Handbooks and Callings
    32. Repentance and Church Membership Councils
    Footnotes
    Theme

    “32. Repentance and Church Membership Councils,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020).

    “32. Repentance and Church Membership Councils,” General Handbook.

    32.

    Repentance and Church Membership Councils

    32.0

    Introduction

    Most repentance takes place between an individual, God, and those who have been affected by a person’s sins. However, sometimes a bishop or stake president needs to help Church members in their efforts to repent.

    When assisting members with repentance, bishops and stake presidents are loving and caring. They follow the example of the Savior, who lifted individuals and helped them turn away from sin and turn toward God (see Matthew 9:10–13; John 8:3–11).

    As outlined below, this chapter is organized to guide leaders through the key decisions and actions necessary to help someone repent of a serious sin and to help protect others.

    • The Church’s Role in Helping a Person Repent. Sections 32.1–32.4 explain the Lord’s doctrine of repentance and forgiveness. These sections also explain the three purposes of Church membership restrictions or withdrawal. Additionally, they explain the role of bishops and stake presidents in helping with repentance.

    • Determining the Setting for Helping a Person Repent. Sections 32.5–32.7 provide guidelines for deciding if a membership council or personal counseling is the appropriate setting for helping someone repent.

    • Administering Personal Counseling. Section 32.8 provides guidelines for personal counseling by the bishop or stake president. It also explains informal Church membership restrictions.

    • Administering Church Membership Councils. Sections 32.9–32.14 explain who has responsibility for membership councils, how to conduct them, and the possible decisions. The results of those decisions are also explained.

    • Returning Church Membership Privileges. Sections 32.15–32.17 explain how a person can have Church membership privileges restored through repentance.

    Unless otherwise noted, references to stake presidents apply also to mission presidents. References to bishops apply also to branch presidents.


    THE CHURCH’S ROLE IN HELPING A PERSON REPENT


    32.1

    Repentance and Forgiveness

    The Lord said that “no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven” (Alma 11:37; see also 3 Nephi 27:19). Our sins make us unclean—unworthy to dwell in the presence of our Heavenly Father. They also bring us anguish in this life.

    God’s law of justice requires a consequence when we sin (see Alma 42:14, 17–18). However, His great plan of mercy “can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles [us] in the arms of safety” (Alma 34:16; see also Mosiah 15:9).

    To bring about His plan of mercy, Heavenly Father sent His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for our sins (see Alma 42:15). Jesus suffered the penalty that the law of justice requires for our sins (see Doctrine and Covenants 19:15–19; see also Alma 42:24–25). Through this sacrifice, both the Father and the Son showed Their infinite love for us (see John 3:16).

    When we exercise “faith unto repentance,” Heavenly Father forgives us, granting mercy through the Atonement of Jesus Christ (Alma 34:15; see also Alma 42:13). When we are cleansed and forgiven, we can ultimately inherit the kingdom of God (see Isaiah 1:18; Doctrine and Covenants 58:42).

    Repentance is more than changing behavior. It is turning away from sin and toward Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. It leads to a change of heart and mind (see Mosiah 5:2; Alma 5:12–14; Helaman 15:7). Through repentance, we become new persons, reconciled to God (see 2 Corinthians 5:17–18; Mosiah 27:25–26).

    The opportunity to repent is one of the greatest blessings Heavenly Father has given us through the gift of His Son.

    32.2

    Purposes of Church Membership Restrictions or Withdrawal

    When a person is baptized, he or she becomes part of the “household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). The baptismal covenant includes a promise to strive to live according to Christ’s teachings and commandments. When a person falls short, he or she exercises faith in Jesus Christ and repents, relying on His mercy to strengthen and forgive.

    If a member commits a serious sin, the bishop or stake president helps him or her repent. As part of this process, he may need to restrict some Church membership privileges for a time. In some situations, he may need to withdraw a person’s membership for a time.

    Restricting or withdrawing a person’s membership is not intended to punish. Rather, these actions are sometimes necessary to help a person repent and experience a change of heart. They also give a person time to prepare spiritually to renew and keep his or her covenants again.

    The bishop or stake president oversees membership restrictions or withdrawal as outlined in 32.5–32.14. These actions are accompanied by conditions of repentance. As a person sincerely repents, he or she may have the privileges of Church membership restored.

    When membership restrictions or withdrawal is necessary, the bishop or stake president follows the guidance of the Holy Ghost and the instructions in this chapter. He acts in a spirit of love (see 32.3).

    Church membership restrictions are ecclesiastical, not civil or criminal. They affect only a person’s standing in the Church. (See Doctrine and Covenants 134:10.)

    The three purposes of membership restrictions or withdrawal are as follows.

    32.2.1

    Help Protect Others

    The first purpose is to help protect others. Sometimes a person poses a physical or spiritual threat. Predatory behaviors, physical harm, sexual abuse, substance abuse, fraud, and apostasy are some of the ways this can occur. With inspiration, a bishop or stake president acts to protect others when someone poses a threat in these and other serious ways (see Alma 5:59–60).

    32.2.2

    Help a Person Access the Redeeming Power of Jesus Christ through Repentance

    The second purpose is to help a person access the redeeming power of Jesus Christ through repentance. Through this process, he or she may again become clean and worthy to receive all of God’s blessings.

    32.2.3

    Protect the Integrity of the Church

    The third purpose is to protect the integrity of the Church. Restricting or withdrawing a person’s Church membership may be necessary if his or her conduct significantly harms the Church (see Alma 39:11). The integrity of the Church is not protected by concealing or minimizing serious sins—but by addressing them.

    32.3

    The Role of Judges in Israel

    Bishops and stake presidents are called and set apart to be judges in Israel (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:72–74). They hold priesthood keys to represent the Lord in helping Church members repent (see Doctrine and Covenants 13:1; 107:16–18).

    Often bishops and stake presidents assist with repentance through personal counseling. This assistance may include informally restricting some privileges of Church membership for a time. (See 32.8.)

    For some serious sins, leaders assist with repentance by holding a membership council (see 32.6 and 32.9–32.14). This assistance may include formally restricting some privileges of Church membership or withdrawing a person’s membership for a time (see 32.11.3 and 32.11.4).

    Bishops and stake presidents help Church members understand that God loves all His children, regardless of their sins. Because He wants them to be happy and receive blessings, He also cares immensely about their obedience.

    Bishops and stake presidents are loving and caring as they help members repent. The Savior’s interaction with the woman taken in adultery is a guide (see John 8:3–11). Although He did not say her sins were forgiven, He did not condemn her. Instead, He told her to “sin no more”—to repent and change her life.

    These leaders teach that there is “joy … in heaven over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:7). They are patient, supportive, and positive. They inspire hope. They teach and testify that because of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, all can repent and become clean.

    Bishops and stake presidents seek guidance from the Spirit to know how to help each person repent. Only for the most serious sins does the Church have a set standard on what actions its leaders should take (see 32.6 and 32.11). No two situations are the same. The counseling that leaders give and the process of repentance they facilitate must be inspired and may be different for each person.

    The Lord knows each person’s circumstances, capacity, and spiritual maturity. The Holy Ghost will help leaders discern how to help members make the necessary changes so they can heal and resist the temptation to repeat the sin.

    Helping someone repent, turn back to God, and be healed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ is one of the most joyous experiences a person can have. Doctrine and Covenants 18:10–13 explains:

    “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

    “For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.

    “And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.

    “And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!”

    32.4

    Confession, Confidentiality, and Reporting to Government Authorities

    32.4.1

    Confession

    Repentance requires that sins be confessed to Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ said, “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:43; see also Mosiah 26:29).

    When Church members commit serious sins, their repentance also includes confession to their bishop or stake president. He is then able to exercise the keys of the gospel of repentance on their behalf (see Doctrine and Covenants 13:1; 84:26–27; 107:18, 20). This helps them heal and return to the gospel path through the power of the Savior’s Atonement.

    The purpose of confession is to encourage members to unburden themselves so they can fully seek the Lord’s help in changing and healing. Developing a “broken heart and a contrite spirit” is aided by confession (2 Nephi 2:7). Voluntary confession shows that a person desires to repent.

    When a member confesses, the bishop or stake president follows the guidelines for counseling in 32.8. He prayerfully seeks guidance about the appropriate setting for helping the member repent (see 32.5). He considers whether a membership council would be helpful. If Church policy requires a membership council, he explains this (see 32.6 and 32.10).

    Sometimes a member has wronged a spouse or another adult. As part of repentance, he or she should usually confess to that person and seek forgiveness. A youth who commits a serious sin is usually encouraged to counsel with his or her parents.

    32.4.2

    Serious Sins That Are Not Confessed or Are Denied

    A bishop or stake president typically learns about a serious sin through confession or from another person. He may also receive promptings about a potential serious sin through the Holy Ghost. If he feels prompted by the Spirit that someone may be struggling with sin, he may schedule an interview. During the interview, he shares his concerns in a kind, respectful way. He avoids any tone of accusation.

    If a member denies committing a serious sin that the bishop or stake president has information to support, a membership council may still be held. However, a spiritual impression alone is not sufficient to hold a council (see Doctrine and Covenants 10:37). The leader may gather additional information if needed. He follows the guidelines in 32.4.3 and 32.10.2.

    32.4.3

    Gathering Information

    Before holding a membership council, the bishop or stake president gathers as much information as he needs. Information from a member’s confession is often sufficient. Information may also come from a family member, another Church leader, a victim, or a participant in the sin.

