Kindly Step Down From That Rameumptom, Buddy

In late September, 1994 I enjoyed a very fun camping and fishing trip with my family.  A week later in general conference, I heard Gordon B. Hinckley recommend that fathers should raise their children with the rod — the fishing rod.  I was thrilled with this new evidence that God agreed with me, and the next month when the Ensign came out, I made an unbearable nuisance of myself to everybody I knew, first showing them the words from the Ensign, then showing them pictures of our vacation, proving, proving!, that I was indeed on the Lord’s errand.  I basked in the warm glow of my own pride, while simultaneously claiming to be a humble follower of the Brethren. It was wonderful.

If only it were always that easy.  Over the years I have accumulated a list of tasks that the united voice of church leadership has repeatedly asked me to do, but which I haven’t yet carried out completely.  Please check to see if your list looks anything like mine:

1.  Get out of debt and live frugally.

2.  Be a 100% home teacher, making several visits per month if necessary.

3.  Hold well-planned, well-organized family home evenings every Monday night.

4.  Read the scriptures every day privately, and hold family gospel study daily.

5.  Maintain at least a year’s supply of food.

6.  Work actively in family history, and see to it that my ancestors’ temple work is done. 

7.  Attend the temple often, monthly if a temple is within easy driving distance.

8.  Select a friend to be taught by the missionaries.  Facilitate this teaching by introducing my friend to the missionaries and having the discussions taught at my house.  I should be doing this at least once per year.

9.  Greatly increase the amount of money I contribute to the fast offering, tenfold if at all possible.

10.  Keep a journal.

If I were to give myself a grade on each of these tasks, the range would be from A- to D.  There isn’t a single one of them that I could not do better.  Given my own failings, it does not behoove me to select the two or three things I do relatively well and vocally compare myself to my neighbor in his presence.  It is very possible, likely even, that my neighbor surpasses me in other areas.

Our emphasis on prophetic and inspired leadership is one of the great things about Mormonism, but like all things in a fallen world, it has a downside.  Why do we seem to sometimes be in a headlong race to see who gets to be first in line at the rameumptom by touting how well we are following our leaders and calling others out on their failure to do so?  If any of us were perfect at it, I guess it might be excusable, but since nobody meets that standard, what is the point?

Nobody should get credit for doing something they would already do anyway.  If President Monson tells us tomorrow that liver and onions are fobidden under the word of wisdom, it would be poor form on my part to seek out people who enjoy liver and onions and admonish them for failing to get with the program and follow such stellar examples as, well, yours truly. If I really wanted to help, rather than just show off, I would realize that repeatedly drawing attention to my own abstinence is counterproductive. If you really want to impress me with your followership skillz, point me to an instance where you obeyed in spite of your natural inclinations. Otherwise, I (and everybody else within earshot) would prefer that you just remain silent.

Ogden Nash, who is the Poet Laureate of BCC, once wrote some verse entitled Kindly Unhitch That Star, Buddy. I quote part of it here:  

In short, the world is filled with people trying to achieve success,
And half of them think they’ll get it by saying No and half of them by saying Yes
And if all the ones who say No said Yes, and vice versa,
such is the fate of humanity that ninety-nine per cent of them
still wouldn’t be any bettter off than they were before,
Which perhaps is just as well because if everybody was a success
nobody could be contemptuous of anybody else
and everybody would start in all over again
trying to be a bigger success than everybody else
so they would have somebody to be contemptuous of
and so on forevermore.

Many of us are patiently standing in line, waiting our turn at the rameumptom where we can finally thank the Almighty that we are not like the rest of you unworthy heathens. When you ride up to the front of the line on your high horse and cut in to be first, we would all appreciate it if you could just keep your smugness to yourself.

Comments

  1. Token Average Member says:

    I, unfortunately, needed to read this. Thanks!

  2. cahkaylahlee says:

    I’m glad to know that other people appreciate Ogden Nash as much as I do. His poems can be darn hard to find in brick and mortar bookstores…

    I like your list. Everybody has different talents and personalities. What’s easy for one person can be monumental for another.

    Elder Bednar came to our stake about a year ago. One of the things that I have really been thinking about since then is his definition of conversion. Essentially he said that you can have faith in a gospel principle, but until you actually live the principle, you are not converted to it. For example, I have faith in the VT program. I’ve had awesome VTs who love me and take care of me. But I’m not very good at actually doing my VT, so I’m not converted yet.

  3. I don’t even fish. But I do keep a journal. and the weblogs seem like a journal.

  4. Gerald Smith says:

    Given that my email and online username is Rameumptom, it’s kind of hard for me to completely step down from mine….

    I think that we need to look at the commandments and guidance given in context of “line upon line, precept on precept” and as D&C 93 teaches us of Christ, we must go from grace to grace, receiving grace for grace.

    We receive the general guidance, and then it is up to each of us to prayerfully consider the portions we need to focus on Right Now, and what priority to give each thing. This list of priorities changes for us continually, or it should. For instance, when I was 19, missionary work was priority 1, with genealogy and temple work taking a back seat for 2 years.

    The issue isn’t calling everyone around to work a particular commandment that we, personally, have been inspired to follow closely. Our part is to encourage everyone to study the prophets and prayerfully determine how to live what they’ve taught in their own lives. There is no hypocrisy in that, since the Spirit is there to help each of us fashion our own personal priority list for all things.

  5. Brother Brown, you rock.

  6. Agreed. (While trying not to sound like one of the people in line), last week I was on a spiritual high coming off of General Conference, Stake Conference and several weekends of skipped church in order to provide Ike assistance.

    After about five weeks away from Church, my ward’s Sunday School participants were engaging in exactly what you describe–in particular, railing on “inactives” for more or less not having it more together. This after two wonderful Sacrament meeting talks on unity.

    Can I start skipping Sunday School for fishing?

  7. Mark, this is a good list and a challenge to all of us – to do all these things. I think it’s doable. But a person has to be determined … and I’m not claiming I’m there yet.

    Personally, I’ve been working on hometeaching. We moved into a new ward recently and I didn’t feel I was as good a hometeacher (in the last ward) as I wanted to be. So I’m trying to change that in the current ward. I’m very fortunate that I have a hometeaching companion and three assigned families that are cooperative. It doesn’t always work out that way.

  8. Peter LLC says:

    Brother Brown, you rock.

    Why, yes, yes he does.

  9. Thanks, Mark. I think Pres. Benson was correct when he said the great sin (even of the modern church) is pride – and its attendant judgmental-ness. It helps me whenever I start getting on my own high horse to look over and see my wife living the basics of the gospel so much better than I am doing – or the single sister who is struggling mightily to keep her daughter in the church and grounded in the gospel while simultaneously serving as the YW Pres – or any number of others who put me to shame daily.

    One point about which I feel strongly:

    I believe we can’t do it all – and that we aren’t supposed to try. I believe all of us collectively are supposed to do it all, but I believe that what I do as the foot now will differ from what I will do as the hand or eye or ear or bellybutton at some other point in my life. I believe I need to try to do whatever I can do – nothing more, but nothing less. It’s determining what I can do, particularly with the Lord’s help, that is my greatest struggle.

  10. Larry the cable guy says:

    That day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches.
    And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.
    That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars and whether they had one, or not, upon thars.

    Dr. Seuss deserves a place in the canon well ahead of most Living Scripture videos and a good number of Primary Songs.

  11. Great point. I would just like to add that part of my Gospel is that you can’t really be a “fisher of men” (or women) until you learned how to do it properly–as a fisher of fish.

  12. Well this is about the best post I’ve ever read…I think it probably hits home for most of us who are always so willing to show off (in a way) what prophetic counsel we follow while we’re completely ignoring other things that we’re admonished to do.

  13. I think there is an interesting conflict between doing and becoming. Obviously the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but I believe that it is easy to be so caught up in doing for the sake of doing that we can miss the more important part of becoming.

    This quote from Elder Oaks is a great one that too often I forget:

    From such teachings we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.

  14. I wonder how many things on that list have been repeated by our current First Presidency? For what it is worth, I hear their messages focusing more on what I think are the core principles of the gospel–loving God and loving neighbor as ourselves.

  15. I had a similar conference experience during general priesthood meetings a couple of years back. I was not aware at the time of the meeting, but there was a behind the scenes conflict with the time of the priesthood meeting and kickoff for a BYU football game (poor planning by the football team, I suppose.) President Hinckley was the last speaker and started his talk by acknowledging the impending football game and promised to finish his talk in time for people to make it to the game, or something to that effect. Amazingly, the meeting did wrap up about 20 minutes early. It was obviously an October conference several years ago, I don’t remember which fall. (How on earth did the BYU athletic program schedule a football game that would conflict with GC?)

    The lesson I took away is that if the priesthood meeting can be truncated for something as silly and trivial as BYU football, it can be skipped altogether for meaningful sporting events like the Final Four, where my college hoops team has appeared several times. That priesthood session lifted a nagging sense of guilt I had carried for routinely skipping the priesthood session in favor of the Final Four; although, my team hasn’t fared as well the last couple of years so it’s back to priesthood meeting.

    So, all of you on your way up the tower take pity on me while I descend from the tower to enjoy my college hoops in the spring.

  16. Great post and reminder. I also especially like #13′s quote from Elder Oaks. I’m going to write that one down.

    Thank you.

  17. Dang, Mark. Are you telling me that I can’t brag about the one or two gospel principles I actually do well? How in the world am I going to have any chance of feeling ok about the ones I’m failing at? I think we need a post about the necessity of tooting your own horn a little. It could be something like the Daily Affirmation. You know: “I’m good enough at home teaching, I do some genealogy occasionally, and doggone it, Jesus likes me!”

  18. Adam Greenwood says:

    Joseph Smith liked to brag, right? Who am I to say I’m better than Joseph Smith?

    :)

  19. Who has kidnapped Adam Greenwood and replaced him with someone who uses smilies??

  20. Bro. Jones says:

    Wow, I do none of those things very effectively. Humbling and depressing. Time to go to work.

  21. A favorite Ogden Nash poem of mine, especially true given my permanently inactive status:

    I didn’t go to church today,
    I trust the Lord to understand.
    The sea was swirling blue and white,
    The children swirling on the sand.
    He knows, He knows how brief my stay,
    How brief this spell of summer weather.
    He knows when I am said and done,
    We’ll have a plenty of time together.

  22. Bro. Jones – You beat me to it!

  23. Sylvia, after reading your post, I have to say that I think you’re doing very well, you braggart.

  24. RE: Why do we seem to sometimes be in a headlong race to see who gets to be first in line at the rameumptom by touting how well we are following our leaders and calling others out on their failure to do so? If any of us were perfect at it, I guess it might be excusable, but since nobody meets that standard, what is the point?
    .
    Paul wrote, For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23)
    .
    Consider the this image of two people who together attempt to jump across a Road-Runner-cartoon-like valley. Neither make it. As they plummet to the valley’s floor below, one of them turns to the other and smugly notes, “You know, I didn’t come as short as did you.”

  25. Thomas Parkin says:

    manaen: Exhibit 1 in the Are Mormons Christians Exhibit.

    Cool.

    ~

  26. After checking that list, I’m not sure I can even see my way to the Rameumptom.

    I prefer to compare myself to the likes of Hitler. I always come out on top that way. (Seriously, I am so much better than Hitler.)

    Great post.

  27. Just Wondering says:

    Several comments from earlier today have disappeared….Any idea what happened?

  28. Those people are BANNED!

  29. Mark Brown says:

    Just wondering,

    The author of this post was taking a few practice swings with the ban stick in anticipation of MCQ’s appearance on the thread. He thinks he may have inadvertently deleted the comments in question and invites people to repost.

  30. “Nobody should get credit for doing something they would already do anyway. If President Monson tells us tomorrow that liver and onions are fobidden under the word of wisdom, it would be poor form on my part to seek out people who enjoy liver and onions and admonish them for failing to get with the program and follow such stellar examples as, well, yours truly.”

    As opposed to taking the usual adversarial approach, let me just say that I liked this post a lot. I have a tendency to want to try and knock loose what I percieve to be some folks iron sinewed necks, but I usually miss because I am swinging with my mote.

  31. a few practice swings with the ban stick

    [Mental note: never let Mark get access to the nuclear launch codes.]

  32. Anonymous this time says:

    An outsider’s viewpoint might be helpful.

    I find it odd that so many people say that they are just weak in doing things that the prophets ask us to do. I can respect the answer itself. I think everyone is weak, and knows that they are (even if they don’t admit it to themselves). The problem, is that I get suspicious of people, who instead of saying, “I’m weak and need help following”, organize support groups where they talk about why “we shouldn’t follow the prophet”, tout how “we’re more loving and accepting and smarter than the brethren” and then BAN others whose viewpoints are different than them. I have not yet commented on this post, nor did I follow it as it was written, so I have no idea of those Bannings were truly deserved or not. In the past, however, it has appeared a little heavy handed. And for people who scream about the intolerance of “iron rod” members, you all come off as extremely intolerant.

    Anonymous posting this time…

  33. Steve Evans says:

    I can see why you kept your name off that one — it’s stupid.

  34. Mark Brown says:

    Anonymous this time -

    Let’s be clear. Nobody got banned, and the only comments which were deleted were deleted accidentally. In my comment #30, I invited people whose comments I accidentally deleted to repost.

    Somehow you made the jump from there to accusing me of banning people whose views differ from mine, and accusing me of organizing a support group where we talk about “why we shouldn’t follow the prophet”. Amazing.

  35. Anonymous this time says:

    Well, Steve at least you didn’t have to stoop to name calling for someone who’s viewpoint you disagree with.
    Oh wait…

  36. Anonymous this time says:

    Mark, you think way too highly of my supposed criticism of you!
    I was not saying that Mark Brown is organizing a group, rather that some of the comments here come off not as the “I’m weak and need help” but “I know better than the prophet.” I didn’t say that those comments were yours. Maybe I should have made that more clear. I agree with the initial point of the post, “Nobody’s perfect.” The question is, are we rejoicing in the imperfection, or mutally trying to help each other overcome it?
    End note to Mark B.

    Steve,
    You can choose to ignore the insight, and you can all stoop to name calling, or you can try to understand the concern. Calling me names only solidifies my understanding of Steve Evans as intolerant.

  37. Mark Brown says:

    Anonymous,

    OK, you’ve made your point repeatedly. We understand that you think this is an intolerant bunch around here and that we don’t “follow the prophet”, and that we “scream about intolerance”. I haven’t deleted your comments, even though I disagree with them, and I haven’t banned you. Can we please move on?

  38. As one of the people “banned” by my comments being deleted, I am thinking of starting a support group where we can discuss Steve Evans and how we are better than he is and then BAN any one who disagrees with us.

    Anon, seriously, 1, Steve didn’t call you a name. He did not say “Anonymous is stupid.” He called your comment a name “Anonymous, that comment is stupid.” and frankly, in context, it’s pretty stupid, especially since their are TONS of comments on this blog which are assinine which steve leaves up which disagree with his point of view.(see comment #33 for example).

    Yes he’s a liberal man bag toting Canadian, but seriously, my comments were deleted, and I am sure it was a mistake.

    Just to prove it, I will reproduce the comments from memory.

    Ray: Hey everyone, I have Steve Evans’s address, anyone want to come with me and burn him at the stake?

    Matt W.: I do!

    Kevin Barney: Did you know the greek root for Evans
    is “Evil Incarnate”?

    FMHLisa: I get to light the fire, women’s lib and all that!

    Kaimi: Burn him! Burn Him!

    Adam Greenwood: Oh the Swettness of Mormon Life…

    See, nothing controversial there.

  39. Mark Brown says:

    Matt W., FTW.

  40. Steve Evans says:

    Matt W. has it right. Anonymous, I did not call you stupid, just your comment. I must say however that you are laying a track record that is not helping your “I am not stupid” credentials.

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