The dangers of mocking and pointing

26 And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.

27 And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.

28 And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.

We just had many amazing sessions of General Conference in the last two weeks. And I did not fully realize how amazing they were until this Sunday when I went to fast and testimony meeting at my small-town ward in Colorado. The people in my ward are the salt of the Earth. They are wonderful, nice people who succeed in (mostly) shutting out the many negative things going on in the world. These people concentrate on their families, on their responsibilities, on their callings and on their testimonies.

Several of these good, guileless people used the wonder “ponderize” in their testimonies this Sunday. They said they have been inspired by the word “ponderize” to read the scriptures and memorize them and ponder what they say. Now if you read that word and laughed in a sarcastic, mocking way, you are part of the problem. Because of course that is what I did during Sacrament meeting: I laughed (to myself) at the word “ponderize” rather than immediately appreciate the fact that people actually are taking seriously the advice of people who speak at General Conference.

Why did I laugh? If you are connected to the internet and all of us sometimes cynical Mormons and ex-Mormons out there, you perhaps may have heard the mocking that took place because the son of Brother Durrant tried to commercialize the word “ponderize.” There is a lot of history there that I don’t want to repeat, but the bottom line is this: We should be more like the members of my ward. We should concentrate on the words of the people who speak at General Conference and not get caught up in the various world-created controversies. Satan’s trick is to encourage us to mock Church leaders rather than listen to what they say. Don’t fall for the trick.

With that in mind, I would like to link to Brother Durrant’s talk in the hopes that more people will read it and take in what he has to say.

Here are some key paragraphs:

My second invitation is quite different from and much more important than the first. It is this: I invite you to “ponderize” one verse of scripture each week. The word ponderize is not found in the dictionary, but it has found a place in my heart. So what does it mean to ponderize? I like to say it’s a combination of 80 percent extended pondering and 20 percent memorization.

There are two simple steps:

First, choose a verse of scripture each week and place it where you will see it every day.

Second, read or think of the verse several times each day and ponder the meaning of its words and key phrases throughout the week.

Imagine the uplifting results of doing this weekly for six months, a year, 10 years, or more.

As you make this effort, you will feel an increase in spirituality. You will also be able to teach and lift those you love in more meaningful ways.

I would like to thank Brother Durrant for his service, and I would like to thank the people who do not mock people who speak at General Conference. Ever. These are the people we should emulate, not the people mocking and pointing.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

30 thoughts on “The dangers of mocking and pointing

  1. Our bishop talked about “ponderizing” at a baptism service last night. I just smiled at the thought that he had no idea of the fuss that it caused over the last week. My husband also got up today in testimony meeting and bore his testimony of our three new apostles. It was nice to just hear that.

  2. I have to say that when he introduced this concept, I nodded in agreement because I have had many positive experiences with the very ideas he espoused. Then when I surfed the Bloggernacle, I was intrigued by the negative attitudes and controversy that I began to mentally distance myself from E. Durrant’s talk. That, of course, doesn’t mean his ideas are without merit. Your post, Geoff, was a gut check, reminding me that I should not take too much stock, if at all, in the cynicism that is the Internet. No doubt his ideas have inspired and will inspire many people to approach the scriptures differently, with the technology that is daily at our fingertips. His point was to bring people to Christ by treasuring up–memorizing and pondering–the words of life. Nothing at all wrong with that. Thanks for your post!

  3. He’s actually Brother Durrant, not Elder, since he is a member of the Sunday School general presidency and not a seventy. Even if he were, neither calling is sustained as prophet, seer, and revelator. Not that that excuses in the least any mockery, but I simply never would have connected it with mocking the prophets or prophetic counsel.

  4. I clearly remember that while I was listening to the talk on Sunday afternoon, I had a negative reaction — he sounded to me too much like a salesman, and his repeated use of that made-up word bothered me. It was a day or two later when I learned the rest of the story — but I already didn’t like the talk. Different strokes for different folks. While I’m glad others benefited from the talk, I really hope I don’t hear that word in my ward. As an aside, I wonder how that word translates into other languages?

