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Mormon Idol

By Justine Dorton

american-idolHow do you feel about Mormon Pop Stars? Have you ever been to a church meeting to find one ‘making the circuit’? I’ve been to many a church sanctioned meeting to find a Mormon Pop Star sharing his or her wisdom and awesomeness from the pulpit. I’ve been told by these beacons of talent that attending angels have guided them in their work, but I could not expect the same kind of help unless my mission paralleled in importance to theirs. I’ve been told that as soon as the closing prayer is concluded, I am welcome to come to the front for an autograph. I’ve been told that the great gifts that the speaker holds are rare and priceless gems that only a select few are chosen to hold.

In a stake we used to live in, it became such a problem that the Stake Presidency prohibited anyone from outside the Stake to address us without express permission from him.

I think what surprises me the most about this is how many people still swoon. Cuz’ I’ve got to be honest, I have a serious problem with fame. I do not respect it. I know I’ve got to overcome my own tendency to judge a person harshly because of their cultural popularity. But I have seen fame come to people I know, and I’ve seen how it came sometimes so randomly, I’ve seen how they have reacted, I’ve seen how it has changed them, and I want no part of it.

There is particular peril in Mormon fame, I think, largely because it seems to somehow portend a degree of ‘righteousness’. If you have a particularly ‘fame-inducing’ talent, the assumption is that great pearls of righteous wisdom seem to magically appear.

Maybe it’s just my inner populist? Maybe it’s some unspoken jealously? It feels wrong. Using the church for personal advancement, and to elevate one person above another feels wrong. Now, at Education Week or Women’s Conference, I think there is room for more latitude. If I want to learn how to be a better writer, a great person to learn from would be a successful writer. If I want to attend a class about musical composition, a successful composer might come in handy. But please don’t step into a sacred place of worship to peddle your wares.

About Justine Dorton

Justine is a mother to five children, and has a husband lodged somewhere (probably in the den). She is not very fond of speaking of herself in third person.

45 thoughts on “Mormon Idol”

  1. Hmmm, this is very interesting. Of course, I don't think church should be a platform for someone to share their own personal glory.

    However there is a thin line when it comes to using the church for personal advancement. You could argue that it is wrong for General Authorities to sell books, mormons voting for their particular American Idol, or even a Mormon focused blog helping authors to become blogfamous.

    I personally, don't see a problem with it as long as it is within reason. No pulpit stuff. But otherwise, I like knowing there are people like me who are succeeding.

  2. I've never experienced this — you mean they are invited to speak in your Sacrament Meeting? Or do they just invite themselves up during testimony meeting? Not even Enrichment night or a fireside or something? Wow.

    Okay I just reread what you wrote and by "church-sanctioned" I'm guessing you do mean Enrichment or fireside-type things. But I can see how that could still get annoying. (I'm the RS Enrichment counselor currently and I really try to draw on talents within our own ward rather than trying to pull in big-name speakers from elsewhere. Not that I have any connections to get big-name speakers anyway, but even if I did that's not the way I want to go with Enrichment.)

    I think it would be particularly challenging to be LDS and famous for lots of reasons, and I admire those who seem to handle it gracefully. There are a whole lot of women (of a certain generation) who are in the church because of Donny Osmond (I've known one personally) and that seems to be a good thing.

    I would love to be famous, theoretically, but I bet in real life it sometimes is pretty miserable, as when people judge you much more harshly (or based on much scanter evidence or no evidence at all) than they would an ordinary civilian, etc. And, as you point out, there's always the danger of getting an inflated ego and personal pride. (Not that non-famous people are immune to those risks, though.)

  3. We don't have a problem with that here–but I know as a youth I sometimes attended firesides with 'pop stars'. I am also somewhat uncomfortable with the fireside format, but I guess it all depends on how the person presents him/herself. Your post brings to mind something that has always bothered me, but I know is not just inherent to Mormons. It seems like we often value the experiences or stories of others who are more 'famous' or 'authoritative' than those of our own. I've heard people give talks that are mostly just strings of quotes because "they say it better than I can". Eloquence is nice, but heartfelt testimony brings the Spirit in a way that is unique to each person. Plus I want to celebrate the diversity of my ward/stake and get to know the people around me, not just hear the same old stories again and again.

