Over-Achievers Anonymous

Hi, my name is Tyler and I’m addicted to achievement.

I want the best grades, the best comments, the best school, the best residency, and the best job. Whatever I achieve, it is not enough. However far I go, the horizon will continue to stretch before me, beckoning me to distant excellence. My pace will always be breathless because I do not stop to rest, life is both a sprint and a marathon—the race goes neither to the fast nor the steady but to he who is both.

Sometimes, I believe if there were an “Over-achievers Anonymous,” I would have my own chapter. Recognition of affliction is the first step in recovery, and I really think I have come a long way since realizing I have a problem, but residual difficulties still remain. Here, in school, I face a culture of excellence, where achievement is pursued not for any pleasure to be derived from the next level of success but for the pursuit of excellence itself—as if the pursuit, not the achievement, holds value.

This produces a certain neurosis to which pre-meds (and pre-dents, and pre-law students, and others) are especially susceptible. Anyone who took a science class at BYU knows how neurotic pre-medical students can be about exam points—they (we?) are not above groveling and bickering to win back a few marks. Not all pre-professional students are like this, of course, but it does seem especially prevalent among us.

I am ambivalent as to the merits and dangers of this problem. On the one hand, the relentless pursuit of excellence is noble. A quixotic quest for unattainable merit is to be applauded and serves as a spur pushing both individuals and humanity to new heights. On the other hand, I fear many of my BYU alums and I were not pursuing knowledge for knowledge’s sake; we were pursuing knowledge for admission’s sake, or summa cum laude‘s sake, or a pat on the back’s sake, or whatever. We might call it the Eagle Scout syndrome.

I grew up wanting to achieve. I wanted my duty to God, I wanted my Eagle Scout award, I wanted good grades, I wanted to get a good scholarship to BYU, I wanted an acceptance to an Ivy League school—I wanted many ends. The problem, as I see it, is that if every end becomes merely a means to the next end, we end up engaging in the pursuit of an endless train of mirages, thinking perhaps satiety awaits at the next oasis, when in fact the next oasis only leaves us thirsty for more.

Now, in fairness, this process works both ways. Just as many ends become means to other ends, I have also pursued activities as means only to have the activities become ends unto themselves. So, for example, while I originally wanted my Eagle Scout, my pursuit thereof awakened in me a deep and abiding love for nature (thanks in no small part to my parents, my scoutmaster, and fabulous scout leaders). Similarly, while school began as a pursuit of grades, I find myself more and more often hungering after knowledge for its own sake—apparently even the relentless pursuit of ends can lead us to appreciate means.

Still, I think it is important to recognize in ourselves the tendency to make the pursuit the goal. Tocqueville said it best:

“The desire of prosperity has become an ardent and restless passion in their minds, which grows by what it feeds on. They [Americans] early broke the ties that bound them to their natal earth, and they have contracted no fresh ones on their way. Emigration was at first necessary to them; and it soon becomes a sort of game of chance, which they pursue as much for the emotions it excites as much as for the gain it procures.”

The “emotions” aroused by the pursuit of excellence, prosperity, and achievement can be intoxicating—and therein lies the problem. In the final analysis I suppose it is necessary we pursue ends; the trick is to make sure the ends are really worthy. If we pursue achievement because we wish to be recognized, or if we pursue wealth so we can accumulate more stuff, we are bound to find our lives wasted in the pursuit of things that don’t matter–even if we get what we want. If, on the other hand, we pursue knowledge, virtue, charity, and the funadamental enjoyment of life, we are much more likely to be happy–even if our desires are frustrated.

101 comments for “Over-Achievers Anonymous

  1. August 25, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    Ahhh…the pre-med student. Chemistry professor’s bane.

    The problem lies, I believe, when we value outcomes instead of indaviduals and mix in abit of President Benson’s comparative pride. It is not enough to know something or do something wonderful, but it is to score better than someone else.

  2. beeshnkj
    August 25, 2006 at 2:55 pm

    Nice Freudian-slip in paragraph 3.

    Let’s see…, did you mean “Recongition of Affliction…” or “Recognition of Addiction…”?

  3. August 25, 2006 at 3:22 pm

    I used to belong to the church of overachievers, but I have since repented. I think that attitude falls under the category of \”looking beyond the mark\” that Jacob talks about (Jacob 4: 14). Once I realized that a teacher\’s grade didn\’t validate me as a person, I was free from that rat race.

  4. Wilfried
    August 25, 2006 at 3:23 pm

    Interesting post, Tyler. Thank you for this introspection. How would you assess the relation between this quest for excellence and our Church’s emphasis on striving for perfection? Is it possible the striving for perfection can also fall in this trap? Another aspect is the question whether the Church, unwittingly, encourages a kind of “American” quest for excellence in cultures that know this movement much less or may even frown upon the “addiction” to constantly improve.

  5. August 25, 2006 at 4:20 pm

    J. Stapley,

    Your point about pride is well-taken. I remember standing outside professors’ offices somedays comparing scores with one another. It really is kind of a funny idea, thinking you are somehow superior because you filled a bubble-sheet in better than the next guy…

    Beeshnkj,

    Could be either, I suppose–most addicictions are afflictions, right?

    Wilfried,

    Your questions are interesting. Certainly striving for perfection can become a problem. As I said in the post, I believe, in the end, a large part of the question is not whether we are striving for something but what we are striving for. A well-directed quest is fulfilling while a quest for something of no value is liable to frustrate and leave us empty. In a sense, perhaps, the question lies not in whether we seek perfection but where we seek it–if I seek perfection within, I’m not likely to find much; if, however, I seek it in Christ (doing my best just the same) I am likely to find fulfillment.

    As to whether the Church induces striving within other cultures where such a culture would not normally exist, you are probably much more suited to answer this question than I–have you seen such inculcation? If so, is the effect negative or positive? Is it possible “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” while still enjoying the process and the becoming?

  6. August 25, 2006 at 4:35 pm

    I suggest to all achievement addicts that they drop out and stay home with small children for a few years, at just about the time that their first 20 years of achievement are about to really start “paying off,” like when you finish top in your class in law school or get an offer from a super prestigious consulting firm. It is a serious gut check about how you’ve been living your life, and how you want to live your life. Getting from the car back to your apartment with all the children intact and the gallon of milk you bought at the store starts looking like a serious achievement. It’s a different life. Just a thought that being a female overachiever can be a different experience.

  7. greenfrog
    August 25, 2006 at 4:44 pm

    Certainly striving for perfection can become a problem. …in the end, a large part of the question is not whether we are striving for something but what we are striving for.

    It is always advisable to evaluate whether one wants to get to the top of a ladder before starting to climb it.

    It is also advisable, though substantially harder, to discern from the bottom whether the ladder has a top.

