Date: July 22, 2013 06:23PM
I just listened to the Mormon Stories interview with Hans Mattsson. I was struck by, among other things, the general authorities' reply to his suggestion that the church should apologize for having mislead its members on so many topics. They said that the church never publicly admits its errors or apologizes. As Gordon Hinckley once said, why should we get obsessed over "those little flecks of history?"
I personally know that the church never says "I'm sorry." I went on a mission that went horribly wrong. The church finally figured that out and replaced the mission and the regional leadership. But despite two appeals by friends to apostles, they never reached out to the missionaries who suffered through that hell. The result was that several of those missionaries went home thinking they were failures and unable to forgive themselves for what they had done under orders from their church leaders. I also have two immediate family members who were badly mistreated by a branch president on the East Coast. An older friend contacted a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who instructed the area authority to order the branch president to stop his abuse. But when we asked that the church tell the local congregation that my relatives had done nothing wrong, the Seventy refused on the grounds that the church never publicly admits its errors.
I wondered about that. The church teaches little children that repentence requires restitution, which in the case of public mistakes requires public correction. And here the malefactors included a branch president, the stake president who protected him, and the area authority and Seventy who had responsibility over the branch in question. Those men knowingly left a family's reputation in disrepair, making them suffer isolation and alienation from their friends in what was a very small and closed community. The consequences ultimately included a lost job, a divorce and several severely troubled children. Surely that intentional refusal to offer restitution was sin, especially since it was perfectly obvious that the reputational damage would over time bring more concrete harm. How can those church leaders not see themselves as personally responsible for these wrongs? Why do they feel no need, as individuals, to repent?
But the refusal to apologize is much broader than my little clan. The church still refuses to apologize for its institutional racism, or for its condemnation of interracial marriages, or for the discrimination that some parts of the church still impose on children of mixed race. There has never been any public statement that black people were just as valient in the pre-existence as white people. Nor has there been an apology for the horrific mistreatment of gays, Lesbians and others of complex sexual orientation despite the fact that the church's past policies literally tortured people (in the electrotherapy rooms at BYU) and killed people (like Stuart Matis) who struggled to be something other than what God made them. The absence of an apology means that the harm will continue for years, even decades, to come.
What the church fails to recognize is that an organization that does not publicly acknowledge and apologize for its mistakes is by nature irresponsible. Through its silence it leaves in place ideas, behaviors, and prejudices that continue to inflict damage on innocent people. And the men who impose that silence, knowing full well the cost of their decisions, are evil. They fail to adhere to the promises they made when they were baptised at age eight and therefore have no place in God's church let alone in its leadership.
The truth, which Gordon Hinckley and Thomas Monson refused to see, is that those "little flecks of history" are actually human beings.