The Great Church Metaphorathon

To be successful in the church, it’s pretty obvious you have to know how to spin a good metaphor. Who can forget Elder Bednar’s pickles, or the moral significance of the fact that Idaho Falls is built on a pile of rubbish?

So, as an improving exercise, I have listed three mundane objects and events. Choose one and create a church-related metaphor, suitable for use in a talk. Extra points will be given for dealing with the specific details of the object or event and for the obscurity of the principle you are using it to explore.

As a bonus, I added a sport from which to create a sports metaphor. But while these are usually reserved for priesthood meetings by those who have played sports, any and all respondents, regardless of gender or level of athletic achievement, may attempt the sports metaphor. (What tolerance! What egalitarianism!)

1. A paper clip.

2. Running alongside a bus as it pulls away, hoping the driver will see you and let you on.

3. Footnotes and/or endnotes.

Sport: Miniature Golf.


  1. Name (required) says:

    Paper Clip: Eternal marriage. A temple sealing binds you together permanently–like a staple or a book binding. A non-temple marriage is temporary–easily removed like a paper clip. Paper clips will fall off when the pages are rattled.

    Bus: Trust in God–not the arm of flesh/devil. God won’t let you down. Satan/world will lead you along and then throw you in the gutter. See fate of Korihor–use scripture, ‘the devil will not support his children at the last day but doth speedily drag them down to hell’.

    Footnotes: Discussion of ‘law written in your hearts, various other body parts’. In the old days, people would put tiny versions of the law on their arms? heads?–Kind of like a ‘foot’ note. Today we need the law written in our hearts.

    Miniature Golf: Intro to Aaronic Priesthood talk. Golf is ‘gentlemen only ladies forbidden’. Today we are going to talk to the young or ‘miniature’ gentlemen.

  2. Norbert,
    You forgot #4. Sprinkler Heads.
    We heard the Parable of the Sprinkler Heads at F&T this month. We have a man who works on the grounds at our temple. He likened the temple grounds to the Garden of Eden. He said the sprinkler heads sometimes got bent when he mowed the lawn, and when the water was turned on they failed to cover their assigned area of watering. He said when we get a little “bent” in our thinking or actions, we fail to do our duties in the church and our lives, and our stewardships suffer.

  3. Saying your sorry to someone without really repenting is like a footnote in a book on miniature golf about throwing paperclips while runnning alongside a bus as it pulls away, hoping the driver will see you and let you on. pretty much useless.

  4. Paper clip: similar to Marie’s comment about sprinkler heads, but when it’s used as it’s designed it is useful and productive. When it is bent out of shape in effort to be something it’s not, it’s no good to anybody, just a wire. Be yourself and be happy with your own capabilities and talents.

    Bus: “you’re either on the bus, or off the bus” (sorry, Timothy Leary coming out there…) The bus is the gospel, it has the ability to take you to your final destination, but you have to get on that bus. You can’t run alongside it because after awhile it will accelerate and leave you behind. Don’t be a fencesitter, you can’t serve God and Mammon, etc.

  5. Paper clip: a soul. A lone paper clip is easily lost and hard to find again. Yet link a paper clip into the great paper clip chain of salvation and it will never be misplaced. All the paper clips of this dispensation will be linked, with sealings of parents to children and eventually via the Law of Adoption, back to the great head paper clip of our times, Joseph Smith. Presumably, Smith’s paper clip will be linked to Adam’s, which in turn will be linked to Christ’s, and so forth. Yet if you allow the metal of your paper clip to be softened and broken by the fiery heat of mortal probation, then the great chain can be ripped asunder and your place in it put in peril.

  6. Paper clip: The paper clip seems so small, so lightweight, so cheap, so… limited. You look at it and think that you can’t use it for anything because you don’t happen to have a stack of papers available to secure. This is a lot like having the Aaronic Priesthood — it’s easy for a 12-year-old boy to think “well, this is useless, it’s Tuesday and there’s no Sacrament to pass around the chapel.” But a paperclip is a tool, and its use is limited as much by your imagination as by its physical parameters. A few quick twists and it becomes a Christmas ornament hanger, or a precision watch-setting device, or a tool for scratching off the silvery stuff that covers the validation code for that gift card you got for your birthday: just because it’s not much use as a vehicle or a screwdriver or a remote control doesn’t mean the paper clip can only clip papers together. In the same way, the fact that a Deacon can’t baptize people shouldn’t lead him to think that the only thing he can do takes place in a twenty-minute period once a week.

