What is the point of apologizing, especially when apologies are often inadequate to address the harms to others? The Brad Wilcox story remains in Mormon news because he has now apologized a second time, this time with his black colleague sitting next to him as if to illustrate, well, we all know what he’s going for here. His wife was there, too, but as a woman, she does not represent me, so personally that tokenism fell flat. But there are those who are now defending Wilcox, saying either that his apologies need to be enough, we should assume sincerity, and everyone should let him off the hook, or that nothing he will say will ever be enough for the bloodthirsty enemies of the Church, and blah blah blah. You get the gist.
Sometimes individuals apologize, and sometimes organizations apologize. Often those apologies fall short, and Wilcox’s apologies are illustrative of several common shortcomings apologies suffer:
- An apology that’s too fast shows that it’s unlikely the person has had time to reflect and understand what they did sufficiently to be able to change the behavior.
- An apology that’s in reaction to a public backlash can feel insincere.
- All apologies can feel like they are suspect because of the attempt to restore the reputation of the person who did something offensive. The act of apologizing centers the offender as if they were the victim.
- Apologies that “share” or deflect blame from the offender toward his or her victims are problematic because, again, they sound like the real point is reputation management, not restoration toward the person injured. An example would be a comedian accused of sexual misconduct who apologizes but also claims that it was a “misunderstanding.” That’s not really apologizing and owning a mistake. It’s reputation management.
- A partial apology, one that acknowledges some error while overlooking other issues, is evidence that the individual doesn’t really understand why they are apologizing, at least not fully.
- Defense of the apologizing individual adds to the damage because it places a double burden on the victims–not only were they wronged by the individual, but now they are being re-cast as perpetrators of harm toward the one who was offensive in the first place.
- When someone apologizes for an individual incident, and later that incident is revealed to be part of an ongoing problem that has gone unchecked for years, the apology doesn’t work.
- There’s also a potential issue between organizations and individuals. If an individual apologizes, but the organization or system they are part of is also culpable yet does not apologize, the message is that the individual is the only one who must change, not the system that enabled them. If the organization apologizes, but individuals who perpetuated harmful ideas have no reckoning, that can also be a problem.
We are all very familiar with the quote by E. Oaks that the Church neither seeks nor gives apologies, which I hope we can all agree is just one man’s opinion (mingled with Fox News talking points, no doubt). Many churches should and do apologize, just not ours, even when it really should because it’s obviously and demonstrably in the wrong as with Mountain Meadows Massacre (which I believe it did apologize for, sort of, without really claiming direct culpability), and the racist priesthood ban (which Bruce McConkie came really really close to apologizing for, but instead apologized for the bad justifications for it).
The fruits of not apologizing at all may be worse than the fruits of a bad apology, or maybe both are equally bad because people will say “There are some people out there who won’t accept any apology, so why bother?” Say what you will about Wilcox, and honestly, I have no time for these youth circuit speakers whose egos seem to know no bounds, but he did at least apologize, very weakly, twice. (Anyone up for a third strike? Me neither. Maybe in ten years if he finally understands what he did wrong, which I doubt will happen.)
So I’ve outlined what a bad apology entails, but I think an important piece of the apology question is “Who is the beneficiary of the apology?” There are several candidates:
- The person or group of people who was wronged. There’s good reason to try to make things right with the people we’ve wronged (and we’ve ALL wronged people, nobody is exempt from needing to apologize sometimes). There are a lot of people who could have been wronged.
- The people who were being ridiculed, dismissed or mocked.
- The Church or employer who expect more professionalism and better skills and humility.
- One’s own family members who are embarrassed by association with racist, sexist or homophobic attitudes.
- The people who had to listen to the perpetuation of these bad ideas for years.
But when an apology is performative and insincere, or perhaps lacking understanding for why a thing was wrong or hurtful, the audience is often different:
- The employer or Church who are embarrassed about bad PR or who might bar you from further promotion in their organizations.
- The organization or individual boss for whom you are falling on the sword so that later, they will recognize and reward your loyalty.
- One’s actual followers and defenders who will rise up to make you feel better, and who don’t actually care about the people you’ve wronged.
- The people you’ve wronged, but to avoid responsibility or retribution from them, not because you think you did anything wrong.
In these cases, the beneficiary is oneself. Do those types of apologies improve things? I suspect that they do, a little, but only insofar as they create awareness, prevent an exact recurrence (some kind of adjustment to future talks by these circuit speakers will have to happen, surely), and possibly get more people to think about the issues here: how we talk about race, how we talk to and about women, how we respect people of other faiths, and how we foster devotional experiences that help retain our youth. Given that we went through all of this with Randy Bott just a few short years ago, I question that we’ve actually learned anything, but the one difference here (or two I guess) is the apologies. Bott didn’t apologize, and instead he was just relegated to the dinosaur bin. Wilcox is apologizing like his job depends on it.
What do you think?
- Do apologies make a difference in the Church? Can you think of an example of when they did?
- How do you see the relationship between institutional and individual apologies?
- Do you think Wilcox’s apologies, whether sincere or not, will make a difference in the Church? What difference, if any, do you expect to see?
- Do you agree with E. Oaks that apologizing is something the Church shouldn’t do because it doesn’t work?
- Have you ever received an apology that really made a difference to you? Why was it impactful?
It is one thing for Wilcox to apologize—sincere or not. But it is quite another for the church to remain silent.
The sound of crickets coming from the church is deafening. If a corporation like McDonalds or Costco had a major executive say what Wilcox said, there would be an immediate statement from the corporation itself condemning the statement and apologizing for it. It would make it clear that it did not support those views.
