Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Gift of Forgetfulness

I had a friend recently ask me some questions about what to expect during a disciplinary council.  She knew that I'd been through one and wondered if I could give her a rundown of what happens.  I am willingly open about my story and all that I have gone through so I was more than happy to offer my experience and answer any questions she had.

But something odd happened.  

I seriously couldn't remember much of what happened; with my actual council and with my reconvening council.   The original council happened about 12 years ago and the reconvene council was 3-4 years after that.  I fell into a period of inactivity between the two.

I found myself sad.  Sad that I couldn't remember.  I wanted to be able to remember in order to offer my friend information but I also wanted to remember for me.  Disciplinary councils are often very spiritual experiences filled with the spirit of the Atonement and I wanted to remember that.

I wanted to remember mine.

So I thought to email my two former bishops. The first being the bishop who held my first council and the second being the bishop who held my reconvene.  I am still in close contact with both of them.  Love those men.

I basically asked each of them the same thing.  I explained the reason I was emailing and wondered if they could help me fill in the gaps in my memory of the councils I had with each of them.  I clarified that I didn't expect them to remember everything because I was sure they'd been privy to a number of councils after mine, but that I had general questions I hoped they could answer.  Questions specifically in regard to what happened after they interviewed me and asked me to step out of the room for a time.  I asked:
  • Did you deliberate?
  • Did you talk about me?
  • Pray for me?
  • About me?
  • Was the Lord very clear in His direction during that time?
  • Did you 'vote'?
  • Do you remember how you felt?
I felt sad as I wrote these questions.  A level of desperation washed over me as I felt a deep loss for those memories.  Almost as if I was mourning them.  

Why can't I remember?
This was such an important time in my life
I should be able to remember

I did not have to wait long to receive the responses I was so anxiously waiting for:

Original Council Bishop:
You ask good questions.  During the deliberation we make sure we have followed the correct procedures.  We consider the mitigating and exacerbating circumstances and try to get a sense of what the Lord would have us do to most of all help the transgressor, but also to protect the innocent and the church.  Once we reach a consensus we kneel and pray about our decision and then discuss our feelings following the prayer.  Once we feel we have a sense of what the Lord would have us do we invite the person on whose behalf we are holding the council to join us and share the decision.

Reconvene Council Bishop:
I appreciate your email.  Interestingly enough, it's amazing to me how the atonement even wipes my brain of any memory.  In fact, it has taken me quite some time of pondering to even remotely remember holding a reconvening.  I'll do my best to answer your questions, but please remember that the atonement really does work and your former priesthood leader never thinks of or remembers anything about the council held.

As for when we ask the member to leave while we consider the outcome, I will do my best to explain.  First, when we hold a reconvening we usually don't even talk of the original reasons the council was held in the first place.  The focus is on the things done since the last council.  How did the member do with doing all the things in the letter received after the first council.  Then we share our personal feelings with regard to reinstating.  The bishop and counselors don't vote.  The bishop holds the keys and he has the final say, although it's more conducive to the spirit when all three are on the same page.  Which was always my experience, especially knowing that someones membership hangs in the balance.  It's also very humbling.  After we feel good about moving forward and that our prayers have been heard, we have the member come in and share the outcome.

Again, I really don't remember holding a council for you.  I have NO IDEA what the original council was, and I believe this is the beauty of the whole process.  I love seeing the atonement in action.  I love the slate being wiped clear.  It's a great thing.

I was especially struck by the latter testimony.  I found it so fascinating that he didn't even remember that I had a council with him, let alone what was said.

But honestly, what he had to say to me was a huge answer to a prayer in my heart.

I was really bothered that I couldn't remember anything about either councils. I pride myself on my memory. I can usually remember the most specific things from years and years ago. Especially things that are emotionally and spiritually impressive. So it was really hard for me to understand why I couldn't remember these two events. 

But as I read his words I was struck by how many times he mentioned that God wipes priesthood leaders memory's.  The Lord then whispered to me "why wouldn't I erase yours too?"  and at that precise moment the scripture "neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more" came to mind and it all came together and touched my spirit.

The Atonement frees me, each of us, from shame. Holding on to such a memory would keep me locked in shame. So the Lord had purpose in releasing me from those memories.  He forgave me, healed me, and simply told me "forget and go and sin no more."  

The fact that I can't remember, just as my Bishop, is a gift. A beautiful gift. 

I am so very grateful.

4 comments:

  1. Wow! I had a disciplinary council just over a decade ago, myself. I have also found myself irritated with my inability to remember. I do remember some things, though. I remember the love. I remember how, though I was expecting punishment, all I felt was love. I remember them asking if I had any witnesses.... or something like that. I don't really even remember who was there besides my bishopric, but I am almost sure that there were more men present. I remember one of the men used to be my home teacher when I was a teen, and it was exceedingly embarrassing knowing he knew all my secrets. But, I remember he hugged me and said, "This changes nothing, Stephanie. You're like a daughter to me."

    And that statement pretty much summed up the entire experience. It was an experience of LOVE. So much love. Oh, and I do remember them sending me out so they could pray and then calling me back in. I was humbled then and ready to accept any fate.

    It was an amazing experience. I am so glad the Lord loves us so much.

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    1. I agree. The experience was nothing like I expected. So grateful for loving Priesthood leaders who follow the Spirit.

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  2. Sidreis,

    Just stumbled upon your blog and read a few posts. I'm glad you have recovered from your addiction. I'm sure it was difficult, but God helps those who helps themselves. Good for you!

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    1. Thanks John. I appreciate you reading. I do want to clarify though, that I am not 'recoverED' but rather I'm 'in recovery' or 'recoverING.' I still struggle with my addiction... I trigger often and have to constantly deliver it all to my Savior. But I have found gratitude in my struggle and that's what keeps me going. Thanks!

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Ezekiel 34:11-12,16

"For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick"