How the Church Deals With Past Mistakes

Public forum for topics that don't fit into the other categories.
User avatar
Cedar
Posts: 11
Joined: 25 Oct 2013, 21:48

How the Church Deals With Past Mistakes

Post by Cedar » 30 Jan 2015, 14:58

This is associated with the latest press release from the Church and associated interviews, but I hope it's ok if I start it as its own topic because this is something I am really struggling with.

From an SL Trib article:

"But Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, wasn't sure apologizing for past language on homosexuality would be advisable.

"I know that the history of the church is not to seek apologies or to give them," Oaks said in an interview. "We sometimes look back on issues and say, 'Maybe that was counterproductive for what we wish to achieve,' but we look forward and not backward."

The church doesn't "seek apologies," he said, "and we don't give them." "

http://www.sltrib.com/lifestyle/faith/2 ... more-civil

I watched the Trib Talk interview with Elder Oaks, and Elder Christofferson, and he was asked about this statement he had given. He said that he wasn't aware of anywhere in the scriptures where the word "apology" appears. He also referenced temple vandalism in CA, people being fired and intimidated over their views, etc. and that the Church sought no apology. He feels the best way to deal with these things is not in a formal apology with words, but in talking about principles and good will among contending viewpoints.

http://www.sltrib.com/news/2112602-155/ ... s-apostles
(The part of the video I am talking about starts at 24:38)

First of all, I am grateful that the brethren are giving live interviews, and allowing people to ask them questions and try to gain a better understanding. I know they are busy, and that trying to come up with a well worded answer on the spot can be difficult.

However, I guess this hit a nerve for me, because I have struggled with the way that not acknowledging and correcting past mistakes has affected the church culture around me. The Church's way of dealing with these things seems to be to just stop teaching or talking about the principle/teaching in question, and teach "correct" principles from then on. I think the result of this, is there are still a lot of people that continue on believing the old stuff, even if it hasn't been brought up for years. I don't agree with everything Bruce R. McKonkie said in his life, but I really admire his statement he gave after the priesthood ban was lifted “Forget everything I have said, or what … Brigham Young … or whomsoever has said … that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.” Bruce R. McConkie, “New Revelation on Priesthood”

Why can't leaders give statements like this when the Church needs to have a course correction - give people a heads-up that some things they may have learned earlier were not right?

Is it because they don't want to disrespect (evil speaking of) earlier leaders? I think it is possible to be very respectful to past leaders, while saying that we are always gaining more light and knowledge because of continuing revelation, but maybe it is not as simple as it seems.

It is because they are worried that if the church admits that prophets can make mistakes, that people won't have faith in the prophet/leaders today? After this last conference especially, I have found it hard to strike a balance with knowing that the leaders can make mistakes, and the statements "We will not and cannot lead you astray" and "Following the prophet is always right." From my personal viewpoint, I think acknowledging past mistakes and then talking about what to do about them would increase my trust in our leaders, because I do believe they make mistakes and right now those mistakes are just not being discussed and are hoped that people just forget about them (The church did acknowledge past error somewhat with the priesthood and race essay, so kudos on that). On the other hand, I know plenty of people who think that "our leaders aren't perfect" means that they don't eat their broccoli, or leave their dirty socks on the floor, and for them, maybe hearing that things that were previously taught aren't right would be a pretty big shock/shift in their thinking.

As far as formal apologies, do you think the church as an institution should ever issue them? The statement "we don't give apologies" seems very prideful upon first hearing it, and really rubbed me the wrong way. When thinking about it, I do realize that these days there is always someone offended about something, so maybe they just don't want to open themselves up to having to deal with all the people that would demand apologies? A lot of people would probably have a hard time differentiating between "someone, who is a Mormon, has wronged me" and "the Church itself has wronged me". Maybe it is hard to determine what should require an apology from "the Church", and what should require an apology from an individual within the church? Do they just hope or assume that any apologies that should be given, will be given at the local level? Maybe they don't feel they have the right or responsibility to apologize for the actions of past leaders? Maybe they don't want to draw attention to the things that have been done wrong? Is it part of trying to keep up the appearance of being (mostly) infallible? For many people, asking for forgiveness when you have wronged someone, and forgiving when some one asks forgiveness of you is a basic expectation in Christian behavior. I have also heard some people use the rationale, that the church is being hypocritical by asking members to repent/apologize when they have done something wrong, but the church never has to apologize. I'm not sure how I feel about that statement - it is hard to compare an individual to an entire organization, but it does provide an interesting concept to think about. I really don't understand the answer that we don't apologize because the word apology does not appear in the scriptures... :?:

I'm sorry that this is a pretty rambling post, but these different issues all seem to be related and have been going through my head lately and I am trying to gain a better perspective on them.