The church cannot remain silent and experience no consequences. Silence will be seen as acceptance, and that will have a cost that becomes more and more significant.
There was an apology for the Mountain Meadows Massacre in 2007 so it’s not like the Church has NEVER apologized.
Never mind, totally didn’t see hawkgrrl’s reference to Mountain Meadows. Maybe the Church believes that by small and simple apologies, great apologies come to pass? And we almost got one on the priesthood ban back in 1998 (if I remember correctly) before the LA Times scooped it and the Church abruptly dropped it.
Re: Elder Oaks’ comment
I’ve never figured out why the church and top leaders are exempt from the commandment to repent that includes apologizing and applies to everyone else. Shouldn’t leadership model behaviors they expect to see in their followers?
Also, it does work. Tylenol took responsibility in 1982 for the tampered containers (though in this case they didn’t do it) and got ahead of the problem by addressing it and then laying out a plan to fix it (and, of course, create the problem of making you want to swear when you try to get at the pills in a new bottle). Those actions restored their reputation.
Maybe the church doesn’t have to worry about a sudden boycott because people are afraid of being poisoned, but it should worry about slowly hemorrhaging members over this type of thing and the damage it does to the church’s reputation.
31 And ye shall also forgive one another your trespasses; for verily I say unto you, he that forgiveth not his neighbor’s trespasses when he says that he repents, the same hath brought himself under condemnation.
The leadership needs to fix its racist and discriminatory practices and then apologize. An apology without positive actions is meaningless. Throwing a few million dollars at the NAACP is not nearly enough.
The leadership needs to state unequivocally that the ban was man made and the Church was irresponsibly slow in correcting the problem. Appropriate reforms need to be made to CES and religion dep’ts. BLM and anti-discrimination training needs to be initiated now for all members.
The Q15 need training immediately. Maybe with an outside consultant. We can’t truly be a global church without this problem being fixed. Wilcox needs to disappear for a year and reconsider his attitude toward inclusions, women, and other churches.
Many times I’ve been shown the error of my ways, which resulted in changes to my way of thinking and concluded with the delivery of many truly, heartfelt apologies. To know that people not involved in the matter would question my sincerity or doubt whether I truly understood what I did wrong or failed to realize how bad it was would piss me off to no end.
What Wilcox has been saying in those fireside’s for years is bad, REALLY BAD. Does he understand what he did wrong? Has this whole firestorm turned him around on what he believes?
We don’t know.
He’s apologized twice, yet here we are questioning (doubting) whether he truly knows what he did wrong or maybe he’s just providing lip service to protect his job or status within the church. What ever happened to not judging people or giving someone the benefit of the doubt?
“Do you agree with E. Oaks that apologizing is something the Church shouldn’t do because it doesn’t work?”
I’m starting to.
I’ve thought a lot about this. I appreciate Brad’s apology. I cannot read his heart or his mind, so it’s hard for me to say if it’s insincere. But as I’ve thought about it (a lot) this week, here are some thoughts:
1. If I was truly remorseful, I probably would cancel all my future speaking engagements for the foreseeable future, in an effort to make sure I take some time to reflect and not make the same mistake again. Given that there was a speaking assignment the following week, this leads me to believe the inward reflection is not there yet.
2. If I was truly remorseful, I would make the apology and walk away from social media for spell, then return to the comments when I was more calm, to see what I could learn from others feedback. Given his wife’s visceral reaction, one could argue the apology was forced since she believes he is being crucified and did nothing wrong (and I would presume spouse’s would be on the same page here).
3. The apology was only related to one of many offenses. I wonder if Brad feels remorse for any of the other offensive parts.
4. Completely agree with Ivy. Brad is a general authority. The Church therefore has a role in all of this. The Church too needs to take responsibility.
5. All of the apologies that made an impact to me were followed up by a change in behavior. If someone said something unkind about me, for example, the apology was accompanied by them being more reflective and less chatty in future discourse. If someone did something unkind to me, they corrected the behavior going forward and perhaps even modified other behaviors in an effort to show remorse. And vice versa. When I’ve been truly sorry, the apology is followed up with a real resolve to do better. We haven’t had time to observe this yet in Brad’s situation, but I am hopeful his entire tone and approach to the subject will be better.
I think the church actually believes what Brad said in his fireside comments, which is why he has been able to give the same address generally for some time. If he were off the rails, they would have reigned him in. They didn’t, so I think what we’re seeing is an exercise in damage control, not remorse and reevaluation.
In terms of the relationship between individual and institutional apologies, the former may provide cover for a lack of the latter, and I think that is the case here. Brad becomes the fall guy–in a sense, a victim, though I’d never push that perspective very far–for an organization that seems to find use for members so long as they are useful but not when they become troublesome.
Will his apology make a difference in the church? I don’t think so. As someone said in a previous thread, he said the out loud part out loud. There is a decided difference between apologizing for something and trying to make measurable change and simply trying to not repeat the offending passage again while still believing it.
Just saying sorry doesn’t make it an apology.
Let’s say someone calls you a jerk and then shoves you on the ground. THEN they look at you on the ground and say “sorry I called you a jerk” and walk away, I don’t think you would qualify that as a true apology. Clearly the actions taken by Wilcox have more of an impact than my example situation, but his apology comes across as similar. Chadwick goes straight to heart of what an apology should include.
This will sound jaded, but perhaps Oaks feels that way because the church hasn’t authentically apologized for any of its actions and doesn’t have any experience with that.
Some of us will not be satisfied with an apology from Wilcox until he is completely overhauled and remade in our own image. How can any of us be that sure of ourselves?
Roger Hansen: “An apology without positive actions is meaningless”. This times a thousand. Wilcox’s apology and the question of how sincere it (they?) is is small potatoes compared to the kid of restitution and outreach that needs to be made to the many groups (women and members of other religions as well) he offended.
jaredsbrother: I’m right there with you. This talk or a quite similar version of it has been given for years and I’d bet real money it’s been given and is still being given by a lot more leaders than just Brad Wilcox. He is, indeed, a fall guy and nothing more. And when someone, as you suggest, just sort of clams up and stops saying something, that’s not remotely the same thing as actually addressing and changing the underlying problem.
So yes, I suppose apologies are good, but the problem here isn’t just what jaredsbrother notes; it’s that the teachings and talks and underlying doctrine have harmed huge swaths of people, so unless there are serious, structural changes made at both doctrinal and cultural levels, it’s kind of beside the point whether we think Wilcox’s apology was sincere.
Repentance is needed, but it isn’t being discussed here. Repentance encapsulates apologizing among its other processes. Without repenting apologizing is naked. Intangibles can only intangibly repent or apologize, but those who control intangibles can repent and should when wrongs are done and recognized. People must repent when they have wronged others, no matter who they are or think they are.
BTW, we have a recent example of what a genuine apology looks like from Whoopi Goldberg. It was generally considered sincere and included examples of what she’s learned from consulting with others, and she has quietly accepted the punishment the network deemed appropriate, even though plenty of people from the group she risked offending have said the apology was real and there was no need for anything further. I felt like she handled it well, all in all.
I think his apology is just an attempt at damage control. He has not apologized for the other parts of his talk. Does he even understand how his comments about women were condescending? His wife seems perfectly fine with it all, so I don’t think he or his wife even get that. He also has not mentioned how he was wrong to mock other churches and he seems to honestly think that our church is *that* much better than every other church out there, so he honestly seems to not get the half of what was wrong with his talk.
But, I think the biggest part of the problem is that he isn’t the only one who teaches this racist and sexist crap. On another blog, I read that John Bytheway has a book out that says the same stuff. And as pointed out above, if the church really saw a problem with his talk the powers that be would not have let go on this long. I think the biggest problem is the idea that he said the quiet part out loud. The church leaders really do think God was behind blacks being banned from priesthood and temple. Church leaders really do think that women receive every blessing of the priesthood and ignore how men are more blessed by actually controlling those blessings. Church leaders really do look down on other religions. And church leaders really do think that scaring kids, rather than respecting and loving them, will work to keep them in the church.
The church from the top down needs to see how they play a part in this offensive talk. This talk is not an isolated incident, but part of a larger pattern. Instead of blaming people who get offended, the church needs to look at how it is being offensive.
To me an apology isn’t a two-word (i.e., “I’m sorry”) affair. It isn’t even a one-paragraph affair. A real apology is a self-reflective explanation in which the offender describes accurately what he / she did and why it was wrong. Did Wilcox do that? No.
Most of the time a bad apology is still better than no apology. And Wilcox’s apology was… not great. But not the worst.
I also liked a recent TikTok with Trevor Noah about why he thinks we should allow people an opportunity to apologize, even for really egregious things.
I understand that institutional apologies are difficult, but I think the issue is less about apologizing (although for some things, I think an apology is absolutely warranted and appropriate and necessary for collective healing in the Body of Christ) and more about ownership and accountability for teachings and clarity over doctrine. I’m tired of all the double-speak and plausible deniability (and frankly gaslighting) in the Church. When it wants to move on from a problematic teaching, it just quietly moves on but almost NEVER disavows a teaching, so you still have all kinds of garbage floating around (and resurfacing in firesides and bishop interviews and blog comments and everywhere else) that has never actually been repudiated. Like rules about sex (no oral sex), justifications for racism and sexism, etc.
There are other things that are tricky – like should the Q15 apologize for the ways history has been hidden when they weren’t the ones who necessarily do the hiding? (Joseph Fielding Smith isn’t here to apologize for tearing out the pages of the alternative first vision account). Well, maybe they can’t or need not “apologize” for that but they can at least acknowledge that it happened and come clean. And also, stop lying.
Here, I think the issue is that to the extent Wilcox was apologizing for centering the question on white people’s experience – “what about the whites?” – OK, I can appreciate that, and that’s not really “institutional level” apology. But no one has apologized for the teaching that God was behind the priesthood ban and “we just don’t know why”, no one has repudiated that teaching, and so we are still stuck with a theology where God barred blacks from temple and priesthood because “reasons.”
So whether the Church wants to frame it as an apology or a repudiation of an incorrect teaching, what we need is OWNERSHIP for what has happened and a COMMITMENT to resolving and moving forward. But there’s no ownership. That’s cowardly and creates a lot of problems & confusion.
Call Me Mark Mark: “To know that people not involved in the matter would question my sincerity or doubt whether I truly understood what I did wrong or failed to realize how bad it was would piss me off to no end.” Several things to add here.
– You’re talking about times when you gave a heartfelt apology, and therefore, YOU know it was based on real change. You can’t assume that this is parallel to Wilcox’s hasty apologies after saying the same things unchecked for years, and he didn’t even apologize for any of his mockery of women or people of other faiths, reducing it solely to insensitivity about race, one fraction of what was wrong with his talks he’s been giving word for word for years. One apology being sincere doesn’t make another one from another circumstance sincere.
– Who are “people not involved in the matter”? He insulted women (I’m one), black people (I’m not one), and people of other faiths (who mostly won’t know what he said). He also speaks with the backing of the Church, a Church I’ve paid tithing to for 54 years. Am I not involved?
