My Story: How I Developed A Sexual Addiction

I am a good person. To be honest, I still cringe a little as I write that. As someone recovering from a sexual addiction, I've lived mos...

Thursday, June 14, 2018

My Experience Being Disfellowshipped As A Result of LDS Church Discipline

In May, 2016 I realized that for the previous 20 years, I had developed a serious sexual compulsion problem/addiction. 20 years of guilt and grief had been piling up and were finally released and hit me like a wave. The pain of my past was so acute that I lost my appetite and had a very hard time focusing on anything. From that point, I developed a moderate case of anxiety and depression that I am still struggling with. The burden of my years of lying and deceit was so heavy that I became allergic to lying. It was agonizing thinking of spending another minute living a facade. From that moment, I started reading recovery material, attending addiction recovery support groups, and seeing a therapist. The only thing at that moment I felt sure of was that 1) I was out of control, and it felt awful and 2) if I didn’t recover, my life as I knew it was effectively over. I felt like I was literally on the edge of losing everything I’d ever cared about, including my own identity.

Although I had been a member of the LDS church my whole life, my entire world had turned upside down. I recognized that so many of my motives in life up to that point had been fulfilling the expectations of others. I desperately wanted to be perceived as a righteous Mormon man and went to great lengths to portray the facade, even though I didn’t even realize I was doing it at the time. I felt deep down that something wasn’t right, but I never had the courage to acknowledge and face the truth — I lived in a self-imposed state of ignorance about myself and my motivations. So when the facade came crashing down and I was actually willing to look in the mirror, so to speak, I couldn’t tell what was real and what was fake. I couldn’t tell if I ever really had a confirmation and witness of the LDS faith, or whether that was part of the duplicity. I didn’t know what I believed, I didn’t know what motivated me, and scariest of all, I didn’t know who I really was.

So even though I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue with the LDS church, I did recognize that part of my recovery would be to bring all of the deception to light. I was finished living a lie, and decided to confess. I went to my bishop, and told him everything, not holding anything back. It was the first time I had ever done that. My purpose at the time wasn’t to “begin the repentance process” and come back into good standing. It was to end the lie, be free of it, and work in recovery to piece back my life and build it into… something. I didn’t know what, but I knew it had to be better than what it currently was. I met with my bishop and my stake president a few times, and then they scheduled a church disciplinary court.

To give some context, at the time I had been married for about 8 years. Previous to and during those 8 years, I semi-regularly viewed pornography and masturbated, engaged in online sexual conversations with other women, and met up with several women that I met online. I ended up kissing about 10 of those I met up with, engaged in mutual masturbation with about half of those (5 or so), and engaged in oral sex with one. Also, one of the women that I engaged in mutual masturbation with was underage (she was 16 when I was in my early 20s). As a result of the church council, I was fully expecting to be excommunicated from the church. In fact, I was actually hoping for it, because then I could have the freedom to explore who I really was and what I really believed.

Church Council #1 (July, 2016) 

The “day of reckoning” came, and I bore my soul to the 15 men (most of them strangers) that made up the church court. The entire ordeal lasted about 5 hours. For 2 hours, I answered their questions about my past, and about my current state at the time. A few of their questions stood out. The very first question asked was, “You have been a member of the church, and even worked for the church for a significant period of time. You understand how priesthood meetings work and operate. That being the case, why would you come before us dressed like that?” (I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt). That set the tone for the meeting. I explained that what I was wearing was about the last thing on my mind, and probably the thing of least importance. I was surprised that it even came up. I could tell that most of them weren’t expecting and didn’t really know how to handle the blunt honesty that I was dealing out. Frankly, I didn’t feel like dressing up. I think they were used to people coming before them in “sackcloth and ashes.” Remember, my purpose at the time wasn’t to “repent” in the LDS understanding of the term. My purpose was to confess as part of my recovery in bringing my secret life to the light so I could learn to move on.

Another question that stood out was, “We keep hearing you talk about addiction and recovery. Why aren’t you instead talking about sin and repentance.” This question also caught me off guard. I had explained to them that the last couple months had led me to question literally everything I thought I knew about God and the church. My life in many ways had shattered, and I was left with incomprehensible pieces, trying to figure out which were a part of me and which were a part of the deception. I wasn’t ready to think about life in terms of sin and repentance. Plus, although there is definitely overlap, addiction isn’t the same thing as sin, and recovery isn’t the same thing as the repentance. My sole focus was to enter into a rigorous program of recovery to overcome my addiction. At that point, I knew that God and His power would be 100% necessary in order to make any progress. But I wasn’t ready to describe or pretend to understand God’s power. I was content that it was available, that I had already begun to feel it and use it in my recovery, and that I had seen men (both LDS and otherwise) use God’s power to achieve the miracle of sustained recovery.

Long story short, after deliberating for a significant period of time, the council brought me back in and delivered the verdict. I was disfellowshipped for a period of at least one year. Additionally, I would have a permanent annotation placed on my church records that would bar me from holding any positions that had me working with children. I was instructed that if I was ready, the council would reconvene in a year to deliberate about my reinstatement. I hadn’t lost my membership, or the priesthood, I had just temporarily lost my right to participate in full membership. I wasn’t allowed to hold a calling, give a talk or even pray in church (but I was encouraged to continue paying tithing and wearing garments). I was told that the annotation would remain even after being reinstated for a time until I had shown significant progress in recovery, and then I could point apply to have the annotation removed with approval from the first presidency. The stake president also outlined some of the “conditions” for my reinstatement, including attending church 12-step meetings, reading in the Book of Mormon daily, and “completing” the 12 steps.

Life in Disfellowshipment 

It is ironic that the meeting was held on July 5th, the day after Independence Day. I felt a huge burden lifted off my shoulders at that point. I had confronted my past, and righted my wrong of lying and deceiving leaders of the church over the previous 20 years. I finally had an opportunity to truly take a step back, look at my life, and piece it back together the way God intended. I had never felt the freedom to actually investigate my belief in God outside of the LDS religion. After that point, I didn’t really attend church for about 3 months. I attended several other Christian churches, and found it incredible how much we shared in common. I found devout people, trying to live Christ-like lives in the ways they knew how. I learned that there were many more similarities than differences between these various Christian churches.

At that point, my relationship with my wife was at its worst. At first I readily accepted that we were heading for divorce. But as time went on, and I learned who I was, and learned who my wife was, I began to see potential in our marriage. That, and I owed it to my kids to at least try and see if we could make it work. My therapist wisely counseled me that I couldn’t handle too much at one time. She suggested that perhaps both trying to see if our marriage was salvageable and trying to discover my spiritual path at the same time was more than I could handle. I agreed, and decided to put my spiritual and religious exploration on the back-burner to focus on recovery and my marriage.
After about 4 months, I began to read the scriptures again. First the Bible, and then I started reading in the Book of Mormon as well. This time around, I was reading to learn instead of reading because I knew I should. I was reading to discover God, and I did discover Him. I began to feel inspiration and hope as I read and searched. I began to see how the principles I was being taught to live in the 12-steps were the same principles that God was teaching me to live as I read the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I was working on step 4 at the time (taking an internal, moral inventory), and I created a section totally devoted to my resentments towards the LDS church. The list was long, but as I wrote it out and shared it, I started to realize that most of my resentments were about policies, organizational decisions, and culture: not the doctrine.

I don’t remember what exactly led to this, but I remember realizing that I had the ability to choose to have faith and believe in the LDS church. Even though I had issues, doubts, and questions, I could choose to have faith and move forward anyway. I realized that I could choose to have an influence on my family and those around me. I could work to change the cultural problems that I encountered. So I made the decision that I was going to jump in with both feet, and I would bring my doubts and questions with me. After I had made this decision, the next steps of recovery progressed rather quickly. I began to earnestly seek for God’s will for me, and I recognized it as a blessing and not a burden to surrender my life to Him. I began to take regular inventory and identify and correct my character flaws and defects. My relationship with my wife and my kids became better. I actually became excited for my year mark to come so I could start to participate fully in the LDS church. I was confident that I had made significant progress. I actually realized that I was in the best spot spiritually that I had ever been (notwithstanding my concerns and questions).

