iron rod 1

So a friend today mentioned that last weekend at church someone gave a talk, in the course of which the speaker said that those who were “clinging” to the iron rod lost their way because they were only “clinging” instead of “holding fast.” My friend said “To me, this makes no sense. Cling, as I’ve always understood it, means to hold on tight, not to hold on loosely. The speaker was using cling to mean the opposite of what I’ve always understood it to mean.”

I also had never heard this take on the passage before and immediately agreed with my friend’s reaction. But I was curious as to whether the speaker came up with this idea on his own or whether it had a wider existence in the Church. A google search suggests the latter, that this notion seems to be a quickly spreading idea, apparently having its genesis in several talks given by Elder Bednar beginning about a decade ago, and flowering in a number of online essays with such titles as “The Danger of Clinging to the Iron Rod,” “The Difference Between Clinging and Holding Fast,” “Catch Hold or Cling” [that one courtesy of Denver Snuffer], and “Clinging is Not Enough.”[1] The people who cling to the rod are dismissively referred to as “cling-ons” in this article.


The original rationale for denigrating “clinging” from Elder Bednar is as follows:


Even with faith, commitment, and the word of God, this [second] group eventually was lost—perhaps because they only periodically read or studied or searched the scriptures. Clinging to the rod of iron suggests to me only occasional “bursts” of study or irregular dipping rather than consistent, ongoing immersion in the word of God. . . . What, then, is the difference between clinging and holding fast to the rod of iron? Let me suggest that holding fast to the iron rod entails, in large measure, the prayerful, consistent, and earnest use of the holy scriptures as a sure source of revealed truth and as a reliable guide for the journey along the strait and narrow path to the tree of life—even to the Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m not buying it. To me it seems apparent that cling and hold fast to are simply synonymous in the scriptural account. Cling derives from Old English clingan, meaning “hold fast to, adhere closely.” The 1828 Webster’s defines it as follow


CLINGverb intransitive

1. To adhere closely; to stick to; to hold fast upon, especially by winding round or embracing; as, the tendril of a vine clings to its support.

Two babes of love close clinging to her waist.

2. To adhere closely; to stick to; as a viscous substance.

3. To adhere closely and firmly, in interest or affection; as, men of a party cling to their leader.

Again, cling itself means “to hold fast upon.”

The verb cling does not appear in the KJV, which uses the archaic cleave “to stick, cling, adhere,” but where the KJV has cleave many other translations will have cling and still others will have hold fast to. They are thoroughly synonymous expressions.

I suspect that the impetus to find a negative connotation to “clinging to” in Lehi’s dream has to do with the fact that the second group after arriving at the tree fell away, so we must read their whole experience negatively. But the rod did what it was meant to do in that instance–it got that group successfully to the tree. That group became ashamed and fell away only after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree.

A group of us were discussing this and the women pointed out that in contemporary English the adjective “clingy” has taken on a negative connotation of annoying female behavior, and therefore something to be avoided. I have to admit, that didn’t occur to me originally, but after having it pointed out it made sense to me that the negative connotation of the term in contemporary English may have colored how we perceive it in the Book of Mormon passage. (For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of being “clingy,” see the overly attached girlfriend memes at this.)

So what do you all think about this? Do you see a subtle negative shading to the word “clinging,” or do you see it as a straightforward synonym for “hold fast to”?[2]

[1] Humorously, my “clinging to the rod” search also picked up a newspaper article about Patti Blagojevich clinging to hope of presidential help for [her husband] Rod [the disgraced former governor of Illinois now serving a lengthy prison term].

[2] One of those discussing this suggested a possible rationale for making a distinction here: “The idea [would be] that “cling” implies a certain level of desperation and insecurity while “holding fast” implies steadiness and self confidence.  The Buddhists make this same distinction constantly — to “cling” is a negative trait.” I can see reading it that way, but I don’t know that those who are pushing the negative reading of cling are actually making that particular argument.


  1. Nobody who has canned clingstone peaches could ever mistake “cling” as meaning anything short of “death grip.”

    Elder Bednar is entitled to riff on scripture/doctrine, but not on basic English. (He is not Humpty Dumpty telling Alice that words mean whatever he wants them to mean.)

  2. I’m just laughing at the “even” at the end of Bednar’s quote. (but not loudly laughing, in case you were worried about my soul)

  3. Looks like the only other scriptural use of “cling” is Doctrine and Covenants122:6:

    If thou art aaccused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to bprison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like cwolves for the blood of the lamb;

    Who could possibly picture such a scene with a small child “holding on loosely”?

    (I have to stop. This pushes too many of my buttons.)

  4. I don’t buy the linguistic difference between “clinging” and “holding fast” either.

    What I would buy, though, in terms of theological metaphor, is that the rod is a handrail to be used in moving along a narrow (“strait,” not “straight”) path. One might “cling” temporarily to such a railing to weather a gust of wind or a stormy blast, but in general one should be “pressing forward,” using the rail as a guide but not clinging in one place. Unfortunately, that’s also not comfortably drawn from the scriptural “hold fast.”

  5. Yeah, the whole thing really sounds like a strained attempt at profundity that just falls flat in the stiff wind of about ten seconds’ thought.

    Also, like Cynthia mentioned, what’s with ‘even’ in this construction? It is just irritating and painfully affected. Can we please kill that one? And ‘supernal’ too, while we’re at it. Not a bad word, but just ruined with overuse in churchy settings.

  6. Aaron Brown says:

    Good grief. This is so, so dumb.

    I don’t know why semantic nonsense like this from church leaders bothers me so much, but it does. I’m going to go obsess about how “free agency” and “unconditional love” don’t appear in our scriptures now.

    Aaron B

  7. Besides “clingy,” another recent adaptation is the advertisers’ invention of “static cling” as a condition to be solved by using a certain brand of drier sheets. That actually matches Elder Bednar’s perception of “cling” as a hold that can be easily broken. But I still cry foul — that is an ad agency’s metaphor (an exaggerated likening of pants legs sticking to socks as if that were the equivalent of a fallen hiker hanging on to the edge of a cliff) and not the standard use of English. That it has taken me this long to call to mind the ad agency term suggests how marginal its use is.

    Did I say this bugs me? I really have to leave it alone now …

  8. Yeah it makes no sense – even none at all.

  9. orangganjil says:

    Talon – ha!

    Kevin, I’m in agreement and don’t buy this at all. I also don’t understand how folks can get so wrapped up and split hairs over a word in the Book of Mormon. If we assume the story of the book’s genesis to be accurate, some guy named Nephi is recording a description, provided by his father, of a dream his father had. Nephi is doing this approximately 40 years after the dream was received. Perhaps he is using another record provided by Lehi, but even that record likely isn’t going to be precise with wording. Nephi’s recounting of his father’s description of the dream is then translated from another language into English by Joseph Smith, using English language words with which he would be familiar.

    Sorry, but I fail to see a high probability of word precision being maintained throughout that process to the degree required to split hairs like Bednar attempts to do.

  10. … and then there’s the plastic food wrap commonly called “cling wrap,” and lightweight plastic window/mirror/shower decorations commonly said to “cling” to glassy surfaces, and a dress of thin fabric (or a wet t-shirt) that can “cling” to the human body, and hair that clings to a sweaty forehead in humid weather …

    Okay. I’m willing to suppose that Elder Bednar *may* have had such a use of “cling” in mind, but still insist it cannot support the weight of this interpretation of the iron rod story (see what I did there? add weight to any of these examples and the bond fails). This form of “clinging” by a functionally two-dimensional, inanimate object doesn’t mimic in any way the deliberate grip of a person on an iron rod, no matter how loose that grasp might be. This teaching still pushes all my buttons with regard to any legitimate reading of scripture; as a linguistic trick it is as awkward as the pickle metaphor.

  11. Contrary to what Elder Bednar thought about clinging, Spencer Kimball advocated it in his October 1978 address. “That to which we must cling for safety is the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    And Robert Hales in his October 2006 address used cling as a synonym for holding fast. “As with voices from the dust, the prophets of the Lord cry out to us on earth today: take hold of the scriptures! Cling to them, walk by them, live by them, rejoice in them, feast on them. Don’t nibble.”….”If we don’t have the word of God or don’t cling to and heed the word of God, we will wander off in strange paths and be lost as individuals, as families, and as nations”

    Elder Bednar went out on a limb on this one. It’s not a good limb upon which to put a lot of weight. But sometimes we get enamored of an idea that occurs to us and we just can’t stop ourselves from saying it over the pulpit, just because it seems so delightfully reassuring and insightful to us. Ah well… Part of being human.

  12. Or writing it for 2011 Ensign article, which is where I think he first put it out there. Is that right?

  13. Contrary to all you nay-sayers, I find Elder Bednar’s and others’ use of “cling” perfectly understandable. Yes it is true that “cling” means to hold on tightly and in that sense is a just fine synonymn with “hold fast.” However, “cling” also means “to remain *persistently* or *stubbornly* faithful to something” or “to be *overly dependent* on someone emotionally” (this is “clingy”). There’s a sense that “hold fast” is constant and secure whereas “cling” is dependent, desperate, fearful, i.e., holding tight in fear of falling.

    In a retrospective, those who do fall are likely to have been holding desperately for some time before. Thus, disparaging “clinging” is part of the ongoing attempt to formulate no-fault reasons that people leave the Church. However, I find it misleading because a sensible prospective would investigate not the clinging (as a response) but the fear (as a cause).

  14. I love all of Ardis’s comments.

  15. John AC says:

    I’m with you on cling, and E. Bednar doesn’t have a great track record with these kinds of things. See “familiar spirit.”

  16. Man in Black Socks says:

    Y’all should cut him some slack. How would you like to have to continually come up with sermons, all of which will be finely scrutinized for any error or weakness? Perhaps your semantic skills really are so superior, but I think you might benefit by trying to understand what he is attempting to communicate, rather than nitpicking. Just my opinion. And count me in the group who would come up short, if I had to give so many sermons.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks all for the great overnight comments!

    MB, that 2011 article was based on a speech he gave at BYU, I want to say in 2009. I think that speech is the genesis of this idea.

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    The Scripture Committee for the 1981 edition cross referenced “clinging” here to “TG Diligence; Perserverance.”

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    One point made several times in the post-Bednar commentary on this idea is that since different words are used, different meanings must per force be in view. Yes, that’s always a possibility, but no, we can’t simply assume it. The phenomenon of synonymity is pervasive in both the OT and the BoM. For details see my article “Poetic Diction and Parallel Word Pairs in the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/2 (1995), here:

    Indeed, given the position of the words in the story, it would be possible to read cling//hold fast as an intentional distant parallel pair.

  20. DeepThink says:

    Without knowing about all the essays, a friend and I had this very conversation about a week ago. Of course all interpretation is speculation, but that’s where the fun is, isn’t it?

    Here’s how I interpreted it, assuming that “clinging” had something to do with the falling away at the end, and holding fast had something to do with staying true.

    If we believe that the iron rod is the scriptures and other guidance, then clinging is “using” the word of God to try to get somewhere. This looks like using the scriptures as proof-texting, believing more in the obedience of studying than in the transformative power of studying, using the study of the gospel as an end in itself. If, however, our real objective is to BECOME something, not just do righteous things, then the scriptures are not the end, they are a tool we use in that becoming. And we hold fast to them but not as an end in themselves, or a proof of our righteousness, but as a way to hear God, to follow His guidance, to move toward the Love of God. Clinging, in other words, gives more attention to the rod itself. Holding fast might mean we don’t take the rod quite as literally, that we are able to hear God on the route beyond the specific words we read. That as we nudge closer to the Tree of Life, the Word becomes our own…something that influences and shapes us but is not the end in itself. People that “cling” in my interpretation are the ones who are flummoxed by new interpretations, by new information that questions their proof texts, that rocks their world when “behaving” did not get them the life they were “sold” that they’d get by all the behaving. My two cents.

