No sooner I climbed into bed and turned out the lights I was flooded with memories of the tribunal of elders who disfellowshipped me. The process of disfellowshipping quite literally cut me off from my family. My kids were told they could no longer have association of any kind with me. My daughter called me long distance from Vancouver — I lived in Saskatoon at the time. She heard the news within a few days and called me to ask, a quiver in her voice, “Mom, is it true that you are disfellowshipped?”
I replied more calmly than I imagined I could, “Yes, it is true.”
My daughter began to sob, “Mom, you have to come back!”
“I won’t be coming back,” I heard myself say.
She hung up the phone and I knew the shunning had begun.
My children had been notified and I was officially cut off from any further association. Why didn’t I try to “save” myself? I knew about the elders’ meeting. I was invited via telephone. An elder left a message on my answering machine, “We have arranged a meeting at (such-and-such a date and time) to conclude this matter.” The word “conclude” in the message indicated to me that a decision had already been reached, without hearing my side of the issue. Based on the comment, I realized that there would be no point in attending. I was not up for that nonsense. They already knew what their judgment would be whether I was in attendance or not — and I didn’t need the drama. I did not want to explain myself or my actions to these men who had no clue what I was going through — men without compassion or heart.
I did not reply to the message on my phone, nor did I attend their judicial meeting. They were not prepared to hear my defense, but only to judge and condemn me — my faith was found to be defective. I was disfellowshipped without my attendance at the elder’s judicial committee meeting.
Other humans can judge my faith as defective? ...Something did not ring true.
This news came as I was still grieving over my mom’s death. She died quite suddently without warning a month earlier. I wasn’t sure what the evidence against me was. Perhaps an elder’s wife had seen my partner and me leaving a dance—together. I had been "disobedient" in following their explicit instructions to leave the dance world and come back to their meetings. I was unrepentant. There was nothing left to do except discipline me to the fullest extent.
I did the only thing I knew how to do in a crisis — I prayed.
Now, according to the beliefs of the religion, once a person is disfellowshipped, they are completely cut off from God. To the patriarchial way of thinking, the disfellowshipping took place because there was something seriously defective about my faith. I was spiritually unclean and God would turn himself away from me, a dangerous unrepentant sinner.
My experience with prayer, however, demonstrated to me instantly that their belief in blanket condemnation was unwarranted. I felt a strong spiritual connection immediately. Something inside me knew I was safe. I was consoled. The comfort I felt was truly amazing—and so contrary to what my belief system had been up to that point. I realized what my parents’ religion taught about an external, cruel, unforgiving God could not possibly be the truth. I was always taught that when you leave God, he will leave you—a punishing belief system.
I had not left God, though — a detail the elders did not consider during their hasty decision to extricate me from the congregation. God meant a lot to me. Maybe just a different God than the one they worshipped.
I was cut off — like a tree being cut down to its stump.
I could have lay down and died — and many members who find themselves on the “wrong” side of a tribunal of elders actually do kill themselves.
But I lived. Why did I live? — When others in my shoes have died? Fortunately for me I had an existing support system in place. I had a therapist with whom I had established a deep trust over a period of several years. I had my dance world, including my very concerned dance partner who prayed with me as I sobbed and grieved for my children.
So I was able to survive yet another trauma.
When I moved to Vancouver, I “knew” I had come to work with a woman who could help me heal from the religious dogma inflicted upon me since birth. After about a year or so of visits, she told me she had discovered—she could see—I had begun to grow a new spine. She consulted with one of her students, who confirmed what the healer saw. The spine looked to her like “a twig with some new green growth appearing along my old spine. The old spine was disintegrating.”
I was amazed. Out of my “stump,” emerged some new growth, a baby tree had come forth. The tribunal of elders who judged me could not — ever — destroy my faith. I was going to be okay. I was healing because perhaps I believed in myself enough.
I was jubilant!