    When gathering information, the bishop or stake president should only use methods that are appropriate for a priesthood leader. He should not keep a watch on a person’s home or record him or her without consent. Nor should he use any practices that are against the law.

    False accusations are rare but can occur. Priesthood leaders should be cautious when there is limited information besides one person’s word. For example, a member who is accused of adultery may deny the charge. The scriptures explain that “every word shall be established against him or her by two witnesses of the church” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:80). “Two witnesses” means two separate sources of information. This could include the knowledge of a participant and some other reliable source. At times a priesthood leader may need to wait to act until more information becomes available.

    When a Church leader is gathering information for a membership council, he should immediately stop if he learns that law enforcement is actively investigating the member. This is done to avoid possible claims that the leader may have obstructed justice. For legal advice about these situations in the United States and Canada, the stake president contacts the Church’s Office of General Counsel:

    1-800-453-3860, extension 2-6301

    1-801-240-6301

    Outside the United States and Canada, the stake president contacts the area legal counsel at the area office.

    Normally a membership council is not held to consider conduct being examined by a civil or criminal trial court until the court has reached a final judgment. In some cases it may also be appropriate to delay a membership council until the period of legal appeal has expired or the appeal has been rejected.

    32.4.4

    Confidentiality

    Bishops, stake presidents, and their counselors have a sacred duty to protect all confidential information shared with them. This information may come in interviews, counseling, and confessions. The same duty of confidentiality applies to all who take part in membership councils. Confidentiality is essential because members may not confess sins or seek guidance if what they share will not be kept confidential. Breaching a confidence betrays members’ trust and causes them to lose confidence in their leaders.

    Consistent with their duty of confidentiality, a bishop, stake president, or their counselors may share such information only as follows:

    • They need to confer with the member’s stake president, mission president, or bishop about holding a membership council or related matters. The stake president may also confer with his assigned Area Seventy. If needed, the Area Seventy refers the stake president to the Area Presidency. Only the stake president decides if a council should be held or its outcome.

    • The person moves to a new ward (or the priesthood leader is released) while membership action or other serious concerns are pending. In these cases, the leader notifies the new bishop or stake president about the concerns or pending action (see 32.14.7). He also informs the leader if the member may pose a threat to others.

    • A bishop or stake president learns that a Church member who lives outside the ward or stake may have been involved in a serious sin. In that instance, he confidentially contacts that member’s bishop.

    • It is necessary to disclose information during a membership council. All information gathered and shared as part of a membership council is confidential.

    • A member chooses to give permission for the leader to share information with specific persons. These may include parents, Church leaders, or others who may provide support. The leader does not share information beyond the permission the member has given.

    • It may be necessary to share limited information about the decision of a membership council (see 32.12.2).

    In all other situations, the leader should refer to 32.4.5. These cases include when the law may require that a crime, such as child abuse, be reported to government authorities.

    To assist leaders in protecting others and complying with the law, the Church provides help from trained professionals. To receive this guidance, leaders promptly call the Church’s abuse help line where it is available (see 32.4.5; 38.6.2.1). Where it is not available, the stake president contacts the area legal counsel at the area office.

    In only one situation should a bishop or stake president disclose confidential information without first seeking such guidance. That is when disclosure is necessary to prevent life-threatening harm or serious injury and there is not time to seek guidance. In such cases, the duty to protect others is more important than the duty of confidentiality. Leaders should contact civil authorities immediately.

    If leaders keep notes or communicate with each other electronically, they safeguard access to this information. They also delete or destroy the information when they no longer need it. They do not unnecessarily share personal information.

    Civil authorities might challenge the confidentiality required of a priesthood leader. If this occurs in the United States and Canada, the stake president seeks legal advice from the Church’s Office of General Counsel:

    1-800-453-3860, extension 2-6301

    1-801-240-6301

    Outside the United States and Canada, the stake president contacts the area legal counsel at the area office.

    32.4.5

    Reporting to Government Authorities

    Repentance of some sins requires a person to report to government authorities if he or she has broken a civil law. Bishops and stake presidents encourage members to follow the law and report such matters. They also counsel members to obtain competent legal advice when reporting. The Church’s policy is to obey the law.

    In many places, priesthood leaders are required by law to report some illegal behaviors of which they become aware. For example, some states and countries require that child abuse be reported to law enforcement authorities.

    In some countries, the Church has established a confidential abuse help line to assist bishops and stake presidents. These leaders should promptly call the help line about every situation in which a person may have been abused—or is at risk of being abused (see 38.6.2.1). It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    In countries that do not have a help line, a bishop who learns of abuse should contact his stake president. He will seek guidance from the area legal counsel at the area office.

    For more information about reporting abuse, see 38.6.2.1 and 38.6.2.7.


    DETERMINING THE SETTING FOR HELPING A PERSON REPENT


    32.5

    Settings for Helping a Person Repent

    After becoming aware that a member has committed a serious sin, a bishop or stake president takes steps to protect others. He also seeks the guidance of the Holy Ghost in determining the setting for helping the person repent and draw closer to the Savior.

    32.5.1

    Overview of the Settings

    The following table lists three settings for helping a person repent. It also summarizes some of the considerations for leaders when deciding which setting to use.

    Settings for Helping a Person Repent

    Setting

    Some Considerations (see also 32.7)

    Setting

    Stake Membership Council

    Some Considerations (see also 32.7)

    • For members who have received the temple endowment.

    • Is required if a man or woman who has been endowed will likely have his or her Church membership withdrawn for any of the serious sins or actions addressed in 32.6.1, 32.6.2, or 32.6.3.

    Setting

    Ward Membership Council

    Some Considerations (see also 32.7)

    • For any member.

    • Is required for the serious sins addressed in 32.6.1.

    • May be necessary for the serious sins and actions addressed in 32.6.2 and 32.6.3.

    • Is insufficient if a man or woman who has been endowed will likely have his or her Church membership withdrawn for any of the serious sins or actions addressed in 32.6.1, 32.6.2, or 32.6.3.

    Setting

    Personal Counseling (see 32.8)

    Some Considerations (see also 32.7)

    • For any member.

    • May include informal Church membership restrictions.

    • May be insufficient for serious sins or actions for which a membership council would be helpful in the repentance process (see 32.6.2; 32.6.3).

    • Is insufficient for serious sins that require a membership council (see 32.6.1).

    • Is insufficient if a man or woman who has been endowed will likely have his or her Church membership withdrawn for any of the serious sins or actions addressed in 32.6.1, 32.6.2, or 32.6.3.

    Personal counseling and informal restrictions by the bishop or stake president are sometimes not sufficient to help a person repent of serious sins. The Lord has provided membership councils to assist a judge in Israel in these situations. (See Exodus 18:12–27; Mosiah 26:29–36; Doctrine and Covenants 42:80–83102.) For some serious sins, a council is required by Church policy (see 32.6.1). Violating temple covenants increases the likelihood of a membership council being necessary (see 32.7.4).

    In a ward, the bishop’s counselors assist in membership councils. In a stake, the stake president’s counselors assist. In some stake membership councils, the high council also participates (see 32.9.2). In a membership council, the bishopric or stake presidency meets with the person in a spirit of love.

    32.5.2

    Determining the Setting and Timing

    When deciding which of these settings would best help a person repent, leaders seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost. They also consider the following factors:

    • The severity of the sin and Church policy about whether a council is required (see 32.6)

    • The person’s circumstances (see 32.7)

    A bishop counsels with the stake president about specific situations. He must receive approval from the stake president before holding a membership council.

    On difficult matters, the stake president may seek counsel from his assigned Area Seventy. The stake president must counsel with the Area Presidency on the matters outlined in 32.6.3. However, only the stake president decides if a council should be held to address the conduct. If a council is held, the stake president or bishop decides the outcome.

    If a bishop or stake president determines that personal counseling is sufficient, he follows the guidelines in 32.8. If he determines that a membership council is needed, or if Church policy requires a council, the one who conducts it follows the procedures in 32.9–32.14.

    Before holding the council, the bishop or stake president may determine that informal membership restrictions would be best for a time. He holds the council when it would best encourage the member’s sincere repentance. However, he should not delay a council if it is necessary to protect others.

    32.6

    Severity of the Sin and Church Policy

    The severity of a sin is an important consideration in determining the setting that will (1) help protect others and (2) help a person repent. The Lord has said that He “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:31; see also Mosiah 26:29). His servants must not ignore evidence of serious sin.

    Serious sins are a deliberate and major offense against the laws of God. Categories of serious sins are listed below.

    The following sections describe when a membership council is required, when it may be necessary, and when it is not necessary.

    32.6.1

    When a Membership Council Is Required

    The bishop or stake president must hold a membership council when information indicates that a member may have committed any of the sins described in this section. For these sins, a council is required regardless of a member’s level of spiritual maturity and gospel understanding.

    See 32.11 for potential outcomes of councils that are convened for the sins listed in this section. Informal membership restrictions are not an option for these councils.

    32.6.1.1

    Violent Acts and Abuse

    Murder. A membership council is required if a member murders someone. As used here, murder is the deliberate, unjustified taking of human life. Withdrawing a person’s Church membership is required.

    Murder does not include police or military acts in the line of duty. Abortion is not defined as murder in this context. If death was caused by accident or by defense of self or others, the taking of a human life might not be defined as murder. This may also be true in other situations, such as when a person has limited mental capacity.

