Sunday, March 23, 2014

Court of Love

Church discipline is an interesting thing. Typically it involves an offending member and the offender's bishop working things out as quietly as possible. There might be a temporary probation enacted on certain types of participation, but the idea is that the offender has time to work through the repentance process fully and arrive at a good place spiritually. The works of God and His Church are sacred and not to be defamed by those who cannot or will not respect them.

Disciplinary councils, or "courts of love" are much more serious. They typically address weightier matters that might warrant excommunication. Typically those matters have to deal with sexual indiscretion, apostasy, and occasionally the mishandling of tithes.

Coming down hard on local leaders embezzling tithing funds seems appropriate. No one should be taking monies intended to assist in the cause of Jesus and use them for personal or worldly gain. (Then again, we have no idea what the LDS Church is actually doing with the money even when it does make it past the local leadership.)

Matters of sexual indiscretion come in all shapes and sizes so it's hard to come up with any single example that can fully illustrate all of the issues at stake. I'm all for finding out who in the Church is sexually abusive, who is offending the law (as in the case of child porn), and getting the right counseling for anyone seeking to overcome hurtful sexual practices. Where courts of love become questionable lies more in the nature of the court itself. You have the offender facing off alone to a bishop, a stake president, and fifteen high counselors (all of whom are men). That's one against seventeen. Often an unknowing spouse is involved, in which case there could very well be an unpleasant surprise in store - a surprise that the spouse gets to sort out in front of eighteen people who know more about the matter than he or she does. Sexual matters are delicate and can contribute to deep embarrassment and shame. Does a wife hearing about her husband's sexual escapades for the first time deserve to hear it in front of nearly twenty men, some of them neighbors?

Potential apostates are another tricky matter. You have all kinds of unorthodox thought and practice to address from something people who think the Church has derailed to self-proclaimed prophets who are seeking followers. You also have people who run into difficult problems with what the Church claims and are asking for answers. Asking hard questions doesn't go over well in disciplinary councils. You're supposed to be humble and let the Church remold you.

I think the only reason I didn't have a problem with this in the past was because 1) I believed in keeping the Church safe from apostates and 2) I didn't know what kind of shit went down in these disciplinary councils. In my mind, anyone dragged into a court of love was going to get what they deserved! Nearly twenty inspired men can't be wrong, can they? How often do these courts turn around to blame the victim? You should have learned to be more sexually satisfying! You shouldn't have started investigating Church history! You should have doubted your doubts, not your faith!

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