In 2015 while speaking with Elder D Todd Christofferson, Elder Dallin H Oaks made a defacto statement that is still reverberating for many Mormons: among believers and non-believers. Elder Christofferson was asked what the church leadership thinks of church members who support same-sex marriage and stated that members can believe what they wish, but warned that problems arise when members begin to practice in advocacy by speaking out publicly in opposition to church policies or leadership. So members are allowed to think what they want, but not allowed to say what they want or even show support that swells into advocacy.
Oaks then piped in to make a statement that he may be most remembered for. While calling for more civility he has the audacity to state that “the church doesn’t seek apologies and we don’t give them.” Asking for more civility but at the same time stating that the church is already doing all it will in regards to this civility, is basically telling everyone else to submit to the church and stop talking about the problems.
What does the LDS Church think of members who back same-sex marriage?
“There hasn’t been any litmus test or standard imposed that you couldn’t support that if you want to support it,” Christofferson said, “if that’s your belief and you think it’s right.”
Any Latter-day Saint can have a belief “on either side of this issue,” he said. “That’s not uncommon.”
Problems arise only when a member makes “a public, sustained opposition to the church itself or the church leaders and tries to draw others after them,” he said, and that support swells into “advocacy.”
Fellow apostle Dallin H. Oaks also praised the church’s website and efforts on behalf of gay members.
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.”
Oaks, too, reaffirmed the need for more civility in public debates toward all sides on these issues.
“The teaching effort that we’ve engaged in today,” he said, “is a very important part of what we hope our members will hear in the way of being more civil, with those who disagree with us on some fundamental principles and also more firm in insisting on our right to hold our views.”Salt Lake Tribune: We all can be more civil on LGBT issues, Mormon leader says, January 30, 2015
We Don’t Apologize
These statements from Elder Oaks that the church will make no apologies stuck many as extreme. It caused an uproar on social media of the day and in an interview shortly afterwards Oaks was asked to clarify what he meant. To this, he responded:
Reporter: In a Tribune story that will be published on Tuesday, Elder Oaks, you were quoted as saying, “the church doesn’e seek apoligies and we don’t give them.” Of course, this sparked a whole storm on social media, about those who wonder how this view comports with christian theology. Again, wanted to give you an oportunity to respond to that.
Elder Dallin H Oaks: I’m not aware that the word apology appears anywhere in the scriptures bible or book of Mormon.
The word ‘apology’ contains a lot of connotations in it, and a lot of significance.
We do not seek apologies – when our temple was desecrated in california when people were fired and intimidated, when a lot of other coersive, measures were used: We sought no apology. That’s what i meant by saying, we don’t seek apologies.
We think that the best way to solve these problems is not a formal statement of words that an apology consist of, but talking about principles and goodwill among contending viewpoints.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUJns80itNE
Still, the 16.6 million-member church has not issued any kind of formal apology about the racist prohibition, and it appears not likely to, according to Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the governing First Presidency.
“I know that the history of the church is not to seek apologies or to give them,” Oaks told The Salt Lake Tribune in 2015. “We sometimes look back on issues and say, ‘Maybe that was counterproductive for what we wish to achieve.’”
Though the question focused on rhetoric surrounding LGBTQ members, Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, generalized it to all of Mormon history.
“I’m not aware that the word ‘apology’ appears anywhere in the scriptures — Bible or Book of Mormon,” Oaks reiterated the next day in a video chat with The Tribune. “The word ‘apology’ contains a lot of connotations in it, and a lot of significance.”
The best way “to solve these problems is not a formal statement of words that a[n] apology consists of,” he said, “but talking about principles and goodwill among contending viewpoints.”
Oaks’ statement — that “we look forward and not backward” — has taken on the imprimatur of official policy, even though pronouncements in scripture or by the combined First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are deemed the most authoritative.No apology? Really? Mormons question leader Dallin H. Oaks’ stance
Has the Church Apologized?
