My Bad!


I have noticed lately that public apologies have become a thing. Kind of. I’ve seen TV commercials from Facebook, saying they were going to do more to protect users’ data. No actual “sorry” in there. Wells Fargo, in the aftermath of a scandal that affected millions of clients, produced an ad campaign about “Earning Back Your Trust”. No actual “sorry” in there either. A class action lawsuit was settled but the company also denied the allegations. If you say you aren’t guilty, are you actually sorry? If we are on the first step of repentance, “Feel Sorry”,surely that includes admitting that we made a mistake. Starbucks very publicly apologized for its own recent scandal, including a personal apology from the CEO, Kevin Johnson. How do these few examples strike you? Do you feel more positively towards these companies?

We all realize that groups, including corporations, clubs, and churches, are made of individuals that make decisions. No group can be better than it’s participants. Whether one person (Starbucks) takes actions that are wrong, or many people (Wells Fargo) make illegal or unethical choices, the group must bear some of the consequences or liability. The group itself has responsibility for its’ policies and procedures. What about us, as members of the church? In 2015 Dallin Oaks stated that the church doesn’t “seek apologies, and we don’t give them.”

Since we are all imperfect, we can’t expect any organization, even an inspired one, to be perfect. Mistakes will be made. All the time. As we strive and stumble together, hopefully towards a better, healthier, holier body of Christ, we make mistakes. Our whole history as a church is full of trial and error. Mission ages and lengths, the ways we worship on Sundays, traditions about gender roles, ideas about the Word of Wisdom, standards of modesty, the list goes on. Some things work well, for a while. Some ideas are not good. Could hearts be healed if apologies were given? The exclusion policies about the priesthood, the traumas inflicted by the well intended Indian Placement Program, the evolving attitudes towards women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community, the current discussion about breastfeeding mothers, are so many opportunities to grow. The Savior’s example of humility should influence our actions, both individually and collectively. I can do better. We can do better.

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5 Responses

  1. Ray says:

    Well said. An apology (authentic, not fake or partial) is a powerful thing. Genuine apologies are stigmatized in global society and definitely in the LDS Church (ironic, given our focus on repentance).

    But they are an absolutely necessary way to promote healing for wrongdoing (both at the institutional and individual levels); further, for the one(s) making the apology, it’s a very potent tool to help increase meekness and penitence thereafter (in the positive sense of both of those words, not the negative sense).

  2. Ellen says:

    Thanks, Ray. It does seem ironic to have a lack of institutional repentance, given that every person in any organization is always in need of repentance.

  3. Caroline says:

    This is great, Ellen. I was so turned off by Oaks’s statement about the church not apologizing. Didn’t he say something like “Jesus didn’t apologize, so the church doesn’t either”? Incredibly disappointing. It would only increase my respect for and faith in the church if I saw it owning up to its past misdeeds and apologizing for them. That’s how growth occurs, that’s how wounds are best mended. I see no utility in affirming a “no apologies” stance.

  4. Ellen says:

    Thanks Carolyn- I do feel much more respect for individuals and groups that admit and apologize for mistakes. It is something I am working on personally and I would welcome that accountability from the church that I am a part of.

  5. JNB says:

    I’d respect the church and our leaders a lot more if I saw them practicing the repentance that they preach to the rest of us. Why do they insist on this keeping up this stubborn “do as I say, not as I do, or else I revoke your privileges” approach?

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