My Response to a Girl Who (Mis-)Uses a Mormon Fast & Testimony Meeting to Come Out of the Closet

By Ken K. Gourdin

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fast for two meals on the first Sunday of most months (called “fast Sunday,” though, of course, it certainly doesn’t seem that way to many of our young people!), contribute the money that would have been spent on those meals toward the care of local folks who are in need (called “Fast Offerings”), and share testimonies in that Sunday’s Sacrament meeting (called Fast and Testimony Meeting)  about why the Savior and His Restored Gospel are important to them, about the meaning and the impact these things have in their lives.

The Internet has been set much abuzz (especially certain corners of Cyber space dedicated to things Mormon) by a young girl who used time in Fast and Testimony Meeting to deliver a speech prepared long in advance announcing that she’s gay, that she knows God made her that way, and that she hopes to have a Church-sanctioned relationship with a future partner which is on par with those of opposite-sex couples. While the Church of Jesus Christ prohibits audio or videotaping of its meetings, conveniently, several of Savannah’s friends and family members just happened to have phones at the ready to record her speech.

The facts are these: (1) testimonies (how Latter-day Saints refer to our witness of what we believe and why, and sharing such a witness is “bearing [a] testimony”) are supposed to be extemporaneous and are delivered as we are moved upon by the Holy Spirit (I have seldom, if ever, gone to such a meeting knowing even if I will contribute, let alone knowing, until the moment of contribution arrives, precisely what I will contribute about what I believe concerning the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and why, let alone not having prepared a text), and (2) while she is entitled to believe that the Church of Jesus Christ should chance its teachings regarding [gay] marriage, such opinions are incompatible with the meeting’s meaning, purpose, and scope.

As loathe as I am to criticize a thirteen-year-old or her opinions (“out of the mouths of babes,” and all of that), that’s just it: this young lady is remarkably self-aware for a thirteen-year-old.  (Hell, I’m more than three times her age, and I’m still trying to figure out many of the things of which she, apparently, already is absolutely certain!)  Although I’m certain that if I were to ask her, she would aver, fervently, that the whole idea, from conception, through maturing, to full flower, was hers and hers alone, the cynic in me can’t shake the feeling that someone, somewhere, is pulling her strings (however gently).

Among this young lady’s pronouncements are that God created her gay and that He loves her exactly as she is.  That may be true, but it’s really beside the point.  Yes, God, like any good Parent, loves us as we are, but, as is the case with any good parent, that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t want anything better for us, or that He doesn’t want us to become anything better.  I recently posted the following on Mormon Dialogue and Discussion:

I hate to sound like a malcontent here, but I’m honestly trying to understand the logic behind the “God-created-me-perfect-just-as-I-am” argument, even if it did come from a 13-year-old, and-or from someone/those who largely (to be blunt) are pulling her strings for their own purposes.

Yes, I’m willing to accept my brothers and sisters as they are which means, largely if not entirely, accepting them on their terms.  (But I should add here that I don’t have a stewardship as an ecclesiastical leader or as a parent that dictates that I should do otherwise: “Yes, I accept you for who you are, but that doesn’t mean you cannot and should not become better.”) Yes, while I, along with others of my fellow Latter-day Saints (although, the more time passes, the more it seems as though that number is dwindling :huh:) have certain deeply-held convictions about marriage, I cannot force anyone who sees the matter differently than I/we do to accept my/our paradigm.

All of that having been said, I have a disability.*  Yes, I have learned things from it that I doubt I could have learned in any other way.  Yes, it, perhaps more than any other single characteristic I possess, has made me who I am (more patient … sometimes:crazy:; more articulate; more intelligent; more empathetic, along with, perhaps, imparting other positive (and perhaps some non-physical negative) characteristics.  But, honestly, some days, I feel like all of that is simply my/someone’s feeble attempt to put lipstick, perfume, eye shadow, and rouge on a pig, to dress it up all pretty, to talk to it nicely, and to call it “Penelope”: Even if you put make up on it, dress it up all pretty, talk nicely to it, and call it “Penelope,” it’s still a pig.

I’m reminded of a play I read in an advanced Spanish class once, by Antonio Buero Vallejo, called En La Ardiente Oscuridad.  Ardiente Oscuridad is a mixed metaphor combining two seemingly-incompatible terms: burning darkness.  It’s about a group of students who attend a school for the blind.  Notwithstanding any limitations they might have, not only are they learning to cope with those limitations, seemingly, they are learning to transcend them, and to gain a perspective on life from loss (or lack) of sight that they could not gain in any other way.  (To understand what I’m talking about, think of the episode of M*A*S*H in which Hawkeye Pierce loses his sight after “offering a light to a temperamental gas heater”: After describing all of the ways he has become more aware of the world through his other senses, he tells BJ, “I’ve never spent a more conscious day in my life.”).

Then, along comes the newly-blind Ignacio.  Ignacio comes from the Latin verb, “to ignite.”  He’s the guy who lights the fire causing the darkness to burn.  Unlike his classmates, he does not want to accept this new reality, and, from his perspective, all of their “happy talk” is just that: it’s simply a futile effort to put makeup, perfume, and pretty clothes on the “pig” of blindness.  He’s the one who “upsets the happy little apple cart” that existed among the students prior to his arrival, as some of them start to think, “You know what?  Maybe he’s right.  Maybe all we’re doing here is dressing up a pig; in the end, it’s still a pig.”  So who’s right? Well, since paradox, perhaps, is at the heart of all great literature (and at the risk of simply “copping out”), both Ignacio and the (formerly-)content students are.   Yes, as the formerly-content students believed, accepting one’s disability means being able to see the world in new ways in which one could not before; but such acceptance is simply delusional if one refuses to confront the reality of his limitations.

If God created me/us perfect just as I am/we are, then whence my/our incentive to become any better?  If, indeed, God created me/us perfect just as I am/we are, then, to be perfectly blunt, What am I … what are ANY of us … doing here? And if God created me/us perfect just as I/we are, doesn’t that, in fact, devalue two of the greatest gifts one Being ever gave another in all of human history: the Atonement and the Resurrection?  Doesn’t it, in fact, render those gifts useless, worthless, superfluous, and unnecessary?

Forget being disabled.  In the paradigm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, perhaps being gay is the biggest, ugliest pig there is.  To put it mildly and to vastly understate the case, it ain’t fair.  Perhaps it’s the biggest possible unfairness in an endless list of unfairnesses.  OK. The question becomes, then, what to do about it?  Do we toss out the Atonement and the Resurrection and say, “Forget all of that!  I don’t need any of it!  God made me perfect just the way I am”?**  Please pardon my temerity, but I’m really, really afraid to toss out any solution to any earthly challenge/problem/unfairness which doesn’t include the Atonement and the Resurrection.

As much as I wish I didn’t have to wait for the Resurrection for my physical imperfections to be removed, I don’t want to have to accept them for eternity.  But the flip side of that coin is, I don’t want God to accept me the way I am: I want Christ’s Atonement to change me into a New Creature, one who is fit for God’s Kingdom.

*Yes, I’m perfectly well aware of the perils of analogizing a disability to sexual orientation.  Alas!, I’m not gay, so I can only speak to what I know.  Only someone who, perhaps, is both gay and has a disability will be able to speak authoritatively to, and to make valid comparisons in, that circumstance, so we’ll have to save that discussion for another day.

**I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen to gays who opt for the admittedly-very-difficult path of remaining faithful (which for the overwhelming majority of them means remaining celibate) in this life, but I refuse to believe that an Omniscient, Omnipotent, All-Loving God is going to have to tell any of us, “Sorry. :huh:  I know you were expecting something more, or something better, or at least something different, but … this is the best I could do.”

When another poster asked, “What[ exactly, is] wrong with being gay?”  I responded, “Nothing.  Glad you asked.  Can I help you with anything else?”  And I posted a link to the Church’s Web dealing with issues surrounding gays and lesbians vis-a-vis the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ:

In response to the assertion that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with many of its members, cannot see any redeeming qualities in those who are gay or in their intimate relationships, I responded:

Your mileage varies, I’m sure, but I have never heard anyone in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posit that because people are in gay marriages, that somehow negates the good that they do.  And even if a member of the Church of Jesus Christ does shake his head forlornly and say, “Tsk-tsk-tsk!  Notwithstanding the much good s/he does, it’s all for naught.  Now, if only s/he weren’t in a gay marriage …”  If someone were to do that in my hearing, I would be quick to correct him or her. Yes, the Church of Jesus Christ teaches that gay marriage is a sin, but only mortals are prone to keep the kind of tally you’re hinting at (good deeds vs. bad deeds, or redeeming qualities versus not-so-redeeming qualities in relationships) and so on.  If someone asks me what the position of the Church of Jesus Christ on gay marriage is, I would have a ready answer. However, judging actions is different than judging people.  Just because I disagree with someone’s lifestyle doesn’t mean I cannot see the good they do or the redeeming qualities that they possess, and I’m sure the same is true of most members and leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and if it’s not, they need to repent).  Motes and beams, and “Lord-have-mercy-on-me-a-sinner vs. Dear-Lord-I-thank-thee-that-I-am-not-as-other-men-are,” and all that.

When another poster claimed that leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not have “a definitive answer from God” about gay marriage, I responded, “Not anything that you will accept as a definitive answer is different than no definitive answer.”  And I posted a link to the Church’s proclamation, The Family: A Proclamation to the World:

When a poster dismissed my invocation of The Proclamation because The Proclamation lacks the imprimatur of “thus-saith-the-Lord” revelation, I responded, “Obviously, your mileage varies, and [another poster’s] may, as well, but I consider the fact that The Family: A Proclamation to the World was signed by all of The Fifteen [That is, by the three members of the Church’s governing First Presidency and by all of the members of its Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] to be highly significant.  (Perhaps I’m simply too easily impressed! :unknw:)”

Later, I posted:

I believe I understand the concept of seeing beyond someone’s physical attributes, a la the basic “black-letter” Scripture of, e.g., 1 Samuel 16:7 (if I can be forgiven for applying a legal term of art to Holy Writ … :huh::unsure: … occupation hazard, I guess! ;))  I believe that; it’s a true principle.  That having been said (and I’m not sure I can explain this in a way that will make sense to anyone else), while I am looking forward to certain very obvious physical imperfections being removed in the resurrection, and while I don’t consider my disability to be a part of my being, nonetheless, it has made me a different person than I would have been otherwise (mostly for the better, I hope!).

I certainly can handle the idea of sloughing off physical imperfections; I welcome the prospect.  But there are some things associated, even with those imperfections, that I hope I get to take with me!








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Lock Them All Up and Throw Away the Key?

“Lock Them All Up and Throw Away The Key”?  Wherein I Respond to This Defeatist Suggestion

By Ken K. Gourdin

Columnist George Will recently penned a column about a program cosponsored by New York’s (perhaps inaptly-named) Sing Sing Prison and Dobbs Ferry’s Mercy College, which helps inmates, many of whom are undereducated (and that’s the understatement of the century) receive college degrees.  Recidivism (re-offending) rates drop dramatically for participants in the program.  Mr. Will’s commentary can be found here (this and any other links last accessed June 23, 2017):

In response to Mr. Will’s commentary, another poster takes an exceedingly pessimistic view of prisoners’ capacity for reformation.  I replied:

While your frustration, on many levels, is understandable, and while, like you, I have a very strong “law-and-order” orientation, I would like to see evidence for your assertion that “these very same few are also likely the very same few who would not have returned to a life of crime after prison anyway.” That may be true for some; it may, perhaps, be true for many; but I am uncertain if it is true for all.

And, while I do think it is a cop-out for someone to blame his environment and only his environment for his behavior, I believe you underestimate the degree to which environment, such as poor parenting, poor or nonexistent role models, copying what one sees and hears, and so on, may play a role in criminality. And while behavioral disorders are not the sole driver, and perhaps are not a primary driver, of criminal behavior, they, too, play a role.

Furthermore, while, as I said, I understand your frustration, I think your view of the problem(s) and your proposed solutions are entirely too simplistic. While I’m not excusing criminal behavior in any way, I think you overestimate how easy the adjustment is to life on the outside for ex-convicts once they’re released.

At least some ex-convicts revert to criminal behavior because, rightly or wrongly (but rightly in at least some cases), they believe that most people see them exactly as you do, and, thus, that very few people are willing to give them the opportunities which will enable them to succeed in conforming their conduct to the expectations of the larger society. At least some of them revert to criminal behavior because that’s the only way they feel they can get by.

Anyone who trusts runs the risk of being victimized by another person, and, tragically, many will be victimized in awful ways. But even optimism which occasionally is betrayed is still better than cynicism and pessimism which are always rewarded. And even people who have been victimized in awful ways can reestablish healthy boundaries and regain the ability to trust. (I think Elizabeth Smart is one of the best examples of this.) And your broad-brush solution fails to account for differences between mala in se crime and mala prohibita crime, between the various degrees of crime (misdemeanors versus felonies, less serious felonies versus more serious felonies, white collar crime versus violent crime, and so on).

Yes, figuring out how to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the rights of accused persons, on the one hand, and the rights of society, on the other hand, often is messy, difficult business. Still, the constant struggle to figure out where to draw that line is perhaps the most important thing that separates free societies from brutal, totalitarian regimes. As strong as my law-and-order orientation is, even I am not naive enough to believe that abuses of and mistakes in the system never occur,

Your post reminded me of this one from my blog [“These people cannot be helped,” September 21, 2016]: While any analogy or correlation between behavior disorders and criminality is imperfect, the two do very often co-occur, and the attitude you exhibit is the same one I was responding to in the above-linked post. If the measure of civility and decency in a society is how well it treats those who, perhaps, least deserve good treatment, your proposed “solutions” would not stand society in good stead.

My interlocutor replied that the measure of civility and decency in society is not how we treat those who, perhaps, least deserve to be treated well.  Rather, it is how well the society keeps civil, decent people safe from those who are not.  “The more we tolerate those who are not [civil and decent],” he wrote, “the more it says we do not care about civility and decency in society.”  I responded:

I recently read a short interview in City Weekly with the Warden at the Utah State Prison in Draper. [See] He stated that, eventually, something on the order of 95% of the inmates he oversees are going to be released. (That said, I realize that Mr. Will acknowledged that, additional education notwithstanding, some [perhaps many] of the graduates of the program he writes about will never be released.) Still, as much as you or I might quibble over whether a particular inmate actually has paid his debt to society and with whether he has been rehabilitated, the fact of the matter is, if 95% of them, at some point, are going to be released no matter what you or I think about whether they deserve to be released, they need to have some other option besides reoffending (and, in the process, very likely victimizing someone else) and returning to the environment they left in order to ensure that their basic needs (e.g., food, shelter, and clothing) are met.

I agree with you that the needs of society and especially the needs of victims are paramount, but I don’t think that even those needs (important as they are) are well served by a “lock them all up and throw away the key (no matter the crime)” approach (my phrase) to crime prevention and to “rehabilitation.” And I agree that I should have been more precise: While how a society treats those who, perhaps, least deserve to be treated well is not the single measure of its humanity and of its decency, it certainly is one such measure. And, with due respect, your silence regarding the difficulty of adjusting to post-incarceration life, the unwillingness of many to give offenders the very opportunities which will maximize their chances for success in society, the different categories and gradations of offenses (which mandate that all offenders not be treated equally, contrary to some of your broad-brush assertions), and so on, is deafening.


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Ex-Cop Drug Runner

Hapless Ex-Cop Busted for Drug Running: Worth the Risk?

By Ken K. Gourdin

In Tooele County, the Utah Highway Patrol recently pulled over Edward Jasper Hansen, 67, of Decatur, Georgia, who is a former officer for Atlanta P.D., finding 100 pounds of marijuana in Mr. Hansen’s vehicle. Reportedly, Mr. Hansen felt that being the subject of a felony drug bust was worth the risk, given the potential, I presume, return to him. Another poster decried the fact that this officer was pulled over, he says, simply for traveling from one state to another. See Deseret News coverage here, last accessed June 19, 2017:

One of Mr. Jasper’s assignments as a police officer was drug interdiction. I find it curious that his 23-year absence from the profession apparently has changed his attitude toward illicit substances—or at least, toward marijuana. Or, perhaps he held some permissive attitudes toward illegal drugs even when he was engaged in interdicting them. Quoting the poster to whom I was responding, I answered as follows:

“If you are traveling through another state (and this guy says he is from GA) then there is no basis to get pulled over by a police officer.”

I’m as big a fan of the Constitution as anyone, but I’m afraid I don’t follow. Are you saying that merely traveling from one state to another, standing alone, is no reason to be pulled over? If that’s what you’re saying, then I agree. Perhaps the article could have been clearer about the reason the officer made the stop. Perhaps courts are too deferential to police officers in general; perhaps they’re also too willing to accept officers stated reasons (perhaps ad hoc or post hoc reasons) for conducting traffic stops; and perhaps they’re not willing enough, in light of the fact that traffic offenses are strict liability offenses (essentially, if an officer says you committed a traffic offense, courts treat that assertion as prima facie evidence that you committed said offense), to accept evidence which contradicts an officer’s statements.

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Utah Jazz Extended Family

Tributes to Two Members of the NBA’s Utah Jazz Extended Family: On the Death of Jack Stockton, and in Tribute to Frank Layden

By Ken K. Gourdin

Jack Stockton, father of National Basketball Association Hall of Famer (as well as the league’s all-time leader in assists and steals, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and one of the NBA’s 50 all-time greatest players in 1996) John Stockton, recently passed away. For coveage of his passing by The Salt Lake Tribune’s Kurt Kragthorpe, see here (this and all other links last accessed June 17, 2017): I commented:

Condolences to all of those affected by Jack Stockton’s loss. People may disagree about how the younger Stockton erected and chose to maintain an impenetrable boundary between his personal and professional lives (I think doing so certainly was his prerogative), but no one can deny what John Stockton has meant to the Utah Jazz, to Salt Lake City, to the state of Utah, and to the game of basketball. Thanks to both the elder and to the younger Mr. Stockton (indeed, to all of the Stocktons) for making that possible.

I’ve always been somewhat in awe of former Utah Jazz Head Coach and General Manager Frank Layden. One reason for that is because I was a fan of the Jazz long before the Jazz deserved any fans, and both the elder Layden and his son, Scott, as the team’s former Vice President of Basketball Operations, played key roles in the Jazz’s turnaround.

Forget winning multiple Midwest Division and Western Conference Championships; forget contending twice in consecutive seasons for an NBA title; forget having two NBA Hall-of-Famers, along with several other memorable players who played key roles; I was a fan of the pre-winning season, pre-Stockton-and-Malone, pre-Western-Conference-winning, pre-NBA-Championship-competing, woeful Utah Jazz.

Yep. Those Utah Jazz.

I’m always amused by “fans” who turn on the team when it loses a key game here or there, when it suffers a mini-losing-streak, or otherwise is mired in a bit of a temporary lull. I can remember when the Jazz lost 58 games (out of 82) in consecutive seasons. Heck, I was ecstatic when the Jazz won a mere thirty games, the year before they had their first winning season in many years, won the Midwest Division Championship, and finally qualified for the playoffs.

I like to say that I’ve been a fan of the Jazz since before the Jazz deserved any fans, and it seems to me that Frank Layden always has been especially appreciative of those who have been fans of the team since its earliest woeful days in Utah, when there wasn’t a lot to cheer about. At the invitation of my physical therapist at the time, Jan Hurst, I went to a Jazz game (along with pregame festivities). Notwithstanding his down-to-earth, self-deprecating, folksy manner, I’ve always been a bit in awe of the elder Layden, and I remember standing wordlessly, mouth agape, after he told me, “Ken, I’m gonna put this over here, OK?” after autographing an item I’d brought to the event.

The elder Layden and his son, Scott, as I said, played key roles in the Jazz turnaround, not the least of which was there involvement in the acquisition of Mr. Malone and Mr. Stockton. Mr. Kragthorpe also chronicled festivities held by the Salt Lake Bees, the Triple-A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim, to honor Coach Layden’s long and distinguished contributions to Utah sports and to the community. See the following address for his coverage: I commented, “God bless the Laydens. Thank you, all of you, for everything you’ve done for Salt Lake City and for the state of Utah.”

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Lord, Have Mercy on Me, A Sinner

Lord, Have Mercy on Me, A Sinner

By Ken K. Gourdin

A disaffected former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is taking a poll at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion asking members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints how they feel about the description of their fellow Saints (and others) as “worthy” or “unworthy.”  I think the sermon of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon works well in this context, with a slight alteration (and it is consistent with the Apostle Paul’s writings in the Bible: “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)).  King Benjamin asked, “Are we not all [sinners]?  Do we not depend on that same being, even God, for [salvation]?” (Mosiah 4:19).

When one poster described his long-term struggle to overcome one of his particular thorns in the flesh, I responded:

I think those of us who end up being just a mite perplexed at the size of the reward given to some of our brothers and sisters in the next life must factor in the enormity of the private battles fought and, at length, won, by our spirit siblings.  But just because your myopic brothers and sisters are unaware of the magnitude of those battles (indeed, of those eventual victories) doesn’t mean that God, with His perfect sight, also is unaware.  I wish you well.

When another brother encouraged him that he is stronger than that thorn in the flesh, I responded:

I agree.  Sometimes, the last leg of the journey, no matter how short that leg is, seems the hardest.  Best wishes in your conquest.  God values the effort expended in the battle as much as, if not more than, the actual conquest.

Later, I added:

In answer to the poll, whether someone is worthy or not is a matter between him, his priesthood leaders, and his Lord and Savior.  I’ve never heard rank-and-file members discuss the temple worthiness of other members (though, to hear some tell it, such discussion is rampant, and is as common in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as discussion of what one had for breakfast that morning: I guess I’m simply an odd duck! ), and when I’ve heard priesthood leaders discuss the temple worthiness of other members, it has only been in the spirit of great love, care, and concern.

In response to those who believe members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spend every idle moment passing judgment on their fellow Latter-day Saints and on others, I wrote:

It reminds me of the old story about two families who were thinking of moving in to a certain town, and they decided to go check things out and ask around a bit.  One family sees a guy who they’re sure must be an old-timer in that community, and one of them asks him, “So, what are the people like here?”  In response, he asks, “What are they like where you come from?” Eager to sing the praises of the community which, alas, they’re leaving, the family member says, “The best!  So kind and friendly! Always willing to lend a hand!”  The man responds, “Well, you’re fortunate, then, because that’s pretty much what you’ll find people are like here.”  A second is thinking of moving into the community, and they spot the same man, and one of their number decides to ask him the same question, and he offers the same query to his interlocutor.  “We can’t wait to leave!” is the response.  “The town is full of gossipers and back-biters and fault-finders.  People are so cold and unfriendly!”  “Well,” says the man.  “I hate to disillusion you, but you did ask me for my honest opinion, and I’m afraid that’s pretty much what you’ll find here.”

Just substitute ward, branch, stake, or district for town, and this tale fits perfectly in an LDS context.  [A ward is a congregation, a branch is a smaller version of a ward, a stake is a group of congregations similar to a diocese, and a district is a smaller analogue to a stake, composed of a group of branches.]

To another poster who posted that this alleged hyperjudgmental environment is totally foreign to him, as well, I responded by posting, with a slight alteration, the  introduction to the old Twilight Zone television series:

You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Twilight Zone of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! [Cue spooky music …]

Further responding to the poll question, later, I posted:

As others have pointed out, we’re all “unworthy,” a la Romans 3:23.  Being “unworthy” (or being considered unworthy) is rather like being human: It just is; it’s a given.  In other news, dirt is dirty, snow and ice are cold, and water is wet.  So “having a problem” or “not having a problem” being so described seems rather beside the point.  It seems pointless having a problem using a descriptor that is endemic to the human condition.  That said, the only person I’ve ever described as “unworthy” to anyone else is [Drum-roll, please!] … me!   I certainly don’t go around using the descriptor as a cudgel in a “Dear-Lord-I-thank-thee-that-I-am-not-as-other-men-are” sense.

I might also add the old saying, “If you’re not as close to God today as you were yesterday, who moved?”

One of my favorite hymns in the current collection of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, “I Stand All Amazed” (No. 185): “I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me; confused at the grace that so fully He proffers me . . . I marvel that He would descend from His throne divine, to rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine.  That he would extend His great love unto such as I; sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify!  Oh, it is wonderful that He should care for me enough to die for me!  Oh, it is wonderful!  Wonderful to me!”





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Crazy Like a Fox?

Man Who Attacked Father With Hammer Still Incompetent

By Ken K. Gourdin

At last word available to me, the competency of a Utah man who attacked his elderly father with a hammer remains in question more than three years after the attack.  See coverage of the case in Salt Lake City’s Deseret News here (last accessed June 12, 2017):

I commented:

I’ll defer to the professionals on the issue of Mr. Robbins’ competence. However, having the presence of mind to don a pair of latex gloves before committing one’s crimes seems to speak to a level of forethought and planning not typically demonstrated by the incompetent. It also seems to militate against the idea that the gravity of his acts is mitigated by the prospect that they were committed in the heat of passion.

I think his defense attorney’s going to have a difficult time explaining away the gloves if he attempts to argue along those lines in court. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

When another poster pointed out that sanity at the time of the crime (i.e., an actor’s ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions before, or at least as, he undertook them) and sanity at the time of trial (the accused’s ability to understand the charges against him and to participate in his own defense) are separate issues, I responded, “Fair enough, but the issues can, and often do, overlap.”

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Can’t Hurt Anyone?

Death Penalty and Deterrence

By Ken K. Gourdin

After two Utah State Prison inmates were charged for separate killings each committed behind bars (see coverage of the crimes in Salt Lake City’s Deseret News, available here and last accessed June 12, 2017:, I pointed out the flaw in the argument, “Well, we don’t even need the death penalty.  Simply put killers behind bars where they cannot hurt anyone else.”

Those who argue that the death penalty is not an effective general deterrent because very few people who kill other human beings, if any, stop to consider that they, too, might lose their lives if they take someone else’s life may have a point.  However, the fact remains that whatever the death penalty may lack in ability to serve as a general deterrent, it still is the most effective specific deterrent possible.

Conversely, those who argue that anyone behind bars deserves what he gets (including death) ignore a whole host of rights to which even prisoners, no matter what they have done and even if they are sentenced (eventually) to die, are entitled.  Few would argue, for example, that death actually is an appropriate penalty for armed robbery, or even for rape.  However, given the violent tendencies of so many people who are behind bars, it is impossible for authorities to guarantee anyone’s safety.

I commented:

It’s a good thing these men were behind bars, where they couldn’t hurt any …

Oh, wait: Never mind.

They’re “Exhibit 1” and “Exhibit 1a,” respectively, of why, while good arguments exist that the death penalty should be imposed and/or carried out only rarely, that sanction probably should not be discontinued entirely.

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