On April 6th (2009) LDS-owned Brigham Young University’s student newspaper, The Daily Universe, ran a photo with an unfortunate caption. Pictured were some members of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. They were identified in the newspaper as “The Quorum of the Twelve Apostates.” The Associated Press reported,
“The typo was an honest mistake, said Carri Jenkins, spokeswoman for church-owned BYU. She said most of the 18,000 copies of the student paper were retrieved Monday morning and replaced with 10,000 corrected copies later in the day.”
Non-Mormons have found humor in the error and have enjoyed a laugh at the student-run newspaper’s expense. If you stop to listen you can almost hear Homer Simpson’s infamous “D’oh!” echoing across the campus. But Mormons don’t think it’s funny.
Rich Evans, editorial manager of The Daily Universe, called the caption “the worst possible mistake.” Brad Rawlins, chair of BYU’s Department of Communications said, “We don’t think this error is glib or cute or humorous. We understand people will take offense to the error. We ourselves are offended as a department for this error. We have a deep regret that it appeared in today’s paper.” And an LDS student at BYU said of the mistake, “It would be sad if someone was trying to do harm to our church.”
I’m not sure why this “honest mistake” has caused so much consternation among Latter-day Saints, but maybe it has something to do with the historic Mormon stance on apostates. LDS Prophet Brigham Young told the Saints,
“I say, rather than that apostates should flourish here, I will unsheath my bowie knife, and conquer or die. [Great commotion in the congregation, and a simultaneous burst of feeling, assenting to the declaration.] Now, you nasty apostates, clear out, or judgment will be put on the line, and righteousness to the plummet. [Voices, generally, ‘go it, go it.’] If you say it is right, raise your hands. [All hands up.] Let us call upon the Lord to assist us in this, and every good work” (Brigham Young, March 27th, 1853, Journal of Discourses 1:83. Brackets in original).
Apostasy is serious spiritual business in any religion. In early Mormonism (or perhaps even today if anyone regards Brigham Young’s teaching as true) it could also be life threatening. Certainly this aspect of early Mormonism increases the gravity of the typographical error in The Daily Universe.
Most people, of course, will recognize the fact that The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are not modern Mormon apostates (though self-described Mormons belonging to Mormon splinter groups would certainly disagree). The Twelve embody today’s Mormonism and carry the authority to govern and manage the LDS Church, and drive it into the future. Yet, with the accusation of apostasy hanging over The Twelve, they might consider taking steps to further demonstrate their faithfulness to the Church. Brigham Young also taught,
“Brethren who have been on missions, can you see any difference in this people from the time you went away until your return? [Voices: ‘Yes.’] You can see men and women who are sixty or seventy years of age looking young and handsome; but let them apostatize, and they will become gray-haired, wrinkled, and black, just like the Devil” (Brigham Young, October 7, 1857, Journal of Discourses 5:332. Brackets in original).
Perhaps The Twelve will consider the benefits of using A Touch of Gray for a while to squelch any lingering doubts.