“I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.” Hosea 5:15
Peggy Fletcher Stack summarized part of Elder Oaks’ statements in recent media interactions thusly:
“I know that the history of the church is not to seek apologies or to give them,” Oaks said in an interview Tuesday. “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.”
I can understand why the Church does not demand apologies. Forced apologies typically have an insincere, hypocritical feel. These formal statements have the semblance contrition, but deny the humility thereof. We should care more about real contrition than politically expedient formal statements. Consider all the hollow words we’ve been given by misbehaving politicians and celebrities. Very rarely do we encounter a sincere apology in the public sphere, to the point that if an apology even comes close, it is newsworthy. We find the same falseness in our homes and classrooms. Think of the child forced to apologize; being compelled to say she is sorry does not generate remorse; instead she resents everyone involved: the person in power forcing her to apologize, the one she has wronged to whom she must apologize, and even herself for being in such a compromising position.
Elder Oaks is right. I don’t want the Church to seek or to issue that kind of an apology. I hope that if the Church does offer an apology, it is genuine and seeks to help reconcile the Church and the saints with our Heavenly Father. That kind of apology is in line with what we have been taught about the repentance process, although it is not clear how such a spiritually intimate matter could be properly conducted by an institution under public scrutiny.
But the justification Elder Oaks gave worries me. Again, from the Salt Lake Tribune piece:
The Mormon leader made the same point, only stronger, Thursday during a video chat on Trib Talk by insisting that the word “apology” doesn’t appear in LDS scriptures.
The word apology is not found in the scripture. This is true.
But we don’t believe that our church is limited to only what is within the scriptural canon. We have prophets and apostles with access to fresh revelation from God. For one of those leaders to say he is limited by the vocabulary of scripture seems to artificially limit his role as a prophet, seer and revelator. And even in a case such as this, where there appears to have been no new revelation, it is not necessary to only rely on the words found in the scriptures. To do so is to deny the bulk of modern revelation, the “inspiration and instruction” of General Conference talks that we are told to read and study. A quick search for “apology” in General Conference talks on lds.org gave two pages of results.
And our leaders use words that are not found in the scriptures all of the time. We have even imposed many of these words on the text by through the Topical Guide.
Some of these words, like modesty or pornography or petting (a weird euphemism that we just can’t let go of), we have incorporated into our topical guides with related concepts, all of which are acts of interpretation of the original text. Apology is certainly related to several concepts we do find in our Topical Guide and in the scriptures: pardon, confession, rebuke (would this be demanding an apology?), regret, repent, and forgiveness, to name but a few.
While I agree with Elder Oaks that demanding apologies or acceding to such demands is bad form for the Church, there are better reasons for such a policy than a lack of the word “apology” in scripture.