Our Heavenly Father loves each of us and wants us to return to live with Him. Because we all sin, He has given us the gift of repentance, which is “the key to happiness and peace of mind. … When we choose to repent, we choose to … grow spiritually and receive joy” (Russell M. Nelson, “We Can Do Better and Be Better,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2019, 67).
Most repentance takes place between an individual, a loving God, and those who have been affected by a person’s sins. However, if a Church member commits a serious sin, the bishop or stake president may need to assist him or her in repentance (see Mosiah 26:29).
As part of his or her repentance for a serious sin, a member may lose some Church membership privileges for a time. Decisions about membership and membership privileges are sometimes made in a membership council. The purposes of Church membership councils are to help protect others, help a person access the redeeming power of Jesus Christ through repentance (see Alma 26:13), and protect the integrity of the Church.
In a membership council, the bishop or stake president determines through counsel and a spirit of love and inspiration from the Lord if the person remains in good standing or if a person’s Church membership should be restricted or withdrawn.
Restricting or withdrawing a person’s membership is not intended to punish. Rather, these actions are 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. As a person repents, he or she may be strengthened and find support by attending Church services and activities. When a person has sincerely repented, he or she may have all the privileges of Church membership restored.
For more information about Church membership councils, see General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, chapter 32, ChurchofJesusChrist.org.