    Bus parable: At that moment, when the bus is finally pulling away — that is the moment when the traveler would give anything to go back to an hour earlier, when she was absentmindedly blogging away. She could have finished that comment just forty or fifty seconds sooner, could have applied a minuscule amount of discipline and turned off the PC and finished drying her hair and left in plenty of time for the bus! But when the bus is pulling away from the curb, the die is cast, the scene is set, and she’s late for work. The moment for decision, the moment to prove that she wants to get on work on time, has faded into memory before the bus even gets to the stop. See also death and temple worthiness.

    Footnotes/endnotes: The whole point of a footnote is to create trail for your reader to follow your reasoning and verify that you’re being honest with them (and for you to check your facts easily.) An academic paper without footnotes is as open to suspicion and error as a Sunday School talk where the scriptures stay underneath everyone’s seats.

    Miniature Golf: Daily life in the family is a lot like miniature golf: family living is a similitude of our future lives in the Celestial Kingdom in much the same way that miniature golf is like the PGA tour. It’s best when everyone decides to enjoy themselves even when things don’t seem to make sense, both in the game and in your homes. More than half the point of miniature golf is simply to enjoy yourself and build relationships with one another — the same is true of your time with your family (i.e., the point isn’t to “win” by e.g. having clean laundry and sparkling sinks in the kitchen). Neither your home life nor the game will make any sense without rules that are agreed upon by all. And both are greatly enhanced by pizza and ice cream at the end of the day.

    (I can also do one about miniature golf and how if all you ever did was repeatedly whack the golf ball straight at the hole, it’d become boring very quickly, and how YSAs shouldn’t spend all their time and energy looking for/think about finding a spouse.)

  7. No one in Particular says:

    I’m thinking something on “Becoming a tool in the hands of the Lord” as taught to us through the versatility of bent paper clip. The talk would include a variety of achievements using paper clips, including but not limited to: opening locked doors (or handcuffs, the ‘bonds of sin’?), retrieving items from difficult locations (perhaps in service to others?), and ‘sealing’ papers together. Paper clip chains should definitely be mentioned (see comment 5).

    As a bonus you can talk about diversity in the body of Christ and how all the children of our Father can develop different talents towards a common good (if you have a sufficient number of paper clip related anecdotes, anyway).

  8. A paperclip represents man’s journey through life in his natural state. He travels in a straight line for a time, then gets lost and turns around traveling in the other direction. After a while, he turns around again and again, never closer to his goal.

    But, if you apply some effort, you can straighten out that paperclip to form basically a single straight line, a line that becomes the iron rod leading to exaltation.

    My favorite metaphor is that one Pres. Monson used about the squid-like creature that attached itself to the fishermen’s sticks. I can’t remember what it was called, but it sounded like a great fake expletive.

  9. My dad actually does use a paper clip when he speaks at baptisms!

    A paper clip starts out with its beautiful shape, but once bent (due to sin), not even our most diligent reparation (pre-baptism repentance) efforts are enough. It ends up lumpy and ridiculous.

    Baptism is like getting a brand new paper clip!

  10. Christopher Smith says:

    One does not play miniature golf with a paper clip. One does not clip paper together with a golf club. Neither instrument is fundamentally better than the other; the important thing is having the right instrument at the right time. God has given different gifts to different people. Some are golf clubs, others are paper clips. Rather than being angry that God hasn’t given you a particular gift– I’ve never been much of a miniature golfer, myself– you should take stock of your gifts and seek out opportunities to use them. And when a situation arises in your life that requires a gift that you don’t have, instead of tormenting yourself over it you should seek the help of a neighbor who is gifted in that area.

  11. Just this morning, I woke up an hour and a half before class began: I did not “procrastinate the day of my [getting up] until the end” (Alma 34:33); alas, it was still “everlastingly too late, and [my] destruction [was] made sure” (Hel. 13:38). I left with what I thought was plenty of time, only to see the bus pull away from the curb. How often are we not like this in our own lives? We may think we are prepared for the Second Coming, but much like the Utah Transit Authority, “ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matt. 24:42)

    How can we better prepare ourselves for the Second Coming? First, we must develop a personal relationship with the Savior. (Whips out paper clip and two magnet.) Each one of us, brothers and sisters, is like this paper clip. This magnet (left hand) is Satan, and this (right hand) is God. The further we are from the influence of Satan, the easier it is to draw closer unto God. (See “Lesson 16: Joseph in Egypt,” Primary 6: Old Testament, (1996), 67.) The line between good and evil is well-defined. In the words of President George Albert Smith,

    “There is a line of demarcation, well defined. On one side of the line is the Lord’s territory. On the other side of the line is the devil’s territory. . . . If you will stay on the Lord’s side of the line, you are perfectly safe, because the adversary of all righteousness can not cross that line. ‘What does that mean? It means to me that those who are living righteous lives, keeping all of the commandments of our Heavenly Father are perfectly safe, but not those who trifle with His advice and counsel.”