During this time, my bishop began to use me often to learn more about sexual addiction, and learn how he could help others in the ward who were struggling. I felt like I was gaining momentum. I was progressing in the steps and in my recovery. I no longer struggled with temptations to be unfaithful. I began to experience months of sobriety instead of days or weeks, and when I did relapse the magnitude and duration of the relapses were significantly improving. I occasionally struggled with light pornography and masturbation, but was making rapid progress.

Church Council #2 (July, 2017) 

As I approached July of 2017 (my 1-year mark), I spoke with my bishop and Stake President about my progress. The Stake President wanted me to have at least a month of sobriety from any form of pornography or masturbation before the council would reconvene. The council reconvened in July, and it was overall a good experience. I reported on my progress, and it was clear to the men there who were present during my first council that I had experienced a radical transformation in my attitude and demeanor. They thanked me for my openness and expressed how they had learned a tremendous amount about addiction and recovery from my experience. After they deliberated for a time, the decision was unanimous that I was to be reinstated into full fellowship. I was counseled to take the sacrament, and immediately schedule interviews with the bishop and stake president to get my temple recommend.

I left feeling greatly relieved and happy. I was overjoyed that I could again be in full fellowship and begin to let activity in the church work in harmony with my recovery to help me continue to change and become more like Christ. I took the sacrament that afternoon in church, and felt warm. I was grateful for the chance to renew my baptismal covenants after so long and embrace my new path. I wasn’t the same person I was before, and I felt like I was on a sure foundation. I knew who I was and I knew that my desires to have faith despite lingering concerns was real, not feigned.

That afternoon right as I was about to leave the church and head home, the bishop pulled me aside and asked to chat with me. He told me to sit tight a minute while he found the stake president, who needed to see me. A bit perplexed, I waited. The stake president promptly came in and explained that he made a mistake during the council. He explained that because I had an annotation on my record for being involved with a minor, my reinstatement required first presidency approval. With sincerity, he apologized for the misunderstanding, and committed to do everything in his power to begin the application process immediately. This felt like a punch in the gut. I tried my best to realize that it was an honest mistake, and that everything would work out. In a matter of a couple days, the stake president, the bishop, my wife, and I all filled out our parts of the application for me to be reinstated. I was told that the process was expected to take about six weeks. I was disappointed, but after waiting a year, I could wait six more weeks.

Move to Utah (August, 2017) 

Unfortunately, my employment situation required me to relocate to Utah while the application was still being processed. I had really hoped that this would be resolved before moving, but it wasn’t. I moved into my new ward in Utah, and immediately sought a few minutes to speak with my new bishop. I explained to him that I was currently disfellowshipped, and that there was an application in process for me to receive approval from the first presidency to be reinstated. My bishop was very understanding and supportive. I shared with him a brief summary of my journey. I felt that we connected, and he seemed legitimately excited to see me be reinstated and become an active part of the ward.

1st Meeting with Stake President in Utah 

The next Sunday, I got a call from the stake executive secretary asking me to meet with the stake president. I was happy to meet with him, and share with him my journey and my progress. But the meeting with the stake president was nothing like the meeting with my bishop. Where the bishop seemed concerned about me and my progress, the stake president seemed more concerned with all of the details of what I had done. He explained to me that it is his practice to individually meet with any members of the stake who moves in with outstanding issues on their record (and I was a special case with both a disfellowshipment and an annotation). He then proceeded to interrogate me more vigorously than any other priesthood leader ever had. He wanted to know everything, and he pulled out a notepad to take notes as I told him about all the occurrences I could remember over the previous 20 years relating to my addiction. He even got to the detail of asking me about the specific types of pornography I enjoyed viewing. As the meeting progressed, I became more and more disillusioned. I felt like I was literally being defined in his eyes by what I had done, and not by whom I had become. It was a painful experience to re-live the past, and to re-live the shame I felt from the past as I saw the judgment in his eyes and heard it in his voice.