  5. I suggest the 100 Scripture Mastery scriptures are a good place to start. You can buy a set of flash cards from, or download them (from somewhere, I forget exactly where) and print them out yourself.

    If I remember correctly, they are 25 OT, 25 NT, 25 BoM, and 25 D&C scriptures.

    If you have children younger than missionary age, it would be a good example for them to see you memorizing those scriptures, since those scriptures are part of the missionary discussions, and missionaries are encouraged to memorize them.

    this link takes you to a search-results page at

  6. Also, when analyzing Brother Durrant’s talk, keep in mind that his father, George Durrant, is a prolific author (50 books) and a motivational speaker. So that’s likely where Devin picked up a lot of the motivation-speak. Just read the titles of his books as listed on his (George’s) Wikipedia entry,

    George Durrant was mission president in Louisville Kentucky from 1972 to 1975. When I was living in Louisville in the early 80’s, members were still talking about him and quoting him! His talks at stake conferences were that memorable.

    I recognized Devin’s last name, and looked him up on Wiki during his talk to see if he was related to the mission president/author, and found that he was. And at that point I realized “where he was coming from” as they say. Devin was also a mission president, released just last year, and that calling involves _motivating_ a bunch of teenagers.

    Good for him. I enjoy listening to dynamic, energetic motivational-speaker types.

  7. I had a person going on a mission bring up the ponderize this Sunday. Decoupled with the word, the concept is pretty good. I hate scripture memorization alone. There has to be purpose behind it, and too often its an excuse not to study more in depth. I will stick with “feasting on the word” to describe what we should be doing. This isn’t about mocking (although that is what has happened online), but preferences. Probably one of those good, better, best things.

  8. Sweet Brother Durrant.

    One of the beauties of having such a diverse leadership is that no one speaker needs to meet the spiritual needs of any single disciple.

    I’m sure Brother Durrant’s talk inspired some.

    One of the interesting aspects of conference is that talks are prepared by the different speakers, who are permitted to select and prepare their talks without (apparently) reference to the rest of the content. Speakers are presumed to be sufficiently mature that there is currently felt no need to screen content (delightful stories of J. Golden Kimball come to mind).

    To the extent that Brother Durrant’s talk may have fallen short of being the best conference talk ever, I’m sure he and others will have a chance to reflect on the high standard members expect of speakers at General Conference. Thus, whether he and others are entirely pleased with the talk as delivered or not, it will work to the good of future speakers.

  9. Oops, the link broke. Just go to and search for “scripture mastery” and it will pull up the 4 sets of flash cards.

    If you want to make your own, you can find the 100 scriptures listed somewhere on, probably under Seminary, or Mission Prep.

  10. I think a danger that is just as big (if not bigger) is the mocking and pointing at other members of the church. A friend of a friend on facebook posted a “Mormons are just the worst” (an exact quote) on his page, with a link to an article about the “scandal.” It turned into a predictable progressive mormons basing the rest of the church for being such stupid idiots thread.

    A clearer example of the great and spacious is hard to find.

  11. Ivan, that is exactly what I am referring to in this post. I have no problem with people not liking the word “ponderize.” Frankly, I don’t like it much myself. The issue is when people use it as a reason to mock General Conference speakers, other Mormons or the Church itself. If you don’t like the word “ponderize” then don’t use it.

  12. It’s perhaps worth pointing out that in Hebrew, “satan” (usually constructed with the Ha- prefix, which means “the”) means accuser, or the accuser or the adversary. The essential sense, per the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, is antagonistic opposition.

    We can often find ourselves, out of pride, in filling this role of “accuser”. Best course of action: charity towards friends and enemies.

  13. I get how people could be grated by his speaking style. I know I was. But as I listened, the concept made sense, the word adequately described it, and the Spirit testified it would be beneficial in my life. So I will be ponderizing.

    There’s always something in *every* conference talk, that isn’t quite right, or falls a little flat, but if you treat Conference as a Rhetoric Competition, or a game of Gotcha, you’re missing out.

  14. Bro. Durrant states this exercise is about 80% pondering and 20% memorizing. Yet, for those on the other side, it is actually 20% over-thinking and 80% criticizing.

