Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Francher Party and Forgiveness/Repentance

While reading articles online, I came across a review of September Dawn about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. What struck me wasn't the review itself, but a few of the comment exchanges. Particulary interesting was one poster who claims to be a relative of members of the Francher Party that were killed. The vindictive against Mormons sounded absolutely over the top. No doubt the writer would claim it is nothing of the sort. Of course, a Mormon responded by the usual explanation that to understand the context is part of understanding the actions. Not surprising the self-identified Francher relative completely went unhinged at the idea that context means anything. Considering this person basically called Mormons murderers, its past and current leaders as unholy bigots, and compared us to child abusers, I found one of the comments rather ironic:

The hubris is the same stunning stuff that made for the trouble in the early states. What continues to mystify me is how so many church members can look to this institution for spiritual leadership when it is unable, in the space of 150 years, to find an open measure of humility and humanity to demonstrate repentance, as an example to its people of how to take responsibility and offer sincere apology when wrong.

with such vindictive on the side of the poster I can't help questioning if they understand what "humility" and "forgiveness" means. Reading the rest of it doesn't get any better or consilitory for either side. Thoughts kept going through my mind that century long bloody wars have started with these kinds of back and forth accusations.

Now, I don't bring this up to fight about who is to blame or what exactly happened. In fact, I will be watching very carefully the comments made (if any) and probably even close down the comments section. My reason for bring this painful subject up is to discuss exactly what is forgiveness and repentance in a situation like this? Should the offended get everything they want to show contrition? Yes would seem like the right answer, but history (particularly WWI) proves doing that can make things worse. It is an institutional problem or an individual one? Who should be in charge of officially repenting? Who should be in charge of accepting that repentance and forgiving? What if one side doesn't believe they are fully to blame, but still acknowledges the actions? On the other hand, what if the other side won't forgive?

The exchange in the review sounded completely personal on both sides in a way I had never encountered. Usually, the arguments have been at least academic and level headed even when sensational. It is also possible to see when it is an anti-Mormon religious hit piece (and I am still not sure that isn't what this is) because other unrelated "beliefs" are trotted out for scorn. The down and dirty side of the responses (invoking 911 and those "evil" Muslims for goodness sake!) came as a shock. Mostly the surprise comes because I really don't know if Francher Party relatives are actually as angry and out for justice as much as this person seems to insist. At any rate, loving your enemies and doing good to those who hate you is probably the hardest thing to do, especially when it is claimed the criticism is out of love.

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