Basketball v. Life

Is Karl Malone’s Absence from the Recent Reunion of the Utah Jazz 1997 NBA Finals Team A “Slight”? Basketball is Just Basketball: Life is Life

By Ken K. Gourdin

The Utah Jazz recently had a 20-year reunion of their 1997 NBA Finals team, but, notably, their most notable player from that era, Karl Malone, was absent. Doug Robinson, sportswriter for Salt Lake City’s Deseret News, was much in arms at the supposed “slight.” Didn’t Mr. Malone owe it to his former teammates, to former team executives and coaches, and, most importantly, to fans, to see to it that his schedule permitted his attendance?

If [another poster] is correct that Mr. Malone made a prior commitment to someone else well in advance of the festivities planned by the Jazz (however worthy those festivities might be) [purportedly, the festivities that preempted his attendance were related to a low-income housing project with which he is involved in his home state of Louisiana], I’m glad he honored his commitment. Basketball is a great game. It (especially Jazz basketball) has provided me (and others, I’m sure) with indelible memories. But, silly T-shirt slogans to the contrary notwithstanding, it ain’t life. Basketball is just basketball. Why wasn’t Mr. Malone more up-front about his conflicting commitment? If he had described it in detail, surely, the “Karl-has-always been-all-about-Karl” crowd would simply have used it as more evidence of his alleged tendency toward self-promotion and self-centeredness. “Do not your alms before men …”

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Appropriate, Satisfying Confusion

A Word About “Appropriate,” “Satisfying” Confusion

By Ken K. Gourdin

Some time ago, BYU’s Dan Peterson, who blogs on Sic et non at Patheos and who specializes in the area, had a word about the terms “Near East” and “Middle East,” which seem, largely, to be interchangeable, and the term used simply depends on the preference of one’s interlocutor.

After his elucidation of the matter, Professor Peterson said he hoped he had helped readers of the blog. His comments are in quotation marks, and my responses follow:

“I hope that clarifies things.”

Alas, it doesn’t.

“Or, at least, that it confuses you in an appropriate and satisfying way.”

Now this, it does. This, it does. I am appropriately and satisfyingly confused! And since confusion about various aspects of my life is my default state, I’ve hit upon a metaphor for life (although I’m sure you weren’t intending this post to be taken to quite these lengths): Since it seems that I’m destined to be confused about various aspects of my life regardless, I might as well, at least, be “appropriately” and “satisfyingly” confused!

I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

“Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9.

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Youth, Religion, and Disaffection

A Conversation About Youth Disaffection from Religion

By Ken K. Gourdin

In a thread about youth disaffection, both from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and from religion in general, I wrote:

For what little my input (as a non-parent) may be worth, I don’t want to be seen as trying to put lipstick on the pig of youth disaffection and dissociation from religion. Yes, it is a serious problem, for parents in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as for those of other denominations. That said, the Church of Jesus Christ and its leaders ought not be too eager to “solve” the problem by acceding to the direction of the prevailing winds on social issues. The Church is what it is precisely because of its willingness to take what are seen as unpopular stands on those issues. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” wrote the writer of Proverbs [. This scripture, of course, says nothing about a temporary departure or detour from the path when one is young.

We should reach out to those who become disaffected, with minds open enough to realize that if we saw the world as they do, if we gave utmost priority to the things that they do, likely, we would make the same decisions that they make and have made. At the same time, we should continue to have open arms and open hearts, ready and willing to welcome them back, if-and-when they choose to return. Whatever misgivings they may have about the unwillingness of the Church of Jesus Christ to compromise on fundamental, core doctrine, they may well realize that the only safe place, not only spiritually speaking but also, in a large sense, physically speaking, is among their fellow Saints. But if the Church of Jesus Christ compromises too much after the fashion of the world, there will be no safe place left for them to return to.

Later in the thread, I wrote that I feel that part of the key to retaining youth in full fellowship with the Church of Jesus Christ is full and effective implementation of the Church’s Sunday School youth curriculum, Come Follow Me. For more information on that curriculum, see here (this and all other links last accessed March 21, 2017): https://www.lds.org/youth/learn?lang=eng.

Those who are hardest to love are, whether they want to admit it or not, those who are most desperately in need of that love. More than one General Conference address has featured the miracle that happens when a teacher takes a genuine interest in a hard-to-love student and actually ministers to that student in a leaving-the-ninety-and-nine-and-seeking-the-one sense. And it sounds to me as though your ward “gets it”: It’s extremely difficult for one to demonstrate genuine love, interest, care, and concern for one’s students if one confines one’s interactions with them to asking “canned” questions from a lesson manual, or even by sticking slavishly to an outline of the sort provided in Come, Follow Me. I think one completely misses the boat if he says, regarding Come, Follow Me, [Sigh!] “Same ol’, same ol’!” Come, Follow Me miracles aren’t based on the “black letter” words on the page: They’re based on “between the lines” Spirit-led learning by teachers, and among teachers and students. The miracles happen outside of class, and inside of class based on what one has done to prepare (using the “Sunday School” answers) by studying one’s scriptures, praying about what one has studied to know how it applies specifically to his students in particular, and to one specific student, praying for his students by name, (as you mentioned) holding teacher councils to discuss effective teaching/ministering ideas and what to do about challenging students and situations, and so on. That kind of preparation leads to interactions in which the Spirit whispers to one “in the very hour, in the very moment” what he should say and do [see, e.g., Doctrine and Covenants 24:6 and 100:6].

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Thoughts on a Faithless Paradigm

The Faithless Paradigm, or, Ken, The Paradigm Pirate

By Ken K. Gourdin

As difficult as it is for me to imagine a workable worldview and/or a set of ethics without faith being a big part of the picture, if someone who doesn’t happen to be a person of faith is an honest, decent, caring individual who has determined to do his best to make life as good as he can make it for his fellow beings as long as he is here before (from his perspective) succumbing to the void, more power to him. That said, another poster at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion questioned the utility of a faith-based or religious worldview. Unfortunately, the thread was shut down before I had an opportunity to post the following. I thought, if nothing else, I’d post these thoughts here:

Only you can decide how much good faith was involved in your attempts to make Mormonism (or faith in general) work for you. I don’t work for the ACME Judgment Company (they offered me a terrific position with a great salary, wonderful benefits, and so on, but I turned it down because I didn’t feel I was qualified). From your own description (unless you’re omitting a lot of things for the sake of brevity, which you could well be doing) however, it does seem as though you rejected Mormonism and/or faith a priori. Laying aside, for the moment, the fact that you probably don’t see a religious worldview as valid in any case, I wonder if your rejection of Mormonism or of religion wasn’t predetermined by your a priori assumptions about it. (And before you accuse me of judging you, you wouldn’t support an a priori rejection of a scientific claim before someone had a chance to examine the evidence you put forth to support it, would you?) And—while if someone can find happiness, fulfillment, meaning, et cetera, outside of a religious paradigm, more power to him—there is scientific data tending to show that, on balance, religious people are at least as happy (if not more happy than) their non-religious counterparts.

As [Screen name redacted] pointed out so well (he usually does), the paradigm one uses to approach a particular question makes a huge difference in how one resolves that question. One key for me is that I don’t feel bound to use a single paradigm to answer all questions. I have legal training, and I do find the methodical, analytical framework used to analyze legal questions to be of value in resolving them, as well as in resolving questions in some other areas. However, I also try to avoid pressing a legal (or other) paradigm into service for purposes for which it is not well suited and for which it is not intended. I use one or more religious or faith-based paradigms to answer religious or faith-based questions, one or more scientific paradigms to answer scientific questions, one or more legal paradigms to answer legal questions, one or more philosophical paradigms to answer philosophical questions, a logical paradigm to answer logical questions, and so on. And as I’ve said so many times before, none of us sees the world as it is; rather, we see it as we are (that goes even for scientists and other people of a similarly empirical bent).

Science is an amazing, often even a beautiful and elegant, thing. But not all science is created equal: there’s good science and there’s bad science. And to borrow and to slightly alter Shakespeare, “There are more things in heaven and earth, [Screen Name Redacted], than are dreamt of in your science.” And all a particular theory can do is account for the currently available evidence. Tomorrow, additional evidence may be discovered in some arena which stands a current theory on its head. And it’s not as though only the religious grapple with the sort of questions you apparently don’t think religion answers well: philosophers, poets, writers, and other people of like stripe (both religious and not) have been grappling with those questions for millennia. And as I said in another forum a few weeks ago, science may explain how (or at least why) the world goes ’round, but only such things as love, faith, philosophy, art, literature, music, and so on can make the trip worthwhile.

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The “Protestant” Community of Christ

In Response to My Comment that Community of Christ Worship Strikes Me as Very Protestant and Wondering Why the World Needs Yet Another Protestant Denomination, A Community of Christ Member Reminds Me That the World Needs More People of Faith, Period

By Ken K. Gourdin

BYU’s Dan Peterson, who blogs on Sic et non at Patheos, had an invitation on his blog for his readers to check out the beliefs of the Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He posted the following link to the Community of Christ Web site (this and all other links last accessed March 7, 2017): http://www.cofchrist.org/basic-beliefs.

I responded:

From what I’ve seen of Community of Christ worship, it strikes me as very Protestant. They are sincere in their beliefs, no doubt, and loved of God, just as I am. “Inasmuch as men [men of whatever religious persuasion, or even of no particular religious persuasion] do good, they shall in nowise lose their reward” [Doctrine & Covenants 58:28]. That said, I’m not sure why the world needs yet another Protestant denomination.

Mark DeGregg, a member of the Community of Christ, chided me gently for the foregoing (seemingly exclusivist, exclusionary) comment. He wrote, “Well, the world needs allot more LDS [Latter-day Saints], COC [Community of Christ], Catholics, Baptists, Jews, . . . believers of God, [et cetera]. My COC opinion only.”

