This is a guest post by Michael Davidson.
Have you ever been tempted to hang out with a group of edgy Mormons, like those who are bitter that the Church places greater value on a woman being a mother and wife rather than a doctor or lawyer? Do you sympathize with folks who have some weird ideas about the Gospel, like those who are calling for female ordination? Do you have a sibling or parent who thinks that the Church perpetrates “an antiquated and unequal model in both the domestic and ecclesiastical realms?” Be careful, you might just be flirting with apostasy.
“But Brother Davidson,” you say, “how can we know whether or not these friends or family members are apostates?” That is an excellent question, and while I don’t know your friends and family personally, hopefully this post will give you a clue as to how to judge a righteous judgment on this regard. Elder Faust, in his October 1993 General Conference address, gives some clear guidelines that you can apply to any situation. He quoted the Handbook of Instructions as saying, “among the activities considered apostate to the Church include when members (1) repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders; (2) persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority; or (3) continue to follow the teachings of apostate cults (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority.” This definition remains in the Handbook today with no alteration.
Elder Faust then expanded on the topic by warning against apostasy. He said “those men and women who persist in publicly challenging basic doctrines, practices, and establishment of the Church sever themselves from the Spirit of the Lord and forfeit their right to place and influence in the Church.” It’s ironic that most of the apostates in the history of the Church tend to want to influence or change the Church, but the act of apostasy strips them of any right to have influence in the Church that they might otherwise have enjoyed. Elder Faust also warned in this talk that “There is a certain arrogance in thinking that any of us may be more spiritually intelligent, more learned, or more righteous than the Councils called to preside over us. Those Councils are more in tune with the Lord than any individual persons they preside over, and the individual members of the Councils are generally guided by those Councils.”
Additionally, did you know that the Handbook says that “a disciplinary counsel must be held when evidence suggests that a member may have committed … apostasy?” According to the Handbook, your bishop and your stake president have no discretion in deciding whether to convene a disciplinary counsel if there is evidence of possible apostasy. They simply must do it. As a result, it is therefore pretty important to be careful to stay on this side of the apostasy line if you don’t want to end up in a disciplinary counsel.