Tie Buddies

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and His “Tie Buddy” 

By Ken K. Gourdin

As most all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (along with many others who follow the Church) are aware, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Church’s second-highest governing quorum (after the First Presidency, composed of President Thomas S. Monson and his two Counselors) passed away during the Church’s 187th Annual General Conference held September 30 and October 1 in Salt Lake City.

When the news was posted at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion, I commented (this and all other links last accessed November 7, 2017:

Condolences to all of Elder Hales’s family, friends, and colleagues on his loss.  I hope they all find comfort in a life well-lived, trials well-borne, and in the promise of a life to come.  I think this is a pretty cool account of how Elder Hales, though he was, no doubt, very busy, didn’t get so busy ad-ministering that he neglected to minister on a more personal, intimate, individual level.  While, undoubtedly, this young man misses Elder Hales, how wonderful to be able to have such fond memories of their friendship to hold onto.


For Salt Lake City’s Deseret News coverage of the friendship between Elder Hales and his (then) young “tie buddy,” see here: https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865690734/Elder-Andersen-shares-one-more-example-of-Elder-Hales-kindness-in-Story-of-Tie-Buddies.html.  For coverage of their friendship in LDS Living, see here: http://www.ldsliving.com/The-Beautiful-Reason-Elder-Hales-Always-Wore-the-Same-Tie-for-General-Conference-One-That-Will-Make-You-Love-Him-Even-More/s/86601.

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“The Mormon Therapist” Attacks Elder Oaks, and I Respond

I Respond to Natasha Helfer Parker aka “The Mormon Therapist”

By Ken K. Gourdin

There are those within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who, especially following Elder Dallin H. Oaks’s address to the Church’s recently-concluded General Conference, are absolutely convinced that the Church and its leaders hate gays and lesbians. Bishops (pastors), Stake Presidents (in the Church of Jesus Christ, a stake is a group of congregations similar to a diocese), and other leaders of the Church have the often-unenviable task of ensuring (their love for all of God’s children notwithstanding) that false doctrine, sin, other such things, and the acceptance of these things do not creep into the Church. As part of carrying out that duty, in an effort to protect others, and to ensure the good name of the Church is maintained, occasionally, Bishops and Stake Presidents must take action against the membership status of members of the Church of Jesus Christ, such as excommunication or disfellowshipment. This, among other things, makes them what are sometimes referred to in the Church as Judges in Israel.

In today’s Exceedingly Politically Correct world, the notion of the very existence of such a thing as sin is tres passe. If there’s no sin, there are no sinners; if there are no sinners, there can be no judgment of their sin. As Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Brigham Young University Dan Peterson once put it, too many 21st-century moderns have lost their awe, reverence, and respect for the Divine, coming to think of God, instead, as everyone’s ever-loving, ever-supportive, nonjudgmental Pal. The text of The Family: A Proclamation to the World which was signed by all fifteen members of the governing First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ, which formed the basis of Elder Dallin H. Oaks’s address to the Church’s recently-concluded General Conference, “The Plan and The Proclamation,” can be found at the following address (this and all other links last accessed October 21, 2017): https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation?lang=eng&old=true. Elder Oaks’s address can be found here: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2017/10/the-plan-and-the-proclamation?lang=eng.

One of those who passed judgment on Elder Oaks is Natasha Helfer Parker, who bills herself as “The Mormon Therapist.” In passing judgment on Elder Oaks, she appealed to an April 2012 General Conference address given by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Church’s governing First Presidency. In that address, after listing various ways in which members of the Church of Jesus Christ and others may run afoul of the Christian ethic, President Uchtdorf pronounced the succinct, two-word admonition, “Stop it.” Pressing those words into a cause they were never intended to serve with respect to Elder Oaks’s continuing advocacy of traditional marriage and of the Church’s law of chastity (forbidding intimate physical relations outside of traditional marriage), as Church teaching is that (1) marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God; and (2) sex outside of marriage is wrong, Sister Parker told Elder Oaks, “Stop it.” I responded:

With all due respect to you and to your expertise, Sister Parker, you have ripped President Uctdorf’s admonition from its context in order to use it to further your own agenda. I’m quite confident that there’s no rift among the Brethren with respect to the inspiration underlying “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” nor does such a rift exist regarding the inspired teachings contained in that document. The rift, the discontinuity, you imagine exists between President Uchtdorf’s words from 2012 and Elder Oaks’s words of a couple of weeks ago is one that is solely of your own making (dare I say, of your own imagining).

Indeed, it would seem that you, yourself, have violated President Uchtdorf’s counsel with respect to Elder Oaks’s teachings about the Proclamation. Rather than ripping a mere two words out of President Uchtdorf’s fifteen-minute sermon and pressing them into service of a cause they were never intended to serve, perhaps it would be better if you were to reread President Uchtdorf’s entire sermon and were to ponder how it applies to your misapplication of it to Elder Oaks’s address. It can be found here: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-merciful-obtain-mercy?lang=eng. Indeed, with due respect, it would seem that you have violated President Uchtdorf’s teaching contained in the following excerpt when it comes to Elder Oaks’s address:

“When it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous and our judgment as reliable and only appropriate. Though we cannot look into another’s heart, we assume that we know a bad motive or even a bad person when we see one. We make exceptions when it comes to our own bitterness because we feel that, in our case, we have all the information we need to hold someone else in contempt.”

Under the principle of ejusdem generis, nonspecific language should be interpreted in light of any specific examples which surround it. Thus, if I say, “I’m interested in cows, horses, chickens, and other such things,” interpretation of the clause “other such things” could not reasonably be read to infer that I’m also interested in Buicks simply because the clause is nonspecific. Rather, a more reasonable interpretation is that I might also be interested in goats, because, as an animal … indeed, as an animal that, sometimes, might be found on a farm, just as the other animals I listed often are … a goat is of the same kind or class as the other things I listed, while a Buick is not.

Now let’s take a look at what President Uchtdorf actually was talking about before he uttered those two words you so mercilessly ripped from their context, the text surrounding the two word sermon. He said:

“This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:

“Stop it!

“It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children.”

Since, with all due respect, the only one I see here who has passed unrighteous judgment is you, Sister Parker, actually, it is you who needs to take President Uchtdorf’s advice. Yes, judges in Israel (not to mention Apostles of the Lord, Jesus Christ) should judge righteously. Yes, they should condemn sin, but should not condemn sinners. Yes, they should promote love for all of God’s children. But none of those caveats, nor any others similar to them I could name, relieve the Lord’s servants from their responsibility, clearly, unflinchingly, and unapologetically, to proclaim truth.

In reply, apparently, to me (although nothing he wrote, really, responds to anything I wrote), another poster wrote, “I guess Elder Bednar’s statement on February 23, 2016 that, ‘there are no homosexual members of the church’ is an expression of ‘a heart full of love for God and his children’?” (I’m not sure where he’s getting the material in the second set of single quotation marks from, since I never wrote it. Perhaps he’s purporting to quote Elder Bednar further.) Despite the fact that, apparently, he was merely venting his spleen, and I was as good of a target for that as anyone, I replied:

. . . I’m not defined by my sexuality, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or in any other facet of my life (including as a potential spouse, as important as physical intimacy might be to that relationship). If, you are, or if anyone else is, that’s your business (or theirs).

I happen to have a disability, but I’m no more defined by that one characteristic than I am by any other single characteristic I happen to possess. I don’t believe anyone else ought to be (or can be) defined by any single characteristic they happen to possess, either. Even as a gay man in the Church of Jesus Christ, Tom Christofferson refuses to be defined by that single characteristic (no matter how much the world might insist that he should be): See here, last accessed November 4, 2017: https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865688689/Gay-brother-of-Mormon-apostle-shares-his-spiritual-journey.html. Courtney and Rachelle refuse to be defined by that single characteristic. See here: http://www.ldsliving.com/Watch-A-Lesbian-Couple-Shares-Why-They-Divorced-to-Join-the-Church-in-Powerful-Video/s/86166/.

