Sunday, May 17, 2015

If You Knew Then What You Know Now. . .

Image result for jerry sloan
Coach Jerry Sloan
I watched more than a few post-game shows with Jerry Sloan, the legendary coach of the Utah Jazz. When he would get questions like what could the team have done better in that game just completed, his classic response was, "You can't play this game backward. We're getting ready for the next one."

When asked once what he needed to do to beat a certain team after losing badly to them that night, he answered wryly, "Score more points than they do." 

Recently, former Florida Governor, and probable presidential contender, Jeb Bush, younger brother of George W., was asked a dumb question. "Knowing what you know now, would you have gone to war in Iraq?"

Politics aside, and the media's tendency to ask "gotcha" questions in general, I'll bet everyone out there would be a lot smarter then if they knew what they know today.

I'm now 50 years removed from my high school graduation. A lot of water has passed under the bridge to my future I built back in 1965. Were there some bricks in that bridge that I would love to go back and reconstruct today, knowing what I know now? Of course.

Bush was criticized for his bungled answer to that hypothetical. I'm not here to defend Jeb Bush, only to point out what a stupid question it really is.

Knowing what Americans now know about the real Barack Hussein Obama, would we (if we could) go back and ask for a re-do on two presidential elections? TWO?

Knowing what we know now, is there anyone who would have allowed Muhammed Atta and his band of "freedom fighters" (or is it "terrorists"?) to fly hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001?

Knowing what we know now, would George Washington have ever taken on the might of the British Army and Navy?

Knowing what we know now, would anyone have allowed the door to the presidential box at Ford's Theatre to have gone unguarded that night on April 14, 1865, when Lincoln attended?

These are a few examples of decision making. When Presidents and their advisers make decisions, they have enormous consequences that are felt for generations yet to come. They cannot be reversed. We may boldly fly "Mission Accomplished" banners, only to learn our euphoria was premature and ill-advised.

America continues its interminable war against terror. The body count continues to rise. Leaders of the new ISIS (rhymes with "crisis") phenomenon in the Middle East are routinely hunted down and surgically removed in the name of homeland security lest their poisonous tentacles infiltrate America's borders. However, on a larger scale, the fall of Ramadi to ISIS begs the question, "Is there really an American strategy at this juncture?" Nothing changes in the trajectory of nations, it seems, except heightened threats of instability and the potential for nuclear proliferation. Robert Gates, former Defense Secretary under Obama, flatly stated, "There is no strategy in Iraq."

And, oh by the way, those were all existential threats 50 years ago in the "idyllic" times of my youth. We practiced hiding under our desks, and neighbors were building bomb shelters. The protests of the Sixties had all the familiar earmarks of those we witness today. The Vietnam War was the social springboard for anti-war protests, flower children, free love, and psychedelic drugs like LSD and marijuana.

All that seems tame indeed when today we are dealing with Islamic extremists among whom murder is common practice, legalization of marijuana, the infiltration of illegal aliens pouring through our porous borders and flaunting our laws, and those who have advocated "gay marriage" (in quotes because there really is no other way to express that oxymoron in my lexicon) seemingly on the brink of victory in all 50 states pending a POTUS decision that is weeks away. Even conservative Utah Governor Gary Herbert said this week he's keeping "an open mind" about legalizing medical marijuana in Utah.

Some call it "progress" under a "progressive" political agenda. Neanderthal Man that I am, I just call it sin. I know we live in a secular world, surrounded by human secularists on all fronts, but I'm still clinging to my guns and my Bible. I am such a cultural dullard, I guess.

I wonder if some dull-witted reporter in some future day will ask a presidential candidate, "Knowing what you know today, would you vote in favor of gay marriage?" When we put in place a broad and sweeping declaration for marriage equality, when there is nothing "equal" about it, we must imagine there will be consequences.

When we make personal decisions, they may not be as far-reaching in global politics, but in each case those decisions can only be made on the basis of what is known at the time. Imagine what a different life it would be for each of us if we could make a decision where we know the outcome at decision time plus X years out into the future! I know many who would crave that kind of certainty.

There are very real issues that face our country today. The media does not serve the electorate well when they engage in such stupid parlor games with questions like "If you knew today what you didn't know then, would you have decided differently?"

I was thinking back on what my mindset was seven years ago in 2008, then 2010, then 2012, then 2014, when the political pot was boiling with what I thought were massive issues requiring immediate attention. Now, seven years removed from the heat of the battle for the White House in 2008, little has changed on immigration, the massive federal debt, the lack of a balanced budget, not to mention an executive branch usurping constitutional authority reserved to the legislative and the judiciary branches. In fact, much of that troubling agenda I thought about then has only gotten worse.