User avatar
Bruce in Montana
Posts: 280
Joined: 02 Jun 2009, 16:14

Re: How the Church Deals With Past Mistakes

Post by Bruce in Montana » 30 Jan 2015, 15:24

Yep. It seems that individual repentance is: acknowledging that you have wronged others, feeling remorse for that, and trying to make amends to those that you have harmed. It seems that Elder Oaks considers the Church above that.
At least the Mountain Meadows folks got a stinkin' plaque.
The blacks didn't even get that when God changed his mind in '78.
Sorry to be so crude, but this is just ridiculous.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
-William S.

User avatar
nibbler
Posts: 4084
Joined: 14 Nov 2013, 07:34
Location: Ten miles west of the exact centre of the universe

Re: How the Church Deals With Past Mistakes

Post by nibbler » 30 Jan 2015, 16:13

I think you do an excellent job of articulating why many people have become disaffected.
Cedar wrote:The Church's way of dealing with these things seems to be to just stop teaching or talking about the principle/teaching in question, and teach "correct" principles from then on. I think the result of this, is there are still a lot of people that continue on believing the old stuff, even if it hasn't been brought up for years.
Agreed, I see a lot of this. People adhering to outdated correlated teachings. I bet it's hard for the leaders to have their ears to all walls to know which teachings need to be publicly corrected but at times it feels like everyone is just fine with this status quo. The people that like the outdated teachings can go right on believing them and the people that prefer the new teachings have something to hang their hat on as well. The old guard eventually gets too old or outnumbered, then the rising generation becomes the old guard. I hope strides in communication technology will help alleviate some of that going into the future.

I would say that letters from the first presidency read over the pulpit could help correct some of this, but not everyone gets those messages. I'd also say that GS would be a good time to address things but nowadays I see conflicting messages coming out of GCs.

Wasn't DHO a lawyer/judge? I think a part of this reluctance to apologize is out of concerns that doing so will open the church up to litigation.

Some people would also say that an apology coming from the wrong entity doesn't make a difference but my own personal opinion is that an apology can heal wounds. An apology can help a person when we are at fault and I think apologies can help someone that is suffering even when we are not the source of the offense. "I know this doesn't mean much coming from me, but I'm sorry." You never know, that statement could work a miracle.

I guess there's a decent case to be studied. The popes have apologized for various things over the years. One could look at how those apologies were received.

I'm also not a fan of the "not in the scriptures" defense. On the surface it feels like an appeal to the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law.

My post also rambles but I do think that there is a concern that admitting mistakes will toss a wrench into the well oiled machine. Perhaps the sentiment is that admitting to mistake will put the whole system of following the leaders at risk. Obviously the disaffected feels like that should be at risk but the leader's perspective is probably such that not following the leader translates to letting go of the iron rod. aka They are only trying to lead you to god so rejecting them is rejecting god.

Perhaps there's also an element of worrying that they are putting people's salvation at risk. An investigator may turn away from the only thing that will save them (orthodox interpretation) if they see the church as anything less than perfect.
Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Oh, and the scriptures don't have lots of specific words in them. I'm not so sure they'd appreciate people using that same argument against them.
If one dream dies, dream another dream. If you get knocked down, get back up and go again.
― Joel Osteen

User avatar
hawkgrrrl
Site Admin
Posts: 3507
Joined: 22 Oct 2008, 16:27

Re: How the Church Deals With Past Mistakes

Post by hawkgrrrl » 30 Jan 2015, 16:39

I just felt that his comment was evidence that he spends too much time watching and agreeing with Fox News.

