In light of extensive publicity given to six recent Church disciplinary councils in Utah, we believe it helpful to reaffirm the position of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
We deeply regret the loss of Church membership on the part of anyone. The attendant consequences felt over time by the individuals and their families are very real.In their leadership responsibilities, local Church officers may seek clarification and other guidance from General Authorities of the Church. General Authorities have an obligation to teach principles and policies and to provide information that may be helpful in counseling members for whom local leaders are responsible. In matters of Church discipline, the General Authorities do not direct the decisions of local disciplinary councils.
Furthermore, the right of appeal is open to anyone who feels he or she has been unfairly treated by a disciplinary council.
It is difficult to explain Church disciplinary action to representatives of the media. Considerations of confidentiality restrain public comment by Church leaders in such private matters.
We have the responsibility to preserve the doctrinal purity of the Church. We are united in this objective. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught an eternal principle when he explained: "That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 156.) In instructing His Twelve Disciples in the new world about those who would not repent, the Savior said, "But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people. . . ." (3 Nephi 18:31, see also Mosiah 26:36 and Alma 5:59.) The Prophet also remarked that "from apostates the faithful have received the severest persecutions." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 67.) This continues to be the case today.
The long standing policy of Church discipline is outlined in the Doctrine and Covenants:
"We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members . . . according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; . . . They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship." (Doctrine and Covenants 134:10.)
Faithful members of the Church can distinguish between mere differences of opinion and those activities formally defined as apostasy. Apostasy refers to Church members who " repeatedly act in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders; or persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority; or continue to follow the teachings of apostate cults (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority." (General Handbook of Instructions, 10-3.)
The general and local officers of the Church will continue to do their duty, and faithful Church members will understand.
As leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we reach out in love to all and constantly pray that the Lord, whose Church this is, will bless those who love and seek divine truth.
The Council of the First Presidency and The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve issued the above statement Oct. 17 in response to widespread media coverage of events surrounding five Church members who were excommunicated and another who was disfellowshipped in September following separate disciplinary councils in their stakes. All six were residing in Utah at the time the councils were held.
Some of the six have granted extensive interviews or have made comments to the media. Local Church leaders, to maintain confidentiality, have declined to discuss with the media details of the disciplinary councils. Therefore, the media have relied on information supplied by those disciplined or by their sympathizers.