  8. greenfrog
    August 25, 2006 at 4:45 pm

    last comment (#7) more obnoxious sounding in print than I imagined it to be in my mind as I typed.

    (Lesson to self.)

  9. August 25, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    Gina #6’s approach worked for me. I’m not totally cured but at least now I realize there is no hope for me to ever see life again the way I did before. I’m still getting over that feeling of frustration at having even the littlest tasks feel like slogging through chest-high mud in thigh-high boots. I’d better do it quick because I suspect the Lord’s going to keep on sending me children until I do.

  10. August 25, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    Oh, and premeds are the bane of math professors too, though I suspect not as badly as for chemistry professors (athletes are the math professor’s primary bane). I had a premed in my office one time who actually tried to argue that he deserved an A because he was a pre-med, and pre-meds just don’t get B’s by virtue of the fact that they _are_ the best and the brightest by definition. When I repeated his argument back to him stripped of all its flattery and doublespeak, he got really flummoxed. It was fun to watch.

  11. Mark Butler
    August 25, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    When I was in elementary school I was unusually uncoordinated, so I started taking a certain pride in being one the the smartest, if not the smartest people in my class instead. Every once in a while someone would move in who was smarter than me. Then the race was on, and took great joy in studying as much as necessary to get back to the top of the heap, and then I could relax knowing I was at least as good as anyone else. Then of course I went to college and realized that there was no shortage of people a lot smarter than I was, that as life went on I was more and more ordinary by the day.

  12. CS Eric
    August 25, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    This affliction can be very frustrating when there are areas in which you haven’t quite met that overachiever goal. I still remember the day, well over 20 years ago, when I learned both that I had a higher LSAT score and a better grade in a BYU Honors English class than two classmates who had been accepted to Harvard Law and I hadn’t. Even after all these years I am wondering “what if” as I type this.

  13. August 25, 2006 at 6:06 pm

    “On the one hand, the relentless pursuit of excellence is noble.”

    I’m sorry Tyler, but I really don’t think this is true at all. Such ambition and relentlessness, assuming it has positive results (and, in my experience and observation, for most people it does not), can be personally gratifying, yes. And those results are often beneficial to humanity, and certainly necessary for progress in the arts and sciences, of course. But noble? In the spiritual sense, as a thing worthy of praise? I sincerely doubt it. I think God accepts and approves of our desire to improve ourselves, appreciates the reflected Glory due to Him found in all our accomplishments and achievements and inventions, and is especially happy if all those things are done so that they tend towards serving our fellow man. But I think He’d be even happier if, after a certain point, we all got off the treadmill, knocked off work early when we could, got out of the achievement game and spent more time with the kids and got our home teaching done instead.

    Gina’s plaintive, straightforward comments in this thread and the Margaret Young thread have made her my favorite commenter of the week.

  14. mami
    August 25, 2006 at 6:23 pm

    I really despise the term over-achiever! I think the term itself is full of arrogance and bigotry. The term assumes description of ones self in comparison to others. Indeed, how does one define over-achiever?
    I, on the other hand, have the opposite pride problem—I have a chip on my shoulder for people who bask in this glory over self-granduer and “over-achievement”.
    I have a friend who is always comparing herself and her accomplishments and her children and their ablilities to everyone else –and I pridefully keep it quiet that my children are way ahead.
    I have a habit of doing this, which wouldn’t be so bad if it was in a prideful way–proud of myself for not patting myself on the back–instead I pat myself on the back for not patting myself on the back! Oh–the irony.
    So I think it all goes in motive.

  15. Adam Greenwood
    August 25, 2006 at 6:36 pm

    Can’t there be such a thing as excellence in fathering, or excellence in hometeaching?

  16. August 25, 2006 at 6:37 pm

    I think there certainly can be, Adam. I doubt those particular excellences come through “relentless pursuit,” though.

  17. August 25, 2006 at 6:56 pm

    mami: Doesn’t the term “over-achiever” usually mean someone who has achieved more than we should have expected them to? If so, then it isn’t a term of comparison, is it?

    I agree that often the term “over-achiever” is used as a term of false-modesty, as a way of basking in one’s own glory, but it doesn’t seem to me that Tyler is using it that way.

  18. Adam Greenwood
    August 25, 2006 at 7:04 pm

    I take your point, Russell Fox. Still–perhaps because I overadmire these qualities, lacking them myself– I wonder whether hometeaching might benefit from drive, discipline, and organization as much as anything else. We tend to think of those qualities as antithetical to love and the Holy Ghost but I don’t know if that’s really true, and if its often true I don’t know whether its inevitable.

  19. DKL
    August 25, 2006 at 7:15 pm

    Jesus was the ultimate over-achiever. I wonder if He found His perfection to be as intoxicating as you seem to find your achievements.

  20. mami
    August 25, 2006 at 7:20 pm

    Jim,
    I did not mean to imply that Tyler was completely full of himself.
    No–I disagree, it still has to be a term of comparison to others. If you are expecting a person with Down’s Syndrome to never learn to read, and then he or she does–you would not call him or her an over-achiever. It has to be in comparison to the average–whatever that is. Tyler himself says getting the best grades, etc–always the best, the top–were his goal. Probably someone like his parents and obviously he himself expected himself (why doesn’t english have a decent reflexive grammar structure?) to achieve this success. Still, he labels himself as an over-achiever.
    Is it better to say the rest of the people are simply under-achieving?

  21. mami
    August 25, 2006 at 7:22 pm

    was the goal

  22. Jack
    August 25, 2006 at 7:32 pm

    “…if every end becomes merely a means to the next end, we end up engaging in the pursuit of an endless train of mirages, thinking perhaps satiety awaits at the next oasis, when in fact the next oasis only leaves us thirsty for more.”

    That’s a cool sentence.

  23. Tyler Johnson
    August 25, 2006 at 7:52 pm

    Russell–

    Actually, I think I agree with you. Relentless pursuit helps society, but rarely the individual. One of the professors here at Penn (actually, he’s really at Jefferson, but he lectures here). Anyway, he talked to our class about extremely sought-after pediatric doctors, especially surgeons. He spoke of how some of them are literally the only people in the world who know how to do such and such a surgery (that is, one doc is the only person who knows X surgery). This kind of accomplishment is only possible for someone who engages in a relentless pursuit for a very long time. This is a tremendous boon to society and an enormous blessing for the families of the sick child, but it almost universally causes strain and overwhelming hardship for the doctor. It is a tricky balance because, on the one hand, it would be hard to deprive the families of the surgery that saves their children. On the other hand, I hate to condemn the doctors to such a difficult life. In any case, this scenario begs a question: is this noble?