I responded to Mr. (Brother?) DeGregg (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who believe we are all children of God and, hence, spiritual brothers and sisters, often address one another (along with, as I do here, members of other restorationist faiths) as “Brother” and “Sister,” abbreviated “Bro.” and “Sis.”) thus:

Fair enough, Mr./Bro. DeGregg. Touché! If anything good will come out of the continuing secularist assault on faith and on the faithful, it will be that, eventually, many of the faithful will realize, whatever our differences and disagreements, (metaphorically speaking) “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and thus, that we can ill afford, in light of that assault, to make enemies of other people of faith over sectarian differences.

I make essentially that point at the link below in more detail. Here’s a very short “money quote”: “Wherever doctrinal differences can be set aside in favor of focusing on what we have in common with other faiths in order to accomplish higher purposes, we should do so.” Here’s the entire essay: https://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/toward-interreligious-oneness/.

I’m reminded also of something attributed to President Brigham Young, second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who reportedly said, “A good man is a good man, whether in this church or out of it.”

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The “Imperfect” Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon: On Its “Imperfect Elegance,” and on Rejecting It Because of any Imperfections it Might Contain 

By Ken K. Gourdin

Another poster at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion faults Alma, chapter 32, which, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a well-known discourse on faith, on how faith develops, on what one might do (indeed, what he ought to do) if he lacks faith, and so on.  The poster critiques (indeed, he criticized) the chapter’s clumsy prose (my phrase).  Drawing a parallel between my own propensity and need to edit my writing (which is something I do often; indeed, I tend to be compulsive about it) and their limited ability to edit Holy Writ, I told him I’m much more willing to give writers of Holy Writ the benefit of the doubt.  I wrote:

Yeah, well, one might be able to say that about many scriptures.  When it comes to my own writing, nothing is sacred, nor is it set in stone: I am a compulsive editor of my own writing, and I never stop; If I see an error in something I wrote (particularly if the writing exists solely in electronic form, but sometimes, not even limited to that … sometimes, if all I have is a “hard copy” of something, I have been known to retype the whole damn thing in “soft copy” electronic form just to have a version of it that I can edit :mega_shok:), even if the writing, and, hence, the error, is 10, or 20, or 30 years old.  If it’s possible to have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder about only one thing, then I have that form of OCD about my writing.

Since I know how difficult it is to produce tight, clean, readable copy even after many drafts, let alone after one draft, of my own writing, I’m more than willing to give the writers of Holy Writ (who couldn’t edit) the benefit of an enormous doubt.  In fact, while your mileage my vary, to me, one of the indicia that the Book of Mormon is exactly what it claims to me is the number of “or rathers …” and similar expressions used by the writers when they are striving for more precision and clarity of thought.  I don’t think Joseph Smith had that much guile: if the whole thing simply came from his fertile mind, he could have said simply, “Oliver, strike that,” and it never would have ended up in the text in the first place.

While your mileage may vary, I prefer to follow the approach recommended by Mormon in the final clause of the title page to the Book of Mormon:  “And now, if there are faults, they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment seat of Christ.”   I wish you well.

Many contributors to the Book of Mormon plainly were worried about the prospect that the book would be rejected because of the various ways messengers might, despite their best efforts to avoid doing so, impede the delivery of their message.  Perhaps I am a simple-minded rube, but that very concern endears both the book and its contributors to me all the more.  As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once said, “Quiet, plain, unpretentious people have moved this work forward from the beginning, and still do so today.”  Among many other things, the Book of Mormon is elegant-if-imperfect testimony of that fact.

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Of Orphaned Puppies and Surrogate Mama Doggies

The Sad-Happy Story of One Mama Doggie’s Tragic Loss of 8 Puppies, Another Litter’s Tragic Loss of Their Mama Doggie, and the Happy Ending When the Mama Doggie Who Lost Her Puppies Became a Surrogate Mama Doggie to the Orphaned Puppies Who Lost Their Mama Doggie

(Got It?)

By Ken K. Gourdin

Tragically, Daisy, the mama doggie, lost her brood in a fire. As you might imagine, she was very sad at the sudden loss of her puppies. Meanwhile, Chloe, another mama doggie, died tragically while giving birth to her brood. As you might imagine, Chloe’s puppies were very sad at the sudden loss of their mama doggie. At the same time, in Chloe’s tragic absence, Chloe’s people had their hands full trying to follow a regular, 24-hour-a-day feeding schedule for eight eternally-hungry puppies.

What to do, what to do?

As it turns out, mama doggie Chloe’s puppies were the perfect solution to mama doggie Daisy’s problem, and mama doggie Daisy was the perfect solution to mama doggie Chloe’s eternally-hungry puppies’ problem.

And they all lived happily ever after. See the story in People magazine on line (link last accessed March 13, 2017).

http://www.people.com/pets/dog-who-lost-her-pups-in-fire-becomes-surrogate-to-orphaned-litter/

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