Excerpt from Spencer W. Kimball’s ‘Miracle of Forgiveness’, Pg. 328-330: 1
The scriptures speak of Church members being “cast out” or “cut off,” or having their names “blotted out.” This means excommunication. This dread action means the total severance of the individual from the Church. The person who is excommunicated loses his membership in the Church and all attendant blessings. As an excommunicant, he is in a worse situation than he was before he joined the Church. He has lost the Holy Ghost, his priesthood, his endowments, his sealings, his privileges and his claim upon eternal life. This is about the saddest thing which could happen to an individual. Better that he suffer poverty, persecution, sickness, and even death. A true Latter-day Saint would far prefer to see a loved one in his bier than excommunicated from the Church. If the one cut off did not have this feeling of desolateness and barrenness and extreme loss, it would be evidence that he did not understand the meaning of excommunication.
An excommunicant has no Church privileges. He may not attend priesthood meetings (since he has no priesthood); he may not partake of the sacrament, serve in Church positions, offer public prayers, or speaks in meetings; he may not pay tithing except under certain conditions as determined by the bishop. He is “cut off,” “cast out,” and turned over to his Lord for the final judgment. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” ( Heb. 10:31 ), and especially already branded as an apostate or transgressor.
Inasmuch as ye are cut off for transgression, ye cannot escape the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption.
And I now give unto you power from this very hour, that if any man among you, of the order, is found a transgressor and repenteth not of the evil, that ye shall deliver him over unto the buffetings of Satan; and he shall not have power to bring evil upon you. ( D&C 104:9-10 .)
There is a possibility of an excommunicant returning to the blessings of the Church with full membership, and this can be done only through baptism following satisfactory repentance. The way is hard and rough and, without the help of the Holy Ghost to whisper and plead and warn and encourage, one’s climb is infinitely harder than if he were to repent before he lost the Holy Ghost, his membership, and the fellowship of the saints. The time is usually long, very long, as those who have fought their way back will attest. Any who have been finally restored would give the same advice: Repent first-do not permit yourself to be excommunicated if there is a possible way to save yourself from that dire calamity.
Ample scriptures indicate the power of proper Church authorities to judge its members in sin. The prophet Alma judged those who had been in iniquity and who confessed and repented, and waived the usual penalties.
And whosoever repented of their sins and did confess them, them he did number among the people of the church; And those that would not confess their sins and repent of their iniquity, the same were not numbered among the people of the church, and their names were blotted out.
And it came to pass that Alma did regulate all the affairs of the church. ( Mos. 26:35-37 .)
The Lord had previously said to Alma:
Therefore I say unto you, Go; and whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also. ( Mos. 26:29 .)
When the Lord told the Palestinians, “Judge not that ye be not judged,” he evidently was giving general instructions to the mass of humanity through the assembly gathered. In the scripture above quoted, he is talking to ecclesiastical leaders whose responsibility it is to judge the people and regulate the affairs of the Church. As an individual, the bishop or other Church leader will not judge his fellowman, but in his official position as bishop and judge he must be the judge of their actions.
The Lord’s promise to Alma is reassuring: “Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me.” ( Mos. 26:30 .)