Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Truth About an LDS Disciplinary Council

The Truth About an LDS Disciplinary Council

I haven’t talked much to people about the “Ordain Women” movement happening out here in Utah.  Mostly because, I honestly haven’t cared much about it.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  It happens to not be the same as mine, so I won’t be joining their group.  But that’s the extent of it for me.

Then I saw an interview this morning that really hit a nerve.  All day, I couldn't shake the horrible feeling it left me with.  I've put a lot of thought and prayer into it and decided that I would write a blog post about my experiences, in the hopes that maybe, it just might help people see things in a different light.

So here goes……

I have been through a disciplinary council.  It was not for apostasy.  I had issues that I had to deal with.  That is all the information I will give on the details for the council.

The reason behind the council is not the purpose of this blog post. 

I feel that it is incredibly important that people hear what it is like to go though a disciplinary council, especially from someone who is still a member of the church.  Most of the things I have heard about this subject, or even excommunication, are from people who have since left the church, and have nothing but hurtful things to say.  I want to give a different point of view.

In the interview I saw today, she threw out buzz words like; Ambush, Abusive and Violent.  

These three words rattled around in my head all day after that.  I couldn't stop thinking about them.  Just the thought of it affected me deeply.

Those words could not be further from the truth of what it is really like.

I was in my late 20’s and was attending a YSA singles ward.  I had been inactive for around 15 years of my life, approximately from the ages of 11 to 26.  I never had any hard feelings towards the church during that time, in fact I very much respected all that it stood for and the people I had known throughout my life.  It just wasn't something I wanted to participate in at the time.  It was as simple as that.

When I made the decision to come back to the church, it wasn't an overnight change.  It took me a few years to come back to full activity.  There were so many times I took three steps forward, and ten steps back.  I knew the church was true, but changing an entire lifestyle was challenging.

I met regularly with my Bishop.  He knew what was going on in my life.  He knew the struggles I had, and he was there to help me, even when I pushed the help away.

During one of our meetings, it was clear that I was ready to come back fully.  He informed me that because of the choices I had made in the past, and some in the really recent past, that I would need to go through a disciplinary council.  We set up a time the following week and he informed me that I would be receiving an official letter from church headquarters regarding it.

The letter is something standard that anyone who is asked to attend a disciplinary council will receive.  It confirms the date and time of the meeting and reviews that the end result could possibly be excommunication.

I don’t think I have my letter anymore, I wish I had kept it.  I do remember when reading it, it was not hurtful in any way. 

On the night of the meeting, I arrived at the church and waited outside the Bishops office.  They specifically chose a time when the church would be completely empty.  When someone has a situation like this, the members privacy is extremely important to the Bishopric. 

I was asked to join their meeting (they arrived early to pray and prepare).  In the room was my Bishop, his counselors, secretary and his executive secretary.  The executive secretary was there to take notes.  I knew all of these men and was never uncomfortable.

We started the meeting with a prayer.  Then the Bishop talked to me about why we were there, about the choices that I made and which direction I wanted to take.  There was never any accusations, or anything that made me feel like I was on display.  It was more like a conversation.  The counselors could ask questions if they chose to.  Numerous times I was told how much I was loved by them and what a strength I was to the ward.

The Bishop and I talked about the real possibility that I could be excommunicated that night.  The choices I had made in my past were not light.  The thought of this terrified me.  Could I really handle it?  Would I be strong enough? 

If the decision was made that I would be excommunicated, I would have to wait one year before having the opportunity to be baptized again.  Could I make it through that time?  Or would I drift farther away?

Once I answered all of the questions, I was asked to sit in the hall outside of the Bishops office so they could pray and discuss the situation.

I was alone in a large, empty church building.  The only lights on were in that foyer, and on the painting of Christ when you first walk in the door. 

I was so scared.

I sat down on a folding chair in the hall, bowed my head, and prayed.  I prayed for the strength to be able to handle whatever the outcome was.  I prayed to know what direction Heavenly Father wanted me to go.

My experience in that hallway is one I will never forget.  It is the most sacred spiritual experience of my life, I never knew it was possible to feel that loved and cared for.

I know that my spirit was not the only one in the hallway that night.  And the experiences of that prayer confirmed my testimony of the church, without a doubt.  I can never deny that.

After what felt like hours, I was invited back into the office. 

I looked at the loving faces of those men.  I saw the wet spots on the collar of their suits, where the tears rolled down their cheeks and landed.  I saw their puffy red eyes, so full of love toward me.  The spirit was so strong in this room, it was overwhelming.

The decision had been made.  I was not to be excommunicated.  This was not a decision made by men.   I know with certainty that this outcome was directed by the Savior.  I have no doubt in my mind.

Instead, I was put on a one year probation, I was disfellowshiped.  I was encouraged to come to church and all activities.  During that time, I could not partake of the sacrament, receive a calling, or give a prayer or a talk at church.

I truly believe that we must have things removed from our life for us to appreciate them.

I turned and gave each of these men a long hug.  It was impossible to not feel the love they each had for me.  I was told by each the love and respect they had for me.

Then my Bishop gave me a Priesthood Blessing.  A blessing that he was worthy to give.  A blessing that confirmed all of the events of that night.  A blessing that made me feel so much love.

These wonderful, humble men.  Men of God.  Men who aren't perfect, but love the Savior and the church.  Men who have strong testimonies of the truth.  These men who are examples to me everyday of what a good husband should be. 

My disciplinary council was something that was necessary for me to go through.  Thinking back on it actually strengthens my testimony, and I am thankful for it.

I am not a perfect person, far from it. I still make mistakes, and I am so thankful for the atonement.

I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true. 

It is my truth.  It is my strength.  It is my foundation.

Sending love to all - Barbie


  1. Brave girl - wish I'd been there to wait with you so you weren't alone. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for being willing to share your story. It is representative of the vast majority of disciplinary councils in the church - but the world doesn't hear about when things go right.

  3. Barbie, you are a beautiful and awesome woman

  4. Congratulations on your Fair Mormon podcast. I know first hand the agony and misery of loosing one's membership. You did a great job of explaining your feelings.about a disciplinary court and the love that exists there. I totally agree with you when you said we tend to take for granted our actions and our shock when we find out those actions lead to trouble. I like to use the term we 'desensitize' ourselves. Best wishes for eternal progression.

  5. I listened to the Fair Mormon podcast earlier today. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

  6. Your an amazing person and had a lot of courage to share wow awesome

  7. Barbie: I admire you for telling your story. It has been very enlightening to hear further evidence as to the beneficial purpose of LDS Church disciplinary councils.

    I perhaps heard the same interview that you did, because I remember being also quite surprised to hear the interviewee use words like "Ambush, Abusive and Violent."

    I will share this in the hope that it will give others who are wondering a clear perspective on how church councils function.

  8. What a horrible thing to do to someone who wants to return to full activity in the church after being inactive for 15 years, even though I understand you don't recognize this as abuse. Your situation was in no way comparable to Kate Kelly's, however. She was a devout, fully practicing, temple-going member who was accused of apostasy, something that would be handled very differently. She was indeed ambushed and her counsel was conducted in a highly abusive way, which becomes obvious when her account is fully read, rather than picking a few buzzwords out of context, in my opinion.

    My own experience, actually was more comparable to yours. I returned to the church after a lengthy period of inactivity where I had done things I could have been excommunicated for and I confessed them all to my Bishop. However, I was very fortunate to have a truly loving Bishop who had some common sense and a heart and wisely chose not to take any action whatsoever because during my period of inactivity I no longer considered myself Mormon and thus, should not be held to my covenants that I no longer believed in. I was restored to full activity including being able to take the sacrament.

    It is so cruel to deprive a person wanting to come back to the church of taking the sacrament when that would be faith affirming and actually help a person struggling to return to full activity. Had my Bishop done that to me, I would stayed away and I suspect many others would as well. I have heard of others who returned to the church who were also put through church discipline and having witnessed this recent set of disciplinary actions, not only against Kate Kelly, but against several others and their recent attempts to silence people (no I do not believe the First Presidency statement because I see what they are doing to people), this church has crossed a line and I have now left it for good.

    Sorry, but I do not find your account at all convincing that this is a loving action. Quite the contrary. Your account of having a disciplinary counsel, for people thinking of returning who read this, might actually dissuade them from returning. Not everyone considers an experience that induces so much fear as you describe, a loving one. Love shouldn't hurt or cause fear. I am so sorry you had to go through this. You probably won't allow this to be posted, but I wanted to at least give you the feedback on how your post might impact others.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. My father-in-law knows Kate Kelly's family and they said she had not been active in years and was very hateful towards the church. Also, I am glad your experience was positive, and so was Barbie's. Bishops receive revelation on what is best for those individuals they are helping. However, a lot of the success and positive experience depends on the individual too...I think Kate Kelly's story has bee grossly miscommunicated. But perhaps you know her and have more of a personal knowledge of the situation...I personally don't buy what the news or reports are published about it.

  9. Wow, look who knows so much! Are you calling Barbie a liar? She was there. It was her council. If she says it was loving, it was loving. Meanwhile, your use use of the words "cruel" and "horrible" tell it all.

    The fear she experienced was legitimate. "Love shouldn't hurt or cause fear"? From my reading of her account, I say that it wasn't the love that caused those feelings but rather what was often termed 'the fear of God.' Godly fear, as in the solemn recognition that there are real and serious consequences to one's behavior. Nothing new there, as the scriptures make clear.

