Ponderize if You Must, but Don’t Forget to Read #ldsconf

By my reckoning, the rise and fall of the Ponderize Corporate Empire took about six hours, from the time of Devin Durrant’s talk on the subject in General Conference to the removal of a website that appeared to have been designed to profit from the concept by selling t-shirts and wristbands. I fear, though, that this six-hour debate about marketing strategy was a red herring—one that causes us to discuss the merits of t-shirts and mobile apps when we should be discussing the merits of the “ponderize” concept itself.

When I first heard about ponderizing (all the way back to yesterday afternoon when I didn’t know about the t-shirts) I found the concept comfortable and familiar. The basic idea—selecting a single verse of scripture, committing it to memory, and thinking about it deeply over a long period of time—should be familiar to anybody who grew up in the Church. In Seminary, we called it “Scripture Mastery,” where we learned 25 or so verses a year for four years, making us experts on a hundred different passages in the Standard Works.

Missionaries do the same thing when they enter the mission field. In my mission (and I have no idea if this was or is standard), we had to memorize and repeat 80 different scriptures before we were allowed to drive a mission car. And much of the adult curriculum of the Church is organized around a similar principle. The Gospel Doctrine manuals, for example, frequently move from one salient verse to another, without much context in between.

Let me be very clear that I am not knocking this. There is value to learning—and even memorizing—important passages from scriptural texts. I can think of many worse things for my teenage children to be doing any night of the week than ponderizing a few verses from the Pearl of Great Price. But I worry about our tendency to confuse this kind of isolated engagement with a few verses with really studying the scriptures. And that is a problem.

I was well into my 20s before I really realized that the Bible was more than a collection 30 thousand or so one-sentence texts. Individual verses, in fact, came fairly late in the game—about 1560, when the Geneva Bible was published with the radical innovation of numbered chapters and verses. And though the modern chapter-and-verse Bible is a very convenient way to locate and communicate specific words, it was never part of the original plan. The Book of Mormon, too, was originally published without numbered verses. God may have inspired the words, but mere human typeseters created the numbering systems.

And there is a spiritual danger in treating the scriptures solely as a collection of interchangeable, sentence-length citations. This way of understanding the scriptures promotes proof-texting rather than reading.  And it is very easy to “prove” all kinds of stuff by constructing acontextual chains of proof texts from random passages in the standard works. If I can take one sentence from 1 Corinthians, combine it with another sentence from Leviticus, and throw in a metaphor from the Psalms, I can demonstrate to anybody’s satisfaction that God has a body, or that He doesn’t have a body, or that he has three heads. Let me throw in a verse from Ecclesiastes, and I am pretty sure that I could prove that He is a baked potato.

But proof-texting is not a strategy for understanding stuff; it is a strategy for arguing about stuff—for proving ourselves right and other people wrong.  And once this becomes the goal of our scripture study, we have already lost the Kingdom of God.

There is great depth and beauty in the scriptures when they are read as their writers intended for them to be read—as coherent poems and stories, meaningful prophecies, fascinating histories, intricate legal and social codes, and long letters to people who were struggling with many of the same things that we struggle with today. You can’t get to these parts of the scriptures by ponderizing or prooftexturizing. You have to read, re-read, and study, all of which is hard work, and none of which can be reduced to a mobile app or a Twitter feed.

So, by all means, ponderize. Master the scriptures. Learn everything that this strategy of scripture study can teach—and I do not dispute that it can teach important things.  But at some point, remember to make the significant effort of time and energy required to read and struggle to understand the magnificent texts that our religion holds forth as the Word of God.


  1. Mary Lythgoe Bradford says:

    As usual,Mike, you speak the eloquent truth!

  2. Thank you and Amen.

  3. Amen!

  4. Ponderize: to add additional suffixes to a word in an attempt to add weight, yet leaving the meaning the same.

  5. Amen to memorizing. Amen to studying. Nay to “ponderize”.

  6. YES. YES. YES.

  7. After a talk like this, I wonder just a bit what type of curriculum the Sunday School Presidency is thinking about, or how they imagine their worldwide members need to study.

  8. That ghastly word appears in the OED–a couple of mid-17th century examples. It’s marked as “Obs.” and “rare.” That “Obs” typically means Obsolete, but in this case I’d settle for “Obscene.”

    And it means “to weigh”–appropriate since adding “ize” to a word that is already a verb–to what, make it a super-duper verb?–is larding extra weight on a word that doesn’t need it.

  9. Yes! Amen!

    Let’s also not let it get lost in the pondergate shuffle the fact that the wristbands were in Comic Sans and they used GoDaddy to register the website. I mean, really.

  10. Not sure why we need a ‘qualifier’ for a good piece of advice. Plenty of emphasis is made on personal scripture study and feasting. This is something in addition to that, and a good way for a couple share in scripture together.
    You can try to look smart by putting a catchy sounding qualifier on anything a general authority says, but God doesn’t need you to try to steady the ark. His message would be “ponder and learn my scriptures if you must, but…”

  11. Yes ,anyone who registers their site on GoDaddy has lost the Spirit forever

  12. Why did he think that “ponder” wasn’t sufficient and that it needed to be made into the corporate-speak motivator “ponderize”? That adds nothing at all to the meaning. And as Mark B. points out above, though Brother Durrant thinks he made up this word as a corporate motivator, he did not! It’s in the OED (though he said in his talk that it wasn’t in the dictionary — Google anyone?).

    Mike, this post is spot-on. I want to memorize scripture verses and have my kids do so. But I desperately want for myself, my children, and my fellow saints for us to learn the scriptures in context and not solely in the proof-texted form that seems the only output of CES and Church curriculum now. Your book Re-reading Job is an excellent example that shows why this is important. The things we think Job says — a distillation of centuries of first Catholic and then Protestant proof-texting — it does not actually say. It is a fundamentally Jewish book, from an unknown source even to the Jews. For one thing, it does not say that Job was grateful for his suffering, which is something I have heard many times in LDS church lessons. In that instance, the proof-texts have taken over the substance entirely and none of us know what the poem actually says or conveys!

    I wonder what Brother Durrant thinks the message of the Book of Job is, or what Job says, even if he and his family have indeed memorized several popular verses from it.

  13. Wait, BCC is registered with GoDaddy. Awkward.

  14. In fairness to them, GoDaddy has actually made a concerted effort and cleaned up their act recently. Donated a bunch of money to women in tech groups, that kind of thing.

  15. Amen.
    I believe ponderize is a portmanteau of ponder and memorize. I still don’t care for it, but it does make mor sense.

  16. Tiffany Dansie says:

    When you memorize or quote a passage of scripture, it is important to know the story it is associated with. I think the point of ponderize is just that do t just memorize and recite scripture but know the full story that it goes with. Who is speaking?, who are they speaking to? What is going on at the time? Who are the rulers, what significance message do I gain from this? (This question will have different answers at different times). This is how we can bring the scriptures to life.

  17. Josh Smith says:

    If “ponderize” is a portmanteau …

    It’s not to late to fix this thing. I humbly propose “memoronder” or “memder” or “memorizonder.” Mark B. has this exactly right up above. Adding “ize” to an adjective or noun is only appropriate when playing Scrabble or speaking to salesreps. Adding “ize” to a verb is deserving of public shaming for a week or so.

  18. Josh Smith says:

    Aargh. Following.

  19. Yeah, I agree. The scriptures invite us to ponder and not memorize. It seems like its inviting us to be obedientish.

  20. Amen.

    It all depends on how someone will approach it, but the context of the verse is almost more important than the verse itself. More than just identifying the voice for the passage, what is occuring at the time, it matters whether the verse is in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. It matters if the verse is is Leviticus or Deuteronomy. The individual book’s genre matters, the understanding of the overall argument matters as well as the arguement that preceeded it. The language in which the book was originally written in matters. The point of view and the culture of the setting of the narrative, the culture of the time it was written, the culture of the various times it was translated. All of this and more has an impact on the single verse that is ponderized.

    When reviewing the current year’s scripture mastery for my son this year I was terribly worried that at the end of the year he will have those verses memorized and the text of those verses and our current interpretation will be what sticks with him as he moves on through his life. This very specific/simplified prooftexting will be the frame which he will look through every time the old testament is mentioned and be the foundation of understanding the New Testament & Book of Mormon.

    The danger lies in pulling in all scripture in some homogenized understanding that it is an all equivalent, interchangeable narrative of divine wording which will no doubt fail at some point.

  21. I found it amusing that the conference opened with a talk about simplifying and casting off unnecessary kitsch and ended with the addition of more kitsch. I guess using a weird word may help more people remember to do something that really is a fine idea, so OK, but let’s just not make this yet another superficial measure of righteousness, folks.

  22. During the talk, I figured to myself that by 8 AM Monday morning, somebody would have a website up selling ponderize accessories. Little did I know that it would be the speaker’s family, and they would have it up a week in advance.

    (I wonder if the website for “priestcrafterize” is available? Google returns no hits whatsoever….)

  23. EFY meets General Conference. To me, this trivializes the complexity and profundity of the scriptures.

  24. Only t-shirts and wrist bands? My prediction was someone was going to market a time release Vitamin P for ponderize stat! Didn’t he use that as an example in his talk? Ponderize is the 2015 version of tender mercies and forget-me-nots.

  25. My husband and I chuckled when in the midst of dropping the P-bomb on us, Bro/Elder/Dr Durrant went to share a scripture during his talk and read it to us. Obviously it hadn’t been ponderized sufficiently.