    That said, I have a good friend who became fairly famous a few years ago. It's been weird for him and his family for people to suddenly assume that they know him or that they can be involved in his life simply because he's been on TV. Fame can be fun, but even those we think are somehow 'special' have real lives too.

  4. Hey FoxyJ — is your friend Ken Jennings?

    So, I think this is interesting. I've felt some squirminess in the past year with the whole NieNie/CJane thing — it's great, of course, that the blogosphere pulled together to raise money, etc, but I always wondered, What about the people who suffer in silence, who might have as great a need, but just aren't popular, or not connected to popular people?

    I remember as a 12 yo hearing John Bytheway speak a lot. He wasn't married at the time, and we were all in love w/ him. He seems to be a genuinely good, humble person, so it's not too bothersome.

    But I did hear (speaking of acting like you know famous people or can comment on their lives) that David Archuleta had said that he might not go on a mission bec. a GA or something told him that singing could be his mission, or something. Uh — I don't think so.

    Then there's stuff like Steve Young speaking out against Prop 8.

    It usually bugs me when celebrities complain about the downsides of fame, bec. I assume they enjoy the upsides, and you really can't have one w/o the other. ?

  5. I have seen people who truly understand consecration and humility even in fame, and it's been amazing. I think there are probably those for whom it goes a little far. I wouldn't really be thrilled about a fireside or enrichment that only brought a person because of position, not because of inspiration, all the less so if autographs happen afterward (ugh).

    I can't help but think that sometimes decisions are made more about getting bodies there ("if we invite this person, we'll get lots of people to come!") rather than about the real experience and value those who attend will have. While I understand the desire to fill seats, I'd much rather ensure that whoever comes has a truly meaningful spiritual experience that made their time worthwhile. As FoxyJ said, 'heartfelt testimony brings the Spirit in a way that is unique to each person.' That's why we are a lay church…because we really ALL have something to offer if we will open our hearts and spirits and share.

    But again, there have been books and talks that have changed. my. life. So I'm sure grateful for those who have talent and stay humble and use opportunities that come to glorify and serve God.

    To be honest, I almost pity those for whom fame may have gone to their head, because I can just see how easy it could be, ya know? I can't help but wonder if it could happen so subtly….

    (But then again, don't we who blog love to have comments on our blog? Ego trips can come in such little ways, and can be dangerous at any level, no?)

  6. More thoughts (because this has me thinking. A lot.)

    I just had a scripture come to mind: "Many are called and few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men…."

    And "It is the nature and disposition of almost all men…."

    And the antidote? "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained…." And then we have a list of qualities that power and influence must have to be Godly. I think those principles can apply for ANY power or influence.

    If someone can take fame and be meek, genuine, humble, and truly an instrument in God's hands, then I'm actually thrilled, because I think we need some of these people out there to have influence for the sake of God's work. I think such a situation would be a huge burden and responsibility and I don't envy those who accidentally find themselves in such a situation (by talent, choice, or accident) and you can count me as one who wouldn't want to be famous.

    As I go around in my head on this issue, as I can see both the benefits (as in benefits for God's work, not one's own horn-tooting) and the curses of fame, I find myself thinking: Fame can definitely lead to pride. But can't there be a reverse element of this that could end up equating to hiding one's talent?

    So, I can't help but throw out a question that perplexes me with this. What if someone had the ability to be famous, but avoiding it out of fear or wanting to avoid the temptation altogether? Would that always be a good thing? I can't help but think that sometimes it wouldn't be.

    I don't know that there is one right answer to this…I think sometimes people might really have a mission that will be more in the spotlight. But it's all too easy in our celebrity-happy culture to *pursue* that for personal gain and to think that that is the only way to have 'power and influence.'

    How grateful I am for leaders who constantly remind us that true power and influence is not about position, but about righteousness and about doing God's will…which is usually about doing the simple things of our daily lives (family, church, service, etc.) with faith and diligence and humility.

    On a slightly different note, I think this kind of problem could creep into someone's heart and life even in a leadership calling in the Church. I sometimes would like to just be in callings in the background for the rest of my life so that I didn't risk letting any position go to my head. (Even teaching can be a heady thing…it's all too easy to let ourselves get in the way…and all too easy to forget (either as giver or recipient) that all glory should go to God.)

