LDS Positions on chastity and traditional marriage, and good-faith discussion

No One, in Good Faith, Can Even Hold the Positions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints About Chastity and Traditional Marriage, Let Alone Defend Them

By Ken K. Gourdin

At Mormon Dialogue and Discussion, certain posters have expressed criticism of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its expression of support for an benefit that is designed to raise funds for causes and initiatives intended to promote the welfare of LGBTQIA-Yada-yada-yada youths.  (I’m sure I left some initials out of that acronym, alas!)  Detractors see expressions of support by the Church of Jesus Christ as hypocritical because of the Church’s support of only traditional marriage and its teaching that sex outside of marriage is wrong.  I responded:

This thread is proof positive that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints simply cannot win: According to its detractors/skeptics/disaffected on this issue/these issues, either (a) it must accept the LGBTQIA-Yada-yada-yada agenda wholesale; or (b) people will forever suspect its motives.  According to such individuals, there is no middle ground: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must repudiate its teachings on traditional marriage and on the law of chastity.  Period.  It’s that simple.

The thread’s originator then accused the Church of Jesus Christ of “singling out” gays and lesbians for “mistreatment.”  I responded:

Your post contains two instances of a priori assumption in the first sentence alone. Perhaps it’s just me, but I hesitate to conclude that anyone who is trying, wittingly or not, to stack the deck so high against his rhetorical opponents is interested in dialoguing in good faith on the issue(s) under discussion.

Continuing to assert, a priori and sans evidence (or at least, without offering any evidence to support the assertion), that the Church of Jesus Christ has “mistreated” gays and lesbians, the thread’s originator then wrote, “Seriously?  You think an institution with a track record can make one statement and everyone should just ignore all their actions and history of the past?  Who does that in real life?”

I responded:

It’s not as though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been inconsistent on these issues, even if you don’t like its teachings.  It’s not as though the Church of Jesus Christ ever has taught (in essence), “It’s OK to hate both the sinner and the sin” before teaching (in essence), “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.”  It’s not as though the Church of Jesus Christ ever has said, “The Church was for gay marriage … before it was against it,” or, “The Church was against opposite-sex marriage … before it was for it,” or “The Church was for sex outside of marriage … before it was against it.”

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints drawing a clear line between man’s law and God’s law by teaching that even if gay marriage is legal according to the laws of the land, God’s laws are that (1) sex outside of marriage is wrong; (2) only marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God; and (3) any member of the Church of Jesus Christ who enters into a gay marriage is apostate.  You’re free to disagree with one of those propositions or with all of them, but either the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by God or it is not.  As I said earlier, there is no middle ground.

Continuing to assert that the Church of Jesus Christ “mistreats” gays and lesbians based solely on his own ipse dixit, the thread’s originator wrote, “Its [sic] so clearly mistreatment that I’m going to start with that as the baseline for a discussion.  …” Whereupon I informed him, “OK.  I will not be responding to you further.”

It’s one thing to argue, after granting opposing arguments a hearing, that one is using flawed logic and/or that he’s arguing in bad faith.  It’s another thing entirely to argue, without considering opposing arguments, that one exhibits bad faith merely for holding a certain position, as if to say, “No one possibly could even hold the position you hold in good faith, let alone be able to defend it.”

Under such circumstances, how is rational discussion or reasoned debate even possible?

It isn’t, so I bowed out of the thread.

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Chris Herrod Loses Primary

Why I’m Glad Chris Herrod Didn’t Win The Primary to Fill the Congressional Seat Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R – Utah) is Vacating

 By Ken K. Gourdin

Warning For Those of Tender Eyes, Tender Ears, and Tender Years – Here be strong language.  I don’t mince words here.

A Utah Highway Patrol Trooper stopped former Utah legislator and erstwhile candidate to replace former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R – Utah) in the United States House Chris Herrod for travelling 79 MPH in a 70 MPH zone.  Herrod tells the Trooper, “I’m a former state legislator who was honored, and I’m pleased to stand on my record.”  (As though, somehow, that’s supposed to mean anything in the context of a traffic stop?)

