Before you embark on your reading of the "Fundamental Family Rules," it is important to understand and grasp the
principles behind them. The following four points will hopefully help you to do that.

A. Rules in the section Offenses Warranting Excommunication, are to be obeyed at all times by everyone, no exceptions. Those who disobey them will be excommunicated from Family fellowship and/or literature, according to the degree of disobedience, which will be determined by the continental office.
Offenses Warranting Excommunication are only those offenses which are deemed extremely serious. Exceptions to anyone breaking these rules will not be permitted. In other words, if you break one of the rules listed under this category you will be excommunicated.
         The excommunication rules apply equally to the new babe and to the seasoned leader. They govern us
all, and if we break them we will be excommunicated. The length and severity of the excommunication may vary according to the circumstances, as would a sentence given in a court of law. The Procedures for Excommunicating Family Members cover how excommunication will be handled and whether it will be full or partial.
         A member can
only be excommunicated for breaking the rules listed in the category Offenses Warranting Excommunication.

         [Those who commit] really serious crimes and offenses that could jeopardize our work should definitely be excommunicated! (ML #2340:35.)

B. Family Rules are to be obeyed by all Charter Members, with exceptions only in a rare situation when warranted, or in an unavoidable circumstance. Those who persistently disregard them will be disciplined in an appropriate and proportionate manner according to the severity and frequency of the offense, up to and including the loss of their Charter membership.
         As mentioned earlier, there are both behavioral and procedural rules. The
procedural ones are quite structured, with some of them, like the Home Size Rules, carrying automatic penalties if disobeyed. For example, if your Home population is reported as oversized on two consecutive TRFs, your Home will automatically be put on Probationary Notice. Another procedural rule is that if your Home does not pay its bills and as a result has outstanding debts for two months in a row, your Home will likewise automatically be put on Probationary Notice.
         Some of the
behavioral rules are by their nature a bit more subjective, although we have tried to make them as precise as possible. Breaking these rules can result in some form of discipline, ranging from an admonishment, to your Home putting you on Probationary Status or to the CROs moving you to Fellow Member status, depending on the severity and frequency of the offense. The discipline must be appropriate and proportionate in each particular case.
         Some examples of discipline that a Home teamwork might employ in the majority of situations include: The assigning of extra duties like dishwashing, the loss of Home responsibilities, the temporary forfeiting of an activity or privilege, such as missing a movie or an outing. Often a verbal admonishment will suffice for the first offense. Home teamworks could also assign reading lists and the writing of reactions to what was read to the offending Home member to help strengthen them in their weak area.
behavioral rules are important because they help set the Family standard for acceptable behavior. These particular rules have been chosen because they are deemed important, helpful and advantageous for all Charter Members to follow. They reflect our religious beliefs, and their purpose is to help all of us put those beliefs into practice in our daily lives. By all of us keeping these rules, we can more easily live together in harmony, as we will all be adhering to the same behavioral standard.
         These behavioral rules are to be obeyed by everyone, from top leader down to brand new babe. However, unlike the
Offenses Warranting Excommunication, there are times when exceptions can be made to the behavioral-type rules, in a rare situation where an exception is warranted, or in an unavoidable circumstance.
         As hard as you might try to keep the rules, it's inevitable that at some time or another you will break one of these behavioral rules. When you do, you do not need to be fearful that you will lose your place in the Charter Family! Depending on the situation, you might be admonished by your teamwork, or it may just be mentioned to you if your disobedience is a rare occurrence or special circumstance. However, if you persistently disregard and break these rules, some appropriate discipline will be meted out.

         Family rules are to be obeyed by all--regardless of who you are (ML #2710:23).
         You have got to decide on what rules must be obeyed without fail, and without exception, and what rules can sometimes be relaxed and exceptions made. But you have to have the wisdom of God to know the difference, which is which: Which ones you must enforce without fail, and on which you can be merciful. Even God does that. God has lots of rules. He made lots of rules in His first standard of the Mosaic Law, which was His original standard. But under the Law of Love He has even more rigidly enforced some rules, and under Love He has relaxed some others so they're not as tough. We just have to have the wisdom of the Lord to know the difference (ML #1705:16,17).

C. Family Rules are only those things specifically mandated or forbidden in the "Charter of Responsibilities and Rights" or "Fundamental Family Rules."
         If it's not in the Charter or the "Fundamental Family Rules" it's
not a Family rule! This is a very important point. Everyone needs to understand that other than the specific rules listed in the Charter or the "Fundamental Family Rules," there are no other rules in place for the worldwide Family.
         The Family is expected to fulfil the "Charter of Responsibilities and Rights" and obey the "Fundamental Family Rules," as well as Home regulations that the Home itself establishes by a majority vote. If someone violates, contravenes or fails to fulfil these, they can be disciplined, but
only for those reasons.

D. The individual and/or the Home should decide upon all matters that are not addressed in the "Charter of Responsibilities and Rights" and "Fundamental Family Rules" after prayer, counsel, and the reading of the Bible, the MLs and other Family publications.
         As stated above, any matter not addressed in the Charter or in the "Fundamental Family Rules" isn't a rule. It is up to each individual and/or Home to decide how or if other matters should be made rules for their lives or Homes. Of course, you will want to pray about all such matters, counsel about them, look in the Letters and other Family pubs to see the counsel given, but then it's up to you and/or your Home to make a decision on how or whether or not to apply the counsel.
         As you know, there is a wealth of counsel and guidance throughout the Letters and the other pubs, which should be adhered to, and if you read and apply this counsel the Lord will undoubtedly bless you. It is, however, up to you to make the decision whether to follow that counsel or not. It is your responsibility to make that decision and to live with the outcome of your choices. You have the right to choose in these matters, and you have the responsibility for your choices.

         This is what we're trying to do through the MO Letters, like Paul's Epistles. We're trying to advise you from what we've learned from the Lord, our own experience, but you don't necessarily have to do what we say! You can make your own decisions, according to your own leading from the Lord! (ML #127:28.)

Copyright (c) 1998 by The Family