    Remember King Benjamin? He basically said, "Don't thank me for what I've done. Thank God."

    There you go. That's the attitude we should all have, whenever anything we do does any good. Let the glory go to Him.

    Ahem. I need to stop now.

  7. I've never heard of famous church members giving firesides either. I would probably arrive early to get a good seat. Is that bad?
    I know it's a product of our celebrity worshiping society. Even though I really don't care about what's happening in the lives of the rich & famous, my eyes wander in the grocery store line to read the latest dirt. But I never buy them! Somehow that makes me feel like I'm still in the non-worshiping category. πŸ™‚

    I DO like it when Mormon people become famous. When I joined the church my family thought I was joining a scary and obscure cult. Every time they see someone in the media that is Mormon they call to tell me and add their praise to the person. Weird? Maybe. I think it normalizes the church for them. If they can group me with Mitt Romney, Glenn Beck, Gladdys Knight, and David Archuletta, then I must not be too far gone.

  8. It's often not the really famous i.e. on tv for any given stretch of time who abuse the power of the pulpit. It is the scores of "nearly famous" people who are selling anything in print or audio/video in any LDS bookstore who are desperate for a venue in which to hock their wares. Let me give you an example which happened in our ward, but is common to the lot of them:
    There is a sis. in our ward who was in the RS presidency,i.e. she could get keys to the building. Her brother-in-law is a piano playing singer who sells his CD's in person, on his website, or at lds bookstores. He was out here on the east coast visiting his parents who live about 45 min. from her & our chapel. While he was here he just "happened" to end up giving 2 "firesides", one at his parents' ward & the other in our ward.
    Now, the one in our building was behind my husband's back (he was the agent bishop) because she knew he would NOT allow someone to do a phony fireside (i.e. mini-concert) just to sell his CD's, which he took orders for in the foyer. He even had the nerve to make clear that our building's chapel grand piano wasn't up to his standards (Uhhhh, diva you've misplace your priorities here!)
    Anyway, it's an oft used business model which I believe began in the early 80's w/groups in SLC & UT county (I used to go to them all the time as a teen). Here's how the business model works:

    1) Either be a star w/the LDS crowd or be related to a current or former GA (his aunt was a former Gen. RS pres), or both.
    2)You set up your "firesides" w/friends & relatives at their building, often in the chapel, wherever you are going–because no one will invite you to do it in a legitimate forum
    3) You make it seem like it's all legit by playing your mini-concert w/snippets of your testimony, travel-log & some entertaining/faith-promoting stories & make clear your relationship w/your General Authority relative–or just borrow their faith promoting stories.
    4) This business model is designed to use a FREE place of worship as a venue no different from a concert hall to sell your CD's & promote yourself
    5)They write off their travels then as a business expense–too bad they can't write off use of the chapel, but I digress.

    To me this is tacky at best & actually more akin to being a money changer in the temple. How do you show respect by making money in the same space reserved primarily for the sacrament? It is disingenuous & it's like using the Lord's house for a Tupperware party–half the people don't want to be there, they are showing up to help their friend who organized the whole thing.

  9. kjco that is just wretched! And you bring up a good point about 'almost famous'.

    I've heard very inspirational messages given from people who would be considered famous, so I don't think the entire thing is bunk. But I've just heard some really horrible ones, too. Horrible ones where people are self-inflated, speaking on doctrinally unsure ground, and leave me with the sense that they feel the Lord loves them far more than He does me.

    That's what bugs me. But, truth be told, it could come from anyone, not just a famous person.

  10. Justine,
    I am totally with you, 100%
    I've never been in on the scenarios you describe, but had I been–
    there's a good possibility I just might have slipped out early…
    I think it's creepy.

    I think what bothers me the most, is the way people choose to use their fame.

    On the flip-side, I think Alanna has a point about Mormons in the visible mainstream. I just always cringe a little bit, and hope they do okay and don't muck it up too much…

  11. Jane-I'm curious what it was that you read/saw that said Steve Young was on the No on 8 team. Everything I read about Steve Young and Prop 8 was geared to his wife's beliefs and not his.

    Funny, the only firesides I can remember from my youth, were the ones where the speakers were of the pop-cultural variety. Also, those were the only firesides in which my non-member boyfriend would agree to attend. He is now a member and my husband.