Whatever else I am or am not, I am, first and foremost, a Son of God. So is Tom Christofferson. So are you. and I’m grateful God loves us enough to tell us, through His servants, what we need to hear and not necessarily always what we want to hear. “Ken, the truth is that, in fact, you are your sexuality. You are your weaknesses, and you are your sins, and you are whatever ungodly inclinations you might happen to possess” … those things sound suspiciously much less like God’s Truth than like Satan’s lies.

You can believe what you wish. You can believe, as Sister Parker and many others who have contributed to this thread apparently do, that Elder Oaks, in standing firmly and unapologetically for truth, exhibits a calloused disregard for some of God’s children. I disagree. If that’s the message you’ve gotten from Elder Oaks’s address about the Divine Inspiration underlying “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” then, with all due respect, you’re doing it wrong.

Later, I responded to another poster who (essentially, if not in so many words) dismissed the opinions of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles because of their age, a lack of racial disparity in the Quorum, alleged excessive similarity in background and outlook, and so on.  I wrote:

As a counterpoint to your “The-Twelve-are-simply-a-bunch-of-out-of-touch-old-white-Utah-guys” shtick, I’ll offer this, from the inimitable, incomparable Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s address to the 176th Semiannual General Conference, “Prophets in the Land Again” [(October 2006), see here, last accessed November 7, 2017: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/10/prophets-in-the-land-again?lang=eng.]

“As the least of those who have been sustained by you to witness the guidance of this Church firsthand, I say with all the fervor of my soul that never in my personal or professional life have I ever associated with any group who are so in touch, who know so profoundly the issues facing us, who look so deeply into the old, stay so open to the new, and weigh so carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully everything in between. I testify that the grasp this body of men and women have of moral and societal issues exceeds that of any think tank or brain trust of comparable endeavor of which I know anywhere on the earth. I bear personal witness of how thoroughly good they are, of how hard they work, and how humbly they live. It is no trivial matter for this Church to declare to the world prophecy, seership, and revelation, but we do declare it. It is true light shining in a dark world, and it shines from these proceedings.”

While I did not include this excerpt in my response, I could have included an excerpt from Elder Russell M. Nelson’s address to the 184th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ (October 2014), “Sustaining the Prophets.” See here, last accessed November 7, 2017: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/sustaining-the-prophets?lang=eng.

My dear brothers and sisters, if the Restoration [of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith, his successors, and their associates] did anything, it shattered the age-old myth that God had stopped talking to His children. Nothing could be further from the truth. A prophet has stood at the head of God’s Church in all dispensations, from Adam to the present day. Prophets testify of Jesus Christ—of His divinity and of His earthly mission and ministry. We honor the Prophet Joseph Smith as the prophet of this last dispensation. And we honor each man who has succeeded him as President of the Church. . . .

The calling of 15 men to the holy apostleship provides great protection for us as members of the Church. Why? Because decisions of these leaders must be unanimous. Can you imagine how the Spirit needs to move upon 15 men to bring about unanimity? These 15 men have varied educational and professional backgrounds, with differing opinions about many things. Trust me! These 15 men—prophets, seers, and revelators—know what the will of the Lord is when unanimity is reached! They are committed to see that the Lord’s will truly will be done. The Lord’s Prayer provides the pattern for each of these 15 men when they pray: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Update, November 22, 2017: Considering Elder Oaks’s Recent Conference Address in Light of Other Things He Has Said and Written About the Topic – I responded still further to “The Mormon Therapist’s” criticism of Elder Oaks when I ran across a blog post at FAIRMormon.org, an LDS apologetics (defense of the faith) site.  I wrote:

Before rushing to judgment about whether Elder Oaks’s recent General Conference address about “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” is intended to hurt, to marginalize, and so on, gays and lesbians in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, perhaps one should pause consider that address in light of other things Elder Oaks has written and said on the topic of homosexuality vis-a-vis the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ and the place of gays and lesbians in the Church. See, for example, here (last accessed November 22, 2017):


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Are We Not All Sinners?

