Thoughts on the Resurrection

Matthew Stanford Robinson Memorial

Thoughts on the Resurrection

By Ken K. Gourdin

On Sic et non at Patheos, BYU Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies Dan Peterson talks about life after death and includes a picture of the above sculpture. Brother Peterson’s post can be found here (last accessed May 28, 2020): https://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2020/05/once-you-have-died-you-will-know-it-anyway.html. Matthew Robison was born blind, deaf, and confined to a wheelchair*. While, undoubtedly, the loss of his son was tragic, the elder Robison used it, along with his talents as a sculptor, to teach a powerful lesson on the resurrection.

The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Holy Bible, and is part of the canon of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Just as the Holy Bible is a record of God’s dealings with His people in the Old World, the Book of Mormon is a record of His dealings with His people in the New.

A Book of Mormon prophet, Alma, testified:

42 Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the abands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.

43 The spirit and the body shall be areunited again in its bperfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time . . .

I commented:

I …

love …

that …

sculpture!

I love it for everything it represents: restored (or newly-bestowed) physical capacity; resurrection; continuation of life; the pure joy of being able to test that suddenly-expanded physical capacity; limits removed; flight, as though, suddenly, one has been invited to play with juvenile angels (or, perhaps, even with adult ones!).

I …

love …

it!

Yes, the atheists are right: We do have to make the best we can of whatever capacity we have and whatever opportunities we get while we are here, but it is a manifest injustice (one that only a God can remedy) to suggest, through a pure quirk of fate, through the caprice of biology or of genetics or of sheer chance, that some people won that lottery while, alas!, others lost it, so it is only the first group who will be given the opportunity to have a physical existence that is unfettered by the limitations to which I allude in my opening paragraph (and others).

Surely, there is no comparison between the limitations the young Brother Robison endured in his short life and those I have endured in my comparatively-longer one. But I hope I can be forgiven for thinking that I empathize with him in those struggles and that I share his anticipation that, through the Atonement and Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, one day, I, too, will be able to transcend my own struggles, just as the young Brother Robison has.

Thank you to the Brethren Robison, both old and young, for the sermon that sculpture imparts to those who see it, a sermon that so completely transcends words that, rightly, it leaves those who see it speechless.

*My preference is to refer to ambulatory devices as something one uses, not something to which one is confined. It seems, however, that during the young Mr. Robison’s too-short mortal life, that in his case, such a description is apt. Happily, such confinement, long since, has ceased to be a problem.

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Lightning The Dwarf Horsie

The Story of Lightning, the Way Cute Dwarf Horsie with Deformed Front Legs, and How the Way Cool Dude, the Wizard of Paws, Helped Lightning to Stand, to Walk, to Trot, and to Gallop on Brand Spankin’ New Prosthetic Front Legs

By Ken K. Gourdin

Once upon a time, there was a dwarf horsie named Lightning. Lightning was way cute, but he had one problem: He couldn’t live up to his name very well, ’cause he had some deformed front legs. He needed some help so that he would be able to live up to his name.

Fortunately, Lightning and his people met a Way Cool Dude, the Wizard of Paws. Lightning’s people asked the Wizard of Paws, “Can you help our Way Cute Dwarf Horsie named Lightning live up to his name?” And the Wizard of Paws said, “Why, certainly! It would be my privilege and pleasure to help Lightning live up to his name.”

So the Wizard of Paws made Lightning, the Way Cute Dwarf Horsie, some prosthetic front legs. And you can probably imagine, after Lightning got his brand new prosthetic front legs, how he said, “Oh, this is way cool! I can finally stand! Hooray!”

And imagine the surprise of Lightning, the Way Cute Dwarf Horsie, when he said, “Oh, not only can I stand, I can walk! Hooray!” And after a bit of time getting used to his brand new prosthetic front legs, he said, “Oh, goodness! Guess what? Not only can I stand and walk, I can trot! Hooray!” Then, after Lightning got used to his brand new prosthetic front legs, he said, “Oh, goodness! Guess what? Not only can I stand, and not only can I walk, and not only can I trot …

I …

can …

GALLOP!!!

HOORAY!!!

