A Short Rumination on Annabelle: The Doll, and The Movie

Overlooking the Most Elementary, Logical, Common-Sense Solution to the Case of Annabelle, the Allegedly-Demonic Doll

By Ken K. Gourdin

All of the paranormal investigators, priests, and laypeople reportedly involved in the case of “Annabelle, The Demonic Doll” (my appellation) seem to have overlooked the most elementary, common-sense solution to all of the chaos she seemingly has fomented.  I said as much when I commented on this account of the goings-on involving Annabelle located here (last accessed today):


I commented:

I don’t quite understand the point of holding on to a doll that reportedly has been at the center of so many paranormal incidents: “We have a dangerous doll in our apartment.  Really; come and see.” And, “You can keep the doll, but we’d better perform an exorcism in your apartment.” And, “This doll is dangerous; we’d better take her home with us.” And, “We have a dangerous doll in our paranormal museum.  Really; come and see.”  Et cetera.  Yes, I understand that the problem is not, strictly speaking, the doll: the problem is the spirits/presences that have inhabited the doll.  But in light of all of this, wouldn’t the sensible thing be to get rid of it?

Update, September 14, 2014: This post called to mind this exchange on Mormon Dialogue and Discussion, some excerpts of which follow (last accessed today): http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/58972-exorcism/. In response to a query about a possible association between demonic possession or influence and mental illness, I said:

I think, perhaps, that mental illness can make one more prone to the Adversary’s influence (while such experience has not involved possession, I have personal experience with this). I would not, however, conflate mental illness with possession by or influence of the Adversary. They are two different things, even though they might be related in some cases and in some ways. I know two things: (1) I know the Adversary is real; and (2) I know that almost any being who has a body ultimately has (or at least can have) power over one who does not. I don’t have any reason to doubt any of these accounts. I have never, to the best of my knowledge, met anyone who has shared such an account on this thread, but I have no reason to believe that these people are not reasonably sane, reasonably well-adjusted, reasonably intelligent individuals. If they tell me that [x] happened, then I have little reason to doubt that [x] happened. I believe that there was a war in Heaven, and that the battle begun there continues here. That said, while Satan and his minions may have power to bruise my heel, I have power to crush their heads (along with, as I said, most anyone who has a body).

In response to another poster who expressed skepticism regarding the incidents discussed on the thread, I said:

Skepticism can be just as much a tool of the Adversary as can deliberately doing things that leave one vulnerable to his influence. You probably think that your skepticism renders you invulnerable to having such experiences, when in fact the opposite is true. And the problem is that by the time you recognize this, it may be too late for you to do anything about it (“Hey, maybe there is something to the accounts of these types of experiences after all”). Nephi [in the Book of Mormon] describes you perfectly. [In 2 Nephi 28:22, he writes]:

And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.”

I prefer my approach, previously stated, which I believe accomplishes two things, (a) recognizing reality, while (b) not being unduly fearful or preoccupied that such a reality exists: (1) I know the Adversary is real; (2) I know that the battle (perhaps a better word would be the effort) he began in the premortal life to try to win the souls of men continues here on earth; and (3) I know that any being with a body has (or can have) power to triumph over any being without one.

While I don’t favor your approach to things spiritual, and while we fundamentally disagree, nevertheless, I wish you well. 

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Hesitating to Worship at Science’s Altar

My Response to Two Scientists Looking Down Their Noses At Religion and at the Religiously Devout

By Ken K. Gourdin

One scientist’s critique of religion appears as an Op-Ed in today’s Salt Lake Tribune (last accessed today): http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/58403781-82/religion-god-stenger-science.html.csp. In an on-line comment, I responded:

I hope you and Stenger are/were equal opportunity critics, Professor Clark. Many of the same criticisms you and he level at religion can be leveled at such things as the humanities, philosophy, and the arts: our responses to many of those things, too, are not quantifiable, reproducible, or understandable. As the poet wrote, “The heart knows reasons that reason knows not of.”

