A post to those critical of President Devin Durrant’s most recent conference talk wherein he introduced ponderize to the Church. Yesterday, I wrote about cultural curiosities within Mormonism. What we buy, what we sell, fads, jello, etc. I recommended that ponderize creates opportunities to discuss Mormon culture with children and friends. The response to yesterday’s post was varied and interesting and leads me to what you are about to read, for good or ill.
I want to provide a civil and measured response to those stressed out over President Durrant’s speaking style and content in the ponderize sermon. I employ the phrase “chill out” in the spirit of communicating first and foremost in a language that is not offensive and commonly employed and understood by teenagers and twenty-somethings. The phrase “chill out” is not generally caustic or harsh in their world. That is my intent here.
As I understand the primary concern, many feel that the talk President Durrant gave was somehow short of the bar set by other conference speakers. A little too cutesy and doctrine-free when compared to the high-brow style of speaking employed by others in general conference addresses. My response to you is relax, chill out, everything will work out. The sky is not falling and the Church is not collapsing. And here are three reasons why that may be a reasonable response to individual and collective angst.
1) Please think back to the most memorable talk you heard in general conference as a teenager. What was the title of the talk? Who gave it? What was the content? How did it stir you to act? What were your specific actions as a result? Well, if you’re like me, I cannot remember one talk—not one! I’m certain I listened to lots of wonderful sermons from speakers like David O. McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, Spencer W. Kimball, et al. But I remember absolutely nothing. And yes, I had an earnest interest in conference. I attended conference in the pre-ticket days of the Tabernacle. That means I slept out on the sidewalk that surrounds temple square. I wanted instruction from the prophets of God and other leaders of the Church. And yet I remember nothing beyond the good feelings that I still enjoy when I recall those experiences. Therefore, as an adult, father, and teacher should I be troubled by a conference talk that my kids and students will very likely remember when they reach my age? I am not troubled.
2) Second, I currently have children attending elementary school, junior high, high school, and four attending university. All of them could tell you what it means to “ponderize.” As a recently returned mission president, President Durrant understands how to communicate and motivate youth that are 18 to 21 years old. He knows how to invite young people to follow good and wholesome paths. I can take a que from the ponderize talk and translate my language as a professor and dad (too frequently the same tone and jargon) into language that both communicates an important principle (ponder over and memorize scriptures) and may be received by my children and students in more invitational and less daunting ways. I don’t use the word ponderize but I appreciate the tailored use of language to the needs of my children that are about to go on missions (three of them) and my children that have recently returned (three of them).3) Teaching is like a set of golf clubs. Teachers in any setting have a driver, three iron, five iron, nine iron, pitching wedge, and putter to name a few. A golfer simply cannot use a one wood for all shots. When Elder Holland pulls a one wood out of the bag, tees up the ball, and drives it 350 yards down the fairway—seemingly leaving a dent or two in the pulpit in the process—we thrill amongst ourselves and cheer (and hopefully repent). When he pulls out the putter on a fast green, reads the distance and slope, gently taps the ball ever so slowly yet accurately to drain the put, we cheer from the gallery and wonder at the skill set he brings to the course. He did this just over a week ago in his tender talk about motherly consecration.
May I simply suggest that President Durrant merely pulled a club out of the bag that is not frequently used in the game of golf—say a reversible wedge that allowed him, as a right handed golfer, to strike a ball from the left side (yes, that club exists). Not conventional but very helpful and very memorable. Kind of like a golfer that goes into a pond mid-calf to attempt a shot out of a water hazard. Golfers applaud the tenacity and determination required to take that risk. Can we give President Durrant the same benefit of the doubt? I trust that ponderize worked with his missionaries so maybe it will work with other young members of the Church—oh wait, it did if the last week is taken as a measure. The word and the act caught traction with youth–whether you agree with the choice of club or not. Perhaps we can be a little more open to instruction geared to young people in a general conference setting.
In conclusion, chill out and let this play out. Very good things are happening. However, if you disagree—no problem. Just avoid tendencies to define a round of eighteen holes by one shot on the seventh fairway. Be civil, just applaud what you can—no need to boo a good man with a good and well-intentioned message.