  24. mami
    August 25, 2006 at 8:06 pm

    Russel and Tyler,
    Following your conversation, I think this could be entirely noble, and entirely not—couldn’t it be all about motive? If you want to do the surgery because you really want to help people and really want to be good at what you do because you feel you should be good for your patients, surely this is noble. But if you want to be the only one to do the surgery simply to say to yourself, “I am King–the best surgeon on the planet”–kind of like Charles on MASH, as opposed to Hawk Eye, then maybe not so noble. Surely both surgeons are of great benefit to society–but one, being more humble has achieved another greatness.
    I always liked Elder Nielsons address about going to do the heart surgery and the patient who said he went to him and said he knew he was a good surgeon and was well educated, and tried to be the best in the field–Elder Nielsen did not know how to fix his heart, prayed and knew what to do–but only because he asked–and studied. Pehaps a not so humble surgeon would not have heard the directions to the surgery–because he would only have all of his own achieved success.

  25. Mark Butler
    August 25, 2006 at 8:09 pm

    Actually, I don’t think Jesus Christ was an over-acheiver of the sort we are talking about at all. Is there any point in being better than someone else, per se? Do we see any evidence of the Lord trying to outdo his Father, or take the glory unto himself?

  26. Tyler Johnson
    August 25, 2006 at 8:13 pm

    Gina,

    I think you’ve got the right idea. I read once that Hugh Nibley (I can never remember where I read Nibley quotes) spoke of a man who was diagnosed with a terminal illness and consequently began to live his life completely differently. Later, it turned out the diagnosis was incorrect but, with his newfound knowledge, he lived his life differently. Nibley advised we all live like this; he even had an coll name for this kind of paradigm shift…which I do not remember. In any case, I think your viewpoint is full of wisdom. We can gain great wisdom by stepping outside the rat race and looking at what is really important. I know I, in any case, most of my happiest moments are with family, or in redrock canyons, or at our cabin.

    Wacky Hermit,

    I’m pretty sure tha particular scenario is repeated quite a bit more often than anyone would like to admit. My O-chem teacher once told that essentially every premed who came seeking a letter of recommendation expected a sterling, glowing report–regardless of academic record, intelligence, or effort. It is as if the lable “premed” is its own qualification in the minds of those who use it.

    Mami–

    I love the particular irony you mention: as soon as we begin to gloat in overcoming pride we once agin become proud.

    Jim F. and Mami–

    Many over-achievers certianly indulge in comparison–that is, not only do they constantly strive to achieve more, they constantly strive to achieve more than everyone else (see Mark’s comment). As Jim points out though, while I have certainly had my moments of competition, that is not really what I am getting at in this post. What drives me is not so much the need to get ahead of others but the need to improve, period–the need, perhaps, to be the best I can be. As I hope becomes evident in the post, I’m learning to overcome this compulsion, I’m learning to evaluate ends as per their intrinsic value, but this is something with which I think I have struggles (and, as you point out Mami, perhaps my thinking I’m getting over it just means I’m falling in deeper).

  27. DKL
    August 25, 2006 at 8:18 pm

    Wrong, Mark. Jesus was totally an over-achiever, in the classic sense of achieving something more than he could reasonably be expected to. Being part mortal, he was as inclined toward both sin and death as we are. He overcame both, and persevered more temptation than any of us can handle. This was all more than any mortal was supposed to have done–hence the fact that the completion of his mission was a miracle. After all, if it hadn’t been supremely difficult, then we’d have little or nothing to be grateful for.

  28. Tyler Johnson
    August 25, 2006 at 8:19 pm

    Mark,

    I think you’re right, Christ was certainly not an over-achiever if by over-achiever we mean someone who tried to outdo others.

    Mami, Russell, Adam, and others,

    Let me ask a pointed question to which I think many of us are alluding: what about the relentless pursuit of righteousness? Some people, anyway, read “by grace we are saved after all we can do” and conclude the all entails a relentless pursuit of righteousness. Some who argue this even do so while acknowledgin the vital importance of grace. The argument I have heard goes something like this: salvation requires my all (a relentless pursuit, if you will) and the Lord’s all. This does not, so the argument goes, take away from the importance of grace, it merely emphasizes the necessity of our doing all we can. The question I have, then, if whether our relentless pursuit is required, as well? I have heard arguments on both sides of this question: what does everyone think?

  29. Tyler Johnson
    August 25, 2006 at 8:21 pm

    in DKL’s defense, King Benjamin’s words sound a bit like what DKL says: “And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more that man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold blood cometh from every poor, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.”

  30. Kevin
    August 25, 2006 at 9:51 pm

    Name the movie.

    Wally:
    The incredible emphasis we place now on our so-called careers automatically makes perceiving reality a very low priority, because if your life is organized around trying to be successful in a career, then it just doesn’t matter what you perceive or what you experience. You’re just thinking, Well, have I done the thing that I’ve planned? Have I performed this necessary action for my career? And so you really can sort of shut your mind off for years ahead in a way.

    André:
    Right. Our minds are just focused on these goals and plans, which in themselves are not reality.

    Wally:
    No. Goals and plans are not reality. They’re fantasy. They’re part of a dream life. And you know, it always does seem so ridiculous, somehow, that everybody has to have his little goal in life. It’s so absurd in a way. I mean, when you consider that it doesn’t matter which one it is.

  31. DKL
    August 25, 2006 at 10:46 pm

    Easy. My Dinner with Andre. The Wally who’s having dinner with Andre is Wally Shawn, son of the famed New Yorker editor William Shawn and the man who made “inconceivable” a household word (though, as the famous song and dance man Mandy Patinkin pointed out, it doesn’t appear to have meant what he thought it meant).

  32. DKL
    August 25, 2006 at 10:53 pm

    Tyler, I must say that I think that your emphasis is misplaced. It’s all too easy to achieve things. Really, just about anyone can do that. Ross Perot is something of a freakish little idiot, and look at what he’s got. The real challenge isn’t to achieve; it’s to make it look easy–almost accidental, like it’s what you do on your spare time. That’s my philosophy anyway.

  33. a random John
    August 26, 2006 at 12:38 am

    This is going to come out poorly. I’m sorry in advance. What is the point of getting admitted to an Ivy League school if you intend to go to BYU all along? Is Yale your backup plan? Do you want to be able to say that you got in to Harvard and didn’t go? Do people often apply to schools that they have no intention of going to simply to see if they could get admitted? It really isn’t something that you can slap on your resume, is it?

    I can see how someone might be undecided and apply to any number of schools and make the choice to go to BYU rather than some other place. But the way this is phrased: I wanted an acceptance to an Ivy League school leaves me to think that isn’t the situation here.

    Either that or the acceptance being discussed is a future one, for grad school or something. In which case I withdraw this reflexive rant.

    But seriously, I think it would do the church, the members, and the world a lot of good if more students that are qualified to go to top tier schools for undergrad choose to do so. That is another discussion though, and one that has already been had on these pages.