    Call me shallow…

  12. Having come home ranting to my husband from just such events I know where you are coming from Justine–

    I often don't like the messages, if we ask someone to speak to people we have stewardship over, we are responsible for the delivered message, and it's inherent alignment with gospel principles. Sometimes the messages are overtly disturbing other times it's more disturbing in the way it makes people question their "quiet, small" lives of righteous living.

    I want to see alot more meaning found in the everyday, amzing woman and a lot less in the glitzy glam.

  13. There are all sorts of celebrities within our culture. And how they conduct themselves can show that they are still human no matter who they are.

    There is another aspect to fame that I'm not sure we consider very often. Our part in creating the celebrity. I've seen how people will flock to stake conference because a General Authority is going to be there – why didn't they attend the last one? They will attend a Fireside with someone famous, but not one put on by local leaders.

    But I still want to have Stake Conference and hear from both my local leaders and the General Authorities. And if a fireside by someone famous could reach someone and get them out then I'm all for it.


  14. Oh, and Alanna, I agree that I like to see Mormons succeed. I always fret for them, though, worrying that they'll have very public falls. I just think that if they're going to come speak to me, they actually have something to say that is uplifting and inspiring, not just talks about how awesome they are.

    I just recently heard an author speak on loss and grief. She's written books about it and is maybe 'kind-of' well known. It was really nice, because she spoke about loss and grief; she didn't speak about how cool it was that she was a published author and everyone wanted her to come do firesides.

  15. It's impossible for me to figure out why anybody would want to become one of those pathetic Hollywood-ites and instantly believe you are better and smarter than everybody. Ever since I was on a mission in Los Angeles two years ago. Local news there is what THEY did that day. I have no patience with any of them. Especially when they think I am too stupid to vote which ever way I want to instead of how THEY want me to vote. David Archuleta's parents need to reign him in and make him grow up.

  16. This is why I have such an opposition to the way Deseret Book's Time Out For Women is promoted by many Church members. These programs are announced in Relief Society Sunday meetings and in ward Sunday programs. It was even printed on our official stake calendar. Time Out for Women is an event with the express purpose of selling Deseret Book's products. Deseret Book is a commercial, for-profit, company. I agree 100% with kjco above. I just can't see how commercial promotions in church meetings in any way build spirituality or serve the Lord's purposes.
    FWIW, I really have no problem with Deseret Book or anyone else promoted their products. I just don't think it should be done in church meetings or inside of church buildings. Then there are those who advertise specifically to LDS Church members and use their Church membership as part of their credentials. I get this on a regular basis. I would never buy something JUST because it was produced by a member of the LDS Church.

  17. Boy, this is a hard one. For me, there's a big gray area. While I don't live in Utah, where there are probably many more of these Mormon "celebrities," I do live in the Bay area, where Steve Young has been known to speak to the youth pretty frequently. For the most part, I think these firesides were beneficial (when I was a youth leader, at least), in that he provided a model for those youth who were trying too hard to be "cool" and not hard enough to be "righteous" that it was possible to be both, simultaneously. Of course, he was a good speaker, and what he said was appropriate on those occasions I heard him.

    Having said that, I am always sorry to see a Mormon celebrity be used by the media for its own purposes. It's my understanding that Steve Young's wife came out openly in the press as being against prop 8, but that Steve Young chose not to state his opinion on the issue. I don't know how he voted (maybe he and his wife disagreed on this one…who knows?), but what the media highlighted was the fact that they had a No on 8 sign on their lawn. Of course, the Youngs have every right to display whatever sign they want to on their property, but in that case his "famous Mormon" status was used by the media (which clearly favored the anti-prop 8 position) to advance the No on 8 cause. This was rather discouraging for church members who were working so hard in support of that issue.

    As for artists, I do not like seeing them blatantly use firesides to sell their wares, period. I do like hearing them speak, though, especially when they have written something that moves me spiritually…something I want to hear more about in person, preferably with a Q and A session involved. So it's a fine line. They should not have books or tapes with them, that's for sure. If people who hear them want to buy their product, they can take care of that at a later time on the net or at the book store.

