Southworth, 63, a photographer who leads the Arlington Washington Stake near Seattle, relies on a Book of Mormon scripture, 3 Nephi 18:31-32, for guidance. In it, the resurrected Christ tells his apostles in America that the unrepentant will not be numbered among his people but should be encouraged to continue to attend church because they might return and then be healed by him.
Southworth has been a stake president for nine years and has seen many return to full fellowship.
"When they get to that point it is such an inspiring thing to see," he said. "They have such a purity and happiness for the healing they've felt in their lives."
President Duane Jess, a 45-year-old who works in technical sales, leads the Murray West Stake in the Salt Lake Valley. His stake has eight wards and a branch that ministers solely to women in the Salt Lake County Jail. Of the 20 ward and stake councils he's been involved in, one-third have been for people completing a return from discipline.
"I've seen it bring peace to people," Jess said, "peace and healing and perspective, to people that were broken, who thought that they were lost, who thought God couldn't love them any more."
Each of the presidents said local decision-making is critical and in fact is a product of what Mormons know as priesthood keys. Stake presidents have priesthood authority for their stakes that no else has, not even the church's general authorities.
Those priesthood keys give them the divine right to direct inspiration for their stakes and the members in them. All three said they never have consulted with general authorities about a disciplinary hearing.
None of the hearings they have been a part of become public.
"Disciplinary hearings change lives if someone is willing to work through the process the way it is designed to work," Little said.
- Elder David E. Sorensen, former executive...
- BYU coach, players answer questions at fireside
- President Uchtfdorf visits Provo City Center...
- Watch: Mormon missionaries save baby ducks
- 'True compassion': Members of the LDS...
- LDS Church releases video about overcoming...
- What does heaven look like? Here are 10...
- Ask Angela: I'm not getting married in the...
- Ask Angela: I'm not getting married in... 89
- LDS Church releases video about... 42
- Carbon monoxide leak suspected in death... 35
- Defending the Faith: Paul and his list... 21
- LDS stake presidency participates in... 19
- Amish country bristles at... 10
- Want to keep your faith in college?... 7
- Is James Foley a martyr? A brutal death... 6