Are the Arts Selfish?

February 27, 2011 | 98 comments
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In a previous ward, a high council speaker told the congregation that pursuing a degree in the arts is a selfish decision, and he counseled the youth and young adults to pursue a useful, financially secure discipline instead. My recollection is that is point was that an artist can’t provide a spouse and children with a decent, stable lifestyle.

I’d love to hear from those of you who majored in the arts, and from those who wanted to major in the arts but ultimately decided not to. In retrospect, how do you feel about your choice?

98 Responses to Are the Arts Selfish?

  1. Course Correction on February 27, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Anyone majoring in the arts should realize they won’t make a ton of money–then it becomes a matter of individual choice. Telling Mormons from the pulpit that pursuing a career in the arts is selfish plays into the perception non-Mormons have that Mormons are incredibly materialistic.

  2. ajbc on February 27, 2011 at 10:43 am

    I did not major in the arts, though a few professors put pressure on me to do so. I took several visual art classes, but all later on in my academic career, so it would have been hard to fulfill the art major requirements. At some points in the past I wished I majored in Computer Science and Art rather than CS and Engineering, but looking back now, I would have hated all the art history courses. In the end, I’m glad I kept it as a hobby that makes its way into work in odd ways–it’s nice to be an engineer with an “eye.” I enjoy programming as much as I enjoy painting, so it also made sense to pursue the one that is more financially secure. Finally, I find that I use art to help myself and my professional work to help others; I know both can go the other way around, but that’s how it plays out in my life.

    I’d argue that keeping quality art from the world is selfish, especially if the alternative is to take on a paper-pushing job that isn’t at all enjoyable just for the money.

  3. ji on February 27, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I much appreciate how we do things in the Church. In our sacrament meetings, we hear from so many other members sharing their thoughts and testimonies, from their own perspectives at that moment in time. There is so much diversity. One member’s talk on a Sunday might be helpful to me; another’s talk, maybe not so much. Even when a talk isn’t particularly helpful to me, I try to appreciate that it might be helpful to someone else — and maybe sometimes the only beneficiary is the speaker him- or herself.

    I didn’t major in the arts, but I went beyond the minimum general education requirement. I hope every college program always requires a solid background in the arts.

  4. Researcher on February 27, 2011 at 11:20 am

    I watched a documentary last night called “They Came to Play.” One of the competitors in the amateur piano competition mentioned that he had three things in his life: his career (eye surgeon), his family (wife and four kids), and his music. In our culture, the top three things are supposed to be family, church, and work (in whatever order), so adding in art or music as an avocation can be particularly difficult since at some point one or more of the areas will suffer.

    Is it possible to combine a career and an interest in the arts? Is music included in “the arts”? I know people who have very successful careers and are able to support their families in comfortable circumstances as musicians. It does take a lot of talent and an unusual amount of dedication and many hours of practice every day to remain competitive in the field, but it is possible.

    And then there are music and art instructors in the school — talk about being in a career that can have a positive, life-long impact on many lives. I’m very happy that the remarkable art and music teachers at my kids’ elementary school are not sitting behind a desk somewhere, pushing numbers around, selling their souls for $75,000 a year plus benefits.

  5. JamesM on February 27, 2011 at 11:23 am

    I could have majored in the arts and have multiple members of my immediate and extended family who are in the arts. Given that, it might not surprise anyone that I take great exception to that attitude. That said, involvement in the arts, for some people (or in certain situations), can become and exercise in self-indulgence, which I have experienced and have little tolerance for. But still, I’m glad people like Mack Wilberg (to name an obvious example) decided to follow “selfish” pursuits, and I’d suspect so would this high counsellor if he stopped to think about how wrong-headed that attitude really is.

    I veered away from the arts because it didn’t fit with my own personal life goals – incompatible with how I wanted my family life to be, limited career options, etc. Given that, I have a great respect for many artists who make sacrifices to follow their passion and share their gifts. Throwing them under the bus the way this guy has done shows an incredible lack of understanding of the value of the arts bring and also fails to acknowledge that the pursuit of money through more “responsible” career tracks can just as easily become a selfish exercise. As if making money is the end-all, be-all standard by which to judge one’s chosen profession…

  6. gst on February 27, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    As long as you’re going to do such a selfish and time-wasting thing as going to college, there’s no reason not to go all the way and major in whatever the hell you want.