  26. Might be good to keep in mind that this concept was also addressed within the talk: “Look at ‘ponderizing’ as an add-on to your personal and family scripture study but never let it be a replacement.” (4:50 mark).

  27. Josh Smith says:


    “Ponderizing” May God forgive you. You know not what you do.

  28. I think Elder Durrant’s initial story about incremental diligent savings was meant to parallel his recommendation here. “Save something, and do it once a week” is good advise. Of course having a set savings goal and learning the principles of personal finance is important as well. As is consistent regular gospel study. And in his talk, this was meant to be an additional “little thing”, which I agree can end up working like the quilt on President Uchtdorf’s talk. But if it gets a few more people putting a scripture on their phone or their fridge to think about during the day for a sustained period of time, and talking with others about what they’re learning in their gospel study, I’m all for it.

    My personal approach to this recommendation is to use this to systematically work through longer passages of the scriptures. I’m starting with 2 Nephi 2. In about 30 weeks (there’s 30 verses in the chapter), I should be done. After that, I’m planning on working through Jacob’s sermon at the temple (2 Nephi 6 – 10). Here’s hoping I can be diligent.

    Diligent, consistent, effort, over time yields tremendous savings. Targeted savings goals supported by consistent incremental action can be very powerful. Why not apply the same to learning the gospel. That’s the message I’m taking away from this (despite the surrounding controversy).

  29. How is the Ponderize t-shirt/wristband enterprise different from what Deseret Book does? Other than the GA’s family benefiting rather than the corporate church?

  30. Pete:

    There isn’t. This is why profit and the prophet should separate.

  31. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    OK first of all: are all of you not joking about Durrant’s family having a website up to “monetize” the “ponderize” talk before it even happened? Oh my. Not even sure where to start on that one.

    Second of all: while I agree with Aaron’s comments at 11:15am above (“But if it gets a few more people putting a scripture on their phone or their fridge to think about during the day for a sustained period of time, and talking with others about what they’re learning in their gospel study, I’m all for it.”), I think there’s actually a different problem here, which is: it seems awfully presumptuous to challenge 15 million people on live television to do something (whatever it is – in this case, your personal method of focusing on a scripture a week, complete with its own invented term) for 20 YEARS. Didn’t that strike anyone else as being a bit, well, over the top? Good grief. Before any post-hoc discussion among our family, immediately after that talk my 13 year old summed it up thusly: “well, I don’t think that guy is going to speak in conference any time soon again!” Priceless. (My youngster went on to elaborate that he thought the invented word was weird, but that also the 20-year goal setting challenge was weird as well…and that’s my point here. Out of the mouth of babes…) I mean, President Hinckley challenged us to do some specific things occasionally, like reading the Book of Mormon in a certain time span, but those challenges paled in comparison to the sheer scope of what was being suggested here. Wow.

  32. John Mansfield says:

    At my high school, we were the Sundevils, ripped off from ASU complete with the maroon and gold colors. The wrestling team had its own cheering squad called the Sundevilizers. Freshmen-me complained about the dumb pile-on of suffixes in that, and it’s interesting to read of so many still in touch with that youthful spirit of examination. As Brother Durrant got into his talk, athletes’ concept of visualizing performance came to mind (I can’t remember if he specifically invoked it or not) and also the charge to deliver the gospel to people in their own language, and I was glad for the former athletes and salesmen I know who were receiving it in theirs.

  33. Pete, I think the two are related, but differ in degree. Standard DB kitsch (iron rod key chains, sons on helaman posters) is less concerning because it amounts to commercializing something that already exists. The “Ponderize” episode can be seen as an attempt to create, or at least promote, a previously unknown phrase in order to commercially benefit. Ponderize.us would have had only a trickle of traffic today if it hadn’t been for Elder Durrant’s address. Also, the tie between the address and the nominal beneficiaries is much more direct for Ponderize. And of course there’s the fact that Elder Durrant used the phrase exactly 1,271,349, 882 times in his address – leading even my deceased grandmother to ask “really?”

    To be clear, I’m not accusing Elder Durrant of orchestrating this. I try to give the benefit of the doubt. But the optics are simply worse for ponderize that typical DB kitsch.

  34. When you appoint General Authorities from the ranks of software sales execs, don’t be surprised that this is what you get.

  35. Those old enough to remember him before he was a GA know that even before he was in the corporate world Devin Durrant was an athlete, a BYU basketball star. Making up a word like that and then pounding us over the head with it by using it in every sentence is athletic motivation at its finest, or worst, depending on who you are. I can see Nick Saban or Bronco or Steve Sarkisian or your local HS football coach doing the same thing to fire up their teams. He’s probably used athletic motivation in his corporate and church work before this with great success, adult booster club members/local church leaders eat this stuff up. I’m not a fan, but I can understand where it comes from.

