Posterizing vs. Winning

While Other Teams “Just Win, Baby,” Some Players Are More Concerned About Their Highlight Reels*

By Ken K. Gourdin

The Salt Lake Tribune’s Utah Jazz blog has an item quoting the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins, who says that the Jazz’s defensive standout center Rudy Gobert is “motivation” to add to his highlight reel. After last night’s loss by the Timberwolves to the Jazz, Minnesota now stands at 5-12 on the year, while the Jazz are 10-8. (Perhaps the emphasis placed by certain Timberwolves on who can beat whom one-on-one and who can make the more spectacular offensive play has something to do with the fact that they’ve only won five games as a team on the young season thus far.)

Referring to the rivalry between Timberwolves teammates Andrew Wiggins and Zach La Vine regarding who has the more spectacular offensive game, I employed a Jerry Sloanism, a term favored by the Jazz’s much-revered former head coach. See The Urban Dictionary, s.v. “jackpotting around,” (last accessed November 29, 2016 at the following address):

To the Blog post, I responded as follows:

Mr. Wiggins and Mr. La Vine:

Yes, by all means, you gentlemen enjoy jackpotting around out there seeing who can earn the higher spot in SportsCenter’s Top Ten … while the Jazz win. By all means, take a my-offense-can-beat-that-one-player’s-defense approach to the game (while you ignore what the other four guys on that player’s team are doing on the floor). Here’s a hint: Whether you “posterize” someone or not, and whether you make a dunk, a layup, or a relatively close jumpshot, they all count the same. How many times has a SportsCenter anchor, in recapping the Top Ten, said, “Great play … but his team lost”? By contrast, while I question his premise that blame for any loss or string of losses can be laid at the feet of any one player, I think your teammate, Karl-Anthony Towns, has a much wiser approach to the game. For him, in contrast to the two of you, apparently, it’s not about who “posterizes” whom or about who gets the highest spot in SportsCenter’s Top Ten; it’s about who wins and who loses. You two could learn a lot from him (if you’re willing to be taught).

*Forgive my use of this outdated term: I’m not sure what else to call it in this age of digital video.

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Woman vs. Alligator for Mountain Dew

What Some People Will Do for Their Mountain Dew ™!

By Ken K. Gourdin

Though I don’t often drink Mountain Dew™, simply because my taste in libations runs in other directions, I don’t deny opting for the jolt provided by a Coke ™ or a Pepsi ™ to get me through the rest of a long day, other than super-caffeinated sodas and energy drinks, Mountain Dew ™, has the most caffeine of any caffeinated soda, and getting a pick-me-up is one thing: being totally wired is quite another. That said, if my employer’s vending area is out of Coke ™ or Pepsi ™, it’s not as though I don’t enjoy the occasional Mountain Dew ™. In fact, I like it. That said, I’m not sure I like it well enough to fight an alligator for it.

This woman’s condition, is, of course, no laughing matter.  Hope she’s OK.

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Another Story of Forgiveness

Another Story of Forgiveness: The Story of the Family of Deceased UHP Trooper Eric Ellsworth, and of the Young Lady Whom They Now Have Forgiven

 By Ken K. Gourdin

Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) Trooper Eric Ellsworth has passed away due to injuries sustained after he was struck and killed while attempting to guide a semi rig safely around a downed power line by a vehicle driven by a young lady.  Trooper Ellsworth’s family offered forgiveness to the young lady, and I responded as follows.  The story can be found here (this and all other links last accessed November 23, 2016):

God bless Trooper Ellsworth and his family, as well as the young lady on the other side of this accident. As tragic as so many of the things that happen in this mortal Second Act are, knowing that there was a premortal First Act and that there will be a postmortal Third Act are crucial to maintaining perspective.

As much as anyone might be tempted to second-guess what happened here, the reality is that there, but for the grace of God, could go I, or you, or anyone. The forgiveness Trooper Ellsworth’s family offers will be crucial to the healing she needs, as well. Again, God speed to all involved.

