From Excommunication to Restoration of Blessings: My Ongoing Wait

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Church discipline is a common occurrence in the Church and the reprimand can range from informal discipline, such as not taking the sacrament for a short time, to excommunication, which is the highest penalty one can receive.

When a person is excommunicated their name is removed from Church records, they can no longer pay tithing, go to the temple, wear garments, or be invited to speak or pray at Church meetings. If the person desires to be readmitted into the Church they can seek to be baptized a year to the day from their excommunication.

A year, to the day, after their baptism and confirmation they can apply to receive the restoration of blessings ordinance that restores their previous temple and priesthood blessings. “Afterwards, a new membership record is created, showing the original dates of baptism, endowment, sealing, and (if applicable) priesthood ordinations—with no reference to excommunication,” as if nothing happened” (M. Russell Ballard).

My wife and I were looking forward to this time of year, in which I could put in my application to receive the Restoration of Blessings ordinance so that I could once again hold the priesthood, have our temple sealing restored, and take our family to the temple to be sealed to our youngest daughter who was not born in the covenant.

We waited faithfully the required year from my baptismal date and readmittance into the Church, only to find out that I needed to wait another year before re-applying for this ordinance. We were devastated, confused, and hurt. Our lives had completely changed after I had returned to the gospel and covenant path. Our family is now Christ-centered, and the way we live our lives reflects the things we believe. To hear that we have to wait has weighed on our hearts yielding a lot of emotions.

The truth is everybody waits for something. Abraham and Sarah waited roughly 25 years, in their old age, before Isaac, their promised son, arrived. Jacob waited and worked seven years to marry Rachel. The Children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years before seeing the Promised Land. Joseph Smith had to wait four years to actually receive the gold plates and begin the translation of the Book of Mormon.

There are many other examples in the scriptures of people waiting for a blessing or a promise to be fulfilled and there are people today who are waiting, righteously, for similar blessings. Some are waiting to find someone to marry. There are some who are waiting to be blessed with children. Some are waiting for a burden, weakness, or temptation to be removed. There are people waiting for loved ones to return to the Lord and His covenant path.

I have put a lot of thought into why waiting is so difficult, and I think it is because “time only is measured unto man.” Our finite, mortal condition doesn’t allow us the eternal perspective that God has, as “all is as one day with God,” because everything that we know has a beginning and an end. We may not be able to control the beginning and the end, but we do put a lot of effort into managing what we do with every passing minute.

In a time filled with modern conveniences, instant gratification, and time-saving devices, whether microwaving a quick college meal or getting an instant message from a friend across the country, it is easy to take for granted the virtue and gift of being able to wait, particularly to “wait upon thy God.” So how can we make waiting worth it?

Delay Action

asphalt painted for a raceA quick online search of the definition yielded a few interesting perspectives. The most common definition of wait is to “stay where one is or delay action until a particular time or until something else happens.” This definition connotes stagnation and doesn’t really encompass the spirit of the gospel.

Bruce C. Hafen, during a difficult time of his life, was reminded “to read these words from the 40th chapter of Isaiah: ‘The Lord giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.’ I wondered what “waiting upon the Lord” meant. Then I read in Joseph Smith’s Translation of Matthew 3:24 that when young Jesus grew up, he “waxed strong, and waited upon the Lord for the time of his ministry to come.” I couldn’t imagine the boy Christ just standing around the carpenter shop “waiting” for something to happen. I came to understand that “waiting upon the Lord” is a special invitation to become an active, consecrated disciple of Christ. It isn’t to sit back passively and just wait on your hands. I was moved to make changes in my daily pattern so I could “wait” with much more intense spiritual initiative. As a result, I discovered for myself that, as Isaiah said, men have not heard, “neither hath any eye seen, O God, how great things thou hast prepared for him that waiteth for thee” (D&C 133:45). As the angel sang to Elijah, “O rest in the Lord; wait patiently for Him, and he will give thee thy heart’s desire.”

