Ruth Graham is Wrong

Ruth Graham, You’re Wrong: President George H.W. Bush Was More Than Simply a “Boss,” and His Service Dog, Sully, Was More Than Simply an “Employee”

By Ken K. Gourdin

Reader Advisory: Here be a bit of strong language. I don’t mince words here: I call it as I see it. Let this be a warning to those of tender eyes, tender ears, and tender years.

Writing in Slate magazine, Ruth Graham ridicules the idea that any sort of attachment, any sort of a bond, was formed between Sully, a Golden Retriever and service dog, and his owner, just-deceased 41st U.S. President George H.W. Bush. The commentary is headlined, “Don’t spend your emotional energy on Sully H.W. Bush.” For the photo of Sully lying next to President Bush’s U.S.-flag-draped coffin, see here (this and all other links last accessed December 4, 2018):

Begging your humble pardon, Ma’am, but who the hell do you think you are to tell me how to spend my emotional energy? I’ll spend it any damn way I like, even if you think such an expenditure unwise or unnecessary. Personally, I found the photograph of Sully lying by President Bush’s coffin very moving. If you didn’t, perhaps that says more about you, about your (mis?-)understanding of dogs and humans, and about your (mis?-)understanding of the relationship between canine companions and their human masters, than it says about Sully or about the elder President Bush.

See Ms. Graham’s commentary here: Ms. Graham writes that Sully and Mr. Bush were companions for a mere six months, surely not long enough for any kind of an emotional attachment to form between them.

Which is more, Ms. Graham asserts that Sully was nothing more than Mr. Bush’s employee. Mr. Bush has died, so Sully will simply do what anyone else in the job market who loses a boss will do: Get another job, answering to a different boss. Yes, I know service animals take their jobs seriously, and I know that there’s a possibility that Sully will get a new master whom he can help, but a big part of the reason why they are so helpful is because of the special bond that forms between them and those they serve. Even if Sully forms a bond with someone else who needs his help, in no way does that diminish the special bond he had with President Bush.

I have to wonder how many dogs Ms. Graham has owned in her lifetime, and what kind of an attachment she has formed, if any, with them. Yes, many people are prone to make the mistake of anthoropomorphizing pets and other animals, of humanizing them. Some even make the mistake of equating all forms of life, such that they see no difference between, e.g., their dogs, as canine companions, and themselves, as human beings.

Between the polar extremes, one of which sees no difference between dogs and human beings, on the one hand, and the other of which sees dogs solely as utilitarian creatures who exist solely to meet human needs as reflected in the commands of their masters (without forming any sort of attachment with them), on the other hand, lie a great number of adjectives which may be used to describe the relationships between dogs and people, terms such as companion, protector, helper, playmate, sounding board, and therapeutic asset. I doubt that dogs could fulfill so many critical roles in the lives of humans if it were true that any single dog is interchangeable with any other single owner.

Will Sully find a new home and a new person to serve as he was trained to do? Ultimately, as regards Sully’s relationship with President George H.W. Bush, perhaps the answer to that question lies in whatever provision for Sully the elder Bush made in his will. If not, perhaps the answer to that question lies with other members of the Bush family who are closest to the duo.

Certainly, it would be a noble and selfless gesture on the part of the Bushes to allow Sully to serve someone else the way he served President Bush, and it would be a blessing to whomever else was given that opportunity. I share Ms. Graham’s hope that Sully will get another “job.” But to say that dogs and their owners are interchangeable—that, without an adjustment on the part of both, any dog is capable of being paired with any master (and vice-versa) is to misunderstand (and to gravely discount the depth of) the relationship between dogs and their owners.

I can’t find it right off, but if-and-when I do, I’ll certainly update this post with a link to it, but a few months ago, I read an article which concludes that when it comes to the level of emotion and attachment dogs display for their owners and for the other people in their lives, dogs aren’t “faking it” (my term, but, if memory serves, that’s how the article put it, as well): When dogs seem sad at their owners’ absence, it’s because they are sad; and when they seem so irrepressibly, so exuberantly happy at their owners’ return, it’s because they are happy.

Other than my own experience with dogs, I have no hard evidence (no research, or no empirical data) to buttress my disagreement with your claim that since Sully was simply President Bush’s “employee,” and that, since Sully “worked for” President Bush only a mere six months, no special bond was formed between them (or that whatever bond might have been formed between them in that six months certainly was different that if Sully had “worked for” President Bush for several years as opposed to six months).

