Ponderize Us! Managerial Jargon And the Generic Authority’s Bailiwickification

What else is there to say about PONDERIZE?  It’s bad.  It’s good.  It’s silly.  It’s nuanced…let me ponderize a bit, or do I mean pondificate?

Ponderize: It’s a way to say you should PONDER and MEMORIZE in some blend of your thought-box-mind-machine, apparently, while reading some magic book.

What is different about this one?

OK.  Now, what about selling shirts that insist one should PONDERIZE, or that suggest the wearer of the shirt claims to PONDERIZE? Is that bad?  Why is that any different from insisting one should pay money to go the temple?

I mean, is enforcing a demand for payment before temple attendance WORSE, in the scheme of badness, than is asking someone to pay for a t-shirt?   Or, is it, that someone in Generic Authority Durrant’s family hoped to gain monetarily from the sale of those shirts?  Well, is that any different from them getting free tuition at BYU?  Or discounted loans from preferred lenders?  Or eating dinner with their dear old dad, and he pays?  Or him collecting a fee for his work as a GA?  Or going on a LDS mission without paying the monthly fee?  It’s different?  OK, how?

Well, they are selling merchandise with their dad’s GenCon phrase, and it is sacred because it talks about how we should think-memorize someone’s writings. 

But what about all those Be-this and Be-that kitsch that showed up the day after GB Hinckley counted up some number of bees?  How is that different, exactly?  Is it because the prophet can be sold, but not a lower ranking authority?  How is any religious kitsch different from the Ponderize?  Because the guy who said it had family members profiting from the sale of that kitsch?  Maybe it was a family phrase, and isn’t really any different from you selling something your dad says all the time.  There was a best selling book a few years back titled, “Sh*t my Dad said.”

Strangely prophetic, the Sugar Beet News published a story way back in like 2003 that predicted, in coded terms, the whole Ponderize fiasco.  I cannot find the page today, but I happened to save a copy of it years ago.  It reads, in part:

Conference-Themed Products Set Sales Records

By Chris Giauque

SALT LAKE CITY——According to a report from the LDS Industrial Group, an independent watchdog organization that tracks the performance of LDS-themed products and businesses, products based on the spring 2003 general conference are selling faster than any previous conference-themed product lines. ““We got a lot of good, memorable quotes out of the latest GC,” explained Jacob Buhn, president of the group. “It was just what we were looking for——short, snappy lines that promote brand retention in consumers’’ minds.”

The fastest-moving conference T-shirt features a humorous picture of a skunk drenched in tomato juice, with the caption ““Overcome the Stench of Sin,”” a reference to Elder Spencer V. Jones’s memorable talk. In addition, a poster with a picture of the scriptures and the caption “If all else fails——Please! Follow the instructions,” from Elder Rex D. Gerratt’’s talk, is selling very well on BYU campuses.

“The ideal product is based on a memorable line from a high authority,” explained Buhn, “the higher, the better. When Elder F. Burton Howard told the story of his wife’’s silverware set, I knew we’d soon be seeing silverware for sale bearing his tagline, ‘‘If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently.’’ On the other hand, when Susan Tanner, the Young Women general president, said that ‘‘the most crucial and fulfilling thing you will do is build a holy home and rear a strong family,’’ I knew we’d maybe see that on a cross-stitched pillowcase, if at all. No one’s ever managed to successfully market a female quote on a product over twenty dollars, except the occasional book.”
According to Buhn, the success of this conference’s product line can be attributed to several factors. “First, of course, is the fact that with the war, a lot of people were tuned in to conference for reassurance,” he said. “Also, this is the first conference in several years that hasn’’t provided some distraction. For instance, in recent years, we’’ve heard announcements about smaller temples, the Perpetual Education Fund, and new rules for missionary farewells. Don’’t get me wrong——those are all great things, but they don’t translate well into marketable brand images. I mean, how do you put the Perpetual Education Fund on a T-shirt?”

I cannot see why, given what is not merely acceptable, but encouraged as part of LDSism, that selling Ponderize t-shirts is somehow bad.  Or poor taste.  Or silly.  Bad, poor taste, and silly are not words any LDSist uses to describe the activities of General Authorities, no matter what; or of LDS people selling religious kitsch.  It seems like the only difference was the getting caught early in the game, by non-LDSers; rather than letting others profit from the phrase as well, so that it could become kitsch.  So, it’s not the act itself that was bad; it was who was involved.  And they were shamed in public.  And that says a lot about LDSism, and about its critics.

Enough Pondification, on that point.  Let me now proothifize it.

Why should Durrant even pother inventing a word like Ponderize?  What evidence does he have, in his understanding of “the scriptures,” that his unique term describes something new, or useful?  Is this the first time any of his ilk suggested one should memorize, and ponder?  Probably not.

So, why bother with the term?  It’s branding, I think.  Supposedly a way to make something memorable, and to identify it with something else, a phrase or a person.

