In the next few weeks, my Stake will be holding my disciplinary council. My Stake President has already told me that I will most likely be excommunicated. How do I prepare to face the council? If I am repentant, is Excommunication necessary? Im willing to change, I'm ready to change, Why isn't being disfellowshipped enough? I'm nervous for this council. What is going to happen when I get there? How will my life change after being excommunicated? How will I have the strength to withstand the temptations of addiction if I no longer have the gift of the Holy Ghost?
Scared but willing
Oh how I know these questions and feelings. I have reflected on and prayed about each of your questions many, many, many times. I think the easiest approach is to take them in order.
How do I prepare for my disciplinary council?
I'm not sure there is a way to prepare. It is going to be what it is going to be. And honestly, that is OK. It needs to be honest, humble, and completely real. The hard truth is that you nor I would have need for a council at all had it not been for a series of bad choices. The true culprits in our lives are both Pride and Fear.
Pride drives us to think of ourselves and our own desires. It fills us with a false sense of confidence and a mistaken feeling of being invulnerable. It launches us head-first into lies and deceit. It feeds us with irrational and unfathomable impulses, all of which led us to making decisions that ultimately brought betrayal to the ones we love and led us to the breaking of sacred covenants. Pride tells us that we don't need a council and can handle this process on our own.
Fear is what Satan has used to keep us Idle and in check for so many years. He has spent countless hours and days telling us that if we follow our true Godly desire to escape this mess and confess, that our lives will fall apart. He has convinced us that we will lose our wives, our children, our homes, our friends, and even our membership. He has frightened us with the thought that we will end up sitting at the end of that large council table, staring at our peers as they decide our fate. Yes, fear keeps us in check by filling our minds with all we might lose and replaces it with a compromise… the loss of our souls. Fear tells us that a council will be scary and horrible and that we should run from it at all costs.
Walking into that council is scary. It was is one of the scariest things I have ever had to do but, this was a true rebirth for me. This was my opportunity to completely come clean and escape the snare and darkness of the adversary. So, I decided it was time to face my fear head on.
My Advice…. Be sincere, Be humble, Be Forthright and Be complete.
Your Humility and Sincerity are obvious signs that you are now ready to turn your life over to the Lord. Don't make excuses for your actions. Nobody in that room or out of it is responsible for your sins but you. Humbly accept your choices with a willingness to change. Humbly accept the council's decision as well. It will be bitter to actually hear those words leave the stake president's lips but it will be a blessing and a restart the likes of which you can get no other way.
Being forthright offers a willingness to answer questions directly without hesitation. Don't assume that you are entering a room filled with people that are trying to trip you up or catch you in a lie. It is exactly the opposite. You are not entering enemy's territory but instead, coming home to friends and family who want nothing more than to see you heal and whole. No one in that room is a stranger to sin. Truthfully, most of the men in that council will be in awe at your humility and willingness to go through such a difficult process.
Be complete. Don't set yourself up for failure by only sharing what you consider are the “Worst Offenses." Don't think that simply because you have confessed your darkest sins that the rest of them are automatically covered. The last thing you want is to have to return over and over to your Bishop or Stake President with new details to divulge. My council was about a month after my confession. In that month the onion layers began to unravel more and more. I was slowly able to open up and confess all of the issues in my past, dating back to when I was a child. This was a blessing for me. That month gave me time to realize that no stone should be left un-turned. And, since I assumed my fate would be excommunication, I might as well get it all out and have complete cleansing. And so that is what I did.
Remember, you are loved by the men in that room. They are your friends. I promise you there will be both tears and hugs as that council concludes.