Any number of factors may have played a role in this accident: youthful inattention, or other forms of carelessness; inexperience; and so on.  Whatever the case, while I have always tried to be responsible (and by no means am I suggesting that this young lady was not), I certainly wouldn’t want my entire life to be defined by anything I did as a sixteen-year-old: that would be a nigh-impossible burden to have to carry throughout the rest of one’s life.

And indeed, as much as we might be tempted to blame youth for such apparent carelessness, who among us (whatever our age) unceasingly has been as vigilant as necessary every single time we have ever gotten behind the wheel?  Far more likely, even the most vigilant among us has, at least on occasion, been the beneficiary of the old axiom that sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than it is to be good.

I hope (and if the Deseret News story is any indication, I expect) that this young lady will be embraced by Trooper Ellsworth’s family in the aftermath of this tragedy.  Indeed, if (however difficult it may be) it is possible for those left behind to forgive even those who have engaged in much more willful conduct which has resulted in tragedy, certainly, it is possible to forgive those whose unwillful conduct has had such a result.

For just a few of such notable examples, see the following links.

Chris Williams forgave the drunk driver who struck his vehicle and killed his family, writing a book about the experience which later was made into a feature film (full disclosure: I have neither read the book nor seen the film, but both come highly recommended).  See the following address:

Brian Larson forgave the man who murdered his father.   See the following address, as well as the link contained in that Blog entry:

Ann House forgave Addam Swapp, who shot and killed her deceased husband, Utah Department of Corrections Lieutenant (and K-9 handler) Fred House.  See the following address:

Perhaps nothing is heavier nor harder to carry than is a grudge.  In light of such noble examples of forgiveness when willful conduct has resulted in tragedy, we would do well to ponder whether we, too, harbor any lingering resentments we ought to lay down (whether those resentments result from willful conduct, from carelessness, or from some other type of behavior on another’s part).

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  May we, however bleak our circumstances may seem, all count our blessings.

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Federalism in Flint

On Federalism, and on the Flint Water Crisis: Is There a Federal Solution for Every State or Local Problem? Should There Be?

By Ken K. Gourdin

A few months back, there was a giant uproar about the discovery of unsafe levels of lead in the culinary water system of the city of Flint, Mich. This issue highlights questions of federalism, and federalism concerns whether, how, and to what extent state and federal (and, in this case, local) government should share power. One would think that the fiscal consequences alone, let alone considerations of possible federal overreaching (since the federal government already is $20 trillion in debt) make it impossible for the federal government to intervene in all such matters.

For some time now, States and (in some cases) smaller political subdivisions largely have been treated as organs of the federal government. Apparently, the Tenth Amendment, which reserves for resolution by the States and/or by their citizens all issues and matters not explicitly entrusted to federal stewardship by the Constitution, is a dead letter. Those who think so ought to stand up “on their hind legs” and call for its repeal.

Another poster excoriated the presumed position of Senator Mike Lee (R – Utah) that solving such a problem fell to officials of the city of Flint and of the state of Michigan, since it was not a federal concern.

The Preamble to the United States Constitution reads, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Another poster wrote in part (capitalization as in original):

Children, as well as the rest of the population of Flint MI, are being poisoned by lead. There is no cure for lead poisoning, just long term palliative care. In the PREAMBLE [sic] to our Constitution, which the likes of [U.S. Senator Mike] Lee [R – Utah], [U.S. Senator Ted] Cruz [R – Florida], and the rest of the Constitutional Nazis hold to be the ultimate authority, there is the phrase “…to promote the general welfare…” I’m sure when Lee is asked, his tiny little brain will respond with: “Flint Michigan is a State, not Federal, responsibility,” ignoring the Preamble.

