A quick rejoinder to fool Huckabee

Some people seem to think Mike Huckabee (winner of the 2008 Boggs-Doniphan) is voicing some important truth when claiming that we shouldn’t expect God to intervene in school tragedies if we have ourselves removed God from school. (His subsequent “clarifications” aren’t helping.) Here’s why Huckabee is a fool:

1: Prayers do take place in some American public schools via prayer groups. Huckabee knows this but what he means by prayer in school is a certain type of Christian evangelism which, thank goodness, isn’t welcome in a school paid for by taxation. It would certainly not include Mormon prayers, which renders certain of the Mormon cheers for Huckabee sadly ironic.

2: In actuality, true Christian devotion was apparent in the school through the selfless actions of the teachers. That is true Christian love. If God is going to reward any behaviour it will be self-sacrifice not the nice words we say.

3: This is all moot, anyway. Saying prayers does not make you immune from evil, or else how to explain the violent suppression of Christianity in some countries today and the church shootings which do sadly take place from time to time? It’s called the problem of evil, in which bad things happen to good people. To therefore always blame evil on a lack of righteousness, as some define it, is to be woefully unaware of the issue of theodicy which has exercised Christians for centuries. I know children who understand this better than Huckabee.

4: For Mormons it ought to be important that men held to be prophets are not making the kind of cruel pronouncements that Huckabee has. Their statement on lds.org is a model of quiet compassion. 

I therefore conclude that to try to gain religious capital out of this tragedy is both wrong-headed, callous, and brings shame to Christianity.


  1. This is Mike Huckabee’s version of politicizing a tragedy.

  2. His “clarification” seems to imply that not only is God not invoked in school, American schools do not teach morality — things like “thou shalt not kill.” I have never been to an American school so I’m sticking my neck out here, but this is just nonsense.

  3. I mean, I don’t remember any classes in which the teacher explicitly told me not to kill people; of course, if children needed that kind of express teaching from schools, homes and churches aren’t doing their jobs. (Also, through literature and social studies classes–and, from what I’ve seen in my daughters’ schools–socializing kids with interpersonal skills–Huckabee’s wrong. But that frankly doesn’t surprise me. What does is that any single human being–Mormon or not–would think there was something to what Huckabee and a few others have said. Shame on them.)

  4. Killing is wrong????

    This changes everything. Why didn’t I learn this in school?

  5. I agree this tragedy should not be used for personal or political gain.

    However, the Book of Mormon is pretty clear about the consequences that will befall a nation that turns away from God. I cannot say that those that want to note that the long-term secularisation of society is reaping ill-effects.

    A non-Mormon and not very religious co-worker suggested to me that we can expect more shootings if church attendence continues to decline.

    We are reaping what we sow by removing God and right and wrong from public discourse.

  6. His disassembling is remarkably asinine. Realising it was outrageous to claim that “removing God” from school means that evil has a free hand in the killing of little children, his rather banal point now is that evil has a free hand because we don’t teach Christian morality. I suppose that’s true to a small extent — some people who commit evil may not have been taught properly — but then everyone agrees anyway. People should be taught not to kill! But that’s not really what he wants. I can teach you not to kill through the Indian doctrine of ahimsa and devote two hours in schools to Jainism every day. Huck would not like that, showing what a disingenuous tool he is.

  7. Unknown, why are the prophets not saying things as boldly as you?

    Evil happens, has happened, and will always happen. And it happens in societies which have God front and centre in the public discourse. Like America, the most God-friendly nation in the West.

  8. This really is an important post, Ronan. The attitudes and beliefs behind Huckabee’s unfortuante statements exemplify some of the big problems we are facing right now in America. A segment of the population is not committed to true religious pluralism as guaranteed by the ingenious framework of the First Amendment and would prefer an established church. They are not committed to freedom but would rather expose or subject students to their version of religion in the public schools. An established church might be fine if you live in the UK where that church is an enlightened Christian church (the Church of England) that is extraordinarily self-conscious about its status as the established church and makes a proactive, very welcome effort in the schools to extend the hand of fellowship to all religions and to make children of all religious backgrounds feel comfortable and appreciated. But that would not be the case in America, at least based on our history as Latter-day Saints (as one among many data points).

