Saturday, September 30, 2006


In the Saturday morning session of General Conference, Elder Ballard talked about callings in the church. It was a well-needed talk, and a very well-given talk. One thing in particular he said caught my attention. He chastized those leaders who use guilt to motivate members to do things. We should never use guilt (I'm paraphrasing here) to get better home/visiting teaching numbers, we should never let the programs outweigh our concern for the members.

I completely agree. But he also said that guilt has no place in the church. Is that entirely true? I'm not sure. When we are called to repentence, isn't guilt something we are supposed to feel? It's true that in a celestial, perfect world, guilt wouldn't be necessary to motivate us to do what is right, but this isn't a perfect world. (Punishment shouldn't motivate us to do what is right, either, and yet I don't speed fifteen miles over the speed limit on the freeway--because I don't want a ticket.) How many of us make our home/visiting teaching appointments because we feel guilty we haven't done it yet? (Or we don't want to feel guilty at the end of the month when the supervisor calls.)

I agree that guilt shouldn't be slathered on; especially when regards to church callings. But I also think that a little guilt is a healthy motivator. Am I off my rocker?


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  • In the context of LDS organizational culture, I think Elder Ballard's remarks are very well taken. It's not like there are any LDS contexts I'm aware of where there's a problem with not enough guilt being dispensed. Just the opposite.

    By Blogger Dave, at 10/01/2006 11:17 AM  

  • I can't imagine Elder Ballard would take it so far as saying we shouldn't feel guilt when we sin, so I interpreted his comments to mean that we shouldn't try to make other people feel guilty in order to motivate them to do what we think they should be doing. Our own feelings of guilt arising from not living up to our own sense of what we should be doing are quite another thing. I loved this talk by Elder Ballard.

    By Blogger JandS Morgan, at 10/01/2006 4:14 PM  

  • I agree with Dave that there is probably too much doling out of guilt in the church. But Keryn's point is well taken that the job of a prophet is to bring people to an understanding of their guilt.

    I just did a search on the scriptures for guilt and it always appears (from the summaries I read which doesn't really count as good scholarship) that guilt is something we feel rather than something that is forced on us. I'm not sure if there is really a valid distinction.

    Jacob, I'm with you in that this will be a favorite talk of mine, mostly for the administrative counsel if provides.

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 10/01/2006 4:42 PM  

  • I remember reading in Melchiadek Leadership manual B that the only performance evaluations done in the church are self evaluations. When we seek to evaluate the performance of others we are on shaky ground. Best not to do it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/02/2006 5:50 AM  

  • We all will have moments as we quietly reflect, “Did I do the right thing? Could I have done more or done a better job? Did I shrink from the test when it came my way?” These questions haunt each of us as we strive to do the will of our Father in Heaven, provided we are of a mind to do that which is asked to begin with. Those in leadership positions at each level need to recognize the principles taught by the Lord and those He has placed to lead this Church.

    By Blogger T. F. Stern, at 10/03/2006 6:57 AM  

  • I think a quote from Alma to his son Corianton about not letting his sins trouble him, only with that trouble that brings him down to repentance sounds like the perfect example of having godly sorrow that causes one to change, but allowing the guilt to be swallowed up in Christ's atonement.

    By Blogger Allysha, at 10/04/2006 5:15 AM  

  • I took Elder Ballard's reference to guilt in the context of not trying to throw guilt trips on others as a method of motivation to do their callings, as well as not trying to do our own guilt trips when we are doing our best to fulfill our own callings.

    This sounds nice, but I am not sure that it matches scripture and church doctrine. It seems to me that the Savior employed guilt in some situations in the New Testament. And the D&C is replete with examples of it. Perhaps one could say that since our guiltless Lord is the speaker, he is in the right to employ this technique, while we, being imperfect, are not.

    I'm not sure I buy that. Either it is a valid principle or it is not. We are all striving to become like the Lord and to follow his example, so if he used guilt as a motivator, there is no reason we should not do so. However, it would need to be realized that he employed it in pure charity. If we do use guilt as a motivator, we should stive to employ it in charity. There's a hurdle for you (or at least for me).

    By Blogger Scott Hinrichs, at 10/04/2006 9:02 AM  

  • I really liked this talk. For selfish reasons. My husband owns his own company, and is the ward mission leader in our ward, which is very inactive, so he doesn't have a lot of help, and a lot of people to see. This talk helped him to realize he needs to prioritze things better, and that family is first. So just in a few days we see him more, and he has talked to the bishop about getting more help, because he doesn't have enough time in his schedule to do it all.

    By Blogger Erin, at 10/04/2006 3:53 PM  

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