    (Conference Report, Oct. 1949, 5–6.)

    The second way we can prepare for the Second Coming is to be honest in all our dealings and to keep a personal history. All of us have played the game of miniature golf. (The speaker is now describing an American pastime resembling regular golf, but for poor people.) If you are the scorekeeper, it is all to easy to make your “7” resemble a hole-in-one (not to mention taking the small pencil). We can not cheat our way to the Celestial Kingdom: will the Creator of the Universe let his children make a mockery of the ninth commandment? (Ex. 20.) The Lord told Joseph Smith,


    ehold, the great day of the Lord is at hand; and who can abide the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appeareth? . . . Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.

    (D&C 128:24)

    If you do not write down your scores as you go during a round of mini golf, you will surely forget your scores by the end. A series of eighteen numbers is a lot to remember: imagine trying to recall half as many decades at the end of your life. Could the Messiah be more clear? We will not “abide the day of his coming if we do not have “a book containing . . . records.” If we do not have “33 black binders on the shelves” (Spencer W. Kimball, “President Kimball Speaks Out on Personal Journals,” New Era, Dec 1980, 26) or our library, we are remiss. If President Kimball could do it, why can’t you?

    Lastly, to prepare for the Millennial day at hand, we must eliminate worthless distractions from our lives. Quoth Wikipedia, the source of all truth and goodness (besides the Standard Works), footnotes “are most often used as an alternative to long explanatory notes that can be distracting to readers.” Each member of this congregation is the protagonist of his or her own life. Do we want our life novels to read like a Balzac work, with half a chapter to explain the nuances of one corner of a table, or do we want our lives to be like a well-formed peer-reviewed journal article, with all obfuscation relegated to the bottom of the page? I think the answer is clear.

    This morning, I was like one of the five foolish virgins. I’d had oil in my lamp (by getting up early), but when it came down to it, I was not ready to meet the Bridegroom. (See Matt. 25.) When it comes to our Lord’s reappearance, don’t be the person standing dejectedly on the curb.

    I say these things, in the name of that very Bridegroom, ay-men.

  12. corrections:


    Include renegade “B” in quotation

    of our library

  13. Who told that Green Eggs and Ham story way back when?

    You know… the one where some sweet innocent sister stood up in singles ward Sacrament Meeting and proceeded to read from Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham”, with the eggs and ham as a metaphor for sex. Then at the end, she had “Sam” present a marriage proposal, after which the unnamed Seussical creature is happy to enjoy Green Eggs and Ham in all of the aforementioned strange situations.

    Anyone remember that one?

  14. Moving slightly off-topic but as a response to #13, when I was growing up we had a missionary who at his farewell, just read Green Eggs and Ham for his farewell talk.

    And by “read Green Eggs and Ham” I do not mean that he mentioned or quoted it. He read the entire book. And that was the entirety of his talk, with maybe 30 seconds afterwards to talk about how Sam-I-am was a great missionary for converting the other (nameless) guy.

    And before you ask, this is a 1st person account of said reading :-)

  15. FHL, I believe you’re referring to a maka-feke!

  16. I like reading this with a Bro. Monson inner-voice:

    The other day, as I was emerging from a Chik-Fil-A, I spied an elderly woman running beside a bus. As she ran she was crying “Stop!” to the driver and waving frantically. So intent was this woman on getting on the bus she didn’t realize she had chased it right into the middle of a busy city intersection. The bus had run a yellow light, so when the woman stopped running, cars were coming at her from both directions. “Surely,” she reasoned, “these people will let me safely return to the curb,” and she proceeded to gingerly walk back. The first vehicle, an SUV driven by a soccer mom and 1st counselor in her ward’s Relief Society, sped by, almost clipping the woman. It was soon followed by a Crown Victoria, a very nice and comfortable touring car, driven by a high councilman probably rushing to give a talk somewhere. It whooshed by and knocked the woman’s shopping bag out of her hand. But then, a very old & battered Tercel slowed to a stop, causing all traffic behind it to dutifully stop as well. The old woman gazed through the windshield, and there she saw a depraved hippie, probably not a member of the Church, who smiled and waved at her to safely reach her destination. She smiled gratefully back, and finally made it to the sidewalk, where I was standing with a pass-along card. And the question that remains with me to this day is, “Would that woman have ever heard about the Church if she didn’t almost get killed chasing after that bus?”

  17. Waves were exchanged. Tears were wept.

  18. You’ll burn in hell for that, KyleM!

  19. Among other things.

  20. #17 – Awesome.

  21. Who can forget Elder Bednar’s pickles
    I was doing just fine forgetting them until you brought them up.

  22. P.S. David T. #16, that was awesome. Best twist on “The Good Samaritan in Cleveland” I’ve seen.

  23. Seth R. #13 – I told that story about using Green Eggs and Ham to teach the law of chastity. It was a BYU singles ward. The funniest part was the sister giving the talk might just have been serious about it. She never cracked a smile and so we were stifling our giggles. She was such a sweetie no one wanted to hurt her feelings. I don’t think she knew how funny it was.

  24. It shall go down in history Melinda. I fully expect a rousing rendition to appear in the great book of life.

  25. #1 I like!! You helped me brainstorm some additional thoughts:

    one thoght about related paper clips to nontemple marriage and staples to eternal marriage.

    You could say even the staple can get rusted, it can be bent. One must safeguard these items. Just as a ” magnet catcher ” (those magnet thingies that “catch” stray paperclips or sewing needles) exist, one needs family/couple and individual prayer, scripture study etc to “keep the paper clip” safe.

    And talk about how external evil forces try to pry apart the staple, ie contrasting fignernails or staple removers w/ the f orces of Satan.

    Also say how for both paper clips and staples, energy is required in that one needs sufficent muscle power to make the staple work, esp if it is a thick stack of papers.

    ** one other idea, there are fancy colored and fancy shaped paperckips and staples (ie I love fuscia staples!). So one need not be bored w/the basic idea of staple or paper clop. Have fun yet remember the basics matter most, it has to have the nexessary holding power.

  26. * one other idea from paper clips: How about “The Parable of the Paper Clip”. To appreciate this, you have to be familiar w/a story that was in the news within the last year or so, it was about a young man who traded a red paperclip for various items until he actually traded it for a house, I think.

    You could liken this story to that of the Parable of the Talents and show how even though someone was given one measley paperclip, they perseveared and were able to receive a home!

  27. Golf-

    ~ someone could go on about how fun golf is, etc and share anecdotes. Then say in the game of golf there are real dangers. Then tell how someone gets hit in the head w/a golf ball. Tell how someone could fall and break their leg while playing golf (true- I’ve had two patients who fell and broke legs while golfing). Someone else crashed the golf cart and received multiple injuries.

    ~ talk again about how fun golf can be- maybe go into the detail of how getting hit w/a golf ball would hurt.

    ~ my sis actually lives on a golf course. THe backyard of their home faces the pond of a golf course. Tell how you as an aunt worry that a golfer will accidentally hit your sister’s home w/a golf ball or your precious nieces and nephew. Remind people we need to be aware of the dangers that lurk to harm our families. Then tell how on the other hand, your sweet 6 yo niece and 10 yo nephew say that they see a lot of golfers and how some of them “aren’t very good”, ie in terms of hitting the golf ball. Then make an analogy between this and how if we play the game of golf (ie the game of life) we need to be aware that people we don’t even know might be watching us.

  28. PS- one more thought on golf, then I promise I’ll hush.

    But you could emphasize how important it is to focus on the basics of life- spiritual strength and balance, in terms of the body strength and balance needed to swing the club.

    And speaking of swinging, talk about how important that the direction we swing and aim is a happy one, leading to eternal life and happiness w/our Heavenly Father.

    And how even when there are the times we can’t even pick up our life’s golf club, Heavenly Father & Jesus Christ will help us pick it up and help us maintain our grasp on it, and that no matter what, He will help us swing it. (I am thinking of something sort of like that picture of Jesus Christ helping a young boy “steer” a ship through a storm)And when our life trials our really hard and we can barely pick up the club, He will make the club feel light, just like the burdens were lifted off the Book of Mormon people so that they didn’t feel the weight of the burdens.

  29. truebluethru'n'thru says:

    A) The truly virtuous are like paper clips, they are rarely heralded but fulfill essential duties.

    B) When speaking truth to power, be effective. Truly want those in authority to understood and for your arguement to win the day. What is the best way to run after a missed bus? To wear an expression of cursing fate? Or to wager yourself more likely to win the driver’s sympathy by showing you are doing all you can do to rememdy your precarious situation by running alongside the bus, while wearing only a look of hope that the bus driver will accomodate your sincere plea?

    C) In love and all things in life, be fulsome; does not a true scholar gives generously of gained knowledge, while even guiding others to gain their own witness to whatever its lights through reference to sources?

    D) Successful crafting of a metaphor from a preset list is as hit and miss as a hole-in-one-through-the-windmill in miniature golf.

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