Furthermore, you fall prey to a logical fallacy when you compare religion’s worst possible outcomes with science’s neutral or better outcomes. Somehow, I suspect you would be greatly upset if someone were to attack your work in the realm of science by attempting a similar tactic, and rightly so. The reality is, both religion and science can be used for good or manipulated for ill, respectively. After all, Hitler didn’t have much use for religion, either (one, in particular); on the other hand, he thought that perversions of science were “the bee’s knees” (my phrase; e.g., eugenics). I hope that you, as a scientist, are consistent.

I maintain personally that neither scientists nor the religiously devout ever ought to become too self-satisfied or provincial in their possession of truth. And once we allow science alone to start determining the worth of a soul (using the term soul in the same way operators of conveyances in distress use it to report the number of passengers who may need saving) – once we start attempting to gauge that worth in utilitarian terms alone – then we may begin to countenance the arguments of so-called ethicists such as Peter Singer, who advocates, not only the abortion of unborn babies, but also the killing of young children with serious deformities and disabilities after birth. As someone who was born nearly ten weeks prematurely in an era in which neonatal care is much less advanced than it is now (and who has Cerebral Palsy as a result), I have to wonder whether I would have been ensnared in Singer’s ethical net.

With respect to religion’s impact on the arts, on the humanities, and indeed, on culture generally (as well as on ethics), see here (last accessed today): http://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/christmas-is-culturally-significant-even-if-not-religiously-so/. See also here – alas, a paid subscription is required – also last accessed today: http://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/christmas-is-culturally-significant-even-if-not-religiously-so/.1



One of science’s potential pitfalls is that it may lead to life being considered in strictly utilitarian terms. Thus, the true value of what one is may be subordinated strictly to considerations of what one can (and cannot) do. If one cannot do the things that conventional wisdom” (including scientific wisdom) says are of value by making some kind of reasonably readily quantifiable contribution to society, often, science would say that such an existence is not worthwhile. (Anyone who doubts this should ask people such as ethicist Peter Singer, who not only advocates the destruction of fetuses which exhibit undesirable characteristics in utero, but the eradication of infants and young children who exhibit those characteristics after birth (up to age three). In opposition to this view as expressed by another author, I have written:

. . .  I was highly disturbed by [the author’s] implication that people with Down’s Syndrome are incapable of making the kind of meaningful societal contribution which he can easily quantify, they would be better off never having been born.  Speaking from my personal experience, I can testify that disabilities, perhaps more than any other type of challenge, have a way of teaching us what is really important about living and about life.  Although contributions of the disabled sometimes are not easily quantified by Mr. Wilson’s “dollar sign bottom line,” these contributions transcend and offset the costs inherent to empowering the disabled by meeting their physical and mental needs, by educating them, and by affording them the opportunity to make the most meaningful societal contribution possible.

I feel very fortunate to have been born in a country which, even though this hasn’t always been the case, strives to provide the disabled with the opportunity to test their abilities by fully exploring their potential.  Is [the author] proposing that we return to the days when the disabled were routinely institutionalized and ostracized—that we restore the social stigma of having a disabled child as a means of population control?  If so, there are still a number of countries in the world where he would be welcomed with open arms, and where he will be free to realize his misguided vision and to promulgate his misguided dogma.  And if we are to arbitrarily abort imperfect fetuses, where do we draw the line?  Do we then turn to euthanizing the disabled who have already been born?  Whether he wishes to admit it or not, Mr. Wilson’s views could well be the first step down that slippery slope.*

* Source: Ken K. Gourdin (July 31, 2013) “The Disabled: Different From Us, and Yet Very Much the Same” (Blog post), accessed on line at http://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/the-disabled-different-yet-the-same/ on September 15, 2014

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A Thought for the 13th Anniversary of 9-11

On The (At-Least-Potentially) Unifying Power of Sports in Light of the Events of 9-11-01

By Ken K. Gourdin

For more of my thoughts in commemoration of that tragic, fateful day, see the following links (last accessed today):




