An attempt to monetize a new religious practice called "ponderizing"— a mix of pondering and memorizing — brought a profiteering scandal to the Mormon Church over the weekend. Just invoking the word is enough to get a reaction:
— shaycarl (@shaycarl) October 4, 2015
Let's break it down.
During the October 2015 session of the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a semiannual event that drew thousands of Mormons to a conference center in Salt Lake City this weekend, church leader Devin G. Durrant presented members of the congregation with two challenges:
Many of the personal rewards I have received in life have come as a result of someone inviting me to do a difficult task. In that spirit, I would like to extend to each of you two invitations. The first has financial implications. With the second invitation, the implications are spiritual. Both invitations, if accepted, will require a disciplined effort over an extended period of time to reap the rewards.
The first challenge was straightforward: save money. "As you develop a habit of saving, you will benefit personally," he said, adding that if you don't use the savings yourself, you can use it for a charitable donation. Easy enough. The second is "quite different," and "much more important." He said:
I invite you to “ponderize”3 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, explained Durrant, two steps to "ponderizing," and they're pretty much what you would expect:
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.
Not as rote as memorizing scripture, but less lackadaisical than casually reading it. And, Durrant promises, the more you do it, the more fulfilled you'll feel, spiritually. He says it's worked for him and his wife—the pair has been ponderizing one verse per week for more than three years. They've got 17 years left to reach a 20-year goal, which seemed daunting to Durrant's wife at first. Here's what she told him, in his words:
When you first invited me to ponderize a scripture every week for 20 years, I wondered if I could do it for a month. I don’t have those doubts anymore. I can’t believe how fun it has been to put a scripture on the fridge each week, and just by ponderizing it each time I see it, it lifts my spirit.
Durrant suggested a few ways to complete the ponderizing challenge — you can, for example, join an online group or use social media to share scripture, the way he and his family do. LDS Scriptures already offers a Ponderize Challenge app to help the faithful get started.
And, for a brief moment, people could purchase "ponderize" swag online—which was a bad move.
The now defunct website, ponderize.us, was set up by Durrant's son and his wife. The website sold bracelets and t-shirts with the word on it—KUTV screengrabbed the offerings before they were removed:
The website caused an uproar. KUTV reports:
That website—ponderize.us—disappeared Sunday night after online backlash and accusations of using a religious occasion for personal gain. "At best it was cheap and empty consumerism," said Casey Walrath, 30, a graduate student and active Mormon in Salt Lake City. "At worst it looked like a General Authority's family had planned to use a meme-worthy conference talk to make some money on the side."
According to KUTV, the website was registered by Ryan and Valerie Durrant. On Sunday, people lobbed accusations of profiteering a the Durrant family on a since-deleted Ponderize Weekly Facebook page. Presumably, the comments looked something like this one:
KUTV added that the deleted Facebook page included a post defending the website. Devin Durrant eventually posted an explanation to his own page:
All in all, very solid damage control—now everyone can go back to ponderizing and saving money for unrelated reasons.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.