    Rape. A membership council is required for rape. As used here, rape is forced sexual intercourse or intercourse with someone who cannot legally give consent due to diminished mental or physical capacity. As used here, rape does not include consensual sexual intercourse between two minors who are close in age.

    Sexual Assault Conviction. A membership council is required if a member is convicted of sexual assault.

    Child or Youth Abuse. A membership council is required if a person abuses a child or youth as explained in 38.6.2.3.

    Abuse of a Spouse or Another Adult. There is a spectrum of severity in abusive behavior. See 38.6.2.4 for when a membership council is required for abuse of a spouse or another adult.

    Violent Predatory Behavior. A membership council is required if an adult repeatedly harms people physically through violent behavior and is a threat to others.

    32.6.1.2

    Sexual Immorality

    Incest. A membership council is required for incest as defined in 38.6.8. Withdrawing a person’s Church membership is almost always required.

    Child Pornography. A membership council is required if a person is involved in child pornography as outlined in 38.6.6.

    Plural Marriage. A membership council is required if a person knowingly enters into a plural marriage. Some plural marriages may occur in secret, with a spouse not knowing about one or more other spouses. Withdrawing a person’s Church membership is required if a person knowingly enters into plural marriage.

    Sexual Predatory Behavior. A membership council is required if an adult repeatedly harms people sexually and is a threat to others.

    32.6.1.3

    Fraudulent Acts

    Financial Predatory Behavior. A membership council is required if an adult has a history of deliberately and repeatedly harming people financially and is a threat to others (see 38.6.2.4). This includes investment fraud and similar activities. Unintended financial losses due to economic conditions are not considered fraudulent. If litigation is involved, priesthood leaders may decide to wait until the outcome is final.

    32.6.1.4

    Violations of Trust

    Serious Sin While Holding a Prominent Church Position. A membership council is required if a member commits a serious sin while holding a prominent position. These include a General Authority, General Church Officer, Area Seventy, temple president or matron, mission president or his companion, stake president, patriarch, or bishop. This does not apply to branch presidents. However, a branch president’s Church membership privileges can be restricted or withdrawn the same as for other members.

    32.6.1.5

    Some Other Acts

    Felony Conviction. A membership council is required in most cases when a person is convicted of a felony.

    32.6.2

    When a Membership Council May Be Necessary

    A membership council may be necessary in the following instances.

    32.6.2.1

    Violent Acts and Abuse

    The Lord commanded, “Thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:6; italics added). Violent acts and abuse for which a membership council may be necessary include (but are not limited to) those listed below.

    Attempted Murder. Deliberately trying to kill someone.

    Sexual Abuse, Including Assault and Harassment. Sexual abuse covers a broad range of actions (see 38.6.15). A membership council may be necessary for a person who has sexually assaulted or abused someone. See 38.6.15 for when a council is required.

    Abuse of a Spouse or Another Adult. There is a spectrum of severity in abusive behavior (see 38.6.2.4). A membership council may be necessary for a person who has abused a spouse or another adult. See 38.6.2.4 for when a council is required.

    32.6.2.2

    Sexual Immorality

    The Lord’s law of chastity is abstinence from sexual relations outside of a marriage between a man and a woman according to God’s law (see Exodus 20:14; Doctrine and Covenants 63:16). A membership council may be necessary for sexual immorality as described in 38.6.5. See 32.6.1.2 for when a council is required.

    32.6.2.3

    Fraudulent Acts

    The Ten Commandments teach, “Thou shalt not steal” or “bear false witness” (Exodus 20:15–16). A membership council may be necessary for acts such as robbery, burglary, theft, embezzlement, and perjury. See 32.6.1.3 for when a council is required for fraudulent acts.

    32.6.2.4

    Violations of Trust

    A membership council may be necessary if a member:

    • Commits a serious sin while holding a position of authority or trust in the Church or the community.

    • Commits a serious sin that is widely known.

    See 32.6.1.4 for when a council is required.

    32.6.2.5

    Some Other Acts

    King Benjamin taught, “I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them” (Mosiah 4:29). A council may be necessary if a person:

    • Shows a pattern of committing serious sins (see Doctrine and Covenants 82:7).

    • Deliberately abandons family responsibilities, including nonpayment of child support and alimony.

    • Sells illegal drugs.

    • Commits other serious criminal acts.

    A membership council may be necessary if a member submits to, performs, arranges for, pays for, or encourages an abortion. See38.6.1 for guidelines.

    When a Membership Council Is Required or May Be Necessary

    Type of Sin

    Membership Council Is Required (see 32.6.1)

    Membership Council May Be Necessary (see 32.6.2)

    Type of Sin

    Violent Acts and Abuse

    Membership Council Is Required (see 32.6.1)

    • Murder

    • Rape

    • Sexual assault conviction

    • Child or youth abuse

    • Violent predatory behavior

    Membership Council May Be Necessary (see 32.6.2)

    • Attempted murder

    • Sexual abuse, including assault and harassment (see 38.6.15 for when a council is required)

    • Abuse of a spouse or another adult (see 38.6.2.4 for when a council is required)

    Type of Sin

    Sexual Immorality

    Membership Council Is Required (see 32.6.1)

    • Incest

    • Child pornography

    • Plural marriage

    • Sexual predatory behavior

    Membership Council May Be Necessary (see 32.6.2)

    • Adultery, fornication, and same-sex relations

    • Cohabitation, civil unions and partnerships, and same-sex marriage

    • Intensive or compulsive use of pornography that has caused significant harm to a member’s marriage or family

    Type of Sin

    Fraudulent Acts

    Membership Council Is Required (see 32.6.1)

    • Financial predatory behavior, such as fraud and similar activities

    Membership Council May Be Necessary (see 32.6.2)

    • Robbery, burglary, theft, or embezzlement

    • Perjury

    Type of Sin

    Violations of Trust

    Membership Council Is Required (see 32.6.1)

    • Serious sin while holding a prominent Church position

    Membership Council May Be Necessary (see 32.6.2)

    • Serious sin while holding a position of authority or trust in the Church or the community

    • Serious sin that is widely known

    Type of Sin

    Some Other Acts

    Membership Council Is Required (see 32.6.1)

    • Most felony convictions

    Membership Council May Be Necessary (see 32.6.2)

    • Abortion

    • Pattern of serious sins

    • Deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, including nonpayment of child support and alimony

    • Sale of illegal drugs

    • Other serious criminal acts

    32.6.3

    When the Stake President Counsels with the Area Presidency about Whether a Membership Council or Other Action Is Necessary

    Some matters require extra sensitivity and guidance. To know how to best help, the stake president must counsel with the Area Presidency about the situations in this section. However, only the stake president decides if a council should be held to address the conduct. If a council is held, the stake president or bishop decides the outcome.

    If a membership council is held for one of the matters outlined in this section, the decision of the council must be “remains in good standing,” “formal membership restrictions,” or “withdrawal of membership.” First Presidency approval is required to remove formal restrictions or readmit the person into the Church (see 32.16.1, number 9).

    32.6.3.1

    Other Action

    If a membership council is not held, other action could include:

    • Informal membership restrictions (see 32.8.3).

    • Membership record annotation (see 32.14.5).

    • Ordinance restrictions, which restrict a person from receiving or exercising the priesthood or receiving or using a temple recommend.

    A stake president counsels with the Area Presidency before one of these actions is taken.

    32.6.3.2

    Apostasy

    Issues of apostasy often have an impact beyond the boundaries of a ward or stake. They need to be addressed promptly to protect others.

    The bishop counsels with the stake president if he feels that a member’s action may constitute apostasy. The bishop or stake president may place informal membership restrictions on the member (see 32.8.3). The stake president promptly counsels with the Area Presidency. However, only the stake president decides whether a membership council or other action is necessary.

    As used here, apostasy refers to a member engaging in any of the following:

    • Repeatedly acting in clear and deliberate public opposition to the Church, its doctrine, its policies, or its leaders

    • Persisting in teaching as Church doctrine what is not Church doctrine after being corrected by the bishop or stake president

    • Showing a pattern of intentionally working to weaken the faith and activity of Church members

    • Continuing to follow the teachings of apostate sects after being corrected by the bishop or stake president

    • Formally joining another church and promoting its teachings (Total inactivity in the Church or attending another church does not by itself constitute apostasy. However, if a member formally joins another church and advocates its teachings, withdrawing his or her membership may be necessary.)

    The Savior taught the Nephites that they should continue to minister to a person who has sinned. “But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people” (3 Nephi 18:31).

    32.6.3.3

    Embezzling Church Funds

    If a person embezzles Church funds or steals valuable Church property, the stake president counsels with the Area Presidency about whether a membership council or other action may be necessary. Leaders consider:

    • The amount embezzled or stolen.

    • Whether repayment has occurred.

    • The person’s level of remorse.

    Generally, if a Church member embezzles Church funds or steals valuable Church property, his or her membership record will be annotated. When repentance is complete, a stake president may request removal of the annotation (see 32.14.5).

    32.6.3.4

    Transgender Individuals

    Bishops and stake presidents working with persons who identify as transgender should follow the guidelines in 38.6.21.

    32.6.4

    When a Membership Council Is Not Normally Necessary

    A membership council is not normally necessary in the following instances.

    32.6.4.1

    Failure to Comply with Some Church Standards

    A membership council is not held for the actions listed below. However, note the exception in the last item.

