We all know the common trope of the temple ceremony being “Sacred not secret”. While we can debate that with the Internet and New Name Noah that ship has sailed, I was always bothered by the triteness of the saying. In my mind it should have been “It is secret because it is sacred”.
But the reason I write this is the “Secret not Sacred” problem we have in the current church. We love a good secret! Who will be the new bishop? It’s a secret that was so well kept that I didn’t know my replacement until his name was called from the pulpit seconds after I was released with a vote of thanks. He was called two weeks before he was sustained. If I had known a few weeks before, I could have met with him, and eased the transition. But even me as a sitting bishop couldn’t be trusted with the information. It was a “secret”
New Apostles? New policies? Secret until they are announced in general conference. Lower the missionary age? Keep it a secret from even BYU, who it will have a great impact upon their numbers, and leave them scrambling the next few months to fill empty slots. Why does the bishop want to visit with you, big secret! How much money does the church have; bigger secret than even the temple ceremonies! When people receive their Second Anointing, they are told they must keep it a secret. I once asked an old mission companion who had been a Stake President if he had received his Second Anointing. He deflected the question and said it was not a saving ordnance and that I should concentrate on the known temple ordinances.
Just this last week we learned that the church had been keeping a secret since 2014 about a mission president in Puerto Rico that was excommunicated for inappropriate relations with the Sister Missionaries. I would guess that probably 20-30 people in the mission knew this, and yet the church was able to put the lid on it for this long.
This is not unique to the church, and is common in many big organizations I can see reasons to keep some things secret. As a bishop, I kept lots of secrets that people shared with me. But these were personal things, and I had a mandate to kept them confidential.
When I was bishop, and I needed to meet with somebody, I instructed my Executive Secretary to tell the people why I wanted to meet with them in general terms, e.g. “Get to know them”, “new calling”, “talk about their child’s behavior” etc. This never caused any problem and I had several people thank me for this. This was better than having somebody lie for me. Usually when you ask what the bishop wants, the Executive Secretary will say “I don’t know”, when you know full well that he was sitting in bishopric meeting then your name was decided on to be the new nursery leader!
Is it just human nature to love a good secret, to know something that somebody else does not know? In what ways could the church be more transparent, less “secret” in its culture without harming the operation of the church, and make it more welcoming for its members? Or is it just fine as it is?