Professor/Brother Dan Peterson of BYU posted a link to the unveiling of the helmets BYU’s football team will be wearing in tonight’s game to commemorate the events of 9/11/01 on his blog (last accessed today): http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2014/09/in-preparation-for-tomorrow-nights-byu-football-game.html. I responded:

I don’t know which is cooler, those helmets, or the appropriately-grave, appropriately-subdued reactions of the young men who will be wearing them.  To be sure, as ardently as we might follow our team, such grave events as what happened on 9/11/01 make the outcome of sporting contests (that we, as fans, often treat as life-or-death affairs) insignificant.  (And that, of course, is a serious understatement.) Still, one of the positive things that came out of 9/11 is the fact that, for example, even Red Sox fans showed solidarity with their Yankee counterparts (and the reverse happened after the Boston Marathon Bombing, as even Yankee fans became “Boston Strong”). 

That having been said, one of the things that reassured my mom that, as grave as the events of 9/11 were, life could still carry on as (relatively) normal for those who were not directly affected was the opportunity of watching a Utah Jazz game.  And another positive that I think came out of it is that the performance of the national anthem became something more than a preliminary to be dispensed with as quickly as possible so we could get on with the “real” reason why everyone came to a sporting event: rather, it was more an exercise in national unity and solidarity.  

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Mormons and the “Prosperity Gospel”

Did Bishop Keith B. McMullin, formerly of the Presiding Bishopric of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Preach the “Prosperity Gospel” When He Spoke With Business Week?

By Ken K. Gourdin

A few posters at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion really got under my skin today. One of them posted a quote that purports to come from Bishop Keith B. McMullin, formerly a counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who purportedly was quoted in Business Week (emphasis added by the poster):

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attends to the total needs of its members,” says Keith B. McMullin, who for 37 years served within the Mormon leadership and now heads a church-owned holding company, Deseret Management Corp. (DMC), an umbrella organization for many of the church’s for-profit businesses. “We look to not only the spiritual but also the temporal, and we believe that a person who is impoverished temporally cannot blossom spiritually.

Apparently, the person who posted the quote, along with those who are similarly appalled by it, thinks Bishop McMullin is preaching some version of The Prosperity Gospel ™ here. Sadly, there are Mormons who adhere to the Prosperity Gospel ™ (which holds, essentially, that if one is righteous, one will be rich, monetarily speaking). I do not, however, think Bishop McMullin is one of them. Here’s what I said.

I think there is wholesale, widespread misinterpretation of Bishop McMullin’s words going on here. I can testify that as grateful as I am for those checks that my Rich Uncle Barry sends me every month (and how’s this for bass-ackwards? My Rich Uncle Barry sends me a check every month, and then I turn right around and write a check out from those funds to cover what, indirectly, my Rich Uncle Barry paid so that I could go to school!) I can testify that there is almost nothing more soul-deadening than being absolutely convinced that one has skills that could be used to the great benefit of some worthy enterprise, yet seemingly being unable to convince anyone who makes the hiring decisions in such an enterprise of that, and, consequently, being essentially forced to suck on the government’s … yeah, OK, you get the picture (well, hopefully not! But you know what I mean!) Sorry.

I write a blog and publish occasional Op-Eds that nobody reads.  (It’s funny; whenever my friends see those Op-Eds and then see me afterward, they say, “Hey, Ken.  That was a great Op-Ed,” and I just want to say, “Thanks, but the idea was for somebody who DOESN’T know me to take note of it, yet it seems like the only people who do notice them are those who DO know me.” (I bite my tongue … after the “Thanks,” at least!) Yes. OK. Things definitely could be worse. I don’t want to b****. There are no shortage of people out there who have entire blogs dedicated to the single pursuit of bemoaning the particular degree that I (perhaps was unfortunate that I) got. Many of them have better academic and professional credentials than I do.

