A ward disciplinary council consists of four people: the ward's bishop and his two counselors and the ward clerk. A stake council includes the three members of the stake presidency, 12 high councilors and the stake clerk.
Stake councils are held when excommunication is a possibility for a man ordained to the faith's Melchizedek Priesthood.
Jacob, 37, was a lifelong church member and self-described intellectual who committed adultery. Excommunication was possible, and in his mind, likely.
"I'd become a very logical member of the church," he said. "Everything was common sense and habit. There was no spiritual side. I didn't have a relationship with God."
He also had a negative perception of disciplinary councils, but he said he felt compassion from his council, especially his stake president, who ultimately disfellowshipped him.
"There was nothing like a vengeful attitude there," he said. "It was exactly the opposite of that."
When he got home after the council meeting, a member of the high council was sitting on his doorstep.
"One thing I was dealing with was sexual addiction," Jacob said. "The high council member introduced himself and said, 'Hi, I'm an addict, like you are.' I realized these men were generally concerned about me, that they were normal and they cared."
Jacob said he rediscovered God. A year after the first council, a second convened. A few of the faces had changed, but not many. The council restored him to full fellowship.
"It was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life," Jacob said. "I had changed. They recognized I had connected with God again, that the purpose of the council was to help me get in touch with him again and start understanding his will instead of what I think is best."
Jacob still attends pornography supports groups both inside and outside the church. He said he's given up scorekeeping and let go of anger, bitterness, hate and resentment. The entire process saved his marriage.
People who go before a disciplinary council, he said, have to ask themselves if they are they willing to put aside ego, pride and self-will.
Carl said his sins were rooted in negative thinking and pride. That led him to engage in actions that shocked even him. He fully expected excommunication on that cold January day.
Instead, his stake president informed him he would be disfellowshipped. He would not be able to take the sacrament, pray in church meetings, exercise the priesthood, attend the temple or hold a church calling. But he maintained his membership, and his life already had begun to change: "I was able to hug and shake hands with every member of that council," he said.
The disfellowshipment was to last at least a year, and Carl said he now understands why.
"I'm just now starting to feel promptings from the Holy Ghost again," he said. "It's been a long time because of my previous negative attitudes and adulterous actions."
Now retired, he said his former sins now are repugnant to him and that he has devoted his life to rebuilding his relationship with his wife, children and Savior: "I want to be right with God," he said.
Members of his disciplinary council have continued to provide support.
"I don't know if I had not had to go to them," Carl said, "if I had not had to humble myself and go to them, if I would have been able to do really do something about what I had done.
"For people who would judge the church and say those are just a bunch of old men who want to judge people or control people, they are wrong. They are concerned men who looked out for the welfare of my soul and just wanted the very best for me."
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