  10. Interesting, Uncurly, that you would take me to task about having an opinion about what Barbie actually wrote, yet you completely ignore the fact that Barbie is claiming to know "the truth" about Kate Kelly's disciplinary council that was completely different from hers. Barbie definitely was not there at Kate's yet that does not stop her from highly unwarranted generalizations from hers to Kate's. As for my comments, I am only going by what Barbie wrote. She said she was afraid and I do not believe for one second that the fear came from God. Toxic churches manipulate their members through fear and guilt, all in the name of "God" but one thing I can say I know is that God would not do such a cruel thing and would not manipulate people through fear. The way she wrote about this reminds me of the way some people talk who are caught up in abusive relationships, believing that their abusive partner really does "love" them. I just don't buy it. The more you apologists try to justify the church's recent witch hunt, the worse you are looking to many of us.

  11. Barbie,

    Please do not make the assumption that because your disciplinary experience was indeed positive that those who have experienced their discipline as "abusive" are somehow in error. The words ambush, abusive and violent may very well be the most accurate descriptors of their experience.

    Should we question the sincerity and validity of your disciplinary experience as you've put forth in your post? I don't believe so. Neither should we deflate the sincerity and validity of the experience of our fellow brothers and sisters simply because it is not our own.

  12. Barbie

    Thank you for sharing this. We were all touched.

  13. Uncurly

    Monica demonstrates the philosophy of OW. After many, many conversations I have come to the conclusion that they do not care about what we believe...only in pursuing their own political objectives at our expense. Otherwise they would simply ignore us as they do Islam or other religions who are by any their self-declared criteria far worse than Mormons. Their reasons are their own. But, there are some standard practices that we should note:

    1) They are consumed in their arrogance. They honestly believe that we are naive and do not understand. When we protest, they condescendingly smile in their superior knowledge. Monica demonstrates this perfectly when she says to Barbie "I understand you don't recognize this as abuse" instantly placing her knowledge superior to Barbie' though somehow she has a superior understanding of when someone is or is not being abused. Having theoretically demonstrated her superior knowledge she is able to make a truly ignorant and intolerant analogy to an abusive husband who presumably is beating or emotionally abusing his wife... to a church council! This is a truly disgusting reference for anyone who has had any meaningful role in either one

    2) Monica states that Barbie's experience was in no way comparable to Kate Kelly's. I agree with Monica. Here are some striking differences:
    a) Kate was approached (I'm taking this from Kate's posts on the OW web site) in December of 2013 by her Stake President in an attempt to address her actions. Kate elected to continue on an international level her actions in opposition to the church.

    Barbie, on the other hand, worked collaboratively and productively with her Bishop to find the right course of action. Her testimony drove her to participate in the process toward a positive and collaborative solution.

    b) Having spent much of the past year working overtime to get her word out in every national media possible, Kate was approached in May of 2014 by her Stake President (according to her account). She said that she asked the Stake President to keep the proceedings confidential. How ironic! Spend 12 months getting your word out in any way or fashion you choose...and then ask the other party to agree to keep quiet. Very appropriately, the Stake President declined. Kate's UNILATERAL actions of the prior 12 months to portray the church in a negative light were significant. I'll bet she wanted the Stake President to stay quiet!! When the Stake President declined, she was able to use her lawyer trick and say (I'm not making this the way...check the web site) that "[she] had no choice" but to go though she had been discrete for the prior year and now the Stake President was driving her to defend herself (btw....has anyone yet seen a public statement by the SP???).

    Barbie, on the other hand, worked to find a way to take full advantage of the atonement to return to the blessings of the Lord through the help of his appointed priesthood leaders. The experience was special to Barbie and filled with the Spirit. It changed her life for the better. She believes that she was the beneficiary of the atonement and filled with love and compassion. Monica...who clearly knows more about the situation than does Barbie, assures us that she was in the middle of being the wife of an abusive husband. Really? arrogant!! Monica is right…the two situations are much, much different!!

    I could keep this going for pages and pages. In the end, there is no point. I and the vast, vast majority of the church are comfortable that this is the Lord’s Church and have great love and respect for others as taught by the church. People like Monica who use the term "toxic" to refer to the church have vividly demonstrated both their limited background and ultimate intentions.

  14. Barbie you are amazing and I know exactly that is what the atonement is for. Good for you to stick it out and do what you had to do

  15. Wow, Barbie, this made me tear up. This is powerful & I'm so grateful you shared your story. You are brave & amazing. Your story is important & I know it can be a positive effect on many who have or need to go through the same or similar thing. I really appreciate your courage in sharing this <3

  16. Also, although this comment was made years ago, I feel the need to address this quote, "Love shouldn't hurt or cause fear." God LOVED his only begotten son, Jesus Christ. The act of the Atonement was so painful that Jesus literally asked His Heavenly Father if there was any other way. There wasn't, and so Jesus took the pain & suffering upon himself so that we all could return to our Heavenly Father. Because both justice and mercy are important, we need to remember that punishment for our sins are justly executed by a loving Heavenly Father, not a hateful one. God would NEVER make us suffer or go through pain without reason, whether by our own sinful actions or because we have growth & learning to do.

    Thank you again for sharing your experience. I felt the Spirit confirm a deep love Heavenly Father has for you as I read through it. I'm sorry there are those who found it necessary to leave cruel comments, but just know that many, many people love & appreciate you & your bravery for sharing this. <3