I was scrolling through my news feed last night when I came across a picture of an LDS General Authority that I recognized right away. I had watched him give plenty of talks over the pulpit and have learned a lot from him in the past as I’d read his sermons in church magazines.
But under his picture the headline surprised me. “LDS General authority Elder James J. Hamula excommunicated”.
I’ve seen plenty of excommunications, even though it is rare that a leader in the church with his rank and his background gets excommunicated. Since that headline I have seen blogs and social media postings and articles all standing by the church’s stance, saying that although he is loved and encouraged to repent from whatever he did and return to the fold, the church did what it had to do and there are laws in place.
Needless to say, I taste bitterness at that rhetoric and spit it out.
Needless to say, I stand in the wings and watch the procession and notice the utter ignorance and blatant hypocrisy of it all.
So many of us know how it feels to be judged and condemned. And now Elder Hamula feels it as well.
I don’t know what sin he committed or how many times it was done. I don’t care to know the private details of his personal trials. I don’t know how many friends he lost when his membership was revoked or how many tears have been shed by his wife and children. I don’t know what exactly is going on through his head right now–but I think I may have an idea. Although I haven’t been excommunicated (it was threatened, yes) and I did leave by my own accord, I know how it feels to be given up on.
I know that this morning he most likely woke up and felt purposeless, maybe even forgotten or lost. I can assume he feels abandoned by the people who sat beside him for decades, and I can assume he feels the weight of guilt for the missionaries and countless others who looked to him for counsel and wisdom. I can assume that he feels a sense of grief for all he has lost. A church that became more like a lifestyle and a culture has suddenly dissolved–and his identity feels stolen. In a way you feel left in the dark, curled up against yourself–left for dead.
And now, without hesitation, I will be the first to say this loud and clear. And I hope you repeat this again and again until you believe it too.
Christ does not leave you for dead.
He does not excommunicate his children.
He does not give up on you.
He gives countless chances that we wouldn’t even offer to ourselves. He sees our blood stains and our heartaches and our mistakes that are deemed unforgivable to all of those around us and he loves us anyway. He keeps us close anyway. He advocates for us anyway.
As a step-parent I find myself often thinking about how I feel toward my little one is just a glimpse of what Heavenly Father feels for us. And that in itself is overwhelming. So many times she has pushed me to my limit, has struck every last nerve as a feisty toddler who knows all the right buttons to push–yet I couldn’t imagine ever giving her one last chance to be good. She’s mine. And she has more than a million chances to mess up and start again and never lose an ounce of love from my end.
So how much more willing is our Heavenly Father to do the same for us?
I’m not here to preach that there is no law or order to things. I believe in commandments and in doing our best every day to live right. But I am here to remind you that as human beings we are absolutely chaotic messes with a whole lot of wandering and falling apart to do–and yet we are entirely and perfectly loved by a God who’s feet have never wandered.
We are understood when all of those around us shake their heads. We are treasured when we are publicly ridiculed. We are given hope and a chance at a new life when those who strive for perfection are more willing to kill our spirits to prove a point.
Where better to heal than within the fold? Why be cast out at all?
My heart hurts for Elder Hamula and for the countless others who have being shut away and then told in the same breath to come back when they have made things right. My heart hurts that imperfect people have the power to rank other imperfect people.
My opinion on this is not the popular one and I know that so many who still follow me and who still affiliate or are members of the church will not agree with my sentiments. And that’s OK. They have that right.
But I’m here–back from the dead place I was left in–to remind you that we rise.
After we are shut out, after we are ridiculed, and after we are abandoned and sneered at and written about by those who carry Christ’s name proudly–we still rise. We find our footing, we remember our worth, and we begin to care about His opinion of us other than an institution’s.
Elder Hamula will rise. Just as I have. And so will all the others who have been buried.
The ashes are temporary.
His love is not.
14 thoughts on “Left for dead: The truth about LDS excommunication”
I heartily concur. Judge not lest ye be judged… yep, I get that there are rules and laws– and I do my best to obey them. I am human. I fail. I fall, and fall again. But:::: I Rise. I rise because God does not want me to quit. Everything I overcome is a testament to His power. So if you think I’m gonna quit, you don’t know me.
Excommunication isn’t a light topic. When people are excommunicated they have typically broken a covenant. No one is saying that they aren’t loved by their Heavenly Father, or by the church, but there are repercussions to our actions and breaking covenants is a very serious thing.
People who are excommunicated are still able to meet with their bishop to overcome their sins. They aren’t kicked to the curb and left to fend for themselves. Members of the church aren’t directed to ignore or hate these people. Although, I recognize that some people act this way, it isn’t by direction of the church. We are always told to love people, despite their sins.
I say this coming from a family who has dealt with excommunication. My grandfather has been excommunicated multiple times, for the same sin. It took him a long time to overcome this issue, but when he wasn’t willing to stop or repent of the sin, the church couldn’t count him as a member. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t welcome in church, it just meant that his actions didn’t aline with the doctrine, yes doctrine, not culture, of the church. When his attitude and actions did change he was always welcomed back into full membership.