– If you are pissed off to no end at your apology being rejected or misunderstood, you aren’t truly contrite. You’re still centering your apology on improving your own situation, your feelings, how others perceive you and understand you. A real apology is about restitution and sorrow. Nobody can control how others receive their apologies.
Elisa: This is kind of unrelated to the post, but I would really recommend reading this thread Robin Jensen from the JSPP put out on Twitter over the weekend. It’s very thorough regarding the JFS removal of the pages you referenced, which was obviously bad history, but the motive isn’t clear given the (really dumb) methods that were employed by the Church History department at the time. Here’s a link to the thread: https://twitter.com/rsjensen12345/status/1493025631637966854?s=20&t=XdS0Ca6ITnOcbGKchNfOzQ
The Brad Wilcox apologies ring hollow for a few reasons:
-Wilcox has been shown to present the same offensive message for years, but it only recently got widespread negative media attention. Thus, he was only sorry he got caught, not truly remorseful for the years of harm he had done.
-He is a showman with a phony personality (and is known for being flippant, sarcastic or mocking towards non-LDS religions and non-orthodox believers) so it’s hard to take him seriously when he claims to be sincere.
-His wife sprang to his defense on social media with statements that were also insensitive.
-In his apologies, he only addressed the racially insensitive content of his talk. There was other objectionable content that he needs to apologize for but hasn’t.
-Like Oaks, he has a massive ego and believes he speaks the unfiltered Truth and is accountable to no one for it.
As the OP says, he’s apologizing like his job depends on it.
@Angela funny that I used that example when that thread just came out. Off-topic but I still think given JFS’s repeated retellings of the first vision that plainly adopted the not-suppressed version, his motives were mixed at best.
But I actually think that does get to the larger point that it can be tricky for an organization to apologize for specific things done by specific people in the past. Because they aren’t those people, and they don’t know exactly what those people did what they did. How could they apologize for JFS when he might not have had bad motives? One could even argue how could they apologize for Brigham Young – yes he was racist, but for all we know he was 100% delusional and genuinely from the bottom of his heart thought that God inspired the ban. That doesn’t make it right, but it could change how we view him.
I don’t think, though, that we’re asking the Church to apologize for specific acts committed by specific people. I think instead they can take ownership for things that happened in the past (whether it’s being misleading about Church history, or blaming the priesthood ban on God), say “we know better now, we shouldn’t have let it carry on for so long, and that is wrong,” EXPRESSLY repudiate the bad teaching / practice (you don’t have to throw the person who introduced it under the bus if you don’t want to), and not keep doing it going forward.
Pandemics in our world? What about widespread, willfully ignorant-ism within many members, often perpetrated from top to bottom? Apologize or repent?
I think the unwillingness to apologize largely stems from the insistence that the LDS Church is the ONLY TRUE and living church on the earth, led directly by the SAVIOR, and that PROPHETS, SEERS, and REVELATORS have direct contact from the divine through the HOLY SPIRIT in managing the institution and disseminating messages from CHRIST to members of the Church and the world at large.
No, I was not intending to yell by capitalizing the words in the first paragraph. Rather, look at those words and ask how the LDS definition/claim of each could be affected with an APOLOGY being issued by a general authority or church officer regarding a policy or doctrine.
It appears to me that the Church has sooooo oversold the idea that the institution, its leaders, and its doctrines are INCAPABLE of making a mistake on substantial points of doctrine. And when there is a change or clarification to a significant policy or doctrine, the automatic response is that God has given new revelation on the matter, so there’s no apology needed because it has been addressed and was valid up to a point, but not any longer (i.e. Polygamy, Priesthood/Temple Restrictions, etc.).
Given the above, it isn’t just that the Church won’t give an apology, I would argue the leadership truly believes one is unnecessary. So they will say “sorry if I was less articulate or insensitive than you wanted,” but they cannot apologize for the teaching.
I’d like to quickly respond to Jack’s (not Hughes) previous comment. Forgiveness does not mean absolution,. I can forgive Wilcox for the offense he caused me personally. I seek no further apologies. Yet I can certainly understand those (more affected than I) seeking confirmation of changes and clarification on his apology.
But this does NOT mean that consequences should be avoided for teaching erroneous interpretations and harmful concepts. He is a professional instructor of religion. He holds a PhD and a professorship. The church/BYU pays him to get things correct. This is not some lay minister. Should he continue to collect a salary to teach? Do his practices and theories really edify the youth and young adults? His lack of scholarly insight on basic historical events and theological developments certainly suggests that his professionalism requires examination. What message does an international church and relatively prestigious university send by continuing to employ Mr. Wilcox? As a CES employee, his salary comes from “sacred tithing funds.” I suggest he should be held to a very high standard.
Some thoughts about apologies–
My dad made many, many parenting errors during my upbringing, but he never once apologized for them. In fact, I don’t recall that he ever apologized to anyone for anything. The only exception was when he was on his deathbed, in a state of physical agony with only hours left to live. While I like to think that his apology to me then was transformative to our strained relationship, there simply wasn’t time to enjoy that reconciliation. I imagine he was also feeling the weight of regret for not making better use of his time on earth. On further examination, it became clear that my dad was a product of a time when apologizing was considered un-masculine and a sign of weakness (the John Wayne school of masculinity). Because apologizing requires one to take responsibility for a wrongdoing, and feel genuine remorse, and real men don’t have time for feelings, not when there are horse thieves and cattle rustlers to deal with. Nelson, Oaks, and most of the older apostles are also members of this cohort, and thus are naturally allergic to apologizing. Brad Wilcox, being of the next generation, is only slightly better with a ham-fisted insincere apology, which is better than none, but not *that* much better.