  34. Tyler Johnson
    August 26, 2006 at 8:58 am

    random John,

    I agree with you that it would be a boon in many ways for church members to attend top tier schools when possible. I also think, however, there are many reasons one might attend such a school. There is little question a person can attend a top tier school because he wants access to a superb learning environment. As long as that or something like it is the motivation, I believe the goal can be a positive one. If, however, attending an Ivy League school is merely a desire that comes because a student wants status or recognition, I doubt whether the desire or its fulfillment will be very meaningful.

  35. Doc
    August 26, 2006 at 10:28 am

    Tyler,
    Amen, my brother in medicine and all thing overachieverous. Here is the main difference I see between the overachiever and the savior, motive. I believe is was the alternate plan that involved the one to save us getting the glory. Additionally, the drive for overachievement comes from a place inside that tells us we aren’t good enough until we are the best. We have to have the best test score, the best GPA, the best resume, the best school, the best residency, the best specialty. When is it ever enough. From the immortal words of Highlander, “In the end there can only be onel.”

    My experience has taught me this. There will always, ALWAYS be someone better at us at whatever attribute we want to compare, even comparing strengths for strengths. If life is a competition, we are doomed to failure.

    Competition and outdoing one another are man’s way. God’s ways are quite different. His work and glory is in OUR salvation and eternal life. He that is greatest among you shall be your servant. The relentless pursuit of righteousness will ultimately fail because its motivation lies in pride. On the other hand, becoming Christlike requires meekness, humility, submission. Then is his grace sufficient for us. Then we don’t have to worry about tripping up or outdoing anyone else. We can just let his light work within us and let the righteousness grow. When we inevitably trip up. We can pick up and keep going. We gain a self confidence born in a realization of our potential, which is infinite. This is the ends from the means. We aren’t outdoing others, merely realizing what and who we really are. Once I learned this, my life became ultimately much, much happier.

  36. mami
    August 26, 2006 at 10:35 am

    Tyler,
    Hmmm. That questions takes some thought for me. I only can say that I think I am supposed to strive for personal righteousness. But it definately is not a comparison thing–and I know I will never attain the righteousness that I want (but I don’t know what that means exactly, because would that imply levels of righteousness?–that doesn’t really work either). I guess I just don’t know where I would be without the Savior.

  37. Adam Greenwood
    August 26, 2006 at 10:46 am

    Sometimes the drive to excel must be killed and sometimes it must be baptized.

  38. MikeInWeHo
    August 26, 2006 at 11:13 am

    Mormons seem to naturally strive toward over-achievement in academic, work, and family-raising realms, but doesn’t the theology fuel that? Eternal progression is about more than righteousness, isn’t it? Don’t many assume, at least sub-consciously, that progressing in “knowledge” and “kingdoms” and “glories” means credentials, corporate success, and recognition ?? From my perspective they seem to mesh nicely, so I don’t think it’s all driven by “a place inside that tells us we aren’t good enough until we are the best” as Doc puts it.

    I for one am thankful to have been neurotically driven to over-achieve early in life. OK, so maybe I wish that I hadn’t cried whenever I got a B in elementary school. But now in my 40s I have a very stable career and income. If I’m wise and maintain a balanced life (family, work, play, fitness, etc), it all feels like the most tremendous blessing. I’m not sure I would have any of it had I under-achieved as a youth.

    Neurotics of the world, stand up and be proud !!!!

  39. a random John
    August 26, 2006 at 11:17 am

    Tyler,

    You didn’t answer my question at all. Did you apply to Ivy League schools simply to see if they would admit you?

  40. Tyler Johnson
    August 26, 2006 at 11:29 am

    random John,

    No. I currently attend the University of Pennsylvania medical school.

  41. queuno
    August 26, 2006 at 11:38 am

    Re arJ (#33) –

    Why wouldn’t Yale be considered a “safety” school to BYU?

    I say only somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but pro-Ivy arguments invariably can be summarized as “But, it’s an Ivy! By definition, they’re the best!”

  42. DKL
    August 26, 2006 at 11:40 am

    Doc: My experience has taught me this. There will always, ALWAYS be someone better [than] us at whatever attribute we want to compare…

    Very well put, Doc. The problem that has plagued me throughout my life is that I am that someone who is better at whatever attribute people want to compare.

  43. Tyler Johnson
    August 26, 2006 at 11:42 am

    DKL:

    Ah, the burden of greatness and the loneliness at the top///

  44. a random John
    August 26, 2006 at 11:44 am

    Tyler,

    Thanks for the clarification.

    Queuno,

    Whatever floats your boat, right? I’m sure that there are plenty of people that think that since BYU is the “Lord’s university” it is by definition the best.

  45. Jonathan Green
    August 26, 2006 at 11:48 am

    Mike, I suspect there is a connection between Mormonism and achievement for some people, but I suspect it’s cultural rather than theological, or theological only at a basic level, since I’m not sure if 8-11 year olds have really internalized the concept of eternal progression yet. But I think church membership does reinforce, even for young children, the difference between us and the rest of the drinking, smoking, cussing, sabbath-breaking world. Being part of a peculiar people can provide a low-level theological justification for being an over-achieving weirdo.

  46. DKL
    August 26, 2006 at 11:55 am

    Re: BYU being “The Lord’s University”: No collegiate institution is of God that does not serve caffeinated beverages.

  47. August 26, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    DKL, you need to understand the principle of TRANSLATION. Caffeine has NOT died at BYU simply because you can’t buy Pepsi. It has been translated into Snickers bars and chocolate mint brownies–all readily available. Also, you can buy Extra Strength Excedrin at the bookstore. A couple of those (each pill carries the equivalent of a cup of coffee) and some de-caffeinated coke and the translation process is complete.

  48. DKL
    August 26, 2006 at 2:29 pm

    LOL. I bow to you as the caffeine seer (which is greater than a caffeine prophet). I did some translating of my own with the caffeine pills that they sold at Shopko (does that make me a caffeine seer, too?). In the early 90s, they were somewhere around $2.00 for 100 tablets of 200mg caffeine each. That’s a killer deal–much friendlier to a student budget.

  49. YL
    August 26, 2006 at 3:24 pm

    The entire question of achievement for a follower of Christ is:

    Am I doing the Lord’s will?

    If the Lord is pleased with what we’re doing, then what else matters?

    If the Lord is not pleased with what we’re doing, then what else matters?

    One of the reasons that the Holy Ghost is called the Comforter is that the Holy Ghost can give us peace that the Lord is pleased with us.

    The Savior said it best: I came but to do the will of the Father.

  50. Chris Grant
    August 26, 2006 at 3:50 pm

    Margaret Young wrote: “Caffeine has NOT died at BYU simply because you can’t buy Pepsi. It has been translated into Snickers bars

    A 2 ounce Snickers bar has 5 mg of caffeine. You’d have to eat 40 of them to get the amount of caffeine in 1 No-Doz pill. I’m guessing that digesting the 10,000 calories might distract your body from the stimulative effect of the caffeine.

  51. Tyler Johnson
    August 26, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    It occurs to me I ought to make a clarification (re #39, 40, etc.):

    I place extremely high value on the education I’m currently receiving. I’ve been truly wowed with the quality of the professors and curriculum here and I’m very grateful for the opportunity. What has changed in me from earlier is my motivation: whereas I used to see (i.e. during high school) coming to a school like this as a status symbol, I now see it as an opportunity to learn skills that will allow me to alleviate suffering during the rest of my life. All of that said, I would not trade this opportunity.

  52. August 26, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    Regarding female over-achievers and parenting, I think it may *seem*, while children are little, that a female-overachiever (such as myself) has laid the burden down. But surprisingly (or not) it pops itself back up, when you want to have ‘perfect’ children (well behaved, reverent, obedient, properly dressed, good grades, youth awards), but their moral agency somehow gets in the way. One of the challenges for over-achievers comes when having to face the truth that in some subjects, other people’s actions just plain get in the way of that sought-for but elusive perfection. That’s when you begin to realize what the real purpose of achieving is – a becoming something. Kinda like what greenfrog said – is this the ladder I want to climb? I’m not sure I’ll ever be completely humble enough to lay down overachieving fully, but I know my kids have taught me there are some things that just aren’t mine to achieve, and I’m happier when I quit trying to achieve them.

  53. August 26, 2006 at 5:34 pm

    MIT was my back-up, and my grandfather offered to have me transferred to Harvard (though I would have had to not serve a mission) as alternatives to BYU. I’m not sure I understand why Yale is so superior that it can’t have functioned the same way?

  54. Chad S.
    August 26, 2006 at 5:36 pm

    Doesn’t this conversation hinge on how one defines “achieve”, “success”, “excellence”, etc.? Dare I quote Bono: “success is to give”? Or is there a better definition of success out there? (“Success is to know and do the will of God”? “Success is meaningful relationships with others”?)

  55. a random John
    August 26, 2006 at 6:01 pm

    Ethesis,

    There is absolutely nothing special about Yale. Though if your grandfather can simple get you transferred to Harvard something odd is going on. Are you saying that if you hadn’t gotten into BYU you would have reluctantly gone to MIT? Usually a backup is a school that you are sure to get in to. Of course if you have the sort of family connections that can pull strings the way you imply maybe MIT was easier as far as acceptance goes.

  56. August 26, 2006 at 6:04 pm

    Very interesting post, Tyler. I think the biggest danger of the desire to achieve is that the focus becomes too much on oneself at the expense of being concerned about others. Of course a balance is needed (esp. for those of us who are primary bread-winners), but I think my tendency—and the tendency in Church culture in general—is to worry too much about one’s own self-improvement (whether it be getting a good job to provide for a family or whether it is an effort to develop Christ-like attributes) and, in so doing, we put the cart before the horse. The command is to love others, not to develop the trait in ourselves to love others (in developing this view, Jim F.’s “Self-image, self-love and salvation” was pivotal for me, so you should give him credit for anything insightful about this view, and blame my misconstruing if you don’t like this view!).

  57. Tyler Johnson
    August 26, 2006 at 7:04 pm

    Robert C.

    Your comments (or Jim f.’s, I suppose…?) remind me that self-improvement in the Gospel hinges on the paradox: “he that findeth his life shall lose it and he who loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” In the end, it is discipleship and new life through Christ’s atonement that improves us, makes us new men, and allows us to “achieve” whatever is ultimately important. The trick, of course, is that such losing requires submission and trust because we have to accept whatever Christ would have us become. This can be a “wintry doctrine,” since, as Elder Maxwell points out, “if we are serious about our discipleship, Jesus will eventually request each of us to do the very things which are most difficult for us to do.” Further, I think the process of losing is more real and concrete than most of us would like to think–there is pain in the loss that comes before the finding.

  58. Tatiana
    August 26, 2006 at 9:38 pm

    I’m an overachiever because I have a strong tendency to think of myself as being worthless. A habit from childhood, that I’m still working to break. So if I don’t make all As, if I don’t get tops in every category, I tend to feel completely of no use to God or man. I wonder what the heck I’m doing in this course/program/job/whatever. If I’m not going to give it my all and excel, then what am I thinking? It’s basically a form of deep insecurity. Being mediocre is in no way good enough. Recently I made a 97% on a test about nuclear physics and I was deeply disappointed and ashamed that I didn’t make 100%. My average so far is 98.5%. I’m feeling so bad that I can’t bring that up. The closer you get to 100% the harder it is to get your average to budge upward. The tests aren’t even hard!

    I was the same way when tutoring. I wanted to have a 5.00 rating (the highest) by students. I had worked really hard and gained a 4.8, then one student who didn’t like me gave me a 1, and it knocked me to a 4.7, despite many 5s from other students. I still haven’t recovered my 4.8. I feel really bad about that. It takes 19 fives to balance 1 one and bring it back up. :'( I want a 5.0! I feel as though I’m failing my students and myself because I can’t get there.

    Eternal progression is happening too slowly to me. I’m so behind! I can never catch up!

  59. August 26, 2006 at 10:18 pm

    A 2 ounce Snickers bar has 5 mg of caffeine.

    “It is the primary alkaloid found in cocoa and chocolate, and is one of the causes for chocolate’s mood-elevating effects.

    Theobromine is a stimulant frequently confused with caffeine. Theobromine has very different effects on the human body from caffeine; it is a mild, lasting stimulant with a mood improving effect, whereas caffeine has a strong, immediate effect and increases awareness.”

    Fools.

    Let them eat chocolate!

  60. August 27, 2006 at 1:06 am

    I think the biggest danger of the desire to achieve is that the focus becomes too much on oneself at the expense of being concerned about others.

    I think I have also discovered that sometimes my drive to achieve has been driven by a need for external reinforcement and validation. As I have spent much of my life looking for external indicators of my worth, I don’t think I have felt as much of a need to look for my eternal worth. The past couple of years, I have had some challenges that have made me realize this about myself. Realization is only a step, but it’s a big one. I do not feel that all achievement is bad. But I have so easily turned the blessings and opportunities for my own feelings of self-worth. I’ve been thinking about the concept of “an eye single to the glory of God” and trying to insert that into my thinking. Although I haven’t been without those more eternal desires as well, it is sometimes difficult to weed out the pride from pure motives.

    The search for external validation quickly becomes a vicious cycle. As long as I look anywhere else than to God for my “worth” then a part of me will want to try to “earn” my worth from some external source…which makes me look less to God.