I suspect that dogs reckon time differently than we humans do, and that whatever time we spend apart from them after having bonded with them seems much different to them than it does to us. To understand that, one need only to witness a dog’s reaction at being reunited after having spent some time away—any time away, really—from its owner. Though it seems that your understanding of dogs and of their relationships to the humans who are important to them is lacking, Ms. Graham, you wouldn’t be the first person to be bewildered at a dog’s reaction after having spent time away from those with whom the dog has bonded: “Why, I was only away, for a day, or for a week,” an owner might exclaim in puzzlement upon seeing a dog’s reaction at such a reunion.

Perhaps there is little correspondence between the example I am about to cite and Sully’s seemingly-warm-though-brief relationship with President Bush. I’ll let my readers decide. While I was away on a two-year assignment performing religiously-oriented volunteer service, my parents’ household acquired a new member. Pipsqueak—Pip, for short, since even such a short name as that was ill-befitting such a small dog—was a year-old toy poodle.

The list of people she trusted was very short—limited to close family—and we hadn’t become acquainted before I left. It would have been completely understandable for her to take her time (months, at least, if not years) forming a bond with this new stranger. Perhaps she was unique in that regard, but, whatever the case and whatever the reason, the bond we formed on my return (despite the fact that I should have been a stranger to her) was virtually instantaneous. If dogs can form such instantaneous bonds as Pip did with me, it seems wrong to suggest that Sully’s bond with President Bush—after only a mere six months—was different, somehow.

Several of the stages in the model of grief proposed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross are unique to human experience—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance—so I wouldn’t go so far as to posit that pets, for the most part, go through a similar process, but certainly, it’s undeniable that they go through some sort of an adjustment, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that it includes three of Kubler-Ross’s stages. The process likely includes something akin to denial—A sense that, “My person isn’t here; something’s wrong. When is he coming back?” Depression (they seem to have a sixth-sense for what their owners are feeling as evidenced by animals who are specifically trained to offer comfort to those who have been through traumatic events); and, finally, acceptance.

Pitfalls of humanizing pets aside, I think the reason Sully seems sad in that photo is because he is sad. I think the reason it seems that he misses the elder Bush is because he does miss him. Rest in peace, President George Herbert Walker Bush—husband, father, grandfather, public servant, and patriot. And congratulations, Sully, on a job well done, and condolences on your loss. If you find someone else who needs your special talents as much as President Bush did, more power to you: If not, I understand. Whatever the case, notwithstanding your loss, I wish you many happy, fulfilling years ahead.

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All are Beneficiaries of Dr. King’s Vision

We Are All Beneficiaries of Dr. King’s Vision

By Ken K. Gourdin

Note: The following Op-Ed appeared in the January 29, 2013 edition of The Tooele Transcript-Bulletin. I have written extensively on The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his role in the civil rights movement elsewhere on the blog (this and all other links last accessed November 16, 2018). See the following addresses.

For my analysis of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, see here:

For my analysis of Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” see here:

For a brief comment on the movie Selma about the march Dr. King led from Selma AL to Montgomery AL, see here:

For an homage to Dr. King which originally appeared on page 10 of the January 24, 1992 edition of then-Dixie-College’s and now-Dixie-State-University’s award winning semi-monthly newspaper (“The King Legend Lives On”—my proffered headline was “The King Legacy Lives On”), see the following address:

Here’s the Op-Ed:

* * *

I have tried to make it a tradition in recent years to do something related to the “holidays” on the calendar such as Martin Luther King Day that will mark them as something more significant than simply “another weekday off.”

In the spirit of making such holidays more significant, in recent years I have tried to make a tradition of reading the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” each Martin Luther King Day.

Arguably, I don’t belong to Dr. King’s target audience. I am not a member of “an oppressed group.” (I say arguably because I am disabled.) Nor have I ever engaged in the systematic, deliberate oppression of others.

But, although I am neither a racial minority nor have I engaged in racial oppression, I owe Dr. King an enormous amount of gratitude: had it not been for him and others like him, not only would there likely not be a Civil Rights Act, there likely wouldn’t be an Americans With Disabilities Act, either.

Given my lack of “oppressed” status, perhaps Dr. King’s rhetoric shouldn’t resonate with me as much as it does. Still, though he was flawed (as we all are), his words, though significant themselves, were made even more significant because it was he who delivered them.

As a lover of words and a fan of language, I can’t help but be impressed with Dr. King’s rhetoric. (Also, of course, I hope it goes without saying that I believe in what he stood for). He preached a gospel of love, of equality, and of inclusiveness.

I’m not a pie-in-the-sky optimist. Are there people today who, acting against Dr. King’s vision, still judge people, not by the content of their character, but rather by the color of their skin (and by similar traits)? Unfortunately, yes.

But fortunately, such views today are much further from the mainstream than they used to be. Fortunately, most people of good sense and good will are quick to marginalize such views.

Injustice to anyone, for any reason, is a threat to justice for everyone. In that sense, injustice toward a person based on disability is no different than injustice based on race. In both cases, someone has determined not to treat an individual as a whole human being, but rather how to treat him on the basis of a single characteristic.

Consistent with Dr. King’s vision, I do not wish to be judged on the single characteristic of my condition (or on any other single characteristic). Rather, I wish to be judged on the sum total of my character.

All of us – whatever our race, creed, or station in life, are beneficiaries of Dr. King’s vision. And the world is a better place because he, however briefly, inhabited it. May we not forget those things each Martin Luther King Day.

Ken K. Gourdin, a Tooele resident, received a B.S. in Criminal Justice from Weber State University and is a certified paralegal.

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More on CIT

Note: The following Op-Ed appeared on Page A5 of the January 21, 2013 edition of the St. George, Utah, Daily Spectrum. The town of Hurricane, Utah, where this incident occurred and whose police department responded to this incident, is a nearby suburb. 

Crisis Intervention Team officers are regular patrol officers who are specially trained to respond to incidents in which subjects’ mental health may be in question.  Opinions may vary, but, personally, there is little doubt in my mind that Brian Cardall would still be alive today if CIT officers had responded to this incident.

Cardall [situation] shows us CIT need

By Ken K. Gourdin

The tragic death of Brian Cardall after a Hurricane police officer used a Taser on him when the officer responded to an incident in which Cardall was in the throes of a bipolar episode, along with the city’s subsequent settlement with the family, has several important lessons to offer.  

Innovation and development of so-called “less-than-lethal” weapons will continue. Notwithstanding Cardall’s tragic death, such development is a good thing. The more tools law enforcement has, the better.

Still, perhaps less-than-lethal weapons have lulled some officers into a false sense of security. Because these weapons are considered less-than-lethal, perhaps some officers have grown too willing to resort to their use without exhausting other options at their disposal.

True, undue 20/20 hindsight-driven criticism of those upon whom we rely to make split-second life-or-death decisions should be avoided. Nonetheless, it should not be forgotten that whatever weapons an officer has at his disposal, his most important tools are not weapons. They are his brain, his eyes, his ears, and his voice.

An officer should use his brain and his voice to attempt to reason with those he encounters, and should allow input from his eyes and his ears to guide his response to the circumstances in which he finds himself. Whether that process is a matter of a second or two or whether it is a longer process, an officer should always attempt adequately to assess the situation before responding.

Some of law enforcement’s most important innovations are not weapons. One tool that may help officers assess situations effectively, especially when responding to incidents involving the mentally ill, is Crisis Intervention Team training.

CIT gives officers the tools to respond effectively to someone in the throes of a mental illness episode or crisis by acquainting them with the possible effects of various illnesses. It teaches them how to respond more effectively to someone experiencing those effects.

CIT officers are regular patrol officers who respond to incidents in which mental illness play[s] a role. Its proponents advocate CIT training for all patrol officers; at the very least, they feel that every agency should have a contingent of CIT-trained officers, and that CIT training may have led to a different outcome in incidents such as the one that led to Cardall’s death.

Discussion and debate over officers’ use and non-use of weapons[,] both less-than-lethal and lethal, in any given encounter with the public also will continue. Just as is the case with the development of other tools, that, too, is a good thing. [I]f negotiation and reasoning will defuse a situation, it’s best to avoid resorting to a wapon of any kind.

Anything law enforcement officers can learn from their colleagues’ experiences without having to encounter similar circumstances themselves also is a good thing. While Cardall’s family does deserve compensation, anything other agencies and the communities they protect can learn from their counterparts without having to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit is a good thing, too.

Ken K. Gourdin lives in Tooele.

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Thoughts on the Migrant Caravan

The Real Reason The So-Called Caravan Now is Wending Its Way From Central America to the U.S. Southern Border

By Ken K. Gourdin

I have a sister-in-law (who has since passed away) who emigrated to the United States from Italy . . . legally. I have been to places on the American Continent which qualify, easily, as part of the Third World. I am not unsympathetic to those who come here seeking a better life, to improve their circumstances (which wouldn’t take much, in many cases), and in hopes of achieving the American Dream. I get it: Many of those who come here have little, if anything, to lose, while, at the same time, having much (at least potentially) to gain.

In many ways, the United States immigration system is a mess: It can be argued that the system is needlessly complex and, therefore, that it is also arbitrary. The rules imposed on potential immigrants from one country as composed to those imposed on potential immigrants from another are different, often for no sensible reason. If I were faced with the choice of confronting such a byzantine, arcane, seemingly-senseless system in an attempt to comply with the law, on the one hand, or immigrating illegally, on the other hand, while I would disagree with this decision, I can understand why someone having not much (if anything) to lose and much (potentially) to gain might flout immigration law in order to come here.

My faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, likewise, is sympathetic to those who attempt to come here. However, one of the cardinal Articles of that faith is, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, and in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (Articles of Faith 1:12 of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). And a passage from a book which Latter-day Saints consider scripture speaks of the need to do “all things in wisdom and order” (Mosiah 4:27, The Book of Mormon). One should be treated humanely and with compassion regardless of the circumstances of one’s coming to the United States, and regardless of one’s status—legal or illegal.

All of that having been said, I hope I can be forgiven for succumbing to the human failing of suspecting the motives of those who comprise the caravan currently (as of this writing) wending its way from Central America to the United States southern border—or, if not suspecting the motives of the migrants themselves, suspecting the motives of those who support them. While I am not a lawyer, as I understand it, one requirement for being granted asylum is a well-founded fear of persecution in one’s country of origin. As deplorable and oppressive as the economic conditions where they are coming from might be, those economic conditions, standing alone, are insufficient to support a claim for asylum.

Further, as I understand it, the usual procedure for seeking asylum is to either: (a) seek asylum in the first country one comes to after departing one’s country of origin; or (b) to go to the embassy of the country from which one wishes to seek asylum in one’s home country and to request it. From a purely physical, logistical standpoint, it’s certainly easier for one to go to the embassy of the country where one wishes to seek asylum in one’s own country.

I have no hard numbers, but if I had to hazard a guess, I would wager that dozens (if not hundreds) of people follow that process in an attempt to leave one country and to seek asylum in another every week, and it never makes news. Ay, there’s the rub! It never makes news—unless one is a particularly high-profile citizen of his home country or unless his reason for seeking asylum is particularly noteworthy.

One illegal immigrant is a statistic; several thousand at once is noteworthy and newsworthy. Hence, the caravan.

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On Faith and Skepticism

On Science, On Skepticism, and On Faith

By Ken K. Gourdin 

On his blog Sic et non at Patheos, Brigham Young University Assistant Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies Dan Peterson has a discussion about faith vis-à-vis science.  He discusses the case of Dr. Richard Smalley, formerly the Hackerman Professor of Chemistry and later a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Houston’s (TX) Rice University.

Apparently, Professor Smalley was religious in his youth, adopting a more skeptical bent as he became older.  Professor Smalley contracted cancer and sought treatment at Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, marveling at advances in cancer treatment which, until recently, had been impossible.  Before his untimely death, Professor Smalley also rediscovered faith.  See the blog post here (this and any other links last accessed October 31, 2018):

As excerpted by Professor Peterson, Professor Smalley writes:

Recently I have gone back to church regularly with a new focus to understand as best I can what it is that makes Christianity so vital and powerful in the lives of billions of people today, even though almost 2000 years have passed since the death and resurrection of Christ.

Although I suspect I will never fully understand, I now think the answer is very simple: it’s true. God did create the universe about 13.7 billion years ago, and of necessity has involved Himself with His creation ever since. The purpose of this universe is something that only God knows for sure, but it is increasingly clear to modern science that the universe was exquisitely fine-tuned to enable human life. We are somehow critically involved in His purpose. Our job is to sense that purpose as best we can, love one another, and help Him get that job done.

Professor Peterson then asks:

Why is the faith of religious scientists regarded by some as insignificant, while these same folks often trumpet the lack of faith of unbelieving scientists as somehow revelatory of the true character of the universe?

I’ve fairly frequently posted quotations on this blog from believing Nobel laureates and other prominent scientists.  Some have assumed that I intended, thereby, to prove theism is true.  They’re mistaken.  I post such quotations mostly because I’ve often thought that they made important points.  But I’ve also posted them, simply, to illustrate the indisputable fact that more than a few prominent scientists see no incompatibility between religious faith and rigorous science.

