The Slow Death of OJ Simpson

The Slow Death of OJ Simpson

There has been a resurgence of interest in the OJ Simpson story. It has been more than 20 years since his acquittal of murder charges and the after-story of it all has him serving the back end of a prison sentence in Nevada, likely to be released in another year or two.

A cable channel had a critically acclaimed mini-series titled The People vs. OJ Simpson, which I do admit to watching completely. What interests me more about the whole thing is the response to those who either were not born or who are just too young to have experienced that whole event. To see it now on television they really have no idea how long that saga went on and how absorbing it was for everyone.

For me, the OJ thing was something a personal tragedy.

OJ was a hero of my youth. I wasn’t a Buffalo Bills fan by any stretch but whenever OJ had the ball I had to watch. And when he became a 49er, even though it was at the end of his career when his skills were clearly declining, I was over-the-top.

But OJ went beyond football. He was on TV a great deal. He acted. He did commentary. And he competed in other types of shows, like the celebrity competition shows that were so popular back in the day. OJ was a first rate celebrity in my eyes. Not a John Wayne type, who was a movie star. OJ was a real person who dabbled in all kinds of famous and I really, really liked him.

The documentaries and films coming out today — and, of course, the Trial of the Century — all pursue themes of racism and being black in America.

All that may have a place or not in telling the OJ story.

But it had no place for me at the time. And it certainly didn’t seem to affect OJ from where I was sitting. The fact that he was black just wasn’t something thought about. He was famous. That was all that mattered.

Years later, as a married man with children, I watched the OJ trial with the same morbid curiosity and horror that everyone else did.

The startling details of how he beat his wife were so far removed from the OJ I knew. The image cultivated of him on television and crafted through a magical NFL career clashed harshly with every detail shared in the media and on trial.

In a way, it was a coming-of-age thing for me.

Still, when it came to watching OJ go through all that he did during his arrest and trial I freely admit rooting for the guy.

When he was in that white Bronco I wanted him to get away. When it came time to read that verdict I wanted him to be “not guilty”.

And when it was, I watched in stunned silence, by myself, not believing what I just witnessed. The Bills winning the Super Bowl would have been less of a surprise, in my mind, than OJ winning over that jury.

Two people died. They were brutally murdered. And STILL I wanted OJ to be “not guilty”.

As I’ve pondered that I have to admit beating myself up a bit.

OJ is real life is a monster. And that was hard for me to admit of a boyhood icon. The blood of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman screams from the ground for justice.

I cannot escape that.

But it taught me a lesson in the power of modern media and the lie of sports, entertainment, and really, celebrity, that has always been a part of my existence.

How many other cultivated personalities are in reality monsters, just like OJ? Perhaps many. Probably many.

In all, the past 25 years of my exposure to OJ Simpson has been like watching a slow death. The first half of my life saw him rise from obscurity and sail to heights of admiration in my mind. The 2nd half of my life has been watching the air leak out of that balloon ever so slowly to the painful point where OJ is just lower than dirt.

I realize that I will probably live to see OJ released from prison and I will witness — via the media, of course and always — however this sad tale ends.

Will OJ admit to the murders? Will he find another way to profit from them? Will he himself be murdered or will he commit suicide? There are so many terrible thoughts associated with OJ still.

In the end, I will be like I have always been. A mere spectator — just someone casting judgment between the commercials.

The lessons of OJ’s life are, in the end, for OJ.

The lessons for me are from my observations of it all — and taking harsh inventory of my feelings.

I still want OJ to overcome in some way. That’s how likable the guy is — or was — in my mind.

He stands at odds with everything I believe. That makes me feel more sorry for him than angry.

I understand the anger of the families of his victims. And I wish I could afford for them some measure of good memory like I have of OJ.

But they weren’t famous. They didn’t have that smile. That charm. That connection.

The adult me clashes with the kid me with all this. I’ve long since left being a kid.

