The Great BCC Aphorism Contest!

foot-in-riverLike many of you are wont to do, one night I was curled up in a comfy chair reading Heraclitus and I came across his famous aphorism,

One cannot step twice into the same river . . .#91

(which actually I’ve done several times, so I’m not sure what he’s going on about). He had a few more that were not so famous, but equally memorable and aphoristic,

The way up and down is one in the same. #60

Very Zen. How about this one that left me fairly discouraged, but I’m nothing if not willing to recognize that, ‘If the shoe fits I need to face the music (wait, is that an aphorism too?)–Heraclitus writes,

Eyes and ears are bad witnesses for people who have barbarian souls. #107

Yawp! That hurt.

Now, no one could whip up a good aphorism like Herr Nietzsche the Mustached Man from Basal. Like this gem,

The worst readers are those who proceed like plundering soldiers: they pick up a few things they can use, soil and confuse the rest, and blaspheme the whole. #137. p. 155

or this,

Those thinkers in whom all stars move in cyclic orbits are not the most profound: whoever looks into himself as into vast space and carries galaxies in himself also knows how irregular all galaxies are; they lead into the chaos and labyrinth of existence. #322 from The Gay Science p. 175.

Whoa, deep. If that doesn’t deserve to be a Primary song I don’t know what does.

There have been a few attempts to write in the key of aphorisms in our time, like Nassim Nicholas Taleb,

The worst damage has been caused by competent people trying to do good, the best improvements have been brought by incompetent ones not trying to do good. p. 89


Bad-mouthing is the only genuine, never faked, expression of admiration. p. 99


If you find any reason why you and someone are friends, you are not friends.

I like that. It’s true. If you have to list the reasons you are friends with someone you are likely not.

I could spit out aphorisms all day. It’s one of my favorite genres.

There have been many notable ones and you can find entire books devoted to the craft. But what about Mormon aphorisms? We’ve had some real gems like,

No other success can compensate for failure in the home. David O. McKay


As man now is, God once was; as God is now man may be.” Lorenzo Snow

or even as recent at this conference,

“First doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith” Dieter F. Uchtdorf

But we need more. So in the spirit of BCC finest traditions, I hereby announce the ‘First Annual New LDS Aphorism Contest.” Take your stab at creating this century’s most quotable aphorism. Make it pithy. Make it wise. Humorous. Whatever. Just make it.

Here are a few off the top of my head:

Said with a Sigh:

“Better a crying baby in the foyer than a High Councilman’s talk.”

“You can’t squeeze content from the lesson manual alone.”

“Nothing proves the reality of the Fall like Scouting.”

Faith Promoting:

“When the going gets tough, the tough get the Relief Society.”

“When you see a single set of footprints in the sand, remember, God is on your back.”

“Never forget that that deacon/beehive may one day be your son-in-law/daughter-in-law.”

So have at it. The winner, who will be chosen by a small unbiased committee of BCC permas consisting of Karen H, Tracy M, and Cynthia L, will receive a copy of my new poetry book, Incorrect Astronomy!

So get busy. If you are not feeling creative, go ahead an share your favorite aphorism. Let the games begin!

The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. 2010 Random House.

The Basic Writings of Nietzsche, 1992. The Modern Library, New York.

Heraclitus: Translation and Analysis. Dennis Sweet. 1995. University Press of America. New York.


  1. Obedience isn’t the first law of heaven; agency is. (Otherwise, we’d all be living satan’s plan.)

  2. Latter-day Guy says:

    A gentleman does not kiss… a gift-horse in the mouth(?)

    or perhaps:

    Build a man a fire, warm him for a day. Set a man of fire, warm him for the rest of his life.

  3. Latter-day Guy says:

    Set a man *ON* fire, rather.

  4. Obedience is the first law of prison.

  5. No gospel principle is so ennobling that it hasn’t, at some point, been used by a well-meaning fool to beat somebody over the head with.

  6. Caffeine is a dish best served cold.

  7. Eat, drink and be merry, for obesity is not against the World of Wisdom.

  8. A wise person always leaves something to the

  9. Adam fell that men might have “wholesome recreation activity”.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    “I never said it would be easy; I only said it would be worth it.” Actually, that rings a faint bell, but I just did a search of the scriptures and can’t find it anywhere, so I’m pretty sure I just coined it myself.