  21. Not a Cougar says:

    I’m willing to give Elder Bednar this one if everyone will agree to start calling our missionary efforts “proselytizing” instead of “proselyting.” No idea how the latter word got into our vocabulary, but it’s incorrect and drives me crazy when I hear educated people use it.

  22. There is a small typographical error in Elder Bednar’s quote: “Even” should be capitalized. Other religions do not have the benefit of this knowledge, but it has been revealed to modern prophets and apostles that this is Christ’s first name. This revelation was initially given to Elder Bruce R. McConkie in the late 1970s, but it was not generally known among the Twelve until the early 1990s. Today, the preferred means of formal reference to the Savior is by His full name: Even Jesus Christ (see Handbook 3.12.9). It is not known at this time whether He was sustained in general conferences of New Testament times as E. Jesus Christ or Even J. Christ, but the former is considered more likely due to the paucity of references to Him as Even in the New Testament.

  23. It went a step further in my ward last weekend. The RM speaker who was visiting with the high council person warned us of the danger of holding on to the rod with our left hand instead of our right hand. Apparently we’re also not supposed to hold on with both hands because it’s easier to loose footing.

  24. Abbey ftw! Wicked and designing men removed “even” from Christ’s name during the Dark Ages, when corrupt religious authorities were hell-bent on ruining people’s relationship to God.

    I’ve totally missed this trend, but I find it pretty hilarious. My first thought was similar to the person who mentioned that “cling” has connotations of insecurity and fear, versus a more grounded “holding on.” But that doesn’t seem to be what Bednar is doing, and I doubt the distinction would hold up in the nineteenth-century context in which the BoM appeared, making it a rather implausible read of the text.

    Tangentially, I have a theory that certain apostles are much more influential than others in being cultural trendsetters, perhaps due to their speaking style and the way they cook up particular theories and repeat them again and again. My hunch is that Bednar is at the top of the list. (I should bug ZIff to figure out a way to analyze this.)

  25. Kevin Barney says:

    Not a Cougar, why is proselyting as a verb wrong? Every dictionary I’ve seen lists its main usage as a noun, but also allows it as a verbal variant of proselytize. I remember T. Allen Lambert of Ithaca, NY (he died in 2013) passionately making the opposite argument, that we should only use proselyte as a verb and not the form proselytize, although I can’t for the life of me remember his rationale. In any event, why isn’t either form acceptable?

  26. Kevin Barney says:

    Yes, Abbey wins the thread…

  27. Buendia says:

    OK, I think there are at least two reasons that Bednar is making a distinction between “holding fast” and “clinging” to the rod.

    1. People who were “clinging to the rod of iron” and eating of the fruit of the tree ended up “cast[ing] their eyes about as if they were ashamed” (1 Nephi 8:24-25). This is problematic because Nephi later says that “the rod of iron…[is] the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction” (1 Nephi 15:23-24). Nephi goes on to “exhort [his brothers] to give heed unto the word of the Lord” and tells them that they will be “judged of their works” (1 Nephi 15:25, 32).

    It seems to me that Nephi wants to use Lehi’s dream to emphasize the importance of righteous behavior, and that is simpler to do if there is an obvious and consistent correlation between action and consequence. I think Elder Bednar wants to do the same. As such, finding a behavioral difference between “clinging” and “holding fast” allows for a distinction that places the blame for falling away squarely on the actions of the “clinger”.

    2. There are readings of Lehi’s dream that interpret the rod as both “the word of God” and as the “Word of God”, Even Jesus Christ. :) Anything that suggests that the Word of God could be ineffectual in conveying people permanently to the love of God seems almost blasphemous to many people. Further, if following God’s words–or His Word–all the way to the tree are insufficient to ensure our final conversion and salvation, then what hope do we have? I suspect that Elder Bednar wants to emphasize the efficacy of the instruments of God, and the infinite power of Christ’s atonement, by making the distinction that he does.

    I dislike Bednar’s approach both because the linguistic distinction seems tenuous at best, and because it takes away a reading that I find instructive. I have long read the eventual departure of the “clingers” not as a failure of their efforts, but as a failure of their prioritization. All of us can lose sight of what matters most as any point in our lives–even when we have made substantial progress in our journey to God. It seems true to me that “God will force no man to heaven”, including those who have truly tasted of His love. At times when we lose sight of God’s love, when we give higher priority to appeasing the desires of man than to those of God, we can become ashamed of that which is greater. Our agency is eternal, and I find Bednar’s reading to cast it as something less than that; surely our choice does not end with tasting of God’s love.

  28. Probably not a good time to inject Liahona Mormons into the mix?

  29. Loursat says:

    The idea that steady persistence is more reliable than brief bursts of enthusiasm is a perfectly sound basis for a sermon, but I don’t think that this idea is evident in Lehi’s dream. There’s no need to wrest these passages from the Book of Mormon. The point is much better made by reference to the Parable of the Sower or Aesop’s tortoise and hare.

    Preachers would do well to remember that there are no original ideas, so we have to be very careful when we think of novel ways to say things. Novelty makes us miss the mark more often than not.

  30. Loursat says:

    Actually, maybe the idea is there in Lehi’s dream, just not in the way that Elder Bednar wants to find it. Novelty also makes us too clever.

  31. I suspect that this had less to do with the actual definitions of cling and hold fast to, and more with the fact that Nephi used two similar words\phrases in an attempt to described two groups of people who made it to the tree of life, and yet had two different outcomes.

  32. Mark N. says:

    Well, it seemed inspired at the time.

  33. Rick Erekson says:

    Who cares? Whether it is by Nephi or Elder Bednar, The Lord’s point is don’t fall away from Him. You have all made it to the tree now stay there and don’t get distracted by the world or out of shape because someone uses a word “the wrong way”. Keep reading the BoM and you’ll find this, “I saw the multitudes of the earth, that they were gathered together to fight against the apostles of the Lamb…” Elder Bednar is one of those apostles and he’s been asked by Jesus to help you keep your connection to Christ but you’re worried about his word choice? it seems that the original meaning of BCC has been changed from its true intended meaning and now BCC=By Common Complainers.

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    Buendia, thanks for your interesting, nuanced reading.

  35. I’m just here for more Ardis comments.

  36. Smithereens says:

    “[1] The people who cling to the rod are dismissively referred to as “cling-ons” . . .” Could this be trying to create another negative (yet false) connotation thru the use of homophones? Just because someone is a Klingon doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad. Look at Lt. Worf.

  37. Tracy M, I’m just here exercising my well-known predilection for ranting against truth. It’s not like I have any desire, after all, to understand what Elder Bednar means when he builds a doctrinal lesson on a word that he seems to use very differently from the way I have understood that word. I mean, when the apostle speaks, the thinking is done, right? Obviously nothing good can come from the struggle to understand.

  38. Ranters Against Truth, unite! Every time I open my mouth, there’s dude waiting to tell me why I’m wrong. Punching bruises today.

  39. N. W. Clerk says:

    “No idea how ‘proselyting’ got into our vocabulary”

    The OED gives about 350 years of examples of its use, in case you’d care to take a look.

  40. I think it’s a good comparison to make. The modern use of the word “cling” does carry a sense of desperation, especially when used in contrast to “hold fast”, and the two groups in the dream. In the context of the message it’s appropriate.

  41. Jacob H. says:

    We’re missing midrashim that meanderingly mine meanings from minutiae in modern mormon machinery. Maybe Elder Bednar is mistaken, or maybe his meticulous messaging is making up for minor monstrosities hitherto missing from the mormon mainstream?

  42. Not a Cougar says:

    Kevin, sure “proselyting” is a word, but it describes the actions of the proselyte, not the person seeking out converts. In every context I’ve heard it used by Mormons, the speaker was talking about the person seeking to convert others. Hence, “proselytizing.” I’ve never heard a non-Mormon use “proselyting” in the way that Mormons do.

