mormonminded

Disfellowshipped, Reinstated and Lost

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I am interested in advice and other people's stories.  I was disfellowshipped after many many years of faithful church attendance and participation.  I was never a leader at church, but I was a full tithe payer, I rarely missed church, I held callings as asked, and I held FHE and scripture study with my family.  I was never in a position more "senior" than that of an instructor.   My confession was voluntary, the sins had occurred some time in the past, a bishop's council was called, and the decision was to be disfellowshipped.  

Let me state up front that I found the process humiliating, poorly executed, anything but "confidential" and now feel that I am forever branded as a third-class member of the church.  I have gone from a member that enjoyed attending church, that felt uplifted in meetings, that had a testimony of not only the Gospel but of the men that run it, to being a member that now dreads going to Church, finds any reason not to go, and likely will become inactive over time if I stay in this ward.  My children will be impacted by this, my wife feels the process was destructive, not productive, and I am curious why there are people who call this process a Court of Love and think it is helpful.  My guess is they've only been on one side of it. 

 

Edited by mormonminded

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Sometimes life does not go as one might wish... Sometimes life is manifestly unfair...  When I get thinking how unfair life can be I like to remember the atonement.  Christ's suffering and pain was totally unfair and unwarranted for anything he might have done.  Christ even asked if he could pass partaking the cup of suffering being placed before him, he clearly didn't want to do it, but he went through it anyways.

We are here to become more like Christ... That includes learning to suffer and bare affliction like he did,

As for the church and its leaders people seem to want to demand that they can never make mistakes or errors..  As if the calling of leadership somehow removes their agency, or their own personal tests and trials.  Our leaders don't magically attain Christ-like perfection once they are called.  In fact it is just the opposite, their calling is an additional trial and test that they get to "prove themselves" with.  Some naturally do better straight out the gate, then others.  All will undoubtedly find some areas they need to repent and work on.

I am sorry that you are hurting, I truely am but now is the time to re-up on your faith and trust in the Lord and remimber the words the Lord gave to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail in D&C 122

If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;

If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;

And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

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Mormonminded, I apologize in advance for being blunt here.

"Bob" is a self-absorbed natural man, just like we are all.  As a  self-absorbed natural man, Bob thinks more about his dinner than how "Jeff" is doing, despite the fact that Jeff is sitting right there in the pew with him.  And yet, Bob thinks the only thing Jeff is thinking about is Bob (like somehow Jeff isn't a self-absorbed natural man too). 

Moral of the story: people pay WAY less attention to us than we think they do.  

 

But, let's say hypothetically you were still disfellowshipped and the ENTIRE ward knew because you stapled a sign to yourself saying so.  Why in the world would that matter?  You are not a third-class citizen, you are a child of God doing your best wrestling with Him!  Quit caring what other people think!  If someone does treat you as a third-class citizen, then do not let their sinful action stand between you and God.

 

As to getting help from Bishop and such: if you need help with something, tell the bishop was exactly you need.  If that needs still not being met, tell him so.  If something with the bishop isn't clicking (remember he's flawed person too), that's why there are counselors and stake presidency to talk to too.  And don't forget the Lord.  

 

The repented past does not brand you.   The LORD HIMSELF no longer remembers your sin and holds it against you.  Don't hold it against yourself either, or let sinful ward members do so either.  And most likely you and your wife can serve a mission together.

 

Edited by Jane_Doe

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51 minutes ago, mormonminded said:

.  

My bishop has assured me that future Bishops will never know (this is not something that gets an "annotation") but how do I know that (or even him for that matter, he's learning all this as he goes, at my expense).

 

This is true they can remove the disfellowshipping from your record. To my knowledge unless you are a danger to others no record will be kept ever. Clean slate.

On a side note why did you feel the need to confess after so many years? the sin was never repeated, and abandoned you had forgiven yourself (I assume) maybe not? Sometimes we open our own can of worms when we don't need to.

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48 minutes ago, mormonminded said:

I was disfellowshipped after many many years of faithful church attendance and participation.

Bet you remember not to wear a gray shirt to Church again.  ;)

But really, I see way too much of the same, except that mine is in regard to things that happened (and some that never happened, but rumors have a way of getting downright weird) before my baptism.  I've been flat out told by some of the "fine, upstanding members" that it doesn't matter that I was a Methodist who had never so much as touched a BoM or spoken to LDS missionaries more than to give them directions when I was hanging out in bars and keeping score on how many women I could pick up.  That the Lord forgetting all those things didn't amount to anything in this life, so I had no business associating with those raised in the Church as if I were somehow worthy to be a part of their group.  

Honestly, I don't know what to tell you other than you're not alone.  Maybe we need "unclean" wards for those of us who admit we've sinned, and aren't good enough to sit at the "perfect Mormons" table with they hypocrites and liars.

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Hi mormonminded, 

I can empathize to a certain extent, in that I've been misjudged by lots and lots of mormons for lots and lots of years.  My dad was a beer drinking gambler who came to Utah to "marry one of them submissive mormon women".  My mom was (for most of my life) an inactive "jack mormon" from a very large, very mormon family.  In hindsight, it seems that she married my dad as an act of rebellion.  She didn't go to church, but she sent me.

So, every week, this totally quiet, shy, gullible little kid would show up to church.  He wouldn't get dropped off, he'd just show up.  Nobody knew what to think.  Some folks would ask, but since I was so incredibly socially awkward, the answers usually just raised more questions.  Some folks would guess.  Some fun misinformation got passed around.  I thought it was normal to get sad looks from complete strangers, to have people come up to me and empathize about pain and difficulties I didn't know I had.  

Fun story: Cub Scout can recycling project.  I'm all excited because my dad collects them, and he's willing to give several garbage cans full to the project.  So I took a rare chance and spoke up about how I had a lot of cans.  The whole troop loaded into the cubmaster's car and drove to my house to crush the cans and load them into garbage bags.  I proudly proceeded to dump garbage cans of mostly-empty beer cans on the driveway, and happily started crushing them  Schlitz and Pabst blue ribbon mostly, if memory serves.  No coors, because Dad was a union man and Coors was resisting unionization.   Eventually it dawned on me I was the only kid doing it, and the other kids were all looking at each other and the cubmaster awkwardly, acting like they'd just been asked to view pornography or something.  The cubmaster gave me one of those "I'm so sorry" looks I'd come to expect from churchy folks, he made the other scouts crust a bag of cans against their will, then they left and I put the remaining cans back "for next time".  

Fun story: At a prieshood ordination interview, the bishop said "It must be hard not having a father".  In hindsight, the church had my records and my mom's, but no record for dad, so someone just assumed.  I came home and told my dad, which didn't really help his anti-church sentiments much.

Fun story: As I approached mission age, everyone got lots and lots of pep talks about going on missions.  Except me - everyone seemed to just assume that I wouldn't be going, because why would I?  What with my inactive mom and anti dad and all.  I remember the bishop sort of stumbling through my Elder's interview, sort of trying to ask about a mission in a way that communicated total understanding that I wasn't going.  I guess it was my little secret that I had been pouring my heart and soul on my knees to God praying about whether I should go or not.  Nobody had the faintest clue, they all just assumed.  

Ok, maybe I can empathize more than just a little.  

I ended up going inactive shortly after becoming an elder.  I saw no point.  I returned only when I had gained a true testimony of the reality and divinity of Christ, and that the BoM and Joseph Smith are both what they claim to be.  These days, I tell people the only real valid reason to be a Mormon, is if you figure God wants you to be one.

Best thing I ever did, was stop caring so much about what other people thought of me.  Second best thing I ever did, was forgive all of them and adopt good-natured humor about the whole thing.  I'm open about my sins and misdeeds - and my upbringing - and my awkward moments with well-meaning mormons.  These days, people make their choice about whether to care or not, and I accept their choice.  If they wanna assume crap about me that isn't true from a position of ignorance, that's their problem.  I've talked with a bishop like that.  But most of them are more than grateful to work with me and what I say about myself.

Humans stink.  Mormons in leadership positions that act off of incomplete info or wrong guesses, mess up.  Access to divine inspiration doesn't make people perfect.  But God is real, and this is His church, so the least I can do is try to not make life harder for all these fallible mortal error-prone humans.

My advice to you - forgive them, stop caring about what people think about you, and adopt a good natured attitude of humor.  Find a way to make a joke about being gay (or something), and then watch the reactions dance across people's faces.  

My other advice to you - open your heart to your bishop.  Tell him the anguish you're feeling as you go through this process.  Tell him the frustration you feel that there doesn't seem to be much of a process, and you don't know what to do.  If he responds with a bunch of judgment that you don't want to hear, take a good, honest look at it.  If it's valid judgment, force yourself to accept it.  If it's invalid judgment, forgive him.  

Oh - another fun story from while I was inactive - I was remodeling my parents garage once, just about to put up drywall.  I heard my grandma was coming over.  So I quickly spray painted a bunch of pentagrams and scary-looking meaningless stuff on the cinder block walls for her to see.  Her face fell (as it tended to), and she wrung her hands (like she did), and she said something about praying for me (which she often did).  After she left and I was hanging up the drywall, one of my buddies said "that wasn't very nice".  I had to agree, but I really hadn't done anything surprising to her - she already figured I was off doing dark things for dark reasons.

 

Edited by NeuroTypical

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1 hour ago, NightSG said:

Bet you remember not to wear a gray shirt to Church again.  ;)

But really, I see way too much of the same, except that mine is in regard to things that happened (and some that never happened, but rumors have a way of getting downright weird) before my baptism.  I've been flat out told by some of the "fine, upstanding members" that it doesn't matter that I was a Methodist who had never so much as touched a BoM or spoken to LDS missionaries more than to give them directions when I was hanging out in bars and keeping score on how many women I could pick up.  That the Lord forgetting all those things didn't amount to anything in this life, so I had no business associating with those raised in the Church as if I were somehow worthy to be a part of their group.  

Honestly, I don't know what to tell you other than you're not alone.  Maybe we need "unclean" wards for those of us who admit we've sinned, and aren't good enough to sit at the "perfect Mormons" table with they hypocrites and liars.

Hard to believe that members think this way....I guess I can see it happening. Terrible and sad at the same time

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2 hours ago, omegaseamaster75 said:

On a side note why did you feel the need to confess after so many years? the sin was never repeated, and abandoned you had forgiven yourself (I assume) maybe not? Sometimes we open our own can of worms when we don't need to.

I can answer this one for me:  I never confessed certain things, because I never knew of the need to.  Then, as I gained a testimony and got active, as I read the Miracle of Forgiveness, as I read the Gospel Principles chapter on repentance, I realized that I had to confess to my bishop.  So I called the ward clerk, asked for a long appointment, and then sat down in the chair and confessed to things I'd done, some of them over a decade old. 

 

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1 hour ago, NightSG said:

Honestly, I don't know what to tell you other than you're not alone.  Maybe we need "unclean" wards for those of us who admit we've sinned, and aren't good enough to sit at the "perfect Mormons" table with they hypocrites and liars.

I know I'm not alone here, but whenever they rope me into teaching a lesson or giving a talk, I try to let folks know they are currently sitting in one of those wards.

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1 hour ago, NeuroTypical said:

Fun story: At a prieshood ordination interview, the bishop said "It must be hard not having a father".  In hindsight, the church had my records and my mom's, but no record for dad, so someone just assumed.  I came home and told my dad, which didn't really help his anti-church sentiments much.

 

Similar story here-- my visiting teachers thought I was widowed (my husband is record-less non-member :) )

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MM,

I'd like to double down on Jane's first post.  Most people notice you for a moment.  Then forget you.  They really do have other things to think about.  I'll give you an example.  You remember the deacon passing the sacrament?  I myself did this as a deacon and teacher.  I noticed people not partaking.  But by the time I was in the next row, I couldn't even remember who it was.  And I have a nearly photographic memory.  The next week, the process would repeat.  I never remembered who did or did not partake.  I was just trying to get the tray passed.

One day I was in the hall and a sister was crying.  Another sister was trying to comfort her.  But for some reason I was compelled to offer her a hug.  I NEVER do this because I find it inappropriate.  But I could tell she was hurting.  It felt like the right thing to do.  She did feel comforted.  A year later, she invited me to her husband's baptism.  I said, "I didn't know he was a non-member.  Didn't he hold a calling in young men's?"

"It's a re-baptism." 

"Was he excommunicated?"

"Well, yes.  You knew.  That day when I was crying."

"So, that's what that was about... No, I really had no idea.  I saw you hurting.  I thought I'd comfort you."

She had a look of astonishment in her eyes.

The reason you believe everyone is looking at you is that you, yourself, still feel self-conscious.  That is the lesson you should be learning from this experience.  That is why it was necessary.  That is how it's supposed to help you.  You need to still be alright with God about this.  The disciplinary portion is over.  You said it was all "behind you".  But something inside you is still not right.  When Alma had his conversion, it was a true re-birth.  Later in his missionary life, others used his past against him.  It hurt the work.  There was nothing he could do about that except preach repentance.  He had repented.  Others could as well.  So can you.  If you already have -- fully and completely -- then let it go.

The letting go is completely up to you.

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To continue points already made...  I have had to sit in on a few disciplinary courts... And I can say Court of Love would accurately describe how I felt toward the person after the court was done in every case.

I was also well aware of my own lack of social graces general awkwardness...  And I was concerned that in later social interactions with the member in question my failings might be seen as something far more personal.  I don't know if I was always successful in preventing this but God knows my heart was no where near thinking, what they might have thought I was thinking.  My desire to judge them ended long before my responsibility sit in judgement did (And that ended with the court)

 

 

Edited by estradling75

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OP needs to not worry so much.  Believe me, most people do not know if you are disfellowshipped.  Many members decline to pray, decline the sacrament, decline to speak, decline callings, and all for different reasons.  

In fact, in your ward, the only people who have access to even know if you are disfellowshipped are the ward clerk, and the bishop.  Unless the current counselors are those who stood in the disciplinary council, then they have no way of knowing.  

Members move into wards who are disfellowshipped, and that record follows them.  Only the clerk, and the bishop can see it.  Typically the Bishop will receive correspondence about the individual, and the steps necessary to achieve full worthiness.

Once your period of disfellowship is removed, then it is permanently removed from any physical records, or electronic records at the local, and stake level.  It truly is a clean slate.  Members who have been ex-communicated can come back, be re-baptized, and hold callings

 

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1 hour ago, Jane_Doe said:

Similar story here-- my visiting teachers thought I was widowed (my husband is record-less non-member :) )

This is something I really wish Church leadership would address.  Several of my non-single-singles (people who keep ending up on the single adults list because their spouse is a nonmember) find it insulting that the Church records effectively refuse to recognize the existence of their family, and frankly, I agree with them.  It's not that hard to have a checkbox in the record to indicate that someone is married, has children, etc., without needing any further information about a nonmember spouse, parent or child.  Honestly, it seems like it would be handy for missionary efforts anyway.

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17 minutes ago, NightSG said:

This is something I really wish Church leadership would address.  Several of my non-single-singles (people who keep ending up on the single adults list because their spouse is a nonmember) find it insulting that the Church records effectively refuse to recognize the existence of their family, and frankly, I agree with them.  It's not that hard to have a checkbox in the record to indicate that someone is married, has children, etc., without needing any further information about a nonmember spouse, parent or child.  Honestly, it seems like it would be handy for missionary efforts anyway.

It's available.

I don't know how to make it work, although I believe it's just a matter of recording a marriage for the member spouse.

We have several members in our ward whose husband or wife is not a member, and that person does show up in his family on our directory.

Lehi

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26 minutes ago, LeSellers said:

It's available.

I don't know how to make it work, although I believe it's just a matter of recording a marriage for the member spouse.

We have several members in our ward whose husband or wife is not a member, and that person does show up in his family on our directory.

Lehi

It is available it requires members to take part to make it work. (which is why it is so hit or miss)

If the member, Home Teachers, Visiting Teachers, Elder Quorum presidency, High Priest Group Leaders and Relief Society Presidencies (and all others that might find stuff out) would talk to the Ward/Membership Clerk about what they find the clerk could tell them what information is needed to update the record.  Once that information is given then the clerk can update the record.

When the records are not updated it is either a sign that the member is not cooperating(or doesn't know/care) and/or dysfunction in the Ward Council

 

 

Edited by estradling75

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36 minutes ago, NightSG said:

Several of my non-single-singles (people who keep ending up on the single adults list because their spouse is a nonmember) find it insulting that the Church records effectively refuse to recognize the existence of their family, and frankly, I agree with them.

The church system is better than it used to be.  Now, when we look at a member's record, it lists their spouse (assuming someone gave the church that information).  If they're a nonmember, they'll still be listed - just without a member record number.  (That's how we know, actually).  Parents and children will be listed too, again, with or without member numbers.  (Again, assuming someone told a clerk about them). 

I'm ward membership clerk, and I have created new records for several people - usually because of a naming ceremony.  But I also know I can add nonmember spouse/child information.

 

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2 hours ago, NeuroTypical said:

The church system is better than it used to be.  Now, when we look at a member's record, it lists their spouse (assuming someone gave the church that information).  If they're a nonmember, they'll still be listed - just without a member record number.  (That's how we know, actually).  Parents and children will be listed too, again, with or without member numbers.  (Again, assuming someone told a clerk about them). 

I'm ward membership clerk, and I have created new records for several people - usually because of a naming ceremony.  But I also know I can add nonmember spouse/child information.

 

Seconding this.  The only reason my record didn't have my husband listed is because he very anti-giving his information out.  The issue has since been fixed, I just had to call the clerk.  

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So, I appreciate the comments, but I'd just say that no one has really stated a reason the Church puts members through this.  Certainly no one involved in my disfellowship even tried to explain the rationale.  They just told me this is what is going to happen to you, i.e. you can't pray, you can't speak, you can't take the sacrament, but hey, at least you can still pay your tithing, etc.   I'd equate what I went through to the modern day equivalent of an stoning ceremony.  Maybe the people involved felt they were doing it for the good of the community and the person, but it sure didn't help me in any way that I can see.  In fact, it's making me largely inactive.  