Are We Not All Sinners?  I Comment Contra an Allegedly-Prevalent Attitude Among LDS About Last June’s Orlando Nightclub Shooting

By Ken K. Gourdin

I stumbled across the following comment I made at the Latter-day Saint (Mormon) blog Times and Seasons. On June 12, 2016, security guard Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 people and wounded 58 others at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Allegedly, there is a strain of thought that is supposed to be particularly prevalent and particularly strong among LDS that, somehow, the shooter’s despicable act made him an instrument in the hands of God for gays and lesbians to “get theirs” (my phrase). I haven’t noticed this attitude. Perhaps I simply don’t run in the right circles, or perhaps the fact that my current work schedule impedes my full participation at church has prevented me from observing it.

As a Latter-day Saint, I hew to the Church’s teachings that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and that sex outside of marriage is a sin. That said, I also know that, as the Apostle Paul taught, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 KJV). Because of that, I try to follow the admonition of President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the Church’s governing First Presidency to not judge others simply because they sin differently than I do. (See President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (April 2012) “The Merciful Shall Obtain Mercy,” address delivered at the 182nd Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, accessed on line on October 17, 2017 at https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-merciful-obtain-mercy?lang=eng.) And since it need not be said that murder is the most serious sin one possibly can commit, there is no way that the Pulse nightclub murderer possibly could be an instrument in God’s hands.

A word of explanation: Each month, two Priesthood holders are asked to visit a list of families and to see to their physical and spiritual welfare, blessing the home and its residents as moved upon by the Holy Spirit and leaving a short spiritual message. This program is known as Home Teaching. Regarding the attitude I mentioned in my first paragraph, I commented as follows:

Re: “Worse” sins and “worse” consequences

Yes, in a way, there is a hierarchy of sins, e.g., consequences of not doing one’s home teaching =/= consequences of murder (I hope! ;-D Still, perhaps someone is adept enough at manipulating logic that s/he can do a sort of “six degrees of separation” thing which shows that, actually, the two, and their consequences, are equivalent.) On the other hand, sin is sin in that all sin separates us from God, no matter what the sin.

I love the LDS production, “The Prodigal Son” (1992). (Yeah, I know: sappy, campy, dated, whatever, but what can I say? I’m a sucker for sap, and camp, and datedness, and whatever!) I especially like the scene in which Jim’s real problem is laid bare. Speaking of Tom, he tells Joanne, “There’s a big difference between what he’s done and anything I might’ve done.” And she replies, “The difference I see is that one of you is trying to repent and one of you isn’t.” He asks, “Since when have I become the big sinner?” And she replies, “The minute that you let your pride convince you that you’re better than somebody else.”

Then, she goes on to say, “Just like cocaine and alcohol almost destroyed your brother, jealousy and bitterness are trying to destroy you. You’ve got to realize that it’s not just your brother with the ‘big sins’ that needs Jesus Christ. You need him just as desperately as any of the rest of us do. If you think you can overcome this bitterness by yourself, you’re just fooling yourself. Tom couldn’t overcome his problems alone, and you can’t, and I can’t. Nobody can. The bottom line is, nobody can make it halfway through this life or into the next without the Savior.”