Here’s a short video clip of Lightning, the Way Cute Dwarf Horsie standing, and walking, and trotting, and galloping on his brand new prosthetic front legs. Hooray!: https://www.reddit.com/r/aww/comments/fz7a4c/this_pony_named_lightning_runs_for_the_first_time/.

I hope you enjoyed the story of how Lightning, the Way Cute Dwarf Horsie who was born with deformed front legs got Brand Spankin’ New Prosthetic Front Legs and was able to stand, and walk, and trot, and gallop!

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Bill Freaking Cosby

Bill Freaking Cosby: I Don’t Understand

By Ken K. Gourdin

Reader Advisory: Here be adult themes and adult language. Reader discretion is advised, and this post is not for those of tender eyes, tender ears, or tender years.

As though any crime is comprehensible, since crime, by definition, is incomprehensible to the law abiding, but . . . The one criminal history I do not get, that, absolutely, I cannot understand, that is absolutely baffling to me, is Bill Cosby’s.

You want to have an affair? Fine. Have an affair. It’s not as though, if you wanted to have an affair, no one would have an affair with you. You’re Bill Freaking Cosby.

Want to have more than one affair? Fine. Have more than one. It’s not as though, if you wanted to have an affair, woman wouldn’t be lining up—out the door, down the street, and around the block—to have an affair with you. You’re Bill Freaking Cosby.

Don’t want to have to deal with the emotional attachment of having an affair? Have a one-night stand. Heck, have ten! Have a hundred! If you’re former Los Angeles Laker NBA center Wilt Chamberlain (and if you believe “The Stilt”), he had 20,000 sexual encounters. You’re Bill Freaking Cosby.

It’s not as though, if you wanted to have a one-night stand, no one would have a one-night stand with you. No commitment, no attachment, no problem. You’re Bill Freaking Cosby.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s not as though I get forcible, violent rape any more than I get what Bill Cosby did. But if it really is true that the former crime is not about sex, but, rather, about power, then, as much as I think that it’s vile, that it’s reprehensible, that it’s inexcusable, on some level (albeit a sick, twisted level) it’s understandable: a violent rapist (at least on some level) feels powerless, so he exerts power by dominating, by humiliating, by victimizing, his victims.

What did you get, on the other hand, Bill Cosby, out of drugging your victims before assaulting them? Did drugging your victims make your crimes “okay” since you didn’t have to dominate, humiliate, or victimize (at least, not in the traditional sense and not, perhaps, according to you) your victims?

You want to drug someone before having sex with her, or before having your way with her? In a world in which the variety of sexual inclinations, along with the number of drugs and the variety of ways to abuse those drugs, seemingly, is limitless, you couldn’t find at least one woman who said, “Oh, you want to drug me before having your way with me? Okay. Sounds groovy to me! You’re Bill Freaking Cosby!”

Conceivably, you could even draw up a contract that says, “By her signature below, the party of the second part, [name], gives party of the first part, Dr. William H. Cosby, Jr., Ed.D., permission to administer [quantity] of [drug] to her, and to engage in [fill in activity or activities here] with her once she is incapacitated”? After all, you’re Dr. William H. Freaking Cosby, Jr., Ed.D.

Granted, a court would probably void the contract for public policy reasons, but who knows? You can’t (or you couldn’t, at least at one time) afford the most creative, most intelligent, most talented, most persuasive lawyer(s) money can buy? After all, you’re Bill Freaking Cosby!

I guess the rich, the talented, and the famous have needs and drives—like needs and drives to drug someone and then have your way with her—that, by virtue of the fact that they are rich, talented, and famous, the rest of us couldn’t possibly understand: “No, Ken! You don’t understand! I’m Bill Freaking Cosby!”

Nope. You’re absolutely right about that. I don’t understand.

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Humorous Law Firm Names

A Word About Humorous Law Firm Names

By Ken K. Gourdin

Reader Advisory: Here be adult themes, not for those of tender eyes, tender ears, or tender years. Caveat lector (Latin for, “Let the reader beware”).

