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):

http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/56997-mormon-exclusivism/.

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

https://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/repairing-cyberspace-rifts/.

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.

END NOTES
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:

http://juvenileinstructor.org/true-blue-depending-on-whos-telling-the-tale-the-redacted-story-of-joseph-f-smith-and-the-ruffians/.  

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):

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/

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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:

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

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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/

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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.

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