072: Effects of Church Discipline

hansenpic-e1357425496599Natasha Helfer Parker interviews Nadine McCombs Hansen, a lifelong member of the church and descendant of Mormon pioneers, in regards to the policies surrounding church discipline and the potential effects it has in members’ lives and the lives of their families, as well as our community as a whole.  Nadine married at 19 and went back to get her law degree after having 4 children.  She practiced law in California, retired, and moved to Utah where she started practicing again and has worked as a guardian ad litem.   She has been involved in various Mormon communities since the 1980’s including Sunstone and the Mormon Women’s Forum.  She is currently an official spokesperson for Ordain Women and wrote an article for Dialogue back in 1981 titled Women and Priesthood.  She’s been married for 48 years and has 8 grandchildren.

As we’ve been dealing in our church with various public cases of church discipline, Nadine offers a valuable perspective.  Nadine wrote briefs in support of Kate Kelly and John Dehlin and has had brushes with church discipline herself, in regards to presentations she has given or articles she has written over the years.  She discusses the importance of being familiar with the discipline process and the different types of informal and formal discipline that may be imposed, so that members can be better prepared to face potential processes that church discipline may involve.  Also discussed is the complication of how members are oftentimes disciplined for behaviors that may be symptomatic of more underlying issues that go ignored or not accounted for (such as mental health issues, abusive relationships or past trauma, etc.); how formal discipline happens within a format that requires the disclosure of private matters in front of a council of men; issues of confidentiality; and issues in regards to penitential confession and mandated reporting when it comes to cases of abuse; discipline of apostasy; and much more.  Nadine founded the website called Mormon Church Discipline where members are invited to share their own personal experiences.

Please take the time to share your thoughts, opinions, questions in the comment section below.

Links to the subjects that were mentioned or are applicable to the podcast:

Patriarchs and Politics: The Plight of the Mormon Woman

Church Handbook of Instruction: Handbook 2

Strengthening Church Members Committee

Statement in Support of Kathleen Marie Kelly

Statement in Support of Appeal for and on Behalf of Kathleen Marie Kelly

My Excommunication Appeal where John Dehlin includes letter penned by Nadine

Many thanks to The Lower Lights for the beautiful bumper music and to Brian Dillman for audio production of this podcast.  Natasha Helfer Parker runs a private practice in Wichita, KS and writes at The Mormon Therapist for Patheos: Hosting the Conversation of Faith.

Donations to Mormon Mental Health are tax deductible and go directly to support the costs of producing the podcast.  If and when donations exceed these costs, they will go to support trainings, research, materials development, projects of the Mormon Mental Health Association and financial support for those who need help affording appropriate therapy services.


2 comments for “072: Effects of Church Discipline

  1. Margie
    July 28, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    People investigating the LDS church really need to listen to this podcast.

  2. Dave
    August 28, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    I went through Church discipline and was excommunicated for infidelity. The process was gut wrenching for myself and my family. Fortunately, I had a bishop who respected my privacy when I asked him to keep my initial discussions with him confidential. He did not go to the Stake President and he played a critical role in my repentance process because I felt that I could trust him rather than perceiving him to be only an agent for the church (I’m sure he was not in strict compliance with the handbook, and I thank God if he was not). We were able to work things through at my pace.
    Ultimately, however the full court action ensued. I was excommunicated and even though the individuals who participated may have kept the event confidential it soon became apparent for most in my ward and many in the Stake that I was excommunicated. No prayers, no class participation unless called upon, no sacrament, no temple service, no church callings. You might as well shout from the rooftops regarding my sins. Most members are able to put one plus one together to arrive at the correct conclusion that I had committed adultery. This created additional hardship for my wife, my children and myself. Don’t get me wrong, I accept responsibility for my actions but I believe that had I had the ability to work with such a good bishop to work through the repentance process without the additional burden of the “discipline process” that there would have been less damage to my family and myself and less embarrassment to myself and others involved as I live in a small predominantly LDS community.

    Thanks for the podcast, I appreciate that it still accessible even though it is from last year. I would hope in the future the Church will analyze the process. I think the process encourages people to not be totally honest as a result of the known consequences. I had a very good relationship with my bishop as he proved that he could be trusted and was my advocate but I did not have the same relationship with the Stake President – he came across as someone more interested beholden to the church and its process than to me. Consequently, our meetings were more perfunctory in nature rather than one where I could be totally open and honest about where I was in my life relative to the church, my testimony and my relationship with Christ. As a side-note even though I was told that I could not pay tithing I was strongly encouraged by my Stake President to continue to make donations to the church through my wife. That validated that my only worth to the church was that of a money source.

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