    • Inactivity in the Church

    • Not fulfilling Church duties

    • Not paying tithing

    • Sins of omission

    • Masturbation

    • Not complying with the Word of Wisdom

    • Using pornography, except for child pornography (as outlined in 38.6.6) or intensive or compulsive use of pornography that has caused significant harm to a member’s marriage or family (as outlined in 38.6.11). Some guidelines for counseling those using pornography are provided in 32.8.2.

    32.6.4.2

    Business Failures or Nonpayment of Debts

    Leaders should not use membership councils to settle business disputes. Business failures and nonpayment of debts are not reasons to hold a membership council. However, a council must be held for serious fraudulent activities or other serious deceptive financial practices (see 32.6.1.3).

    32.6.4.3

    Civil Disputes

    Membership councils are not held to resolve civil disputes (see Doctrine and Covenants 134:11).

    32.7

    Circumstances of the Person

    The Lord said, “Mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me” (3 Nephi 9:14). A person’s circumstances are an important consideration in determining:

    • The appropriate setting for helping him or her repent of serious sins (see 32.5 and 32.6).

    • The decisions made in personal counseling or membership councils (see 32.8 and 32.11).

    Bishops and stake presidents seek the mind and will of the Lord for each situation. They consider the following factors in determining which setting to use and what the outcome will be. These factors do not dictate a particular decision. Rather, they are aids to a decision that leaders must make prayerfully and as guided by the Spirit.

    32.7.1

    Magnitude of the Sin

    The seriousness of a sin is measured by its magnitude. This may include the number and frequency of sins committed, the severity of the harm resulting from them, and the number of people hurt by them.

    32.7.2

    Interests of the Victim

    Leaders consider the interests of victims and others. These may include a person’s spouse and other family members. Leaders also consider the severity of the harm.

    32.7.3

    Evidence of Repentance

    Spiritual guidance is needed to discern whether a person has sincerely repented. Such repentance is shown more reliably by righteous actions over time rather than by intense sorrow during a single interview. Factors to consider include:

    • Strength of faith in Jesus Christ.

    • The nature of the confession.

    • The depth of sorrow for the sin.

    • Restitution to injured persons.

    • Compliance with legal requirements.

    • Success in forsaking the sin.

    • Faithfulness in obeying the commandments since the sin.

    • Honesty with Church leaders and others.

    • Willingness to follow the counsel of Church leaders.

    32.7.4

    Violation of Temple Covenants

    The Lord declared, “For of him unto whom much is given much is required” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:3). A person who has received the temple endowment has made covenants to live a higher standard. Violating these covenants magnifies the seriousness of the sin. It increases the likelihood of a membership council being necessary.

    32.7.5

    Position of Trust or Authority

    The seriousness of a sin is magnified if a person committed it while in a position of trust or authority, such as a parent, leader, or teacher.

    32.7.6

    Repetition

    A pattern of repeating the same serious sin may indicate deeply rooted behavior or addiction that impedes progress toward true repentance. In addition to membership restrictions that may be necessary, addiction recovery programs and professional counseling may be helpful (see 32.8.2).

    32.7.7

    Age, Maturity, and Experience

    Leaders consider age, maturity, and experience when counseling a member or deciding the outcome of a membership council. Leniency is often appropriate for those who are immature in the gospel. For example, leniency may be appropriate for young members who engage in immoral conduct if they forsake the sin and show sincere repentance. However, more serious action may be needed if they persist in the conduct.

    32.7.8

    Mental Capacity

    Mental illness, addiction, or limited mental capacity does not excuse a person who has committed a serious sin. However, these are factors to consider. As part of helping a person repent, leaders seek the Lord’s guidance about the person’s understanding of gospel principles and level of accountability.

    32.7.9

    Voluntary Confession

    A voluntary confession and godly sorrow for one’s actions show a desire to repent.

    32.7.10

    Time between Sin and Confession

    Confession is part of repentance and should not be procrastinated. Sometimes a sin is followed by a long period of restitution and faithful living. If a member confesses a sin and has not repeated it, that can show that he or she has forsaken it. In that instance, confession may complete rather than start the process of repentance.


    ADMINISTERING PERSONAL COUNSELING


    32.8

    Personal Counseling and Informal Membership Restrictions

    Personal counseling is often sufficient to help protect others and help a person access the redeeming power of Jesus Christ’s Atonement through repentance. Such counseling can also help members guard against more serious sins. In personal counseling, leaders can also give informal membership restrictions to help a member repent of some serious sins (see 32.8.3).

    Serious sins should not be treated lightly (see Doctrine and Covenants 1:31). Violating temple covenants increases the likelihood of a membership council being necessary (see 32.7.4).

    Guidelines to help leaders know when counseling and informal restrictions may be sufficient are listed below (see also 32.7):

    • A person has not committed a sin that would require a membership council (see 32.6.1).

    • A person has confessed voluntarily and is genuinely repentant.

    • A person is repenting of a serious sin that he or she has not committed before.

    • A person’s sin has not violated temple covenants.

    • A person has significant mitigating circumstances.

    32.8.1

    Personal Counseling

    The following guidelines apply when a bishop or stake president is counseling a member to help him or her repent.

    • Ask for only enough information to determine (1) the member’s attitude toward the sinful behavior and (2) the nature, frequency, and duration of the behavior. Do not ask for details beyond what is necessary to understand the situation. Do not ask questions that arise from personal curiosity.

    • Ask how the conduct has affected others.

    • Focus on positive conditions that deepen the member’s conversion and commitment to the Lord. Encourage the member to take specific actions to bring about the change of behavior and change of heart to repent. Invite him or her to draw close to the Savior, seeking His strength and to feel of His redeeming love.

    • Encourage uplifting activities such as praying, studying the scriptures, and attending Church meetings. Teach that family history and temple work can reduce the influence of the adversary. Encourage serving others and sharing the gospel.

    • Encourage making restitution to those harmed by sins and asking for forgiveness

    • Encourage turning away from bad influences. Help members take preventive action to resist specific temptations.

    • Recognize that you are an ecclesiastical leader, not a professional counselor. In addition to the counseling you provide, some members would benefit from behavioral counseling. Some suffer from mental illness. As needed, counsel members to seek help from qualified medical and mental health professionals.

    • Be prayerful and seek guidance from the Spirit before giving informal membership restrictions. Some members may benefit from exercising the privileges of Church membership more actively rather than having them restricted.

    • Follow up to give encouragement, fortify spiritual strength, and monitor progress.

    After a member has confessed to a bishop or stake president, follow-up counseling may occur in several ways. The leader himself can provide it. Or, with the member’s permission, he may assign one of his counselors to provide it.

    With the member’s consent, a bishop or stake president may assign members of the elders quorum or Relief Society to assist in specific ways. For youth, he may assign the Young Women presidency or Aaronic Priesthood quorum advisers to assist. Those who are assigned to assist are entitled to inspiration to fulfill that assignment (see 4.2.6).

    When assigning someone to assist with follow-up counseling, the leader gives only enough information necessary to help the member. The assigned person must maintain confidentiality. He or she also informs the bishop of the member’s progress and needs.

    32.8.2

    Helping People with Addictions

    Personal counseling sometimes involves helping members repent of sins related to or caused by addictions. These addictions may include substances or a wide range of behaviors. Addictions harm individuals, marriages, and families. Bishops may counsel members to seek help from Church addiction recovery programs and from qualified medical and mental health professionals.

    An increasingly common addiction is pornography use. Whether an addiction or an occasional behavior, pornography use of any kind is harmful. Using it drives away the Spirit. It weakens the ability to draw on power that comes from keeping covenants. It also harms precious relationships.

    Personal counseling and informal membership restrictions are usually sufficient for helping a person repent of using pornography. Membership councils are not usually held. For exceptions, see 38.6.6 and 38.6.11. Professional counseling may be helpful.

    Stake presidents and bishops support family members as needed. Parents could be included when counseling youth about pornography use. The spouse may be included when counseling a married person.

    For more information about counseling members who are involved with pornography, see 38.6.11.

    32.8.3

    Informal Membership Restrictions

    In addition to encouraging positive actions when counseling, a bishop or stake president may informally restrict some Church membership privileges for a time. Wisely administered, these restrictions can help with repentance and spiritual progress. They are considered informal because they are not noted on a membership record.

    Informal restrictions may last a few weeks, several months, or longer if necessary for the person to repent fully. In unusual circumstances, the time could be longer than one year.

    Leaders seek the guidance of the Spirit about which restrictions would best help a person repent. These could include (but are not limited to) suspending the privilege of serving in a Church calling, exercising the priesthood, or entering a temple. The leader could also restrict the person from giving a talk, lesson, or prayer in Church settings. If the leader suspends the right to enter a temple, he cancels the temple recommend in the Leader and Clerk Resources system.

    Partaking of the sacrament is an important part of repentance. It should not be the first restriction given to a repentant person who has a broken heart and contrite spirit. However, if a person has committed serious sins, a leader may suspend this privilege for a time.

    Leaders normally do not tell anyone else about informal restrictions unless there is a need to know (see 32.12.2).

    The bishop or stake president may remove informal restrictions as guided by the Spirit when the person makes specified progress in genuine repentance. If the member continues in the pattern of sin, it may be helpful or necessary to hold a membership council.


