I have felt prompted to write about my husband’s excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for over a month now. I have sat down several times, written a few sentences, deleted the post and walked away from the computer in frustration. This is a taboo subject to many within the Church. Members of the Church tend to link excommunication with rebellion against Church doctrine. We forget that an excommunicated member may be sitting right next to us in our meetings and we would have no idea. It is time for me to share. This will be the first post, of several, regarding my husband’s excommunication. Hopefully this story will bring comfort to those in a similar situation.
My husband disclosed his addiction to me on January 7th. Over the next few days the rest of the details of his addiction came out. Everything moved quickly for us. Group and individual therapy sessions, disclosure to the Bishop, disclosure to the Stake President. I can barely remember the first week. I knew from the moment my husband started to tell me about his addiction that he would be excommunicated, it was only a matter of time.
Eighteen days after “D-Day”, January 25th, we found ourselves at the Stake President’s office awaiting his disciplinary council. The timing was terrible. It was the weekend of my dad’s 65th birthday party. I’m not even sure how I got through the party that took place the night before. I was so numb. My sister and sister-in-law flew in for the party and I slapped a mask on when they, and the rest of my family, were looking. When they looked away, tears nearly spilled out. No one knew. Not a soul, except the Bishop, the Stake President and our therapists. I was surrounded by people for several days, yet had never felt so incredibly alone in my entire life. The family wanted to have dinner at my parent’s house on Sunday. Obviously we wouldn’t be able to go and used our daughter’s Baptism Preview as an excuse.
I felt like a storm cloud was hovering over me as I sat in church. I couldn’t look at anyone. It was almost unbearable to be there. It finally ended and we went home. John’s disciplinary council was scheduled for early afternoon, Jill’s Baptism Preview was scheduled right in the middle of it. I went with John to the Stake office. The secretary had us wait. John and I sat awkwardly on the floral couch and took turns holding Jude. We held hands, briefly. When the Stake President called John in I felt my chest constrict. I told myself over and over to breathe, just breathe.
Once I could breathe, I sat on the couch and prayed. I prayed for John. For the members of the High Council. For the Stake Presidency. I prayed for myself and our little family. I sat on the couch as long as I possibly could before leaving to pick Jill up.
Jill and I made it back to her meeting and I couldn’t concentrate on anything her leaders were saying. My thoughts were on the room down the hall where John was confessing to 15 men the most shameful things he had done. I was torn. My daughter was learning about her baptism and the day that she would become a member of the Church, and John was down the hall about to lose his membership in the Church. I was a mess. I couldn’t tell what was up and what was down. What I really wanted to do was run. Run away from there. Run until it didn’t hurt. Run until it made sense. Instead I sat. I sat with Jill and watched the clock. As soon as the prayer was over I grabbed her cupcake and walked as fast as I could out the door. I dropped her back off at home and drove back to the church.
They were almost ready when I arrived. John and I sat on the couch again. Jude was getting tired and fussy. The Stake President came out and called us in. I stood behind John and rocked Jude. I couldn’t look at anybody in the room. I suddenly felt ashamed. Ashamed that I was married to someone that had betrayed me so deeply. Ashamed that they might feel sorry for me.
The feeling was short lived.
I felt warmth grow inside me. It was small at first, but as the meeting went on I felt like it was radiating out of my body and surrounding me, protecting me, comforting me.
The Stake President told us that John was excommunicated.
And just like that, my eternal marriage was no more.
My husband no longer held the Priesthood.
He could no longer bless our children or me.
All of his blessings were gone.
The companionship of the Holy Ghost was gone.
His membership in the Church…
It’s amazing how much can be wrapped up in one little word.
When the meeting was over, the 15 men in the room stood up. I timidly raised my eyes. I expected to see pity in their faces and to have them look away from John and me. Instead, they met my eyes, every one of them, and the only thing I saw in their eyes and on their faces was love. Love filled the room. It wasn’t just love. It was an energetic, tangible, bright, pure love, like nothing I had ever felt before. It was pure, Christlike love.
As they left the room they each took a turn shaking our hands or hugging us. One High Councilman, from our ward, came up to John and hugging him said, “John, I loved you yesterday, and I love you today, if not more.”
Another High Councilman came up to me, took my hand with both of his, looked me square in the eye and with tears streaming down his face said,
“It’s real. The Atonement is REAL! I know it.”
At that moment, I knew it too.
I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Christ had suffered, bleeding from every pore, to atone for John. I knew that He suffered so that He would understand exactly how I felt in that moment. The Atonement is not only there to help John through this repentance process, but it is there to help me with the intolerable pain, sadness and despair I have felt. It is through the Atonement that I was able to feel my Savior’s love. To see my husband, not as the sinner, but as a child of God.
President Kimball said,
“When soiled clothes have been through the laundry and washed, starched and pressed, they are no longer filthy. When the smallpox victim has been healed and cleansed, he is no longer contaminated. … When one is washed and purged and cleansed, he is no longer an adulterer. …
“The effect of the cleansing is beautiful. These troubled souls have found peace. These soiled robes have been cleansed to spotlessness. These people formerly defiled, having been cleansed through their repentance—their washing, their purging, their whitening—are made worthy for constant temple service and to be found before the throne of God associating with divine royalty.”
I believe this. I believe that my husband can be clean, and will be no longer defiled, as long as he works towards it.
John realized that by closing the chapter on his addiction, and disclosing to me and our ecclesiastical leaders, that there was a chance he could lose everything – me, the respect of his children and family members, membership in the church. Yes, John lost his membership in the church. Yes, he was excommunicated. Yes, our eternal marriage is void. But excommunication is not the end. It is only the beginning of a new chapter. A chapter where John can finally break free from the chains of pornography and sexual addiction that have bound him so tightly, for so long. Neither of us know how long this chapter will last, but the pages will keep turning until the beginning of a new chapter is here.