Church Disciplinary Council

The council convened on a Sunday at the stake center on the west side of Provo.  I showed up early, and it was a good thing too.  I don’t know if it was just nerves, or something I ate, but I spent some time in the restroom.  In a way it was better that way, as I was able to avoid sitting in the hall while people came in, that I didn’t know, who were going to be on the council. I was in a student ward, and so I didn’t know the high council members of the stake.  (the members of the high council and the stake presidency in BYU stakes are called from the surrounding areas, as there are no married folks in the student wards.  You have to be married in order to be a high priest, which is a requirement if you are a high councilor.  Members of the Stake presidency are also high priests.)  I didn’t like sitting in the hall, wondering with every person that walked past, “is this going to be someone who will know all of my secrets by the time I leave this place?” There was no anonymity there.  They could see me.  They knew who I was.  There was no turning back either.

Once I initiated the process by talking to Bishop Davis, there was no longer any choice but to go through with the council.  In spite of all my scheming, I had come up with nothing.  I hadn’t come up with any way by which I could game the system and shift things in my favor.  This was fairly disconcerting to me, as I have always been able to use my intelligence to my advantage.  In school I was able to get things like classes to count for things other than they should have.  I was able to get out of doing things by having things count double.  In this instance, i couldn’t think of a single thing I could offer, and therefore nothing I could leverage to make my situation better.  Having no strategy to implement, I decided to go with one of full disclosure.  I decided that any question would be answered with honesty, regardless of how much it hurt, regardless of how much I didn’t want to tell those men. (well, anyone really…)

The high council room was a rectangular room, with a lot of chairs around the walls, all of them filled.  I only knew about three of the men in the room.  I know the Stake President, my Bishop, and one of the high councilors who was assigned to my ward.  The others introduced themselves as we went around the room.  I didn’t remember their names by the time we had finished the introductions.  I was too nervous, and too concerned with the outcome to pay much attention to who the people were.  Frankly, I don’t know that it mattered too much who they were.  The important thing was that they were the Stake High Council.  They were the men that were called by the Lord to be involved for such things.

I sat next to the Stake President.  Those who were responsible for making sure that my interests were represented were seated to my right, and those who were charged with representing the interests of the church were seated on my left.  The Stake President started by telling the others about the events that led up to the council.  He told them about the various things that I’ve written about here.  He slightly mischaracterized the means by which the church was made aware of my actions.  He implied that I told the church only after I was found out.  I corrected him, and explained that I made the choice to inform bishop Davis.

After the initial explanation by the Stake President, the members of the Council asked me question after question.  I sat in my chair, and answered each question as best I could.  I was asked something to the effect of whether I had ever broken the law of chastity with a girl.  I responded “absolutely not.”  Someone then asked me if I thought it was worse to do so with someone of the same gender or the opposite gender.  I told them that I supposed it to be worse to do what I had done.  They then asked why I was so adamant in my response, “absolutely not.”  I explained that I had assimilated the teachings that women were not to be objectified, and that they were to be respected.

I don’t remember a lot of the other questions that were asked, but there was one that I won’t forget.  One of the High Councilors who was assigned to my ward asked what my response would be to someone who characterized my answers during the disciplinary council as flippant.  I told him that I would apologize, as it was not my intent to be flippant, but rather that I was steeling myself against my emotions, as it was the only means I knew by which I could get through the evening without completely breaking down.

At some point, Bishop Davis wanted me to mention something that had come up in our discussions.  I had mentioned to him at one point that I felt like many of the publications from the church focusing on homosexuality were aimed at a different audience than the one in which I found myself.  The book Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W Kimball, as well as various articles produced by the church were geared toward those who were defending their actions.  They talked about coming to an understanding that they were not indeed a third sex. (Does anyone still use that term?)  They were about helping those who were acting on homosexual desires to understand that such actions were not in line with the teachings of the church, and that the church was not going to “come around” as their position was based on what is believed by faithful members of the church to be divine revelation.

The problem I saw with these publications is that they didn’t cover how to deal with the issue once the person realized that, but was not able to keep themselves from indulging in their proclivity.  I found that I was not in need of convincing that the things that I had done were wrong.  I was in the group of people that was not lacking in knowledge, but will.  That being said, I didn’t really want to tell the Council about that conversation, since it seemed like the sort of thing that needed more context.  It seemed like the sort of comment that if made without the proper back story, would come across as trying to steady the ark.  But, since I had decided earlier to disclose any information that was requested, I did so.

The last thing I was asked was if there was anything I wanted to add.  I said that I would prefer to not be excommunicated.  I wanted to remain a member of the church.  I said that I was unsure of what I would do if I were no longer in the church.  I said that I didn’t trust myself to not go off on a bender (no, not the exact words I used…) if I were no longer in the church.  I didn’t mean it to sound like I was planning on having promiscuous sex with men if they decided to excommunicate me, but that is how it sounded as it came out of my mouth.

After the questions were done, I was asked to step into a room across the hall and wait.  Bishop Davis came and sat with me as I stared at the floor.  I was in that small room for quite a while.  The council was deliberating my fate.  I had no idea how long it would take, and I was scared.  After what seemed like an eternity, but which was likely less than a half hour, I was asked to come back into the Stake President’s office.  The Stake Presidency was there, but the rest of the Council was gone.  I was told that the council had been suspended without coming to a decision.  I was told that they were unable to come to a decision because they were not able to determine if I was remorseful for the things that I had done.

I was told that they wanted me to go and see Jeff Robinson.  I was told that the meetings were to be of a diagnostic nature, though there may be some therapeutic value in them as well.  It was explained that while I certainly had the choice to visit with Jeff, choosing not to would mean I would almost certainly be excommunicated.  I told them that I would be happy to meet with Jeff.  I really did love being in the church.  It was part of my identity.  It was something that I had given two years of my life for.

During the course of the Disciplinary Council, I mentioned that I had at one point considered suicide, but that I had then rejected the idea because of both theological and social reasons.  The Stake Presidency was concerned, and so they asked if I would be willing to surrender my firearms.  They made it very clear that this request was something outside of the scope of the Disciplinary Council, and that it was entirely voluntary, that they in no way wanted the request to be viewed as the church trying to infringe on my second amendment rights.  I did not see it as such.  They were simply worried about my state of mind, and that I might do something to myself.  I told them that though their concerns were unnecessary, that I would comply with their request.  They asked if the Bishop could follow me to my house to get the weapons. I told them that he would need follow me only to my car, as all three weapons were in the trunk.

I went home that night feeling like I had been given a chance.  I was still a member of the church.  I was given a clear path to go, and I was glad for it.  That’s not to say that I was not still worried.  The council was supposed to reconvene in two months at which point a decision was to be made.  I was both looking forward to and dreading that time.


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