    Being a SAHM has been an adjustment from a world that thrives on external validation — résumé bullets, awards, promotions, raises, etc. But I agree with Coffinberry that the desire for validation just transfers itself to my house, my kids…whatever I’m trying to “achieve” now. I’d be interested to hear how other SAHMs try to keep themselves from getting into that rat race. :) I think with all of this, it’s really easy to see what isn’t healthy or right, but not so easy to really have that part of our natures change. Anyone else feel that way?

    Quite frankly, the more I think about this, the more I think that we can really change these tendencies alone (“If I just achieve at doing less, then I will have overcome my overachieving tendencies and then I can feel good about myself!”). I think only God’s grace can really change us at the core so our hearts are more pure and we have no other desire but to glorify God.

  61. August 27, 2006 at 2:17 am

    I hope it is obvious that I meant to say “we can’t really change these tendencies alone.”

  62. Tyler Johnson
    August 27, 2006 at 8:44 am

    M&M (it would be cooler if we wrote your name Eminem, nevermind)

    Amen to your thoughts. I don’t think there is anything wrong with achievement. Indeed, achievement brings many blessings. The trick, as you say, is to keep our eyes focused on the glory of God. Elder Maxwell has pointed out that “the mark is Christ.” Hence, if we are looking at anything but Him, we are looking beyond the mark.

  63. Beth
    August 27, 2006 at 2:11 pm

    I went to Harvard; my husband to MIT. I am well aware of the need to achieve and get awards as a way to feel validated. But in the end this pursuit of external validation is a dead end, because it is a false god.

    The relentless pursuit of excellence usually means that something else has to go. I was in the Cambridge ward when an older LDS power couple spoke. They both mentioned offhandedly that he had almost never been home when the children were young. There was a cost to his family and to him.

    He was a very important person. He is very admired in LDS culture because of this success. She is anonymous, except as his wife. There can be a double standard in LDS culture. Men are encouraged to go for it whatever the cost; women are encouraged to go for it until they have children [if they are encouraged to go for it at all], at which point the overachievement is supposed to be halted, and funnelled into the home. I grew up in an LDS culture in the 80s–and it was really rare for girls to be encouraged to develop themselves outside of the realm of home. However, this is no less unhealthy than the push to be powerful no matter what the cost.

    You cannot have it all. You cannot be a Really Important Person and have a family unless someone else is picking up the slack. Even so, time spent being Mr. Wonderful is time that cannot be spent elsewhere.

  64. August 27, 2006 at 5:49 pm

    M&M (it would be cooler if we wrote your name Eminem)
    LOL

  65. Julie M. Smith
    August 27, 2006 at 5:59 pm

    “I’d be interested to hear how other SAHMs try to keep themselves from getting into that rat race.”

    I think if you have several irons in the fire, it takes the pressure off of you to be perfect. I don’t worry about my visiting teachers thinking I’m a slacker if my house is a mess becase, hey, I homeschool. And I don’t worry about the homeschooling mothers whose kids are making salt dough replicas of the Parthenon because, hey, I’ve got an Institute class to teach. And I don’t worry about the CES instructors with swoopy PowerPoint presentations for each class because, hey, I’ve got a house I have to clean before the visiting teachers get here . . .etc.

  66. August 27, 2006 at 6:23 pm

    “I’d be interested to hear how other SAHMs try to keep themselves from getting into that rat race.�

    I personally haven’t managed to stay out of it (I apparently keep at least one foot in). But I know that it has been easier when I remember to pray, read scriptures, keep a journal — not because I’m trying to tick-off all the boxes in the daily planner (ditching the Covey Planner was pivotal to my happiness), but because when I do those things, the Spirit is likely to find me more teachable. As has been observed by others here, it is the focus on the Savior that is liberating, not the achievements.

  67. Doc
    August 27, 2006 at 9:39 pm

    “ditching the Covey Planner was pivotal to my happiness”

    CB, I think we need to start a Covey rescue mission. Fight the power, get you life back! ;)

  68. Naismith
    August 28, 2006 at 7:28 pm

    My mother used to say that, “If something is worth doing, it is worth doing right.” My mother was wrong. Not everything is worth doing well.

    i think it is wasteful and a misuse of stewardship to spend too much time on things that are only going to matter for a short time–on centerpieces for a RS enrichment meeting, name plates for a wedding dinner, a halloween costumes, etc. In those instances, doing just enough to get by is a much smarter approach.

    Top grades may still get you into med school, but of course that isn’t the most competitive field. Dentristy, vetmed, and clinical psych all have lower acceptance rates, and they tend to look at more than test scores and grades; they want to see a rounded person.

    And in other fields, a too-high GPA may be a red flag, because it may indicate lack of creativity and fear of taking risks. I know a famous biology professor who refuses to mentor any student with a perfect GPA (having learned this through sad experience).

    So I guess that’s how I keep my homemaking drive to perfection in check: most of those tasks are not worth spending much time on, because they’re going to be redone anyway, tomorrow or next month. With the exception of some entertaining/holiday events, I don’t think a meal should take longer to cook than to eat. People are going to enjoy brownies whether the ingredients were weighed or came out of a mix bought on sale. Never iron anything; there are perfectly nice permanent press shirts out there that go from dryer to hanger.

  69. a random John
    August 29, 2006 at 12:13 am

    Naismith,

    Acceptance rate is only a rough measure of how hard it is to get in to a particular program. Certainly your comparison between med school and dental school is misleading. One could make a claim that admission to physical therapy school is “harder” than admission to med school because there are lower admit rates. This doesn’t mean that pt students are more qualified than med students, though this is an argument that I hear frequently.

  70. Naismith
    August 29, 2006 at 7:18 pm

    Re #69
    “Acceptance rate is only a rough measure of how hard it is to get in to a particular program. …One could make a claim that admission to physical therapy school is “harderâ€? than admission to med school because there are lower admit rates. This doesn’t mean that pt students are more qualified than med students, though this is an argument that I hear frequently.”

    It’s a good point. But I think that comparing physical therapy to med school can only be an apples-to-oranges misfit because a physical therapist can walk away from an undergraduate degree able to earn a living. I do think that med, vet, dental and clinical psych are comparable, because all require a graduate education, high test scores, etc. and all may go through the same undergraduate “professional prep” sequence.

    I agree with you that part of the challenge getting into a program is not qualifications per se, but other issues like having enough spaces for students due to issues like a faculty shortage in physical therapy (it’s such a lucrative field that a specialist with a master’s degree might be taking a cut in pay to go back to school for a Ph.D. and pursue teaching).

    I just think that those programs (and maybe the difference is greater from institution to institution than med vs. dent vs. vet per se) may look at different issues for admission.

    I know at the medical center where I work, the dentistry program values life skills above perfect scores when considering admission. The students are very well qualified, but because they have so very many candidates for the limited number of slots, they look to other things. They like to see people who have worked some, at least a summer job, and perhaps with language skills. (Not surprisingly, we get a fair number of returned missionaries.)

