Another Blog Post About Excommunication

... I was hesitant to write about excommunication in the Mormon Church because it has been pretty thoroughly discussed recently.
However, the recent purge the church has launched against a few high profile members, has got me thinking about my own excommunication. Mostly I've been thinking about what I said to the bishop who excommunicated me and what I wish I had said.

You know how it is; someone says something to you, catching you off guard, and you respond with something akin to "uuuuhhh". Then you step away from the moment and you suddenly think of all these things you could have, should have, said.

Let me tell you a bit of back story to set the stage. In 1995 I walked away from the church. It was a very painful process and it took a long time for me to heal from that abusive relationship. In March of 2004 Multnomah County, in Portland, issued over 3,000 marriage licences to same sex couples and in answer to this there was a measure placed on the November ballot to add the 'One Man, One Woman' clause to the Oregon constitution. The ballot measure was approved by voters and discrimination was written into the state constitution.

It was during all of this political activity that I received a phone call from the bishop's secretary telling me that the bishop would like to talk with me and would I like to come to his office or would I prefer he come to my home. 

What I said: "uuuhhhh, my home I guess."
What I wish I had said: "My preference is that you all keep to yourself and stop trying to control everyone's life."

The next day I spent a bit of time straightening up the living room to make it comfortable and tidy for the visit from the bishop. At the appointed time there was a knock on my door. I opened the door and there was this man awkwardly standing on my porch. He introduced himself and said I'm bishop so and so. I invited him in but he politely told me that he preferred I come out on the porch to talk with him. I found this a bit strange but then I remember that he's not allowed to come into my home because he's by himself and I'm a single woman etc, etc... 

Okay, whatever, I did just spend 30 minutes cleaning my living room but oh well. I went out on the porch and we sat down. He apologized for not coming in and started to explain the whole by himself, single woman thing to me. I let him finish then I said "...well, that's not really the case; you see, I am a married woman. Suzie and I got married just the other day." His response was something like "...uuuhhh good one". He then proceeded to tell me that because of certain choices I've made... blah blah blah and my obvious intent to live a lifestyle contrary to the churches beliefs... blah blah blah... I'm left with no choice but to excommunicate you from the CoJCoLDS". He pretty much made it clear to me that this was his obligation and not necessarily his pleasure or even something he agreed with.

After a little chit chat about how wonderful my kids were and what a great job I had done as a mother the bishop left and I went inside to enjoy my clean living room. All in all not a bad experience.

Three weeks after my visit from the bishop I heard that he was released and there was a new sheriff in town. I waited months for a letter or some notification of my excommunication but it never came. Apparently the first bishop didn't complete the job so it was left to the new bishop to do it up right because one Saturday I hear a knock on my door. This time when I open the door there are two men asking if I had a moment. (What is it about Mormons just dropping by unannounced). 

I invited them in and this time they did come in. I invited them to sit down in the living room. The bishop asked if we could sit at the dining room table instead. To this day I don't know why that was important unless it was simply so he could have control of the situation. We sat down at the table and he proceeded to tell me they were there to talk with me about my life choices that they found to be contrary to church teachings. I mentioned that another bishop had already done this and I didn't understand why I had to endure this twice. His response indicated that things needed to be done in a particular manner and the other bishop had not followed procedure. 

What felt uncomfortable to me was that my children were home and could hear what their bishop was saying to their mother about her unworthiness. My children were all active in the church at this time and their father was very much a true believing member of the church. It would be an interesting conversation to have with them now, as adults, to see if they were aware of what was happening.

What I did: I just sat and hoped that the kids were not going to know what was going on. 
What I wish I had done: Was stand up and invite them to leave my home and tell them never to come back.

The bishop proceeded to ask me if I felt the need to repent. This kind of took me off guard, it had been a number of years since I had been under the thumb of oppression. I had completely forgotten what it was like to be subject to this type of judgement and abuse. The counselor seemed very uncomfortable while the bishop seemed to be completely enjoying himself.
Calling the bishop by his first name I said "No Craig, I don't feel a need to repent. I have done nothing wrong. My life is good; I am closer to love and goodness than I have ever been at any other time of my life... and I would like to say that even if I did feel a need to repent I would not do so through you. I no longer need a priesthood holder to mediate between me and God."

"... Sister Searle, I have no choice but to proceed with your excommunication from the church." He then told me that the church had recently changed its policies and since I wasn't a priesthood holder there was no need for a formal court. He and his counselors would convene the next day in his office and the matter would be taken care of. I would then receive a letter in the mail with their determination of my standing in the church.

What I said: "Okay."
What I wish I had said: "Craig, my only words of defense are not to claim my innocence, not to profess that my choices and my lifestyle are perfectly healthy and normal (which is all true) rather my words to you are to defend myself from a tyrant church. I have spent the last several years redefining and reconnecting with myself and with love. I have arrived at a place in my life where the church and it's leaders have no control or power over me. I am closer to love and perfection than I've been at any other point in my life. So this thing you are doing, this excommunication, is completely for your own self righteous and evil ends. There is no love in what you are doing here today. There is no love or concern in your actions. I won't judge your motives because I believe you have been manipulated and deceived for so long that you truly believe that what you're doing is good and loving." 

I then saw these two men to the door, shook their hands and sent them on their way. I did talk to my kids about what had happened. I let them know that because I was choosing to live a happy, authentic life and stay with Suzie, whom we all loved and considered to be very much a part of our family, that the bishop was going to proceed with an excommunication. 

The day after the visit from the bishop there was a plate of Christmas cookies on my porch from the counselor and his wife. Maybe this was his way of apologizing for the abuse he had witnessed the day before. Nothing like a good sugar cookie after such a pleasant visit with the Lord's anointed.


  1. Wow. Those Christmas cookies were a nice touch. (blech) Also the bit about switching the venue to the dining room. They are all about control. Actually it's all about them. I'll bet the jerks are fond of talking about how much they love you--and how much they've labored on your behalf. (My wife even baked her cookies.)

    Thanks so much for sharing this. As we watch the very public discipline of Kate and John, it's important to remember that this sort of thing happens all the time to nice people who are just trying to mind their own business.

    1. Thanks for the comment Donna. Yes indeed, it's been ten years since I was excommunicated and 19 years since I left the church. I'm sure glad leaving was my choice and that by the time they got around to giving me the boot I had no belief in what they were doing.

      Yes the sugar cookies were a nice touch. Better than being shunned I suppose. :o)