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):

http://www.ldsdaily.com/church-lds/heres-first-look-inside-tucson-arizona-temple.

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:

https://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2014/11/18/you-breathed-my-name-aloud/

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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:

https://www.greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/coming-to-terms-with-slights-and-tragedies/

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Repairing Cyberspace rifts

Ken Learns a Lesson About Repairing Rifts Which Emerge in Cyberspace

By Ken K. Gourdin

Warning to Those of Tender Eyes, of Tender Ears, and/or of Tender Years: Here Be Strong Language – A few years ago, there was a thread at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion which seemed to me to devolve into criticism about how cliquish, and clannish, and stand-offish those awful Utah Mormons are. I have ancestors who crossed the plains during the Mormon Migration, and I have little patience for such things.  (Before the thread was closed permanently [it was probably archived], I couldn’t access it because I got banned from it for the incivility in some of the exchanges I excerpt below).  I happened to run across it again and found that I could access it now that it’s been closed. 

When the thread’s originator wrote that Utah Mormons are “standoffish about others,” I responded, “Those damn Utah Mormons!  Please!  They may be less common elsewhere, I’ll admit, people like that can be found practically anywhere in the Church.”

Another poster responded, “They can; here, at least [that is, outside the so-called “Mormon Corridor” of Utah, Idaho, and Arizona], they have a harder time justifying their attitudes since they are a much smaller minority.” I responded, “Utah born and bred, and I’ve never encountered that attitude. If you all want to point the finger at Utah or a segment of it instead of cleansing your own inner vessels, go ahead.”

That poster responded:

Odd that you claim to have never encountered it. I wonder who all those talks in General Conference were directed at that addressed this exact issue – specifically among members of the church in Utah.

Having lived in Utah for quite a while, and seeing how living in a more diverse environment in the east influences cultural Mormonism, there is no doubt that there is a difference in attitude among LDS in the two areas. We just happen to be ahead of the curve in this respect; not that we don’t have problems, but in this area they are nowhere near as pronounced as in the Intermountain West.

Another poster, seeing at least some merit in my position, responded:

Patience and charity by an individual can make any ward a wonderful one to be part of. Not saying people can’t be stand offish, they certainly can, but its not a trait shared by any geographic area, a little charity towards people who are in the wrong might help. I have seen stand offishness on a number of different scales and not limited to the church.

I responded, “No, see, that’s where you’re wrong. Not only is it limited to the Church, it’s limited to a certain geographical subset of the Church. No problem. Glad I could set you straight! You’re welcome.

My original interlocutor wrote, “If President Hinckley saw the need to tell the members there to repent and be more inclusive of non-members both in their neighborhoods and in their schools, then it’s just an indication to that it is a problem in Utah.”

I responded:

You’ve asserted twice now that President Hinckley has delivered some sort of message specially tailored to those Damn Utah Mormons without backing it up. My CFR [Call for References] still stands. Perhaps my Special XFR-700 Brain Chip hasn’t been tuned to the correct frequency to allow me to receive the message correctly. And I think it’s interesting how you and others have said, essentially, “I know how Utah Mormons are; I used to live there, but of course I was never that way.” It smacks of, “Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as other men and women, especially those Damn Utah Mormons … [among whom I used to live, but Thank Thee That It Never Rubbed Off!]”

My original interlocutor wrote, “I watch enough General Conference to know that this theme continues to come up from time to time, and that it’s directed to areas where the Latter-day Saints have a significant presence.” And I responded, “So you just turn your TV down/off for the next 15-20 minutes whenever somebody starts delivering ‘that message’ to ‘those people.’ Gotcha.”

My original interlocutor continued, “It’s tough to be a religious snob in your neighborhood or school where your LDS minority status is measured in fractions of a single digit, percentage-wise.” I responded, “The only religious snobbery I’ve seen in this thread has come from you and those of your ilk whose position is, essentially, ‘Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as those Damn Utah Mormons.'”

My original interlocutor continued:

No one has actually said this or even intimated this. All that was stated is that some people (not all, as you have misrepresented it) in Utah have a particular problem with not being inclusive, and the brethren are aware of it and address it in General Conference (see Elder Ballard’s October 2001 talk for an example). It’s directed at Utah, because the problem is amplified due to the concentration of Latter-day Saints there. It doesn’t occur at the same level anywhere else.

I responded:

I figured it out! I listened to Elder Ballard’s [October 2001 General Conference address], and all I was hearing was this general message about inclusiveness. What I was taking from it was, “If you’re not reaching out to other people who are different from yourself as you might, wherever you are (and regardless whether the difference is political, racial, socioeconomic, or what have you), you should reach out more.” Then I realized what my problem was, and the talk finally started making more sense. I just needed mentally to add the phrase “If You’re A Mormon In Utah” after every sentence Elder Ballard spoke. You have given me the key of understanding! Thank you, [screen name redacted]! Thank you!!

My original interlocutor continued, “. . . Here’s a clue for you since your meter basically reads zero.” I responded, “Well, that’s gotta go down as one of the cleverest putdowns in the history of Cyberspace interaction.” My original interlocutor continued, “[I]t never happened. [That is, no one ever singled out Utah Mormons for criticism as being unusually or especially cliquish or standoffish.]” I responded, “That seems to me to be the equivalent of peeing on my leg and telling me it’s raining, but since you’re muuuuuch smarter than I am, I’ll defer to you.

My original interlocutor continued:

Your knee-jerk, inane sarcasms, along with your shallow denials about what’s really going on, do more damage to the perception of Utahns than anything I could say. You’re correct in one thing. There are Damn Utah Mormons, and you are clearly one of them. That you seem to be unaware of not only this problem in Utah, but of the fact that it is mentioned from time to time in General Conference is not particularly impressive.”

And I responded:

Well … I beg your humble pardon for absolutely, utterly, and completely failing to impress you. Having failed to do so, I must say that I’ve almost completely lost my will to live! I’ll have to be sure to add “Thoroughly Lick [Screen name redacted]’s (Whoever The Hell You Are) Boots” to my To-Do List so that I might possibly regain it … You will, of course, have to provide me with some IRL [in real life] information to facilitate my licking of your boots, but I won’t hold my breath!

My original interlocutor continued, It certainly isn’t worth my while to respond any further to a CFR [Call for References] that is based on that kind of ignorance.”

I responded:

“You’re so ignorant that I’m not going to bother responding to your CFR [Call for References]!” Hi-freaking-larious!! You’re right. I’ve never seen a General Conference message directed specifically toward us Damn Utah Mormons (“they” and “them” rather than “we” and “us.”) But you just go right on turning your TV down or off when you begin to hear one of those “they” and “them” messages, intended for us Damn Utah Mormons!

Another poster wrote:

Raised in the church in Arizona. Lived in the west. Cliques in all but great folks everywhere. Mormons seem snobby because we do so much together. But we try to love and include all, if they let us. I now live in Utah and there are only 4 members on my street. Still have lots of friends, just can’t talk as much until I learn more of their language. I could be snooty but I really like friends.

I responded, “You’re an outlier. You need an XML-700 [Mind] Chip Adjustment. You’ve forgotten the Fourteenth Article of Faith: ‘We Damn Utah Mormons believe in being snooty, snobby, and standoffish.’”

Another poster wrote:

I’ve been in a lot of churches (recently) and have to say, as far as being “welcoming”, my Ward members were some of the most welcoming people I have ever experienced in a church. That might have had something to do with the smallness of the congregation, more than with the fact that they were LDS, because my second best experience was in a small Reformed Christian Church..very nice and very welcoming people there, as well. Bad experiences (as far as feeling lost and left out) were in the big mega Christian Churches. It was kind of like living in a big city. Everyone keeps to themselves or has their own little cliques. There are so many people coming and going, with like five or six different services over a weekend, that no one even knows (or seems to care) if you are new or not. Very hard to break in and feel “at home” in those places, IMHO [in my humble opinion]. My Ward was extremely friendly, by comparison.

I responded, “You’re an outlier. You, too, need an XML-700 [Mind] Chip Adjustment, and you, too, have forgotten the 14th Article of Faith.” Both my original interlocutor and I eventually were banned from the thread by moderators, which probably was a good thing. Afterward, I felt bad about the way I treated him, and I began subtly offering my support in threads on areas where we were in agreement by giving him reputation points and occasionally chipping in with brief expressions of agreement. I don’t know where we crossed the threshold back into Cyber-friendship. It was probably a subtle, gradual thing.

In a subsequent thread a few years later, after another poster cut off dialogue with me on the issue under discussion, accusing me of bombast (whereupon I changed the “moniker”/tag line below my screen name to “Master of Bombast”) the poster with whom I’d had the a serious disagreement detailed above before we managed to patch things up between us wrote:

As an aside to all of this, Ken is a pretty decent fellow, so if possible, I’d hold out the olive branch and see if you can patch things up. He can be pretty scathing if you press one of his hot buttons, as I did at one point (he was actually rather restrained with you, from my viewpoint), but we’ve gotten over it. And no, I’m not going to tell you what that hot button is that I pressed. He’s a good guy to be on the same side with, especially if you know how to dialogue with him.

I deflected, tongue-in-cheek, his attempts to defend me. I wrote:

Nonsense!

I have The Devil Himself on speed dial!

Women, children, and small animals everywhere flee in abject terror at the mere mention of my name!

Even mere weeds refuse to grow within a five-mile radius of my home!

I had a pet maggot once, but even he found my company distasteful after a remarkably short period of time!

I’m “worthy” of mention only with history’s most infamous figures: Mao, Stalin, Hitler … me!

When I was born, the doctor slapped the wrong end!

Shall I go on? :crazy:

The Deseret News’/Church News‘ Scott Lloyd, whom I’d selected as my Vice-President of Damn Utah Mormons, then asked, “Ken went after you at one point? I don’t even remember that. Did you rag on Utahns or something?”

I responded, “Hello, Mr. Vice-President.”

Whereupon Scott Lloyd replied:

So curiosity got the better of me, and I looked it up. Holy regionalism, Batman! I do remember that now, very well. I had just forgotten it was [screen name redacted] who was involved. What a difference nearly four years makes! Thank God for “water under the bridge,” right, guys?

I replied, “No doubt.[Screen name redacted], you know I love you, Bro!

I should clarify that even as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, occasionally, I have felt more included by my fellow Latter-day Saints than at other times.  Most of the time, I’ve been able to realize that my failure to feel included is less a matter of reality than it is a matter of perception.  In any event, there have been times when I’ve told myself, “Well, if a bridge is going to be built here, I’m going to have to be the one to build it,” and/or, “Well, if any reaching out is going to occur here, I’m going to have to be the one to do it.”  In any case, it’s not exactly fair to expect human beings (even though we, as Latter-day Saints, share the same faith), who have their own challenges, priorities, needs, prejudices, and so on, to be able to guess accurately what’s in my mind and in my heart.

As part of the Latter-day Saint Student Association, the Church’s organization for college students, formerly, the Church of Jesus Christ sponsored fraternity chapters of Sigma Gamma Chi (which stood for “Service to God and Country”) and sorority chapters of Lambda Delta Sigma (which stood for another appellation frequently applied to the Church and to its members, Latter-day Saints).  I had an outstanding experience in Sigma Gamma Chi while studying for my Associate Degree at Dixie College (now Dixie State University) in St. George, Utah, and I was looking forward to replicating that experience when I continued my studies at Ogden, Utah’s Weber State University.

While, again, this was less a matter of reality than it was a matter of perception, when I went to a meeting of Sigma Gamma Chi at Weber State, I felt that it was already a well-established clique into which I would have trouble integrating.  I probably should have given its “powers-that-were” another shot (or two or three), but I never went back.  For more on my Sigma Gamma Chi experience, see here (last accessed September 19, 2017):

https://www.greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/greek-orgs-opportunities-for-service-and-fellowship-or-excuses-to-party/

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glass-Half-Full

Glass-Half-Full: Counting My Blessings

By Ken K. Gourdin

Perhaps this will be an appropriate follow-up to “Suicidal, But Sane.” How much do we take for granted? Professor Dan Peterson, an associate professor of Arabic and of Islamic studies at Provo, Utah’s, Brigham Young University, points out on his blog Sic et non at Patheos that even many people in the first world of relatively modest means are capable of a depth and of a breadth of human experience that people in former ages could scarcely fathom. His post can be found here (last accessed September 19, 2017): http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2017/08/orbis-non-sufficit.html#disqus_thread.

Most of Verdi’s contemporaries never heard his great operas or other musical works. Most of Shakespeare’s contemporaries never saw his marvelous plays. Most of Picasso’s contemporaries never saw his wondrous works of art. Want to listen to some of history’s great music? Want to experience great literature? Want to view its most notable works of art? All of this and more is literally at one’s fingertips, a few key strokes and/or a few mouse clicks away. Too poor to own your own computer? No problem. Simply take a trip to your local library.

Though the tone of Dan’s post is wistful—lamenting, due to limits in human cognition, perception, mortal lifespan, and so on—what he will never see and what he will never experience (the works of future Verdis, of future Shakespeares, of future Picassos, and so on), my reply takes a “glass-half-full-rather-than-half-empty” approach: Limited though it has been, where I, personally have traveled; the variety of food I have eaten; the variety of cultures I have experienced; and the variety of art, literature, and other such things I have seen, read, and otherwise experienced, has been virtually unparalleled in human history.

If I’m in the mood for Mexican cuisine, or for Indian cuisine, or for Middle Eastern cuisine, I can satisfy much of what my palate might be craving by visiting establishments which are all within a few blocks of my apartment in Pleasant Grove, Utah. If I don’t feel like leaving the apartment (though that does limit my options somewhat, as not all of these establishments deliver), (relatively) authentic Chinese or Italian cuisine is but a few keystrokes and/or a few mouse clicks, and/or a simple telephone call away.

Through most of recorded history, a person’s ability to see anything with his own eyes or to experience anything firsthand has been limited to what exists within a few miles (at most, a few dozen miles) of his own home. While I’ve done much of my traveling on someone else’s dime, I’ve visited, off-hand, eleven U.S. states (and there are probably more my quick count and short memory are missing); Mexico (a number of times, from “Hey, as long as we’re here, let’s cross the border—simply to say we did it” to studying abroad and visiting or staying in several Mexican states and in 18 Mexican cities in a 34-day whirlwind tour; and Europe (Spain for a little over a week and Italy for a little over two).

Given enough resources, I could visit virtually anywhere in the world within a matter of a few hours (within a day or two, at most) and could see virtually anything with my own eyes—and even if I cannot do so in person, thanks to modern technology, I can do so remotely, cutting out otherwise-necessary travel time and doing so virtually instantaneously. Johnson Oatman, who I mention in my reply below, wrote the Christian hymn, “Count Your Blessings,” the chorus of which counsels, “Count your many blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done.” I replied:

I admire the breadth of your experience (limited though it has been, as you point out). For all that I think, at times, my own life might leave to be desired, I, too, have had a breadth of experience which has been virtually unparalleled in human history: I’ve seen the ruins of ancient Rome with my own eyes; I’ve climbed El Pirámide del Sol at Teotihuacán MX; I have been swimming with sharks off of the coast of Hawai’i and lived to tell about it (I was in a nice, safe cage, although, given my would-be chosen profession, I would have been safe anyway: You’ve heard that old joke, haven’t you? “Why don’t sharks eat lawyers? Professional courtesy.” While I’m on that subject, I just thought up a new punchline: “Why don’t sharks eat lawyers? C’mon, man! Even sharks have standards!”) I’ve seen Gaudí’s La Sagrada Familia [Cathedral in Barcelona, Spain], others of his brilliant works, and the monastery at Montserrat with my own eyes; I’ve seen the lighthouse at Makapu’u Point, Hawai’i; I’ve heard a live performance of Handel’s “Messiah,” and of other great musical works; I’ve read Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and other works of great literature; I’ve eaten authentic Chinese, Greek, Mexican, Spanish, Italian, and other fare (the latter three while visiting their countries of origin); I have performed (as part of a large group in both cases, of which it must be said that I was least among its members) at the same venue at which well-known celebrities have sung and have otherwise performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (a venue which if it isn’t already, will become known as one of Utah’s great halls) …

I could go on. I’ve been feeling a bit melancholy of late, as though my life lacks a broader meaning and purpose. It’s too easy to focus on what I don’t have. I’ve now decided that, whatever it may lack, if I were to die tomorrow, it’s been a great life! Thanks for giving me the opportunity to take Johnson Oatman’s advice.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Suicidal, But Sane

Suicidal, But Sane

By Ken K. Gourdin

For far longer than I care to admit, now, the Dog of Clinical Depression has alternated between nipping at my heels and threatening to devour me whole.  Clinical Depression is so prevalent that even if you, yourself, cannot relate, chances are very good that you know someone who can.

I’ve written before on the Blog of the very tempting option of simply deciding that I don’t want to deal with my seemingly-intractable, seemingly-insoluble problems, pulling the covers over my head when the alarm goes off, and singing to myself, in Eddy Arnold’s immortal words, “Make the world go away!  And get it off of my shoulders …”  Or, to borrow and slightly alter the refrain and the title from The Fifth Dimension song, “One less … phone to answer!  One less … angry call!  One less clueless CSR … to pick up after! One less … phone to answer!”

I’ve also written before of my seemingly-perpetual job dissatisfaction, underemployment woes, and resulting economic limitations.  It does seem as though no matter what else is on my resume, as soon as someone sees that I have experience answering phones, that’s what he wants to hire me for.  Likewise, I’ve written of my circular odyssey of leaving a job answering phones nearly 20 years ago, at least partly swallowing my fear and uncertainty, finally applying to law school (but never completely conquering the fear and uncertainty), and taking a circuitous route through law school before finally graduating … only to be denied admission to the Bar, based largely (if not entirely) on a complex behavioral health history.

Sometimes I’ve said (and only half-jokingly, at that) that if I had received a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from MIT summa cum laude, a potential employer, upon seeing such a credential on my resume, would say, “Ohh, sorry!  Our theoretical physicist position has been filled, but I do see here that you also have phone experience, and we have another department that answers phones …”

All of that is a long-winded, perhaps unnecessary prelude to introducing the following piece of poetry, which I also wrote longer ago, now, than I care to admit.  Despite its fatalistic tone in spots, I intend it, perhaps oddly  ) to be life-affirming.  If you know someone who is in crisis, and/or someone who is contemplating suicide, please encourage him or her to get help (and do as much as you can to facilitate getting that help).  Call 1-800-SUICIDE, visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org, or contact your local behavioral health agency.

Suicidal, But Sane

Everybody thinks you’re crazy

When you talk of suicide.

But no matter where you run,

There’s still no place to hide.

Somehow it’ll find you,

This Monster we call Life,

The one with a thousand hands,

And each one of them has a knife.

No one gets out of this world alive

So why even try to stay?

How long can you run from the Monster?

Maybe another hour, maybe another day?

But still, I’ll keep on running

As long as I can remain.

It’s true I’m suicidal,

But it’s also true I’m sane.

© Ken K. Gourdin, 1988

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On God’s Alleged Favoritism

A Meditation on God’s Alleged Favoritism

By Ken K. Gourdin

A not-infrequent theme at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion, to hear atheists/agnostics/the disaffected/detractors tell it, is that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that they’re “special” in God’s eyes (my phrasing) such that they receive even trivial blessings from Him while others must endure terribly unfavorable and (in mortal terms) unfair circumstances, be victims of evil, suffering, and wickedness, and so on.  The question, in more general terms (my phrasing), is, “Why does God bless only the special?”

God cares about about such a trivial matter as someone losing his keys, on the one hand, so the common complaint goes, but cannot be bothered to save someone from (for example) being raped, on the other hand (or, He saves one person but not another from the latter fate)?  I admit, I can readily see the hand of God in some (many) of my trials, yet I cannot understand why He has not seen fit to grant other blessings which I have sought earnestly.  Indeed, the juxtaposition between blessings granted, on the one hand, and blessings denied or delayed, on the other hand, is a puzzlement to me, with my limited, finite, mortal perspective.

Essentially, that means I fall into both camps. In some things (indeed, in many things) I am among the “special” (though I’m really not so special) to whom God, in His mercy and love and as befits His perhaps-unfathomable eternal purposes, has granted bounteous blessings. On the other hand, (while I admit that any trial I have been called upon to endure pales in comparison to trials others have endured; for example, my brother lost his first wife and my niece and nephew lost their mother to cancer), I have also been exposed to the considerable buffetings of mortality (such as the dog of clinical depression, which alternates between nipping at my heels and threatening to devour me whole; perpetual underemployment, work dissatisfaction, and resulting financial difficulties; and so on) and have wondered from the depths of my soul, “Is there no balm in Gilead?”  My constant mantra is, “Could things be worse?” and, as much as part of me might hate to admit it, the answer’s always “Yes, they could always be worse.”

So, while I might not agree with it, I certainly can understand the “Why does God, if there is one, seem to love some more than He loves others?”  perspective.  I can understand the “How is it that I, or that my loved ones, have not found favor in God’s sight?” perspective.   One fallacy to which we mortals often fall victim is that we equate God’s blessings with His love, or we equate His failure to grant a desired blessing  (even a deserved blessing) with His displeasure or His disfavor.  My sister-in-law is one of the finest human beings I have ever known.  I don’t know why God saw fit to allow her and her family to go through what they went through (are going through?).  But I have faith (sometimes weak, sometimes wavering faith, but faith nonetheless) that He does.

Prompting my first contribution to the thread, another poster wrote, “I’m not a fan of the ‘candy machine’ God–you put in the tokens, push a button, and goodies come out.”  I responded, “Neither am I,” and posted a link to something I posted a few years ago on the blog on “God as Santa Claus” (this and all other links last accessed September 9, 2017):

https://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/on-gods-injustice/.

Later, I added:

If one of the purposes of this life is to learn to trust God, let us be in whatever circumstance we might find ourselves, then it wouldn’t do for Him to dole out blessings as though He were Santa Claus, nor would it do for Him always to withhold them as though He were an arbitrary, crotchety old miser (something akin to, say, Ebeneezer Scrooge).

Though it might seem to us, from the outside looking in at others, as though He does the first or the second of those two things inordinately in the lives of people we know or of whose lives we are aware, often, those assessments are based on a single snapshot in time.  At any given moment, in any single life, of course it’s going to seem to us as though He does the first of those things more than He does the second (or vice-versa).

As unfair as it might seem to us (with our limited, myopic, mortal perspective), whatever else He is or is not, God is also a Sovereign.  I don’t know why it seems as though God, to this point, has withheld certain blessings I have earnestly sought, but even the thick-headed, dull-of-heart, dull-of-mind, often-unseeing, often-unfeeling natural man that is Kenngo1969 [my screen name] has seen and felt the Hand of God in his life in unmistakable ways often enough to know that even if I don’t understand His perhaps-unfathomable larger and long-term purposes, I can trust Him when His servants say, “All things work together for the Good of them that love God” (Romans 8:28); and “I know not the meaning of all things; nevertheless, I know that [God] loveth His children” (1 Nephi 11:17); and “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15); and so on.

In response to someone who posted news of the tragic death of a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I wrote:

I don’t deny (and I don’t think anyone here whose views are similar to my own would deny) that it’s easy to conclude, if one only looks at evidence from this mortal Second Act alone, that life is not fair.  The thing is, we don’t remember the premortal First Act, and the post-mortal Third Act hasn’t happened yet.  One must consider the three-act, premortal-mortal-postmortal drama in toto before reaching any such conclusion.

Later, I posted, “I was searching for something unrelated, and I happened upon this address/article by Elder D. Todd Christofferson [of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ] from 2012.  I think it might have relevance to this discussion:

https://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/01/recognizing-gods-hand-in-our-daily-blessings?lang=eng.”

Using myself as an example (since, as I mentioned earlier, I fall into both camps, the “favored” upon whom God has bestowed considerable blessings and the “why does God bless some but not others” camps, respectively), I posted:

One reason why God doesn’t intervene to prevent all of the “bad” stuff from happening is His commitment to the free will of His children.  Another reason why He doesn’t so intervene is because that would obviate the need to have faith in Him.  (If I were absolutely certain God would answer all my prayers in exactly the way I wanted Him to, there would be no need for me to have faith in Him.)  Another reason why He doesn’t so intervene is because the evil that certain members of humankind perpetrate upon their fellows will stand as a testimony against them and will condemn them at the judgment.  (God will not be mocked.)  Another reason why He doesn’t so intervene is because this is, by nature and by design, a fallen world in which we all, to a greater or lesser extent, must learn to deal with (to put it very mildly, in many cases, I realize) less-than-ideal circumstances.  Another reason why He doesn’t intervene is because to do so would circumvent His (perhaps-unfathomable, at least to the mortal mind, anyway) larger purposes.  Another potential reason why He might not intervene is because whatever else He is or is not, He is also a Sovereign.  And so on.

I have no need to explain why, in specific cases, God did or did not intervene in a certain circumstance, or why He chose to intervene in a certain way in a certain circumstance (or chose not to). I don’t know why God, apparently, chose not to intervene before I had two failed hip reconstructions (with all of the attendant physical consequences ensuing); I’m exceedingly grateful, however, that He chose to intervene by guiding a surgeon’s hand in three consecutive subsequent operations: It’s entirely possible that I would not be walking at all today, let alone being able to do so relatively free of pain, if He had not.  Conversely, I don’t know why God apparently has seen fit to withhold certain other blessings I have earnestly sought, but I have faith that doing so, for whatever reason, is more in line with His purposes for me.

Meanwhile, the standing of those recipients (or non-recipients) of blessings before God is between God and them; and my standing before God is between God and me.  I dunno.Perhaps the recipients of those interventions really are better than I am, but, in any case, it doesn’t do any good for me, with my “toddler’s” perspective (in Eternal terms) to shake my widdo fists and stomp my widdo feet at how “unfair” the Sovereign Lord of the Universe is being, or to declare, in a fit of “Spiritual Sibling Rivalry,” “See?!  I always knew Heavenly Dad loves you best!” Nor would it do any good for them to respond likewise to the blessings I have received.

Another poster critiqued my proffered notion that God intervenes in the lives of His children by stating that in doing so, He removes free will.  I responded:

I don’t think it removes free will for Him to intervene as suits His purposes [emphasis mine, in original].  It would remove free will if He always intervened.  And again, this is the Second Act.  We can’t remember the First Act, and the Third Act hasn’t happened yet. (Notwithstanding the fact that I was voted “Best Philosopher” of the THS Class of 1988, I lack the philosophical chops to say more than that, so I’ll have to leave the philosophical defense of my position to people who are smarter than I am. )

My skeptical interlocutor then asked, “Did God guide just your surgeons [sic] hands, just his hands when operating on you, or does He guide all surgeons [sic] hands all the time regardless of wether [sic] they believe in Him or not?”  I responded, “With due respect, you need to reread the post to which you are responding.  Reread it as many times as necessary, for comprehension this time.

My skeptical interlocutor then asked, “Why did God remove your surgeons [sic] free will by intervening and guiding His hands?”

I responded:

He didn’t remove His free will.  (You’re seriously mischaracterizing my position if you think I believe that, absent God’s intervention, this surgeon would actively have done harm to me.)  Ever hear of the Hippocratic Oath?  The fact that this sawbones (as an old law professor of mine used to call them) is a damn good surgeon didn’t hurt.  And why are you ignoring all of the other reasons I mentioned in my previous post for Bad Things Happening to Good People in favor of focusing on this one?

My skeptical interlocutor responded, “With due respect, I’ve reread your post and comprehended it. My question still stands.”  I replied, “However many times you have read it, nonetheless, it seems that, alas!, you still don’t understand it.”

My skeptical interlocutor responded, “Where do I insinuate the surgeon would have actively done you harm without God’s intervention?”  I replied, “You stated that God ‘removed [my surgeon’s] free will by intervening and guiding his hands.’”  (The implication of that statement, being, of course, that, left to his own devices, my surgeon would have been apathetic, or careless, or even that he might have done me harm affirmatively).

My skeptical interlocutor then asked, “If God hadn’t guided your surgeons [sic] hands, would he have done a worse job?”  I responded, “I don’t know.  I have no empirical, objective evidence for the belief that God guided my surgeon’s hands.  The only evidence I have for that belief is that God told me He did so [emphasis mine, in original].  I know that will drive you crazy, but you’ll simply have to deal with it the best you can. ;)

My skeptical interlocutor then asked, “Does your surgeon recognise that he wouldn’t have done as good a job but for God guiding his hands?”  And I responded:

I don’t know.  He knows I believe that, because I have told him so.  I do know that the type of surgery he performed on me is incredibly complex.  I do know that the postoperative complication rate is very high, and that the postoperative prognosis isn’t very good even when the surgery is successful (even when it is performed by the best in the field).  I do know that a high percentage of people who undergo surgical operations such as the one(s) I underwent have additional surgery to address further problems (even when it is performed by the best in the field).  All of that having been said, neither he nor anyone else has operated on me in the last 32 years.

My skeptical interlocutor then asked, “Does your surgeon do a worse job when left to operate solely relying upon his own training, experience and skill?”  And I responded:

I don’t know.  I do know that he keeps my file separate from those of the rest of his patients and former patients.  I think he considers my case and its outcome especially notable (see my previous paragraph).  I’ve never explicitly asked him if that is the case; it’s simply something I have inferred from the tenor of our conversations over the years.  (And we have had a considerable number of conversations in the years since I “officially” was his patient; more than the norm, I gather, but I don’t have any evidence for that, either, so sue me. ;))  A few years ago, we needed some medical documentation for something (a handicap parking placard/plate for a vehicle, I think it was), and my father went to visit him.  A member of the doctor’s staff said, “I’ll pull the file,” and he said, “That won’t be necessary,” and signed off immediately on whatever it was.

Notwithstanding the fact that I haven’t “officially” been his patient for 32 years, his memory of my case seems especially vivid.  Most doctors, and especially most surgeons (and this is not an indictment of them), if a patient were to tell them that the patient needed something (especially after that length of time), would say, “Let me get back to you after I’ve pulled and reviewed the file,” or something similar.  Not him.

Later in the thread, I posted (bold mine, in original):

What you, apparently, are missing (or downplaying, or ignoring, perhaps because it doesn’t fit your [apparently] godless paradigm or what you do or do not want to believe about a God who does exist), [screen name redacted], is that I haven’t told separate stories in this thread: I haven’t told one story about an 11-13 year old kid whom God apparently didn’t like, or toward whom He was ill-disposed, or toward whom He was, at best, apathetic, and so He allowed that 11-13 year old to suffer through two failed hip reconstructions and their painful, grueling, apparently-fruitless aftermath, on the one hand, and another story about a 14-15 year old kid whom he liked, or toward whom he was well-disposed, or toward whom (fortunately!) He was not apathetic, on the other hand, and so He blessed that 14-15 year old and the surgeon who operated on him through three subsequent successful operations.

The young man who went through all of that, the initial two failures and the subsequent three successes?  Same kid.  So my experience can’t an instance of “we’re back to the opening of the thread: apparently God loves some more than He loves others.”

My skeptical interlocutor then responded to my denial that my entire experience (the first two dismal failed operations and their difficult aftermath, followed by three successes despite long odds) still could be summed up by saying “God loves some more than He loves others,” “Yes, it can.”

I responded (bold in original):

No, it can’t, because, again, you’re conveniently ignoring or downplaying my own not-inconsiderable physical and emotional suffering through those first two failed operations. God could have intervened then, too, but, for whatever reason, He did not.  (I’m not trying to be a “Drama King” here … I’m just sayin’!)  I don’t know precisely what God’s purposes were for choosing to not intervene in the first two operations while intervening in the latter three, but I choose … perhaps naively, perhaps foolishly, from your point of view, and that’s fine … to trust Him.

Perhaps, rather than saying that God chose to not intervene, I could have pointed out that, in fact, He may have done so in ways I didn’t perceive. As much as I might have wished (indeed, as much as I might still wish, even today) for a better outcome, perhaps the outcome would have been even worse, had it not been for his unperceived intervention. Indeed, that’s true of any horrible, undesirable circumstance any of us might face. My interlocutor continued, “Because whilst your version of God was guiding your surgeons [sic] hands, he was allowing children to suffer at the hands of their abusers.”

I responded:

Yep, and he also allowed a child to suffer through two failed major operations and their physically- and emotionally-painful, grueling, ultimately-fruitless aftermath before that, too.  I freely admit, that I don’t know all of the reasons for that, but I choose to believe that He does.

My skeptical interlocutor then continued, “If God can physically intervene in your reality, then He has the ability to physically intervene in everyone’s reality.”

And I replied:

I’m not sure what you mean by “physically intervene.”  When I posit that God guides someone’s actions, I’m not suggesting that He intervenes in the same manner in which, say, an earthly parent might guide a child’s hands as the child learns to tie his shoes, nor am I suggesting that that’s what happened when I use such phrases as, “God guided the hand of my surgeon.”

My interlocutor then continued:

So when a child prays for the abuse to stop, and it doesn’t, it irrefutably means that’s because He chose not to [intervene to make it stop]. What kind of God chooses to not stop child abuse when He has the ability to do so, whilst seeing fit to help your surgeon perform the operation on you?

I responded:

The same God who allowed my sister-in-law, who is one of the finest people I have ever known, to die a horrible death from cancer.  I don’t know all of the reasons why God, despite many fervent, faithful prayers that she be delivered from that fate, did not deliver her, and I would, indeed, think that is a tragedy, if I also thought that her existence was due to nothing more than more-or-less random biological processes and that, once her life was snuffed out, she simply succumbed to the void, but I don’t think her existence is due to nothing more than simple biology, so I don’t think she simply succumbed to the void.  I realize the only thing that will convince you of the soundness of my position is your own surprise at not having ceased to exist entirely when you shuffle off this mortal coil, so I suppose we’ll simply have to wait to see who’s right. ;)

And I’m sure Elizabeth Smart prayed, fervently and frequently (if not more-or-less constantly) for her abuse to stop.  I don’t know why those prayers, along with those of her family and friends for her swift safe return, were not answered in the way she, her family, and her friends hoped they would be (at least, not at first), but I’m sure that they have faith that God does.