I responded:

I understand why you are upset, and I understand that you disagree with this point of view, but, arguably, “general welfare” means that the federal government is responsible for those things which affect the United States and its citizens and residents as a whole, while the state of Michigan and the local government of Flint are responsible for those things which affect citizens and residents of Flint. There is plenty of blame to go around: Did the local health authorities of Flint know about the problem? Did Flint’s mayor know anything about it? Did anyone on the city council know about it? Did Michigan state health authorities know anything about it? Did Michigan’s governor know anything about it? If none of these people knew anything about it, why not? Does such ignorance make them, in any way, derelict in their duties? If they did know about it but did nothing, that knowing inaction definitely makes them derelict in their duties. Why, then, are they, apparently (at least in your book) deserving of none of the blame?

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Power of Covenant-Keeping II

On Obedience, Covenant-Keeping, the Word of Wisdom of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Ability to Participate in the Church’s Highest Ordinances

 By Ken K. Gourdin

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, observant and/or striving members are called upon to obey the Word of Wisdom, which enjoins the use of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, harmful drugs, and prescription drugs in a manner contrary to their prescribed purposes.  In a thread regarding obedience, on covenant-keeping, and on the effect on members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their ability to participate fully in the Church’s highest ordinances (e.g., those who are not fully keeping covenants agreed to at baptism will be unable to participate in the Church’s highest ordinances, available in one of the Church’s 150 Temples), I commented as follows:

I haven’t been following the thread slavishly, so forgive me.  I think the whole back-and-forth about coffee massively misses the point.  Is God going to send someone to Hell for drinking coffee … coffee per se?  coffee qua coffee? … No.  Hell will be too full of liars, murderers, and others of that sort.  On the other hand, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have already covenanted to keep the Word of Wisdom, simply by being baptized.  Is God merciful?  Yes.  But where’s the mercy in saying, “Well, you’re not keeping this covenant you already made at baptism because of [fill-in-the-blank here, and it doesn’t have to involve coffee: it can involve any of the other promises made at baptism], but we’ll just ‘let that slide,’ and let you go make more covenants, the breaking of which (and you’re already breaking them, because you’re already not keeping at least one other covenant you have made at baptism) will subject you to even direr consequences, but, heck, we don’t want to be mean and keep you out of the Temple, so …”

Anybody who is an outsider, or who formerly was faithful but now is disaffected, of course, is not likely to understand that, and/or is not likely to attach the same importance to those covenants that a faithful or striving insider would.  I won’t demand that such people accept the faithful paradigm.   To each, his or her own.  I’ll let God judge.  But to be blunt, “It’s not the coffee, st***d, it’s the covenant.”  If I’ve got to face God and answer for the choices I’ve made, I’d rather say, “Well, no.  I wasn’t perfect keeping the covenants I made at baptism,” than, “Well, no, I wasn’t perfect keeping the covenants I made at baptism, but since my bishop, and/or my stake president, and/or I (or some combination of us) decided it would be ‘mean’ or ‘unfair’ to keep me out of the temple, I/we ‘fudged’ it, and I then made more covenants which I wasn’t prepared to keep and which I then broke (and for which the consequences of breaking them are even more serious) …”

Am I perfect?  No, not by a long shot.  In fact, one of my biggest current struggles is that my schedule has essentially kept me from being a fully participating member of my own ward for quite some time.  I’ve made efforts to try to change that, but, so far, they haven’t borne fruit.  I explained the situation to my home ward bishop when a temporary schedule change did permit me to go to my home ward, and I think he understands, but it might be a tough sell for me to try to renew a recommend since he hardly ever sees me.  I’m puzzling over what to do about that.  I know the first step is a simple phone call, but …

I had some things to say about covenant-keeping and obedience once:

Are there temporal [earthly] benefits [e.g., health benefits] for abstaining from the clearly harmful substances the Word of Wisdom proscribes?  Yes.  But the Word of Wisdom’s main benefits are spiritual: see Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21.  As I believe I said in one of the foregoing links, I don’t care if coffee is the very elixir of life itself, I have covenanted to not drink it, and I know I will be blessed for keeping that covenant.