I recently read about a growing trend in airline customer service practices, in which airline representatives, acting on behalf of their airline, willingly take responsibility for travel problems that are not the airline’s fault (such as when TSA loses or damages luggage, or when TSA screening delays cause you to miss a flight) then immediately assist the aggrieved customer with rebooking/compensation. They found that when the airline chooses to take the hit and then makes efforts to resolve the problem, that pacified customer is more likely to choose to fly with that airline in the future (even though it does nothing to fix the stupid problems of TSA). So perhaps there is some value in institutional apologies that take ownership for the mistakes of past generations.
I’m really split here- because I agree with MarkMark – That we want people and the church to apologize. Then when someone does apologize we say “I don’t believe it. That apology wasn’t good enough.” And I don’t think that will lead to more apologies.
I’ve heard people here say, “When people say (they are offended) I believe them” but then when someone says they are sorry “I don’t believe them”.
In looking at the outcomes that we want for the future- More apologies, more honesty, more transparency- What will be the more effective approach? Condemning every step in that direction that doesn’t go far enough or all the way? Or applauding each step, even though it doesn’t go all the way or nearly far enough?
For me, I’ll applaud Brad Wilcox’s apology, because it was a step in the right direction. Even though it didn’t go all the way, or nearly far enough, because I would like to see more apologies that go further in the future.
– If you are pissed off to no end at your apology being rejected or misunderstood, you aren’t truly contrite.
How dare you make assumptions about whether my apologies were sincere or not because people who have no knowledge of the matter continued to dump on our accuse me.
I can’t believe you wrote that.
Call me Mark: Your words were that you would be “pissed off to no end.” This means that you are demanding that your apology be accepted or you will see the one who didn’t accept it as the wrong-doer. That’s not how apologies work. As to whether people uninvolved are dumping on you (as you say), that’s unrelated to your apology, so why mention it? Who are these uninvolved parties? Why do they care? Are they really uninvolved? If you did something wrong, that doesn’t mean that your apology must be accepted by the person you wronged or by random “uninvolved” strangers. That’s on them and is unrelated to your apology.
But by all means, apologize when you’ve done wrong. Just don’t expect good deeds to always come with rewards or recognition.
@Jack Hughes, that example is broader than airlines. Research shows that if consumers have a bad experience with a business but then the business does a really great job at addressing the issue, the consumer ends up MORE loyal to / favorable towards the business than before they had an issue in the first place.
People like ownership, accountability, honesty, and humility.
I must not be explaining myself clearly. When I apologize for an offense, that’s between me and the person. I do not need, nor would I seek forgiveness from those who are not involved in the matter. But it’s those same individuals that create caustic environments that make it virtually impossible for anyone to have their apology accepted, unless it’s done exactly the way they think it should be done. It’s these people that piss me off to no end, and I have a real problem with that.
I don’t know what’s going on in Wilcox’s brain and whether he’s sincere in his apology and will change. But I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Does this event really warrant, from my count, 6 articles from Wheat and Tares? I agree that his talk had many serious issues. I’ve discussed them elsewhere, and to far less receptive audiences than the comment section here. At a certain point though, you aren’t a news reporter covering anything new or noteworthy. You are just beating a dead horse, or tapir. You might argue that Wilcox represents larger issues with the church. That may be. But you can discuss those issues instead of making him the eternal poster boy for everything wrong with the church, splitting hairs over his apology, and demeaning the people next to him as tokens. Its time to move on from the Brad Wilcox talk.
Call Me Mark: Are you willing to give him the benefit of the doubt regarding the things he didn’t apologize for that were at least as egregious?
Morgan D: It’s been a slow Mormon news month. Point taken, though.
Angela C : No, I would not.
The real deal is men’s apologies are rarely sufficient to right wrongs, they are only an expression of human frailty. Full realization regarding the faults a man makes come in time. Certainly he is reflecting on his actions and manner of expression and his inner understanding of the issue at hand. This should be enough, not to right any wrongs, but to admit human frailty and flaw publicly. To demand more, or to incessantly shame someone for a fault is worse than the fault imo.
True apologies are focused on the person(s) who have been harmed by the offense(s) of the apologizer, who is humble, contrite, and “not seeking their own.” They are 100% about changing behavior, and are a sober certification that the violation will never again be committed.
It is the starting point to heal broken trust.
Anything less is a manipulative ploy to escape the possible consequences of being held accountable for one’s own bad behavior.
I was aware of this academically from lifelong hypothetical investigation, and I could persuasively pontificate theory and deconstruct the meaning of any apologies offered up for examination. Then I found myself in the position of indulging my temper one very bad day, and offended and traumatized a loved one, and I badly craved a repair of our relationship. I didn’t care how much time and patient work it took. I dropped like dead weight any desire for them to see the part they played in the incident, leaving that work entirely up to them, and none of my business. I consciously erased any need for me to hold them accountable for how their actions affected me, and only had hope that I could heal the injury I had inflicted on their spirit. It took considerable empathy for me to see clearly what they had experienced, and be properly horrified at that. Humility was, and is essential.
By carefully, thoughtfully seeking their healing and goodwill, after more than two heartfelt apologetic conversations where we (rather briefly) talked about what happened, with zero discussion of their (potential) culpability, we have been able to repair. I’m thankful. I was lucky that the offense was relatively uncomplicated, mostly a single violation, and I have a healthy reservoir of prior loving connection to draw from. And I now vigilantly guard my tongue and tendency to inflame, and have some more tools ready for that dang temper that afflicts me.
This is what apology looks like from the inside.
Sometimes I look to myself and think I deserve to receive this kind of apology for injuries inflicted on me, we all do when we’ve been hurt. But we suck at apologies in our culture. It’s really worth studying.