I was tempted to believe that when the House returned to GOP control there was hope for a brighter future. Then in 2014, the Senate was returned to Republicans as well. Even more cause for hope! But what has happened instead is I have grown older and more weary of the familiar rhetoric. I am heartened with the announcement that we will at least have a federal budget prepared and submitted to the Senate for consideration this year. But the rhetoric is all too familiar, and the results all too predictable.

It seems there are many who are willing to engage in one of life’s favorite fantasies, daydreaming about living one’s life over knowing what one knows now. If it's an idle speculation indulged in on occasions like your 50-year high school graduation, it's harmless enough I suppose. But I would advise against spending too much time on it. You can't have your yesterdays today and make them into something you wish they had been. But you can repent and move forward.

I teach and counsel young people today. I say essentially these same things to them. I counsel them to live well in their youth, to put the building blocks of a sure foundation in place in their lives today while they aren't even thinking about their future too much. Then, as I do now, they can look back without regrets (some, maybe, but not too many). I always treasure the counsel of Mark Twain, who noted: "Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life." So I counsel my young friends to surround themselves with those three to prepare them for old age lived serenely.

My takeaway from Jerry Sloan is the bit of advice I pass along today - don't live your life in reverse, going backward to revisit what happened yesterday. If you learned from your past, and hopefully we have all done that, take the lessons learned and move forward. Life must always be lived into the future.

That's where true hope and happiness reside, as we look forward to our next great adventure, not backward on past events.


  1. David, I'm a gay man, who has stumbled for years amidst the intolerant judgement of LDS people like you. From calling my relationship "counterfeit," to all-out political campaigning, people like you have sought to tear people like me down.
    I tried for many years, begging God to either take the same-sex attractions from me, or to kill me. He did neither. I pleaded for understanding of my attractions - No answer came. I feel fairly certain that you, and those like you, will be quick to blame me for the lack of answer from God, but for me the answer was pretty simple: God didn't change me (or my attractions) because it wasn't God's will.
    David, believe me or don't, but the FACT is that I didn't choose this. (Even LDS literature has recently begun acknowledging this.) I have been this way since I was a child. I wasn't recruited or indoctrinated into homosexuality. I just always felt this way.
    You love your Church history and politics, so I will remind you of some other examples where we could look back and say, "If we knew then, what we know now..."
    How about the Church's treatment of blacks and the Priesthood, given the recent essay about the subject on
    Or how about inter-racial marriage? At the time, many conservatives said it would lead to the total collapse of moral society. Has it?
    How about the issues of racial integration in schools? Conservatives said it would destroy civil society. I think (or at least hope) that you can look at those things and see that the naysayers were wrong, despite the supposed Biblical justifications they offered.
    This month, the Supreme Court will equalize marriage to include any two adults who love each other. When that happens, the sky will not fall, and the millennium will not be ushered in. Civil society will go on just fine, and your own marriage (as with all others) will not be affected by it. Someday, the opinion of the populace-at-large will be to look upon this silly debate with the same distain we have for slavery. Our future generations will say, "How could they have thought that was reasonable?"
    Please think about what I've said here - I've spent decades coming to these conclusions.
    P.S. I wish I didn't feel I had to post anonymously, but sadly it's still not always safe to stick my neck out.

  2. I thank you for your post, and I understand your need to remain anonymous. Your expression is obviously heartfelt and sincere, and deserves a thoughtful response.

    Regardless of how I may come across on my blog, I have near and dear relatives on both sides of our family who are homosexual and I have high regard for all of them. I am well aware the norms in our civil and secular society have changed historically, and I am certain they will continue to evolve as the years ahead unfold. I do not understand all things, but I do know that God loves all His children regardless of their sexual orientation.

    What seems absolutely crystal clear to me is that the underpinnings of the plan of salvation offered by our Heavenly Father is a doctrine of marriage between a man and a woman. I see no way to reconcile the basic fundamental doctrine with the shifting sands of public opinion and marriage equality.

    The living prophets among us continue to teach the doctrine, lovingly reaching out to all regardless of their sexual orientation, and I can do no less. That includes standing by the eternal plan as revealed to the best of my understanding. And I hasten to add, I may be "up in the night," but I'm standing there alongside the living prophets among us. I continue to pray for their ongoing inspiration and divine guidance.