There is a certain school of thought which says that if the degree I worked so hard (and paid [am paying] so dearly) to get isn’t going to pay off for me, if push comes to shove and worse comes to worst, since student loans cannot be discharged even in bankruptcy, just default.  Just stop paying.  But, see, here’s the thing: nearly everyone who suggests that course of action is, at least from the standpoint of earning power, in a better position than I am.  If nothing else, they can at least get a job doing manual labor, if necessary.  Meanwhile, I live at poverty level and yet (while, admittedly, I couldn’t do this without a good deal of family support), I have paid every single cent due on my student loans the last ten years.  Just for fun, I went to a site that purports to calculate what my payment would be under the income-sensitive repayment plan my lender offers.  It asked for my Adjusted Gross Income.  I don’t know what that is, so I simply took my monthly SSDI payment, multiplied it by 12 (Thanks again, Uncle Barry! ;)), and entered that figure.  Do you know what it says my payment would be under an income-sensitive plan? Zip. Zilch. Nada! Yet I’ve paid every cent due in the last ten years. Heck, they’re in deferment now because I’m taking a class, and I’m still making payments! :blink:

As grateful as I am for every opportunity I’ve gotten to volunteer and to serve, and as much as I know that my worth is intrinsic and cannot be increased one iota no matter what job I get (and even if I never get a job, which, frankly, I’m starting to think is a real possibility :huh:), I fully understand the implications of not blossoming spiritually due to not blossoming temporally.

If all ya’all want to fault Bishop McMullin for that, go right ahead. With due respect, that fact says much more about you than it ever will about him!

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Fox News “Amateur Hour” Editorializing About Police Response to Ferguson Protests

“Amateur Hour” Editorializing is Beyond the Pale for Fox News Coverage of Ferguson Protests

By Ken K. Gourdin

Note: I recently sent the following to Fox News regarding Steve Harrigan’s on-air comment that the police response to one protester in Ferguson was “amateur hour.”  I have not received a response.

* * * 

I have both studied and written extensively about law enforcement issues, offering both criticism and praise, respectively, when I think each is warranted. I received a Bachelor’s Degree with honors in Criminal Justice from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, and have been certified as a paralegal (CP) by the National Association of Legal Assistants in Tulsa, Okla. My father spent an honorable 43-year career on the job, and I have held several law enforcement support positions myself. I watch Fox News programming extensively, and am normally not wont to criticize it. The remaining content of this letter should be read in light of that background.

I write regarding your comment to Shepard Smith during Fox News coverage of events in Ferguson, Mo., that police response to a particular protestor was “amateur hour” (your words). Apparently, you and some of your colleagues believe that a police decision to target a specific protester is based solely on what you can see; in my book, such a judgment constitutes faulty logic. Apparently, you, along with some of your colleagues, are proceeding on the assumption that you know everything you need to know to determine whether police action is justified on the micro level. I don’t doubt that you have impeccable sources; I don’t doubt that you, as any good reporter would, carefully note what they say. But it takes a special kind of hubris, at best, and is just plain foolhardy at worst, to assume that these facts alone qualify you to make such a judgment, and that you have as much information at your disposal as police have at theirs.

You, along with some your colleagues, seem to have judged the actions of police based on the apparent fact that there was perhaps a 10-to-1 or 20-to-1 ratio of police to protestors in the instance upon which you were commenting – editorializing, really; in case you’ve forgotten, that’s not what you’re paid to do, and that’s not why people watch you. Perhaps you don’t care about the fact that, overall, the ratio of protestors to police in Ferguson likely is dozens, or even hundreds, to one. Yes, perhaps the police response to protestors and others in Ferguson has left something to be desired in some (perhaps many) instances; no doubt, the protests (the riots, arguably) in Ferguson will be the subject of police training on effective response to civil unrest for years to come.

I don’t know: perhaps the two incidents are unrelated, or perhaps police response to the incident on which you editorialized actually led, at least in part, to the incidences of shooting that apparently occurred later in the evening. On the other hand, perhaps a firm police response to what you thought was a relatively innocuous incident actually lessened the seriousness of those incidents (serious though they were). I look forward to further analysis – emphasis on the word analysis – from Fox News regarding that issue.