  11. The purpose of the Atonement is not to save us from our sins, but through them.

  12. Agency is a matter of how we discharge stewardship over the givenness of our lives.

  13. Here’s one I used to say in response to people who credit the Lord for each and every minor daily occurrence good and bad (apologies to Einstein): God does not play Starcraft

  14. Perfection is a process. Start with your neighbors.

  15. Greg Neil says:

    The unfelt handshake is a devil’s deceit, unless just arisen from awkward slumber on a pillow arm in a Sunday meeting.

  16. No food ever tastes so sweet as sacrament bread on fast Sunday.

  17. Dan Wotherspoon says:

    LDS one:
    No success can compensate for failure to pronounce “patriarchal” correctly.

    The truly significant one:
    No success can compensate for failure to punctuate “you’re” correctly.

  18. Jeannine L. says:

    Pssh. Then you’ve never had a cold Diet Coke to break your fast. That’s a taste of the Celestial Kingdom.

  19. A non-standard Mormon says:

    Justice is getting what you deserve.
    Mercy is not getting what you deserve.
    Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.

  20. Patience is a virtue, except when it’s not. Like in the tunnel-visioned quest for your son’s Eagle Scout advancement before puberty.

  21. PNWReader says:

    The holy ghost goes to bed at midnight and gets up at 7 AM. Thus, a date that continues after midnight is an occasion of sin, and a bishopric or other leadership meeting that commences before 8-ish cannot have divine inspiration.

  22. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    Would that all my other Zion reflexes were as automatic as the communal folding of chairs after a priesthood meeting.

  23. Meetings are to Mormons what self-flagellation is to Jesuits—pious acts presumed to be pleasing in the eyes of the Creator simply by reason of the discomfort they cause.

  24. A slip of the shoulder can sink a priesthood holder.

  25. Death is a blessing that should never be sought or given.

    One who fears God in life will not fear God in death.

    What one says about Nauvoo says more about them than it says about Nauvoo.

    Molly Mormon wouldn’t know Molly though Miley does know.

    The saint who cherishes their spouse, though imperfect, will be blessed in eternity.

    No one believes they are wrong, no matter what the evidence may show.

    The blackest wrong can become a source of healing in God’s hands.

    The blind men all touched the same elephant, and we all worship the same God.

    When I was young, I was certain. Now old, I cherish grace and hold to hope.

    There is no excuse for abuse.

    Each moment is precious, a gift that will never be given again.

    Mankind would embrace destruction if it were convenient and comely.

    No secret is so silent that God knows it not.

    One who demands respect will never have it.

    One who flees obedience to the highest law will be forced to comply with a lower law.

    When I feed another, my soul is filled.

    No possession is so precious that we can take it back to heaven.

    Error is error, no matter how cherished.

    Live as though you love those in future centuries, and they will love you.

    A weed unheeded gives seed to tomorrow’s ruin.

    The perfect man embraces all and rejects none.

    God will vindicate every speaker of truth and honor every lover of freedom.

  26. Ozone Schmozone.

  27. Bless this sugar and cholesterol laden food that it will make us strong and healthy and do us the good that we need.

  28. We do so believe in Jesus. Yes, we do. Seriously. In fact, our Jesus is better than your Jesus.

  29. BCC needs a thumbs-up “like” button.

  30. If you can’t stand the warmth, get out of the serving area.

  31. “No other excess can compensate for failure to go to Rome.”- David O. McKay’s twin brother in the Classics Dept.

  32. (Not original to me, I admit.)

  33. Don’t confuse a church with a religion.

    Not everyone in a church practices the same religion.

    (Same thought worded two different ways, although it kinda reads as judgier than I’d like. Oh well).

  34. Capozaino says:

    Beware of snide.

  35. Capozaino says:

    Attend the meetings we must, but the linger longer is free

  36. Capozaino says:

    The false bloggernacle we worship

  37. melodynew says:

    One woman’s cleavage is another man’s Valley of the Shadow of Death. I fear no evil.