I was honored by my eighth-grade class for completing the year successfully even though I underwent two major surgical operations within a span of three weeks and spent much of the year recuperating, too.  I’m quite proud of that, but it’s not the first thing that springs to my mind as something I should mention as a possible mitigating or exculpating factor for my conduct when I’m stopped by law enforcement.

Yes, according to the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics, officers are supposed to enforce the law “without fear or favor, malice or ill-will.”  At the same time, though, they’re given an enormous amount of discretion, as well as wide latitude in its use.  If I were a law enforcement officer, actually, I would be less inclined to cite someone if he were to admit wrongdoing readily than I would be to cite someone whose first instinct is to try to argue with me or to throw his (supposed) weight around.

As anyone who knows me well—let alone anyone who has followed this blog for more than five minutes—knows, I am a strong supporter of law enforcement (though I have both praised and criticized law enforcement, in print and under my own byline, depending on what I felt was warranted).

Chris Herrod might have been ideal to replace Jason Chaffetz.  Who knew for sure?  But anyone who exhibits disrespect for those in uniform, and for courts, for the law, and for legal processes that Chris Herrod has—no matter how many times  he assures us of his regret for this allegedly-“aberrant” (my word) behavior—should face serious questions about his fitness to legislate, and he’s not getting my vote.

The Salt Lake Tribune has analysis of the win by columnist Robert Gehrke of one of Mr. Herrod’s opponents, former Provo, Utah Mayor John Curtis, under the headline, “Why we can all celebrate John Curtis’s win in the 3rd District Republican Primary,” here (last accessed August 16, 2017):

http://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2017/08/16/gehrke-why-we-can-all-celebrate-john-curtis-win-in-the-3rd-district-republican-primary/.

I responded to the question posed in the headline thus (Reader Advisory: Here Be The Strong Language): “Because Mr. ‘Don’t-you-know-who-I-am-you-little-pissant-peon-UHP-trooper’ and Mr. ‘I-mean-no-disrespect-to-the-trooper-or-to-the-court-but-this-is-a-joke’ didn’t win.  And we should all thank God for that.”

Salt Lake City’s Deseret News recently ran an op-ed penned by Chris Herrod’s daddy (Good grief, DesNews!  You mean to tell me that support for the younger Herrod was so thin that you couldn’t at least have gotten some party hack to write the op-ed?).  I responded to the elder Mr. Herrod’s op-ed thus:

Mr. Herrod:

Thank you for your service to our nation, Sir, and I can completely understand why you support (or by now, at least as regards this election, supported) your son. However, I learned everything I needed to know about whether or not I should support your son when he was stopped and cited by the Utah Highway Patrol for travelling 79 MPH in a 70 MPH zone.

Your son seems unclear on the concept that laws are for everyone, Sir, and that no one, no matter his position or station in life, is exempt. I haven’t agreed with or been pleased by every contact I’ve ever had with law enforcement, either, but I’ve always been smart enough to pick my battles. I have both praised and criticized law enforcement depending on what was warranted, in print under my own byline. I’ve always responded to being stopped with the appropriate string of “Yes Sirs/Ma’ams,” and “No Sirs/Ma’ams.” And even if his conduct toward the Trooper somehow were acceptable, I’ve never mocked the court, the judge, or the process by saying, “This is a joke,” in open court. And even as the son of a career law enforcement officer, I never sought special treatment.

Thanks,

-Ken K. Gourdin

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The U.S. May Not Have a Religious Test for Holding Public Office, But Perhaps Scotland Does

By Ken K. Gourdin

A member of the Scottish Parliament who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has come under increasing public scrutiny because of the Church’s stance on gay marriage and because of its historical denial of its priesthood to African Blacks or to most of their descendants.*  For rather slanted, biased, unfair coverage of the MP’s election and of his views, as well as the positions of the Church of Jesus Christ on these issues, see here (last accessed July 14, 2017):

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15354879.Gays___39_outed__39__when_new_Tory_MP_was_key_figure_in_Mormon_church/

In response to commentary on the controversy at BYU Associate Professor of Arabic and of Islamic Studies Dan Peterson’s blog, I posted the following.