    So here's my take on the fame question: It's good for the Church when Mormons get famous, except for when it isn't good. LOL. How's that for "gray area"? No one likes to see Mormons CTW(rong) in the media, for example, and sometimes they do. Not every Mormon celebrity upholds the standards or beliefs the way we would like them to, and that can become a negative. The media not infrequently shines a light on those individuals who represent the Church poorly.

    The good examples are enjoyable to see, though, and the media sometimes finds them, too. I loved watching Brooke White on American Idol last year. She was the epitome of "different in happy ways," and she was not afraid to show it.

    Great discussion.

  18. I like what Leslie said about hearing more from the everyday amazing women who keep it all together with faith burning bright. I've heard famous Mormons speak, and honestly a humble testimony meeting has been more uplifting. Not because the speakers weren't great- but because I have personal relationships with my ward (branch) members who bear testimony at church. It is not just about hearing the good word, it is about building the kingdom, one brick upon another. More good is to be had from a local person speaking, a faithful example that you have seen working at church for years and will continue to see for years to come.

    "Though one teach with the eloquence of an angel, yet one's good practice, good examples, one's acts constantly manifesting wholeheartedness for the interests of the people, teach much more eloquently, much more effectually" -Lorenzo Snow

    Mormon Pop Stars have found themselves in a special position and I'm not sure they should use that special position to "preach to the choir" as the saying goes. It seems to me that their position puts them in more of a missionary role to the general public, not convincing those of us that are already converted, how great they are.

    Last time I checked David Archuletta wasn't singing hymns on his tour so I don't quite see how he can justify the mission excuse. Especially for the bad example it would set for other potential missionaries. It would just be another excuse, which is fine if that's the decision he makes, just don't try to call it a mission.

  19. This bugs me to no end. When I didn't attend TOFW the sisters in my unit just kept asking. I felt it was too much to ask of my family with our schedule that month. They all felt I was neglecting my spirituality by not attending. Yet several of those same women found no problem with not attending stake conference the following weekend.

  20. Jane wrote "But I did hear (speaking of acting like you know famous people or can comment on their lives) that David Archuleta had said that he might not go on a mission bec. a GA or something told him that singing could be his mission, or something. Uh β€” I don’t think so." And jendoop also criticized David.

    I have no personal information about this, but if David Archuleta was in fact told by a General Authority of the Church, as in the men who make mission calls, that his mission could involve bringing being a representative of the church throughout the world through the venue of singing, who are we to judge? If thousands of young girls, or anyone for that matter, first hears about the church because David Archuletta is Mormon, he may be able to have a great impact in the world as long as he stays true to the faith.

    As far as the original post goes, I fully agree that official church functions need to be centered around the gospel of Jesus Christ, and not individual members. No regular Sunday meetings should highlight popstars. However, if a Mormon pop-star is able to be a good example to youth, keeping in mind that not all are, then I think it is great for them to share their experiences at Saturday night firesides. I remember as a youth being inspired by the testimonies of the BYU Young Ambassadors and ballroom dance teams, both of whom held firesides in my stake. I saw them as people that I shared values with and could relate to. There are limits to what is appropriate, but I don't think that it should be rejected altogether.

  21. As a youth, I attended firesides at home at at EFY where famous LDS people spoke. I actually think it's pretty awesome. I think it's great to see that they can be in the spotlight and still remain active and share their testimonies about the gospel. Teenagers in particular look up to this because they want popularity and struggle with identity. Listening to Mormon celebs tells them that they can be righteous in the face of adversity. Really, it doesn't get harder to be righteous than when you're famous and hob-knobing with people who don't hold your standards. The bottom line here, I've never thought of this as a negative thing. And I've never felt inferior either. I do what I do, they do what they do. We all have something different to contribute to the church and a different way of sharing our testimonies.

  22. This may be off the subject, but I couldn't help but think of my younger brother when I read this post. He's wanted all his life to break into the music business and get some fame of his own, however, he felt being LDS was counter-conducive to this happening. So he left the church and moved to LA to find his fame. We'll see how that turns out.

