This being my blog about what I’m learning while on the path back into the fold, I thought I should drop a line about my excommunication, which happened on March of 2004. Now I’ve ready in many places where folk who have been ex’d called the disciplinary hearing a “spiritual experience.” Sorry, for the most part that’s not what it was for me. Rather, it was terribly embarrassing, filled with shame and guilt. With the understanding that I broke all my temple covenants, and since I was an endowed priesthood holder (Elder) who was recently released as a counselor in the Elders Quorum presidency, I pretty much knew that this was the end of the line. I still find it a fascinating experience that I would never want to live through again.
To begin with, I had a Stake President who was compassionate, but really didn’t understand me. I sinned many great sins, but at that time I was pretty disconnected so there was not a whole lot of affect going on with me. This, I believe, make it difficult for him to read me. Besides, I was really good at masking my feelings. So while I did council with him and I did get a lot of good “stuff,” it was difficult to click with him. But I blame me more for that than him.
As for the Council, it was the worst. To begin with, ¾ of the high council were attorneys of one sort or another. And yes, they questioned me as such. And the stuff I had to admit to were quite grievous. I know using the work “had” may be an interesting term since I didn’t have to do a thing. And this is where this phrase comes in:
“I need to do what I need to do and I need to let the church do what it needs to do.”
This was what was ringing in my head for the months leading up to the disciplinary hearing. Mainly because I was seriously considering withdrawing my name from the church before the hearing took place. But as immediately as I came up with that thought the above phrase came rushing into my head. So I stayed and allowed the church to excommunicate me; the church did what it needed to do. And I still feel that was the right thing to do because I truly believe that if I withdrew my name, it would be four times as hard to come back and I would not have had the support I now enjoy from my new found friends in the church.
But of all the embarrassing answers to the embarrassing questions I had to endure, the one sentence that still haunts me to this day was said when the decision was announced; “The Spirit is grieved.” I have yet to have a sentence dump as much guilt, shame and judgment on me as that sentence did. I can still remember wanting to disappear under the table when I heard that. But, truth is truth and that was definitely true. I left the Stake Center totally disheartened and spiritually disemboweled.
When I got home, for whatever it was going to be good for, I decided to say a prayer. In my prayer I apologized to God and pretty much began to say “since I’m no longer LDS…” That there is the first spiritual experience I had after excommunication. At the risk of throwing out the sacred, I had a definite and unmistakable shot to my spiritual system. There were no lights, no angels, no biblical-worthy pronouncements, but a definite “you are STILL LDS” pronouncement. That pronouncement meaning that I’m still expected to behave as though I am still LDS. Those who have had the still small voice yell at them will understand this because He was more than just sweetly letting me know, he was beating me with a 2×4 to get it into my thick skull.
But I still had a lot of pride and decades of bad behavior to excise out of my system. It also still took many years before I developed enough courage to go to church and know that everyone there pretty much knew what I had done. And they did know. There was at least one, if not more who went up to the Bishop to tell him he (they) didn’t want me there. Well, I was still obnoxious and uncaring to really give a whoop. But I stayed for only sacrament for a couple of years. It took a new Bishop and his invitation for me to stay for Sunday school and priesthood before I started to stay for the rest of the block.
As a side note, I want to mention what I noticed had become my gauge as to how much progress I was making, and that was what I was wearing. I started off with Levi’s, tennis shoes and a work shirt. I then added a tie; I then bought some Dickie’s pants and then added black shoes. All this evolved over six years. It wasn’t until my Stake President mentioned it to me when I realized why I had upgraded my wardrobe; “I felt I needed to dress the part.” Today, I still wear Dickies black pants, all black tennis shoes with a dress shirt and tie, but that’s because of my calling and me running around the Stake taking care of computers.
Oh wait, I’m ex’d and have a calling? Make that one stake calling, one ward calling and an assignment with Family Services (ARP facilitator). I still joke that the stake has run out of members so they’re getting the ex’d guy to do some jobs, but in reality, it is a huge blessing and training ground as well as confidence booster. I should mention that my first calling came not more than a few years ago, when I was well on my way back, and shown that I’ve committed to the process for rebaptism. But what these callings did was to force me to keep stepping up, continue to breakout of my isolation and interact more with members of my stake, a majority of which are interaction with people in various leadership positions. It also put me out there to be seen. Now it seems the whole stake knows that “guy who fixes the computers and helps with the audio/video.” It has also tutored me as how things are done in the church. It’s not a corporation but it is still methodical with the underlying premise being how it is helping the individual. Big lesson for me.
Getting back on track, it’s now been a bit over eight years since being ex’d and in looking back, I can see where the arm of God had been there to guide me back to the fold. Not that I was coerced, but because when I decided I wanted back in for good I started taking the steps necessary no matter how much it hurt. Because of that, I believe the Lord gave me blessings each step of the way. Quite frankly, looking back to who I was, it’s a miracle I’ve made it this far.
God is good. The promise given that if we give our will over to Him, the more freedom we attain I can witness is a fact. It’s not a matter of “if I can do it, you can do it to” but a matter of I am a witness that it can be done and I invite all who have been excommunicated to take the steps necessary, jettison the pride and get on the path to rebaptism. I’ve not made it to the water yet, but I’ve learned and progressed so much that even if I don’t, I’m a much better and happier person for it.