Some challenge Elder Oaks’ statement that the church doesn’t make apologies. We have examples of the anniversary statement the church made regarding the Mountain Meadows Massacre in 2007, the statement the church made in regard to baptizing Holocaust victims in temple ordinances, and even generic statements that even church leaders make mistakes. But these would be very weak apologies, if at all.
Mountain Meadows Massacre
There is the instance in 2007, when Elder Eyring offered words of regret regarding the mountain meadows massacre which have been posted on a plaque at the monument. Some view this as an apology, but the words walk a fine line between accepting responsibility and apologizing and merely expressing regret.
In 2007, apostle Henry B. Eyring, now of the First Presidency, offered words of regret (which some reported as an “apology”) on behalf of church members at a memorial service for victims of the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre during which Latter-day Saint militia members slaughtered 120 men, women and children in an immigrant wagon train on their way to California.Dallin Oaks says the church doesn’t apologize, but it hasn’t stopped the question of whether it should
The Salt Lake Tribune recently pointed out that some reported this as an apology, even though their own report did this.
A Mormon apostle, speaking Tuesday at the 150th anniversary memorial service for victims of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, apologized for the church’s role, expressing “profound regret for the massacre.”LDS Church apologizes for Mountain Meadows Massacre
Even Deseret News published an article stating that the church issued an apology for Mountain Meadows. Oaks would contradict this because “the church does not make apologies.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a long-awaited apology Tuesday for the massacre of an immigrant wagon train by local church members 150 years ago in southwestern Utah.
Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve read the church’s statement on assignment from the church’s governing First Presidency during a memorial ceremony at the gravesite of some of the massacre victims at Mountain Meadows, about 35 miles northwest of St. George.
The statement also places blame for the Sept. 11, 1857, massacre on the local church leaders at the time and church members who followed their orders to murder some 120 unarmed men, women and children.LDS Church issues apology over Mountain Meadows
Here are relevant remarks from Eyring’s official remarks which he made at the 150th anniversary of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, which he made by assignment and on behalf of the First Presidency:
We gather to remember and to honor those whose lives were taken prematurely and wrongly in this once lush and pastoral valley…
Two of the significant conclusions they have reached are (1) that the message conveying the will and intent of Brigham Young not to interfere with the immigrants arrived too late, and (2) that the responsibility for the massacre lies with local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the regions near Mountain Meadows who also held civic and military positions and with members of the Church acting under their direction…
Although no event in history can fully be known, the work of these three authors has enabled us to know more than we ever have known about this unspeakable episode. The truth, as we have come to know it, saddens us deeply. The gospel of Jesus Christ that we espouse, abhors the cold-blooded killing of men, women, and children. Indeed, it advocates peace and forgiveness. What was done here long ago by members of our Church represents a terrible and inexcusable departure from Christian teaching and conduct. We cannot change what happened, but we can remember and honor those who were killed here.
We express profound regret for the massacre carried out in this valley 150 years ago today and for the undue and untold suffering experienced by the victims then and by their relatives to the present time.
A separate expression of regret is owed to the Paiute people who have unjustly borne for too long the principal blame for what occurred during the massacre…
Having reflected and commented on both the past and future of this hallowed meadow, we conclude by expressing our love and desire for reconciliation to all who have in any way been affected by what occurred at Mountain Meadows 150 years ago today.News Release: 150th Anniversary of Mountain Meadows Massacre, 11 September 2007
The message never actually apologizes. It does show some similar signs but lacks an actual apology. He expresses “profound regret” for the massacre, notes that the responsibility of the massacre lies at the feet of the local church leaders, while also avoiding blame on top church leadership and absolving Brigham Young by reminding the world of his belated message not to interfere. The remarks made no comment on the aftermath and coverup by the church but remarkably admitted guilt on the part of the local leaders.
The statement also expresses “a separate expression of regret” which is owed to the Paiute people who have unjustly borne the principal blame for the massacre. The statement does not include that this unjust blame was placed by the church in an attempt to absolve themselves.