    ADMINISTERING CHURCH MEMBERSHIP COUNCILS


    Church membership councils are held when the bishop or stake president determines that they would be helpful or when they are required by Church policy (see 32.6). They are held at the ward, stake, branch, district, or mission level. This section provides information about how to administer them.

    32.9

    Participation and Responsibility

    The following table shows who normally participates in membership councils.

    Participants in Membership Councils

    Ward Membership Council

    Participants in Membership Councils

    • The person for whom the council is being held

    • Bishop and his counselors

    • Ward clerk

    • Elders quorum or Relief Society president (optional; see 32.10.1)

    Stake Membership Council

    Participants in Membership Councils

    • The person for whom the council is being held

    • Stake president and his counselors

    • Stake clerk

    • High councilors (in limited situations as explained in 32.9.2)

    • Bishop of the person for whom the council is being held (optional; see 32.9.3)

    • Elders quorum or Relief Society president (optional; see 32.10.1)

    32.9.1

    Stake President

    The stake president:

    • Has authority over membership councils in the stake; however, most of these councils are held by bishops.

    • Must give approval before a bishop may hold a membership council.

    • Holds a stake membership council if a man or woman who has received the temple endowment will likely have his or her Church membership withdrawn.

    • May hold a council if a member appeals the decision of a ward membership council.

    • Must give approval before a ward membership council’s recommendation to withdraw an unendowed person’s membership is final.

    32.9.2

    High Council

    Members of the high council do not normally participate in stake membership councils. However, the high council may participate in difficult situations (see Doctrine and Covenants 102:2). For example, the stake presidency may invite the high council to participate when:

    • There are contested facts.

    • They would add value and balance.

    • The member requests their participation.

    • A member of the stake presidency or his family is involved (see 32.9.7).

    32.9.3

    Bishop (or Branch President in a Stake)

    The bishop:

    • Has authority over ward membership councils.

    • Confers with the stake president and obtains his approval before holding a council.

    • May not hold a council if a man or woman who has received the temple endowment will likely have his or her Church membership withdrawn. A stake membership council must be held in those situations.

    • May be invited to attend a stake membership council for a ward member whose membership is being reviewed. His attendance must be approved by the stake president and the person.

    A ward or branch membership council may recommend withdrawing a person’s Church membership if he or she has not been endowed. However, the stake president’s approval is required before the decision is final.

    Sometimes a ward membership council is held for an endowed member and the proceedings reveal that the member will likely have his or her membership withdrawn. In these situations, the bishop refers the matter to the stake president.

    32.9.4

    Mission President

    The mission president:

    • Has authority over membership councils in mission branches and districts.

    • Must give approval before a district or branch president may hold a membership council.

    • Holds a membership council if a man or woman who has received the temple endowment will likely have his or her Church membership withdrawn. If time or distance prevents this, he may assign one of his counselors to preside over the council. He appoints two other Melchizedek Priesthood holders to participate.

    • Where possible, holds membership councils for those who have not been endowed. If time or distance prevents this, he may authorize three Melchizedek Priesthood holders to hold it. In this case, the member’s district president or branch president normally conducts the council.

    • May hold a council if a member appeals the decision of a district or branch membership council.

    • With approval of a General Authority from the Missionary Department, holds a membership council if a missionary commits a serious sin in the mission field (see 32.9.8). He also reviews the matter with a member of the Area Presidency and counsels with the stake president of the missionary’s home stake.

    • Must give approval before a branch or district membership council’s recommendation to withdraw an unendowed person’s membership is final.

    If a missionary confesses a serious sin that he or she committed before serving a mission, the mission president contacts his in-field representative in the Missionary Department for direction.

    When a mission president holds a membership council, he appoints two Melchizedek Priesthood holders to assist him. Only in unusual circumstances should he appoint young missionaries to assist. He follows the same procedures as in a stake membership council (see 32.10). However, a high council or district council does not participate.

    32.9.5

    District or Branch President in a Mission

    A district or branch president in a mission may hold a membership council when authorized by the mission president. The district council does not participate.

    A district or branch membership council may recommend withdrawing a person’s Church membership if he or she has not received the temple endowment. However, the mission president’s approval is required before the decision is final.

    32.9.6

    Stake or Ward Clerk

    The stake or ward clerk:

    • Keeps written notes of the council only for as long as is necessary to submit the Report of Church Membership Council form.

    • Prepares the form if asked by the leader who conducted the council.

    • Does not participate in the discussion or decision in the council.

    32.9.7

    Participation in Unusual Circumstances

    If a membership council is being held for a family member of the bishop or one of his counselors, it is held at the stake level. If it is being held for a family member of one of the stake president’s counselors, the stake president assigns another high priest to take the counselor’s place. If a council is being held for a family member of the stake president, he consults with the Office of the First Presidency.

    If a member objects to the participation of the bishop or his counselors, the membership council is held at the stake level. If a member objects to the participation of one of the stake president’s counselors, the stake president assigns another high priest to take the counselor’s place. If the member objects to the participation of the stake president, or if the stake president feels that he cannot be impartial, he consults with the Office of the First Presidency.

    32.9.8

    Determining Which Leader Holds a Council in Special Circumstances

    Membership councils are almost always held in the geographical Church unit that has the person’s membership record.

    Sometimes a membership council is necessary for a person who moves. If the move is within the same stake, the stake president confers with the bishops of both wards and decides where it should take place.

    If the member moves outside the stake, the stake presidents of both stakes confer and decide where the council should take place. If they decide that it should be held in the former ward or stake, the membership record is retained in that ward until the council is complete. Otherwise, the record is transferred to the new ward. The bishop or stake president confidentially informs the member’s current bishop or stake president about why a council is needed.

    Sometimes a membership council is necessary for a member who is living away from home temporarily. For example, a council may be needed for a student or a member in the military. The bishop where the member temporarily lives can provide counsel and support. However, he should not hold a membership council unless the membership record is in his unit and he has counseled with the bishop of the home ward.

    Sometimes a missionary commits a serious sin in the mission field that is not revealed until after he or she is released. The bishop and stake president confer about which of them should hold the membership council. One of them confers with the former mission president before holding it.

    32.10

    Procedures for Membership Councils

    32.10.1

    Give Notice and Prepare for the Council

    The bishop or stake president gives a member written notice of a membership council that will be held in his or her behalf. He signs the letter. It includes the following information:

    “The [bishopric or stake presidency] is holding a membership council in your behalf. The council will be held on [date and time] at [place].

    “This council will consider [summarize the misconduct in general terms, but do not give details or evidence].

    “You are invited to attend the council to give your response. You may provide written statements from persons who could provide relevant information. You may invite such persons to speak to the council in your behalf if approved in advance by the stake president or bishop. You may also invite [the ward Relief Society president or the elders quorum president] to be present and provide support.

    “Anyone who attends must be willing to comply with the respectful nature of the council, including its procedures and confidentiality. Legal counsel and supporters beyond those referred to above may not be present.”

    A final paragraph could include an expression of love, hope, and concern.

    Guidelines about whom the person may invite to speak to the council are provided in 32.10.3, number 4.

    If the letter cannot be delivered in person, it may be sent by registered or certified mail, with a return receipt requested.

    The bishop or stake president schedules a membership council at a time that is convenient for the person. He also ensures that there has been time to obtain statements from victims of the misconduct if they desire to provide them (see 32.10.2).

    The bishop or stake president prepares the member for the council by explaining its purpose and procedures. He also explains the decisions the council may reach and their results. If a member has confessed, the leader explains that the confession will need to be used in the membership council.

    32.10.2

    Obtain Statements from Victims

    When a Church member is a victim (such as for incest, child abuse, spouse abuse, or fraud), the bishop or stake president contacts that person’s current bishop or stake president. These leaders determine whether it would be helpful to give the victim an opportunity to provide a written statement about the misconduct and its effects. These statements may be read in a membership council (see 32.10.3, number 3). Church leaders do not have authority to initiate contact with victims who are not members of the Church.

    Any meeting with a victim for this purpose is held by his or her current bishop or stake president. If a victim provides a statement, this leader gives it to the bishop or stake president who holds the membership council. Leaders must take great care to avoid further trauma.

    Any inquiry about a victim who is under 18 is made through the child’s parents or legal guardians, unless doing so could put the victim at risk.

    For information about bishops and stake presidents receiving guidance in cases of abuse, see 32.4.5 and 38.6.2.1.

    32.10.3

    Conduct the Council

    Immediately before the council begins, the bishop or stake president tells the participants whom the council is for and what the reported misconduct is. If necessary, he explains the procedures of the council.

    The person, if present, is then welcomed into the room. If the bishop has been invited to attend a stake membership council, he is also invited into the room at this time. If the person invited the ward Relief Society president or the elders quorum president to be present and provide support, she or he is also welcomed into the room.

    The bishop or stake president conducts the council in a spirit of love, as outlined below.

    1. He invites someone to offer an opening prayer.

    2. He states the reported misconduct. He gives the person (if present) an opportunity to confirm, deny, or clarify this statement.

    3. If the member confirms the misconduct, the bishop or stake president proceeds to number 5 below. If the member denies it, the bishop or stake president presents information about it. This may include presenting reliable documents and reading aloud any written statements from victims (see 32.10.2). If he reads such a statement, he protects the identity of the victim.