    Well, not to digress–my basic point was that being hyper about test grades is not ALWAYS the “best” approach nor does it necessarily lead to over-achieving.

  71. Tyler Johnson
    August 29, 2006 at 7:56 pm

    Naismith,

    I think you are correct that the qualifications for admission differ more school to school than profession to profession. I have been quite impressed, actually, with the depth of my classmates’ commitment to many non-academic causes. My classmates seem to be, so far as I can tell, committed, involved, and deeply ethical–well-rounded, to say the least.

  72. Kanye
    September 4, 2006 at 6:34 am

    When I die, do you know what\’s gonna keep me warm? That\’s right, those degrees.

  73. Coventry
    September 4, 2006 at 12:54 pm

    Sorry I’m late. I’m with you, Tyler. Whether it’s graduating summa from Harvard or testing homemade brownie recipes until I find one so perfect they’re not even in the same phylum as “box brownies bought on sale,” I enjoy perfection for perfection’s sake. A job well done satisfies long after a job done Cherry Bobbins style is utterly forgotten.

  74. DKl
    September 6, 2006 at 10:42 am

    Parents who wish to motivate their children may want to post this cartoon on your refrigerator.

  75. Kaimi Wenger
    September 6, 2006 at 10:54 am

    Thanks for weighing in with that, David. It had been so long since you posted an irrelevant cartoon link in a comment.

  76. KLC
    September 6, 2006 at 12:57 pm

    Who is this DKI person that has started posting here? David King Ith?

  77. a random John
    September 6, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    Kaimi,

    That one was hardly irrelevant.

  78. Frank McIntyre
    September 6, 2006 at 5:05 pm

    Coventry,

    Unless you have uncovered some alchemy previously unknown to man, I’ve never seen a homemade brownie recipe that was as good as the ghiradelli double chocolate brownie mix. Try it, you’ll like it.

    DKL, that was funny. I’ll show it to my son when he gets home from first grade.

  79. a random John
    September 6, 2006 at 7:02 pm

    Frank,

    I can assure you that such a thing exists.

  80. DKL
    September 6, 2006 at 7:13 pm

    Sorry Kaimi, DKl is DKL, but with a lower case L — a typo.

    Kaimi, it appears that I do need to slow down on the rate at which I post irrelevant cartoons here, because you seem to be at risk for not being able to keep up. Not only is the cartoon to which you link nominally relevant, but it’s not even close to my latest cartoon, which is the one here that I posted on this thread, just yesterday.

    (harris telemacher, who replies, is is a pseudonym of a co-worker of mine–not me, even though it’s the same IP. My member missionary work consists primarily of entertaining, amusing, and dismaying my colleagues with the comments I make on Mormon blogs–as a consequence, some of them actually do follow certain issues in the ‘nacle religiously, if you will. Don’t worry. I warn them that I’m not one of them really good Mormons.)

    a random john, thanks. I cherish the idea that the cartoons are relevant. There’s one I want to link to here, but I can’t find it at the moment. It goes like this:

    Frame 1
    depicts 2 guys talking to each other:

    Guy #1: make me a sandwich
    Guy #2: no way

    Frame 2
    depicts the same 2 guys

    Guy #1: sudo make me a sandwich
    Guy #2: ok

    I think that one is just brilliant!

    Frank, I’m glad that I’ve provided you with a valuable parenting tool.

  81. DKL
    September 6, 2006 at 7:48 pm

    Frank, here the recipe I use. These brownies waste the Ghiradelli double chocolate brownie mix–better texture and way better chocolate flavor. (But Ghiradelli double chocolate brownie mix is, far and away, the best brownie mix.)

    These brownies taste best if you mix them in a KitchenAid type mixer, and forget all the details about folding an whisking (and your arm won’t get so tired). It’s a pretty simple recipe. The key to it is this: It includes as much sugar as the mix can possibly hold, and as much chocolate as can reasonably be added given that amount of sugar.

    Classic Brownies

    Ingredients

    1c pecans or walnuts (4 oz); medium chopped (optional)
    1¼c plain cake flour (5 oz) (DO NOT USE ALL PURPOSE FLOUR!)
    ½t table salt
    ¾t baking powder
    6oz ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
    12T unsalted butter (1½ sticks), cut into six 1-inch pieces
    2¼ c sugar (15¾ oz)
    4 large eggs
    1T vanilla extract

    Servings

    Makes twenty-four 2-inch-square brownies

    Preparation

    1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325°F.

    2. Line a 13 by 9 inch baking dish with foil as follows: Cut an 18 inch length of foil, and the fold it lengthwise to a width of 8 inches. Fit this foil length-wise into the dish, pushing it into corners and up the sides of the pan, allowing excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14 inch length foil (if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12 inch width); fit this piece into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

    3. If using nuts, roast them: Spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

    4. Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.

    5. Melt and mix butter and chocolate: In microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments until the mixture is completely smooth (Do not let chocolate burn!)

    6. Gradually whisk sugar into the chocolate mix.

    7. Add eggs one at time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined.

    8. Whisk in vanilla.

    9. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.

    10. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using) evenly over batter.

    11. Bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. (Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)

    Be sure to test for doneness before removing the brownies from the oven. If under-baked (the toothpick has batter clinging to it), the texture of the brownies will be dense and gummy; if over-baked (the toothpick comes out completely clean), the brownies will be dry and cakey.

  82. meems
    September 6, 2006 at 10:02 pm

    Well, really, DKL, being from the area, I’m surprised you don’t know about Rosie’s Chocolate Orgasms.

    sigh. I would’ve been an overachiever, but I didn’t feel like it.

  83. DKL
    September 6, 2006 at 10:14 pm

    I didn’t know about them, but I’m going to pick some up at South Station tomorrow. Thanks for the tip.

  84. Kaimi Wenger
    September 6, 2006 at 11:57 pm

    Meems,

    Ah, yes. I’ve heard about those.

    The bad news is that many women never get to have one of those. The good news is that (some) other women can have more than one.

  85. Frank McIntyre
    September 7, 2006 at 12:08 am

    DKL,

    I’m glad you rose to the challenge of offering a better recipe, I’ll give it a shot! My wife makes these great mint brownies that start with the G mix and adds a layer of mint and a layer of some kind of bitter chocolate. Good living.

  86. September 7, 2006 at 1:12 am

    Hey, #78, I’ve got a recipe I got from the newspaper many years back: Ben & Jerry’s Superfudge Brownies.

    It is out of this world! I’ll buy that mix and try it alongside my recipe mentioned here, and give it a taste test.

    I have NEVER tasted any brownies as wonderful as the B&J ones. They are worth the effort that goes into them . . .

  87. meems
    September 7, 2006 at 2:11 am

    LOL Kaimi!

    I love how the overachiever thread is a brownie exchange.
    You can also find the recipe online for Rosie’s Chocolate O’s at this site.