  43. Left Field says:

    Well, there is the usage school advising against certain words ending in -ize if there is a shorter alternative.

    “-ize. Do not coin verbs by adding this tempting suffix. Many good and useful verbs do end in -ize: summarize, fraternize, harmonize, fertilize. But there is a growing list of abominations: containerize, prioritize, finalize, to name three. Be suspicious of -ize: let your ear and your eye guide you. Never tack -ize onto a noun to create a verb. Usually you will discover that a useful verb already exists. Why say “utilize” when there is the simply, unpretentious word use?” (Strunk and White)

    I wouldn’t say that “proselytize” is a coined verb. But “proselyte” does seem like a simpler form, when the alternative just adds three letters without changing the meaning. That’s what I think, irregardless of what Not a Cougar says.

  44. Left Field says:

    On the other hand, I would be happy to lose “return missionary” and “go on trek.”

  45. Left Field says:

    Merriam-Webster’s example of proselyte as a verb: “She’s been trying to proselyte everyone in the office ever since she joined that church.”

  46. lastlemming says:

    I rather like Christian Kimball’s take–“clinging” implies desperation while “holding fast” implies a more deliberate and considered act. Not at all what Bednar meant, but a useful interpretation.

  47. Lindsey Smith says:

    Sorry, I haven’t read the other comments so someone might have said this already. But maybe clinging is simply holding on too tightly… to something that isn’t entirely perfect because of our human flaws. Just for explanations sake, if the rod were un-sanded wood and you were clinging to it whilst moving forward, you could easily get a sliver and would most likely take your hand totally off it (the sliver in this analogy being the flaws within the church… sexism, racism, nepotism… basically any unfair, frustrating, doubt causing non-Christlike element found in our organization: jerky bishop, judgmental youth leader, etc.) But if you’re holding to the rod, just using it as a guide to get to where you need to be, then maybe all that other church crap just won’t be that big a deal (not bc it doesn’t matter, but bc you’re more focused on the tree at the end than the imperfect rod, and you’re reducing your chances of getting a sliver… or a shard, or whatever a rough, un-smooth edge would be called with an iron rod.)

  48. I still think that berating Elder Bednar over deciding to split hairs with definitions of clinging vs hold fast, is a bit much; at least he saw that those where the key words diving two groups of people (making it much more forgivable than a certain GA discussing certain women).
    I think it would be interesting to hear a discussion how clinging could be bad? The iron rod is the word of God, right? So is clinging to the word of God really wrong? Can you honestly say out loud “Clinging to the word of God is wrong.” and not have that feel … wrong?
    I’m going to hypothesis that what divided the two groups of people is that one group sincerely repented, and got to know God; and the other group limited their gospel experience to what was institutionally provided for them. Sure, they clung to the word of God; great. But perhaps that was it. Yes, they went to church, and probably didn’t break any commandments, went on a mission, got married in the temple; but never really did anything outside of that. They might never do service, unless its part of a church service project. Never do any studying of the gospel, outside of scripture reading or reading books by Apostles. Never put in enough effort to cultivate a relationship with Christ. Never, really truly converted on their own. And then, one day someone says “Seer stone” or “multiple accounts of the first vision” and boom; they’re out the door.
    If you’re on your way towards the tree of life, what can you do to not be a clinger, but to be a hold faster? I suspect it has to do with the percentage of your gospel experience coming from somebody else organizing something. If your gospel study, and charitable experiences are never self motivated, I suspect you might be a clinger. It’s great that you’re clinging to the word of God, but once it comes time to do someone on your own; you become lost.
    Or perhaps I’m wrong, and am currently a clinger myself. I hope not though. But if I am, I hope to repent of that.

  49. Wait… Kol, if you have to hold to the rod with your right hand, how are you supposed to take the sacrament with it? Is it okay to switch hands for a few seconds every Sunday? Or is it preferable to just let go for just long enough to avoid taking the sacrament with your left (sinister) hand? Or, is the ideal solution to actually just put your entire face into the bread tray?

