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.

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16 Responses

  1. William says:

    Assumptions made in this article, and many like it during the posts since the temple changes, are that our general authorities are a power-hungry privileged dominating patriarchy, Too proud to admit that the feminist activists in the church have forced them to capitulate and Cowtow to their cries of pain and injustice.

    One could argue, In a Post-Modern echo chamber like E2, that it is the only way to put it.

    More curious is why modern women put up with any Abrahamic religious tradition at all? Patriarchy is the main feature. it is hardwired into the DNA. Women are largely excluded from scripture, church decision making channels, and certainly will not receive reparations from the past deficits they endured.

    I ask this to my 4 sisters, wife and aunts at family gatherings.

    All active temple goers. College grads. Liberal, conservative,and libertarian.

    They discuss with a sense of humor, forgiveness, and hopefulness, with a little extra spice of sarcasm and gender barbs.

    On this channel, the tone of discussion and comments are the inverse.

    So I see that participation in the great corrupt patriarchy can be framed differently.

    Perhaps it helps that we have a backstage view of a few general authorities lives, and they are anything but domineering, power-hungry, compellers of male domination.

    They are rather amazing husbands fathers and service-based disciples who make insane sacrifices none of us would be willing to endure

    They travel with their wives to dozens of countries across dozens of cultures – uplifting, speaking and serving/ministering.

    They are aware that they are portrayed as being out of touch abusers and purveyors of hate.

    Like their master promised – the trolls think they are doing God a service to hunt them down and kill them, metaphorically speaking.

    Yet they serve. And for some unexplained reason- the women of the church go along as accomplices as they spread intolerance and chauvinism.

    Must be variants on ways to endure patriarchy that are not being expressed here.

    At first I was fascinated and intrigued by the reactions to the temple changes on E2, but eventually I just skimmed one after another rehash of the same invective.

    PS – Just shared this reaction with a 60 something former subscriber to E2. She said that if you are over 30 and give an inch to any opposing view point you are shouted out of the forums.

    She unsubscribed. Interesting.

    • Trudy says:

      William, your characterization of bloggers and commenters at The Exponent as trolls who are hunting down the prophets is in violation of our comment policy. Specifically, #4: “This is not the place to question another’s personal righteousness, to call people to repentance, or to disrespectfully refute people’s personal religious beliefs.”

      If you wish to continue conversing here, please keep the comment policy in mind as you engage in discussion.

    • Lily says:

      How do you know all this about the 12? Do you know them all personally?

    • Em says:

      I am more than willing to believe that the men of the 12 are wonderful people. Why is it wrong to ask a wonderful, Godly man, to acknowledge the process through which revelation comes in response to the cries of the people? If anything it would be the natural expression of their humility and Godliness.

      As for why women are complicit in patriarchy — this topic fills volumes of feminist theory and I urge you to educate yourself. One quick answer off the top of my head. Why not just walk away from Abrahamic patriarchy if it’s so bad? Because we’ve been taught our entire lives that if we do we’ll be damned for eternity. Because it has defined our entire lives and imagining a life outside it is very difficult. Because we love Christ’s gospel and want to bring church policies and culture in line with Christ. Because some women benefit under patriarchy and enjoy higher status as patriarchy supporters. Because we’re afraid to lose our families and friends.

    • J.C.Petersen says:

      I am disappointed at the spiteful argumentitive attitude of your reply. Personal righteousnesd of the General Authorities does not exempt them from mistakes in the leadership or the consquences of their mistakes.

  2. Ari says:

    All institutions of power err on the side of reinforcing their own power, mostly unwittingly. It’s the nature of patriarchies too. Why would the church’s patriarchy be magically void of any corruption ?

    It’s like that old joke: what’s the difference between Catholics and Mormons? Catholics say that the pope is infallible, but they don’t believe it. Mormons say that the prophet is fallible, but they don’t believe it.

  3. CS Eric says:

    I am reminded of the story of Gandhi who was asked to explain the apparent contradiction between an opinion he had just stated and an earlier position he had taken. He said, “I am smarter today than I was back then.” Is that so hard to say?

  4. Amy Cartwright says:

    One of the things I’ve been thinking about for a while is that the size of the church and the relative small size of the general leadership make for some really awkward dynamics. It’s easier to be flawed in smaller groups. It’s easier to have conversations about process and outcome. The sheer distance between member and Quorum of the 12 is large, especially for women because their chances of moving up the hierarchy are much, much lower than men’s. Sometimes when folks compare one woman’s response to another’s, I question what their relation to power/authority/hierarchy are. Are they married to men who have leadership positions in their ward, stake or beyond? Are they geographically closer to church headquarters (central Utah)? Are they afforded some social capital in the ward for being married/having children (more children does seem to correspond with more social capital in many wards)?

    Everyone is going to have their feelings in regards to how the leaders handle things and none of them are wrong–they just are what they are.

    I don’t tend to think the Q15 are power-hungry, per say. I do think they lack sufficient experience in *not* having power in the church. How could they know what it is to be an adult with no chance of a seat at the table? That isn’t a reality for many men in the church. For those of us who have no chance of sitting in the driver’s seat, it sure would be nice to be given some explanation about how we got to our current destination, along with an apology for taking some wrong turns and getting there too late.

    • Ziff says:

      I love your last paragraph in particular, Amy. The Q15 members haven’t been rank-and-file members for *decades*, if ever. (By “if ever,” I mean that some who were raised in high profile Mormon families may have never had a typical Church experience.)

  5. LMA says:

    Leslie, I really appreciate hearing your perspective. I really loved how you provided concrete ideas about what types of things could be said and expressed to members of the church regarding the changes that have been made. Thank you for expressing your perspective about this!

  6. Heather says:

    It mystifies me that so many institutions–and people for that matter–think that apologizing makes them appear weak when the opposite is true. Whenever someone acknowledges a mistake (intentional or not) I’ve found it diffuses anger and promotes reconciliation. Kinda breaks my heart that the Church won’t embrace and emulate this truth.

  7. Joseph says:

    Great post. It brought to mind a prophet that acknowledged women’s pain.

    Jacob 2:31 For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands.

  8. Lizzie says:

    Love this. Can we get some Facebook type likes in here? ❤️🙂

  9. Tessa says:

    I am much more willing to forgive an institution that acknowledges past wrongs and openly works to heal those wounds than one that we-have-always-been-at-war-with-eastasia-s its way through change. Either statement you’ve written would have validated those who have had pain from the temple and still not have ruffled orthodox feathers.

  10. Stephanie says:

    Love this, love you. I read a book about leadership a while back where the author maintained that people at the top should always be ready to take responsibility, apologize, and be as transparent as possible about how they will do better moving forward. Because even if what happened wasn’t that leader’s fault, they are going to be blamed for it. And this way, they inspire more trust in moving forward. When you won’t take responsibility, it signals that you care more about your reputation (or your organization’s reputation) than about the people you serve.

    As much as I love and would welcome either of those statements, I feel like President Nelson’s narrative of how he seeks and receives revelation in the last year doesn’t really follow those lines. Which is too bad, because that’s how we civilian members are taught to receive revelation–gathering information, considering possibilities, asking God to show us areas where we can improve, and taking our plans to the Lord to see if we are on the right track.

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