Part 1: A Tendency to Display Ourselves - Look at Me!

Normally, people are at some distance from the podium when they listen to a Sacrament meeting speaker. Zoom changed this. It put a close up of the speaker on people’s screens. It was much easier to see gestures as well as analyze voice inflections and tone.

Since I had to manage my local Zoom meetings, I really noticed things. Some of what I saw disturbed me. Based on what I observed from Zoom, I started noticing it once Sacrament meeting resumed in our chapels.

For example, when people give testimonies or talks, it’s almost a performance, entertainment even. They are animated and expressive in a way that they aren’t usually. In effect, they are putting on a show.

This also holds true for lessons, perhaps even more so for lessons. The teacher has a captive audience for a much longer time period.

We seem to be more concerned about being considered a good speaker or a good teacher than whether we have somehow brought people to Christ, inspired them to be better and do better or be more committed to their covenants and commitments.

Testimonies are often less testimonies than vaguely church-related humorous stories we feel compelled to share because they are funny. Testimonies should be testimonies where they testify of Jesus Christ.

Music is also not immune to these excesses.

Elder Boyd K. Packer was quite explicit back in 1976 when he said:

If I had my way there would be many new hymns with lyrics near scriptural in their power, bonded to music that would inspire people to worship. Think how much we could be helped by another inspired anthem or hymn of the Restoration… We could have the Spirit of the Lord more frequently and in almost unlimited intensity if we would.

For the most part, we do without because the conductor wants to win the acclaim of the world. He does not play to the Lord, but to other musicians. The composer and the arranger want to please the world. 

Music, especially special musical numbers, turns into a performance we seek acclaim for instead of an avenue of worship and a vehicle to express our faith. This is especially true when someone performs with a flourish or flourishes.

In a General Conference address entitled, “Worship through Music,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks cautioned:

Soloists should remember that music in our worship services is not for demonstration but for worship. Vocal or instrumental numbers should be chosen to facilitate worship, not to provide performance opportunity for artists, no matter how accomplished.

This is very much a “Me” or “I” emphasis.

This me emphasis also seems to pervade the conscientiousness of our callings. Instead of focusing on helping bless the lives of people by helping the church work efficiently and effectively, we seek personal acknowledgment of our efforts and extoll our part in how the system works.

Elder David A. Bednar has been very critical of this tendency and quite vocal in his condemnation of it. In a Church Educational System (CES) address in 2006 he said:

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).

I discovered this address soon after he gave it and it shook me badly. It prompted a lot of soul-searching. I shared it with a sibling and he had the same reaction. On reflection, he felt he had been guilty of this too many times in his past and resolved to do better.

A strong indication that Elder Bednar didn’t think just Seminary or Institute teachers were susceptible to this was when he repeated this caution in 2011 to missionaries in the M.T.C.:

This work is never about me and it is never about you. We need to do all in our power to fulfill our missionary responsibility and simultaneously “get out of the way” so the Holy Ghost can perform His sacred function and work. In fact, anything you or I do as representatives of the Savior that knowingly and intentionally draws attention to self—in the messages we present, in the methods we use, or in our personal demeanor and appearance—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).

For example, goals are worthwhile and help in accomplishing the Lord’s work. But if we achieve goals primarily to receive praise and recognition from our families and friends, from other missionaries, or from Church leaders, then we are practicing priestcraft—and we need to repent. Preach My Gospel missionaries are focused upon helping Heavenly Father’s children worthily receive the covenants and ordinances necessary to return to Him, and they are not focused on compiling impressive statistics that supposedly make them look good.

In any church context, we ourselves should not be the focus of attention.

Some of these themes were developed in this prior posting: Part 8: Local Leadership Corruption: Personal Aggrandizement

Spiritual Vaunting and the Perils of the Rameumptom Syndrome

“As teachers, we may speak with the tongues of angels; we may entertain, delight, amuse, astound. But if we have failed in keeping our focus on Jesus Christ, we have missed the mark and our teaching is only a shadow of what it ought to be. Always keep the focus on our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.” Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Teaching in the Savior’s Way with Elder Uchtdorf”. Address given June 12, 2022. Accessed June 12, 2022 from

Continue reading at the original source →