Church Disciplinary Council – Prequel

Bishop Davis told me that he needed to talk to the stake president. He wasn’t sure if the situation warranted involving more than just himself and his counselors. He talked with the stake president, and was told that the level of disciplinary council needed would involve the entire stake presidency, as well as the stake high council. The bishop told me that the possibilities for the outcome of the council included informal probation, formal probation, disfellowshipment, and excommunication. I was not exactly thrilled about either of those last two. Of course, I didn’t see what they were.

I always thought of church discipline as a form of punishment. I understood punishment. The idea of indemnity for a breach of contract, or in this case, covenant. I deserved punishment, but also couldn’t bear the thought. Even though I had barely been to church for nearly eight months, the thought of the church deciding that it no longer wished to be associated with me was unfathomable.  In spite of the unfathomable nature of the thing, I was prepared to go through with it. (Not that I really had any choice at this point.   Once I had told Bishop Davis the things that I had done, the decision had been made.)

I continued to meet with Bishop Davis while I was waiting.  I also met with the Stake President.  It was a bit nerve-wracking, as the Stake President was a professor at BYU, and my brother had been one of his students.  He remembered my brother, but didn’t make the connection between us until I pointed it out to him.  This particular professor has a reputation for having exceptionally hard tests, and is not well loved by all of his students.  Fortunately, I found him to be a kind and sincere man.  He talked with me with frankness, but also with tact.  He described the disciplinary council, the mechanics of it, and what to expect.

The disciplinary council was to involve the entire high council, as well as the stake presidency.  My Bishop was also to be present, but solely in a support role for me.  There was also a stake executive secretary, whose job it was to take notes of the proceedings.  There would be six high councilors who would represent my interests, and six who would represent the church’s interests.  I would be introduced, and asked to tell the council about the actions that led up to the council.  After they questioned me, I would be asked to leave while they deliberated and then voted.  Once a decision was made, I would be asked to return, and I would be told the decision of the council.

I was nervous.  Like I always do when I am facing a situation in which I am nervous, I started scheming.  I started to think about how I was going to play my hand.  I couldn’t decide if I was going to try to be emotional, if I was going to put on my theologian hat, or any number of other strategies I came up with.  What really bothered me though, was that I was strategizing.  This wasn’t something that I could control, but there I was trying to figure out how to minimize the damage.  I was trying to figure out how I could influence the outcome to my best advantage.  Essentially, I didn’t understand the way things worked, and that it was all for my best advantage, whatever the outcome was going to be.

I also didn’t understand how the potential outcomes were in any way things that could work for my good.  I only saw them as punishment.  It was with this mentality that I went in to the council.  It was the mentality of one who had already been convicted, and was awaiting sentencing.  I was waiting to hear if I was going to receive the death penalty, life in prison or simply 25-life.  (For those not of our faith reading, those are analogies, and in no way to be literally interpreted)  I was simply trying to figure out how I could reduce my sentence.  It wasn’t until about a week after the council met that I began to understand the way things worked.


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