One of my friends committed a sin against the Law of Chastity, went to see the bishop, and he didn't give my friend any kind of "probationary period."  I'm not judging either of them, but that just doesn't seem right.  I don't know, but I was just wondering.  Am I wrong? 

Say the person has committed a sin against the Word of Wisdom or Law of Chastity, and the bishop doesn't feel inspired to, or just does not withhold sacrament privileges from that member.  Is that wrong?  Is there somewhere in the Church Handbook that says that certain sins must have a "probationary period" in order to complete the process of repentance?

I have served as a Bishop twice, but in spite of that, I am in no position to evaluate another bishop's decision.  First of all, I don't know all the details of the case.  And even if I knew all the details of the case I would still be unable to say anything.  It so happens that since the Bishop is a common judge in Israel (Doctrine & Covenants 107:74), he alone can receive the "mind and will" of the Lord to judge each specific case, and I lack the authority to receive this revelation for someone outside of my jurisdiction.

The Bishop will take into consideration any mitigating circumstances present in each case.  After that, the rules of Church discipline are still highly influenced by the spirit of revelation.  And the Lord takes a number of different variables into consideration when he inspires his leaders.  Variables such as amount of knowledge and understanding (these two are different things) of the doctrines possessed by the person, strength of the person's testimony, etc.

However, any good Bishop will have the salvation of the sinner as his highest priority, and so should we.  We can keep in mind the passage in the New Testament about the woman caught in the very act of committing adultery--clearly an "open-and-shut" case:

"And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

"This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

"And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." (John 8:3-11)

This essay is published as a support for and an extension of classroom discussion and in no way represents an official statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or its General Authorities.  Dr. Marcus H. Martins assumes full responsibility for the opinions, views, and interpretations contained herein.  For more information contact me at: