Guest Post: You Don’t Have to Apologize
by Leslie Dalton
Dear Church Leaders:
We get it. The Church doesn’t apologize. For whatever reason–God might seem fallible, you might seem fallible, or we all believe in moving forward and not dwelling on past things that are now changing for the better for no other reason than God wants to make changes–you don’t apologize. You don’t have to. What we really need is confirmation that we are seen and heard.
Turns out, there are many ways to provide information on changes within the Church that could provide multitudes of members (former and current) with comfort and hope. Here are a couple I can think of. Feel free to adapt as necessary.
1. The Lord has heard your prayers. We understand that many of you have been supplicating Him for a long time over ________________, and God is rewarding your faith and patience with new revelation. We are grateful that He chooses to continue to reveal truth to us, his imperfect servants, in ways that allow you to feel His great love for you. Let us all rejoice together in His mercy and long-suffering.
2. We have heard your cries. We do not profess to be infallible or perfect. In fact, we are quite the opposite. Often we do not understand issues that others find challenging. But we try to listen, and we take your concerns to the Lord. We know you have made ___________________ a matter of personal prayer, and we honor your faithfulness. Sometimes it takes years or even decades for us to fully understand the pain of those whose path in life we do not walk. But as you make those concerns known to us, we, your servants, are humbled to be able to take them to God and ask what He would have us do to move His church forward and make it a place of joy and welcome for all. He knows each of you as we never will, and makes His will known through us as we strive to serve His beloved children. Let us all rejoice together in His mercy and long-suffering.
One or both of these things must be true. Please don’t ask us to believe that God distilled new information on you in a vacuum, without any input from Church members to yourselves or to Him. The scriptures have many examples of prophets who have listened to the people and taken their concerns to God, as well as instances where God has heard His people cry and shown mercy on them by providing revelation to His prophets. This is how we’ve been told God works. And yet you continue to throw new information out, decades behind the rest of the world, as if God simply felt it was time to make these changes, and isn’t it wonderful.
We’ve all seen the way women in the Church have been asking for greater equality for many, many years. We’ve seen members excommunicated from the Body of Christ for protesting inequality. We know you’re aware that the Church is hemorrhaging members–particularly women. How fascinating that God simply speaks to you with new information at a time of great upheaval, when you have just begun to recognize that the current situation is untenable.
God is unchanging–we understand this. His ways are not our ways. We also understand this. Why not take this opportunity to separate yourselves from God a little–just to make sure Church members understand that you are imperfect mouthpieces, and sometimes you take a while to grasp what God always wanted? After all, it took a century for you to realize that Brigham Young was a racist, and his racism had perpetuated itself throughout the Church to the extreme detriment of thousands of faithful people of color. This is clearly stated in one of the essays on the Church website. What a beautiful example of God’s grace and your own imperfection, and a testimony to the fact that you are not the same as God. What better way to end some of the hero-worship that goes on in the Church that you try to combat by telling us you’re not perfect, all while telling us that everything you say is exactly what God wants right now? We know that’s not true. Stop gaslighting us and own your flaws.
You don’t have to apologize. God doesn’t have to apologize. But you do need to let His people know that change comes when they beg Him to help you see with new eyes, and that you are truly willing to take the questions of the people to Him, even when you don’t understand why they’re questioning. Surely you can see that refusing to do this much makes you look like insecure, unfaithful men who have no relationship with God and fear losing power. Surely God, in one of your many frank and open conversations with Him, has pointed this out. If not, perhaps you could check with Him the next time He gives you a random new direction for the Church.
Leslie is a daughter, wife, mother, and junior high English teacher. She doesn’t really believe open letters work, but it sure is cathartic to write them.