My advice to anyone thinking about going through the process....make yourself right with God and only God and forget confessing to a Bishop.  I realize someone will chime in and say "Well, you can't make yourself right with God without confessing" but I think it's better to take the risk that God will someday understand, then to put yourself through what I've done through, with so many people gradually finding out over a period of months, and then being told "That's just the way the process works".   

It's easy for people with thick skin to say "Hey, don't worry about what people think", but for those of us that subconsciously do care, it's a nightmare. 

No one yet has explained how the disfellowship process helps.  What is my personal view after having gone through it, and still living with it?  It's the only way the Church can makes itself feel that it is punishing someone for something that other members haven't done, and therefore it's not about helping the member, but punishment.  But what really irks me is that I realize that many many members probably simply never confess and therefore it make me feel that I was really stupid to go in there and confess in the first place.  

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I'd be willing to bet that some of the 'knowing' smiles aren't so much because they know your circumstance, but because they know by experience what you're going through.  I sounds to me like your disfellowshipment was seriously mishandled.  Someone with a big mouth didn't help.  

In general, a lot of what is interpreted a as a negative reaction or a pitying or a racist one is not because someone is condemning you, but because they are conscious of your situation and are trying not to come off as condemning. 

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42 minutes ago, mormonminded said:

So, I appreciate the comments, but I'd just say that no one has really stated a reason the Church puts members through this. 

"The Church" doesn't. God does. And I can think of a great many reasons that God puts us through great trials. In point of fact, that is one of the very most core purposes of life. The question of life is that when we face such things, humiliation, unfairness, abuse, etc., etc., will we stand strong and humble, enduring faithfully to the end or not.

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49 minutes ago, mormonminded said:

I'd equate what I went through to the modern day equivalent of an stoning ceremony.

This sort of outrageous hyperbole helps nothing. You were not executed. You were not horse-whipped. You were not beaten up. You were not even stood up in front of the congregation and publicly shamed. No shunning was involved. You were disfellowshipped, which means that your formal fellowship with the Saints was temporarily suspended. Then it was given back.

I understand that you were embarrassed. Embarrassment is not the same as stoning, or horse-whipping, or getting beaten up, or being publicly shamed. I feel for you, but comparing your experience to a stoning is far beyond the pale.

Declining to say a prayer is simply not all that unusual. You might have approached the teacher after class and quietly said, "I would appreciate it if you would not ask me to pray publicly for the time being." And lots of people don't take the sacrament on any given week, for reasons as trivial as they had an argument with their wife that morning and don't feel the Spirit of the ordinance.

Do you want our sympathy? You have it. Do you want us to agree with your grievances? We don't. You sinned, and as a disciple, you were subjected to discipline. If you insist on picking at the scab, that is your choice, not the fault of your bishop or someone else.

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53 minutes ago, mormonminded said:

None yet has explained how the disfellowship process helps.  What is my personal view after having gone through it, and still living with it?  It's the only way the Church can makes itself feel that it is punishing someone for something that other members haven't done, and therefore it's not about helping the member, but punishment.  But what really irks me is that I realize that many many members probably simply never confess and therefore it make me feel that I was really stupid to go in there and confess in the first place.  

The church does the process because God commands them to...  And I have seen plenty of people who have gone through it and found very helpful...  Very few understood how it would help them before the process.  Those who humbled themselves and followed the process get the blessings... Those who let their pride blind them, who demanded that it all make sense first, who will not act it faith...  Well they struggled and hurt and fell away.

The choice of which path you take is up to you

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I'm sorry your experience was and is so trying.  I don't know that anything any of us says can bring you peace.  The Prince of Peace is the only one who can do that.  Not only can he help you repent, he can help you forgive others, and he can help you overcome shame or embarrassment.

As for what the purpose of your disfellowshipment was supposed to be, only the bishop or the Lord can tell you that.  I can make educated guesses, such as: to prevent you from renewing covenants that might condemn you if done in the wrong spirit, or to encourage you to reflect deeply on the blessings of fellowship, or to encourage humility and greater reliance on the Lord.  But that doesn't mean I'd guess right.

In my experience, while one can mindlessly partake of the Sacrament (possibly to their condemnation), it's not possible to mindlessly refrain from partaking of the Sacrament.  And that in and of itself leads to serious reflection and humility.

One final thought: the disciple chooses whether to learn.  You have a chance learn from this experience (fair and positive experiences aren't the only kind from which we can learn), or whether to let it dim the light in your life.  Choose learning.

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