Written by Mark Cares
About two weeks ago, James J. Humula, a General Authority of the LDS Church, was excommunicated. The LDS Church didn’t cite any reasons for the excommunication – just that it wasn’t for doctrinal reasons.
This can happen in any church. We all can think of prominent church leaders who have fallen. It, by itself, doesn’t tell us the LDS Church is false.
But the way it practices excommunication does.
The Bible never uses the word “excommunication”. There are a couple of places, however, where the Bible describes it. The first is Matthew 18:15-17. “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector”. Excommunication is seen in Jesus’ statement to treat the person “as you would a pagan or tax collector”. In other words, they should no longer treat him as a Christian brother.
What is essential to see is the type of person they are to treat this way. It’s not someone who committed a blatant sin. Rather it is someone who “refuses to listen”; who does not admit guilt or refuses to listen to correction.
A biblical example of excommunication occurred in the Corinthian congregation. Paul advises them to “hand over to Satan” a man who committed incest and was proud of it (1 Corinthians 5). It worked. In 2 Corinthians, Paul encourages them to take the man back immediately (2:5-8) because he was no longer proud of his sin, but was sorrowful and repentant.
From these two passages, we see that biblical excommunication is for those who persistently defend their sin. As soon as such people realize what they have done and confess it, they need to hear they are forgiven. There’s no probation. There’s no holding their feet to the fire. There is immediate forgiveness.
That doesn’t describe LDS excommunication. In striking contrast, LDS excommunication involves a long, painful process of trying to regain God’s favor. Here is a link to the first article coming up on lds.org when I searched “excommunication the way back”. https://www.lds.org/ensign/1976/11/the-lord-offers-everyone-a-way-back-from-sin?lang=eng. I encourage you to read it. Your heart will break for the young woman as she struggles to know if God has forgiven her. Especially note how his forgiveness depends on what she does and how hearing that God has forgiven her is the final, not the first, step of the process.
Her story has been repeated many times. Some dear friends of our ministry have gone through it. Torture is a word they have used to describe it.
Friends, this illustrates once again why we so desperately need to speak the truth of God’s forgiveness to Mormons. This message gave freedom and joy to our dear friends. It can do the same for many others.
Together, let’s get this wonderful message out!