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Peggy Fletcher Stack
Peggy Fletcher Stack has been producing stories for The Salt Lake Tribune's award-winning Faith section for nearly two decades. Writing about contemporary faith, rituals, and spirituality as well as religion's conflicts and cohesion has always been Stack's passion. Follow her at facebook.com/peggy.fletcherstack, Twitter @religiongal

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Could Mormon church excommunicate Shurtleff, Swallow?

On the heels of Mormon feminist Kate Kelly’s recent excommunication for "conduct contrary to the laws and order" of the LDS Church, a new question has emerged:

Could former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff lose their Mormon memberships, too?

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The short answer is yes.

If convicted, the two prominent LDS politicians, who now face 21 felony charges between them, could end up in disciplinary councils before Mormon leaders in Sandy.

After all, according to LDS Handbook 1, which spells out the faith’s policies for its lay clergymen, excommunication may be necessary for "church leaders or prominent members, whose transgressions significantly impair the good name or moral influence of the church in the community that is aware of the transgression."

A church disciplinary council is mandatory in cases of murder, incest, child abuse, apostasy, serious transgressions while holding a prominent church position and predatory behavior.

Serious transgressions, which the Handbook defines as "deliberate and major offense[s] against morality," include but are not limited to "attempted murder, forcible rape, sexual abuse, spouse abuse, intentional serious physical injury of others, adultery ... deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, robbery, burglary, theft, embezzlement, sale of illegal drugs, fraud, perjury and false swearing."

A council would not be convened immediately after an arrest or indictment. Local LDS leaders would wait "until the court has reached a final judgment," the Handbook says. "In some cases it may also be appropriate to delay disciplinary proceedings until the period of appeal has expired or the appeal has been rejected."

When a Latter-day Saint "is convicted of a crime or found guilty in a civil action for fraud or other dishonest or immoral conduct," it says, "the judgment of the criminal or civil court is a sufficient basis for holding a disciplinary council."

Of course, Swallow and Shurtleff are presumed innocent and may never be convicted. Both have denied wrongdoing and vow they will be cleared.

Peggy Fletcher Stack

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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