One can believe as one wishes, and one can teach as one wishes. (A heartfelt “thank-you” to the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court which decided Obergefell v. Hodges for that magnanimous narrowing of the scope of the privilege(s) granted by the Free Exercise clause of the U.S. Constitution!) And one is perfectly welcome to “exercise” one’s religion “freely” … within the walls of one’s holy place on one’s holy day.

What one must never do is allow one’s religion to guide what one actually does or what one actually says publicly, including how one votes. (Did you vote for President Barack Obama because you think he’s a Prized Hunk of Man Flesh, or because he would make for an entertaining skit on Saturday Night Live or an entertaining segment on Steven Colbert? A-OK! But no one better have voted against him because s/he was worried about, e.g., his stance on gay marriage!)

Gays are welcome outside the closet. Mormons and other people of faith? Not so much. That whole “let-your-light-so-shine-before-men-that-they-may-see-your-good-works-and-glorify-your-Father-which-is-in-heaven” thing? Yeah, um, God was just kiddin’! That whole “Men-don’t-light-a-candle-and-put-it-under-a-bushel-but-on-a-candlestick-and-it-giveth-light-unto-all-who-are-in-the-house” thing? Same.

Sit the heck down and shut the heck up, religious people. (And when the irreligious, the areligious, and the religiously apathetic and antipathetic are done remaking society in their own image, they will find, much to even their dismay, that the “culture baby” has been thrown out with the “religious bathwater.”)

Oops.

Oh, well!

*The policy was changed in 1978, and there were exceptions, rare though they may have been.  That makes it very difficult to conclude, summarily, that the policy was the result of simple, stark racism.

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RIP, Dingo

Rest in Peace, Dingo: Thank You for Your Service and for Your Sacrifice

By Ken K. Gourdin

Salt Lake Unified Police K-9 Officer Dingo, a Belgian Malinois who is trained in both drug detection and suspect apprehension and whose partner and handler is UPDSL’s Sgt. Chad Reyes, was shot and killed by a fleeing suspect whom he was attempting to apprehend. For coverage of the incident in Salt Lake City’s Deseret News, see here (this and any other Web addresses last accessed July 7, 2017):

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865684313/K-9-killed-while-trying-to-apprehend-wanted-fugitive.html.

Dingo was assigned a bullet-resistant vest, but it is difficult enough to keep animals comfortable and hydrated in Utah’s summer heat even without vests, so he happened to not be wearing the vest at the time. In response to Deseret News coverage, I replied:

Condolences to all of Dingo’s people, especially to Sgt. Reyes and his family. I can easily understand the desire of officers and their agencies to accord Dingo the same respect they accord their fallen human colleagues. Had Dingo not taken a bullet, I think, simply from what little has been reported about his death, that the odds are better than average that one of his human colleagues might well have done so. 10-42 [Utah Public Safety 10-Code for “Ending tour of duty”], job well done, Rest In Peace, Dingo.

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A Victory for Religious Free Exercise

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 7-2 Decision in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer: Narrow in Scope, Yes; But a Victory for Religious Freedom, Nonetheless

By Ken K. Gourdin

May a government program which provides safety benefits for schools deny those benefits to an applying school because that school is affiliated with a church? In Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, a 7-2 United States Supreme Court decision from which only Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissented, the Court says no. A bedrock principle of U.S. law is that the government cannot “establish” a religion, and it cannot favor one religion over another or religion over nonreligion when meting out its benefits.