  15. This is why those of us who have one foot in the great and spacious building should not listen to General Conference, because it just becomes a long exercise in frustration and cynicism. Better to just read M* summaries and check out a few standout talks later. Someday maybe we’ll learn to be more humble and learn to actually be taught and influenced by it. Until then, its safer to keep a distance.

  16. Nate, I guess I would say that whatever keeps you going to Church is a good thing, and of course I can’t argue with the reality that reading M* summaries is a good idea. 🙂

    I am continually drawn to 3 Nephi and the words of the Savior as he spoke to the Nephites. What he wants from us is a broken heart and a contrite spirit. The way I have always seen this is that he wants us to be open to the Holy Ghost to influence us. The best want to achieve this openness is to expose yourself as much as possible to the words of modern-day prophets and other inspired Church leaders. So, I think it is counterproductive to “keep a distance.”

    I will also say that my feeling is that Heavenly Father is not who we think he is. He is not bound by our worldly categories of politics and philosophy and our childish ideas of what is important in this world. When we see Him again we will understand that there is a portion of our souls that remembers Him and His perfection. The way to get closer to remembering what He is like is to listen to His prophets.

    So, put away the cynicism and open yourself up to the great things of God. You won’t regret it.

  17. Many people mocked Joseph Smith for apparent grammatic errors in the book of Mormon before he corrected them in later editions. Ironically the so-called grammatic errors may have come from an entirely different source than Joseph Smith’s bucolic background, say an ancient biblical scholar recruited to help with the translation?
    I loved the conference talks with one exception. I decided to look at it from a different point of view. Brother Durrant began his talk with a reference to savings as a basis for financial security. He then urged us to do something similar for our spiritual security, what I prefer to call ‘treasure up the Scriptures.’ I fasted from Facebook the Monday following General conference whiIe I schooled myself to except uncritically the enthusiasm of others I love and respect for the word ‘ponderize’. I found it actually only took one day to treat it as an unimportant factor. This morning I returned to the temple as a worker after health caused me to quit two years ago. Respected people expressed their enthusiasm for the new approach they feel ponderizing gives to their study of the Scriptures. I was happy that I had conquered my aversion to the term.

  18. The essential sense, per the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, is antagonistic opposition.

    We can often find ourselves, out of pride, in filling this role of “accuser”.

    I never find myself in that role. My novel theories about how the Church is supposed to run are intended to unify us all; and if some TBMs don’t get on board–well, they’re the ones fomenting division in Zion for failing to recognize my awesomeness.

  19. I had a rather unique experience listening to this talk. I was rather put off by the delivery style, and didn’t like the cuteness of the word invention. The principle trying to be expressed was sound, and I was able to focus on that part. When I later learned that it was an archaic word that had etymological links to “weighing”, it became more meaningful to me. Sure the speaker hasn’t intended that, but he accidentally helped me. Funny how that happens. I’ve been learning that more often than not, I get more out of conference when I ignore the emphasis, spirit, and inflection of the speaker and focus more on the written record. This often flies in the face of many self described spiritual experts, but for me, the spirit of truth is easier heard when there is less attempts of charisma and emotion, less emotional cooperation and more logical persuasion, a process that occurs by ignoring the authors emphasis, and maybe even their intent, and focus more on possible truths they may have accidentally spoken. God moves in a mysterious way.

  20. The thing I love about the great and spacious building metaphor is the inevitability of its fall. Now, had it been built on sand, it might have lasted for awhile. If the Spanish, with their building techniques, had built the original pirate haven of Port Royal in Jamaica instead of the English, some of it might have been left standing after the earthquake of 1692…for awhile. But a structure with air for its foundation…well, there is no point in discussing its ultimate outcome because its obvious. Nonetheless, in this the internet age, the concerns of those in the building with air for its foundation are amplified to a degree unheard of at any time in history up until now. This seems to be a given in these latter-days. The path with the iron rod was already difficult enough, but now it cannot be walked without hearing the cries, loud cries, of those in the building. As a matter of fact, might not those cries incessantly heard while struggling with the path of discipleship help us to realize we are on the right course?