General Authorities cannot make new doctrines, at least not explicitly (but do so implicitly all the time).  They cannot stray from what someone in Correlation deems to be the correct interpretation of “scripture.”  So we see in this new term what they can do: invent new tools for processing (e.g., Bednarian devices), or new names for the currently existing set of tools most readers already employ.  They can brand.

Ponderize should mean, rather than memorize-ponder, if we follow english grammar, to -ize what one ponders, just as memorize is to -ize what one (re)members (or “memors”).  But he isn’t following the rules everyone else plays by, so he has to explain how he came up with this term.  It’s a blend of two existing words, but a confusing blend at the suffix -ize.  That says something about power and authority, and how it flourishes in the arbitrary; in what is against the rules of the common man.

To -ize?  To make or to subject something to some process or treatment, e.g., legalize, homogenize, and so on.   To ponderize, if Durrant followed the rules familiar to English speakers, would mean, to make something pondered (or literally weighed); or to subject it to a process now branded with this -ize.  In the age of machines, most new -izes are of the second sort, and their makers do so merely to gain fame and fortune, I suppose.

This particular use of the -ize suffix is commonly found in managerial jargon.

In the non-ironically named website, ThoughtLeader,  a list of tired business jargon is given.  At the top of this list is … utilize.  Other -izes are found alongside jargon-phrases, but nearly every single word (rather than a phrase) that is its own jargon-term ends in -ize.  Indeed, the single comment on the page lists a few more phrases, and then adds this, in reductio mockery:


Also annoying are those fabricated words ending in -ize (such as incentivize, genericize, monetize)

…which sparks some ideas for future incomprehensible management memos:


So, we see something of their priesthood here, and its background from which it draws power and authority.  A jargon term is created by a standard business process to describe how one should process scripture, as though one were butchering a corpse.  Efficiently.  As though truth written or read really comes in packets, verses, chapters, words, and so on; rather than in waves of continuous light.  Truth and Light are not taken in by such a process, nor given in units.

His notion of memorizing and pondering is itself drawn from a world of accounting in standard, generic units and measuring their distribution, just as General Conference itself enacts this mesmerizing mystery of monetized capitalism (-ized isms are uniquely academic jargon): standard, generic units of power arranged from more to less, like a pile of coins, now in red chairs; valuable because of their arrangement; and listened to with the same accounting standards and concerns of efficiency, so that Mormons ask the evil questions, “Did that come the Prophet?” “Is that doctrine?” and “Is that author LDS?” and use one’s place on a pyramid to decide how true and powerful are those words.

Now, what about those t-shirts?

Clothing has long been used to identify one as a member of some group, class, race, gender, team, religion, and so on.  T-shirts are simply the cheapest way to do this, and printing an actual jargon-term on the shirt is the egregiously, heavy ham-fisted way of accomplishing such identification.  I recall a few years ago, sweat pants were often printed across the butt with various terms the person wearing the pants apparently wished others to say about him or her, “babe!” or “hot!” or “pornstar” or whatever, as they walked behind their behind.  Again, the most heavy handed way of introducing yourself, with a term you’d like another to say about you, printed on your butt.  Or your business card.  Generally, such trends die fast, because there is no secret in-group reading that develops, say, with knowing the new designer whose name is not actually printed across the shirt.  The real high end stuff doesn’t make itself known in such a manner, and so it works like any other secret handshake: to identify authentic members of the group using secret signs only given to members of the group.

But…what about calling yourself Elder So-and-so, and wearing a suit and tie to show one’s religious status?  Any different?  How so?  More expensive, and not explicit.  So that they who interpret the true signs of religious authority are now also a part of the secret group, even though generally of lesser power and might than are the men whose signs they interpret.

Powerful Rites

“What is that?”  If you have to ask, either you don’t trust me, or you don’t know.  It’s a sign of club membership.  If I have pierced your veil, you ought to know me.  And trust me.

If you have to explain, about your sash, that “It’s an emblem of my power and authority,” I would say, you have no power and authority, outside of your claim about such.  And outside of your display of ridiculous tokens that have no real connection to actual power.  If you have to call yourself a General Authority, in order to be one; and you have to talk at General Conference to get your word out, then you have no real power or authority whatsoever.

If you have to rely on family to create a website that sells shirts with a word you invented, in the paradigm-non-shift of managerial bullshit, you are not powerful, nor any author of anything whatsoever, other than of a word that points back to your own vanity.  Indeed, that is all your priesthood consists of: people saying it is so, and thus it is so.  That is not power of a heavenly sort, however, for marketers, politicians and managers use this fiat regularly for purposes spanning the moral spectrum, from the Evil to the Mundane; but rarely creative of the Good.  Ponderize is not capable of moving on its own, any more than their Restorationist gospel can move without the machines of Mammon.  Ponderize that.