When another poster, who clearly views matters of religious faith through a worldly, areligious paradigm, opined that he does not think God would impose any such arbitrary restrictions on what we take into our bodies (indeed, several other contributors to the thread expressed puzzlement at the Word of Wisdom’s prohibition on coffee, given coffee’s purported health benefits), I responded:

I can understand your perspective, and might well feel much the same way you do if I felt that a restriction or a covenant purporting to be from God were arbitrary, or if LDS leadership were acting of that leadership’s own accord rather than under God’s direction in mandating the requirement, or if LDS leadership did not have my best interests at heart.  While I do believe that certain tangible, physical benefits accrue to me as a result of complying with those requirements, I believe the main benefits are spiritual in nature and, hence, more ethereal, more ephemeral, and perhaps more illusory, to someone who views the issue from your particular paradigm.

While this is simply an observation rather than a criticism (each of us sees the world as he is rather than as it is: obviously you have a different paradigm that works for you), as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). And, as the Lord said through the Prophet Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways  my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

With the caveat that such intake probably should occur in moderation, I don’t share a Jew’s or a Muslim’s view on the potential spiritual consequences of consuming pork products.  Obviously, I am a Latter-day Saint because I believe that it’s the best thing going, religion-wise, and I hope I would be prepared to explain why I believe that to anyone who asks.  However, even though I don’t share the perspective of an observant Jew or an observant Muslim with respect to the potential spiritual consequences of consuming pork, I believe one should be the best Jew, the best Muslim, or the best [fill-in-the-blank here] one can possibly be, and that God is as pleased with their sincere efforts to do what they believe He asks of them as he is with my sincere efforts to do that.  And even if someone isn’t of a particularly religious bent, if he is determined to benefit the lives of his family, his friends, and his fellow human beings for as long as possible and to the greatest extent possible before (from his perspective) “succumbing to the void,” more power to him: “Inasmuch as men [men of whatever religious persuasion, or even of no particular religious persuasion whatsoever] do good, they shall in nowise lose their reward” (Doctrine & Covenants 56:26).

For more of my thoughts on religious inclusiveness, see here:

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How to Handle Trials

Martin & Willie Hand Cart Companies: Evidence of Uninspired Prophets and/or Leaders, or Stellar Examples to Us of How to Bear Up Under (Much Lesser!) Trials?

By Ken K. Gourdin

In a thread started at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion leveling criticism at President Brigham Young and others for allowing the Martin and Willie Hand Cart companies of pioneers to begin their crossing of the plains so late in the season (about 1/4th of the members of the companies lost their lives because of an early winter that year), I quoted Francis Webster. He and his wife were members of one of the companies, and he heard similar criticism of leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a Sunday school class. To that criticism, he responded:

Cold historic facts mean nothing here for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Hand Cart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that Company and my wife was in it. … I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the Angels of God were there. Was I sorry that I chose to come by hand cart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Hand Cart Company.”

Source: Chad Orton, “Francis Webster: The Unique Story of One Handcart Pioneer’s Faith and Sacrifice,” BYU Studies, vol. 45, no. 2 (2006) 117, accessed on line at the following address on July 17, 2015:

[Ellipses in original.]

I wrote, “That’s Francis Webster’s testimony.” Then I added, “Here’s what Levi Savage said after discouraging the companies from departing so late”:

Brethren and sisters, what I have said I know to be true, but seeing you are to go forward, I will go with you, will help you all I can, will work with you, will rest with you, will suffer with you, and if necessary I will die with you. May God have mercy bless and preserve us.

Source:, accessed July 17, 2015.

In response, another poster wrote, “Apparently there was very selective spiritual help among the handcarters. Of the 576 in the Martin Handcart Company, one fourth of them froze and or starved to death including babies and small children. How can one person have help and the rest just manage the best they can.”

I responded:

Much more than one person had help. If they hadn’t things likely would have been even worse for the two companies. That’s what I keep coming back to, pretty much every time I try to convince God how much my life sucks (and believe me, while I have no corner on challenges or suffering, there are a lot of things I would change about it if I could). Essentially, God says, “How do you know things couldn’t be worse?” And I have to admit, I dunno. His purposes are as inscrutable to me as they are to anyone else. As Paul Simon sang so well, “God only knows. God makes His plans. The information’s unavailable to the mortal man. We work at our jobs, collect our pay, believe we’re gliding down the highway when, in fact, we’re slip slidin’ away.” I can only have faith and hope that, one day, I will understand God’s currently-inscrutable purposes. If you don’t believe that adversity can tutor and refine a person or that God can use even what seem to us to be horrible things to accomplish those purposes, that’s your business.

I admit, I don’t understand the interplay between what God causes, what He merely allows, and what He chooses to intervene to prevent, but I do know He’s not like Santa Claus: He doesn’t give us “presents” when we’re “good” and “lumps of coal” when we’re “bad.” As Rabbi Harold Kushner once so memorably put it, “Expecting to have a trouble-free life because you are a good person is like expecting the bull not to charge you because you’re a vegetarian.” Bulls charge people; it’s what they do. Sometimes, life sucks; it is what it is. Often, we cannot choose our circumstances; we can only choose how we react to them.

As the scriptures put it, “God maketh his sun to shine on both the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” [Matthew 5:45]. Nephi surely didn’t understand the reasons for everything that happened to him, but he said, “I know not the meaning of all things; nevertheless, I know that [God] loveth his children” [1 Nephi 11:17, The Book of Mormon]. Job didn’t deserve everything that happened to him, but he still said, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21]. Joseph Smith neither understood nor deserved everything that happened to him. He cried out, “O God, where art thou, and where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place,” [Doctrine & Covenants 121:1] and was told, “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment. And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high, and thou shalt triumph over all thy foes” [Doctrine & Covenants 121:7-8]. And the Savior of the world told him, “The son of man hath descended below [all things],” and asked, “Art thou greater than He?” [Doctrine & Covenants 122:7-8].

And it’s not as though Francis Webster and others didn’t suffer, simply because they happened to live through the experience. If I were a betting man, I would bet that many of them suffered the effects of the trek long afterward, for the rest of their lives, in many cases. But, by and large, like Francis Webster, they were grateful to have lived through it (continuing challenges notwithstanding). It’s incomprehensible to me, as it is to all of us, but Christ said that God notices even a sparrow’s fall and asked if we’re not worth many sparrows. I can’t wrap my mortal, finite mind around the implications that “All flesh is in [God’s] hand,” [Doctrine & Covenants 61:6] or that, as he told Joseph Smith, and as I believe is true of all of us, “Thy days are known, and shall not be numbered less. Fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever” [Doctrine & Covenants 121:9]. And the Apostle Paul wrote that “All things work together for the good of them that love God” [Romans 8:28]. Not just the “good” stuff, and not just the things we understand, but all things.

My faith often wavers; the words of the man who besought the Savior to cast an evil spirit out of his son often are a perfect description of it: “Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief” [Mark 9:24]. I’ve fallen more times than I can count. Sometimes, I wonder why I keep getting back up, but I do: I get back up, dust myself off, and jump back into the fray. I have a very flawed, finite, mortal perspective, but Joseph Smith also taught that all of our losses would be made up to us in the end, provided we continue faithful. [See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 296.] The one thing I try to hold onto is that no matter what else happens to me, I know God loves me. He doesn’t love me because I’m perfect, or because I always do what He wants me to do, or because I do that even most of the time. He loves me for the same reason my earthly father does: because I’m His son, and because that’s just what He does. But I learned a long time ago not to count on an easy life being a sign of God’s favor; it’s not. “Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth” [Hebrews 12:6].

Another poster critiqued my interlocutor’s implicit position that death is the worst possible thing that can happen to a person. I responded, “Depends on what one has to survive, I suppose.  They wouldn’t call it ‘enduring to the end’ if there were nothing to endure.  I can understand the ‘selective-spiritual-help’ and ‘why-did-God-help-some-to-survive-while-allowing-others-to-die’ perspectives, if one believes that there wasn’t a life before this one and there isn’t one after it.”

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Alleged Anti-Gay Slurs at BYU

“Anti-Gay” Sign Causes Stir at BYU

By Ken K. Gourdin

The Big 12 athletic conference (which is actually composed of ten teams, but no one said jocks could count) of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) recently declined to expand. Provo, Utah’s, Brigham Young University, which is independent in football (unaffiliated with a conference) and plays in the West Coast Conference in most other sports, reportedly was a candidate for expansion.

The conference received heavy pressure from gay activist groups not to invite BYU to join because of the stance of the university’s sponsoring institution, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with respect to gay conduct and gay marriage (that sex outside of marriage is wrong, and that only marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God). I recently commented thus on the stance of the Church of Jesus Christ and its affect on educational institutions run by the Church here (this and all other links last accessed October 19, 2016):

If it needs to be said, the Church of Jesus Christ also counsels all people to treat others with respect and dignity regardless of sexual orientation and different beliefs regarding homosexual activity and gay marriage. See, e.g., here:

The Salt Lake Tribune’s television critic, Scott D. Pierce, who occasionally writes about sports coverage on television, recently wrote about a sign held up by someone in the crowd at the recent football matchup between BYU’s Cougars and the Bulldogs of Mississippi State University.

My first thought was, “Oh, gawrsh. This is serious. Has someone not gotten the memo that the Church of Jesus Christ, its views on marriage and chastity notwithstanding, supports basic human decency and dignity? Did someone hold up a sign with a slur such as ‘k***’ or ‘f**’ on it, for a nationwide television audience to see when the game was carried on ESPN?”

Nope. Nothing that serious. The allegedly-offending sign? “You can’t spell Mississippi without spelling sissy.” (Perhaps I should have written that “s****”?) Worried that perhaps the offending word has an obvious anti-gay connotation of which I was unaware, I then looked it up in the dictionary. See here:

For Mr. Pierce’s handwringing over the alleged “anti-gay” slur, see here:

Alas, I, myself, have been accused of effeminacy. (I don’t think the person who leveled the accusation was attempting to say anything about my sexual orientation, but, in the heat of the moment, I never bothered to ask. Ken, with upraised dukes: “Are you calling me gay? Huh, huh, huh?”)

As for the Big 12 and the pressure to not invite BYU to join? I don’t quite understand the whole idea that if someone doesn’t agree with every single position I hold on absolutely everything, or doesn’t agree with everything I do or ever have done, that disagreement somehow means that I’m “unwelcome” somewhere.

I’m confused. Putting aside, for the moment, that certain behavior probably isn’t appropriate in any public place, are two lesbian cheerleaders from an opposing school going to feel “unwelcome” at BYU because they can’t make out during a game? Are two gay football players from an opposing school going to feel “unwelcome” because they cannot do that? If not, I’m afraid I don’t quite understand what the stances of BYU or of its sponsoring institution regarding chastity and marriage have to do with what athletic conference it belongs to (or not).

Taking legality out of the equation for a second, the Big 12 can invite whomever it wants, for any reason; it can exclude whomever it wants, for any reason. But anyone with half a brain would be able to see right through any protestations that the conference’s exclusion has nothing to do with BYU’s alleged “anti-gay” policies if it were to invite other schools whose programs, facilities, and followings aren’t as strong as BYU’s.

Perhaps, in order to get a fair shake, religiously-affiliated and religiously-oriented schools eventually may have to break away from the NCAA altogether and form their own association. Cue pressure from pro-gay activist groups. After all, people who believe something different than I do (about absolutely anything) should forfeit their very right to exist.

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