I knew that I had to wait at least a year after being excommunicated before I could be baptized. I took that year to become a serious student of the gospel and to dedicate my time to serving others. I also knew that I would have to wait a year from the day I was baptized to apply for the Restoration of Blessings. That year was also filled with some family adversity, but also with ample opportunities to share my testimony of the restored gospel.

The key point in that quote is becoming “an active, consecrated disciple of Christ,” but what does that mean?

Act as an Attendant

removing desserts from a trayAnother use of the word “wait” is to “act as an attendant to someone. My friend, Morgan Jones, dissatisfied with the definition meaning, “to remain stagnant,” told me, “I thought, what if ‘wait’ upon the Lord means to wait on Him as a waiter in a restaurant waits on their patrons.” She then related what that service looks like when Christ taught that “inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon was an example of this consecrated discipleship and taught that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”

This is part of our covenant as members of the Church; to help those in need, and “to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; …to mourn with those who mourn, …and comfort those who stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places. This is the doctrine of Christ and a key element of living these baptismal covenants is to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, because more often than not, when we receive a prompting from the Spirit, it will be to move us to minister to and serve others. Promptings are not always loud and clear and so it is important for us to ask for, listen, and be spiritually ready to receive the Spirit.

Be Watchful

bridge and watchtowerAs I was looking at the definition of “wait” I was more impressed with the Middle English origin of the word, combining the Germanic, Old Northern French word “waitier” with the English word “wake,” (to emerge from a state of sleep, become alert, or come to life). The early senses of “wait” include ‘lie in wait (for’), ‘observe carefully,’ and ‘be watchful.’

I almost dismissed the term “lie in wait,” but there are spiritual connotations for this. Just as we are to “wait upon the Lord,” the adversary will wait also. The twelfth verse of Doctrine and Covenants 123 says that “there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven—These should then be attended to with great earnestness.”

Because the adversary will “lie in wait to deceive,” we are to ‘observe carefully,’ and ‘be watchful.’ The Lamanites in the Book of Mormon lived wickedly in their traditions, but through the preaching of the Nephites, they had received the favor of the Lord as we learn in Helaman 15 verse 5, “that the more part of them are in the path of their duty, and they do walk circumspectly (careful to consider all circumstances and consequences) before God, and they do observe to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments…” Not only that, but “they are striving with unwearied diligence” to share the gospel with others.

We are allowed to feel a wide range of emotions during our time of waiting. It is natural and beautiful to experience life in this manner, but it can also be dangerous. There are two major shifts that can take place within our hearts. In Alma 62 during years of war we learn about the spiritual state of those involved; “because of the exceedingly great length of the war…many had become hardened; and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depths of humility.” We have the same options and sometimes we will become bitter, disengaged, and hardened, while other times we will become humble and willing to submit to the will of our Heavenly Father.

To just ‘be watchful’ is not enough. Amulek from the Book of Mormon taught us to “be watchful unto prayer continually, that ye may not be led away by the temptations of the devil, that he may not overpower you, that ye may not become his subjects.” His invitations extend to receiving the Holy Ghost, taking upon us the name of Christ, humbling ourselves and worshipping God, to live in thanksgiving daily, and have patience as we bear our afflictions.

If you are like me, waiting for something important that may be out of your control, maybe instead of wasting our time with hurt feelings, unsubstantiated doubts, and bruised egos, we can work on becoming like the Savior, who also experienced and understands time, and “go about doing good,” being “anxiously engaged in a good cause,” and being “watchful unto prayer continually” that the promise God made us can one day be realized.

Maybe we can recognize the mercies involved with not rushing the spiritual matters in our lives. We can take the time to do righteous things “in wisdom and order…not running faster than we have strength, but [remaining] diligent” in an effort to look outside of ourselves and help those around us. Living in this manner doesn’t diminish those things that are important to us and the real deep feelings associated with them, but our devotion to and reliance on the Savior increases and other blessings will flow from His love and grace.

Rory is a recently Returned Member of The Restored Church after years of semi-activity and excommunication. He is a husband and father to three and an advocate for an infant daughter with down syndrome, Congenital Heart Defects, and other disabilities. He gained a love of writing as a trained Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Army, and a love for the plain and simple doctrines of the Church through enduring hard things.