    4. If the member denies the misconduct, he or she may present information to the council. This could be written. Or the member may ask persons who could provide relevant information to speak to the council, one at a time. Such persons should be Church members unless the bishop or stake president has determined in advance that a nonmember may attend. They wait in a separate room until they are asked to speak. Each person leaves the council room when he or she is finished. They must be willing to comply with the respectful nature of the council, including its procedures and confidentiality. Members may not have legal counsel present. Nor may they have supporters beyond those referred to in the first paragraph in this section.

    5. The bishop or stake president may ask questions of the member in a polite and respectful way. He may also ask questions of other persons the member has asked to provide information. Counselors in the bishopric or stake presidency may also ask questions. Any questions should be brief and limited to the essential facts.

    6. After all relevant information has been presented, the bishop or stake president excuses the member from the room. The clerk is also excused, unless the high council has participated in a stake membership council. If the member’s bishop is present for a stake membership council, he is excused. If the Relief Society president or the elders quorum president is attending to provide support, she or he is also excused.

    7. The bishop or stake president asks for comments or insights from his counselors. If the high council has participated in a stake membership council, he asks for their comments and insights.

    8. With his counselors, the bishop or stake president prayerfully seeks the Lord’s will about the matter. Only the stake president and his counselors or the bishop and his counselors should be in the room during this time. If a stake membership council includes the high council, the stake presidency usually goes to the stake president’s office.

    9. The bishop or stake president tells his counselors of his decision and asks them to sustain it. If a stake membership council includes the high council, the stake presidency returns to the room and asks the high council to sustain it. If a counselor or high councilor has a different opinion, the bishop or stake president listens and seeks to resolve the differences. Responsibility for the decision rests with the presiding officer.

    10. He invites the person back into the room. If the clerk was excused, he is also invited into the room. If the member’s bishop is present for a stake membership council, he is also invited into the room. If the Relief Society president or elders quorum president is attending to provide support, she or he is also welcomed back.

    11. The bishop or stake president shares the council’s decision in a spirit of love. If the decision is to formally restrict the person’s Church membership privileges or withdraw membership, he explains the conditions (see 32.11.3 and 32.11.4). He also explains how to overcome the restrictions and gives other instruction and counsel. A bishop or stake president may adjourn a council for a time to seek more guidance or information before making a decision. In that case, he explains this.

    12. He explains the person’s right to appeal (see 32.13).

    13. He invites someone to offer a closing prayer.

    Whether the person is present or not, the bishop or stake president notifies him or her of the decision as explained in 32.12.1.

    No participant in a membership council is permitted to make an audio, video, or written recording. A clerk may take notes for the purpose of preparing the Report of Church Membership Council. However, such notes are not to be a word-for-word record or transcript. After the report is prepared, he promptly destroys any notes.

    32.11

    Decisions from Membership Councils

    The decisions from membership councils should be directed by the Spirit. They should reflect the love and hope offered by the Savior to those who repent. Possible decisions are described below. When making these decisions, leaders consider the circumstances that are outlined in 32.7.

    After any membership council, the bishop or stake president promptly submits a Report of Church Membership Council form through the Leader and Clerk Resources system (see 32.14.1).

    Possible decisions from membership councils are outlined in the following sections.

    32.11.1

    Remains in Good Standing

    In some instances, a person may be innocent and remains in good standing. In some instances, a person may have committed the sin, repented sincerely, and be in good standing. The bishop or stake president may give counsel and caution about future actions. After the council, he continues to give support as needed.

    32.11.2

    Personal Counseling with the Bishop or Stake President

    In some membership councils, leaders may determine that the member is not in good standing—but that formal membership restrictions are not warranted. In these instances, the council may decide that the person should receive personal counseling and correction from the bishop or stake president. This counseling may include informal membership restrictions as outlined in 32.8.3.

    Personal counseling and informal membership restrictions are not an option when a council is held for the sins listed in 32.6.1.

    32.11.3

    Formal Membership Restrictions

    In some membership councils, leaders may determine that it is best to formally restrict a person’s Church membership privileges for a time. Formal restrictions may be adequate for all but the most serious sins or situations, for which membership would be withdrawn (see 32.11.4).

    Those who have formal membership restrictions are still members of the Church. However, their Church membership privileges are restricted as follows:

    • They may not enter a temple. However, they may continue wearing the temple garment if endowed. If the member has a temple recommend, the leader cancels it in the Leader and Clerk Resources system.

    • They may not exercise the priesthood.

    • They may not partake of the sacrament or participate in the sustaining of Church officers.

    • They may not give a talk, lesson, or prayer in Church settings. Nor may they serve in a Church calling.

    They are encouraged to attend Church meetings and activities if their conduct is orderly. They are also encouraged to pay tithes and offerings.

    The bishop or stake president may add other conditions, such as staying away from pornographic materials and other evil influences. He usually adds positive conditions. These may include regular Church attendance, regular prayer, and reading the scriptures and other Church materials.

    If a person’s Church membership privileges are formally restricted, that is noted on the membership record.

    The time of formal restriction is usually at least one year and may be longer. When the member makes specified progress in genuine repentance, the bishop or stake president holds another council to consider removing the restrictions (see 32.16.1). If the member continues in the pattern of sin, the leader could hold another council to consider other measures.

    32.11.4

    Withdrawal of Membership

    In some membership councils, leaders may determine that it is best to withdraw a person’s Church membership for a time (see Mosiah 26:36; Alma 6:3; Moroni 6:7; Doctrine and Covenants 20:83).

    Withdrawing a person’s Church membership is required for murder (as defined in 32.6.1.1) and plural marriage (as explained in 32.6.1.2). It is almost always required for incest as explained in 32.6.1.2 and 38.6.8.

    As directed by the Spirit, withdrawing a person’s membership may also be necessary as follows:

    • For those whose conduct makes them a serious threat to others.

    • For those who have committed especially severe sins.

    • For those who do not demonstrate repentance of serious sins (see considerations in 32.7).

    • For those who commit serious sins that harm the Church.

    A ward, branch, or district membership council may recommend withdrawing Church membership from a person who has not received the temple endowment. However, the approval of the stake or mission president is necessary before the decision is final.

    Those whose Church membership has been withdrawn may not enjoy any privileges of membership.

    • They may not enter a temple or wear the temple garment. If the person has a temple recommend, the leader cancels it in the Leader and Clerk Resources system.

    • They may not exercise the priesthood.

    • They may not partake of the sacrament or participate in the sustaining of Church officers.

    • They may not give a talk, lesson, or prayer in Church settings or lead an activity in church. Nor may they serve in a Church calling.

    • They may not pay tithes and offerings.

    They are encouraged to attend Church meetings and activities if their conduct is orderly.

    Those whose Church membership has been withdrawn can be considered for readmission by baptism and confirmation. Usually, they first need to show genuine repentance for at least one year. The bishop or stake president holds another membership council to consider readmission (see 32.16.1).

    Membership Council Decisions and Results

    Decision

    Results

    Decision

    Remains in Good Standing (see 32.11.1)

    Results

    • None

    Decision

    Personal Counseling with the Bishop or Stake President (see 32.11.2)

    Results

    • May have some membership privileges informally restricted.

    • Restrictions are usually less than one year; in unusual circumstances, they may be longer.

    • Informal restrictions are removed after genuine repentance.

    • Action is not recorded on the membership record.

    Decision

    Formal Membership Restrictions (see 32.11.3)

    Results

    • Membership privileges are formally restricted.

    • Restrictions are usually at least one year and may be longer.

    • Action is recorded on the membership record.

    • Formal restrictions are removed after genuine repentance, a membership council, and, if necessary, First Presidency approval.

    • The membership record indicator is removed if restrictions are removed after a membership council (except required annotations; see 32.14.5).

    Decision

    Withdrawal of Membership (see 32.11.4)

    Results

    • All ordinances are revoked.

    • All membership privileges are withdrawn, usually for at least one year.

    • A person is eligible for readmission by baptism and confirmation only after genuine repentance, a membership council, and, if necessary, First Presidency approval.

    • A previously endowed person is eligible to receive a restoration of blessings only with First Presidency approval and after at least one full year from readmission (see 32.17.2).

    • For a previously endowed person, the “Restoration of Blessings Required” indicator is removed from the membership record only after the ordinance is performed (required annotations remain; see 32.14.5).

    32.11.5

    Questions about Deciding Difficult Matters

    Bishops direct questions about handbook guidelines for membership councils to the stake president.

    On difficult matters, the stake president may seek counsel from his assigned Area Seventy. The stake president must counsel with the Area Presidency on the matters outlined in 32.6.3. However, the stake president should not ask an Area Seventy or General Authority how to decide difficult matters. The stake president decides if a council should be held to address the conduct. If a council is held, the stake president or bishop decides the outcome.

    32.11.6

    First Presidency Authority

    The First Presidency has final authority over all Church membership restrictions and withdrawal.

    32.12

    Notifications and Announcements

    The decision of a membership council is communicated to the person—and to others as necessary—as explained below.

    32.12.1

    Notifying a Person of the Decision

    The bishop or stake president normally tells the person the outcome of the council when it concludes. However, he may adjourn a council for a time to seek more guidance or information before making a decision.

    A ward, branch, or district membership council may recommend withdrawing Church membership from a person who has not received the temple endowment. However, the approval of the stake or mission president is necessary before the decision is final.

    The bishop or stake president explains the effects of the decision as outlined in 32.11. Normally he also gives counsel on the conditions of repentance so restrictions can be removed or the person can be readmitted into the Church.