As I told him my story, there were a couple of instances where he aggressively jumped in to correct me. One was after I described my aversion to reading the Book of Mormon immediately after my disfellowshipment. I explained that I didn’t want to live falsely anymore, and I was worried that reading the Book of Mormon just because I was told to do so would be continuing the same duplicity that propelled my addiction for so long. I wasn’t trying to defend my thinking; I was merely explaining my mindset at that time in my story. He jumped in and told me how wrong I was to think this way and how dangerous this line of thought was to my spiritual progression. He warned against the trend of living “authentically,” that it was often used as a guise to justify sin. I was a bit taken aback. I was narrating the story of my disfellowshipment, not describing how I currently felt. I was reading the Book of Mormon religiously at the time. I was just describing my story of how I got there. The fact that he would jump in so readily to point out where I was wrong really put me off.

Bombshell #1 

As I finished my narration, and answered all of his questions, he proceeded to tell me that he had paused my application to be reinstated because he had talked with my bishop and learned that I only had a few months of sobriety from viewing any form of pornography. He explained that it is church policy for anyone who had been involved with a minor to have at least 1 year of living the law of chastity completely without incident before an application could even be reviewed by the first presidency. This statement hit me like a ton of bricks. The proverbial carpet was already pulled out from under me once when my reinstatement was rescinded by my previous stake president (because they forgot to inform me it needed first presidency approval). I stomached that blow fairly easily though, because I knew it would only be a set back of a couple months. But this time, I was being hit with a requirement that I had never heard before. I would have to wait nearly another year at least until my application could even be reviewed. I was livid.

It took all of my effort to remain cordial as I pushed for more information. I explained that this was the first time I had heard of the policy, and that it wasn’t explained to me by my previous stake. I asked why my previous stake president wouldn’t have told me that this was a requirement when I was first disfellowshipped. In my mind, I was trying to understand if this really was a policy, or if this was the stake president’s own interpretation and implementation of “policy.” I expressed how unfairly I felt I was being treated. It didn’t make sense to me. I wasn’t disfellowshipped because I was an addict. I wasn’t disfellowshipped because I viewed pornography and masturbated. I was disfellowshipped because I had engaged in sexual activity with several women while I was married, including a 16-year-old minor many years earlier. I completely forsook those sins over the last year and several months. I was initially racked with pain, and worked very hard at my recovery to ensure that those triggers and temptations didn’t overpower me again. I had demonstrated a significant change, and was judged by the council in my previous stake as ready to be reinstated. More importantly, I had received very personal, real assurance from God that I had been forgiven and was on the right path. I expressed how it seemed like I was being held to a significantly higher standard than the rest of the people in the church. Doubtless there were multiple members who engaged in pornography much more obsessively than me who got to maintain their church membership (and even temple recommends).

He then asked me, “where do these policies come from?” I explained that I believed that just because a policy comes from “the brethren” doesn’t mean that it is flawless. I was very comfortable believing in a church where the core doctrine remained the same, while policies and the organization frequently changed to match the needs of a changing world. I referenced multiple instances where policy had changed in church history. He then proceeded to berate me for treating the church like an “a la carte” offering. He said it was wrong to think that I could pick and choose which advice to listen to and which to ignore. I tried to explain that I understood that membership in an organization meant I agreed to live by the rules of that organization. But it didn’t mean that I had to blindly agree to all of the policies and culture.

After an uncomfortable hour, I went home feeling dejected. I felt completely deflated, and for the first time in a while I felt shame about my past. I carried an unhealthy amount of resentment towards my new stake president, and even started resenting God. How could he do this to me… twice? I felt perplexed. The stake president was telling me that I was supposed to obey all church policies, and that pushing back against any of them was sinful and wrong. But I wasn’t even sure that this 1-year policy he referred to was a legitimate church policy or his own interpretation.