For the decision, see the U.S. Supreme Court’s Web site here (this and all other links last accessed June 27, 2017): https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-577_khlp.pdf. For coverage of the decision in Salt Lake City’s Deseret News, see here: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865683674/Supreme-Court-rules-for-church-in-high-profile-religious-freedom-case.html. For a good introduction to establishment clause law and issues, see here: http://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/first-amendment-and-religion.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources runs a program intended to promote recycling of resources that otherwise would go to waste, while at the same time providing safer surfaces for children to play on than gravel, concrete, or asphalt. The used tires the program recycles are repurposed as safer rubber playground surface. Citing Missouri’s Constitution, the Department denied the application of Missouri Lutheran’s preschool to the program as an impermissible establishment of religion.

While I agree with the minority and with the Department of Natural Resources that state resources should not benefit churches qua churches because such benefits constitute an impermissible establishment of religion, I agree with the majority that the Department cannot deny a benefit it extends to secular schools to religious schools based solely on the fact that the latter are religious (emphasis mine). To decide otherwise in this case is to decide that students at religious schools are less deserving of safety protections than are students at secular schools.

In response to Deseret News coverage of the decision, another commenter wrote, “All churches deserve the right to be able to practice their beliefs without the government unreasonably interfering with them or restricting them because of belief.” I responded:

I think your general principle, that the devout should be able to practice their faith without undue government interference, is correct. However, that’s not what this case was about. The question at bar was whether government could deny safety benefits to religious schools that it offers to secular schools, or whether it has to treat the former the same way it treats the latter when it comes to those benefits. The answer is that both types of institutions must be treated equally in such a circumstance.

Like you, I might have preferred a ruling with broader implications, but half a loaf is better than none.

Another poster at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion attempted to use the Court’s decision as evidence that faiths and their adherents simply want to glut themselves at the public trough (my phrase, admittedly), linking to a story on National Public Radio’s Web site headlined, “Supreme Court rules religious school can use taxpayer funds for playground.” I responded:

That headline takes a shortcut through the facts.  The Missouri Department of Natural Resources administers a program to convert used tires into rubber playground surfaces, which are, of course, safer than concrete, asphalt, or gravel.  Trinity Lutheran Preschool, which does not discriminate against youngsters or their families even if they do not happen to be Lutheran (and even if they do not happen to be religious), applied to have its playground resurfaced.

Appealing to the Establishment Clause of the Missouri Constitution, the Department denied the Preschool’s application for funds on the grounds that granting the application would constitute an impermissible establishment of religion. While I agree both with the Department and with the minority of the United States Supreme Court that the Establishment Clause forbids favoring religion qua religion and forbids favoring religion over non-religion, what the majority decided is that if the state offers funds for the purely secular purpose of better ensuring children’s safety on school playgrounds, it must ensure a level playing field between state-run schools and faith-run schools when considering both types of schools for receipt of such funds, and it cannot discriminate against the latter solely because they are faith-based.  A decision to the contrary would mean that the state may decide that students at faith-based schools are less deserving of safety protections than are students at their secular counterparts.

It should also be noted that this wasn’t a razor-thin, 5-4 decision.  It wasn’t even a 6-3 decision.  Rather, it was only a 7-2 decision, with only two of the more liberal members of the Court’s liberal wing deciding in favor of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

But thanks fer playin’!  

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Goodbye, Gordon Hayward

Goodbye and Good Luck, Gordon Hayward 

By Ken K. Gourdin

As an ardent fan of the National Basketball Association’s Utah Jazz, like other Jazz fans, I have struggled to put the events of the last 28 hours or so into proper perspective.  (Perhaps the easiest way to do that is to simply say, “Life is life, while basketball is simply a game.”  Touche.)  But, as much as basketball might not matter in the grand scheme of things, I’ve been a fan of the Jazz since well before the Jazz deserved any fans, and it is difficult for me to extricate myself from that kind of an emotional investment or to say that I am apathetic about what happens to the team.

Do I wish Gordon Hayward any ill will?  No.  Do I harbor any resentment toward him?  Probably not, but the latter question is much more difficult to answer.  As another fan has pointed out, Jazz fans stuck by Gordon Hayward even when some felt he wasn’t the best choice remaining on the board when the Jazz drafted him.  Although he had a breakout year this year, averaging more than 21 points per game, it took him awhile to get there: Jazz fans stuck by him through all of that development, and to say we shouldn’t care, now that, arguably, he is turning his back on the state, on the team, and on its fans (even if his motivation for doing so is not personal) is not realistic.  (That said, I’ll still root for Hayward … 80 games a year.)