  36. lastlemming says:

    I believe ponderize is a portmanteau of ponder and memorize.

    That was Elder Durant’s intent, but my mind went immediately to “ponder” and “pulverize.” Seriously.

    It reminds me of the ill-conceived campaign in the late 70s to turn “friendship” into a verb.

  37. At least “ponderize” is not yet showing up as a registered trademark with the USPTO. (And 3, 2, 1 . . . )

  38. Elle & Roo says:

    Amen! When are we going to be okay with saying understanding scripture is hard work!

  39. I like how every discussion about this talk either goes into the merits of the “ponderizing” concept or into the attempt to monetize it, and no one seems to remember that he had two points of advice in his talk. Does anyone remember the first? He emphasized the value in saving money, too. (Which is kinda funny considering the scandal of the “Ponderize” website…)

  40. Dr_Doctorstein says:

    Like lastlemming, I also thought immediately of “pulverize,” possibly because it scans exactly the same as “ponderize,” shares the same suffixes, and sounds so much like “pound”-erize.

    It seems odd that text-based religions depend so very much on reading, yet churches put so little serious effort into teaching about reading as an activity (as Michael has so admirably done in this post). I mean, when was the last time a Sunday School teacher, in any church, used the term “hermeneutic circle”?

  41. Josh Smith says:

    Scott Bowen,

    Don’t forget the bare-naked assault on the English language. Some of us are opposed to “izing” any verbs because … well, because there’s absolutely no precedent for adding “ize” to a verb.

    Ponderize, ponderizing, ponderizer.

    You know what would help this situation? Anyone who wants to use “ponderize” (or any of its derivatives) as part of their new vocabulary must first read a book. The book must be written at a 7th-grade reading level or above and it must have nothing to do with the buying or selling things. After the person reads the book, the person may then post on his or her FaceBook page about “ponderizing.” Here’s how it would play out:

    “Disclosure: I read a book. Alma blah, blah, blah. #ponderize.” Something like that.

  42. We listened to this talk and sat silent for a few seconds, then my husband commented he was too old (70) to be that trendy. Guess we won’t be “ponderizing” anytime soon. My thoughts were considerably less elegant, more on the lines of “yuck.” If the missionaries had used that sort of spiel, we never would have been baptized.

  43. I once saw a guy get posterized when he got in the way of Elder Kevin Durrant on a fast break.

  44. Josh Smith says:


    This is good we’re having this conversation.

    “Posterize” means that a dunk was so phenomenal that it could appear on a poster. “Poster” is a noun. “Posterize” is a verb created from adding “ize” to the noun. Noun becomes verb. Meh. Try not to do it, but if you do, you’re not the first.

    Ponder is a verb. If you add “ize” to a verb, it doesn’t do anything for the verb. Hopefully that clears things up.

  45. Lew Scannon says:

    For what it’s worth, I have a cousin who was once a VP at DB. I asked him one day about DB’s business operations. He told me they sold “books, tapes, and holy hardware.” This was back in the cassette tape years, of course, but I’m assuming the “holy hardware” tag was what the DB brass called all the other stuff. A bit crass, but funny.

  46. What? He had a website set up to sell products with this word printed on them and it’s his company? I am truly stunned. If that is the case, then I imagine the apostles will be cleaning out the Seventy the way Christ did the temple.

  47. the other Marie says:

    Elder Durrant’s now issued an apology for the website. He knew about it and admits he should have put a stop to it. I’m still bugged, but at least he came clean. Now I just wish I could scrub the p word from my memory–I agree entirely with the O.P. I don’t think we don’t need more of this kind of scripture study in the LDS church and the goofy jargon and self-congratulation is yicky in a Conference talk. Fireside? EFY? Whatever. But not in Conference.

  48. If I’m giving out awards for General Conference talks, Elder Durrant at least gets the honesty award (and maybe the “I told you so” award as well). From the very first line of his talk, he revealed this: “By profession I’m an investor . . . “

  49. reaneypark says:

    If he would have studied this harebrained idea out in his mind instead of merely “ponderized” it, I’m sure he wouldn’t have done it.

  50. John Mansfield says:

    Brother Durrant is not a Seventy. He’s one of those “general offficers of the church” the narrator mentions, not that there’s anything wrong with being a counselor in a Sunday School presidency. He even told us up front in his talk that he has a day job.

  51. I guess Counselors in the Sunday School Presidency have to find their niche. One of ours died and wasn’t released until a year later. We missed him, but not the calling . . .

  52. He stated emphatically that ponderizing does not replace scripture study. We need to be careful (not referring to the author here, but to commentators) when we begin criticizing the Lord’s servants and missing their true message, which was pure and truth. And, it was not he who was selling the t-shirts and wrist bands. Of course, nobody said anything when some decided to do the same for “I’m a Mormon. I know it. I live it. I love it” etc..

  53. My linguist brain grumbled a bit about “ponderize” at first, but only momentarily. So what if it was a little kitschy? But then tonight something occurred to me that makes me truly hate it: it’s going to be untranslatable in many languages. I always cringe a bit at overly Utah-culture-centric talks, but the talks that depend exclusively on coincidences of English are just as bad, if not worse, in demonstrating the cultural insensitivity of the Utah church. Real content is always translatable because there is an underlying message that can be retold some other way. That isn’t the case with puns though, which is basically what this is. The joke only works for English speakers.

    On the bright side, since the language I could check most accurately (Finnish) just used a normal word for “ponder” in the translation, the talk turned into a normal admonition to avoid debt and learn scriptures, minus the kitschy hook (and plus some odd nonsensical talk of merging words that weren’t being merged). So maybe the rest of the world is actually better off!

  54. I just pray this doesn’t change Brandon Flowers mind about recording “Ponderize” to the tune of the Killers “Tranquilize”.

  55. Michael, if scriptures are long, interrelated, coherent poems, why not give Durant’s talk a similar treatment? He included caveats, cautions, examples that address some of concerns you mentioned above. I feels like you are picking a thought out of his talk to proof text the point you were trying to make, which I imagine Durrant would wholly agree with. But it seems like you are posing your idea in opposition to his…

  56. My dear friends: I’d like to invite ya’all down to the Ponderosa this weekend, where we’re gonna ponderize, examinize, speculativize, homogenize, synthesize, and pasturize them scriptures real good! We’ve got the steaks, you bring the sticks. -Ben Cartwright

  57. He apologized, let’s give him some slack.

    Frankly, I think it was quite innocent. His father earned a living selling content to DB. Nearly every GA has capitalized on re-packaging and selling general conference content (including and especially President Monson, whose family business was the LDS niche book publishing market.) So picking on Brother Durrant is unfair.

    LDS publishing began innocently enough, as a necessity. Like most of you, I too have a lot of DB stuff, and a library of DB and Seagull books. I think though it is time to evaluate the current ethical context of this information and these items.

    This is National Open Access Week, celebrated in academia as a time to advocate for publishing scholarly works in open formats that are free to readers We push back against the scholarly publishing industry whose prices are unsustainable for libraries. The traditional publishing model restricts access to the elite who can pay for costly subscriptions, creating information disparities. Taxpayers rightly complain about the traditional academic publishing model because the content being sold was originally subsidized by grants and state/federal funding for colleges and universities. Yet the public doesn’t have access to the content for industry, government, democratic processes, or personal enrichment.

    Removing access barriers supports and accelerates discovery. The Human Gemome Project is an example of the type if crowd-sourcing-like progress that was only possible because content was openly shared online. Authors also know that open-access scholarship is more frequently cited and used.

    I wonder, could we replicate the same type of enlightenment and accelerated discovery regarding spiritual matters if we freely shared gospel-related content? Don’t we have a moral obligation to share this content? President Hinckley lamented that many saints worldwide didn’t have access to words of the Prophets or Lds books. The “Presidents of the Church” manuals were created in part to freely distribute some content more broadly. It’s a noble start, but we can magnify that effort.

    The church has the technological infrastructure to make items accessible at a fraction of the cost of print publishing. DB could flip a switch and make many volumes freely available. We could affix Creative Commons intellectual property licenses on content thereby retaining authorship, but allowing materials to be shared. We also have the financial ability to distribute print materials at cost. With the exception of freelance creators, there isn’t a reason why we need author royalties for LDS-related content.

    Any LDS content created by those in full-time LDS callings (GAs, missionaries, etc.) should be made freely available. Period.

    Any content created within the context of a calling or service to the Lord should be given for free or at-cost, without profit. (Mo-tab recordings, seminary content, etc.)

    Inspired content given by the spirit should be passed to others without profit.

    Information pertaining to someone’s eternal salvation (e.g. Genealogy) should be freely shared.

    The bloggernacle (big islands) could start a movement…create and co-sign a declaration of open-access for themselves and then offer it to the members and church to consider. There are many ethical nuances to navigate and a great deal to discuss. It could be done and would make a difference.

  58. Correct me if I’m wrong. I’ve been told that the scripture are not used frequently in the major blogs in the bloggernacle. Why?

    Maybe one of the regulars bloggers at By Common Consent could take a sampling of post here and estimate how often the scriptures are used. From what I tell, not very often. Why?

    By the way, I thought Elder Durrant’s (note the spelling) approach to scripture study was outstanding as was his conference talk.

    Maybe he should write a book on Ponderizing and sell it at Deseret Book then his critics can purchase it without concern.

  59. Mortimer: “Like most of you, I too have a lot of DB stuff”

    That’s quite an assumption. Perhaps you meant “…like some of you who live in the Intermountain West…” My Deseret Book collection consists of about 10 or 15 books, four of them being copies of the first three volumes of Women of Faith, a project outside their normal business model, and one little plaque from a sister-in-law that says “Did you think to pray?”

    I have no idea how representative this is of the Bloggernacle readership as a whole.

    If you’re talking about crowdsourcing projects, don’t forget that two of the largest crowdsourcing projects happening in the world are happening under the aegis of the LDS Church: FamilySearch Family Tree and FamilySearch Indexing. FamilySearch indexing has to this date sponsored the indexing of more than 1.3 billion records. Much of the content is available free to the general public, with just a fraction restricted to members of the Church.

    Also, are you familiar with books.familysearch.org? The Family History Library in collaboration with the Allen County Public Library, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and other organizations, has made more than 200,000 family history and genealogy publications available online. It is an intense on-going effort which includes the complicated task of securing copyright permissions Where permissions cannot be secured, the publications can be viewed at a FamilySearch Center or Family History Center.

  60. Josh Smith says:

    Amy T:

    Re: Crowdsourcing and family history materials

    This is a modern day miracle. It’s evidence of the hand of God in the LDS faith. Let’s do more of that kind of thing. In the 21st century we need to share. We need to contribute. We need to give. Mormons are genuinely exceptional in that regard. Let’s do more of it.

    (I own exactly 0 items from Deseret Book. Just sayin’.)

  61. “I own exactly 0 items from Deseret Book. Just sayin’.”

    Me too!

  62. “Maybe one of the regulars bloggers at By Common Consent could take a sampling of post here and estimate how often the scriptures are used. From what I tell, not very often. Why?”

    Jack, you’re not paying very close attention. They’re used a lot.

  63. Help me understand: are GAs currently making a profit on their books written after they were called? I always thought the proceeds must go to the church. Is that naive?

  64. my first thought about the use of a word that doesn’t exist was how will all of the people that don’t use english understand this talk? how will this talk every be translated into another language so that it can be understood?

  65. “I’ve been told that the scripture are not used frequently in the major blogs in the bloggernacle.” Go look at the front page of Times&Seasons. Half a dozen 1st Nephi posts, several on the KJV, one on Mark, one on rereading the bom again for the first time, two on Genesis, several on teaching Genesis…

    I own nothing from Deseret Book, that I’m aware of. It’s mostly a culture store.

  66. Brother Sky says:

    My question is the same as Owen’s. Are the GA’s (or anyone who uses their church position as a “brand”) making profit from their books, specifically books that might be considered “modern day scripture” (collected talks, essays, etc.)? If yes, that seems hugely problematic to me. Some clarification please? Or some thoughts on why it wouldn’t be hugely problematic?

  67. There may be real concerns to be had regarding the similarities between this and the profit-model of Deseret Book, but there are two huge differences in my mind.

    1. The family as an insider business. Deseret Book is a corporate entity.
    2. The use of General Conference to force (I’d argue a complete misuse of spiritual platform) the market audience on a product already produced versus waiting and being told by marketers that something was really well received, there is a demand, and that person should expand those ideas and thus the audience reach.

  68. Maree Belen says:

    I am still going to take Elder Durrant’s advise and go through the seminary scripture masteries, and use one a week to memorize and study. I believe totally all talks given in General Conference are from the Lord. So what he used the word ponderize, it was great counsel. You would think that he has advised to go smoke some weed, but no, he just shared some positive thoughts from scripture that we can turn too.

  69. Brother Sky says:


    Thanks for your comment. I think that you make a really important and helpful distinction. On the other hand, selling one’s writing on spiritual matters to the faithful instead of just giving it to them gratis seems a bit contrary to my (admittedly limited) understanding of the role of prophets and apostles. It could just be that I’ve spent too much time reading about Luther, but any association of matters spiritual with matters of business/profit makes me a bit uneasy.

  70. Josh Smith says:

    “I believe totally all talks given in General Conference are from the Lord.”

    Maree, the fact that you posted this on a blog suggests you’re open enough about ideas to explore a wee bit. The fact that you said what you said suggests you’re just beginning. Please remember that no matter where your particular faith path leads, there are others out there too. You’ll not be alone, no matter how dark things may seem.

  71. Eric Russell says:

    All, just so we’re clear, Durrant is:

    – a Devin, not a Kevin.
    – a Brother, not an Elder.
    – a General Officer, not a General Authority.
    – 6 foot 7.

  72. Jack of Hearts says:

    For Brother Sky: My understanding is that the majority of GA stuff that DB sells is compilations of sermons that have been given in conference. So they are available freely on lds.org, just not as a book.

    Also, thank you Eric Russell for getting points two and three on the record

  73. Brother Sky says:

    Jack and Eric: Thanks for the info and for the reminder. Still feels kind of sleazy to me, but I take Jack’s point about free access and all that. Maybe now I can sleep tonight. If only One Direction hadn’t broken up…

  74. Maree Belen says:

    Thank you Josh Smith, I was trying to ease the tension here: I have been a member for 35 years, gone on a mission and married in the temple. I went to seminary many years ago, but decided to take the seminary scripture mastery scripture challenge. Seriously though I know The Book of Mormon is the word of God, Joseph Smith is a prophet that helped restore the true church back to the earth, through Jesus Christ. But thank you for making a positive comment about mine.

    I agree with Brian’s comment: He stated emphatically that ponderizing does not replace scripture study. We need to be careful (not referring to the author here, but to commentators) when we begin criticizing the Lord’s servants and missing their true message, which was pure and truth. And, it was not he who was selling the t-shirts and wrist bands. Of course, nobody said anything when some decided to do the same for “I’m a Mormon. I know it. I live it. I love it” etc

  75. I’m with Alan Jay Lerner:

    [H]e ought to be taken out and hung
    For the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue.

  76. Josh Smith says:

    Absolutely, Maree.

    I found it very comforting to know that as my own journey went in unexpected directions, I was not alone. Somehow that eases things a bit, when times get tough. There are many sincere travelers out there with you.

  77. I guess they never ponderized 1 Peter 5:2

  78. Ben S. You don’t have the CW Hugh Nibley? The joint publications of DB and BYU’s RSC? What about the joint DB and MI publications? How about Lengthen Your Stride by Edward Kimball (Toss the book and read the extended manuscript on the CD). Those are just to name a few. There are lots of ways to criticize DB. I’ve told our manager more than once I’d pay Sheri Dew some money to allow me to abuse their buyers. I don’t like the DB corporate relationship with the Church and I certainly notice that 90% of its customers are women buying gifts. There is that percentage though that all could benefit from. I’d like to see it be less profit-oriented and more internationally oriented, making more of these books available in other languages. (Of course, I’d like to see 10,000 students at BYU be international scholarship students who would return to their countries after graduations as kind of a PEF on steroids), but that’s just me talking.

    PS. I would likely get your book at DB (but its likely to be available elsewhere first). Way to go buyers.

  79. Ben S. I hope you realize I’m being ironic. Your posts are always something I look forward to.

  80. -Yes I’m aware of the many free genealogy resources the church has made available. This free-flow of information should be looked to as the “Mormon Model” for publishing.

    -Yes, LDS authors (GAs, their families, freelance authors, etc.) receive royalties for their books. President Monson spoke in a regional meeting a few years ago about how unusual it was for Elder Talmage to refuse royalties for his book ‘Jesus the Christ’. He felt that the process of writing it had been sacred and that as an inspired text it should not be sold. They tried rationalizing with him and he wouldn’t budge. I think they finally agreed to donate his royalties to the church. President Hinckley may have donated some or all of the proceeds from his biography to the PEF, I don’t know for sure.

    Sometimes GAs simply re-package conference and other talks (e.g. Elder Uchtdorf’s book ‘Forget-Me-Not’, President Monson’s ‘Pathways to Perfection’, etc.). Sometimes their works spring out of years of service in the church (e.g. Elder Ballard’s ‘Counciling with our Councils’), and sometimes the content is new or more in-depth, or not the right subject matter for conference or the Ensign. Then, there are the many autobiographies and biographies of pioneers and Prophets. Our ‘Presidents of the Church’ series (curriculum for RS/PH) draws heavily upon these more primary sources.

    Although I hear some of you cringing, please remember that this began out of necessity. The church hasn’t always had capacity to print this type of content for free or at-cost and the internet wasn’t always an option. Without this business model and the re-investment of funds to perpetuate this platform, we would have missed decades of scholarship, literature and poetry, art and music, autobiographies and stories, and other unique LDS intellectual contributions. The LDS book market is an extremely small niche and as a general rule, until recently non-LDS publishers have had little interest (financially or topically) in publishing our unique content. DB has and will continue to play an important role as a communication venue for the saints. I personally am grateful for freelance authors and artists like Carol Lynn Pearson and Terryl Givens and yes, to non-freelance authors -GAs, who have enlightened me through their books, music, and art.

    My point is that persons called to full-time service in the church (GAs, missionaries, etc.) who receive living stipends and who write about LDS topics should make their works available through the church’s online platform so everyone across the world can have access to it FOR FREE. The world has changed and the church has changed. We don’t need the business model any longer. The church’s distribution center can print the materials at-cost. We’re financially stable enough to do that now. The church can post this content in the LDS.org online library. There may still be a need for good ol’ DB to sell gold-embossed or glossy-jacketed print books and CTR rings, but people would be paying for the physical object, not the words.

    Products created as a result of church callings (e.g. books, Mo-Tab music, seminary lectures, art reproductions, etc.) should be shared freely or at-cost.

    Here’s my new bumper-sticker. Do you think I can get Sherri Dew to put it on her car???
    If the spirit gave it to me, it’s yours for free.

  81. Amy, I can’t believe that so many bloggernacle readers haven’t read or don’t own DB titles. Really? I can’t believe it. BCC and T&S have done so many posts over the years on DB books. Was everyone just pretending? How can BCC readers not have ever read from the biggest LDS publisher? How can so many people on this blog be on a faith journey, but haven’t read the staples of LDS commentary? How can one grow up in the church and not have DB titles? Miracle of Forgiveness? History of the Church? Holy Temples (Packer), JS Papers (in print)? Biographies of the prophets? Carol Lynn Pearson? Givens?

  82. Mortimer, Here’s another anecdote about President Hinckley. He did Standing For Something for Random House. Because of my daily radio book show, I have many contacts there. When I saw the title was coming out I called the press person handling the book for RH (who I’d dealt with for years and had many author interviews through) and asked her if I could get an interview. She happily said, “Of course” as she always had. A few minutes later, she sheepishly called me back and said that this was the strangest thing she’d ever seen. President Hinckley’s contract said he was NOT required to do publicity for the book and that all interview requests would have to be through Church Public Relations. “He must be busy”, was all she could say. As compensation she sent me some extra copies of the book for letting me down (can’t say they didn’t make great gifts), but, needless to say, all the Church PR would do was give me a transcript of his latest speech to some club in Washington D.C.. Standing For Something sold 400,000 copies in hardback and Random House was delighted. (I can’t say whether or not many of those were purchased by DB), but the proceeds from the book didn’t go to President Hinckley either..

  83. Fair point. I rarely buy from DB, and those books they published or copublished which I own, I suppose I didn’t actually consider “Deseret Book books” but oddities and outliers :)

  84. The Faith Biz comes to GC. Good times. It was inevitable. Like you, my bigger concern is how quickly church members glommed onto this method to reading the scriptures, but I should really not be surprised by that.

  85. Terry h.,
    What a neat story. I can see president hinckley throwing a wider net with that book. He published “stand a little taller” with DB, but “way to be!” with Simon & Schuster. Each is neutrally Christian and would have a shot in the wider market. . It’s good to know he wasn’t specifically on the contract to collect royalties. I can’t imagine they would let president hinckley or the pope be on paperwork.

    The question of royalties I think still hangs out there…

  86. If Durrant and his kids had spent more time “learning the meaning of the scriptures”
    and less time ponderizing money..
    they would have developed the spiritual insight that would have easily revealed that this whole scam was wrong, and was going to end badly.

    perfect case of having ponderized the scriptures, yet “gainerizing” no wisdom.

  87. Anyone else find @Josh Smith’s comments kind of creepy?

  88. Face palm.

    Ok. Let’s gloss over lds author royalties. Brother Durrant’s egregious example of the monitization of lds gen conf content was evidently to the bloggernacle, a fluke, not a symptom of a bigger issue. We have no need to work together to advocate for a free-sharing model for our GAs works. Let’s instead focus on the funny word. Better yet, let’s all pretend like no one in mormondom has bought a book from DB, so it doesn’t matter anyway.

    Face palm.

  89. Josh Smith says:


    Yeah, My comments are especially creepy if you squish your nose flat against your face and read them in parseltongue. Freeeeeeee-e-e-e-e-aky.

  90. While totally agreeing with the content, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would look like if it too were broken into verses. Then I patted myself on the back for being so witty.

  91. The Other Clark says:

    And now Deseret Books is carrying Ponderize T-shirts. Proving that is not the commercialization per se, its WHO is doing it.

  92. Perhaps somebody already mentioned this, but I’m 99.99% positive that the website indicated that all the profit from sales of the items would be donated to the missionary fund. If that is true, I find it a bit disingenuous for people to continue to claim it was done for profit.

    And frankly, I think some of you folks are overthinking this a bit.

  93. Mike, the site was revised to say that, yes.

  94. Mike, according to Durrant’s own statement, the son decided to donate the profits only AFTER he got caught: “Because of the backlash he received in associating a commercial venture with a General Conference talk, he initially lowered his prices to cover his costs and then decided to keep prices as originally set and to donate the profits to the missionary fund of the Church.” So, in my opinion, no, it’s not accurate to say people are overthinking this. What do you think?

  95. Yeah, I’m still not moved by all the criticism. I think the family’s biggest problem was timing. Otherwise . . . (Deseret Book, blah, blah, blah . . . )

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