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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Talent Shows: Moral Decision Making in Mormondom #3

(This is an occasional series that discusses normative questions. Too often we do not consider the inferences and implications of what we do. In short, we fail to realize when a moral decision is necessary. This occasional series will do so. Readers are encouraged to pose their own questions and views in the comment forum.)


Hot dogs, ice-cream, motherhood and apple pie, what could be more American? What could be more Mormon than a ward/branch talent show? Why would I object to this event? What is there to object to? These are all good questions.

First off, consider this quote from Nibley's Zeal Without Knowledge:
In Israel today, there are great contests in which young people and old from all parts of the world display their knowledge of scripture and skill at music, science, or mathematics, in grueling competitions. This sort of thing tends to breed a race of insufferably arrogant, conceited little show-offs—and magnificent performers.
In a talent show, the participants are doing nothing more than demonstrating talents or skills for acclaim or entertainment. 

Heavenly Father does give us talents and helps us develop them and our skills. But the purpose is to bless others and build His kingdom -- not show off. Nibley points out that Joseph Smith said:
. . . The greatest, the best, and the most useful gifts, would be known nothing about by an observer. . . . There are only two gifts that could be made visible—the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy."25
I think we can all agree that it would never be appropriate to display those gifts for acclaim or entertainment. So, wouldn't it be inappropriate for other gifts as well?


I'm more comfortable if we demonstrate talents and skills with the intent to teach -- a much more worthy motive. But ward/talent shows don't do that. Often, music dominates the agenda and too often, in the Church, music crosses the line from gospel praise to simply performance. Besides, so few talents/skills can be demonstrated in this environment, it will always be limited.


Are we likely to spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially or intellectually benefit from a ward/branch talent show? Isn't it more likely to generate pride, jealousy and judging? We are not very good at being happy for other people. I don't think this event will help make us so.


Talents and the skills we develop in this life are meant to be used. Let's make sure we demonstrate them in proper, and Christlike, ways.


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