And the adult me condemns OJ. Harshly. Absolutely. Completely. Finally. And sadly.

I’d really like the movies and documentaries about OJ to stop.

In a way, I think it glorifies him. I think it is damaging to the memory of those who lost their lives because of him.

I recognize there is money to be made and interested to be drummed up by this most Hollywood of stories. That car-wreck quality isn’t off this story yet.

But really what is there left to talk about? What is there left to learn?

Let OJ died already.

Unavoidable Questions when Researching Mormon History

Unavoidable Questions when Researching Mormon History

The Internet seems to have spawned an industry devoted to the study of Mormon history. Part of me says that’s a good thing because it can lead some eventually to Christ.

But I don’t find the examination about Mormon history online really about religion. It is, in the end, merely another tactic in supporting a false agenda and in advancing the philosophies of men.

The “dialogue”, if you want to call it that, has led the Church to release a series of serious essays addressing some of the most controversial aspects of early Mormon history. Did Joseph Smith really marry 14 year old girls? Was the Book of Mormon translated by peering into a stone in a hat? Why are there several differing accounts of the First Vision? Etc, etc, etc.

I see arguments from academics online criticizing Mormons for not paying much attention to these essays.

They claim that since the Church publishes them we should be talking about them in our Sunday School lessons and reviewing them “honestly” as part of genuine gospel study and that we should be comparing what the Church says in these essays to critics of the Church who “really” expose them.

They claim we buy a cleverly crafted Church strategy that whitewashes our history and glorifies weak and imperfect individuals.

The answer to this is simple and the critics, especially the scholars, dismiss it out of hand completely: we don’t learn the gospel of Jesus Christ through books. It is learned through the Spirit after study, pondering and prayer.

It really is that simple. Joseph once claimed that if he had heard a story like his own he might not have believed it either. That’s why he insisted that the curious and critic alike pray to God about the truthfulness of it.

That has always been the litmus test. There will be those who say it fails…and there will be others who say it passes gloriously. There is no proof of who is right or who is wrong. The real enquirer has to decide after an independent effort.

But there are those who think they can continually place Joseph on trial or otherwise “prove” false what he insisted was true. There is always some “magic bullet” that causes the whole house of cards to fall down and yet the Church does NOT fail and is NOT going away.

For the casual observer — whether inside the Church or out — the ongoing criticism of the Church is perplexing.

Like the fight of Ordain Women, those without a dog in the hunt simply ask, “If you oppose it so bad, why do you keep drawing attention to it? Just leave.” It is true what they say, isn’t it? Those who leave the Church can’t leave it alone.

After all, when was the last time you read widespread criticism of any other faith?

It doesn’t happen.

But Mormons are always in the news. The Church’s stance and approach to LGBT issues is constantly part of discussion. Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon have become cultural icons for reasons good and bad. The nature of Utah politics and the “Church-State” is regularly debated. Utah liquor laws, family sizes and Sunday business closures are frequently outed as weird. Mormon celebrities and politicians are frequently in the news. All things Mormon are hot topics.

For some reason all that matters.

But what gets missed in all the talk is the spiritual test that awaits the honest searcher. The test is conducted privately, personally and on your knees. Great doctrines that support the charity and love of Christ — such as redemption of the dead — are uniquely in play in the gospel as restored by the boy who became Prophet. It isn’t about him at the end of the day. Joseph clearly points to Christ — and therein lies the test.

If in your study of Mormons it doesn’t boil down to that you’re doing it wrong.

The only thing we seemingly all hold in common as humans is that we all are born and we all die. Joseph uncovered the stunning truths behind where we came from, why we are here and where we are going when we die. He exposed through his short life and ministry just who we are and what we truly are capable of.

But you can only know it by knowing God. And that’s an intensely personal thing. Proof of that doesn’t come from any clever argument or sudden exposure of what any man claims is “history”.

And none of that matters when talking to God.

Start talking. Start seeking. Start listening. It is the only way to really know.