Recently, there was a man who was absolutely posturized for being excommunicated. The thing is… it’s really none of my business. In some circles, people have ruthlessly trashed this man on speculation alone for the last four days. Consider the effect this might have on a person’s future, a person’s extended family, and especially a person’s spouse and their kids. Whatever has been done, we gain nothing by speculating on the situation. Someone either screwed up or is choosing a different path. It’s that simple. We have many other things we should be worried about. The reflection and improvement of our own character and righteousness should be enough to give others the benefit of the doubt.
Whatever a person has done to bring shame upon himself should not be magnified by other imperfect humans. It’s between God and that man. Just because someone has been called to lead in the church, in any capacity, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t treat a person humanely and respectfully. “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.”
Honestly, why do people get so much excitement over spreading and speculating on the faults and falterings of other people? Like it’s some sort of soap opera. Why turn the shortcomings and trials of others into viral news? Why shine a light on the things others are doing wrong or have done wrong? Does it make us feel better about ourselves? Maybe it’s because “the devil flatters us that we are very righteous while we are feeding on the faults of others” as Joseph Smith has pointed out.
Unless I’m a person’s ecclesiastical leader and they have come to me for help, then their mistakes are none of my business. My business is to wish them well if I am to be called a true disciple and follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ. If I happen to come across the shortcomings or sins of others, should I emphasize them or deemphasize them? What does it mean when Jesus invited the scribes and Pharisees to cast the first stone if they were indeed without sin? What does it mean when Joseph Smith said that “the nearer we get to our Heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs?”
This is one of those cultural problems that we’ve got overcome if we don’t want to drive people away. Confessions and church discipline shouldn’t be met with a viral scarlet letter that ruins a person’s life. No person, whether they’re a one-year convert serving in the nursery or a 60-year veteran serving in the first quorum of the 70 should be put on display and vilified for the entire world to speculate over. Regardless of whether or not a person deserves the negative attention, it doesn’t do any good for us as a church or as individuals to string up another individual and throw virtual tomatoes at them.
I totally get why it’s important for the church to make an announcement letting people know about the news. They do it in order to provide ongoing transparency and minimize the speculation that might surround the event. But what people have done in the last four days with that news has been a different story.
Some people have been kind. Others have turned the situation into some sort of circus act, and that is a major turn off to people inside and outside of the church. Regardless of how someone’s disciplinary actions or excommunication comes to be, and whether a person “got caught” or not, it dissuades people to come forward personally, take their medicine, repent, and move forward. How many people are there in the church that should be ex-communicated or not have a temple recommend who decide to live with the guilt instead of clearing their conscience precisely because they know that they’re going to become a public spectacle whether it’s on a local micro level or a general macro level. People know that the speculation on them will be endless and that they will never be able to show their face again and that’s just not the gospel plan.
The whole purpose of church discipline is to help an individual move forward so that they can return to full fellowship with a clear conscience. The essence of the atonement is to turn deep red into bright white. But people have this tendency to never let others forget and forgive themselves for the mistakes they have made along the way, both small and large. We’ve got to stop letting the digital stones ignorantly fly… and start loving people even in the most extreme of circumstances.