Another poster attempted to point out several of the (alleged) ways in which religions and their adherents attempt to thwart scientific progress, social progress, and other forms of progress (though whether it really is “progress” is another subject for another day), and I replied.  I bulleted and quoted each of his accusations, then responded:

 “But some of their actions [i.e., actions of the religiously devout] prevent stem-cell research, oppose birth control, outlaw abortions, block physician-assisted suicide, teach creationism in the classroom, fly planes into buildings, throw gay people from roofs, oppose condom use during an AIDS epidemic and otherwise affect public policy with their parochial religious views.”

I’ll take them one at a time.

  • Prevent stem-cell research – Insofar as I am aware, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no official position opposing stem-cell research. Since, while the Church discourages abortion in some circumstances (i.e., particularly as a means of birth control), I doubt it has a position against stem-cell research.
  • Oppose birth control – Insofar as I am aware, the official position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on birth control (other than abortion; see above) is that it is a decision to be made by the couple involved.
  • Outlaw abortions – As previously noted, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discourages abortion as a means of birth control and/or for selfish reasons. It does not, however, favor “outlawing” it outright.
  • Block physician-assisted suicide – Insofar as I am aware, the official position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on physician-assisted suicide is that the timing of a terminally-ill person’s departure from this life is a matter for God to decide. Even removing religious convictions from the equation, I think placing such decisions in the hands of physicians and/or in the hands of the state sets the potentially-dangerous precedent that the determination of the value of one’s life could be based solely on utilitarian criteria. Conversely, the faith to which I belong holds that life is sacred and, therefore, is intrinsically valuable. As someone whose sister-in-law died of cancer after apparently-extraordinary measures failed to have the desired effect, I can understand opposing views, but as someone who was born prematurely and whose survival, as a result, was in question, I’m glad my parents made the decisions they did on that score rather than the doctor or the state.
  • Teach creationism in the classroom – Even at institutions of higher learning sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints … Brigham Young University (BYU) – Provo, BYU – Idaho, BYU – Hawaii, and LDS Business College (assuming the last-named institution offers the typical, broad, lower-division, undergraduate curriculum … I’m not sure) … science is taught by those who possess credentials similar to those who teach such subjects at most other institutions of higher learning in the country. For Latter-day Saints, the significance of the creation account as contained in the Bible’s Book of Genesis (as well as elsewhere in Latter-day Saint holy writ) lies in the spiritual truths which may be found therein. Very few Latter-day Saints use the Holy Bible (or any other source of holy writ) as a science textbook.
  • Fly planes into buildings – I would expect that any Latter-day Saint who commandeered a passenger aircraft and flew it into a building would be charged with multiple counts of aggravated kidnapping, capital murder, other terrorism-related counts, and any other crime(s) that might apply. I would support such a prosecution fully, as would most all of the Latter-day Saints I know (a list which includes more than a few current and former prosecutors). Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in being subject to the laws of the lands in which they reside (see Articles of Faith 1:12, cf. Doctrine & Covenants 134).
  • Throw gay people from roofs – Again, I would expect any Latter-day Saint who throws a gay person from a roof to be charged with capital murder, perhaps with aggravated kidnapping, and (though I personally question the underlying rationale for bias crimes: murder is murder, its victim is just as dead regardless what motivated the murderer to take the life of the victim), any applicable bias crimes, as well as any other applicable crimes. I would support such a prosecution fully, as would most all of the Latter-day Saints I know (a list which includes more than a few current and former prosecutors). Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in being subject to the laws of the lands in which they reside (see Articles of Faith 1:12, cf. Doctrine & Covenants 134).
  • Oppose condom use during an AIDS epidemic – The Law of Chastity of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds that sex outside of marriage is wrong and that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. It encourages its members to remain chaste before marriage and faithful to their partners afterward. Obedience to these standards will do more to curb the transmission of the AIDS virus than condom use ever would. All of that having been said, while the Church believes that the responsibility of providing mortal, physical bodies for as-yet-unembodied spirits of our Heavenly Father’s children is a sacred responsibility, the number and timing of children is a matter to be decided between the couple and the Lord, and that “[a]ll . . . things [should be] done in wisdom and order” (Mosiah 4:27 in the Book of Mormon).
  • Otherwise affect public policy with their parochial religious views – In the United States of America, people can vote for any candidate they like, for any reason they like, even if the reason for their support is trivial. Since people could not be prevented from voting for former President Barack Obama simply because they thought he was good-looking or because they thought he would make entertaining appearances on late-night talk shows, the religiously devout cannot and should not be prevented from voting based on their religious views.