    I experienced the soft, “enlightened” approach to establishment firsthand as my daughter’s Year 4 teacher responded enthusiastically when he learned that she was a Mormon and requested that she bring something into class relating to that. She brought a picture of the Salt Lake Temple that was then prominently hung on the wall of the classroom for the rest of the school year along with offerings that had been brought by Muslim, Jewish and Hindu students of her class. The public school (state school) had a mandate to provide religious education/instruction to the children on a weekly basis but I was confident that it was being done objectively and in good faith. I do not have the same confidence in our creedal Christian countrymen here in the United States, based on my experiences growing up in Dallas where the prohibition on school prayer or religious instruction protected me from abuse at the hands of such people.

  9. RJH –

    Seriously? A 5 minute search on http://www.lds.org yields an abundance of instances where “the prophets” have said secularization is causing problems in a lot stronger terms than I did:

    “My great concern, my great interest, is that we preserve for the generations to come those wondrous elements of our society and manner of living that will bequeath to them the strengths and the goodness of which we have been the beneficiaries. But I worry as I see some of the signs of sickness of which I have spoken. I believe that a significant factor in the decay we observe about us comes of a forsaking of the God whom our fathers knew, loved, worshiped, and looked to for strength. There is a plainly discernible secularization that is occurring. Its consequences are a deterioration of family life, a weakening of self-discipline, a scoffing at the thought of accountability unto the Almighty, and an unbecoming arrogance for any people who have been so richly blessed through the goodness of a generous Providence as we have been.” Gordon B. Hinckley, http://www.lds.org/liahona/1998/05/words-of-the-living-prophet?lang=eng&query=secularization

    “With the public religion now turning increasingly toward the secular, I wonder how this nation will preserve its values. In my view, there is a substantial governmental interest within the limits of the religious clauses of the Constitution in public prayer and expressions of all faiths which acknowledge the existence of deity. Such prayer and expressions accommodate the abiding values shared by a great majority of our citizenry. They give meaning to a transcendent spiritual reality and idealism which, in the past at least, were quite firmly held by the people of our society. The very essence of our concern for human welfare and alleviation of human suffering lies in our spiritual feelings and expressions. So now we find ourselves in a situation where, unlike the Pilgrims, the Mormon pioneers, and others, there is nowhere to go to escape a new civil de facto secular state religion that continually limits public religious expression and fosters instead the secular values and expressions. How do we preserve the essence of our humanity?” James E. Faust, http://www.lds.org/ensign/1992/10/a-new-civil-religion?lang=eng&query=“school+prayer”

    If one had more time and an improvement era search engine, he could easily find numerous quotes from prophets such as Ezra Taft Benson, Harold B. Lee and David O’McKay directly criticizing the school prayer decisions.

    Moreover, what about Ether 2:10? “For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.”

    You may not agree with this line of thinking, but it is silly to pretend that the prophets have not strongly bemoaned the secularization of our society and the consequences that it is bringing about.

  10. Whosoever shall say to his brother, Disingenuous tool, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

  11. Fools mock but they shall mourn.

  12. Well said RJH, both in the OP and in the comments.

    Unknown, turning away from God involves things of much more substance than the cessation of enforced gestures of piety. RJH is correct, Huckabee is encouraging Christian evangelism of a very specific kind that looks more like thought control than increasing the personal spirituality of Americans. I’ll keep praying, singing hymns, reading my scriptures, and serving my neighbor just like I always have, even after having been educated in the Utah public school system without ever participating in a government sanctioned school prayer.

  13. Has anyone asked Huckabee why God doesn’t intervene in church shootings? Or why mass homicide rates are so much lower in European nations that are more secular than the US?

  14. Ronan, on #3, I heartily agree with you. His comments almost seem to ask people to blame God for any bad things that happen, if you’re otherwise a good Christian. I hope he’s not suggesting there were no religious adults or children who died that day. Why didn’t God save them?

    Mourn with those who mourn; comfort those that stand in need of comfort.

