Question: What specific transgressions might result in Church discipline?

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Question: What specific transgressions might result in Church discipline?

Moral sins and apostasy

Elder Ballard:

The First Presidency has instructed that disciplinary councils must be held in cases of murder, incest, or apostasy. A disciplinary council must also be held when a prominent Church leader commits a serious transgression, when the transgressor is a predator who may be a threat to other persons, when the person shows a pattern of repeated serious transgressions, when a serious transgression is widely known, and when the transgressor is guilty of serious deceptive practices and false representations or other terms of fraud or dishonesty in business transactions.
Disciplinary councils may also be convened to consider a member’s standing in the Church following serious transgression such as abortion, transsexual operation, attempted murder, rape, forcible sexual abuse, intentionally inflicting serious physical injuries on others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations, child abuse (sexual or physical), spouse abuse, deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, robbery, burglary, embezzlement, theft, sale of illegal drugs, fraud, perjury, or false swearing. [1]

President Gordon B. Hinckley on Larry King Live:

Larry King: Are people ever thrown out of your church?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes.
Larry King: For?
Gordon B. Hinckley: Doing what they shouldn't do, preaching false doctrine, speaking out publicly. They can carry all the opinion they wish within their heads, so to speak, but if they begin to try to persuade others, then they may be called in to a disciplinary council. We don't excommunicate many, but we do some. [2]

Generally, most Church discipline falls into two broad categories:

  1. serious moral sins
  2. apostasy

Group #1: moral sins

Serious moral sins which could result in a Church disciplinary hearing include committing various felonies, such as: murder, rape, sexual abuse, theft, or fraud. Other acts considered to be serious sins by the Church include: adultery, fornication, homosexual acts, and submitting to, encouraging, or performing an abortion except in cases where competent medical authority has determined that the mother and/or fetus' life is in serious jeopardy by a continued pregnancy.

Other acts contrary to Church teachings that would not result in excommunication or disfellowshipment include failure to pay tithing, failure to attend meetings, failure to observe the Word of Wisdom, failure to attend the temple.

Group #2: apostasy

The Church understands apostasy to be the repeated public teaching of ideas contrary to the doctrines, principles, or ideals of the Church. Those who are "apostate" continue to teach or preach their ideas even after being cautioned by their Church leaders.

Apostasy is the act of trying to persuade or mislead others; it is not the fact that one disagrees with Church actions, policies, or leaders. As President George Q. Cannon explained:

We could conceive of a man honestly differing in opinion from the Authorities of the Church and yet not be an apostate; but we could not conceive of a man publishing these differences of opinion and seeking by arguments, sophistry and special pleading to enforce them upon the people to produce division and strife and to place the acts and counsels of the Authorities of the Church, if possible, in a wrong light, and not be an apostate, for such conduct was apostasy as we understood the term. We further said that while a man might honestly differ in opinion from the Authorities through a want of understanding, he had to be exceedingly careful how he acted in relation to such differences, or the adversary would take advantage of him, and he would soon become imbued with the spirit of apostasy and be found fighting against God and the authority which He had placed here to govern His Church. [3]


  1. M. Russell Ballard, "A Chance to Start Over: Church Disciplinary Councils and the Restoration of Blessings," Ensign (September 1990), 12. off-site
  2. CNN Larry King Live, 8 September 1998
  3. George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974), 493.