    The bishop or stake president gives the person prompt written notice of the decision and its effects. This notice consists of a general statement that the action was taken in response to conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church. It could also include counsel about having membership restrictions removed or being readmitted into the Church. It should notify the person that he or she may appeal the decision (see 32.13).

    If the person does not attend the council, written notice may be sufficient to inform him or her of the decision. The bishop or stake president may also meet with the person.

    The bishop or stake president does not give the person a copy of the Report of Church Membership Council form.

    32.12.2

    Informing Others about a Decision

    If a bishop or stake president informally restricts a person’s membership privileges in personal counseling, he normally does not inform anyone else (see 32.8.3). However, these leaders communicate with each other about informal restrictions as they help members.

    If a person’s membership privileges are formally restricted or withdrawn in a membership council, the bishop or stake president communicates the decision only to those who need to know. The following guidelines apply.

    • He considers the needs of victims and potential victims and the feelings of the person’s family.

    • He does not communicate the decision if the person is appealing it. However, he may communicate that it is being appealed if he feels it is necessary to protect potential victims. He may also communicate it to support the healing of victims (although he does not give victims’ names) or to protect the integrity of the Church.

    • As needed, the bishop communicates the decision in confidence to ward council members. This is to inform leaders who might consider the person to be available for callings, teaching lessons, or giving prayers or talks. It is also to encourage leaders to offer care and support to the member and his or her family.

    • With approval from the stake president, the bishop may communicate the decision in his ward’s elders quorum and Relief Society meetings if the situation involves:

      • Predatory behaviors that may threaten others.

      • Teaching false doctrine or other forms of apostasy.

      • Flagrant sins such as practicing plural marriage or using cultist teachings to attract a following.

      • Publicly contradicting the actions or teachings of general or local Church leaders.

    • In such cases, the stake president may also need to authorize a communication to members of other wards in the stake.

    • In some cases, the bishop or stake president may feel it would be helpful to notify some or all of the victims and their families that a membership council has been held for the person. He does this through their bishop or stake president.

    • If a person’s predatory tendencies put others at risk, the bishop or stake president may give warnings to help protect others. He does not reveal confidential information and does not speculate.

    • In all other cases, the bishop or stake president limits any communication to a general statement. He simply states that the person’s Church membership privileges have been restricted or withdrawn for conduct that is contrary to the laws and order of the Church. He asks those present not to discuss it. He does not ask for a sustaining vote.

    • If a member is in good standing after a membership council (see 32.11.1), the bishop or stake president may communicate that to dispel rumors.

    32.12.3

    Communicating Resignation of Membership

    In some cases, a bishop may need to communicate that a person has resigned his or her membership in the Church (see 32.14.9). The bishop does not provide any other detail.

    32.13

    Appeal of a Decision

    A member may appeal the decision of a ward membership council to the stake president within 30 days. The stake president holds a stake membership council to consider the appeal. He may also ask a bishop to reconvene a council and reconsider a decision, particularly if there is new information.

    A member may appeal the decision of a stake membership council by writing a letter to the First Presidency within 30 days. The member gives the letter to the stake president to submit to the First Presidency.

    In a mission, a member may appeal the decision of a branch or district membership council to the mission president within 30 days. The mission president holds a membership council to consider the appeal. If time or distance prevents him from doing this, he follows the instructions in 32.9.4.

    If a mission president conducted the council, the member may appeal the decision by writing a letter to the First Presidency within 30 days. The member gives the letter to the mission president to submit to the First Presidency.

    A person who appeals a decision specifies in writing the alleged errors or unfairness in the procedure or decision.

    If a membership council is held to consider an appeal, one of two decisions is possible:

    • Let the initial decision stand.

    • Modify the initial decision.

    First Presidency decisions are final and cannot be appealed again.

    32.14

    Reports and Membership Records

    32.14.1

    Report of Church Membership Council

    After any membership council, the bishop or stake president promptly submits a Report of Church Membership Council form through the Leader and Clerk Resources system. He may ask the clerk to prepare the report. He ensures that no hard copy or electronic copy of the form is retained locally. He also ensures that any notes used to prepare the report are promptly destroyed.

    32.14.2

    Formal Church Membership Restrictions

    Formal Church membership restrictions are noted on a person’s membership record. Church headquarters makes this notation after receiving the Report of Church Membership Council. When a member has repented, the leader must hold another council to consider removing these restrictions (see 32.16.1).

    32.14.3

    Records after a Person’s Church Membership Is Withdrawn

    If a person’s Church membership is withdrawn, Church headquarters removes the membership record after receiving the Report of Church Membership Council. If the person desires, leaders help him or her prepare to be readmitted to the Church by baptism and confirmation (see 32.16.1).

    32.14.4

    Records after Readmission to the Church

    After a person is readmitted to the Church, the bishop submits a Report of Church Membership Council form. A Baptism and Confirmation Certificate is not created. Rather, the baptism and confirmation are recorded on the Report of Church Membership Council form.

    If the member was not endowed, Church headquarters assigns a membership record that shows the dates of his or her original baptism and other ordinances. The record makes no reference to the loss of Church membership.

    If the member was endowed, Church headquarters updates the membership record to show the new baptism and confirmation dates. This record also includes the message “Restoration of Blessings Required.” After the member’s blessings are restored (see 32.17.2), the membership record is updated to show the dates of the original baptism and other ordinances. It makes no reference to the loss of Church membership.

    32.14.5

    Membership Records with Annotations

    As authorized by the First Presidency, Church headquarters annotates a person’s membership record in any of the situations listed below.

    1. The bishop or stake president submits a Report of Church Membership Council form indicating that the person’s membership was formally restricted or withdrawn for any of the following conduct:

      1. Incest

      2. Sexual abuse of a child or youth, sexual exploitation of a child or youth, or serious physical or emotional abuse of a child or youth

      3. Involvement with child pornography as outlined in 38.6.6

      4. Plural marriage

      5. Adult sexual predatory behavior

      6. Transgender—actions to transition to the opposite of a person’s birth sex (see 38.6.21)

      7. Embezzling Church funds or stealing Church property

      8. Church welfare abuse

      9. Threatening behavior (such as sexual, violent, or financial) or conduct that harms the Church

    2. The bishop and stake president submit written notification that the person:

      1. Has admitted to or has been convicted of a crime involving one of the actions listed above.

      2. Has been found liable in a civil action of fraud or other illegal acts involving one of the actions listed above.

    When a bishop receives an annotated membership record, he follows the instructions in the annotation.

    Only the First Presidency may authorize removing an annotation from a membership record. To recommend removing an annotation, the stake president uses the Leader and Clerk Resources system. The Office of the First Presidency notifies him if the recommendation is approved or not.

    32.14.6

    Reporting Theft of Church Funds

    If a person’s membership is restricted or withdrawn for embezzling Church funds, the bishop or stake president reports it as outlined in 34.9.5.

    32.14.7

    Move Restrictions on Membership Records

    Sometimes a Church member moves while membership action or other serious concerns are pending. Sometimes a bishop needs to share information with the new bishop before transferring the membership record to the new unit. In these cases, the bishop (or clerk if authorized) may place a move restriction on the membership record. The record remains in the unit until the bishop (or clerk if authorized) removes the restriction. This allows an opportunity for the bishop to communicate concerns and information.

    32.14.8

    Records of Those Who Are Incarcerated

    Some members have been convicted of a crime and are incarcerated. The bishop or stake president of the unit where the person lived when the crime was committed proceeds with any necessary action for formal membership restrictions or withdrawal. If membership privileges were restricted, the leader (or clerk if authorized) forwards the membership record to the unit that is responsible for the place where the person is incarcerated. If membership was withdrawn, the bishop or stake president contacts the leader of that unit. (See 32.15.)

    32.14.9

    Requests to Resign Membership

    If a member asks to resign his or her membership in the Church, the bishop reaches out to see if he or she is willing to discuss the concerns and try to resolve them. The bishop and member may also counsel with the stake president. The leader ensures that the member understands the following results of resigning Church membership:

    • It revokes all ordinances.

    • It removes all membership privileges.

    • Readmission by baptism and confirmation can occur only after a thorough interview and, in many cases, a membership council (see 32.16.2).

    • A previously endowed person is eligible to receive a restoration of priesthood and temple blessings only with First Presidency approval and after at least one full year from readmission (see 32.17.2).

    If the member still wants to resign Church membership, he or she gives the bishop a written, signed request. The bishop submits the request to the stake president through the Leader and Clerk Resources system. The stake president then reviews and submits the request through that system. Leaders should act on requests promptly.

    A person can also resign membership by sending a signed, notarized request to Church headquarters.

    A minor who wishes to resign his or her Church membership follows the same procedure as an adult, with one exception: the request should be signed by the minor (if over the age of 8) and by the parent(s) or guardian(s) who have legal custody of the minor.

    If a member resigning membership threatens legal action against the Church or its leaders, the stake president follows the instructions in 38.8.26.

    A request to resign membership should be acted on even if priesthood leaders have information about a serious sin. Any information about unresolved sins is noted when the request is submitted through the Leader and Clerk Resources system. This allows priesthood leaders to resolve such matters in the future if the person applies for readmission into the Church (see 32.16.2).

    A priesthood leader should not recommend resigning Church membership in order to avoid holding a membership council.

    Leaders continue to minister to those who resign their membership unless they request no contact.