Minyan Man
Posts: 1670
Joined: 15 Sep 2011, 13:40

Re: How the Church Deals With Past Mistakes

Post by Minyan Man » 30 Jan 2015, 21:25

Cedar, you said,
As far as formal apologies, do you think the church as an institution should ever issue them? The statement "we don't give apologies" seems very prideful upon first hearing it, and really rubbed me the wrong way. When thinking about it, I do realize that these days there is always someone offended about something, so maybe they just don't want to open themselves up to having to deal with all the people that would demand apologies? A lot of people would probably have a hard time differentiating between "someone, who is a Mormon, has wronged me" and "the Church itself has wronged me". Maybe it is hard to determine what should require an apology from "the Church", and what should require an apology from an individual within the church? Do they just hope or assume that any apologies that should be given, will be given at the local level? Maybe they don't feel they have the right or responsibility to apologize for the actions of past leaders? Maybe they don't want to draw attention to the things that have been done wrong? Is it part of trying to keep up the appearance of being (mostly) infallible? For many people, asking for forgiveness when you have wronged someone, and forgiving when some one asks forgiveness of you is a basic expectation in Christian behavior. I have also heard some people use the rationale, that the church is being hypocritical by asking members to repent/apologize when they have done something wrong, but the church never has to apologize. I'm not sure how I feel about that statement - it is hard to compare an individual to an entire organization, but it does provide an interesting concept to think about. I really don't understand the answer that we don't apologize because the word apology does not appear in the scriptures... :?:
For me, this is a word game for Judges & Lawyers to play. Does it mean that GA's (Elder Oaks) don't need to repent or ask forgiveness?
I know those words are in the scriptures. The danger is it encourages the general membership to play games with words too.

Curt Sunshine
Site Admin
Posts: 16533
Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24

Re: How the Church Deals With Past Mistakes

Post by Curt Sunshine » 31 Jan 2015, 09:39

I would love open apologies about some things, but, to strive for understanding, charity and balance, I'd like to point out two things:

1) "Acknowledging that you have wronged others, feeling remorse for that, and trying to make amends to those that you have harmed. It seems that Elder Oaks considers the Church above that."

How, Bruce, exactly, does this not describe what has happened? MANY of the new essays do exactly that, even if they don't include an explicit apology. Elder McConkie's statement you quoted didn't apologize; it simply admitted error and asked for understanding. For example, I would say that the LDS Church now is MUCH more progressive in the area of black members leading mixed congregations than many Protestant denominations that still have all-black or all-white congregations - and the LDS Church now is one of the two largest American denominations to openly state support of non-discrimination laws for LGBT citizens. How, exactly, should the Church try to make amends outside of trying to fix the problems of the past?

2) I wrote the following almost five years ago: "Change Is Better than an Apology" (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2010 ... ology.html)
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

User avatar
LookingHard
Posts: 2905
Joined: 20 Oct 2014, 12:11

Re: How the Church Deals With Past Mistakes

Post by LookingHard » 31 Jan 2015, 10:45

I have to admit I am bothered by the lack of any apology, but I am becoming a bit less bothered by it (a little less bothered). I think there are some reasons: Legal issues (even if something is win-able in court doesn't mean you won't spend a lot of $ and have a lot of negative PR coming from it). Then there is the concerns that people will be pushing for an apology for the church once saying that you should use only your right hand to do sustainings (BTW - that is no longer in the CHI). And then there is a big one of making previous leaders (and thus the current leaders) seem more failable. I do think there is a bit of pride on that last one and even fear that doing so would hurt the church and have more people leave. The scriptures don't say a lot of things explicitly. They don't tell me to say "FY" to others, but I have learned that insults are not something Christ did.

I was glad they did the follow up trib talk. Not at all perfect and even some comments made me squirm and think "did you REALLY mean to say that? Do you understand how that will be perceived?" But it was great to have them do it. I almost don't want to give them too hard of a rap as I would like to see more of these.
However, I guess this hit a nerve for me, because I have struggled with the way that not acknowledging and correcting past mistakes has affected the church culture around me. The Church's way of dealing with these things seems to be to just stop teaching or talking about the principle/teaching in question, and teach "correct" principles from then on.
I am there with you on this one. Just as one example, on the ldssexualty.com board there has been a raging discussion on the church's stand on Masturbation (one person was even banned due to his continual talking down to others that his way was the only way to frame the issue). I think anybody that studies it would say that compared to the 1970's when I remember hearing "the little factory" talk from BKP and how masturbation is a sin next to murder, things have dramatically changed. The CHI now only says that masturbation is not something you would hold a disciplinary court over and for the strength of youth says, "don't do things that would stir up feelings." The President of BYU-I was asked by Time if masturbation was a sin and he didn't say yes.

time.com

But this change was done by not stating any change, but instead slowly backing off. Of course this change occurred right after the 1982 suicide of a 16 year old that was so depressed about not being able to stop masturbating. I am sure there was possibly some mental illness stirred in there also, but I know from talking with friends that it was near universal feeling that this was about the biggest sin around and most all of my friends say that they still did it and nothing else in their life has created more shame. My son was asked about it. grrrr.

The one item that really ticked me off in this follow-up trib talk was the whole bit of "well if there is local leader roulette" (my words of course), "that isn't really my issue. We just teach correct principles." Come on. Be a LEADER! It is a given that we will never have complete consistency, but if people are calling in questions (as they did) saying, "Where is the line? I feel I can either be exed, or my TR taken, OR NOT depending on who my bishop is if I do certain things like march in a parade." And then to top it off and say, "I don't know about these things going on??" It isn't like being excommunicated is the only thing that members care about. The threat of having a TR taken away is a BIG deal. Does Elder Oaks not know the blogosphere is all lit up about this actually happening THIS month - even the press has had articles on this.

On the "Leaders never make mistakes" line of thinking. I have found a way I can express this without ticking off most of the TBM folks that hear me. I state something like the following.
I find that one quote interesting where it states that catholic doctrine says that the Pope can not be wrong, but most Catholics don't believe it. Mormon doctrine says that the Prophet of the church can be wrong, but most Mormon's don't believe it. It makes me think about the fact that I could have heard incorrect doctrine in the last general conference. It makes me realize the important responsibility that I have to find out from the Lord when I hear something from the leaders to make sure I know how and if it applies to me.
Enough of me rambling. I need to get some stuff done today before the superbowl.

User avatar
hawkgrrrl
Site Admin
Posts: 3507
Joined: 22 Oct 2008, 16:27

Re: How the Church Deals With Past Mistakes

Post by hawkgrrrl » 01 Feb 2015, 22:16

Taking him at his word that "we look forward and not backward," what are 5 things the church could do immediately that would be more impactful than an apology?
1 - relaunch & beef up mormonsandgays website (as Christofferson mentioned)
2 - educate bishops on how to counsel parents of gay children and also that we don't counsel them to try to change their sexual orientation by marrying heterosexuals
3 - pour some of our vast resources into preventing gay teen homelessness and suicide
4 - launch a campaign for church members to volunteer to sit with gay members at church and to welcome them
5 - allow for open expression of diverse opinions on gay marriage and gay rights at BYU and in other Mormon settings - particularly among faculty

What suggestions would you make?

Ann
Posts: 2572
Joined: 09 Sep 2012, 02:17

Re: How the Church Deals With Past Mistakes

Post by Ann » 01 Feb 2015, 22:28

hawkgrrrl wrote:Taking him at his word that "we look forward and not backward," what are 5 things the church could do immediately that would be more impactful than an apology?
1 - relaunch & beef up mormonsandgays website (as Christofferson mentioned)
2 - educate bishops on how to counsel parents of gay children and also that we don't counsel them to try to change their sexual orientation by marrying heterosexuals
3 - pour some of our vast resources into preventing gay teen homelessness and suicide
4 - launch a campaign for church members to volunteer to sit with gay members at church and to welcome them
5 - allow for open expression of diverse opinions on gay marriage and gay rights at BYU and in other Mormon settings - particularly among faculty

What suggestions would you make?
As a start, say every important thing from the news conference/press release/interview in a General Conference talk. I really think a lot of things would fix themselves if members understood that the content this last week wasn't for "public consumption," it's for us.
"Preachers err by trying to talk people into belief; better they reveal the radiance of their own discovery." - Joseph Campbell

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust

"Therefore they said unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said unto them, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes...." - John 9:10-11

Curt Sunshine
Site Admin
Posts: 16533
Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24

Re: How the Church Deals With Past Mistakes

Post by Curt Sunshine » 02 Feb 2015, 06:21

Amen, Hawk and Ann. Those are great suggestions.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

Post Reply