  38. The last shall be first and the first shall be last. Therefore, it mattereth not whether which wife you are.

  39. melodynew says:

    The last shall be first and the first shall be last. Therefore, it mattereth not which wife you are.

  40. melodynew says:

    What’s good for the bishop is good for the nursery leader.

    If you labor all the days of your life in nursery and bring but one crying child to her father during priesthood meeting, how great will be your joy.

  41. blessed are those who sing well and are naturally outgoing, for them church is much easier.

    blessed are those of one gender who hearken to the other gender so they can be equally yolked.

    It is easier to pass through young mens without liking basketball or camping than it is for a women to get into priesthood session

    the kingdom of heaven is like unto a little child..who has been fed and changed by someone else and is naturally really happy…or asleep.

    wo, wo , wo unto the primary music leader who does not understand the joy of bouncing sunbeams

  42. melodynew says:

    Lengthen your stride. . . er. . . I mean skirt.

  43. Tis better to sit in the lobby and be thought an apostate than to attend Relief Society and remove all doubt.

  44. We all all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may; but not in our church!

  45. *sorry, ALLOW all men…

  46. Kevin Barney says:

    There’s a Muslim Hadith that we need to adapt to Mormonism:

    “The bad breath of him who fasts is sweeter to God than the scent of musk.”

  47. Testimony: fake it till make it – one fiber at a time.

  48. *till YOU make it

  49. No other success can compensate for failure in the home. David O. McKay: NOT. Quoted from J. E. McCullough, Home: The Savior of Civilization 1924,

  50. You can trade anything for your heart’s desire except your heart.
    Miles Vorkosigan in Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold

  51. brian larsen says:

    You’re only young once–and then you’re younger forever.

  52. The way to the Celestial Kingdom is indeed straight and narrow, but also steep, often dark, clogged with potholes, rocks, and fallen trees, and lined with many convenient, well maintained and brightly lit offramps.

  53. Moisture falls on the just and the unjust.

  54. There is no greater joy in the kingdom of darkness than when one godly person reviles another.

  55. (the above is not my own – I didn’t read the directions.)
    This isn’t mine either, but I think it’s brilliant:
    And this is one of the most crucial definitions for the whole of Christianity; that the opposite of sin is not virtue but faith. (Kierkegaard)

  56. By the way, the bucketload of aphorisms I added were from my own pure (or impure) brain – I just stopped when the window started to scroll.

    I would amend one of them:

    “Mankind would knowingly embrace destruction if it were convenient and comely.”

    By the way, was there a requirement that these aphorisms explicitly use Mormon-speak?

    And I’d add another:

    “Sin is no less wrong if it is too new to have been condemned from the pulpit.”

  57. sethsweblog says:

    Every time a meeting goes over, the church becomes a little less true.

  58. The Other Clark says:

    What about the other apostolic/GA aphorisms?
    “No situation is so bad that whining about it won’t make it worse” –JR Holland
    “I never said it would be easy, Only that it would be worth it” S. Dew
    “If we could see the beauty of the Celestial Kingdom, we’d kill ourselves to get there” EG Smith

  59. Alf O'Mega says:

    My grandmother’s: There’s nothing more important than people.

  60. sethsweblog says:

    Just thought of this one: Faith without works is dead, but so are works without faith.

  61. Forgive my OCD-like need to correct “doctrine,” but IMO, sethsweblog is wrong. Faith may require works, but “works,” such as kindness, honesty, service, selflessness, etc have the same consequences regardless of the state, or even existence of our Faith. Those consequences are not blessings granted by God. Such works (and their respective opposites) change our character, our state of righteousness because of the existence of agency. (We are “agents” unto ourselves.)

  62. “I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.” -author unknown (seriously, author unknown, don’t even try to guess)

  63. A crying child in the nursery is worth two in the foyer.

    If a child cries in the foyer does anyone hear it?

    God’s course is one eternal round and we’re all praying for a mulligan.

    There is no light without darkness.

    We have endured many meetings and hope their end is near.

    Pride goeth before a call-ing.

    A Deacon at the door could leave you poor.

  64. it's a series of tubes says:

    Time is an illusion.

  65. Church culture is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.

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