Then, he added, “It’s fine to ponder the unknown, but many religious people seem to know an awful lot about the unknown.  And I responded:

Whatever else my religion provides me, Alas!, a cocksure vision of the unknown is not among its benefits. I am religious not because I’ve had all of my questions answered or all of my concerns resolved, but, rather, because amidst mortality’s innumerable vicissitudes, frustrations, and uncertainties, faith in Someone who knows more than I do and in a life to come is the only way I can make sense of it all. I’m sure your mileage varies. Vive le difference!

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On baptism for the dead

On Baptism for the Dead in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

By Ken K. Gourdin

On the blog, I’ve commented previously on the doctrine and practice in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of performing saving ordinances in behalf of deceased ancestors.  See the following addresses (all links last accessed October 31, 2018): and

In response to a thread headlined “So, why get baptized for DEAD People”? [sic; capitalization as in original, see the thread here:], I responded:

I haven’t read the whole thread but:

  1. Why not?
  2. It’s fun.
  3. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not the only denomination whose members demonstrate concern for our ancestors.  While I know far less about the practices of other faiths, in some ways, Roman Catholics, too, demonstrate such concern, as do some Eastern religions.
  4. Even some historians of Christianity have concluded that Paul’s reference to baptism in I Corinthians 15:29 relates to a practice in the early Christian Church which since has been lost to history.
  5. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints take seriously Christ’s injunction to Nicodemus that “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God”  (John 3:5).
  6. Why would Christ preach to the spirits in prison if there were no opportunity for them to still be saved (see I Peter 3:19-20, 4:6)?
  7. See also Matthew S. McBride (May 29, 2013) “Revelations in Context: Letters on Baptism for the Dead,” Salt Lake City UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,, accessed October 31, 2018 and references to the Doctrine and Covenants therein (Doctrine and Covenants 127 & 128); (No author) (No date) Salt Lake City UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundations of the RestorationTeacher Manual, Lesson 16, “Redemption of the Dead,”

Thanks for your sincere question.


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On Why Man’s Ways are Different Than God’s

A Meditation on One Instance in Which “God’s Ways Were Not Our Ways”—And on What it May Mean for Other Instances in Which That Principle Likely Applies

By Ken K. Gourdin

On his blog at Sic et non, Brigham Young University Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies Dan Peterson posted the following reflection on the former restriction restriction preventing men of African descent from receiving the priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and preventing men and women of African descent from receiving ordinances in the faith’s temples. The post can be found here (this and all other links last accessed October 24, 2018):

Perhaps what I wrote in response to your “Why I Remain Loyal to a ‘Racist’ Church” bears repeating here. [For whatever reason, my attempted or intended response to that entry is not there. In any event, for Professor Peterson’s Blog entry, see here):]

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose: The more things change, the more they stay the same. The winds of social change for social change’s sake continue to blow quite stiffly against the direction God wishes His Church to go. If the question does not involve race, it involves something else. I don’t know why the ban barring black men of African descent from receiving the Priesthood and barring black men and women of African descent from receiving Temple blessings was put in place, nor why it was allowed to remain in place for so long. Reportedly, President David O. McKay was perfectly willing to lift the ban but was told, essentially, “Not yet, and don’t ask again.” President McKay did everything he could, short of lifting the ban, to limit its impact, but despite the ban’s lack of revelatory provenance, he felt that a revelation was needed to end it. I think that if race or racism had been a primary reason (or the primary reasons) for its existence, it would have ended much sooner than it did.

To be clear, I think there is a fundamental difference between the ban under discussion or in question here and other ways in which the winds of social change run counter to the direction God wishes His Church to go: whatever the costs of continuing to maintain that marriage as ordained by God requires biological complementarity, a revelation lifting the “ban” on same-sex marriage will not happen. However, I also think that however one feels about the ban denying Priesthood and Temple blessings (even if one thinks that racism was at its core), the fact that it was in place long after the forces of social change dictated that it should have been lifted does provide a useful template for resisting change with which the Lord has (and wants) nothing to do.

Bottom line? As much as we, the supposedly uber-enlightened, might think that God desperately needs our advice and assistance, God doesn’t care if we think He’s racist, sexist, homophobic, politically incorrect, or otherwise bigoted. As He told Nephi in the Book of Mormon, “I am able to do mine own work” (see 2 Nephi 27:20-21).

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