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a lot of us have Jim’s attitude when it comes to homosexual behavior because we’ve let our pride convince us that we’re better than those who have that particular temptation. But let’s face it: if all sin had the “ick factor” that homosexual behavior does for many of us, it’d be a lot easier to keep the commandments. As much as I think homosexual behavior is a sin, I can’t demand that someone accept my paradigm. Anyone who does share my paradigm and who has that particular struggle has, in some respects, almost a uniquely tough row to hoe, so it’s easy for me to say, “Well, everyone should keep the commandments.” And while I think people should be ready to defend the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some of us seem quite eager to impart “Living Water” to others we believe desperately need it … through a fire hose set at full blast.

Say not, “Lord, I thank thee that I am not as other men are.” Rather, say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” [See Luke 18:10-14]. And let he that is without sin cast the first stone. [See John 8:3-11, esp. v. 7].

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Mother defends son, I sympathize

A Mother Defends Her Son, and I Sympathize

By Ken K. Gourdin

In August 2012, Joshua Isakson was shot by a Layton, Utah police officer whom Isakson attacked when police responded to Isakson’s home after Isakson assaulted his girlfriend and another woman. Reportedly, Isakson told witnesses that he would kill a police officer if any came to his home in response to the assault.

I commented in response to news coverage of the incident which can be found here (last accessed October 16, 2017): http://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=56149052&itype=CMSID. The man’s mother defended him against commenters who said, essentially, lock him up and throw away the key (my phrase). In response to her defense, I wrote:

I do not doubt that the man who attacked this officer was not the son you reared, and to that extent, you have my sympathies. No mother rears her children thinking that they will ever grow up to commit serious crimes which will lead them to spend significant amounts of their lives behind bars. (Even most of the worst parents are, at the most, indifferent.)

If you have an image of your son’s jam-smeared face from his boyhood as he brought you a bouquet of sunflowers, I say, hold on to that image. I hope it will carry you through the difficult times which no doubt lie ahead for you and your family.

That said, at the same time, the boy who sported that jam-smeared face is not the same person who attacked this officer, and the criminal justice system owes society a duty (however imperfectly executed) of expending its best efforts to see to it that the law abiding are not preyed upon by the dangerous.

I wish you well.

In response to her accusation that the case had been distorted in the media, I wrote:

I agree, cases should not be tried in the media. Satisfying the public’s right to know under the First Amendment while protecting the privacy of family members, friends, and acquaintances of those charged with crimes (and of those who plead guilty to them) is a very, very tricky balance, one which the media and criminal justice system stakeholders often find hard to navigate.

Perhaps the only alternative to risking having cases tried in the media is to repeal the First Amendment altogether, and as bad as that risk is, the results of that alternative would be even worse. One of the media’s roles is to shine the bright light of day on government actions to ensure that those actions are above board, and one of the ways the media does that is to provide coverage of incidents such as this one.

None of which, of course, makes life any easier on you, your son, the rest of his family, his friends, or his acquaintances. Hopefully you are able at least to understand the media’s proper role, even if we can debate whether it oversteps its proper First Amendment bounds in any given case.

Again, may you and your family find peace and strength to face the difficult times ahead.

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Utah Mormon, Through-and-Through

Yes, I Am a “Utah Mormon,” Dyed-in-the-Wool, True-Blue, Through-and-Through: Why I’m Proud to Call Myself a “Utah Mormon,” Even if Some of My Brethren and Sisters Among My Fellow Saints Who Hail From Points Hence Do, It Seems, Misguidedly Use That Term as a Derisive Epithet

By Ken K. Gourdin

Perhaps some of my readers, who do not hail from Utah and who, perhaps, are unfamiliar with the full history of flight from place to place occasioned by persecution of the Latter-day Saints at the hands of their enemies, were puzzled by my exceedingly forthright, frank response to my fellow Latter-day Saints who denigrated Utah Mormons, as described in the post “Ken Learns a Lesson About Repairing Cyberspace Rifts.” Indeed, this could be considered a follow-up to that post. The original thread can be found here (this and all other links last accessed October 2, 2017):


The post in which I excerpted my responses can be found here:


When some of your ancestors are among people who—largely, if not entirely, because of their faith—eventually, are kicked out of New York State and who flee to Pennsylvania; whereupon, eventually, they are kicked out of Pennsylvania and they flee to Ohio; whereupon, eventually, they are kicked out of Ohio and they flee to Missouri; whereupon, eventually, they are kicked out of Missouri and they flee, finally, to Utah; when, with each migration from one place to what prove (save for the last migration) to be only temporary new homes in another place, many of them suffer, many of them sicken, and some of them even die along the way; when some of one’s ancestors are among the people who went through all of that (or at least, through much of it, thanks being to God that many of my ancestors lived to see the Salt Lake Valley), yes, one tends to be a wee bit, a hair, a smidgeon, sensitive when one (and by, extension, whether one’s interlocutor wants to admit it or not, one’s ancestors) are denigrated with what one’s interlocutor intends to be a derisive epithet, “Utah Mormon.”

Yes, I’m acutely aware that no one’s mortal pedigree plays any part in ensuring one’s salvation. Yes, I believe John the Baptist’s warning to the Pharisees and the Sadducees: “Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matthew 3:9 KJV). No, no one merits anything, whether in this life or in the next, simply because of who his parents, or his grandparents, or his earlier ancestors were. In truth, much of the time, I’m tempted to feel as though the only thing my heritage bequeathed to me is a legacy— legacy of sacrifice, and faith, and fortitude that is difficult (if not impossible) for me to live up to.

No, no one should succumb to pride of place or of pedigree. No, no one should consider himself to be better than anyone else because of his religion or because of how well he lives it (or because of how well his ancestors lived it). No, no one should be snooty, or snobby, or standoffish because his faith or his values differ from the faith and the values of those around him. No, no one should seek to isolate himself from the rest of the world because of these differences. Rather, he should seek, the best he can, to be a light unto the world and a city that is set upon a hill and cannot be hid (see Matthew 5:14), and to follow Paul’s counsel to his young associate, Timothy, to “be thou an example of the believers” (1 Timothy 4:12); and to be “in the world, but not of the world.” Yes, perhaps many of those who live in areas in which Latter-day Saints are few and far between are better at doing these things than are the Saints in areas in which Church membership is more concentrated.

But many of my ancestors and their associates sacrificed greatly, gave selfless service, and suffered much (even dying, in some cases) for the privileges of calling themselves Latter-day Saints and of being free to practice the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ according to the dictates of their own conscience. They couldn’t call themselves “New York Mormons” or “Pennsylvania Mormons” or “Ohio Mormons” or “Illinois Mormons” or “Missouri Mormons” for very long because of the persecution they suffered at the hands of some of their neighbors in each of these places, and so they longed for a place where they could live their religion without fear of mobbing or of robbing, without fear of of having their women ravished and their possessions ransacked, and without fear of being assaulted or battered or killed.

Though it was a place which others derided and dismissed, not only as inhospitable but as virtually unlivable, with even more blood, sweat, toil, and tears, the early Latter-day Saints, among whom were many of my ancestors, fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy and made The Desert Blossom as a Rose (see Isaiah 35:1). Truly, they made it, as Eliza R. Snow’s work which became a Children’s Primary song says, “A Lovely Deseret.”1 Perhaps, even if you don’t share my feelings, you can understand why I might try hard to not choke up and to tear up when I sing William Clayton’s beloved Pioneer hymn, “Come, Come Ye Saints.”  In part, Brother Clayton wrote:

We’ll find the place

Which God for us prepared

Far away

In the west.

Where none shall come

To hurt or make afraid.

There the Saints.

Will be blessed.

And should we die

Before our journey’s through

Happy day.

All is well.

We, then are free

From toil, and sorrow, too.

With the just

We shall dwell.

But if our lives

Are spared again

To see the Saints

Their rest obtain,

Oh, how we’ll make

This chorus swell!