  50. Also, when I was in seminary in the ’90s, I had a teacher that made this distinction, but it was more along the lines of what several of the commenters here have made: that clinging is bad because it implies not haphazardness as E. Bednar suggests, but a desperation (and possibly excessive literalism?) that will fail us in the end.

  51. I still think that berating Elder Bednar over deciding to split hairs with definitions of clinging vs hold fast, is a bit much

    You’ve misunderstood the OP and much of the conversation, then. Elder Bednar built an entire doctrinal lesson on the definition of “cling,” defining it as “weak hold” when Kevin, and I, and others, understood it to be quite the opposite, as “strong hold.” Elder Bednar, not us, was splitting hairs with definitions.

    If you bother to look at my comments in sequence, you’ll see a progression from “no, it doesn’t mean that!” to “well, there *is* this one exception that sort of fits” to “okay, I’ve thought of other relevant examples that might explain what he meant.” I still don’t think the language justifies the doctrinal lesson he built it into, but at least now I think I understand his point of view.

    When something doesn’t seem right, based on our own gospel knowledge or even, as in this case, understanding of a common English word, we’re *supposed* to study it out, to understand the apparent discrepancy and come to a resolution. As far as I’m concerned, that is precisely what Kevin asked and what I and others did.

    There is absolutely no virtue in saying, “Well, Elder Bednar said it, so it would be wrong for me to think about it even to come to an understanding.”

  52. Amen to everything Ardis says.

    Yes, all interpretation is a bit speculative, but that doesn’t mean that all interpretations are equally valid. Interpretations based on using words to mean their opposite are generally not very reliable.

    I have no quarrel with the lesson Elder Bednar teaches, but that just isn’t what “cling” means.

  53. Steve Smith says:

    I find it ironic how hard many leaders and members come down on active members who are maybe a bit more casual in the strictness of their observance of LDS norms, but those who completely leave are treated so delicately with utmost respect and deference. Maybe that is why I decided to completely leave rather than try to barely hold on. Now that I’m out I openly socially drink and drink coffee. I shop and play on Sunday. And when I make an occasional appearance at church, I’m warmly welcomed by the ward members who practically roll out the red carpet for me, hoping that their kind treatment might woo me back into the fold. No thanks. I know what happens to people when they come back into the fold. They get scolded. Have more kids, spend more time in your calling, pay more in tithes and offerings, wear a white shirt, keep clean shaven (if in a leadership calling), attend the temple more. Forget that. I’m so done.

  54. Steve Smith says:

    I find it ironic how hard many leaders and members come down on active members who are maybe a bit more casual in the strictness of their observance of LDS norms, but those who completely leave are treated so delicately with utmost respect and deference. Maybe that is why I decided to completely leave rather than try to barely hold on. Now that I’m out I openly socially drink and drink coffee. I shop and play on Sunday. And when I make an occasional appearance at church, I’m warmly welcomed by the ward members who practically roll out the red carpet for me, hoping that their kind treatment might woo me back into the fold. No thanks. I know what happens to people when they come back into the fold. They get scolded. Have more kids, spend more time in your calling, pay more in tithes and offerings, wear a white shirt, keep clean shaven (if in a leadership calling), attend the temple more. Forget that. I’m so done.

  55. Have never heard this dichotomy in a real world situtation as of the day this OP was published. That is, until now – even today.

    At first I thought the EQ teacher was familiar with this blog and this post, but as he continued I realized he was using the application as Elder Bendar did. He didn’t site him specifically though, in fact his referencing was that the leaders of the church use this.

    Gave me a good chuckle. I didn’t challenge but I’m new in the ward and still building social equity so I bridled my superfulously naughty tongue.

  56. I’m wondering if this connotation of “cling” comes from static cling and the fact that all it takes is a brush with fabric softener to destroy its hold.