At Quora, a reader asks, “What is the most memorable name for a law firm?” Though another contributor beat me to the punch by mentioning the genuine firm (whose name, since, has changed) of “Harness, Dickey, and Pierce” (sometimes, the jokes simply write themselves!), my fellow contributor didn’t mention the following account, which has been billed as a true story. I replied:

Regarding the [now former] Harness, Dickey, and Pierce. Humor notwithstanding, this was billed as a true story, but who knows? One night, after having knocked back a few and, thus, having lost his usual inhibitions, a certain wag sees the firm name in advertising somewhere and decides he’ll play a good joke on someone (although chances were, given the lateness [or earliness, as the case may have been] of the hour, he never dreamed that anyone would actually pick up the phone).

He underestimated the diligence of eager beaver junior associates working feverishly at all hours attempting to bill as much as possible for the firm in hopes, one day, of making partner. Sure enough, notwithstanding the lateness (or perhaps the earliness) of the hour, one such eager beaver junior associate actually picked up the phone. “Harness, Dickey, and Pierce,” the junior associate said dutifully. Surely, our inebriated, jocular friend was taken aback by this development, never having dreamed that his call actually would be answered. But, well, he figured, in for a penny, in for a pound.

So he asked the eager beaver junior associate, “Do you harness your … ?” Our inebriated friend was surprised further when, without missing a beat, the eager beaver junior associate deadpanned, “Only when I pierce.”

;-D

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May the Prince of Peace Reign

Note: The following Op-Ed appeared on page A5 of the Tuesday, April 5, 2016 edition of Tooele, Utah’s award-winning semiweekly, the Tooele Transcript-Bulletin.

Even Our Community Can’t Escape Terrorism

By Ken K. Gourdin

San Bernardino, California; Fort Hood, Texas; New York, New York; Brussels, Belgium. The closest of these places lies more than 600 miles away, the most distant more than 5,000 miles.

Distance notwithstanding, with the attack on the airport in Brussels, in which former Tooele resident and [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] Seminary teacher Richard Norby was seriously hurt, terrorism now has come home. As this incident proves, no one, no family, and no community, is immune.

Some might say Elder Norby and his fellow missionaries were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I doubt he would say that there’s ever a wrong place or a wrong time to serve, which is what he was doing. I’ve always known him to do what’s right without counting the cost.

I was Elder Norby’s student during my freshman and senior years of [Church of Jesus Christ] Seminary, respectively. Although I have a disability, I was mainstreamed in school from day one, which made me a frequent target of some. Though that problem largely had abated by junior high school, I still wondered where I fit in.

Cerebral, but hardly a genius; not athletic at all; not all that popular, but with something of a way with words, it was hard, sometimes, for me to find my niche. As I suspect is true of many of his students, I sometimes repaired to Elder Norby’s office seeking reassurance.

Not a few of our conversations centered around the seemingly-all-consuming angst that afflicted my teenage misfit self. Some of my classmates (though, thankfully, they comprised a distinct minority) spared no pains, in ways both subtle and overt, to let me know that I didn’t fit in.

While I don’t recall the substance of those conversations, the jist, and Elder Norby’s bottom-line advice, was, “Ken, the only thing that matters is who you are in God’s eyes.” While I doubt he would want any of the credit, I did, indeed, leave his office reassured.

I eventually won over most of my classmates when, to a standing ovation at graduation, they presented me with a letter signed by most of the members of the Class of 1988, along with a small scholarship taken from the senior class fund which recognized the positive impact the way I met my challenges had on them.

On a personal level, can anything be done about terrorism? Not much. Perhaps peace won’t be achieved worldwide until the Prince of Peace, on whose errand Elder Norby and the other missionaries were serving, reigns.

Perhaps all we can do is take special care to look after the ones we love; take the time to let them know just how important they are to us; reach out to someone who might be lonely or in pain – whether that pain is physical or emotional; and take time to make a visit or a call, or to write a note.

Don’t wait; do it now. There may not be a tomorrow. Heal well, mon frere.

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Of Assumptions and Biases

Of Assumptions, Biases, Horses, and Zebras

By Ken K. Gourdin

Some time ago at Nautilus, I read an interesting article on bias on the part of physicians (and possibly other medical personnel) in the Emergency Room. The article’s point is that practitioners can avoid diagnostic mistakes by avoiding too many assumptions. They shouldn’t simply assume that a patient who presents with certain symptoms has a common malady simply because, often, those symptoms are indicative of that common malady, nor should they assume that rare symptoms are not indicative of a common malady. See the article here (last accessed May 16, 2020):

http://nautil.us/issue/45/power/bias-in-the-er#comment-4840136118.

A doctor-doctor, Robert Tomczak, an appellation I bestow upon him because, being the academic slouch that, plainly, he is, he has not just one but two doctorates, a Ph.D. and an M.D., respectively, opined, “My mentor in neuro-ophthalmology often said: ‘Common things are common and rare things are rare’, in other words a patient with blurred vision more likely needs a refraction for glasses than a brain MRI.”

That’s true as far as it goes, but I reminded the Good Doctor-Doctor that it is only half of the author’s point. I responded:

True enough, but, then, as I think this article points out (though it’s entirely possible I missed the point: by all means, correct me if you think that’s the case), that often, we think a particular thing (such as, in the case of physicians, a certain medical diagnosis) is more common it really is (or, for that matter, a person might think that a certain thing is much rarer than it actually is, or a physician might think diagnosis is much rarer than it actually is). Thus, the trick is in not missing a diagnosis because unconscious biases or assumptions might lead a physician to overestimate (or to underestimate) the actual probability of a certain diagnosis. I get your point, and I agree with it (as far as it goes). As I’ve heard it said in medicine (though I am neither a physician nor a healthcare provider): “Don’t be looking for zebras when you should be looking for horses.” As I read it, this article’s point, though, is a bit deeper than that: “Don’t allow your assumptions, your biases, and so on, to convince you that you’re looking at a horse just because the zebra you’re actually looking at resembles a horse in some ways.”

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Advice from a Navy SEAL

Advice from the Guy Who Commanded US Navy Seals

By Ken K. Gourdin

While at Youtube, I happened upon an excerpt of the May 16, 2014 commencement address delivered by Admiral William H. McRaven (now Retired), former commander of United States Special Operations Command, to University of Texas at Austin graduates. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, is responsible for training, equipping, and deploying military Special Forces such as Navy SEALs.

While the training of an average, every-day, run-of-the-mill military recruit (granting, solely for the sake of this discussion, that such a creature exists) is arduous enough, by orders of magnitude, Special Forces training exceeds even that. It’s little wonder that they lay claim to the title “The Best of the Best.”

Admiral McRaven pointed out that if each one of the 8,000 graduates that day were to change the lives of just ten people, who then went on, themselves, to change the lives of ten people, and so on, in five generations (125 years), those people would change the lives of 800 million people. In another generation, those people would change the lives of a population as great as that of the entire earth: 8 billion people.

Admiral McRaven urged graduates to not underestimate their ability to impact the lives of others, saying he’d seen examples of just that in the lives of a platoon leader who directs his platoon away from a close-in ambush and of a squad leader who directs his squad out of the path of an improvised explosive device.

In my current circumstances, being unemployed, I’m not sure how to “operationalize” many of the principles Admiral McRaven talked about. In comparison to his accomplishments—and, in fact, even in comparison to the accomplishments of many of the graduates to whom he was speaking—to say that many of my own accomplishments have been rather modest would be to vastly overstate the case.

As I just noted, I’m not sure how, exactly, to operationalize the principles of which the admiral speaks. Frankly, I consider it a victory to get out of bed, to make myself reasonably presentable for public view (though one of the advantages of talking on the phone all workday every workday, as I have done for the better part of the last four years, though currently I am unemployed, is that, in that circumstance, perhaps “presentable for public view” is a different, lower bar than it would be otherwise), to make it to work in one piece, to make it through my workday, and then to make it back home at the end of my workday.

With those caveats out of the way, Admiral McRaven gives the following advice in the speech, which I found here (this and all other sites last accessed May 16, 2020):

https://news.utexas.edu/2014/05/16/mcraven-urges-graduates-to-find-courage-to-change-the-world/.

Start the day off with a task completed. Admiral McRaven suggests making your bed. He says that he couldn’t understand why, when he was in SEAL training, his instructors were so fanatical about a bed being neatly made to even the most miniscule, exacting standard. Gradually, however, he came to draw a sense of satisfaction from the fact whatever else happened—whatever might go wrong or whatever obstacle he might have to face that day—he could point to the simple accomplishment of having made his bed neatly.