We can’t always choose our circumstances in this life: I couldn’t choose not to have those operations (any of them, not just the ones that failed) if I wanted to enjoy the degree of orthopedic health I enjoy today; my sister-in-law couldn’t choose to not get cancer; and Elizabeth Smart couldn’t choose to not get kidnapped, raped daily for nine months, and otherwise abused.  Often, the only thing we can choose is how we respond to our circumstances, as unfair and undesirable as those circumstances may be.  If you believe that, ultimately, how we choose to respond to our circumstances matters only for the rest this life (which, frankly, is the equivalent of believing that, ultimately, such choices don’t matter), that’s your choice.  I believe … and choose … differently.

Another poster asked, “How do you explain those of us who asked, begged even, and got nothing?”  And another poster added, “That’s what I’ve been wondering,” adding that his family had been searching for information on his father’s relatives so that they could perform proxy ordinances for them in the Temple, without success, and ending hopefully, “Maybe in the millennium,” the thousand-year period of peace prophesied following Christ’s return. I responded:

I’m sorry for what you both have been through and for what you’re both going through. By no means have my contributions to this thread been intended for me to set myself up as any kind of a paragon of virtue or an example of answered prayers. The truth is that when it comes to answered prayers, for the vast majority of us, life is a mixed bag: Perhaps there are found keys, but, if not, hopefully, there are kind locksmiths who can help us out of our predicament without charging us nearly what their work is worth (or perhaps without even charging us at all); perhaps there are miraculous cures, but, if not, hopefully, there is strength to endure and there is perspective gained despite (indeed, perhaps even because) of dire circumstances; and so on.

Indeed, my contributions to the thread are intended to illustrate this “mixed-bag” perspective: For every righteously-desired blessing I’ve been granted, at least one other blessing has been delayed or denied. I’ve posted at length here about the protracted, circuitous route I continue to travel in search of financial security and occupational fulfillment. This is especially puzzling to me in light of an experience I had in the Nauvoo Temple that I posted about on another thread. I have a lot of questions to which I don’t have the answer. I have simply determined to not allow what, as yet, I do not know to persuade me to doubt the reality of the Oliver Cowdery, “Did-I-not-speak-peace-to-your-mind-concerning-the-matter” moments I have experienced. I have simply determined to not allow what I do know to be held hostage to what, as yet, I do not know.

Here’s an account of my Nauvoo Temple Initiatory experience:

While I was wondering, in light of the denial of licensure [to practice law], what I should do next, I wasn’t necessarily overly troubled by it, and I wasn’t necessarily actively seeking answers. I visited the Nauvoo Temple where my aunt and uncle were serving as temple missionaries at the time and had the chance, for the first time since receiving my own endowment nearly 20 years before, to do initiatories. While I wouldn’t expect that passage to strike anyone else in the same way nor with the same force that it struck me, a particular passage from that ordinance struck me with unusual force: it talks about wielding a certain instrument in defense of certain assets. It made me think that this long, circuitous, tortuous odyssey I have undertaken in an effort to find a comfortable career niche might not have been completely in vain, after all.

Lack of progress on that front in the more than ten years since then (indeed, given the careless psych eval I received from an idiot psychologist, in some ways, I have regressed) makes that experience all the more perplexing, but, nonetheless, I still cannot deny what I experienced: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15).

My original skeptical interlocutor then asked, “Let me say again, I’m glad your surgery went well.  Can you look at it objectively with a wider lens and perhaps consider that you have been drawing a target where the arrow fell? Isn’t that a possibility in cases where divine intervention is claimed?”

I responded:

Anything is possible. In matters of faith, we’re all our own triers of fact with respect to what evidence we choose to admit, what evidence we choose to exclude, how much weight we choose to give any given piece of evidence we choose to admit, and so on. Given the myriad possible different perspectives, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were to choose to exclude evidence I have chosen to admit, were to choose to weigh the evidence I have admitted differently than I do, and so on.

Another poster responded, apparently feeling that the example of prayers offered for help in finding the information necessary to perform proxy ordinances in Latter-day Saint Temples for loved ones is too trivial, “I had something a little more crisis-oriented in mind, like terminal illness, that kind of thing.”

I responded:

I don’t know why the many fervent prayers offered in my sister-in-law’s behalf that she be delivered from the horrible fate which befell her of dying from cancer were not answered in the way those who offered those prayers would have liked them to be, but I have faith that God does.

Later on, I responded to the implicit contention that finding information on one’s ancestors so that a Latter-day Saint can perform proxy ordinances for those ancestors in a Temple is a trivial matter which is unworthy of Divine intervention still further.  Not to go all “Church Lady” from Saturday Night Live on my readers or anything (“Could it be . . . Satan?!”), but Latter-day Saints do believe that a battle began in the premortal realm between Satan and those of Heavenly Father’s spirit children who chose to follow him, on the one hand, and those of His spirit children who chose to follow Heavenly Father’s plan and come to earth, on the other hand. See Revelation 12 in the Holy Bible.

I wrote:

I think [screen name redacted]’s example is a good one, though. One would think that a righteous desire, a purely spiritually-oriented goal, an effort to keep one of Heavenly Father’s commandments to seek out our kindred dead, would be something regarding which Heavenly Father would most readily grant blessings which His children seek. Opposition in all things, living in a fallen world, and similar conditions seem ever-present. I can only say that if we allow such “fallen-world” conditions to convince us that God doesn’t love us, then the Adversary wins even though he hasn’t persuaded us to commit any “great or malignant” sins, to use Joseph Smith’s phrase. Again, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15).

Bottom line? I think the extent to which any mortal—with limited powers of perception, cognition, reasoning, and so on—feels he can trust God is greatly influenced by what else that mortal believes about Him—what other attributes that mortal believes He possesses. With the Book of Mormon prophet-king Benjamin, I “[b]elieve in God; believe that He is, and that He created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.”

Because of my personal experience with God—even though much of that experience involves perceiving Him only dimly, “through a glass, darkly,” to use the Apostle Paul’s phrase (1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV)—I know He exists. As the Book of Mormon prophet, Nephi, tells us of the Savior, so it is with His Father, too: “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world” (2 Nephi 26:24).