  23. I've never experienced this in any ward I've ever lived in. Huh. Is it a Utah thing? (I really don't know) The closest brush to "LDS celbrity" I've had was a Gladys Knight concert when I lived in FL.
    I'd have to reserve judgment about the sorts of firesides you are talking about until I heard what the particular famous person had to say. Just like other regular people, some of them probably don't have a whole lot to offer to the general public, others probably do.
    In general though, I am gratified when good, obedient Mormons rise to fame. Like others have said, it helps to "normalize" us and I think ultimately helps our missionary efforts.
    I guess I would find it interesting to hear what Mormon celebs had to say about keeping LDS standards in the particular industry they are involved in.

  24. David A may very well have been told that by a General Authority. Donny Osmond was and so was my father. Not that my dad is famous or anything. He was serving in the Young Ambassador's due to being ineligible (pre 1978) to serving a mission at the time. When he was eligible and was ready to submit his papers he was told that they received so many referrals from his performances that they wanted him to continue with the YA for another year in place of a mission. So it does happen.

  25. Around here the phrase "Mormons breeding off of Mormons" refers to this trend. "You're LDS, so you better buy something LDS-ish!" I think of the phrase "philosophies of men mingled with scripture." This is 90 percent of the reason why I'll never move to Utah (sorry Mom) because there are thethose LDS-related billboards and scores of items being sold by Mormons to Mormons. Are the pop stars going to sacrament meetings because they have a divine message to share or a CD to hawk???? The latter, I think. About a year and a half ago the first presidency issued a letter on this subject. That's probably why your stake president put an end to the guest performers. It's beyond lame.

  26. Thought-provoking, Justine. Here's my two cents:

    1-There's a certain irony in our complaining about Mormon Idols when, as Real Mom, Real Life alluded to, we at Segullah have a journal and a book we frequently promote (as in right now: Listen to Kathy Soper interviewed by Carol Mikita tomorrow on KSL, 8 A.M.). See? There I go. As a writer (um, a wanna-be writer) I want people to read what I write. I want to connect with them.

    Can I say here though, just as an FYI, that Segullah journal makes about a two cent profit, and the book royalties go into a fund to keep us going. No one's becoming rich here; we're just trying to keep our organization up and running. We consider the Segullah community to be a valuable space for creative, compassionate, faithful LDS women to unite. And if we have to do some shameless self-promotion to stay afloat, then that's how it has to be.

    2-I like listening to humble Mormons who have made good. It makes me happy. I like hearing their stories. But.

    3-I hate it when those stories are so clearly overtold that they have lost their resonance and power. I've attended Mormon celebrity firesides like that, where what was once a vibrant experience has lost its oomph, because it was told so many times.

    4-I think it's lame to sell cds at the chapel. Or even mention that you have CDs to sell during your talk.

    5-Having said all that, I have to add that contributing authors of The Mother in Me are available to attend your book club if you're interested…. oh, the irony. Love it.

  27. well said KR, I think the whole David Archuleta thing was taken out of context.

    And I worry so about boys serving missions for wrong reasons – to please the folks back home. They can be so harsh

  28. Very interesting discussion! I have to agree that it's one of those gray areas. You will have celebrities who come and speak and spend their time promoting their wares. You'll also have celebrites come and share some of the experiences they've had which have strengthened their testimonies. Often those experiences are the same ones that lead to their celebrity status, and so it becomes difficult. Do we not invite that person to speak because they're famous? Should their celebrity status keep them from being allowed to speak in our meetings? Of course not. So there's that line they must walk.

    Now, this may come across as very self-promotional, so I hereby invite anyone reading this comment to not buy any of my books. πŸ™‚ But I've been in this situation to where I've been asked to speak on a certain topic in a ward building, but to keep my comments to that topic and not mention my books. I can do that! Not a problem. I also get asked to speak at writing venues where I'm specifically asked to talk about my books. I can do that too! But crossing the two, of course, never works. On the other hand, I do a fireside about the Hole in the Rock pioneers, which I have researched because my great-great-grandfather was the one who engineered that passage. I love sharing the story. But I've also written a book about it. I can do the fireside without mentioning the book, but I don't want to have to stop doing the fireside just because I've written a book and I don't want people to think that I'm only trying to sell the book.

    Sigh … it is a hard call. I think the main thing is to always remember the venue you're in, keep your remarks appropriate to the occasion, and follow the Spirit in it.

  29. Just want to say that there have been a lot of great comments here. Lots to think about on 'both sides' of the issue. I agree with Sue that it's got a lot of gray, and I love how different comments help me think more about it all.