  57. Thank you, Kevin and Ardis (and others). I needed a good laugh (though not loud!). This is not the only time Elder Bednar has insisted on using words to mean something other than what it seems most English speakers think they mean. Maybe we will develop a language we could call Bednar-speak in addition to the more general Mormon-speak. Or maybe its just a dialect that some of us find confusing — like I couldn’t begin to understand the cockney (and other dialects) I heard at the Hyde Park chapel in London.

  58. Since we’re nitpicking Elder Bednar’s words, I’ll note that he says ” Clinging to the rod of iron suggests _to me_” (emphasis added). I’m happy to let him keep that definition for himself as long as he doesn’t impose it on me. I find his teaching a good one even if it isn’t logically derived from the text.

  59. These two things are true, and saying one does not detract from the other: (1) Elder Bednar’s lesson bears no defensible relationship to the text of this passage. (2) Elder Bednar’s lesson is a good lesson.

  60. RickH, I’m sure we should definitely just go head first into the trays. If you let go for just one second, you’re damned.

  61. If you’ve ever had clingy underwear or clingy children, then you’ll understand why “cling” is a totally negative term. Actually, this is just nonsense. All these people who were clinging or holding fast or just grabbing onto the rod of iron should have been following their Liahonas all along—even all the way to their own personal lands of promise.

    (The annoying “even” is what we might call a Monsonism.)

  62. Chadwick says:

    Echo Eric and JKC’s latest comments.

    It’s nice to put people in a box. It’s even nicer when we can see these people as individuals that may have their own path and choices in this life. I would bet that at least some of those who clung to the rod may have remained faithful, and that some of those who held fast to the rod may have eventually take other paths away from the tree. I’ve yet to see anything work 100% of the time, which is why the rhetoric from my childhood that 100% FHE attendance=temple marriages for all my children and grandchildren is no longer spoken over the pulpit.

    If there was one simple recipe for success, that would be both easy and great. But that’s just not been my experience.

  63. Mike R. says:

    I have a general rule that linguistic differences that would disappear in translation are an unsuitable foundation for teaching doctrine. (E.g., “certain” women are only “assured” women in English). Similarly, “cling” means “hold fast,” and any translation of the Book of Mormon into another language that used a word implying only occasional adherence to the iron rod to translate “cling” would be wrong.

    Context is also a problem with Bednar’s interpretation. 1 Nephi 8, you see “numberless concourses” who were lost in the mist of darkness, before you see others “clinging” to the rod, who arrive at the tree and partake of the fruit. Clinging to the rod isn’t presented as a problem, it’s a solution that prevents you from being lost in the dark. The problem that then arises is not connected to the manner in which people took hold of the rod, but to what happened afterwards: shame for being mocked. Then we see other multitudes “continually holding fast” to the rod, who similarly arrive at the tree and partake of the fruit. Nothing is said about them being ashamed and falling away, so we assume that they did not.

    The rod performs the same function for both groups who use it — it gets them to the tree. So, what should be inferred is not that there’s any meaningful difference between “clinging” and “continually holding fast” but that shame can get you even when you think you’re safe.

    I have no problem with the suggestion that irregular contact with the word of God is inadequate. But we don’t need to redefine words to mean something other than what they mean, to make that suggestion.

  64. Mike R. says:

    And don’t even get me started with my impatience for distinctions between “shepherds” and “sheepherders,” or “sins” and “transgressions.”

  65. I just assume that “hold fast” means doing stuff that I personally do, and that “cling” means acting like people I disagree with or simply don’t like. That way, I can be reassured that I’m righteous and they’re not.

  66. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks, Mike R., I like your articulation.

  67. lorbowski says:

    In addition to reinventing “Holding fast”, Bednar in 2005 also reinvented “Tender Mercies” to mean “an abundance of blessings from heaven”. The phrase is in the bible – in Psalms and Luke. Also in Nephi 1. I don’t think that the text supports Bednar’s reading though.

  68. Mike R.: Bingo.

  69. I just want to Freud-emphasize that picture. Carry on clinging or holding fast, good people. Whatever grip makes you feel good about yourselves, that’s the one for you.

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