An Apology


A strictly irrelevant but serene and soothing image, from Switzerland, of my favorite kind of landscape


To illustrate a satirical quip in a blog entry that I posted yesterday, I hastily chose an image of mob violence from the web without recognizing its racial implications.  (The blog entry has absolutely no connection with race.)  Indeed, I had originally, mistakenly, thought that the victims were white.


1)  I should have examined the photo more closely, since, in many minds, the history of lynching in the United States is inextricably and understandably tied to the murder and oppression of, specifically, African Americans.  (Given my own region of origin and age, the word lynching instantly brings to my mind, not the Klan, but the typically white cattle rustlers and horse thieves of the American West.)


2)  Given the fact that I belong to a church with a perceived legacy of racial discrimination and work for a university that is sponsored by that same church, I should have been more than ordinarily careful and sensitive in dealing with anything regarding race.  But I was in something of a hurry and, in any case (as a reading of the relevant blog entry will plainly demonstrate), I wasn’t thinking about race at all.


3)  It is never appropriate, and will never be appropriate, to use a graphic image of a racial murder to make a satirical or humorous point.  I showed a lapse of judgment in this instance, and I am deeply sorry for any offense that it has caused.  I took the image down rather quickly, but I ask forgiveness, nonetheless, of those who have been offended.  No offense was intended, nor was any race-related point on my mind.  Those who have ever made a remark that they’ve instantly or soon regretted, or who have ever told a joke that went gravely wrong, or who have ever felt that their basic moral character has been misconstrued (perhaps because of something they themselves have done or said) will, I pray, be willing to pardon my relatively brief posting of that appalling image.  I hope they will show the charity that they themselves would hope for and that all of us routinely need.



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  • Jeff Elhardt

    Abandon ship!

  • Don Bagley

    I’m a Californian, and I’ve never heard anyone here use the word lynch. It’s always hanging. Placerville, a nearby town, was originally called hangtown, on account of executions there. Is Mormonism “perceived” as having a racialist past, or did it really happen? I’m very pleased you recognize your gaff. But don’t try to shroud it in obfuscation and semantics. Man up.

    • MsJack

      That is seriously ungracious. Dan has admitted that what he did was inappropriate and offered a full apology. Perfection is the enemy of “good enough.”

      • Don Bagley

        Thank for replying. Now you can go back to fawning over a dishonest man.

        • MsJack

          If you think I’m someone who “fawns” over Dan Peterson, you don’t know jack (pun intended) about our history. I’ve never shied away from being critical of Dan (or, to his chagrin, his close associates) when I’ve felt it warranted. He wouldn’t even talk to me for the longest time because he felt our public encounters were too contentious, and we’re far from buddies now. But I’ve always tried to be fair to him.

          Before he posted this apology, I was busy pointing out to his defenders that all of his apologies up to this point were nonpologies:

          But this isn’t a nonpology. It’s the real thing, even if it isn’t up to your godly standards. The fact is that both you and Jeff Elhardt are being incredibly ungracious, and it reflects poorly on both of you. Dan has done the right thing. What you’re doing now is the wrong thing.

          • Jeff Elhardt

            Ungracious? Reflects poorly?

            Oh,okay. Forget those two poor souls hanging in that tree and the callous cartoonish caption Dan attached to it. Forget about any of their living relatives that might see Dan’s little indiscretion. Forget about any person of color seeing it and reliving the horror of their people’s history.
            Yeah, I’ve got to remember not to be ungracious when I look at two Americans being murdered.
            I do forgive Dan for the “cowboy excuse”, that was just plain stupid.

          • MsJack

            Newsflash for you: Dan Peterson is not the owner of a time machine. He can’t go back in time and undo what he did. All he can do is apologize for what he did, which is what he has done.

            When will you be apologizing for your crappy behavior?

          • Jeff Elhardt

            I’m sorry

            Sorry that most of us are sensitive people and we find his apology forced. Don’t bother lecturing me any on the subject. I find you quite obtuse.

          • DanielPeterson

            Just for the public record: The apology wasn’t “forced.” Nobody in any position of authority in either the Church or BYU contacted me and ordered me to do anything. Only one person affiliated with BYU — a longtime friend and colleague — sent me an email regarding the matter and he neither issued a command nor offered a suggestion. (The image was already down by then, anyway.) Nobody else called or contacted me in any way.

            Of course, Mr. Elhardt may mean RHETORICALLY “forced,” or some such thing. If so, I don’t see it

          • MsJack

            Yeah, Jeff. I’m sure you’re a real champion for racial justice elsewhere in your life—which is why when I click on your Disqus profile, I find so many other comments from you on the subject.

            You know what I find ugly? Using the very real pain and turmoil that blacks in this country experienced to stick it to some guy on the Internet you don’t like.

      • Jeff Elhardt

        Yeah Don, put it on a shelf. Let’s move on to the next apology.

    • DanielPeterson

      I’m a Californian, too, and I’ve been very familiar with the words “lynch” and “lynching” for as long as I can remember. I also knew the verb “to hang,” of course, and was thoroughly aware of the word “hanging.”

      I grew up, partially, on John Wayne, Western movies, and television shows like “Bonanza” and “Rawhide.” I can’t account, Don Bagley, for your unfamiliarity with what was, to me, a quite ordinary word,

      • Don Bagley

        Thanks for replying, Dr. I suppose we shouldn’t argue semantics. I’m fifth generation going back to Nauvoo, and, as an ex-Mormon, I’m touchy about what I see as excuses and misdirection in your words as well as those of other apologists. My former church has a long history of discrimination against black men. The priesthood ban was fully in place in my lifetime, and I don’t like how you say it was “perceived” to be racism. It was racism. Can you ever admit that the church was wrong? Or would that be giving you too much rope?

        • R.Dale Jeffery

          Have the Jews been wrong, for the last 4000 years, for not giving their priesthood to non-Levites? Is this somehow racist, or unethical or unfair?

          • Don Bagley

            The Jewish religion of the Old Testament is horrifically wrong. Their priesthood restrictions were among the least of their errors. Read Exodus, chapter 21, which authorizes and codifies human slavery. Or try Numbers, chap 31, which describes procedural genocide with God’s approval. These are entire chapters, and I’m not cherry picking.

        • Jim Wright

          Long before the Church announced the Priesthood for all worthy men, I was criticized by my mother for bringing a black man (her description was less charitable) into her home. I was threatened with removal from a college social club for sponsoring a black man for membership. I was refused service in the south for having the temerity to want to have dinner with my black roommate. Did I dislike the Church limitations on blacks? Absolutely. Do I understand why the limitations were there? No. Do I believe those who lead and have lead the church are men of good will? Yes. Do I believe in continuing revelation and the doctrine of a just God? Yes. Asking if the Church was “wrong” is, to me, asking if God was wrong.

          • Don Bagley

            Jim, your last sentence frames my question exactly. How could God be wrong? The Mormon church was dead wrong. What does that say about the relationship between Mormonism and God? (hint: it’s not good).

    • Allen Lambert

      I am from the west and farming families. Lynching was a common account of hanging. One can see it in movies. Also see wikipedia entries on lynching:
      [photo of white man being hanged in a corral]
      “The lynching of a horse thief in Oregon, c.1900.”
      “Lynchings took place most frequently in the Southern United States from 1890 to the 1920s, with a peak in the annual toll in 1892. However, lynchings were also very common in the Old West.”

      [photo of white man being hanged]
      “John Wesley Heath was lynched in Tombstone, Arizona on February 22, 1884 for his involvement in the Bisbee Massacre.”

      • Don Bagley

        I stand corrected on this issue. It was my fault to emphasize it. My apologies to you and the good Doctor Peterson on this particular word. I was wrong. That’s called manning up.