  21. Laserguy, I think what you describe shows how the Lord inspires imperfect people to deliver the messages He wants us to hear. I’ve noted the same things at times, that the spirit and meaning of the words, as picked up by reading the conference talk in the Ensign, may not match the tone, attitude or personality of the speaker at the time the talk was presented at conference.

    I don’t know about others, but I sometimes feel _two_ spirits when I listen to church speakers, whether it be general conference or local ward/stake talks: the personal spirit of the person speaking, and the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost carries/transmits the truth of the words when the words are according to the Lord’s will. But since no human is perfect, that action by the Holy Ghost can occur even when the speaker is weak or imperfect himself.

    I like a good “rah-rah!” motivational talk when it concerns a good cause, is not too hokey, and doesn’t condescend to the audience. I liked Brother Durrant’s talk. But I can see how the delivery may have been uncomfortable for those who are averse to listening to motivational style speaking.

    At times I get too empathic, and start to feel too much of what a speaker himself (not the Holy Ghost) is projecting, regardless of setting. If a speaker has any feelings of anger, or is condescending to the audience, I get uncomfortable, sometimes to the point of physical pain. There’s actually a word for it: synesthesia.

    I’ve had to walk out of some sacrament talks and testimonies when the speaker strongly projects a wounded or pained spirit. The curious thing is that they can still be speaking “with the Spirit” (ie, the Holy Ghost), while they are projecting their personal pain or personal wounds.

    I’ve concluded that we have to let people be human, with imperfections, flaws, wounds, hurts, everything. The Lord and the Holy Ghost still do their jobs, using us as their mouthpieces, hands, and feet. The Lord uses the weak things of the world to confound the wise and accomplish His tasks.

  22. Stephen Wight, you write: ” Nonetheless, in this the internet age, the concerns of those in the building with air for its foundation are amplified to a degree unheard of at any time in history up until now. This seems to be a given in these latter-days. The path with the iron rod was already difficult enough, but now it cannot be walked without hearing the cries, loud cries, of those in the building. As a matter of fact, might not those cries incessantly heard while struggling with the path of discipleship help us to realize we are on the right course?”

    I think you are on to something here. The internet age has brought a lot of wonderful things, from General Conference on your desktop, to Skype meetings with long-last family to Family Search on-line. But it also amplifies the voices of the dissenters, the doubters and the people who fight against the Church of God. But it also seems true that the louder voices of the dissenters become a reminder of the course we should take so we don’t head into the mists of darkness ourselves.

  23. When reading or listening, in contexts religious or non-, I try to determine what truths there are in what I am learning, and how they relate to truths I already accept. So while I found the use of “ponderize” a little hokey, I appreciated the suggestion of regularly focusing on the scriptures, pondering and memorizing them.

    It’s not that I want to pretend problems or incongruities don’t exist, it’s that I don’t want my focus to be on them. I wish to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves”. I want to clearly see things as they really are, including the warts, but I also want to see them charitably, and rejoice in the good I see.

  24. Just a point of info, there is circulating among many Church members an idea that the speakers just write/say whatever they are inspired to say. The connotation being the whole conference is “un-scripted”. This is not quite the case, I have a relative who is a member of the Q12, he told us that what happens is *every* GA (and some other invited people) write *potential* conference talks every six months, and that these are then submitted up the “chain of command” (how far and the process I don’t know) and then the speakers are selected. So the statement the speakers write their own talks is absolutely true, but the implied connotation, of unscripted/uncorrelated, which many take from that, is not accurate.

    So Brother Durrant’s talk was pre-screened, I highly doubt though that the people choosing the speakers had any inkling that some of his family members would try to build an on-line business off of the talk. My guess (purely a guess) is that there has been some correction/guidance provided to the parties involved.

    The talk itself struck me as very odd (the delivery and mannerisms seemed quite inappropriate to my taste, but as others have said different strokes for different folks) – but in spite of that our family has already started to act on the advice of choosing a scripture every week to study and learn about in greater detail. We discussed the first week’s results in our FHE this past Monday.

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