Regarding the dogpile on that poor fellow (not gonna say his name again) who has the bad luck to become the “whipping boy,” as it were, for a very bad systemic problem of long standing, that harms way too many of us. He’s just a symbol, a single example of flaws in the system of church governance that reaches to the highest levels. We need the humility to really study and see what’s happening among us, and the empathy to sort out how to repair what damage can be repaired. The good brother with the bad luck can do his own work on this privately, but we can do better in our institutional places, and it can and should be done in public.
We all bring priors into our arguments–it’s unavoidable. So the trick is to try to get beyond our priors–to see how they might be coloring our opinions of other people’s opinions. With that in mind my challenge to you is: other than the way in which Brad Wilcox framed some of is information show me how he was wrong. He’s apologized for the way he said certain things–and I think his apology was sincere. Now prove to me that the central ideas of his message were wrong–or misinformed.
Jack: I’m not Old Man, but I’ll share a few ways in which Brad’s message (which is very hard to separate from his mocking, condescending tone) was wrong. He said that rather than asking why black people didn’t get the priesthood until 1978, we should be asking why whites (and other races, as he put it) didn’t get it until 1830, and he said it was God’s will to withold it. Here are factually incorrect elements: 1) black men were ordained to the priesthood under Joseph Smith, which Wilcox should know as a so-called professor of religion, 2) he implied that white people (and other races) had been without priesthood LONGER than black people, when by his logic, you would have to add the extra 148 years black people had to wait on top of the years of the Great Apostasy, making their wait still much longer, 3) he was dismissive of the claim that “Brigham Young was a jerk,” a claim very easy to prove by any reasonable standard, and not just for his time, 4) Brigham Young’s “not one drop” doctrine that he used to bar black people from receiving the priesthood or attending the temple was fallacious as basically everyone has at least “one drop”–there’s no such thing as racial purity in any category of “race.” As God would certainly know, even if Brigham Young didn’t.
Then, there’s the story of the woman who supposedly accosted him in an unhinged manner demanding to know why she couldn’t have the priesthood. He claims that he responded to her in an incredibly condescending tone, asking if she even knew what the priesthood was, and she sheepishly confessed she didn’t, giving him the opportunity to mansplain it to her. Then he turned to the audience to joke that for all she knew, she might as well be asking for malaria without knowing what it was. Wow. Anyone who believes this story actually happened, that a real human woman said and did these things, must think we are all, not just women, everyone hearing this story, the stupidest, most gullible idiots ever. Not only is the story mean-spirited and misogynistic, it’s just ludicrous. This is at a so-called spiritual devotional. Aren’t women ridiculous? No woman who is seeking the priesthood needs this arrogant moron to explain to her just what it is that he’s been given that no woman has. This is punching down indeed. It’s like a Paul Dunn story, but if told by a self-aggrandizing bully.
He also says that asking why women don’t have the priesthood is silly because we should be asking why men “need” the priesthood to access blessings like the temple, stating that women can just “waltz” right on in without being ordained (and then wear the robes of the priesthood). This is a dodge against the real question about priesthood, which is mostly about women having any institutional decision-making power that can’t be vetoed by a man, which doubtless Brad and others know, but they don’t want to answer that question, and they don’t want to treat women as equals, so instead, let’s talk about men. Again. When women and others who are marginalized and kept from positions of power, society sometimes imbues them with “magical” status (e.g. the wise woman, the wise black man–both tropes in mythology and literature). This is to explain why people who may be the most capable are barred from power structures, because they somehow are magical and don’t need them, but at the same time, they are being sidelined and their input can be ignored. Gaslighting technique.
There’s the part where he explained that people in other churches are “playing pretend,” meaning that our Church is real, but theirs is not, our devotion is real, theirs is false. This is not our doctrine about other faiths. The doctrine about other faiths is that all faiths have truth to them, that all worshipers are striving to live Christian lives to the best of their understanding. Mocking their services as “pretense” is uncalled for.
In order to provide a targeted reply to you, I must ask you for some of your own perspective. What do you perceive the “central ideas of his message” to be? Which of those ideas do you accept as factually and contextually correct? Then I can focus my response to those items.
Angela C.: Thank you for your response. I appreciate your views.
Angela C, you seem sincere but most of what you say, IMO, has to do with how Wilcox framed his content rather than whether or not it’s true. I can’t help but believe that many folks are so steeped in the modern culture that they simply can’t–or won’t– understand what people are saying. Here’s an example:
Some people believe that Wilcox equates motherhood with malaria. But that’s not what he’s doing at all–IMO. What he’s suggesting is: some folks get angry over a perceived injustice without even knowing why it’s unjust–and he does it with sort of a Brian Regan-like flare (that’s where the malaria comes in). And on top of that, the fact that it was a woman who asked him the question has nothing to do with the point he was trying to make. It could have been a man who asked the question–it doesn’t matter.
That said, when we’re more concerned with how people express themselves than with the content of their message –it becomes all to easy to make someone an offender for a word. Of course that’s not to say that we should never be concerned with the “how.” We should–and I think Elder Wilcox’s apology for his misstep in how he expressed himself was sincere.
Jack: Yes, some of his problem is style vs. substance, but I’ll strip out all the style problem to be even more clear:
– It’s not doctrinally accurate to say that the PH ban was “God’s timing.” The actual church party line is “We don’t know.” (Which importantly does not rule out what pretty much everyone knows to be true: that we have a history of racist leaders, but the church hasn’t admitted it).
– It’s not doctrinally accurate to say women don’t have the priesthood because “men need it, and women don’t.” Again, I believe the correct answer is “We don’t know” which Oaks then freelanced into “Women use *borrowed* priesthood power in their callings.” He’s the only one who has ever claimed that, however.