The one standpoint from which Hayward’s decision does make sense is because of his loyalty to his former college coach at Indiana’s Butler University, Brad Stevens, who now is the coach of the team Hayward is leaving the Jazz to join, the Boston Celtics.  Hayward is leaving a not-inconsiderable sum of money on the table in order to do it.  Perhaps Hayward saw a move to Boston as a way to rectify having previously “abandoned” (though perhaps that’s too strong a word) his school and his former college coach when he declared himself eligible for the NBA draft as an underclassman.  Arguably, though, one doesn’t rectify abandoning one team (the Butler University Bulldogs) by abandoning yet another (the Utah Jazz).

The one thing that puzzles me is why Hayward, his agent Mark Bartlestein, and the Celtics didn’t work out some kind of a sign-and-trade agreement in order to assure that the Jazz weren’t left so empty handed: Doing so also would have benefitted Hayward, since under the NBA’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement rules, no team can pay Hayward more than the Jazz could have.  Perhaps the logistics were simply too complex to work out in the abbreviated time frame Hayward’s indecision left the Jazz and the Celtics to work out such a deal; or perhaps such a deal was unrealistic because of what the Celtics would have had to give up in order to acquire Hayward.

Gordon Hayward has a reputation as a fierce competitor, and, largely, that reputation has been well earned.  However, not many will argue (at least, they will not attempt to do so with a straight face) the fact that, for some time, the NBA’s most competitive basketball has been played in the Western Conference.  If I were he, the opportunity to continue to prove my mettle against the league’s best teams would have played no small part in my decision whether to stay with the Western Conference’s Jazz or whether to join the Eastern Conference’s Celtics.  And even with Hayward, do the Celtics have a strong enough core to be competitive against the East’s best teams, or did Hayward (without realizing it) simply just set himself up to be a sacrificial lamb for LeBron James and the two-time NBA title contender Cleveland Cavaliers?

As for the Jazz, the consensus is that their formerly-solid core now has been decimated, and that a previously up-and-coming team suddenly has been turned into an also-ran which will struggle to win half of its games.  As much as the Jazz will miss Hayward, I’m not convinced: The Jazz still won 51 games last season when their primary lineup was only together for about 20 of those games due to injuries.  In the process of achieving that record, adversity notwithstanding, Quin Snyder proved his bona fides as an NBA coach.  While doing so again (without Hayward) will, admittedly, be much more challenging, I’m not prepared to say that Coach Snyder is not up to the task.

Even without Hayward, reports of the Jazz’s demise are entirely premature.

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Practical Effect of Lowering BAC?

A Word About Utah’s Impending Change in Legal Blood Alcohol Content for Drunk Driving from 0.08% to 0.05%

By Ken K. Gourdin

A recent letter to the editor of Salt Lake City’s Deseret News excoriates Utah’s lawmakers for recently passing a measure lowering the state’s legal blood alcohol content limit for drunk driving from 0.08% to 0.05%. Utah is the first state in the nation to do so.

See the letter here (this and any other links last accessed July 3, 2017):

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865683779/Letter-Pointless-restrictions.html.

I responded:

Laying aside, for just a moment, all of the handwringing about what a 0.05 legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit will do to Utah’s tourism industry, its image, and so forth, I’m not convinced that it will have all that great of a practical effect in terms of deterring drunk driving. I would be interested in knowing what percentage of people pulled over for Driving Under the Influence in Utah test at a level below .08. My hunch is that it’s hard enough to catch people at .08, let alone below.

While other countries may have set their legal BAC limits below .08, we’re talking about countries with different legal systems, different legal procedures, different standards of proof, different protections for the accused, and so on, so even if law enforcement in those countries catches a good number of drivers below .08, I’m not sure how well their experience will translate to the United States and to Utah.

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