While I laud you for your courage in being willing to put yourself in harm’s way in order to report – perhaps I should emphasize the word report – on what’s happening in Ferguson, no one forced you to take that assignment. And even a high-risk assignment doesn’t give you license to editorialize: if you wish to pass (ill-informed?) judgment on law enforcement, perhaps you should request a different assignment. If your employer, instead, wishes to make your further employment contingent on your acceptance of an assignment you feel is unacceptably dangerous, surely you’re qualified and capable enough to find suitable employment elsewhere. I wonder, should I now watch Fox News coverage with a more jaundiced eye?

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Reflections on the Dismissal of Charges Against Rick Koerber

Reflections on the Dismissal of Charges Against Rick Koerber

By Ken K. Gourdin

Note: I posted the following today at SLTrib.com in response to an Op-Ed by Marcus Mumford, the attorney for so-called “Free Capitalist” Rick Koerber.  Many of the comments derided Koerber’s attorney for daring to defend that “crook.” The Op-Ed can be found here, last accessed today:


* * *

“Koerber’s nothing but a crook,” you say.  “His attorney is nothing but a lying scumbag,” you say. “We all ‘know’ it,” you say. I’m no Koerber apologist: maybe his whole enterprise really is nothing but a giant Ponzi scheme. But, see, here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter what anybody “knows”; the only thing that matters is what they can prove.  The feds had, what, five years to prove their case against Koerber, indictment after amended indictment, and just … never got around to it?

Yet, on the other hand, when they come after somebody we all “know” is innocent, all of a sudden, they’re the Big, Bad, Mean Prosecuting Machine?  I am one of the most pro-police, pro-prosecution people you will ever run across, and I’ve taken plenty of heat for that in this corner of Cyber space, both for what I’ve written on-line and what I’ve had published in the Tribune and elsewhere.

Either everybody’s entitled to a speedy trial (yes, even the people we “know” are guilty), or nobody is; either everybody’s entitled to the most vigorous defense possible within the bounds of law and legal ethics, or nobody is; either everybody’s entitled to have someone advocate for them who will hold the prosecution’s feet to the fire, or nobody is; either everybody’s entitled to an advocate who will make the prosecution put all of its cards on the table within a reasonable time after filing charges, or nobody is.

Face it: You may not like Rick Koerber; you may not like his attorney. But if you were accused, and if prosecutors were content to let the case against you drag on, and on, and on, you’d want (in fact, you would demand) the exact same thing Rick Koerber got; and rightly so.

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Reflections on the Book of Job

A Few Thoughts on Adversity, Inspired By The Bible’s Book of Job

By Ken K. Gourdin

I will be the first to admit that, often, don’t understand the interplay between what God causes and what He merely allows. I know that some of our trials come from what we do (the Law of the Harvest: as we sow, so shall we reap). Which is not to say, however, that all of our trials are the result of sins or mistakes (whether our own or someone else’s): As the Savior told his disciples when they asked about the blind man, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”, “Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:2-3). While I don’t know why it seems that God intervenes in some circumstances while seeming not to intervene in others, I do have faith that eventually, our confusion on that score will be lifted, though perhaps not in this life.

I can only say, in the Lord’s words to the prophet Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts [higher] than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). I can only say, with the apostle Paul, that “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). I can only say, with Nephi, “I know that [God] loveth His children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:17). If I don’t yet have everything I righteously desire out of life (and whether I ever get it or not), I can only say, with Job, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

I can only say, with Alma the Elder, “I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 36:3). I can only say, with Moroni, “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God” (Ether 12:4). Why does God seem to try the obedient while not withholding blessings from the less obedient, at least in this life? As the Savior said in the Sermon on the Mount, “[God] maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). And as Paul told the Hebrews, “Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth” (Hebrews 12:6).

While I do believe that “when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:21), I also don’t believe that God is like Santa Claus, giving us blessings when we’re “good” and withholding them (or giving us trials) when we’re “bad.” I think we need to obey because we love God, because the good we do both blesses others fills our own souls, and because it’s the right thing to do.

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