In the ten years since this series was first published, some things have become such problems and in such distinct ways that they merit separate consideration.

This topic is one of them.

Our secular world emphasizes self. Personal aggrandizement is simply a symptom of this larger malady.

Sadly, it is infiltrating our church lives too, perhaps too much.

Insisting on titles

If you have an impressive-sounding calling or official responsibility in the Church, you are under much more obligation to ensure that you use the title appropriately and not unrighteously.

Insisting that people use your calling title because you find being addressed as such heady is the wrong motivation.

Consider that the titles we should be using for referring to each other are "Sister" and "Brother." Regardless of what our calling title is, these titles are always appropriate.

In addition, they level the playing field and give us all the equality that we should all believe we have. We are all equally children of our Father in Heaven and we are equally brothers and sisters in Christ.

It is important that the current bishop and some other current leaders, like the stake presidency, for example, be addressed as a bishop or whatever their leadership title is.

They are currently in charge of the ward and stake and this deference also indicates that we acknowledge their special jurisdiction and authority over us.

However, most other callings adapt well to just references to "Brother" or "Sister."

Also, titles should be reserved for those currently serving and not for those who have previously occupied the position.

Titles come with callings. Most titles are relinquished once we are officially relieved of our responsibilities. However, that doesn't mean the former title isn't called up occasionally as an honor we've held.

It shouldn't be looked at in this way. We shouldn't be reviewing our past church callings in order to impress people or prove we are "leadership quality" members.

It should not be about where we serve but how we serve. Any other emphasis on titles, past or present that serve no other purpose than self-aggrandizement or flattery should be avoided.

Constantly talking about yourself

Constantly talking about yourself is not a problem exclusive to those in leadership positions. There are many people that keep up a steady chatter wherever they are and whoever they are with.

People thus engaged, are generally talking about themselves and it is always their favorite subject.

Take a good look at yourself. If you are one of these individuals, you need to keep quiet and listen more. Otherwise, you will probably continue to be dangerously self-absorbed.

People who are oriented toward Jesus Christ, the gospel, service, and others are not generally the ones guilty of incessantly chattering about themselves.

The component of this problem that is reserved exclusively to leadership is that they are required to address us often. Unfortunately, they often spend too much time talking about themselves and we are forced to listen.

Sometimes stories are relevant and teach a gospel principle. More often than not, this talk is simply filler. It's been done so much that doing it ourselves seems normal and almost expected.

Unfortunately, people will often insert multiple stories about themselves during any church meetings. There is always at least one person who seems compelled to tell the entire room how the subject under discussion applies to him or her.

Stop and consider if you are guilty of doing this. Does everyone really need to know this about yourself? Will it contribute significantly in some doctrinal way to the lesson or subject under discussion? Or, will it simply hijack the teacher's lesson and draw attention to you. If that's what you are really after, then you need to reconsider your comments.

One of the other rather unfortunate modern inclinations is constantly congratulating ourselves on some good fortune, a received blessing, escaping calamity, and so forth. These comments usually take one of the following forms.

  • I'm so grateful for this "fill in space with a blessing."
  • We're so fortunate we didn't "fill in space with some sort of calamity."
  • It was such a neat experience to "fill in space with a sacred church location or event."
  • It was such a wonderful experience to see "fill in space with name of a top church leader."
Recently, I heard someone congratulating themselves on their good fortune in not losing their job to COVID-19 when other recent hires they worked with did. I blanched. This was not a "blessing" for the other people who did lose their jobs. Did the comparison really need to be made?

Before continuing on, I'll confine myself to a single secular example. Consider if you have ever watched a nature documentary of some sort narrated or hosted by David Attenborough.

When the program is finished, we often know a great deal about nature, and nothing or virtually nothing about David Attenborough himself. Contrast this with other programs where the hosts or narrators often spend considerable time talking about themselves.

Other hosts or narraters often express their good fortune in being where they are and doing what they are doing because it is so singular and special.

Attenborough isn't constantly congratulating himself on being able to see and experience a unique aspect of nature.

As a viewer, you feel special because you are able to see it, learn about it, and experience it vicariously.

Becoming too attached to perks and privileges

Examples abound but a common one is expecting a certain revered parking place at church, often right outside the main door because you are used to it because of your calling.

You are often used to it because you are often the only one or the earliest one at church because you have a particular calling.

Former bishops and stake leaders can get downright demanding about retaining this perk.

Not exclusive to leadership, it can also extend to expecting to sit in a particular place and pew in Sacrament meeting, simply because you are used to it. Expectations of this nature can even result in physical violence.

No, I'm not going to supply you with the links. The details should/will make you sad.

Leadership has access to perks and privileges while serving as leaders. Some grow to expect them as their right. President Uchtdorf's story from Conference is illustrative. As a current/former leader, he expected to be invited to a temple dedication:
Finally I was forced to accept the fact: I had not been invited.

But how was that possible? Had I done something to offend? Did someone just assume it was too far for us to travel? Had I been forgotten?

Eventually, I realized that this line of thinking led to a place in which I did not wish to take up residence.

Harriet and I reminded ourselves that the temple dedication was not about us. It wasn’t about who deserved to be invited or who did not. And it wasn’t about our feelings or our sense of entitlement.
Follow Elder Uchtdorf's advice. These sorts of expectations and sense of entitlement will lead you to a place in which you should "not wish to take up residence."

Enjoying personal praise too much

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf covers this subject eloquently:
Shortly after my call as a new General Authority, I had the privilege to accompany President James E. Faust for a stake reorganization. As I drove the car to our assignment in beautiful Southern Utah, President Faust was kind enough to use the time to instruct and teach me. One lesson I will never forget. Said he, “The members of the Church are gracious to the General Authorities. They will treat you kindly and say nice things about you.” Then he briefly paused and said, “Dieter, always be thankful for this, but don’t you ever inhale it.”

This important lesson about Church service applies to every priesthood holder in every quorum of the Church. It applies to all of us in this Church.

When President J. Reuben Clark Jr. counseled those called to positions of authority in the Church, he would tell them not to forget rule number six.

Inevitably, the person would ask, “What is rule number six?”

“Don’t take yourself too darn seriously,” he would say.

Of course, this led to a follow-up question: “What are the other five rules?”

With a twinkle in his eye, President Clark would say, “There aren’t any.”6

To be effective Church leaders, we must learn this critical lesson: leadership in the Church is not so much about directing others as it is about our willingness to be directed by God.
President Hinckley, in a newspaper interview, gave us sage advice:
“It is so very important that you do not let praise and adulation go to your head. Adulation is poison. You better never lose sight of the fact that the Lord put you where you are according to His design, which you don’t understand. Acknowledge the Lord for whatever good you can accomplish and give Him the credit and the glory and [do] not worry about that coming to yourself. If you can do that, you’ll get along all right and will go forward with a love for the people and a great respect for them and [will] try to accomplish what your office demands of you.”6
The particular problem of teachers of the gospel

Leaders often have to teach. Sometimes members do as well. However, there is a special concern and problem for those who are currently called to teach, or are employed by the Church to teach.

Problems of personal aggrandizement in teaching can result in priestcraft. Priestcraft! Yes, you read that correctly.

Naturally, cautions about this problem tend to get directed at those teaching in the Church Education System (CES). The following quote can be found in the Teacher's manual for teaching the Book of Mormon in Seminary:
A caution to gospel teachers

While a desire to build good relationships with students is appropriate, the desire to be praised, if unrecognized or unchecked, may cause teachers to care more about what the students think of them than they do about helping the students learn and progress. This often leads teachers to substitute methods that are intended to enhance their image in the eyes of the students for methods designed to invite the Holy Ghost. The focus of all religious educators should be to glorify Heavenly Father and to lead their students to Jesus Christ.
In addressing Church educators in 2006, Elder David A. Bednar voiced the same warning. A portion of his address was excerpted in the Ensign:
But we must be careful to remember in our service that we are conduits and channels; we are not the light. “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10:20). It is never about me, and it is never about you. In fact, anything you or I do as instructors that knowingly and intentionally draws attention to self—in the messages we present, in the methods we use, or in our personal demeanor—is a form of priestcraft that inhibits the teaching effectiveness of the Holy Ghost. “Doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? And if it be by some other way it is not of God” (D&C 50:17–18).
Although teaching prowess can be a strength, Elder Dallin H. Oaks warns it can be our downfall:
Teachers who are most popular, and therefore most effective, have a special susceptibility to priestcraft. If they are not careful, their strength can become their spiritual downfall.
 The Conclusion is President Uchtdorf's
What is the most important calling in the Church? It is the one you currently have. No matter how humble or prominent it may seem to be, the calling you have right now is the one that will allow you not only to lift others but also to become the man [or woman] of God you were created to be.
He invokes Matthew 23:11:
... may we meditate upon, understand, and live this paramount lesson of Church leadership and priesthood governance: “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.”

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