High-profile excommunications may harm Mormon retention rates in the long run

Religion News Service | 11/30/2018 | Staff
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Podcaster and blogger Gina Colvin recently announced that she is facing a disciplinary council from the leadership of her local congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is because she recently received a baptism and confirmation in the Anglican Communion and participates regularly in her local Anglican congregation in New Zealand. This is an issue to LDS leaders, however, because the current LDS Handbook of Instructions defines “apostasy” as including members who “formally join another church and advocate its teachings.”

Colvin’s disciplinary hearing comes shortly on the heels of the excommunication of Mormon activist Sam Young, who drew public attention to the issue of sexually explicit questioning during clergy interviews with adolescents.

Bill - Reel - Procedure - Criticism - LDS

Elsewhere, podcaster Bill Reel is currently undergoing a disciplinary procedure for his aggressive criticism of the LDS Church and its leadership.

Colvin, Young, and Reel are among several high-profile Mormon activists to face disciplinary action and (potential) excommunication in recent years. From the perspective of LDS leadership, excommunications are necessary to protect other members of the church from whatever “spiritual threat” is being posed by the ideas, words, and actions of those being disciplined. It is an exercise in boundary maintenance.

Are - Mormons - Grateful - Protection - Leaders

Are rank-and-file Mormons grateful for this protection? Do they support their leaders disciplining and excommunicating those who are guilty of what the Church defines as “apostasy”?

The 2016 Next Mormons Survey specifically asked self-identified American Mormons how “troubled” they are by the excommunications of “feminists, intellectuals, and activists.” (See here for survey information and methodology.) The survey found that:

Mormons - % - % - % - Excommunications

Nearly three in five Mormons (57%) say that they are very troubled (26%) or somewhat troubled (31%) by these excommunications.

Among those who are active and attend church at least weekly, 50% are troubled.

LDS - Church - Teachings - %

Among those who say that they believe all or most of LDS Church teachings wholeheartedly, 53% are troubled.

Among...
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