When a Mormon commits actions that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints considers severe, it convenes a disciplinary council to determine the person's fate. The council may choose to take one of four actions; disfellowship is the second most severe. The lesser actions include doing nothing or instituting probation, and the most severe is excommunication. Those who receive disfellowship lose some privileges, but the church encourages them to eventually rejoin the faith.
If a person commits what the Mormon Church considers to be a serious offense, local bishops decide whether to council them or to convene a disciplinary council. If the person who committed the offense is an official in the church, such as one who has earned the title of a Melchizedek Priest, the matter must go to the disciplinary council comprised of authorities in local wards such as the bishopric and the stake president. Mormons do not believe the council exists for malice or revenge, but to accomplish three goals; to save the person committing the transgression, to protect innocent people from the person and to preserve the integrity of the church.
Reasons for Disfellowship
Mormons consider many actions worthy of disfellowship, ranging from serious crimes to engaging in sexuality that the church disapproves. Sometimes the status of a person will determine whether or not disfellowship occurs; if a prominent person commits a transgression, they may receive disfellowship while a non-prominent person might receive counsel. Some acts that may incur disfellowship include sexual acts such as fornication, homosexuality, adultery, transsexuality and abortion; dishonesty, such as business fraud or perjury and serious crimes such as murder, abuse, rape or burglary. Some acts require a mandatory disciplinary council review, while the local bishop can determine the fate of others.
Consequences of Disfellowship
Those who receive disfellowship still remain members of the church, but it limits what they may do. They cannot lead prayers or conduct sermons; many adult males are considered priests in the religion, so this would is a common practice for many members. The church strips them of any position they hold, including priesthood. They may not take sacrament, or the ritualistic consumption of bread and water recreating Jesus' last meal. They may not vote in church matters, and they they cannot enter the temple.
Mormons view disfellowship as a means of discipline and an opportunity to teach; they want members who receive disfellowship to regain their former status. Because of this belief, members who receive disfellowship retain a few rights. They may pay tithes to the church and attend communal worship services, but may not enter the temple. If they earned temple garments, they may still wear them, unlike those who receive excommunication. The goal is to rehabilitate people back into the church. The disciplinary council makes recommendations that people need to complete for rehabilitation, and when they complete them, they can be re-baptized, and reinstate their full status as church members.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: A Chance to Start Over: Church Disciplinary Councils and the Restoration of Blessings
- BBC Religions: Communal Worship
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: Why are Only Some Mormons Allowed into Temples? Is there Something Secret Going on in Mormon Temples? What Goes on in Mormon Temples?
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