    RETURNING CHURCH MEMBERSHIP PRIVILEGES


    If a person’s Church membership privileges have been restricted or withdrawn, leaders fellowship, counsel, and support the person as he or she allows. This section explains how those privileges can be returned.

    32.15

    Continue to Minister

    The bishop or stake president’s role as a common judge does not end when a member has received membership restrictions or had his or her Church membership withdrawn. He continues to minister, as the person allows, so he or she may again enjoy the blessings of Church membership. The bishop regularly meets with the person and, when helpful and applicable, his or her spouse. The Savior taught the Nephites:

    “Ye shall not cast him out of … your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them” (3 Nephi 18:32).

    The time just after a person’s membership has been restricted or withdrawn is difficult and critical for his or her family. Leaders should be sensitive to these needs and encourage and assist family members.

    The bishop ensures that caring members are assigned to minister to a person whose Church membership has been restricted or withdrawn, as the person allows. They also minister to other family members.

    If the person moves from the ward, the bishop informs the new bishop and explains what still needs to occur before Church membership restrictions can be removed. If the person’s membership was withdrawn from the Church or the person resigned membership, the bishop makes this same contact if the person has consented to be assisted by Church leaders.

    32.16

    Removing Formal Restrictions or Being Readmitted to the Church

    32.16.1

    Membership Councils to Remove Formal Restrictions or Readmit a Person

    When membership privileges are restricted or withdrawn in a membership council, another council must be held to consider removing the restrictions or readmitting the person to the Church. This council should also have the same level of authority (or higher) as the initial council. For example, if a stake or mission president presided over the initial council, a stake or mission president presides over the council to consider removing the restrictions or readmitting the person.

    The current bishop or stake president holds the council. He first ensures that the person has repented and is ready and worthy to enjoy the blessings of Church membership.

    Those who have had their Church membership formally restricted usually need to show genuine repentance for at least one year before consideration is given to removing the restrictions. Those who have had their Church membership withdrawn almost always need to show genuine repentance for at least one year before they can be considered for readmission. For a member who held a prominent Church position at the time of the serious sin, the period is generally longer (see 32.6.1.4).

    A council to consider removing restrictions or readmitting a person to the Church follows the same guidelines as other membership councils. A bishop needs approval from the stake president to hold the council. In a mission, a branch or district president needs approval from the mission president.

    The following guidelines apply when holding a membership council to consider removing Church membership restrictions or readmitting a person to the Church. Not all of these guidelines may apply in each case.

    1. Review the initial membership council. The bishop or stake president reviews the Report of Church Membership Council form. He requests a copy through the Leader and Clerk Resources system. After reviewing the form, he may contact the bishop or stake president where the initial council was held to seek clarification.

    2. Interview the person. The bishop or stake president interviews the person thoroughly to discern the strength of his or her faith in Jesus Christ and the extent of repentance. He also determines whether the person has met the conditions outlined in the initial action.

    3. Determine the status of criminal or civil court action. Sometimes a person has admitted to or has been convicted of a crime. Sometimes a person has been found liable in a civil action of fraud or other illegal acts. In these cases, the leader generally does not hold a council until the person has fulfilled all the conditions of any sentence, order, or judgment made by legal authorities. These conditions may include imprisonment, probation, parole, and fines or restitution. Exceptions require the approval of the First Presidency before holding a membership council. These exceptions might include someone who has completed legal requirements and has shown genuine repentance but is on lifelong probation or has a substantial fine.

    4. Contact the priesthood leaders of the victims. The bishop or stake president contacts the current bishop or stake president of any victims (see 32.10.2).

    5. Give notice of the council. He notifies the person of the date, time, and place of the council.

    6. Conduct the council. He conducts the council according to the guidelines in 32.10.3. He asks the person what he or she has done to repent. He also asks about his or her commitment to Jesus Christ and the Church. When all relevant matters have been presented, he excuses the member. With his counselors, he prays to consider what action to take. The three possible decisions are:

      1. Continue membership restrictions or withdrawal.

      2. Remove restrictions or authorize readmission.

      3. Recommend to the First Presidency that restrictions be removed or readmission be authorized (if necessary according to “Apply for First Presidency approval” below).

    7. Share the decision. After the council makes a decision, the presiding officer shares it with the person. If approval from the First Presidency is necessary, he explains that the decision is a recommendation to the First Presidency.

    8. Submit a report. The bishop or stake president submits a Report of Church Membership Council form through the Leader and Clerk Resources system. He may ask the clerk to prepare this report. He ensures that no hard copy or electronic copy is retained locally. He also ensures that all notes used to prepare the report are promptly destroyed.

    9. Apply for First Presidency approval (if necessary). In the following circumstances, the approval of the First Presidency is necessary to remove formal membership restrictions or readmit the person into the Church. This approval is required even if the conduct occurred after Church membership was formally restricted or withdrawn.

      1. Murder

      2. Incest

      3. Sexual abuse of a child or youth, sexual exploitation of a child or youth, or serious physical or emotional abuse of a child or youth by an adult or by a youth who is several years older

      4. Involvement with child pornography when there is a legal conviction

      5. Apostasy

      6. Plural marriage

      7. Committing a serious sin while holding a prominent Church position

      8. Transgender—actions to transition to the opposite of a person’s birth sex (see 38.6.21)

      9. Embezzling Church funds or property

    10. Give written notice of the decision. The bishop or stake president ensures that the person receives prompt written notice of the decision and its effects.

    11. Baptize and confirm. If a person’s Church membership was withdrawn in the initial council, he or she must be baptized and confirmed again. If First Presidency approval is necessary, these ordinances may be performed only after this approval is received. A Baptism and Confirmation Certificate is not created (see 32.14.4).

    32.16.2

    Being Readmitted after Resigning Church Membership

    If a person formally resigns Church membership, he or she must be baptized and confirmed to be readmitted into the Church. For adults, readmission is not usually considered until at least one year after resigning membership.

    When a person requests readmission, the bishop or stake president obtains a copy of the Report of Administrative Action form that accompanied the request for resignation. He can obtain this through the Leader and Clerk Resources system.

    The bishop or stake president then interviews the person thoroughly. He asks about the reasons for the original request and the desire for readmission. In a spirit of love, he asks about serious sins the person may have committed either before or after resigning membership. The leader does not proceed with readmission until he is satisfied that the person has repented and is ready and worthy to enjoy the blessings of Church membership.

    Guidelines for readmission after resignation follow:

    • A membership council is held if the person’s membership was formally restricted at the time of resignation.

    • A membership council is held if the person committed a serious sin, including apostasy, before resigning membership.

    In other circumstances, a membership council is not held unless the bishop or stake president determines that it would be needed.

    When a membership council is necessary for a person who had received the temple endowment, the stake president holds it. When a council is necessary for a person who was not endowed, the bishop holds it, with approval from the stake president.

    If the person engaged in any of the conduct in 32.16.1, number 9, either before or after resigning Church membership, First Presidency approval is required for readmission. If the person engaged in any of the conduct in 32.14.5, number 1, either before or after resigning membership, an annotation will be made on the membership record.

    A person who requests readmission must meet the same qualifications as others who are baptized. When the bishop or stake president is satisfied that the person is worthy and sincere in wanting to be readmitted, the person may be baptized and confirmed. A Baptism and Confirmation Certificate is not created (see 32.14.4).

    32.17

    Church Activity, Ordination, and Restoration of Blessings after Readmission

    32.17.1

    Church Activity and Ordination

    The following chart indicates the appropriate level of Church activity for a person who has been readmitted by baptism and confirmation.

    Not Previously Endowed

    Previously Endowed

    Previous Priesthood Holders

    Not Previously Endowed

    • Immediately after baptism and confirmation, may have the priesthood conferred on them and be ordained to the priesthood office they held when their Church membership was withdrawn or resigned. A sustaining vote is not required.

    • May be issued a limited-use temple recommend.

    Previously Endowed

    • May not be ordained to any priesthood office. When their priesthood and temple blessings are restored, their previous priesthood office will be restored as outlined in 32.17.2. They may not perform ordinances until that time.

    • May participate in any Church activity that is permissible for an unendowed member who does not hold the priesthood.

    • May not wear the temple garment or receive any kind of temple recommend until their blessings are restored.

    Other Members

    Not Previously Endowed

    • May participate in Church activity as a new convert would.

    • May be issued a limited-use temple recommend.

    Previously Endowed

    • May participate in any Church activity that is permissible for an unendowed member who does not hold the priesthood.

    • May not wear the temple garment or receive any kind of temple recommend until their blessings are restored (see 32.17.2).

    32.17.2

    Restoration of Blessings

    Persons who previously received the temple endowment and were readmitted by baptism and confirmation can receive their priesthood and temple blessings only through the ordinance of restoration of blessings (see Doctrine and Covenants 109:21). They are not ordained to priesthood offices or endowed again. These blessings are restored through the ordinance. Brethren are restored to their former priesthood office, except the office of Seventy, bishop, or patriarch.

    Only the First Presidency can approve the performance of the ordinance of restoration of blessings. They will not consider an application for this ordinance sooner than one year after the person is readmitted by baptism and confirmation. The bishop or stake president applies for a restoration of blessings through the Leader and Clerk Resources system.

    If the First Presidency approves the restoration of blessings, they assign a General Authority or the stake president to interview the person. If the person is worthy, this leader performs the ordinance to restore the person’s blessings.

    For information about membership records and the restoration of blessings, see 32.14.4.