  • Quickmere Graham

    Daniel, I appreciate this post. Well done.

  • Tracy M

    I’m with MsJack. Thank you for the apology, Dr. Peterson.

  • Guy Briggs

    I think that the sooner we call ALL look at a photo from the past, and see beyond the color of the skin, the better off we’ll be. I agree with Dr. M. L. King that we should, instead, examine the content of a person’s character.

  • spicyhippoplankton

    Glad to see this.

  • Sam Smith

    Well said Dr. Peterson and next time I screw up I hope I handle it as well as you did in this post.

  • Lucy Mcgee

    Dr. Peterson offers a sincere, heartfelt apology and you respond with ridiculous nonsense and potty mouth.

    When I was young, there was this mean little boy who would constantly swear, hit, bite and wipe boogers on those who didn’t see things his way. He would get red faced and yell a few swear words and even hold his breath till he passed out and we’d all have to go and make sure he revived.

    I’ve witnessed some of your past shenanigans. Lighten up and you might make some friends who can help you.

  • Chana Messinger

    So very very good on you for this gracious and thoughtful apology! Thank you, and much admiration for what is very difficult to do.

  • Ryan

    I was the first person to leave a comment on the blog entry that contained the picture in question. I had remarked that I thought it was distasteful to pair a humorous caption with a picture of an “actual lynching.” Shortly after I posted my comment I went back and “deleted” it because I figured I’d leave well enough alone. I knew that Dr. Peterson intended no offense.

    Unfortunately, I soon realized that “deleting” a comment doesn’t actually make it go away, it just re-labels it as a “guest” comment. Oh well.

    In any case, my comment had nothing to do with race. If I had said “actual suffering” instead of “actual lynching” my point would have been the same. How some people have turned this into a discussion of Mormon history regarding blacks is beyond me.

  • Collin Simonsen

    Why is your heart filled with hatred?

  • kiwi57

    Weren’t you supposed to have accomplished Dan’s social, professional and possibly actual destruction by April 1st or thereabouts? Or was that bluster merely an April Fool’s joke on your good self?

    • kore kosemou

      good one you shitty fucking lawyer

      • DanielPeterson

        I’ve debated whether or not to remove Kore Kosmou’s recent posts because of his language. Thus far, I’ve preferred to allow his comments to stand, as representative of his peculiar eloquence and character. They don’t make ME look bad.

      • kiwi57

        What a witty retort. I don’t really know how you come up with them.

  • GeorgeLocke

    Thank you for this heartfelt apology. It’s difficult to admit error, and you deserve a lot of credit for handling this so graciously.

    That said, I have to point out that in at least one spot, you’re attempting to minimize the damage in a mildly dishonest way.

    Given the fact that I belong to a church with a perceived legacy of racial discrimination

    The Mormon church has a very real and rather recent history of racist discrimination. What exactly do you mean to communicate with this word “perceived”? The word is often used to indicate a misconception, so your use of it here is disingenuous at best.

    • Daniel Peterson

      Thanks for your generally charitable comment.

      No, it’s not disingenuous. Perhaps I’ll explain why in a blog post somewhere down the line.

      • GeorgeLocke

        I would be interested to hear what you have to say. I’m sure your knowledge of the Mormon church and its history far surpasses mine. (I’m sure I know more about Mormonism than most Americans, but I’m afraid that that isn’t saying much.)

        Anyway, I like to nitpick. In particular, I suppose I don’t really like my use of “disingenuous” because of its implication of deliberate deception, and I want to be clear that I don’t believe there is any of that happening here.

        If you or someone else can explain the difference between Mormonism’s perceived legacy of racism and its actual legacy, I would be interested, as I said.

        • Daniel Peterson

          Really, I’ll probably post something on this in a relatively short while. But I think I’ll wait for at least a week, lest it be seen by my less intellectually honest critics — they are legion — to walk back this apology by justifying racism.