I spent the next several days researching and learning as much as I possibly could about church policy regarding disfellowshipment from as many sources as I could find. I talked to my bishop, and told him about our meeting and my frustration with the stake president. I talked to my father in law, who was a bishop at the time to see if he knew about this phantom policy. I spoke with my previous bishop and stake president to learn why they hadn’t told me about this alleged policy. I consulted the church handbook for bishops and stake presidents and read about its policies regarding disfellowshipment and annotations. I consulted with well-known therapists in the area with years of experience working with LDS members who have been disfellowshipped or excommunicated. I even posted my question online on sites such as www.askgramps.org (though I still haven’t received a reply). No one had heard of this policy. I found nothing about it in the church handbook. A prominent LDS therapist encouraged me to seek further clarification, because in all his time working with dozens of people in similar situations, this was new to him.

The bishop agreed to follow up with the stake president on my behalf and seek understanding. He relayed to me that it wasn’t the stake president’s decision to pause my application. Rather it was someone in the First Presidency’s office whose job it was to screen such applications. The stake president had called this person, and this person had then informed the stake president of the policy and told the stake president that they would need to pause the application. After hearing this, I felt a bit less resentful towards the stake president. But I wasn’t ready to give up fighting for full fellowship. I crafted an email to the bishop, stating that I felt I had been erroneously placed in the “child abuser” bucket in the first place. When I read the church handbook, the condition requiring an annotation on a record includes a sexual offense against or serious physical abuse of a child. I argued that legally a child typically refers to a prepubescent minor, and that the conduct I was engaged in wasn’t defined as child abuse. I wasn’t trying to exonerate myself by any means, but I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t being classified as a child abuser in the church’s system when I felt that didn’t apply.

2nd Meeting with Stake President 

The stake president asked to meet with me again. The bishop had forwarded my email to him. He asked me to explain how I was feeling. I explained to him my “research” and that no one else had ever heard of the policy that someone in my situation needed 1 year of sobriety from any form of pornography before being considered for reinstatement. I told him that I felt like the punishment didn’t seem to fit the crime. I also explained that I might have been classified as a child abuser when I didn’t feel that this was right. He came down on me harder than before. He admonished me for justifying my sins, told me my heart wasn’t in the right place, and that I wasn’t showing any sign of regret for what I had done. He then shook his head and looked at me with what I perceived as loathing as he said, “you think the punishment doesn’t fit the crime?” and he expressed that he had daughters and he would do anything as a father to protect them. And although he didn’t say it, the feeling I got was that to him, death might not be too severe a punishment for what I had done. At least that is what I felt during the conversation. He explained that he was very surprised that I hadn’t been excommunicated, and left it unspoken but understood that had he been in charge of my disciplinary court, I most definitely would have been.

The amount of shame that flooded over me during this verbal beating was overwhelming. I started to feel like I was a dirtbag who committed an unpardonable sin, and that in the grand scheme of things I was getting off easy. I felt thoroughly “put in my place” and gave up any argument. I submitted to it, hung my head and shut up. The amount of shame that came from that experience is nearly the same as when I first confronted my addiction. After this ended, he then told me that he called church HQ for more information about the aforementioned policy. He admitted that it wasn’t official that there needs to be a year of sobriety before being reinstated, but that the workers in the office of the first presidency said that a year of sobriety is preferred to have “a good shot” at being reinstated. He also affirmed that it was he that took the initiative to pause my application, and not the worker in the First Presidency’s office as the bishop previously explained. He then described that he was unwilling to allow this to proceed until he felt like I was ready and my heart was softened, be it in 6 months or several years. He told of a man in the stake who had been disfellowshipped for several years because he couldn’t go a year without looking at pornography, and that he wouldn't push for reinstatement until he felt like the man was ready. It almost felt like a threat. This was difficult for me, because I felt like he had completely missed the radical change that I had made since my initial disfellowshipment to that time. How could I show him the remorse he was looking for, when I already felt that I had been forgiven? Isn’t one of the promises of forgiveness that we would no longer feel the intense remorse and guilt that drives us to repent? Resigned to my fate of feeling "held hostage", I tried to work the steps and surrender my resentment. It slowly began to fade as I prayed, meditated, and learned to connect with God.