  15. @Unknown
    If you believe this so strongly, why don’t you put your name to it?

  16. It is, without question, that this tragedy is a direct result of our society having taken institutional prayer out of public school.

    It has nothing to do with the fact that we no longer stick the mentally ill in asylums instead of treating them and providing the vast majority of them with a productive and meaningful life.

    It has nothing to do with rapid advancement of technology that allows firearms to kill more efficiently and rapidly.

    It has nothing to do with a gun lobby that insists on unfettered access to firearms with the greater capacity to kill than ever before, just in case we citizens find ourselves in a position where we need to defend ourselves against the United States Air Force.

    It has nothing to do with a media saturated society that fetishizes tragedy and makes famous those who invoke those tragedies.

    No no, it’s really quite simple. We took God out of public school, and now we are paying the price for it. And we’re all fools for not seeing how simple it is.

  17. Ronan,
    Are there people that spout off things like Huckabee in the UK? Or is this pretty much an American thing?

  18. # 12 – I don’t disagree with your main thrust. Indeed, I noted in my first comment that using this for personal or political (and I might now add, a particular form of religious dogma) is inappropriate.

    But, in criticizing Huckabee we shouldn’t lose sight of the larger point. It simply is not true to suggest that church leaders have not decried the increasing secularization of society or that they have not warned that it will lead to bad consequences. They have. And, the fact that they are not now making such statements (due to either sensitivity toward the most recent tragedy and/or a desire to avoid being perceived like Huckabee now is), does not mean that they have not made them and will not continue to do so.

    Whether we believe them is a different question altoghether, and probably a personal question that cannot productively be debated or judged in a forum such as this.

  19. So it has nothing to do with who and what you are, just where you are. Cheap grace has been replaced by cheap space.

  20. I’m about a quarter of the way through “The God Who Weeps,” which is making me think about this debate in a whole new light. Does Huckabee’s God reserve any protection or love from those who–because of outside forces–aren’t able to pray to him for a few hours each day (not counting prayer groups mentioned previously)? If so, is that even a God who is deserving of worship?

  21. Unknown, the trend is that they’re praising “secularity”, i.e. a robust secular public sphere that is consistent with the desirable religious pluralism that has arisen in American society, while criticizing “secularization”, by which I do not think that they mean the prohibition on official prayers in public schools. Rather, it seems to describe the increased materialism of society and decreased personal devotion to religious truths among the general population, but to my understanding definitely not a call for school prayer or a demand that teachers be allowed to teach lessons about the Biblical Christmas story in public school curriculum.

  22. #18 Fair enough. But while keeping “sight of the larger point” we should also remember the specific point of the original post which is that Mike Huckabee politicized a tragedy and was foolish for doing so. Discussion of your larger point, which I agree is worth remembering, is indeed better suited for another time and place.

  23. Sonny,
    There are idiots and zealots everywhere but they don’t tend to have the prominence of people like Huckabee.

    I was referring to the church’s wise reticence to link evil A with evil B. Compare their public statement with Huckabee’s. I agree that calamity can befall the wicked, but then sometimes it doesn’t and sometimes calamity befalls the righteous too. Not knowing which is which, I think it wise to refrain from making grandiose and stupid theological pronouncements in the face of such tragedy. This seems to be the church’s approach and I applaud it.

  24. On John Fowles’s description of school in England:

    God is very much part of public life in the UK. For example, the RC church is able to sponsor the state school where my kids go. Tonight we had a lovely nativity play. On Thursday, there will be an end of term mass. There is a big stained glass cross on the entrance door. I quite like it.

    However, I do not think this acceptance of God in public education will protect our children from psychopaths. For that, I trust more in the police, social services, the health care system, the ban on guns, and sheer luck. Look there for answers to your problems not lame theologies that seem utterly oblivious to the problem of evil.

  25. Kevin Barney says:

    A Mormon in Utah who thinks officially sanctioned vocal prayer in public schools would be just nifty hasn’t really thought about what that might look like ouside the Mormon corridor, say in the deep south:


  26. Struwelpeter says:
  27. I’ll never understand why people like Huckabee think private matters like religious affiliation have place in public school when they so vociferously try to keep sex education (considered by them a private matter) in the schools.

    If he thinks the United States suffers from a lack of religiosity, then go do some missionary work.

  28. Sorry – I meant he wants to keep sex ed OUT of schools.

  29. #9 Unknown – When I read those quotes I see “forsaking of God” and “secular values” as the issues being discussed. To me, that does not mean that any specific situation has earned God’s wrath. Rather, those quotes simply reinforce the idea that distance from God can have consequences.

    That being said, I do feel that it is worth investigating the particular values and judgments which might have contributed to our school tragedies.

    While forcing religion on schools and equating selflessness to love do sound rather foolish, I’m not so sure that we can dismiss our own culpability for such occurrences. In particular, which of our values and judgments haven’t created a better society for everyone?

    Our obligation to love our neighbors can include sacrificing our values in order to respect the values of our community as a whole. True religion involves sacrifice. I often think that we don’t sufficiently practice “love your neighbor” — and instead elevate lesser values to a more important position. It is not just Huckabee that sees the solution through his interpretations, rather than his neighbor’s view which would consider the values of the community as a whole. He should have more respect for values of his neighbors that are very different from his own.

  30. #29 “Equating selflessness to love [does] sound rather foolish.” How so? I don’t think the author intended to circumscribe love to mean only selflessness, but rather as one among many manifestations of “true Christian love.” I think RJH is suggesting that, in this instance, the selfless actions of teachers speak louder than any words Mr. Huckabee wishes were uttered in publicly funded schools. I don’t mean to dismiss prayer. Far from it. But I do dismiss Mr. Huckabee’s foolish determination to try and shame the public into acquiescing to his own specific set of political/theological values. But if I misunderstood you, TonyD, I’d be happy to receive some clarification.

  31. TonyD might be intoning that selifishness (not selflessness) is the prime or perhaps even only virtue, a la Ayn Rand.

  32. Andrew & john f – No typo — I meant selflessness is distinct from love.

    Really, I was using love as a stand-in for characteristics that are close to God. It is possible for someone who is very selfless to be very distant from God — and, by implication, worthy of punishment.

  33. #26: Wow. That Rachel Evans link is truly amazing. God bless her.

    Ronan, i love this post. I was a little depressed by the fact that Huckabee even opened his mouth to say this stuff. He seems to be trying to backpedal now, but I really expect more of even a relative demagogue like him. It’s beneathe contempt really.

    And Unknown, you are not talking about the same thing Ronan is. To say that the prophets have at time, and over the years, worried about the secularizing influences that seem to be pushing people in general away from lives of faith, is not the same as saying that the prophets are not inking evil acts like what happened in Sandy Hook and Trolley Square and Columbine to laws maintaining a separation of church and state. Can’t you see the difference there? There is one, and it’s a vast gulf.

  34. #32 I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

  35. I heard Huckabee’s comments and found nothing offensive in them. He simply commented on the hypocrisy of those who want God out of anything they do, and then question where He was when a tragedy occurs. He added some of his personal opinion, but my initial comment was the thrust of his comments.

  36. Central Standard says:

    Before (and even) after the invention of the lightning rod, churches thought if they prayed good enough / hard enough their churches wouldn’t get struck with lightning.

  37. Unknown, not everyone here is against you. I understood your viewpoint last night while re-reading Ether 2, it also hints at GBH’s book Standing For Something. Pres Hinckley’s premise of returning to the faith found in America’s founding surely wasn’t meant to refer to “Mormon Prayers”. Let them pray how, where, and what they may but praying and serving God is linked to the nations prosperity. Think the #1 repeated promise in the bom: inasmuch as he keep commandments..ye shall prosper..think collectively here.

    Sorry if this message sounds “hukabee-ish”

  38. It doesn’t. Huckabee wasn’t talking about prosperity. He was talking about safety from evil acts. No one gets that necessarily, even by praying and/or living the commandments, and the BOM makes that crystal clear. Ever read Alma chapter 14?

