Gospel Teaching and Egotism

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?

Comments

  1. I question the sanity of any person who goes around wanting to be the bishop and to a lesser extent a GD teacher.

    Both callings terrify me.

    I would say True and and mostly True to the same 2 questions

  2. Probably true and true.

    There is something to be said for having self confidence, but…

    I appreciate your honesty in this. I do think it is a common problem. I think we all need to monitor our motives in these things.

  3. I can see gospel doctrine, but I’m interested that you see youth teaching as an especial temptation. When I taught youth Sunday School, it was mostly trying to get the kids not to slap each other and to listen to the lesson for 2 minutes. It wasn’t calculated in my case to give me an ego trip. In fact, it got me to feel quite inadequate, but perhaps this was God’s way of shielding me from the temptation.
    On another note, I’ve always sort of wondered about 1 tim 3:1:

    This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bbishop, he desireth a good work.

  4. There are exceptions, of course, and it depends on what you mean by people telling people they would make a good yadda yadda. I hear people say things like “I love teaching GD, because I learn so much more from preparing” etc.

    I am going to expose myself here, but when I was a missionary, I was the only missionary in my zone who was baptising, and at the time I wanted more than anything to give my success to the other missionaries in my zone. My spiritual take away from that was that that was the one righteous reason to want leadership. I didn’t tell anyone else about this though. That would have been really stupid and pompous.

    I think it is perfectly natural to have “armchair quarterback” moments where we think the Bishop, Stake President, Prophet, God should do such and such and think “If I were God or the Prophet or an Apostle, or GD teacher, or Bishop, I’d do…” On the other hand, it is mutiny from God’s current teachers to campaign for changes such as this.

    Of course, the same could be said of our desire to change policies, etc.

    I think it is a delicate balance.

    I think there is wisdom in restraint.

  5. Thomas Parkin says:

    This isn’t just a problem, it’s _the_ problem.

    It isn’t any accident that sec 121 describes these motivations that you’re talking about (excersising dominion, gratifying one’s pride, also covering one’s sins) as those that ‘grieve’ the Holy Spirit, and cause it to withdraw. And when it is gone, we might as well be any man talking about almost any subject: it’ll be more or less interesting, and some intersting perspectives and even truths may be exchanged. But one can get such a thing in many places, and it isn’t, in my view, what we go to church for – which is to be spiritually nourished, edified, etc.

    My experience is that suspending one’s ego or self-interest is the single most important factor in teaching the Lord’s way – or in operating with any spiritual effectiveness in the church. And for me, very difficult, since my ego is as big as a house. The one thing my prayer’s always contain when I prepare to teach is a plea that the Lord take my ego out of the equation. It doesn’t always happen, but the nearer I get the easier it is to hear the voice of the Spirit – and when I get there with something like pure purpose – that is, when I’ve been able to say, ‘let me only say and do Thy will’, then the revelations can begin to really flow.

    ~

  6. I guess my sanity is in question, but I enjoyed being Gospel Doctrine teach and would enjoying doing it again. It’s my second favorite calling ever, after being Stake Satellite Specialist and having to watch all the BYU football and basketball games.

  7. I also would question the sanity of someone who publicly announces he wants to be a bishop. However, as I write this, the following verse does come to mind.

    1 Timothy 3:1
    This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

  8. My first impression was to answer True – False. After reading the rest of the post I think you have a few good points. I have been called as the GD Teacher in the past in my ward, and as the Sunday School President I have to teach occassionally when the teacher is out. I think there have been times when I considered myself the best teacher in the Ward, which probably isn’t true. At the same time, there have been comments on this blog and others about the lack of spirituality in church, and even cutting out Sunday School completely. I suppose you take the good with the bad. Which is worse, a GD Teacher who thinks he / she is the “best” for the job, or a teacher who makes everyone wish they had stayed home?

  9. Whoops, Steve H. beat me to it. Somehow I missed that. My bad.

  10. This is interesting. I have never heard it stated this way “Thinks he/she would be a good gospel doctrine teacher.” I have to admit that I have a hierarchy of callings, based on my desire to serve in that capacity. Bishop is rather low on the list…right close to ward misison leader. But I have to admit that Sunday School callings are pretty high on the list. I don’t think I have ever thought “I would be a great GD teacher,” though perhaps that is implicit in actually liking the calling (I guess you wouldn’t like it if you thought you were craptastic).

    I think you can like doing something and not have vain ambition. That said, I am hyper sensitive to CES-style religio-entertainment. Perhaps I am just picking at motes.

  11. Mark,
    It is my going theory that most teachers are actually frustrated actors looking for an audience. Really, in the non-church-context world, teachers are people who are paid so that you can listen to what they have to say and how they say it. It isn’t that much of a stretch.

    The only effective guard against this problem is an active commitment on the part of the class and the teacher to have the Spirit with them.

  12. Steve Evans says:

    Anyone who wants to be a bishop has it coming to them, I say.

    Fundamental to your post, I think, is the general issue of whether one should aspire to any calling. I don’t know the answer to that question, though I can definitively say that one’s aspiration to a position should not be a factor in a leader’s calling that person to a position. Otherwise we have political offices, not divinely inspired callings, and we’re on our way to priestcraft.

  13. Mark – Thanks for this interesting question. I agree with your premise wholeheartedly. The mission president in our mission resides within the boundaries of our ward so we get a little more contact with them than most other folks in the mission. When I served as bishop of the ward I enjoyed a close relationship with the three mission presidents whose terms in office intersected my time as bishop. I remember one mission president telling a group of us how he came to be called. He said President Monson told him there are many men in the church who are highly qualified to be the mission president and some of them take it upon themselves to let the First Presidency know that fact. Then President Monson said, “Of course those men will never be called to serve as president.”

    I think that rule of thumb might apply to all callings. It is only by humility that we are able to serve with effectiveness in our callings.

    As I consider what I am about to say I think it might sound pompous and haughty but here goes anyway. I was totally surprised to be called as bishop. For years I was not a full tithe payer (not necessarily on purpose but what other excuse can I give?) which made me ineligible to serve. Then I finally got my act together and within a year was called as a bishop’s counselor. Then two years later our bishop moved out of state and I was called. I felt totally inadequate but very soon discovered the extra help one receives through the faith and prayers of the members (including myself.) It was the best calling I’ve ever had.

  14. I kind of like teaching. However I think most wards would be much better off if they had at least two gospel doctrine classes and smaller class sizes. Have the two teachers each have a different emphasis. Say one being more entertaining and practical and the other more doctrinal. That’s how most singles wards are and I really liked that.

    Of course most married wards, because of all the kids and often multiple wards meeting in the same building, are typically preciously short on class space.

  15. The motive is more important than aspirations. I say true-true if the persons desires a calling only because it will bring them pride and glory etc etc. However I am grateful for those that enjoy teaching and make it known and they desire to give all thier talents time to the moving forth of this great work. The glory belongs to God.

    Should we all hide our talents under a bushel?

    Like stated before there is a definate balance and one can not and should not blanket assumptions. You and I know what they do.

  16. Clark

    I think most wards would be much better off if they had at least two gospel doctrine classes and smaller class sizes

    I agree, My last ward had two classes with those exact types of teachers.

    Lamonte

    One more note. If one says I would make a good this or that, I agree on this topic completely. There should be no need to campaign for positions.

  17. I believe I heard this in the MTC, but I recall a visiting GA state that they receive countless letters each year at Church HQ from members requesting to be Mission Presidents. They always list both their history of callings and careers to prove they are able to support themselves for three years. I believe he said they receive more of these letters than any other kind.

    He went on to say that none–absolutely zero–are called.

  18. Tim J.- so if I want to avoid being mission president, I should mail a letter in?

  19. Apparently so. I wonder if the same could said of writing your SP requesting to be Bishop–though that might be too risky.

  20. Great topic. I’m currently struggling with this right now and I appreciate all the comments. The not aspiring for a calling part is easy, but with teaching, I think it’s a more complex.

    BKP said something to the effect of: the Savior is the Master Teacher and as we aspire to be like Him, it’s ok to aspire to be great teachers. But I think it’s a very fine line and I’m constantly worried not to cross it.

    I love the gospel. I love to be inspired by great teachers. I hate sitting through a meeting with bad teachers. We can all say that it’s the spirit that teaches, but the fact is, there are certain people in our wards, stakes, and among GA’s that are great teachers. So when I’m called to teach…I want to have that same effect on people that great teachers have on me. So, my question is, is this too much ego? How do you pull ego out of the equation and still want to do your best?

  21. Bishop: So, what callings have you had in the past?
    New-to-the-ward member: WML, EQ presidency, YM leader, GE teacher and GD teacher.
    Bishop: What do you consider are your skills? Where would you like to serve?
    New-to-the-ward member: I love teaching and I think I’m pretty good at it.
    Bishop: Prideful scum. Now I will never give you that calling.

  22. I think it is fine to want to be a great teacher, to be effective, to help people, etc. just like it is fine to aspire to want to be a good parent. It is different altogether to request the call because you have something to say to so and so. If you need to be called to say something to so and so and can’t do it without the calling, it probably is best left unsaid.

  23. So that this doesn’t become over generalized, here is a good balancing question:

    True or False: A person who openly and repeatedly tells members of the ward that she would make a singer for the choir is obviously wrong, and is the last person who should be considered for that calling.

    or how about:

    True or False: A person who openly and repeatedly tells members of the ward that she would make a good missionary is obviously wrong, and is the last person who should be considered for that calling.

    With this in mind, I think willingness and desire to help out and contribute is SO important….

  24. Rusty,

    Here is a similar story from my recent experiences. What conclusions should I draw from it, I’m not quite sure yet. But it is interesting.

    I recall just 2 months ago moving to my new ward they requested I fill out a new move in sheet which asked info about my career hobbies and previous church callings amongst other things. I know the church keeps records on each member relating to callings etc. So I simply filled out name address children previous ward and stake, ommitting callings talents and career. The Bishop and his counselors stopped by the next week and proceeded to chit chat and then asked the questions on that new move in sheet, what did I do for a living, what were my previous callings and what talents did I possess.

    I answered honestly and informed them I had been EQ presidency, teacher, I enjoyed singing and playing music recieved my degrees in Music, emphasis Music Business yadda yadda, etc, etc. They asked if I liked my certain callings. I trying to avoid certain callings downplayed EQ pres, EQ teacher and pretty much everything else in the hopes they would not extend any calling. The next week I was called to be an EQ Teacher. I was never set apart for the calling. Then after they officially recieved my records about 4 weeks later they called me into the EQ presidency.

    I know that many argue divine inspiration does not come from filling a form out. In these instances one could argue it came in the both in the form (Church Records) and personal discussion with leadership.

    I know this might take away from the “magic” of callings but there is an organized system along with the Divine guidance given to leaders.

    This system of information might be more apparant in some instances.

    Anybody else have some insight to this idea.

  25. During one of those striking times in my life where I really learned something baout the atonement, I was realased from a calling in my singles ward. My bishop asked me what I wanted to do next. I thought it was an odd question, but I told him I really wanted to help people understand the atonement, maybe in an EQ presidency or something. I had no idea (just to show you how incredibly ignorant I was) that EQ presidents essentially called their own councilors and that I was asking to be the president. Anyway, he gave me the calling, and I think at that moment, in ways that wouldn’t apply at any other time, it was probably good for everyone. If at any time in my life I felt like I had a ministry, it was then, perhaps even more than while I was on my mission. I know that it was what I needed, if just because it gave me a benchmark for my own desire to serve the Lord and showed me what I could do if I had that desire, though perhaps from an outside perspective the results weren’t so spectacular–no 100% home teaching–no spectacular exponential rise in convert baptisms. So perhaps I can sympathize to some extent with those who would aspire to leadership for the right reasons, though I’m not sure it was an aspiration. It was a desire to serve because I really felt like the Lord wanted me to use a real insight he had given me. It seemed like a natural flow of events. I never told anyone about that but the bishop, and I really didn’t know what I was telling him. I just knew the desire. Would it have been any different if I had known what I was asking? I don’t really know that I have that desire right now, and in some ways I wish I did.

  26. Ben,
    As a currrent membership clerk, I know that the records the bishop recieves don’t tell anything about your previous callings excpept missions and spouse/children (the unrelease-able calling). I’m not sure that those records are kept anywhere except on local meetinghouse computers (if the ward takes the time to input them). I’m sure there are records somewhere of some level of calling, though–bishops, stake presidents, etc.

  27. Ben S.: If it helps at all, a lot of God’s hand in things is circumstantial. I am quasi-in charge of scouts (Committee chair) in my ward and I remember a Councilor in my bishopric practically dancing for joy because we desperately needed a good Scout Master and a new move in filled out the form sayinghe loved scouts etc etc. He was so exicited, then the new move in moved into the next ward over instead. He was so sad…

    Anyway, to end on a good note, we found out that the guy who was GD teacher was doing scouting with a non-lds unit down the street and had been for years, so he got called to do it, and we’ve been doing great since then.

  28. Thomas Parkin says:

    “So, my question is, is this too much ego? How do you pull ego out of the equation and still want to do your best?”

    Joe – I think we should want to do our best – in part because we like ourselves and want ourselves to do well – as far as I can see there is nothing wrong with liking oneself, knowing one’s own strengths, communicating those strengths, honestly, and wanting to excel – nor is there anything especially wrong with liking compliments, enjoying being well received or appreciated. It would be a little inhuman to not like these things. The problem arises – it seems to me – when your motivation is IN getting these things – and the more the better – and,even more problematic, in wanting to be _seen_ as in a position above your peers, or in being seen as a better man than you actually are – rather than in wanting to serve your fellows and taking delight in _their_ well-being, learning, whatnot.

    My continued 2 cents. ;)

    ~

  29. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ve never heard anyone say out loud what a great bishop or GD teacher they would make, because we are acculturated against “aspiring” for callings.

    But there are local politics and it does happen behind the scenes. I remember when my wife, who was Webelos leader and loved that calling, got bumped by another woman who lusted after it and whose husband had the political in with the bishop to make it happen. To me it was not a big deal because that’s not the kind of calling I would enjoy, but my wife was pretty upset about it at the time.

  30. I am glad to hear that people who campaign to be mission presidents don’t get called. The worst class I had at BYU was a religion class taught by Monte Nyman. I don’t remember the assigned course of study, but the primary topic of the class seemed to be how good a mission president he would make.

    The one calling I never tell the new bishop I have had is ward clerk. It seems like once you are a clerk, you are forever a clerk. I may or may not tell him that I have also been in the EQ presidency or the executive secretary. I love teaching Gospel Doctrine, because it means I really have to study the scriptures constantly, and I am a better person for it, and I think I do a pretty good job. But I rarely tell leadership I want the calling–It seems presumptuous.

    On the other hand, I have never made it a secret that I love playing the piano in Primary. At the most, it has taken two months of my arrival in a new ward or branch to get that calling.

  31. Asking to be a certain calling or saying that one may be a good this or that may be presumptuous.

    My argument is that many of the decisions are not as “divinely” called as if chosen blindly from a list and say that person. At times that does happen. But I would argue that much of this divine inspiration is in discussing with x or y person and discovering his her talents, or previous callings. This background info is important but not everything. As go many stories about Stake Presidents being called as told by GA’s.

  32. Agree with Steve H that information on past callings is not part of the MLS.

    From past experience in a bishopric I thought that one of the most helpful things people could do is tell us what skills they had and what callings they would be most excited about. The Lord leads the church through inspiration to leaders but that inspiration can be more clear in some cases than others. When you’re trying to staff a ward in constant transition sometimes you just need to plug holes, some of which will turn out to have been inspired and others of which might not work out as well but hopefully will be a growing experience for all involved.

    That being said, as the questions are posed I think there is a big difference between openly campaigning for any calling and what I hopefully described above: discretly letting someone in the relevant leadership position (SS Pres, Primary Pres., etc.) know what callings would you think would be a good fit.

  33. Steve H and Warno,

    I understand that the MLS does not list the callings, (I was membership and financial clerk as well) but that doesn’t stop some leaders from calling prior leaders in other wards. I’m just stating that inspiration comes through many different channels and not just looking at a ward list and picking names. (although that does happen) I believe my best inspiration comes through preparation.

  34. I agree, Ben. It is a leader’s duty to do all they can to get the right person for a calling and seek confirmation.

    Calling prior leaders may be more common in situations where members move within a stake or in areas with high Mormon concentration but I’ve rarely seen it. Most bishops just don’t have the kind of time to track down that information. The times where I hope that happens are for particularly sensitive callings (financial or working with the youth) or just when something doesn’t seem right. I can remember a newly arrived member promptly volunteering to teach early morning seminary. A quick phone call to the previous bishop revealed what became apparent shortly thereafter: guy was a nut job.

  35. Another key is looking for requests for callings that seem strange.

    We once had a widowed 60 year old man move into our ward and ask to be nursury leader. I remember thinking how strange is this in Bishopric mtg. Bishop called him to it anyway.

    Guess what? Pedophile. Did not abuse any of our nursury kids but was cuaght a couple of years later by his new wife molesting a 8 year old.

  36. Ben Shafer says:

    Attention - Ben S. who has been posting will now be known as Ben Shafer. I know I just lost my annonimity, but oh well.

    bbell,

    I agree. Maybe background checks would be a good thing. (There’s another can of worms.)

  37. I’m guilty of telling the bishop I wanted to be GD teacher. I mentioned it during tithing settlement the year before the OT course. Most teachers start off the year by explaining how much they’re scared of the OT. I happen to like the OT; I’ve taught it before, and I learned a lot and feedback from the ward led me to think that they learned some too. I never mentioned the desire to anyone else besides my husband. We got called to nursery instead. So we were very reliable nursery teachers.

    Last week I got called to teach Gospel Doctrine. I am excited about the calling. I do try not to be prideful, despite the fact that I very much appreciate compliments about my lessons. But I do know I’ve got a knack for teaching and I enjoy teaching.

    A couple years ago, I got asked to speak in Sacrament meeting during a time in my life when I wasn’t reading the scriptures regularly or praying much. I thought I could just pull a talk out of a hat as easily as I’d taught GD for years when I was reading scriptures and praying. There was no inspiration or help at all in preparing that talk. I ended up reading a talk I’d given years earlier. That experience let me know that, while I’ve got some public speaking skills, the ability to teach is entirely dependent on my personal worthiness and God’s grace. I’m a lot less fatheaded about being a good teacher now that I’ve had that experience.

    I do think a person can accurately assess whether or not they’d be good in a calling. You can usually spot the ones who are going for glory or priestcraft, whether or not they recognize themselves.

    I don’t think it’s wrong to tell a bishop or other leader that you would enjoy a certain calling. Campaigning for a calling is wrong, but a quiet mention and then taking what comes isn’t out of place.

  38. I campaigned against getting called to be scoutmaster, got called anyway. A couple of years ago, after many months of silent suffering, I complained to the bishop that my youngest son never knew what the young men’s activities were, there had been no superactivity for the YM in two years, and how frustrating that was, as my son was struggling with his faith. I was called to be the new YM president within a week, although the bishop did indicate that he had been thinking about me for some time. I lasted two years, one that I did very well, and felt inspired in my calling, and then one where I struggled. Been put out to pasture on the HC now.

    As a former bishop, I know how hard this is. I did not have too many people come to me and ask for callings, but there exists in my ward, and many others I have seen, an internal network of primary/relief society secret combinations where some sisters get together, decide who should be the new primary president/RS President/YM president, and then actively campaign for them. Resistance is futile, you are assimilated, and then receive the revelation. Actually, that is not entirely true, but I have seen more people campaign for others than for themselves. Hence, I mostly agree that both statements are True.

  39. RE # 38, I meant Primary/RS/YW president in the second paragraph.

  40. (In response to comment #17, which if it is true is very interesting):

    Anyone who wants to be a mission president must be a complete nutball. While it’s a sacred and important honorable calling, it is such a tremendous responsibility. I can barely imagine a calling in this church that would be more cumbersome or difficult. It seems to me that only being a stake president or bishop would come close to that kind of stress. Trying to herd a couple of hundred 19-21 year olds … yikes.

  41. I’ve taught GD in wards I have lived in three times and have taught GE as well. I like to think I do a good job, but the fact of the matter is different wards have different makeups and different people have different teaching styles. In some wards my teaching style was a good fit and the majority of the people in the class were receptive. In the ward we currently live in, my teaching style would not be a good fit and the majority of the people would not be receptive to what I would have to say. Could I change my style and content? Sure, but thats not likely or desirable from my POV, so I would prefer to not teach GD in my current ward. Its a mix and match issue when it comes to teaching GD, and a lot of times it is hard to get the right combination of teacher and class.

    As for anyone aspiring to leadership positions, they are usually self-promoters and not genuinely there to serve in a Christlike manner.

  42. In my mind there’s a huge difference between aspiring to lead, and telling the bishop that you enjoy teaching, or working with the Young Men, etc. I take Mark’s point to be that some teaching positions should be recognized as leaders.

    Having great ambitions to actually serve people, in the true sense, is noble, but of course true service doesn’t require an office. There’s no need to wait to be mission president to thrust in your sickle, and those desiring to mold boys into men would make great scout masters.

  43. Chas Brown says:

    Anyone desiring to be bishop (branch president) or other leadership position needs only to move into the “mission field”. In a small branch east of the mississippi, a retruned missionary with current temple reccomend is quickly moved into the elder’s Q presidency or branch presidency. Our current branch president was EQ pres 1 month after he moved in and branch president 6 months later.
    So anyone desiring to be bishop or GD teacher (or anything else) we would love to have you.
    Our inspiration for callings consists of who is available.

  44. Extreme Dorito: Its a mix and match issue when it comes to teaching GD, and a lot of times it is hard to get the right combination of teacher and class.

    Very good point. I completely agree with you.

    I think sometimes we Mormons assume there is a one size fits all thing going on with good teachers but that just isn’t the case. One can be a great teacher for some people but not connect with others at all. (Think about the 12 apostles — people have favorite speakers among them too.)

    On a related note, I also wanted to endorse the idea that Clark mentioned about having two Gospel Doctrine classes in a ward where feasible. Smaller class sizes foster more discussion and having choices between teachers is usually a good thing.

  45. Regarding Danithew’s reference to # 17 being true, this same story is told in SWK’s 2nd biography. He pulls out a huge stack of letters in a filing cabinet and says shows them to a friend he’s calling to be a mission president. “These are from people who write us offering to be mission presidents. We don’t call them. We never call them. We call people like you who don’t want to do it.” (I’m paraphrasing from memory.)

    I like what Matt said in #42. To all the people who think they should be mission presidents, here’s how you get called: Fill out your papers and SERVE a mission. If the Lord wants you, he’ll call you. But Amen to the priesthood of someone who wants to lead missionaries but not be a missionary.

  46. I’m surprised no one has responded to the most important comment on this thread:

    Matt W. said (at comment #4):
    “I am going to expose myself here …”

    Please, Matt, this is a family blog.

    Aaron B

  47. But seriously, I think Mark is right that many of us who teach GD are too easily tempted to use our pulpit as an invitation to spout off on our pet issues, or gratify our desire to focus on topics that don’t really deserve much attention. In my case, I have often found myself saying, prior to teaching a class, that I’d really like to talk about such-and-such controversial topic, because I’ve got so much of interest to say, and I’ve got to get it off my chest. But then, as I teach the class, I will stop myself, recognizing only in the moment that what I had planned to say probably wasn’t appropriate. This happens quite a lot, actually. I agree that in the final analysis, we need to open to letting the Spirit guide us in saying whatever is most appropriate for our particular class.

    Aaron B

  48. S.P. Bailey says:

    Of course, aspiring to power and prominence in the church is tacky and wrong. Yet I have seen (I think) people’s vain ambition put to divine use.

    I am aware of a bishop and a relief society president who campaigned for years for their positions. And they were (in my judgment) truly Christ-like ministers of the gospel. Also, they were different people (as far as I could tell) when they were released.

    Also, some young men decide to serve missions (and aspire to be district and zone leaders and assistants to the president) for reasons other than the most pure and proper. And yet so many of these render Christ-like service. And so many are transformed by the experience.

  49. Thomas Parkin,

    You’re going to think I’m an idiot, but while you’ve been commenting on the blog for some time now, I only just recently realized who you are. (I think you even spoke to me once in the comments as if you knew me, but I still didn’t pick up on who you were). Seeing your name in print and saying it at Church are two different things, and I didn’t make the connection.

    For the record, Brother Parkin was one of the most interesting, sincere and effective EQ teachers I’ve had the pleasure of listing to in years.

    Hope things are well with you in Tacoma (or wherever it is you are).

    Aaron B

  50. On a related note, I also wanted to endorse the idea that Clark mentioned about having two Gospel Doctrine classes in a ward where feasible. Smaller class sizes foster more discussion and having choices between teachers is usually a good thing.

    I think it works better in theory than in practice. What I’ve seen happen (at least three different times) is that the bishop separates classes A-M and N-Z, but then everyone ends up going to the class of the person they prefer. That wouldn’t be so bad, except that most of the ward gravitates to the more charismatic teacher–usually in the 75%-80& range–and the other class becomes the cast-off group. Meanwhile, the less charismatic teacher invariably gages what kind of poor teacher he or she is (rightly or wrongly) by the disporportionate amounts of people *not* coming to his or her class, and complains to the bishop that he or she ought to be released. (Which is, by the way, probably a bigger problem for bishops than people wanting certain callings.)

  51. I’m always interested in hearing discussions about teaching in the church. I teach high school English, and while there are some differences, they are more closely related than not. Crappy teachers (or at least one brand of them) teach the topic, not the students. They see themselves in a position of intellectual or spiritual dominance, and they plan to give the class the information. Research (and my experience) shows that a good teacher needs three things, in increasing order of significance: knowledge of and a belief in the significance of the topic, a sense of humor and a concern for the student’s learning. For the church, I would add a sincere testimony.

    The point is, if you want to serve through teaching or bishoping, great; if you want to push your own agenda or show off your vast knowledge or show everyone else how its done, that’s not teaching.

  52. My wife has the calling of the building scheduling coordinator (I’m risking that the locals will figure out my identity here). There are plenty of people in the local wards who aspire to her job, mostly because she doesn’t play favorites in letting our home ward rule the building. The bishops generally love her, because she’s fair.

    Her thought is that if anyone else really wants to be the building scheduler, more power to them.

  53. Mark, I’m late to the conversation, and I don’t think I have much to add, but thanks for an excellent, thought-provoking post. For me, anyway, teaching does carry all of the risks you outline. Praise goes to my head, sadly, and the temptations of a captive audience are legion.

    I was a lousy youth teacher; in general I had no idea if anything I said made any sense at all to any of them (for the most part, they regarded me blankly, as if I had wandered into their range of vision by happenstance). If I were more charismatic, I might find the adoration youth sometimes shower on beloved teachers a real problem. But I’m not, so it was teaching adults that posed me with far more temptations to hold myself up as a light.

  54. I am curious of what a new bishop recieves when you transfer your records?

  55. Pam, they receive nothing unless your records have been annoted (which happens only cases of abuse).

  56. Annoted a word I have never heard. A new bishop won’t know what callings I have had? Or if I have been to the temple yet?

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