– It’s not doctrinally accurate to call other faiths’ services “pretend,” which implies insincerity and falseness. The Church does not preach this as a matter of doctrine, instead preaching respect for other sincere seekers of Christ and the truths they hold dear.
Basically, all of the substance was speculative, yet factually inaccurate in the case of the PH ban regarding actual Church history.
As for the malaria punch line, I assume you meant that he intended to equate priesthood with malaria, not motherhood. That is what we in the biz call a Freudian slip.
Thanks for addressing this squarely, when many of Wilcox’ aggrieved offendees suffer battle fatigue.
At this point the discussion of the Wilcox thang has devolved into gaslit drivel. His efforts at apology act as crumbs tossed to those injured by his words , in hope to groom them for future abusive condescension. In my experience he seems well-practiced at it.
Points to you for thorough brevity, without sacrificing any important items.
Just going to point out that malaria is not something anyone feels like they unjustly cannot have. It’s something no one wants, so both the original analogy by Wilcox and Jack’s use of it as an example make no sense whatsoever. Also, it could not have been a man who asked the question because men have the priesthood, so it’s a comparison that works not at all or is false equivalence in logical fallacy speak.
“It’s not doctrinally accurate to say that the PH ban was ‘God’s timing.’ The actual church party line is ‘We don’t know.'”
When we say “we don’t know” what we mean is: we don’t know *why* there was a ban. The prophetic nature of the 1978 revelation suggests (to me) that God may very well have been involved with the timing.
“It’s not doctrinally accurate to say women don’t have the priesthood because ‘men need it, and women don’t.'”
I think you might be begging the question. If women don’t need the priesthood then they don’t need it. If men do need the priesthood then they need it. Even so, we all need the blessings of the priesthood. And I’m of the opinion that even though women are not ordained at this time–the time will come when the matriarchal priesthood will be fully revealed.
“It’s not doctrinally accurate to call other faiths’ services ‘pretend,’ which implies insincerity and falseness.”
Except when they pretend to have authority–which is what Wilcox was really talking about. As I remember, he did mention that people of others faiths can certainly be sincere in their beliefs; he didn’t want there to be any confusion on that point. Even so, is infant baptism efficacious? Or receiving a call to be one of 144,000? Does a certificate from a school of theology authorize one to preach the gospel? Can a minister seal a couple together for eternity? When those kinds of promises are made without the authority of the priesthood it is no more efficacious than playing church–that’s what he was saying–not that there isn’t anything good in other religions.
“That is what we in the biz call a Freudian slip.”
Nope–no Freudianism. It was another commenter who made the connection between motherhood–and malaria. I was just repeating the mantra.
I think you’re stretching Brother Wilcox’s statement beyond the limits of it’s meaning. His use of malaria was not directly analogous to the priesthood. Rather it was *not knowing* what [insert anything (malaria?)] was that was analogous to not knowing [insert anything (priesthood?)] was–and then being angry because women don’t have it.
Sorry it’s taken so long for me to get back to you. Hopefully you’re getting a feel for my perspective by the way I’ve responded thus far to other commenters.
The funniest part to me about the “story'” of the upset woman demanding the priesthood is that BW conveys that she is hysterical while he is calm. Given that BW was not calm for a single minute of this devotional, I find it hard to believe that he would be calm if a stranger engaged with him about this topic. The irony.
With regards to women waltzing into the temple, sure. Then can waltz into the temple, after they subject themselves to two rounds of interrogation at the hands of the priesthood. But they don’t need the priesthood.
Jack: It’s very kind of you to believe we are all sincere. Thanks for that. You keep banging the same drum over and over. I think we all get it that you believe God hated people of color until he didn’t, that God doesn’t believe in the second article of faith, and that we are superior to other religions. We got it. You don’t need to keep repeating yourself. The part I don’t get is why you think it’s better to have a racist God instead of a racist prophet.
Jack, you heard it verbatim as well as I did, but here is what Wilcox said.
“What’s the priesthood?”
“Well, I don’t know but the women should have it.”
“Seriously? I don’t know but the women should have it. What’s malaria? I don’t know but the women should have it.”
It takes a tremendous leap to not see priesthood and malaria as analogous in that made-up exchange. It also, again, doesn’t work because you can safely assume that the woman would know what malaria is unless she is, as Wilcox implies, really stupid. And, priesthood and malaria are not comparable, no one is angry about not having malaria, so I can’t stretch his bad analogy beyond the limits of its meaning because it has no meaning. I didn’t decide to create a tortured analogy, Wilcox did.
He’s not comparing the two. The stick is about defending something that one knows nothing about. That seems clear to me.
Maybe I do come across as beating the same drum–but not anymore than everyone else does around here. It’s just that “you and I travel to the beat of a different drum.”
As for your encapsulation of my PoV in your final paragraph–I’m sorry if my comments have led you to make those assumptions about my beliefs. I’ll try to do better at explaining myself–but be assured, brother, what you’ve described above isn’t me at all.