  88. Tyler Johnson
    September 7, 2006 at 7:24 am

    I’ll admit, of all the directions in which I thought this conversation might go…

  89. DKL
    September 7, 2006 at 8:45 am

    Kaimi, LOL.

    Frank, please report back on the results.

  90. DKL
    September 7, 2006 at 12:51 pm

    BTW, here’s the link to the cartoon that I described. (hat tip: arj) It really is brilliant.

  91. Lady G
    September 7, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    I was an over achiever *until* i got to the BY. After that, i kinda checked out. i didn’t feel like getting that kind of external validation made me happy. My natural abilities and life paradigm have allowed me to achieve what many people would refer to as “success” in my professional life, but it is not the kind of thing that truly satisfies. Ironically, caring less has seemed to further my “success” in my professional endeavors, though that’s as much dumb luck as it is anything else, so I’m not sure that’s a formula everyone could use.

    The Mormon sub-culture is so interested in one-upmanship that I can barely stand to be around all of the “Really Important People,” (thanks for that great terminology, Beth) or look at their walls, peppered with professionally framed degrees. YAWN. If you strive for your own definition of ‘success,’ and feel satisfied with the results–even if you recalibrate your definition along the way–aren’t you a ‘really important person’ in your own right?

    Speaking of Nibley, he was spot on when he said, “The wickedest people in the Book of Mormon are the Zoramites, a very proud, independent, courageous, industrious, enterprising, patriotic, prosperous people who attended strictly to their weekly religious duties with the proper observance of dress standards. Thanking God for all he had given them, they bore testimony to his goodness. They were sustained in all their doings by a perfectly beautiful self-image.� (“Great Are the Words of Isaiah,� Old Testament and Related Studies, 221-2). Here in Utah, one can look out over the vast expanse of the SL East Bench, Federal Heights or North Salt Lake areas and see dozens of Rameumptons in various neighborhoods. We Mormons are into success, and just as interested in patting ourselves on the back.

    As a final note….”If there is anything manifestly evident about the doings in the great and spacious building, it is the hollow laughter and silly pretensions of the people in it” (Nibley, “The Meaning of the Atonement,” Approaching Zion).

    It’s not just gentiles in the great and spacious building….

  92. beeshnkj
    September 7, 2006 at 9:15 pm

    Just curious, Lady G., is your analog for Rameumptons the SLC East Bench/Federal Heights/North Salt Lake area houses or LDS chapels?

  93. Lady G
    September 7, 2006 at 9:45 pm

    Houses…of course not chapels. There are, quite possibly, few buildings more spartan and less Rameumpton-like than LDS chapels.

    Or, more appropriately, the attitudes they represent. The Rameumpton was literal but is also a symbol to teach us an important truth.

  94. September 7, 2006 at 9:59 pm

    It’s not just gentiles in the great and spacious building….

    Isn’t it possible that there are some on that hill you criticize (point fingers at?) who are on the straight and narrow path in spite of their big houses? I struggle with similar feelings when I see huge houses on the hill, but since we don’t know their hearts and their actions (contributions to charity, etc), are we really in a place to judge?

  95. Tyler Johnson
    September 7, 2006 at 10:23 pm

    if I wrote the original post, doesn’t that mean I get to sample the brownies?

  96. DKL
    September 7, 2006 at 10:40 pm

    Tyler, if you’re ever in Boston, come over and I’ll make you a whole plate of ’em.

  97. beeshnkj
    September 7, 2006 at 11:55 pm

    I suppose I need to do a little research, but I don’t recall anything austentacisous about the Rameumpton itself–my memory tells me it was some type of poduim inside a synagogue large enough for a person to stand on “above” others in the congregation. Surely it had a symbolic meaning–I associate it with pride.

    Some people who build large houses struggle with pride. Some people who lift weights, exhibit road rage, promote a particular sports team, hold a certain degree, have well-shaped body, etc., etc., etc. also struggle with pride.

    There a many types of “over-achievers”–some proud, others not (at least in my experience).

    To insinuate all people with large houses are akin to the Zoramites goes too far for me.

  98. patten
    September 8, 2006 at 12:48 am

    beeshnkj-

    I agree. Material wealth equals neither spiritual wealth of lack of spiritual wealth. The most faithful God-fearing people I know live in a variety of circumstances: from an 80 year old grocery-store working woman who lives in a 1 bedroom apartment, to a couple who live on the East bench.

  99. a random John
    September 8, 2006 at 12:17 pm

    In college I had a dorm room with a loft and a very high ceiling. We positioned furniture carefully in order to be able to easily reach the loft without acrobatics. On the top of a particularly sturdy wardrobe I also had a stack of several boxes of laser printer paper because I was the computer cluster coordinator. We made a sign that said Rameupmton and hung it on the boxes and whenever people would ask what it was we would demonstrate. I was an excellent missionary tool…

  100. Lady G
    September 9, 2006 at 5:09 pm

    I never ‘insinuated’ that all people who achieve material wealth are wicked. But some of the comments here bring some more Nibley quotage to mind:

    “Why do you think the book of Mormon was given to us? Angels do not come on trivial errands, to deliver books for occasional light reading to people whom they do not really concern. The matter in the Book of Mormon was selected, as we are often reminded, with scrupulous care and with particular readers in mind. For some reason there has been chosen for our attention a story of how and why two previous civilizations on this continent were utterly destroyed.
    Let the modern reader of this sad and disturbing tale from the dust choose to pass lightly over those fearful passages that come too close to home, the main theme is repeated again and again so that almost any Latter-day Saint child can tell you what it is. The people were good so God made them propseperous, and when they were bad, they got wiped out. What few people can tell you are the steps by which the fatal declension took place, without which the story is jejune and naïve.� –Hugh Nibley, “Freemen and King-men,� The Prophetic Book of Mormon

    I’m not pointing fingers at or criticizing others for being/of pride. Pride is a very seductive sin, to which we are *all* susceptible, due to our natural tendencies. I think it was President Benson who said that pride is the universal sin. Feeling a measure of satisfaction about our accomplishments is good and healthy . That’s not what the illustration of the Zoramites is trying to teach us. And it would be unreasonable to think that all who achieve financial success or status in this world are looking down on others because of their perceived lack of accomplishment. However, if this weren’t an important concept for us to grasp, why would it be repeted over and over again in the Book of Mormon as well in the teachings of the Savior?

  101. beeshnkj
    September 9, 2006 at 7:58 pm

    One has to love Hugh Nibley quotes–keep ’em coming.

    “Approaching Zion” is a favorite title in our family.

    Interestingly, Nibley was a remarkable overachiever in many ways–while, from all I can gather, neither pride nor the love of money were challenges for him.

    And, who could disagree that avoidance of pride is a central Book of Mormon theme and, thus, tremendously important for us today?

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