He concludes by expressing “love and a desire for reconciliation to all who” have been affected. They express a desire for reconciliation, that’s easy. What are they doing to achieve the reconciliation? It doesn’t happen on its own, no matter how much you desire it. That’s like saying, ‘I regret if what I did hurt you’. As we all know, is a sorry excuse for an apology because it takes no responsibility and does nothing to make restitution which as the church teaches, are essential parts of repentance. The seven parts of repentance as explained in the Gospel Principles manual. Namely, we must: recognize since, feel sorrow, forsake sins, confess sins, make restitution, forgive others, and keep the commandments.
Mormons Caught Baptising Holocaust Victims
The church has a doctrine of baptism by proxy for dead individuals. Officially members can perform these ordinances so their deceased relatives may “accept” the Gospel as the church teaches in the afterlife. Some members got the church a lot of negative press and thus into trouble when it became known that they were submitting names for the ordinance from a database of Holocaust victims. This upset Jewish Holocaust Survivors who saw the act as disrespectful and coercive.
A Reuters article reported that Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center called the actions “unacceptable,” saying that people who lost everyone and everything and were murdered for being Jewish during the Holocaust should not have their souls hijacked by another religion.
The church published an article to give background and eventually did make an official statement where they again, expressed “regret” only (without actual apology). The news coverage though, even from Deseret News (again, which is owned by the church) claims that the statement was a “public apology”. The official statement or public apology is nowhere to be found on the church website or newsroom, though there are other statements regarding the fiasco. The contents are found only in news articles.
The LDS Church has suspended access to its genealogy database for a church member who last month had a posthumous proxy baptism performed for the parents of famed Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal.
The church also issued a public apology.
“We sincerely regret that the actions of an individual member of the church led to the inappropriate submission of these names,” church spokesman Scott Trotter said. “These submissions were clearly against the policy of the church. We consider this a serious breach of our protocol and we have suspended indefinitely this person’s ability to access our genealogy records.”Mormon Church apologizes for Jewish baptisms for the dead – Volunteer’s access to database revoked after Holocaust survivor’s name is submitted, Feb 15, 2012
Mistakes Were Made
There are statements from church leaders stating that they are not perfect. Just a couple years before Oaks “no apologies” statement, then President Uchtdorf (who at the time outranked Oaks as a member of the First Presidency) admitted in general conference no less that “there have been times when … leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes.” But, this doesn’t equate to an apology either. It admits that leaders are not perfect, that they make mistakes, and even that “there may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles.” But then he brushes over the mistakes and excuses these mistakes because none of us are perfect. We should expect imperfect people to make mistakes.
Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.
Sometimes there is a difference of opinion as to what the “facts” really mean. A question that creates doubt in some can, after careful investigation, build faith in others.
And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.
I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.Come, Join with Us, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Despite the fact that church leaders remind us constantly that the Lord is at the head of the church, Uchtforf’s refreshing frankness here clarifies that it’s really men running things, and not the Lord.
Attempting to Understand the Church Leadership Reluctance For Complete Apologies
Understanding these scriptures as calling for present perfection on the part of the church might make apologies seem inappropriate at best and damaging to the mission of the church and the salvation of souls at worst. But sometimes there are reasons to apologize. We might also consider that the principle of repentance itself is part of the light we are called to shine forth. Apologizing in a repentant spirit and acting further on that apology reflects some of the most cherished values the church seeks to inculcate in its membership and in the world. Apologies are part of the “civil discourse” that Elder Oaks and other church leaders have called for. Church leaders speak on behalf of the church for doctrine and policy. They are also in the position to offer apologies on behalf of the church, and I’m sure they will do so if the Spirit should so direct them in the future. Perhaps this is part of what it means to keep looking forward.By Common Consent: All Apologies, Jan 28, 2015. Steve Evans
If Mormons hope for any apologies from their church, it appears that they will always be disappointed. It seems the Church and its leadership are not ultimately interested in repentance and reconciliation (a position, of course, that does not “comport with Christian theology”); as Mr. Oaks said, what the Church is interested in is achieving its goals and moving ahead.Mormonism Research Ministry Blog, Mormon Church does not apologize.