"My flabber was completely gasted." - Rating Pending
Question #91808 posted on 11/08/2018 7:12 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

At what point does the Church discipline a member who has committed a crime that is also classed as a serious sin?

Say, for example, a member is accused of murder. Does the Church await the results of the trial before considering excommunication? Or do they move forward independently of the justice system?

What if the defendant is found guilty, but maintains that they are innocent (in other words, does the Church take into consideration that the justice system may have made an error and wrongfully convicted someone)?

What about smaller crimes, like felonies, harassment, assault etc.?



Dear L, 

While I can't find a definitive answer, the language in this lds.org article leads me to believe excommunication would only follow an actual conviction. The sentence I'm referring to says, "Gross iniquity involves such transgressions as murder, adultery, sexual perversion, or serious civil court conviction such as a felony." [emphasis added]. Because it says conviction, I'm pretty sure it would follow the completed trial. 

The other thing is not all those who are convicted of different charges are excommunicated. Each situation would be handled differently, but I given there are degrees of severity of charges, there are also varying degrees of severity of sins, such that excommunication may not always be the step to take with a criminal conviction (I'm mostly thinking like shoplifting, drug charges, etc., which would probably lead to a period of disfellowship or probation, but maybe not excommunication.) 

The Church takes convictions very seriously, but the decisions made by priesthood leaders regarding a persons membership following these events does not, as far as I can tell, actually have anything to do with the justice system. It just happens that a lot of things the Church considers serious sins are also criminal activities. In general, mercy is the leading goal of all excommunication/disfellowship hearings, and repentance is encouraged. If a person was found guilty in court but maintains their innocence and shows that in a Church hearing, I do think it would be taken into consideration.

As I sort of hinted at above, smaller charges wouldn't immediately warrant excommunication OR disfellowship. If the person showed they were penitent and discussed the situation with Priesthood leaders, their individual situation would be handled accordingly. Really, it's all about the repentance. If they were charged and had to go through Church discipline and showed they were not interested in repenting, I would imagine disfellowshipping, probation, and maybe excommunication would be considered. 

Hopefully that answered all your questions. 



posted on 11/10/2018 11:47 a.m.
A member of one of my wards committed a particularly heinous crime, and confessed to the bishop prior to turning himself into police. He was definitely excommunicated before his trial, but that makes sense given the confession.