Find someone to help you through life. In contrast to an individual athletic contest, in which the aim is to provide an opportunity for one person to excel all others in that particular event, one of the aims of SEAL training is to help recruits realize that it will be impossible for them to succeed without the full efforts of every member of the team. I’ve had much more than my share of help through life, even if I cannot name everyone who has provided that help: doctors, nurses, physical therapists (not to mention behavioral health therapists!), parents, other family members, friends, and coworkers.

Respect everyone. Admiral McRaven says that one of the teams during his SEAL training was comprised of “runts” (my word), recruits who, compared to many of their fellows, were rather diminutive or short in stature. While other recruits made fun of the physical characteristics of that particular team at first, they quickly came to realize (though these are my words and not the Admiral’s) that the team exemplified the old adage that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

Life is not always fair; move forward. Admiral McRaven says that often, recruits were singled out for alleged violations of seemingly-inane, arbitrary protocols and made to undertake additional tasks and to perform additional, even more arduous, physical training. (Sometimes the violations were genuine, but more often than not, they were imaginary, and the Admiral points out that this was by design: the instructors wanted to make people angry, and to make them feel like quitting.) “Violators” were made to become “sugar cookies” by braving the surf off of the San Diego coast and then, having done that, to roll around in the sand until in that wet uniform seemingly every inch of them was covered in sand—and then to spend the rest of the day in that miserable, wet, sandy uniform. However, he noticed that, seeming unfairness aside, those recruits (at least, the ones who stuck it out: all one had to do to quit was to ring a bell, and nobody wanted to ring the bell) proved the old adage (though these are my words, not the Admiral’s) that what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.

Don’t be afraid to fail often. (This is the part of the speech I felt best about. Mission accomplished?!) Very probably, given the insurmountable odds I faced, and given the fact that even some well-meaning people told me I might be better off quitting, somehow, still, I was able to make it through law school. The last full-time job I’d had before enrolling in law school was answering phones all workday, every workday, and the next full-time job I took after I lost my nerve and took a leave of absence was answering phones all workday, every workday. (I don’t know what to make of the fact that I’ve spent all workday, every workday for more than the past three years answering phones anyway, but there you have it.) As unsure as I might have been about my prospects for somehow carving out some kind of a niche in the law, the one thing I was sure of is that I didn’t want to answer phones for the rest of my life. If, ultimately, my protracted law school misadventure and its meandering aftermath ends up being a failure because I’m never licensed and/or because I never work a day of law-related employment in my life, at least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that such a “failure” didn’t occur because I couldn’t hack it in law school.

Attack the rope head-first. Changing the world might mean finding a new way to do something—a way which no one has ever tried before. The Admiral tells of a trainee who, rather than attacking a rope course hand-over-hand from underneath, as it was usually done, decided to go head-first and hand-over-hand on top of the rope. While it was a perilous and risky move, daring to attack that rope in a way that had never been done before enabled that trainee to finish the rope course in record time. “If you want to change the world, you have to slide down the rope head-first,” the Admiral said.

Be prepared to fend off the sharks. Part of SEAL training was swimming in shark-infested waters. Instructors strenuously advised recruits to resist the urge to swim away rapidly if a shark started to circle or to dart toward them. Rather, they were advised to punch the shark as hard as they could in the snout, and it would be deterred and would swim away. Life, said the Admiral, will have its share of sharks, and his listeners should be prepared to deal with them.

Be your best in the darkest moments. SEAL training also involves being trained in underwater operations. Recruits are made to swim two miles to a ship using only a depth gauge and a compass, then to swim under the ship where all ambient light from above is blocked out. In those circumstances, as easy as it might be to panic and to become disoriented, those are the times when it’s most necessary that one keep his wits about him. While the Admiral didn’t quote Rudyard Kipling in his speech, I’m reminded of the last lines of Kipling’s poem, “If”: “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, yours is the Earth, and everything that’s in it. And, which is more, you’ll be a man, my son!” See Kipling’s full poem here:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46473/if.

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