What if you were "outed" and summoned to a Bishop's court for blogging?
I've asked myself this many times. I'm not naive. I know that I could easily be "outed" and -- depending on how high a tolerance my local leaders have for such -- be subject to discipline for openly discussing my unorthodox and/or heretical opinions on here.
So what would I do if that happened? What would be my options?
Option 1: I would delete my blog and renounce whatever I've said on here that could make me subject to discipline (I'm not saying that I have said anything that would make me subject to discipline, I'm simply saying that I don't know. I think the verdict would vary from place to place and among different local leaders.)
Option 2: I would stand by all that I've written and refuse to delete my blog on the grounds that I need an outlet in order to discuss things that my leaders do not wish or cannot discuss with me. I would not renounce the personal beliefs I currently have, although I would try to be as respectful as possible of our different points of view. I would accept whatever judgment came my way, which would leave me with two post options:
- Remain a (somewhat) believing and (somewhat) active Mormon by attending Church and keeping these things pretty much to myself outside of the online community. In other words, I would be doing basically what I'm doing now, but would either be disfellowshipped or excommunicated.
- Stop attending Church and completely withdraw from my local Mormon community. This, however, would probably not eliminate my internal Mormon identity.
I've tried to imagine any one of these scenarios. Option 1, I think, would be very difficult for me. It would eat away at me to put on an act, and yet I've become quite good at keeping these things to myself, though it's not easy to do and it unlikely to be sustainable over a lifetime. My hope is to find a constructive and respectful way to interact with like-minded Mormons without getting myself kicked out.
Option 2 would be heart-wrenching and difficult, for myself and probably for my family as well. So Option 2 is what I fear the most, but it's also the one that seems most realistic if I were to find myself in a disciplinary situation. And to be honest, I'm not sure that I would have the guts to follow through with Option 2 because of what it would do to my family. I know they would continue to love me and never disown me (I'm very fortunate that way), but it was a big enough deal to them when one of my brothers started drinking. I'm not sure how they would handle having a child/sibling being excommunicated. The difficulty of the situation would perhaps make me consider (and perhaps even follow through) with Option 1, but I know I'd probably be equally unhappy with either Option 1 or 2.
Option 3 is understandable. Being subject to a bishop's court must be mentally and emotionally exhausting. I like my Church leaders, but it would be intimidating to plead my case when they can't really understand it and because I'm not the most eloquent speaker, particularly when it's not in my mother tongue. Neither would I have anyone who could witness or vouch for me.
So I guess what it boils down to is how much we all value our Church membership. My impression is that most Mormons view it in a very literal sense. "What is bound on earth is bound in heaven." In other words, what we do here has eternal consequences and losing one's membership in the Kingdom of God here on earth is a HUGE deal -- particularly in terms of what it means for family relationships.
There's no question that I value my membership in the Church. But I'm not sure that I value it in the same literal sense. All these stories of people (gays, feminists, intellectuals, scholars, etc.) getting excommunicated has made me fear it less in the literal sense. There's no question in my mind that many of these were/are people of immense faith, integrity, and being true to their inner light and convictions (even if they may be wrong and even if they deliberately did things that they knew were grounds for excommunication) -- qualities that are highly esteemed in Mormonism -- and so how can I believe that God will literally shut them out in the next phase of life?
So, if I were to lose my membership one day, would I be sad? Yes. Would I dread the unavoidable pain it would cause to my family? Yes. But would I see it as the end? No.
If you found yourself in the hypothetical situation that I outlined above (for some of you, it may not just be hypothetical), what do you think you would do? What would be the consequences?
How much do you value your Church membership? Do you ever fear being disciplined? Why or why not?