It’s true that I don’t understand the reason why God does everything He does—and why He refrains from doing some things I might wish He would do (see Isaiah 55:8-9: God’s thoughts and His ways are higher than are our thoughts and our ways, because the heavens are higher than the earth)—but, whatever happens that I might wish doesn’t happen, and whatever doesn’t happen that I might wish would happen, my assurance of the fact that God loves His children, that He loves me, individually, is unshakable: Given life’s myriad utterly mystifying vicissitudes, if I give that up, what’s left?

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blood-draw brouhaha, part 2

Blood-Draw Brouhaha, Continued: More on Payne v. Wubbels

By Ken K. Gourdin

As I previously noted in a post from a few days ago, Salt Lake City Police Detective Jeff Payne’s body-cam footage of his arrest of University of Utah Hospital Burn Unit Charge Nurse Alex Wubbels has created a large stir far and wide on the Internet after the released footage shows Nurse Wubbels refusing to allow a blood draw from William Gray, a comatose burn patient/truck driver/Rigby ID reserve police officer because Mr. Gray could not and did not consent, nor was there probable cause to justify the blood draw, nor had a warrant been issued authorizing it, nor were there exigent circumstances to justify it. (Indeed, Mr. Gray is not suspected of any wrongdoing whatsoever, whether civil or criminal.)

As I also previously noted, Mr. Gray was seriously burned when his truck caught fire before he could get out after it collided with a vehicle whose driver was a felon fleeing from pursuing Utah Highway Patrol Troopers. The other driver died in the collision, which Logan (Utah) Police have been tasked with investigating. Originally, Logan Police sought Salt Lake Police assistance in obtaining Mr. Gray’s blood.

As I previously noted, although Nurse Wubbels and her superiors acted in good faith, they were mistaken about the applicability of the hospital policy they invoked to forbid the blood-draw because Mr. Gray, an innocent victim, was not suspected of criminal wrongdoing. (However, as I also noted previously, other law, such as the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act of 1996, aka HIPAA, may well—indeed, it likely does—preclude drawing blood under circumstances such as these, as well). Detective Payne has retained Salt Lake City attorney Greg Skordas. (Full disclosure: I know Greg Skordas, who, as an adjunct professor, taught me in law school—though he definitely wouldn’t remember me.)

Things looked bad enough for Salt Lake Police, for Watch Commander Lieutenant James Tracy (who ordered Detective Payne to arrest Nurse Wubbels if she refused to allow the blood draw) and for Detective Payne already. But given the revelation by Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen that his office had backed off of its original request for the truck driver’s blood once he realized that the driver was unconscious and therefore unable to consent to a blood draw, and that Logan Police told Detective Payne to not worry about procuring the sample and that they would get it through other means, now, they look even worse.

As Salt Lake Tribune reporter Luke Ramseth noted in a story about Logan P.D.’s interactions with Salt Lake P.D. regarding the matter of obtaining Mr. Gray’s blood, “[Logan Police Chief] Jensen said one of his detectives investigating the crash told Payne not to worry about pushing for the blood draw because Logan could get the blood through other means. He said Logan officers didn’t initially realize the crash victim, 43-year-old William Gray, was unconscious and thus unable to consent to a blood draw.” Indeed, in a conversation caught on Detective Payne’s body-cam, Detective Payne admitted that he already knew Logan Police had asked him to back off. See the following address (this and all other links last accessed September 9, 2017): http://www.sltrib.com/news/2017/09/08/detectives-body-camera-confirms-that-logan-police-asked-him-to-back-off-blood-draw/.

Though it should go without saying that I don’t agree with every position Mr. Skordas stakes out on behalf of his clients, I’ve found him to be he is a likeable fellow, a capable and entertaining instructor, and (from my distant observation) an able advocate for his clients. I have no reason to believe Mr. Skordas is not well regarded by his fellow members of the Bar, by both prosecutors and defense attorneys alike. That said, while, I don’t know for sure, I suspect Mr. Skordas’s approach to advocating for someone like Detective Payne, who has been brutalized both in the media and in the court of public opinion for his actions, is “Any port in a storm.”

Now comes word from Mr. Skordas that the real reason why Detective Payne wanted the truck driver’s blood is to preserve the driver’s commercial driver license (CDL). See the following address: http://www.sltrib.com/news/2017/09/09/slc-detectives-attorney-says-officer-wanted-blood-drawn-to-help-the-unconscious-patient-keep-his-commercial-driver-license/. As much respect as I have for Mr. Skordas, I find that explanation for Detective Payne’s actions highly suspect. I don’t think it passes the smell test, the laugh test (though this is, of course, no laughing matter), or several other, similar tests.

In on-line comments to the story linked in the foregoing paragraph, I commented:

I might laud Detective Payne for his desire to be proactive in looking out for the interests of the truck driver/Rigby ID reserve officer/burn patient [William Gray], but here’s the problem with that position, Counselor: It’s not the job of public officials and entities to vindicate private interests. That’s why all entities and all parties involved have legal counsel (or can retain such counsel, if they feel it is necessary). And it certainly isn’t necessary for a government actor (i.e., Detective Payne) to go so far in his attempt to vindicate private interests as to arrest a private citizen who simply was attempting to be conscientious in doing her job and was following orders from her superiors.

The way for Detective Payne to be proactive in his attempt to help this patient [Mr. Gray] keep his Commercial Driver License is to speak with those closest to [Mr. Gray] and to suggest that anyone empowered to make medical decisions for him help vindicate his interest in retaining his CDL by allowing a blood draw.

In the interest of fairness, I should reiterate that Detective Payne, too, was simply following the order of his superior officer, Lieutenant Tracy, in arresting Nurse Wubbels. Though the change came too late to help Nurse Wubbels, the University of Utah and the Hospital were absolutely right to change policies which come into play in incidents such as this to ensure that administrators, not nurses, are responsible for dealing with law enforcement and for handling demands for evidence.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment