True or False: A man who openly and repeatedly tells members of his ward that he would make a good bishop is obviously wrong, and is the last person who should be considered for that calling.
True or False: A person who openly and repeatedly tells members of the ward that she would make a good gospel doctrine teacher is obviously wrong, and is the last person who should be considered for that calling.
Up until a year or so ago, my answers would have been True and False. Now they are True and True. The change came about as a result of problems I first noticed in myself, but which I suspect others struggle with, too.
Unrighteous dominion is often denounced and cited as a common failure in local church leaders, or in husbands and parents in families. Sometimes those accusations are just rationalizations, but it would be naive to think unrighteous dominion never happens, especially in view of section 121, which tells us that “almost all” of us will indulge in this temptation every chance we get. With that warning in mind, I think we need to expand our list of suspects beyond priesthood leaders and parents, and include those who teach in the church. It is my opinion that gospel doctrine teachers, youth Sunday school teachers, and CES teachers are particularly vulnerable to a temptation to “gratify their pride, or their vain ambition”. At least that was my experience when I was called to teach a class.
The church has taken steps to limit the damage its local leaders can do. There are handbooks which outline procedures and which provide an avenue of appeal. The structure of the church allows for some informal oversight. A bishop has counselors who can function as a sort of ballast or counterweight to offset his worst impulses. And even an egotistical bishop has to deal regularly with the worst dreck in the lives of the members, which often has a humbling effect. A teacher has none of these things. It is a real challenge to keep the interest of a class for 45 minutes, especially a youth class. We shouldn’t be surprised when a teacher indulges in shortcuts and gimmicks to keep us involved. Besides, we LD saints are suckers for a dynamic speaker. We will praise someone who is seldom enlightening, as long as she is witty and entertaining.
I’m not imtimidated by crowds, and I found a certain satisfaction in standing in front of a large group of people who were awaiting my wisdom. It wasn’t long before I found myself thinking I was smarter than I am, and wanting to have the class parrot back to me my pet doctrines and attitudes. I don’t think it is excessive to say that I wanted to re-create the class members after my own likeness and image. I found I had to guard against the sycophancy which we often shower upon people who have the appearance of spirituality.
What do you think? Is this a common problem? Or should I just shut up and quit guessing at the motives of others?