This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2004, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The LDS Church has a clearly defined system of counseling, rehabilitation, and, where needed, disciplinary action meant to "save the souls of transgressors, protect the innocent and safeguard the purity, integrity and good name of the Church,'' according to its official instructions to ecclesiastical leaders. Bishops and stake presidents are directed to convene a 15-man disciplinary council only after a thorough investigation, meetings with the accused and the aggrieved parties and unhurried consideration of the consequences. The accused and church leaders can bring witnesses, after which the stake presidency decides whether to take no action, impose probation, disfellowship (temporarily suspending membership privileges) or excommunicate the offender. Anyone disciplined has a right to appeal within 30 days to a higher council, all the way to the church's governing First Presidency. Rather than simply punish, disciplinary councils, which are confidential, are considered a necessary step in repentance on the way back to full harmony and fellowship. - Peggy Fletcher Stack