Jack: “The schtick is about defending something that one knows nothing about.” Yes, and he is full of crap. Anyone who thinks for even one minute that this story is an accurate portrayal of a conversation with a real human woman who believes women should have the priesthood would also like to sell you a bridge in Brooklyn. And this indictment of the understanding and intelligence of feminists, coming from the king of male arrogance and amateur speculation. The sheer gall is impressive. Jana Reiss put it best in her brief article on this topic https://religionnews.com/2022/02/16/mormon-leaders-apology-for-racist-remarks-does-not-go-far-enough/?fbclid=IwAR0fVJ1372Zp5RzUH5MNYMj6YSnXRGCmnrrWUZZzTLZa5_j9PFcOdCTGLDs:
“Wrong, wrong, wrong. The talk contains tale after tale of him either correcting these imbeciles to their faces or scoffing at them behind their backs. What the talk does not contain is a single story of him listening deeply to people’s pain, asking where that pain might be coming from, or trying to understand what it might feel like to be a person who is not a white Mormon American male. That’s some serious privilege right there. Undoing it is going to require a lot more soul-searching than his two carefully worded not-quite-apologies suggest he’s undertaking.”
Jana Reiss: “What the talk does not contain is a single story of him listening deeply to people’s pain, asking where that pain might be coming from, or trying to understand what it might feel like to be a person who is not a white Mormon American male.”
Why can’t it be a talk written for young people who know what it feels like to be disliked by the world because their Latter-day Saints? Brother Wilcox’s talk is not even remotely as offensive as Reiss makes it out to be. If she doesn’t like it–she’s free to write a woke version of it to her own satisfaction.
As I said earlier. it might just as well have been a man who asked him the question. The fact that it happened to be a woman has zero bearing on the point he’s trying to make. It’s the question itself that’s important–not the gender, race, nationality, or religious affiliation of the person doing the asking.
Jack, the talk is offensive. Very offensive. As a Christian who “plays church,” I am deeply offended.
You talk about “authority.” You have absolutely no way of verifying that there is any priesthood authority in the LDS church beyond your personal feeling on the matter. It takes a significant amount of arrogance to think your personal feelings have any universal application on the lives of other people. Therefore Mormonism is, at its core, a religion of arrogance.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that BW will be making changes in his behavior, changes in his delivery, changes in his treatment of others, etc. Maybe he really will, we don’t know yet, and maybe most of us never will know. The problem is that I don’t think most of us we will ever know. With apologies, especially public apologies like this one, it is very difficult for the masses to ever determine sincerity when sincerity is based on changed behavior. Social media has exploded with the BW story, but it will not explode in the future when(if) BW implements some changes that he has considered making. While there may be a handful of us here and elsewhere in Mormon social media circles that hear about a kindness BW showed a woman, person of color, or member of another faith or a different way he delivered a youth talk, or a more sensitive way to share an opinion, or principle or doctrine, the vast majority of us who are wondering about his sincerity, or wanting a different type of apology will probably never know. People’s mistakes are trumpeted from the housetops, That’s what is newsworthy in our world. Fixes to the mistakes are rarely broadcast.
I believe–as I’m sure Brother Wilcox does–that people from all different religious walks of life can be sincere in their form of worship–and that God will hear them. I’m supposing that you’ve had that experience in your own life–and that both you and I can testify together of the reality of a Living God.
Unfortumately, what you say is all too true.
If Wilcox believes that sincere believers of all different faiths can experience the Divine, then he may want to work on communicating that fact because he said the exact opposite using rather demeaning language. Since he holds a PhD, teaches religion at a church university and holds a prominent position in the Mormon faith, I think he said exactly what he and other Mormons believe about the beliefs and worship services of those who don’t believe the Mormon faith. If other Mormons didn’t agree with him, they would not pay him to say such things.
Unfortunately, there are a few reasons to assume that things are going to get worse, not better, for race on BYU campus. The chief reason is that the black student union planned a peaceful sit-in at Wilcox’s classroom, and the university reacted by adding a security detail to Wilcox, because like all people who don’t think they are racists but really are, they clearly believe that BLACK PEOPLE ARE SCARY. Additionally, the university is accepting, encouraging, and taking action against professors that white supremacist groups are identifying as teaching either “critical race theory” or expressing LGBTQ sympathies. The muskets have been picked up, by the usual suspects.
BYU does not want to be a safe place for BIPOC or LGBTQ people, and they already have a long history of problems with women, particularly in the Rel Ed department, but certainly not only there. So much for the race study and the department of inclusion. Your tithing dollars are paying for racist hysteria and to Make BYU White (and Straight) Again.
Good job with the “Build On Common Beliefs.” You skipped the BRT, but I will cut you some slack considering the format of the conversation. As we move into the “Resolve Concerns” stage, I think at some moment you will just have to come out and give it to me straight, like Wilcox did.
John (and Anon), before we move on to the next stage 😀 I want to reemphasize my belief that all who do good are blessed with a portion of the Spirit. Indeed, I believe that all of God’s children are endowed with the Light of Christ upon entering this world–and that light grows within each of us according to our willingness to abide in it.
That said, yes the church claims to have a greater–or more complete–portion of the truth than other religions–which includes priesthood authority. While that belief can certainly seem off-putting at first glance it isn’t our desire to prove to the world that we’re better than everyone else. Latter-days Saints believe that God loves all of his children unconditionally. What we hope is that all people will come and receive an even greater portion of truth — or add to the portion that they already have as per to Gordon B. Hinckley — by virtue of the blessings of the priesthood–which include baptism by emersion for the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.
And so, in that light, I don’t know that our claim is anymore radical than a Christian’s is to a Muslim, or a Muslim’s is to a Jew, or a Jew’s is to a Christian. But we do recognize what we have in common–that Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike, worship the God of Abraham. And we invite all–including those not of the Abrahamic tradition–to come and receive a fulness of the blessings of the priesthood according to the Abrahamic covenant–which are received in the Holy Temple.
That’s my invitation to you, brother. Come and see for yourself what the Church Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has to offer.
I came and I saw. Been there, done that, so to speak. Out of respect and a desire to play nice, I will spare you all the list of what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had to offer me.
Remember, it’s never too late to come back, brother.