  39. #37 n8c – “praying and serving God is linked to the nations prosperity”
    I would agree with this if we define “prosperity” very loosely. Since we are here to learn lessons and move closer to God then “prosperity” may very well be more and harsher lessons. I would even say that such “prosperity” might be poverty, pain, and banishment.

  40. RJH, wonderful post and wonderful tone of yours in the comments, as well. I have tried to stay away from political commentary related to this particular tragedy, including the rising tide of commentary on gun violence in general. I was pleased to see in #16 Benjamin’s comment the nod to access to adequate care for the mentally ill.

    TonyD, your suggestion that selflessness and love are distinct is difficult for me to grasp, as well. Selflessness is one of the manifestations of love.

  41. Paul – We have probably all seen selfless acts without appropriate empathy, judgment, or emotion. Such acts are very far from love. The individual characteristic of selflessness often coexists with characteristics that divide us from God. Selflessness is not sufficient.

  42. #41 Selflessness, by its very definition, means to lose oneself in the needs and wishes of others. Love is the only true motivator for selflessness because anything else would turn the focus back onto oneself and thus not be selfless. Thus selflessness cannot exist without love. And so, contrary to what you say about a portion of RJH’s OP, not equating selflessness to love sounds rather foolish. If you were arguing that it’s foolish to suggest government sanctioned school prayer equals the magic spell needed to force God to prevent tragedy, as Mr. Huckabee has done (and for less than noble reasons), then I would agree with you. But instead your idea has turned into a unique piece of self-made esoterica.

    And I fear this discussion has become something of a threadjack.

  43. Andrew #42 — Saying “love is the only true motivator for selflessness” is defining selflessness to only exist with a motivator of love. But I have seen many other motivations for selflessness. And I have seen a distorted understanding of love motivate real selflessness – a selflessness that is not worthy of God’s love. It is easy to generate a list of selfless actions by terrorists.

  44. “I fear this discussion has become something of a threadjack.”

    Ya think? TonyD is dead wrong, but does it matter? I can’t think of a stupider point to argue about.

  45. Highly descriptive article, I liked that bit. Will there be a part 2?|

  46. #43 I don’t think we’re going to see eye to eye on this topic. Apparently your understanding of what constitutes love and selflessness and actions worthy of God’s love is quite different from my own. And I’m going to leave it at that.

    RJH and all other commenters…I apologize for the definite threadjack.

  47. #44 I felt it related at least partially to the OP (see point #2). I’m sorry though that it didn’t meet your criteria for sensible.

  48. There are two videos currently circulating. The first is the shortened, “How can you say where is god?” sound bite but to add context to his speech, he followed that paragraph with his answer to “Where was god?” He talked about the compassion of the law enforcement officials who assisted the remaining people in getting to safety, and he mentioned the teachers who tried to place their bodies in between the children and the gunman. In fact if you had viewed the full speech, you would see that his thesis was not. “claiming that we shouldn’t expect God to intervene in school tragedies if we have ourselves removed God from school.” His thesis was that despite our efforts to remove God, he WAS there.

  49. TonyD: I apologize for my behavior towards you yesterday. I often navigate the waters of social media haphazardly and that’s why I generally lurk on blogs instead of commenting. But yesterday I let my ego get the best of me. Heck, I failed to even noticed that I was doing exactly what I had suggested Unknown should stop doing. So my sincere apologies.

    And MCQ: I’m sorry for my imprudent response to you. You were correct in what you said. But in my pride I took offense and responded before taking a deep breath. Again, I’m sorry.

    (Now back to lurking)

  50. Andrew #49 – Thank you. I can’t even tell you what that means to me. I’ve read and re-read my posts trying to figure out how I might have given offense. And I’ve spent more time than I want to admit trying to figure out what kind of response is appropriate — if any. I know that I may not always word things well, and that some perspectives will be found offensive by some even if no offense is intended. I have no problem with “agreeing to disagree”.