All is well,

All is well!2

So even if you mean to use this label as a derisive epithet for people you deem to be cliquish and clannish and standoffish, people who look down their noses at others who are different from them, my ancestors (and I, as one of their descendants) were and are proud to call ourselves “Utah Mormons.” The next time someone asks me if I’m a “Utah Mormon,” my answer (to quote a young Joseph F. Smith, although, reportedly, he was facing down someone hostile to the Church of Jesus Christ who was holding Brother Smith at gunpoint when he said it) will be, “Yes, Siree, Dyed-in-the-Wool, True-Blue, Through-and-Through.”3

So, if it’s all the same to you, yes, I am a “Utah Mormon,” and proud of it.

1 Eliza R. Snow (text, year unknown, ca. 1840s) “In Our Lovely Deseret,” in Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1985) no. 307.
2 William Clayton (1846) “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” in Hymns of the Churchof Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1985), no. 30.
3 There is some question as to the provenance of the account of Joseph F. Smith facing a man hostile to the Church of Jesus Christ at gunpoint as he said this. See Nate R. [sic] (November 12, 2013), “True Blue, Depending on Who’s Telling the Tale: Joseph F. Smith and the ‘Ruffians’” (Blog Post), Juvenile Instructor, accessed on line at the following address on October 2, 2017:


Apparently, the only available recitations of what allegedly happened all are second-hand and long-after-the-fact. None of that, of course, changes the fact that I’m Mormon, True-Blue, Dyed-in-the-Wool, Through-and-Through (as were my ancestors)

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Worshiping In Buildings, Not Worshiping the Buildings Themselves

Along With Others of the Devout (of Various Religious Stripes) Latter-day Saints Worship In Buildings, We Don’t Worship the Buildings Themselves: We Worship Jesus Christ

By Ken K. Gourdin

Some time ago in my cyber-travels, I happened upon LDSdaily.com (a site which, now that I’ve run across it again, I intend to add to my “Worth Regular Visits” list—which is a very short list, by the way: LDS.org, Mormondialogue.org, LDSChurchTemples.com, Dan Peterson’s Blog Sic et non at Patheos, and a few others), which has a feature on the newly-constructed Tucson Arizona Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For the feature and accompanying comments, see here (this and all other links last accessed September 20, 2017):


In response to the foregoing coverage, a poster with the Internet handle “Steve Shimek,” which, I assume, is his real name, posted, “You need to focus on Jesus Christ”—as though members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints don’t do that; see what I did there?—“and have a personal relationship with him not worshiping a building made by men” [sic]. There is, of course, a vast difference between worshiping the Temple itself, which Latter-day Saints don’t do, and worshiping in the Temple, where, in one way or another, Jesus Christ is the focus of everything we do. For more information on why Latter-day Saints build Temples, see here: https://www.lds.org/temples/why-latter-day-saints-build-temples?lang=eng.

While many people—including many Latter-day Saints—call the Church “the Mormon Church” (after The Book of Mormon, a book of scripture comparable to the Holy Bible) or “the LDS Church” (for Latter-day Saints), the proper name of the Church, as I point out above, is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and preferred style on subsequent references is simply the Church of Jesus Christ. A number of years ago, the Church of Jesus Christ’s logo was redesigned to make the Savior’s name-title its most prominent feature. (See here: https://www.brandsoftheworld.com/logo/the-church-of-jesus-christ-of-latter-day-saints.)

I responded to Mr. Shimek thus:

Mr. Shimek:

With due respect, you present a false dichotomy. No one worships the temple, and feeling excitement and reverence for what one considers a sacred space where one may draw closer to one’s Lord and Savior certainly is not inconsistent with worshiping Him. From the time Christ became separated from his earthly parents upon returning from celebrating Passover at Jerusalem and they “sought [him], sorrowing” and finally found Him in the temple and He, in turn, asked them, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (see Luke 2:44-49) on into His earthly ministry, Christ seemed to be perfectly at home in the temple.