3rd Meeting with Stake President (October 2017) 

I met a third time with the stake president, this time together with my wife. I had told her some of my concerns, but was really curious to see how she reacted to him. The conversation started with him asking her in front of me how she felt about me and my progress. It was a bit awkward, but both she and I were communicating and talking every day, so there were no surprises. Then he bluntly commented that the work I was doing was not enough. He referenced a daily form that I was filling out and sharing with him as part of my step 10 work (daily inventory). He mentioned that doing this would never be enough to help me overcome my addiction. This bothered me a bit, as I had never tried to claim that this was enough. I had a whole recovery routine that included using every tool available to me. He taught about the infinite atonement and that ultimately it was only Christ’s power that could help me. Then he made a surprising comment that he often had addicts in his office who would tell him that it isn’t enough just to pray. He spoke about them and about that sentiment with contempt and said that they were completely wrong. If I prayed with enough faith, God would bless me with the atoning power to overcome the addiction.

When we left, I was very curious about my wife’s first impression. I tried not to lead her or taint her thoughts, and just asked what she thought about the meeting. She actually responded about how bugged she was. She was bugged at first by the complete lack of care or sensitivity for her. She felt that all of his questions that he asked her were only about me, but there was no care or concern for her and her recovery from trauma. In our previous stake, the bishop and stake president went to great lengths to empathize with her about the trauma she was experiencing. But she felt a complete lack of care and empathy form the current stake president. Then she launched into his comment about prayer, saying that he clearly had a lot to learn about addiction and recovery. She mentioned that ecclesiastical leaders telling people to “pray harder” commonly kept them from getting real help and making any significant progress in recovery.

4th Meeting with Stake President (December, 2017) 

It had been over three months since my first meeting with the stake president, and I had remained sober. I was feverishly working multiple programs to show God how important recovery was to me and that I was willing to go to great lengths to get it. I had grown closer to God and to my wife. But all the while, I felt alienated by the church. The stake president asked that I not meet with the bishop, but meet only with him while working towards reinstatement. This had effectively removed the one man that I felt I could completely and fully confide in, and placed me in the care of a man that I felt uncomfortable around. I was scared to share my true thoughts, feelings, and concerns. I felt that if he sensed that I wasn’t living up to the Peter Priesthood expectation in any way, then he would refuse to recommend me for reinstatement. I felt like I had no choice but to play the part of what he expected of me, which left me feeling like a hostage, and very alone.

I met with the stake president a 4th time, and tried to package my experiences and present them using words and terms that he would understand and accept. That way I felt like I wasn’t being dishonest about my experiences, but I was portraying them in a way that met his expectations. I felt a bit guilty about being disingenuous, however I felt backed into a corner with no other option. The meeting was relatively uneventful, and was mainly a check-in on my progress. At the end of the meeting he asked if there was anything he could do for me. I told him that my best friend was getting married soon, and that I was praying to God to make it possible for me to attend. He gave the answer I expected, which was he definitely couldn’t promise one way or another, but he would continue to meet and work with me until then.

Bombshell #2 

But then he told me the story of another man in the stake who was in a similar situation. He had been disfellowshipped and reinstated many years earlier, but had an annotation that remained on his record. He came in to meet with the stake president, humbly, and asked to begin the process of requesting the the removal of the annotation from the First Presidency. Having never done this before, the stake president called into the office of the First Presidency to inquire how to go about requesting the change. He reported to me that when he called, he was told that annotations on records often weren’t ever removed, and only were considered for removal in extraordinary circumstances. He told me that even after I was reinstated, I shouldn’t get my hopes up about ever having the annotation removed.

Yet again, this hit me like a ton of bricks. As I’ve explained above, I was originally told that I could apply to have the annotation removed after having experienced a comfortable period of sobriety and recovery. I have never felt like the annotation was necessary. I have never posed a threat to anyone in the church. I have never used any relationship in the church to fuel my addiction. Since I was so worried about preserving my image and keeping my addictive life secret, I would obsessively work to avoid anyone connected in any way to my “regular” life. But when it was proclaimed I would have an annotation on my record, I understood the precaution of the church in placing a temporary restriction on my record while the disciplinary proceedings and my own recovery were getting worked out. But learning that I would virtually be labeled as a child abuser and sex offender on the records of the church was devastating. I felt a flood of shame come again, feeling that the sins of my past would continue to haunt me and define me for the rest of my life.

Based on my past experiences, I felt that it wasn’t safe for me to express my feelings with the stake president. So after he told me this story, I held my tongue and let the meeting end. This meeting was another significant challenge for me in this process. I started to feel even more jaded and resentful towards the church. I felt that the church’s prevalent teachings about the infiniteness of the atonement had an exception for sex-addicted men with a past like mine. I would often hear that everyone could be forgiven no matter what they had done. But I would keep feeling immense shame that no matter what I did, on the church’s records I would never be fully forgiven.

I remembered reading a talk in the October 2017 General Conference by Elder Dale Renlund. He told a story of a time that he went to a country to organize its first stake, and also to interview a 30-year old man to potentially restore his blessings after being excommunicated. He explained to the young man that after his blessings were restored, the date of the interview would have no official meaning because his records would be wiped clean, only showing the original date of baptism with no mention of his excommunication. He shared a scripture in D&C 58 teaching that those who repent are forgiven and their sins will be remembered no more. Again, I couldn’t help but feel like I was the exception. I had done something so profoundly bad that I would forever be a danger to those around me, and the church needed to remember my sin in the form of this annotation. This seemed to contradict the entire point of what Elder Renlund was teaching.

I started to question whether I wanted to belong to a church that was so intent on reminding me of my past and and causing me to continually feel shame and inadequacy. I felt like I had no one to talk to about my concerns, because if I brought them up to my stake president, he would see it as a sign that I was trying to justify my sins and I wasn’t being penitent enough. My excitement to be reinstated began to wane significantly. I still actively worked on my addiction recovery and was making great progress.

Additional Meetings 

I met with the stake president a few more times, about every 6-8 weeks. The meetings were mostly check-ups where the stake president would share a scripture with me, ask me if “I was being good” and tell me how proud he was of me. I tried not to lie, and represent my progress in recovery in the church terms he was expecting. But I did keep my doubts and concerns to myself. I had several flare ups of resentment towards my stake president and the church during that time. One of the worst was when I had to tell my best friend that I couldn’t attend his temple wedding ceremony because I was still disfellowshipped. This created a bit of a distance between us, and I noticed myself beginning to isolate again. This worried me because isolation was a big part of my addiction and I didn’t want to go back down that road. So I kept up on recovery and tried very hard to maintain channels where I could be open and not isolate. I also tried to voice some of my growing concerns and resentments towards the church to some friends and family. For those who were very active in the church, my concerns were often met with defensiveness, so I stopped bringing up my concerns to them.

Reinstatement (April, 2018) 

In April, the stake president called me and told me that he had an impression that it was time for him to call the First Presidency’s office to resume my application. I honestly had mixed feelings. While I was happy to have this part of my journey behind me, I was also aware that my enthusiasm to come back into full fellowship wasn’t what it was a year ago. Also, I was guarded because I'd had the carpet pulled out from under me a couple times already. I didn’t want to start hoping that everything was taken care of only to have my application rejected. So I didn’t put much time or attention into investigating how I felt about the prospect of being reinstated.

About a month later, the stake president invited me to meet with him in his office, where he told me that the first presidency had accepted my application and that I was as of that point reinstated into full fellowship. He told me that I could start taking the sacrament again and participating fully in church, but that it would take a bit of time for my records to reflect the change before I could be given a calling. Again, I was conflicted by the news. Part of meet wanted to be happy that it was finally over, but the other part of me knew that I had scars from this experience that would take a long time to get over. The rest of the meeting went ok. I waited for the joy and relief to hit me later that night. But it never really came. I figured that as I started to take the sacrament, and got back into the “swing of things” that the relief and joy would come. But instead I just felt confusion and discomfort about my experience.

The story is still unfolding. I still have a lot of digging and soul-searching to do to discover what the right approach is for me moving forward. This much is clear: had I been reinstated per my original stake council's decision, I would likely be fully active and energetic about the church. However, my experience over the last year has driven a deep wedge and left significant scars.

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