  51. trentwhite86@gmail.com says:

    I once learned that there are 3 types of trials we experience in life: (1) trails that are simply a part of our mortal experience (i.e. thunderstorms, sickness, tiredness, etc.) – see Matthew 5:45, (2) trials that come because of our sinful behavior – see Mormon 4:5, and (3) trials that are intended to help us grow – see Helaman 12:3

    I’m sure we can all agree that we do not know for sure what kind of trial this is, other than that the juvenile victims were not being punished for sinful behavior. It could be more than one of the above. For example, maybe it’s intended to help the families of the victims grow even though they may not “deserve” to lose a loved one, while simultaneously being a natural result of mortal life where unfortunately bad things happen.

    I think the underlying assumption in many of the above comments is that killings were not a result of sinful behavior (#2 above). I don’t think we should be so quick to judge. We should be open to it being any or all of the 3. Elder Oaks’ who I consider to be a prophet of God recently spoke out about protecting children. He spoke about millions upon millions of children being victimized by adult crimes and selfishness. “None should resist the plea that we unite to increase our concern for the welfare and future of our children—the rising generation.” (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/10/protect-the-children?lang=eng)

  52. “maybe it’s intended to help the families of the victims grow”

    Fwiw, I disagree completely and think that idea is an abomination.

  53. trentwhite86@gmail.com says:

    Ray, I speak from personal experience. My mother passed away at age 48 after battling cancer for 5 years. I know that my family, many friends, and I have grown immensely from that trial in our lives. I’m not saying God made the killer do what he did, but that God allowed it to happen because he has an eternal view that we cannot fully comprehend.

  54. #53 – I can accept that wording. Thanks for the clarification.

  55. Researcher says:

    “maybe it’s intended to help the families of the victims grow”

    That is truly an unfortunate point of view. One of my sisters suddenly and tragically lost her pre-teen daughter a couple of years ago. A couple of weeks after the funeral, her Relief Society president called her and let her know that a ward member’s elderly parent or spouse was dying, and thought that she could go comfort the ward member because she now understood what it was like to lose a family member.

    Maybe there’s a better way of describing it, but the best way I have of describing that Relief Society president’s actions that day is emotional abuse. We were very glad that my sister mentioned the conversation to one of my other sisters, who immediately called the Relief Society president and protested. The entire extended family was in the midst of deepest grief, deep distressing grief, and my sister was suffering greatly. She needed kind loving support, not people thinking she needed to snap out of it and learn her lesson and be done with it, which was the message that Relief Society president gave her.

    There have been plenty of people who have helped provide the family with kind, loving support that is so necessary after such a great loss — I am thinking right now of some Tongan friends who visited and wept with my sister’s family the night my niece died — but telling parents who have lost a child that there is something they need to learn from the experience is a horrible, wounding idea that should be given the scorn it deserves.

  56. Researcher says:

    Here’s a good essay about what to do when someone you know loses a child.


    It’s so important not to preach and not to try to explain the death to the parents.

  57. I’ve been discussing this with my husband, and would like to reframe the RS President’s contact as “well-meaning but thoughtless.” And that’s why it’s so important that people, especially those in a position of pastoral care, know how to react to something like the death of a child, and why I’ve shared articles like the NPR one here and on Facebook.

    It’s not too difficult. Just say “I’m sorry,” hug and cry with them as appropriate, be there to listen if they want to talk, provide practical assistance (coordinate through a central responsible contact if possible), pray for the family, put their names on the temple prayer rolls and let them know that you’ve done that.

    If it’s been awhile since the death, you can still pray for them and put their names on the prayer roll and let them know you think about them and their child.

    Things to avoid: preaching, suggesting in any way that they should finish grieving, telling them that you understand since you lost your parent/dog/distant cousin, or attempting to explain God’s will in regard to their child, since there’s almost no chance that you know that.

    There are always exceptions since people are different, but when in doubt, assume you’re the rule, not the exception.

  58. To follow-up on Researcher’s comment, the reason the original wording in #50 was so abominable to me is as follows:

    1) There is a huge difference between personally being able to learn something from a trial, in retrospect, and saying a “purpose” of the trial is “intended” to provide learning opportunities – since the latter wording implies that the learning is more important than the trial and that someone who has suffered just needs to understand the “benefit” of the trial better.

    2) There also is a huge difference between learning something after a personal trial and telling someone else they should focus on learning something in the midst of their own trial. People are different, and trials are different – and what works for one person might not work or actually might be damaging to another person.

    3) Finally, there is a huge difference between the death of an adult to prolonged illness, where enough time passes for the grieving people to process their grief and begin to refocus on learning something from it, and sudden, unexpected death – especially of children and even more particularly in such a shocking event. The two are so different that one answer simply can’t cover them both.

    I am OK with the the clarifying language in #52 specifically because it doesn’t deny any of the three things above. It simply says that some trials can bring growth and that God “allows” them to happen. It doesn’t mention a “purpose” that is “intended” – and that omission makes it acceptable for me.

  59. Researcher says:

    Thanks, Ray. I do hope Trent doesn’t feel attacked, but there are parts of mourning that our culture doesn’t do well (meaning American culture, not just Mormon culture) and it can be very isolating for families who lose children.

    About three and a half years ago my husband and I were sitting at my son’s bedside in the cardiac intensive care unit at one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals when the infant next to us suddenly died. We were quickly ushered out and wouldn’t have been allowed back in until they had taken care of all the necessary details except my son started to fuss and they brought me back in to calm him, and I sat there with my son for several hours, listening as the hospital staff processed the baby’s death, all carefully hidden behind a set of portable screens. Everyone on staff was very professional, but what an awful, isolating process for the baby’s poor mother.

    This thread has wandered somewhat from the original post, but what I guess I’m trying to say is that our society tends to isolate the bereaved. Invoking the will of God when faced with the tragedy of the sudden death of a child (or of multiple children, as we’ve all been trying to deal with this week) is not helpful; it will tend to isolate the parents further. What bereaved parents need is a loving, supporting community response.

    Well, it’s Christmas Eve, and it’s time to return to dinner preparations. Merry Christmas, everyone, and do remember those people in your community who are alone at the holidays or are suffering a recent loss.

  60. I know this is a late comment. @ Researcher – thank you for the helpful suggestions. I lost an infant and most people were very insensitive. I was not expecting stupid remarks from the LDS members, but it happened and they were more hurtful because members SHOULD know better. One LDS lady told me to get over it and get over myself because at least my child lived and was on church records. (She had a stillborn child and was still angry about the child not being on church records so therefore I shouldn’t be sad. No joke.)
    Huckabee is wrong, period. And the Westboro Baptist Church trying to picket the funerals of these little victims is just shameful. The people of the fake Westboro Baptist Church think almost the same way as Huckabee, but more fanatical – that the shooting was punishment for accepting gays into society.
    Why did the shooting happen? We don’t know. Evil exists and we have to deal with it in this mortal world. It has always existed and bad things will continue to happen. Why did my child have to die; or any child whether from a disease or accident or abuse or a shooting? We don’t know. I am glad to have the knowledge of the restored gospel.
    Merry Christmas and a safe New Year to all

  61. Fwiw, I have come to believe that “should” is one of the primary hindrances to peace in this life. Often, it’s just as much what we expect of others as what they actually do that causes pain.

    Letting go of expectations of what “should be” and simply accepting what “is” (and working to change what is, in whatever way possible, without expectation or demand) has been a wonderful journey for me, although I haven’t reached the final destination yet in that regard.

  62. I find Trent’s (#51) observations to be insightful. Trials, or lessons, don’t always conform to our simplistic ideas of good and evil. Something that might normally be perceived of as evil might be good in relation to the potential benefit.

    Would any of us give up our own life in order to help others learn lessons here? Giving them the opportunity to move closer to God? I hope that I would. And perhaps God understands that about who we really are. It is easy to forget that there is an existence outside of our current construct.