I suspect that you will need to rely on more than a few a priori assumptions, ipse dixits, and other unsupported assertions in order to construct a rationale for why, if Christ was perfectly at home in the temple, Latter-day Saints should not follow his lead. Latter-day Saints construct these edifices at the Lord’s command, and He refers to them in Latter-day Saint Holy Writ as “[His] house” (see, e.g., Doctrine & Covenants 88:119; 109:8; 97:15; 124:24, 40; 110:7).

Of course, while, often, I don’t succeed as well as I would like to, I do try to follow the Book of Mormon’s injunction to “stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that I may be in, even until death” (see Mosiah 18:8-10, especially verse 9), and, in so doing, to glorify my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that the Temple is just one of many places where I can do that (since, according to that scripture, I’m supposed to do it everywhere), but the fact remains that some of my most significant spiritual experiences (experiences which have brought me closer to Christ) have occurred in the Temple.

Google’s Gmail lets users set up different tabs (which are essentially file folders); Facebook notifications go into my “Social” tab, which, frankly, I hardly ever look at. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of the trail of breadcrumbs one leaves in Cyberspace. Thanks to Sean Buckley for liking this comment on Facebook (a site which, frankly, is not on my “regular visits” list). Honestly, had I not seen Mr. Buckley’s (Brother Buckley’s; I assume Brother Buckley is a fellow Latter-day Saint) Facebook “Like” of my comment in my Google “Social” tab (which I only look at once every few months), I would have forgotten about this comment entirely.

For related content on the Blog, see here:


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Revisiting Coming to Terms With Slights and Tragedies

Revisiting Coming to Terms With Slights and Tragedies

By Ken K. Gourdin

Someone who uses the screen name “David” who says he’s a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has talked to many people who have left the Church posted at Patheos on BYU’s Dan Peterson’s blog regarding the advice of many members of the Church to those who are disaffected to simply “let go” of their grievances.

Many” of these people, he says, feel “abused, used, betrayed, lied to, stolen from[,] etc. . . . Saying ‘Let it go’ marginalizes them and clearly shows that you do not understand . . . why they are acting out.”

I replied:

Many, if not all, of the things you mention in your post are choices: At their core, they involve some sort of a decision, some sort of a volitional act. Leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a volitional act. I may feel greatly victimized by the Church of Jesus Christ. There may be good reasons for that. I may have been deeply and genuinely hurt or offended by something a Church leader or a fellow member did or did not do, or said or did not say.

While it is true that I did not choose that person’s act or omission, and while that act or omission may have inflicted great pain on me, I still have a choice how I respond. In that sense, the act or omission by the Church member or leader is no different than the myriad other circumstances in which I might find myself: Even if I cannot choose my circumstances, I still can choose how I respond to them. As [advice columnist] Ann Landers used to say, no one can hurt you without your consent. And as the title of a book written by Hyrum W. Smith put it (and he would be the first to admit that he, himself, is responsible for many of the circumstances which led him to write the book), “Pain is inevitable, misery is optional.”

Your comparison of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to a predator who victimizes others, and hence, your casting its detractors as heroic figures whose only desire is to spare others pain caused by the predator, is spurious and is without merit. But, yes, even people who’ve been victimized in undeniably horrible ways need, eventually, to forgive, or at least to move past the horrible things they’ve suffered. Failing to do so simply grants ultimate power over them to the people or entities who victimized them. Yes, rape is horrible, but even some rape victims (I daresay even most rape victims) heal (come to think of it, Elizabeth Smart-Gilmour is a terrific example of that: she wasn’t victimized just once, but repeatedly; still, she found a way to make a silk purse out of that sow’s ear, or, better said, to make diamonds out of manure); yes, murder is horrible, but, eventually, even some of those who’ve lost loved ones to that fate (again, I daresay even most) heal; and so on.

I had something to say once, specifically within the context of someone who has been hurt or offended in their connection with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I think it’s worth reposting here:


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