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Yes! My family has also gone through an excommunication and we have never felt more love and support than we have during this time. My loved one was not thown to the curb at all.
And they would always happily take his tithing.
No, actually they will not.
I cried when I heard the news from all of social media. I do not know this man, but I know what he and all that knows him is feeling. Your blog explains it perfectly…no matter what we are loved. Thank you.
I, in full and good conscience have walked away from the church. Much to the consternation of most of my family.
You made the statement about the willingness it appears at times to “Kill our spirits”. This hit me hard. I have had countless reproachments and well intended lectures, rejections and even a few ultimatums, from loving family about “coming back”. But a recent event in my family felt more like, “if we can’t get you back with that approach, then we will destroy you with shame”.
This has been, fundamentally , one of the most painful experiences of my life. The last ditch effort to shame so much that surely I would see the horrible state I’m in and come back?
I do not see myself ever going back. This recent experience has made me want to distance myself as far from the organization as possible.
And I say organization because that’s what it is first. With vetting and censoring and social shaming alive and well.
I am grateful for my time spent as a member and the blessings that have come to my family.
I left with little bitterness, but a clear understanding of what my spiritual goals needed to be.
I am deeply saddened that some of my most dearly loved, were willing to sacrifice me, for my “best good”. We all now stand in need of great comfort.
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Thanks for that heartfelt message. And thanks for the Comments as well. A difficult topic. I also felt strangely connected to this man whom I’ve candidly never heard of before. My heart went out to him and his family. I also know somewhat of what he is yet to experience. My story is I left voluntarily… totally disappointed with too many things in the foundational history of the church and how the leaders Jane dealt with them. But that’s not the point of my comment. Mine is that yes … you will rise !
I have never had nor expect to have any desire to return to this church. … but I understand there are others that do. And I respect that. What I ache from. … is the loss of some family and many friends. Many of those relationships I miss dearly. But. We do rise. It may take years. But we rise. And life is much much better on this side of the fence.
You are projecting your feelings onto this man without knowing anything about his circumstances or how he feels about it. You acting like you understand how he feels and is being treated is judgmental. But you mask it as someone who “understands.” You used this situation to support your platform and that is sad. More sad than what you’re claiming will happen to him. I know you have been hurt by the church Kayla but the way you go about sharing that is well annoying! By the way I’ve been a member for 43 years and didn’t recognize his name. He has spoken in General Conference twice. So even acting like you are familiar with his talks and articles in the Ensign is an exaggeration to make your point. You need to use your blog for other worthwhile causes.
You aren’t required to read it. If the blog annoys you, why keep reading the blogs I post? Thanks.
I actually hadn’t read one in several months. Someone who knows I used to follow you told me you had written about this subject. I thought “well of course she did!”…..so I checked it out. Do you only want readers who agree with you and support your posts? Well of course you do! No worries Kayla. I won’t read your blog again.
By the way, I’m considered inactive. I haven’t gone to church much in the last three years. I’ve had my own faith crisis. I just find your “victim” stories, well….annoying. Best of luck to you as you exploit other people’s heartbreaking experiences to promote your own agenda.
Well-written. Christ showed mercy to all. Christ said he who has not sinned could cast the first stone. And no one threw a stone, the crowd walked away. Christ said to remove first the plank from your own eye before noting the speck in your neighbor’s eye. I believe there are documents other than the Bible used in the LDS church and perhaps that is why this man was judged and cast aside. Maybe he was offered repentance and turned it down. Maybe the reason he was pushed out was due to church politics. And maybe it was one of many other scenarios. I just prayed for his repentance if that is needed and healing, and that he go forth being made stronger in his walk with God after this experience.
I appreciate your perspective. You know, I give our church the leeway to do what it wants in regard to discipline, but what it does in creating people who easily cut people off is an area of disappointment to me.
It certainly isn’t how Christ has treated me in my darkest moments, so I follow His example rather than what I see in those around me.
Don’t let the bitterness that I read a few posts above mine, leave you believing that there’s nobody in the church that cares. There really are those who care and would never leave you. I’m sorry that – even in my experience – we’re hard to find.
Rather than seeing an agenda, I see a real person with a real story, with real experience that feels shut out. Carry on in your service to God with all your heart!
As far as l understood, excommunication, is actually a kindness. A great kindness, so person is no longer accountable for whatever they are doing.
When they are decidedly seeing things as they really are, repentance becomes more possible to return. I am no authority but l have seen the kindness in this. I apologise if if l understand this wrongly. I not wish any hurt upon any person.
We are all mixed up humans with so much to trip us up. Just do your best, each day, may Lord bless you in or out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints.
…yes why this excommunication happens has nothing to do with us surely it is a private matter…we all err.