & the reason is also INSANE. He was married in the temple and got divorced a few years ago. He started dating someone & has gotten intimate several times. He stopped wearing his garments & went to the bishop for help. He was told to STOP doing it immediately. That was easier said than done. Because it happened a few more times after being warned...he is NOW in big trouble. If he hadn't confessed during their relationship, but waited until after they broke up it would have been a matter of repenting & being forgiven. He feels so guilty and like he is an outcast.

Doesn't this remind you of the story of Mary Magdalene & those without sin casting the first stone? ☺


Aerin said...

Thanks Jana! Good thoughts sent your way. Just wanted to be on the record with how *I* felt about it.

FFG - Sorry to hear about your brother. I struggle with understanding the control that this weilds over people and families. The further away I get from mormonism, the more difficult it is to comprehend the rational.

JohnR said...

I can totally understand excommunication from an impartial, sociologist's perspective--maintains community boundaries and reinforces identity, etc., etc. But the practice does show the relative value of the individual compared to the community. And the lack of transparency around it creates so many opportunities for men to mess with the emotional well-being of others, like in FFG's brother's sad case.

Aerin, I also can't tell you how much I appreciate your support through all this. Thank you.

Rebecca said...

Being excommunicated for not keeping temple secrets - okay, I understand it, because they have to vow (I guess - I never got that far) to keep the secrets. But. If you can read about it all over the internet (which I have), then why is it SUCH a huge deal that people have to vow to keep it secret? Peoplez, I hate to break it to you, but the secret's been sprung already, a'ight?

Also, being excommunicated for something like that seems SO WRONG when you look at it in context of who is and is not excommunicated. I know a girl whose father raped her repeatedly, then stopped, confessed to the bishop, "repented," and never did it again. And was never turned in to the authorities or excommunicated.


Yeah. But what's really bad? NOT KEEPING YOUR HANDSHAKES A SECRET.