  30. If the celebrities all followed the Spirit I don't think there would be the problem that there is. It's when the Spirit goes out the window and it becomes all about the person (and their accompanying super-greatness) that trouble creeps in.

  31. I've really been the rounds in my mind on this issue, and I haven't settled it yet, but you wonderful ladies have had such insightful comments, thank you!

    I would hate to throw the whole practice out and miss the wonderful opportunities that can come from genuine, testimony building experiences. I just hate the flip side that seems to come with it. If someone has been blessed by the Lord with a particular talent or gift, sharing it is not evil, and can often be uplifting and inspiring. But it can also turn into something terribly ugly and self-aggrandizing.

    And Emily, the idea of promoting a book or work of art or piece of music isn't evil either, I don't think. I just don't think it should be done over the pulpit, or with some implied endorsement from God. Hopefully we never do that at Segullah!

  32. "I think what surprises me the most about this is how many people still swoon." This is the most interesting part of the phenomenon to me– Mormons tend to be swooners, easily duped, followers etc. We've all heard the statistics and the stories. Why?!!!? Oh why?!!?

    Like Paula, I find MOST kinds of LDS profiteering distasteful– it's frankly astonishing to drive through Utah county and see the billboards targeted at a Mormon audience.

    Oh, and one of the directors of TOFW is in my ward and she never breathes a word about it– I think anyone putting it on the ward or stake calendar is doing that under their own volition and not under direction from Deseret Book.

  33. About 28 years ago Donny Osmond spoke in Sacrament Meeting at the singles' ward near the University of Maryland. As I recall, he came in after the Sacrament had been passed, gave a little pep talk, bore his testimony and left by limo before the meeting was over (to save him the embarrassment of being mobbed by fans or the embarrassment of not being mobbed by fans, i assumed). I thought it was rather odd and inappropriate.

  34. I have a view of the Mormon billboards thing. Is it really so bad to create something for a targeted audience, and in return to want to give your attention or money to something that appeals to your values?

    Again, we offer that kind of thing here at Segullah (non-profit though it is).

    I think in many ways that can be a good thing.

    But then again, I tend to like doctrinal and other such non-fiction material (essays about real life? bring it on!), so I am grateful these things exist.

  35. It is possible to be "famous" and LDS and still keep away from the commercial side of the house.

    My first date with the girl who later became my wife was at a fireside by Afterglow. It bothered a lot of people there that they didn't sell any of their tapes or CDs afterward.

    Flash forward several years. The local theater in our small military community hosted a touring company of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. A group of us at my work all went together on a Saturday night, and really enjoyed it. One of the guys in my office the next Monday told me that because he like the play so much, he tried to buy a DVD of the version that Donny Osmond was in–but Donny's website didn't sell anything on Sundays. My friend was very impressed that Donny Osmond would keep the Sabbath Day even on his website.

  36. I love this discussion. I just gave a talk on humility yesterday. I have also been a RS pres. I have to work to not let my ego take over (was my talk fabulous?! Am I doing a great job?) I can only imagine how much harder it would be to be humble with so much celebrity worship. That said, (as I said in my talk) being humble is the key to living the gospel which I think is why it feels so wrong when someone would promote themselves in the chapel and not be giving all the glory to God. My husband works in the movie industry, but cares not a whit for fame. We didn't go to his movie's premiere where all the stars would be because it was on Sunday. He's a great example to me.
    As far as self-promotion from the pulpit goes, think of what Christ said-"I can of mine own self do nothing."

  37. "In a stake we used to live in, it became such a problem that the Stake Presidency prohibited anyone from outside the Stake to address us without express permission from him."

    As far back as I can remember, this has always been the rule. Interesting to see how failing to attend to that policy caused the mess you are seeing.

    Kudos to him for stepping up and 'enforcing' the policy now. Hopefully others will learn from his mistake.

  38. I totally agree. This drives me crazy.
    I had a wonderful seminary teacher who warned against this very issue, and called it a form of priestcraft.
    Sharing talents for the building of the kingdom is one thing. Priestcraft is quite another.

  39. Just have a bishop check page 327 of the Church Handbook of Instructions. It pretty much settles the debate–at least about using the church. See 2 3 &#5


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