  63. trentwhite86@gmail.com says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot this past week about the responses to my post (#51). Some were not happy with my comment that “maybe it’s intended to help the families of the victims grow.” #52 called the idea an abomination, but accepted my re-wording in #53. #55 seems to have missed my point – “but telling parents who have lost a child that there is something they need to learn from the experience is a horrible, wounding idea that should be given the scorn it deserves” – I would never show anything but the utmost empathy for someone in such a trial. I would never approach someone experiencing such a trial and tell them to get over it because it’s supposed to make them stronger. No, discussing the purpose of trials on a blog and having tact when dealing with real people are two very different things. I totally agree with the comments in #56 and #57. It is unfortunate when anybody, especially LDS members who should have greater knowledge because of restored doctrine, shows anything but absolute empathy for someone experiencing a severe trial, such as a death in the family.

    I think where Huckabee went wrong and some on here think I went wrong is to claim to know God’s mind and the reason for the trial. In #51 I was simply explaining my understanding of trials and not claiming to know God’s mind in regards to the Newtown tragedy. It would be much easier to say that nobody sinned and God had no greater purpose in this trial, that it was simply an unfortunate event. But the easy answer is not always the right answer. I can only hope that nobody sinned and recognize that I hardly comprehend God’s all-knowing mind,

    I was not claiming that in this specific tragedy that God intended for those killings to occur, but that maybe it is a possibility. In Helaman 12:3 we read “And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him.” Maybe in God’s eyes it wasn’t such a tragedy. Most of the deaths were little children who are saved by the grace of God (Mosiah 3:16), so in the eternal perspective those deaths are not tragic because they are saved for all eternity. And while some had their mortal experiences cut short, maybe they were ready to go and could be the means for others to grow closer to God and not forget him as we so quickly do without trials and tribulation (see Helaman 12). Not that God controlled the killer’s every move, but maybe had him born with a defected mind that would someday commit heinous acts. It’s cutting hairs the line between God “intending” and “allowing” but to me they are basically the same thing. So many people are born with physical and mental handicaps, trials no doubt, and while I believe God mostly just allows science and evolution to do its thing in regards to procreation and reproduction, sometimes I believe he may interfere to get specific results for his great purpose of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (this last sentence is my belief, not doctrine, and you are welcome to influence it especially if you have doctrine to back it up).

  64. #63 – I simply believe that God didn’t ordain or intend this – in any way. There is a hiuge difference between “intend” and “allow” – and it is an important difference to me.

    I also don’t believe in an omnipotent God in the classic sense, so it’s easier for me to draw that distinction than it is for many others.

  65. Researcher says:

    “I would never show anything but the utmost empathy for someone in such a trial. I would never approach someone experiencing such a trial and tell them to get over it because it’s supposed to make them stronger.”

    Well, I’m glad to hear that. I imagine the RS President would have said that also if asked. In fact, I know that she is a very kind, well-meaning woman and she undoubtedly would have been shocked to realize what her words meant.

    “discussing the purpose of trials on a blog and having tact when dealing with real people are two very different things.”

    Oh, I dunno. I can tell you from experience that when I’ve been faced with having to deal with sudden tragedies and hardships, some pretty funny stuff has come out of my mouth. In situations we don’t know how to handle, we tend to recycle cultural messages we haven’t even realized we’ve internalized. That’s why it’s so important to educate ourselves about the process of grief, so we don’t do that. Since it’s one of the agreements we make at baptism (see Mosiah 18:8-10), shouldn’t we know how to mourn with those who mourn?

    The Ensign had a very good article several years ago called “Carrying Others to the Pool of Bethesda.” Along with the information in the article, it listed two books on grieving that have been very helpful to me (after you’ve read the article, click on “Show References” at the bottom):


  66. Trent, I should add that it is obvious that you care and are a kind person. I hope my responses don’t imply otherwise, but I just realized they probably do. I apologize for that.

    Fwiw, as you said, we don’t know if there is any “higher reason” for any particular suffering – so I simply choose not to speculate about reasons. Such speculation invariably falls short and ends up hurting others, whether delivered in person or online.

    God called himself “I AM” – and I find it most helpful in situations where someone needs comforting simply to accept that “it is” and move immediately to practical help. We tend to want to fix things, and, more often than not, what is needed is compassion (shared passion) – mourning with those who mourn, crying with those who cry, etc. Possible reasons can wait until people express a need to understand intellectually; until then they usually are nothing more than further weapons of harm.

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