  7. E.D. on February 27, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Unfortunately, talks like that are what happens when the Prosperity Gospel takes hold.

  8. Jonathan Green on February 27, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    I think the problematic parts of the statement are, “arts,” “major,”, “high council speaker,” and “selfish.”

    The arts involve a lot of disciplines, including ones that are strongly career-oriented. The brush is too broad.

    There’s a huge difference between “majoring in the arts” and “pursuing a career in the arts” in any case. Students major in a crazy assortment of fields and then move onto professional careers of one kind or another.

    Trying to pick out a major that leads to a lucrative or even stable career is surprisingly difficult. You can run into difficult employment prospects in the arts. Also, in the humanities, social sciences, hard sciences, and pre-professional fields. Your average high councilor won’t be in a good position to make pronouncements from the pulpit about it.

    Finally, “selfish” is probably not a useful category to analyze the situation. Thinking of an undergraduate major as a sacrifice of one’s dreams and aspirations doesn’t sound like a recipe for professional success and personal happiness. The truth is that most people trade off personal satisfaction against higher economic reward (or the hope of one) when they choose trades or fields of study and throughout their careers.

  9. geoffsn on February 27, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    A decision to get a degree in the arts is only as selfish as a decision to get a degree in business is self-less.

  10. Adam K. K. Figueira on February 27, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    As #1 said, this seems very materialistic to me, though I’m a member. Financial security from a Gospel perspective isn’t about having nice cars, a big home with a separate home teaching room that no one goes into except once a month, and all the latest clothes from the current purveyor of stylish but modest apparel.

    College seems like an ideal time to pursue the doctrine of forsaking the things of the world in order to lay up treasures in heaven, i.e. intelligence, spirituality, etc. Things the arts tend towards in some ways that other pursuits don’t as much.

    I seem to recall gospel statements about financial prosperity ranging from having “sufficient for our needs” to not having more than one change of clothing. There are other promised blessings for those who follow Christ before the world, including the more than a hundredfold of the things of the earth that they sought, but those are just that – blessings made conditional on our not seeking those things to begin with.

    I’m not saying the arts are the better choice, I’m just saying they’re not a lesser one.

  11. Adam K. K. Figueira on February 27, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I was initially majoring in arts, but had to drop out of school for family reasons. When I went back, I majored in business (my minor previously) because I couldn’t find an arts program that was conducive to my situation. I also realized that, though I wanted a career in the arts, many people who fail in such careers do so through a lack of knowledge about how to sell their art than a lack of artistic competency. I determined to study the artistic elements independently, and get a formal training in business to increase my ability to make my chosen calling financially viable.

    Looking back, I hated studying business. There were some disciplines I enjoyed, but all in all I grew perpetually more sick in myself over the inherent antagonism between the way the business world works and the principles of the Gospel. I know some people can do it, but I’m not good at having separate lives for work, church, and home. I think the Lord can turn the workings of the world to his purposes, including the economic workings, but I don’t think those workings are of his design. And the study wasn’t what was close to my heart.

    Further, since graduation I have had more career options open to me through my artistic abilities than through my academic credentials.

    I often look back and wonder what my life would have been like if I had chosen to go to film school or some media arts program instead of getting a business degree. It’s useless speculation. I can’t know anything about it. But in spite of how much I hated it, I’m glad I did it the way I did. I learned things they didn’t teach me – things that have shaped how I am approaching things now.

  12. Julie M. Smith on February 27, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Have to laugh–my bishop it a professional artist. He runs an art school as well.

  13. Josh K on February 27, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Arts are a very good way to explore ones identity, as well as to express oneself in ways that words fail. a majority of art programs do not adequately prepare the artist for the business side of things, which plays into the myth of the starving artist.

    Show me a church meetinghouse with no art hanging in the foyer or halls, show me a general authority whose home does not have even one picture hanging from its walls.. Maybe then I’ll consider art to be a worthless, selfish profession. Maybe we should close the BYU art museum and send all those silly Carl Bloch paintings back. Until then I will go on appreciating and creating art.

  14. Dan on February 27, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    In a previous ward, a high council speaker told the congregation that pursuing a degree in the arts is a selfish decision, and he counseled the youth and young adults to pursue a useful, financially secure discipline instead.

    And we wonder why the Great American Mormon Novel has yet to appear…though it seems we have found ourselves a good character to add to the GAMN. :)

  15. CatherineWO on February 27, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    This reminds me of hearing Elder Russell Nelson explain why he decided to study the organ in midlife. He said something to the effect of, “I realized there won’t be any need for heart surgeons in heaven, but there certainly will be need for organists.”

    I’m very thankful that I never heard a talk like that given by this high councilor when I was younger. As an impressionable and obedient teen or young adult, it may have made me think twice about my desire to study literature and music. Now, as I see my sixtieth birthday right around the corner, I have absolutely no regrets that my education and professional life have revolved around “the arts” (in my case, writing, literature and music). My husband followed the same path and, though we have never been wealthy by the world’s standards, it has been an incredible ride, rich with passion and meaning.

  16. CatherineWO on February 27, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    And as long as there are people with the attitude of this high councilor, there will be starving artists. We are willing to pay for what we value.

  17. Brad Kramer on February 27, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    “Telling Mormons from the pulpit that pursuing a career in the arts is selfish plays into the perception non-Mormons have that Mormons are incredibly materialistic.”

    And mindless automatons who look for marching orders from the pulpit on career choice.

  18. meems on February 27, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    I majored in “the arts,” as did my husband (film school). He is an art teacher, and a really good one. I also ended up being a teacher, and although I don’t use my training, I do use my creativity in my job all the time. Out of the small group of students we went through school with, a few teach, a few went into other careers all together, a few eek out a living in the business, and a few are wildly successful (emmys, oscars, and hit records included).

    Out of other friends who majored in “the arts” (photography mainly), one works in graphic design at Stanford, one is a university professor, one is a professional photographer who routinely takes magazine shoots/covers, one is a graphic artist, and one deigns CGI models at Lucasfilm. They all make very good livings.

    It sounds like this high council guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. There are a lot of jobs (especially in graphics and design) that are out there, and SOMEONE has to do them. Why not church members?

  19. Dane Laverty on February 27, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    I started out as a computer science major, then switched to dance. After I graduated, I opened a dance studio and supplemented that with part-time work building websites and web applications. It was rewarding, but it was also mentally hard shifting back and forth between the two worlds. After our second child was born, I dropped the dance studio and went full-time into computer programming (and entered an MBA program as well). That simplified life, and I think it was a good choice. Since then I’ve taken advantage of occasional opportunities to take and teach dance classes. It’s still not quite right, but I feel that at least I’m making progress toward getting that balance figured out.

  20. Cameron N on February 27, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Wow, that high coucil member should chat with any member of the art or design faculty at BYU. Ridiculous. Careers and lifestyles come in all sorts of gospel-compatible flavors, and the arts/design is surely one of them. What a simplistic way to view a false dichotomy, even if it was sincere.

    I just attended the annual BYU Industrial Design symposium where alum return and share their individual experiences with career and family adventures. It was quite inspiring to see how different passionate designers all found professional and family success while living their dream. It’s sad that not everyone understands this point of view, but I don’t blame those who don’t because everyone has their own opinions and preferences, whether they consider themselves a typical ‘creative’ person, or not.

  21. Jack on February 27, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    My father-in-law told me once, “ah, but you have a talent.” And since then I’ve never let music become a mere hobby.

  22. queuno on February 27, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    The point of a college education is to be educated, not simply pick up a trade.

  23. Jettboy on February 27, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    I think most people here are clinging onto the “Prosperity Gospel” idea in some counter condemnation. The accusation is missing the main point of the selfishness:

    “My recollection is that his point was that an artist can’t provide a spouse and children with a decent, stable lifestyle.”

    I have heard that from all kinds of people and not only members. The attitude is an American cultural perception, and from what I have seen not all that far from the truth. Most of those who pursue the arts are young kids who dream of instant fame and fortune, especially those who study music. Some make it and a large percentage don’t unless they get a teaching position. Of course, teaching is a worthy goal if that is what you want to do with the majors. It does seem a bit perpetuating. All those here who have stated they have found work in the fields I applaud you for that. I love doing writing, art, and theater myself, but there really are very few family supporting jobs. I don’t think that is going to change until there is maybe an art gallery, music studio, or film production company in every medium sized town.

    Now, I am not saying these days that any major is a sure thing to job security. Whatever we decide takes risks. There are, however, some things more risk oriented than others. It is better to learn as much about as many things as possible than concentrate on a single discipline as a financial salvation. Sadly, modern education doesn’t allow that kind of study. It is certainly divorced from the real working world with few exceptions.

  24. queuno on February 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    The problem is that no one in the Church knows how to define “decent, stable lifestyle” without imposing their views on everyone else.

  25. Paul on February 27, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    My gut response: “What an idiot.”

    My patriarchal blessing (which I received while a student at BYU) counsels me to “continue [my] study of the arts; the Lord himself was the first great artist.” Who should I listen to, a high councilor or direct revelation? Hmmm…

    In fairness, the balance between the arts and business has been a difficult one for me. In addition to degrees in English and Theatre History, I also have an MBA and work in business today.

    I have a son who has a BFA in painting and works very hard in his field. It is not an easy path, but it is the path he feels driven to travel today. (You won’t however, see any of his art hanging in an LDS chapel anytime soon.)

  26. queuno on February 27, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    One of the most insightful, intelligent Melch Priesthood holders I know has a degree in comparative lit from BYU and a masters in French Studies. He tells stories about how that combination made him a social pariah in his BYU singles ward. In his words, he could see the interest literally fade from their eyes when he recounted his major.

    (Now, he has an MBA and works for a consulting firm, but his background is evident in conversations and lessons.)

  27. DLB on February 27, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Unfortunately, I have heard essentially the same trope over the pulpit from a former bishop, but regarding the sciences — specifically, the Bishop related that one of the young men had wanted to pursue a career in astronomy, and the Bishop had told him that he would never be able to support a family in that kind of position, so the Bishop advised the budding astronomer (and the other young people listening) that they needed to “get real” and pursue a “real job.”

    I suppose that if you eliminate the arts and the sciences as career options, then we will all have (of course) to go into Business or Law.

    It seems Nibley had us pegged just exactly right.

  28. Tiffany W. on February 27, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    I don’t consider pursuing a liberal arts degree selfish. But then again, I have a liberal arts degree and am a SAHM. I suppose the same high council speaker would consider me selfish for wasting money on a degree when I was just planning to be a mother.

    DLB, sorry but that was a rather moronic thing of your former bishop to say. My husband has a PhD in physics and is supporting our family very well.

    Yes, one must be realistic in pursuing a career and choosing wisely. But denying one’s talents and strengths in order to choose something “practical” could be closing the door to some amazing opportunities.

  29. WillF on February 27, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    That high council member should be forced to go an a tour of BYU’s Harris Fine Arts Center so he can see just how the “Lord’s University” promotes selfishness.

    I got my bachelors degree in Music, and although I’m not working in the arts (though I would if I could, but I’m too undisciplined to practice enough), I am of the opinion that studying the Arts makes you more adept in any other field. So maybe studying the arts makes you egotistic like me, but not selfish?

  30. Paul Bohman on February 27, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    A little rewrite of Jesus’s admonition, in defense of the high councilman:

    Therefore take *much* thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

    (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek, *and do should ye, for they are thine foremost examplars*:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

    *Then, if you have time,* seek ye *at some point* the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

    Take therefore *much* thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall *not* take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

  31. Tim on February 27, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    27–precisely.

    I majored in Biology–and that was about as useful a major for getting a good-paying job as English or Art History.

    I do believe we’ve become too focused on money as a people. Most of our parents and grandparents had small homes and were happy with them. But too many of us work too many hours at jobs we don’t like so we can have a McMansion and shiny new cars.

    I seem to remember a local politician in Utah recently made a public comment similar to that of this High Councilman–it’s certainly a widespread idea.

  32. Bill of Wasilla on February 27, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    “An artist must be ruthlessly selfish…” W. Eugene Smith, Let Truth be the Prejudice.

    Of all the artists, it was the great photojournalist W. Eugene Smith who inspired me the most (and I am proud to say that in 1999 I was first runner-up for the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Award).

    Sometimes, I think my greatest shortcoming as an artist is that I am not selfish enough.

    Early in my career of feast and famine, during a moment of famine, our branch president told me that I must give up this career and go work for the local timber company. He told me that he was inspired by the Lord to tell me that.

    I ignored him and stuck with my dreams through the feast and famine cycle that continues to this day. I made the right choice. I raised a family. We all survive.

    I might as well have raised a gun to my head and shot a bullet through it as to follow the advice of the branch president. To follow that advice would have killed my spirit, and thus me, as surely as a bullet would have.

    I suspect that the councilor referenced may have had dreams that he pushed aside for the sake of security and secretly regrets it, and must justify his cowardice to himself.

  33. Bill of Wasilla on February 27, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    …by seeking to suppress the dreams of others.

    Sorry… didn’t finish the sentence the first time.

  34. Jax on February 27, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Such a high councilor will spend his life in a dark and dreary world. It is the arts: music, poetry, painting, etc., that lift the soul into higher realms of thought and focus. Can you imagine a General Conference without singing any hymns? Well why would anyone want to settle for a life without the “arts?” If we were to all give them up and seek for “prosperity” then what a drab community of saints we would be!!!

  35. Julie on February 27, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    I struggled with people telling me how “useless” the arts were as a major. I studied literature and felt that maybe they were right, that I should change my major to something that would provide for my family if I should need to. But I loved my Literature classes and so I prayed. The next weekend was General Conference and I counted how many of the speakers quoted the writers, philosophers, and poets that I was studying. I knew then that the arts were not a wasted area of study and I continued my course. Now as a mother they have helped me far more than a business degree would have. The arts taught me to see the beauties around me, to decipher truth from error, and to find joy in the simple things of life. I would have been selfish to put away that line of study for mere money.

  36. Jonathan Green on February 27, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    OK, now that we’ve all had the chance to beat up on the high councilor, let’s take a step back a bit.

    Let’s assume that the high councilor was responding to situations he had personally observed. Perhaps his formulation wasn’t ideal, perhaps his advice was a bit off, but there was something important he was trying to tell the people who were listening to him. Like 98% of the things we hear in church meetings, it may not be exactly relevant to us, but we’re still responsible for figuring out what it is we should do with the things we hear, rather than rejecting them entirely because the fit isn’t perfect. So what is the kernel of wisdom to take from the high councilor’s remark?

    We’ve all known people who have unrealistic ideas about where their talents lie and what kinds of careers they might pursue successfully. Heck, we ourselves might even be those people. You don’t have to be a soulless philistine to counsel people against taking career paths that will likely end badly.

  37. Cody M. on February 27, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    I majored in theatre arts and got both my BFA and MFA in theatre performance. I remember when I was getting my BFA, my roommate, who was studying to be an airplane pilot, asked me, rather disdainfully, “So you’re majoring in theatre? What are you going to do with THAT?” I answered, “I’m going to be an actor.”

    It hasn’t always been easy. Some years are leaner than others, but I am a working actor and have supported myself doing it. My spouse and I have a beautiful house, I’m able to pay my bills, and aside from a reasonable school loan and a car loan (both of which I’m able to make my monthly payments on), I am debt-free.

    Most importantly, I am doing what I love. I am passionate about my career, and it brings me such joy. I recently attended my high school reunion and it was so nice to tell people that I was doing exactly what I said I was hoping I would be doing as a career back when I was in high school.

    I see so many people who hate their jobs and are supporting themselves and their families, but hate what they do. I love going to work and get so much satisfaction from my job. We only have one life. I’m glad I’m doing something that brings me great fulfillment and happiness. Like I said, financially, it’s not easy every year, but I don’t regret majoring in and pursuing the career I have.

  38. Jax on February 27, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Johnathan #36 said:

    “but we’re still responsible for figuring out what it is we should do with the things we hear”

    This is an accurate line, but in this case I think the ‘thing we should do with’ it is disregard it. Thanks though!

  39. Bill of Wasilla on February 27, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Jonathan #36:

    Based on the information, I disagree. The councilor was making a broad statement to an entire congregation, meant to cover the talented who have the ability as well as the wishful thinkers who might not.

    As I see it, it was he who was beating up on people.

  40. Jaime on February 27, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    My husband got his Masters in Art History – yes, that most mockable of all degrees. Mid-program, he decided against going for a PhD because he decided his real passion was for teaching, not research. (He also wasn’t enamored of the idea of racking up even more egregious amounts of debt than we already had for an equally uncertain employment future.) We fully expected finding a job to be challenging; we didn’t expect it to be nigh unto impossible.

    It was very difficult (financially, emotionally, spiritually, you name it) for our family the first two years after he finished b/c he was only able to find adjunct teaching work and supported our family mainly through a full time job doing menial labor. (At the time he was also trying to pursue a second Masters in a field we hoped would give him more employment options.)

    After a miraculous chain of events, he found a full time teaching job a few months ago. We feel tremendously, overwhelmingly blessed now, because he not only has a job that supports our family, but is also getting paid to do something that he truly LOVES – a rare privilege indeed.

    So yes, it all seems to have worked out for us in the end, but it was a stressful, frequently demoralizing couple of years getting to this point. There were many times I had to reassure him of the opposite of this high councilor’s sermon – that he was NOT irredeemably selfish or stupid for choosing to study something he loved. We could not have made it through (again – financially, emotionally, spiritually, etc.) without the support of family and loved ones giving us similar reassurances. Despite the employment difficulty, I can see clearly how it was a good path for us in other ways – we grew closer to family, our prayers grew more fervent, our marriage was strengthened because of it.

    While I understand the logic behind the high councilor’s warning (I lived it), I still think he was undeniably wrong to counsel a room full of impressionable youth against an arts major. As long as you simultaneously prepare yourself for the employment challenges that come with it, you can have as great a chance of success as in any other field – it just might take longer to achieve. Educate yourself about a variety of potential career paths, seek frequent feedback from mentors in your field, be honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and above all work hard to improve and excel. As someone else has said, there are potential employment challenges with any degree.

    (To further point out the ridiculousness of the HC’s statement, what about all the artists that the church employs? Those who paint temple murals, illustrate Ensign articles, act in church-produced films…?? Maybe it didn’t occur to him that they are professionals…)

  41. WillF on February 28, 2011 at 12:06 am

    This topic keeps reminding me of children’s book titled “Frederick” written and illustrated by Leo Lionni, published in 1968. In it, Frederick the mouse seems to daydream the summer away, while in reality he is collecting colors and poetry (being an artist). However, when the bleak winter comes, the other mice turn to Frederick for something to help sustain them. It is easily to see Frederick as selfish, but when the season comes where art is welcomed, people realize how valuable his activities have actually been.

    http://www.amazon.com/Frederick-Leo-Lionni/dp/0394826140

  42. queuno on February 28, 2011 at 12:07 am

    There’s a very real chance in some wards I’ve lived in where the bishop, against all protocol, might have publicly dismissed the HC’s comments after the talk was over.

  43. Jon on February 28, 2011 at 12:11 am

    This reminds me of one of my old favorite seminary teachers. He said that shyness was selfish. Although I see his point I don’t think you could just boil it down to pure selfishness. I would consider it something people struggle with (including myself) but is it all that bad? Since I’m an introvert (and shy – obviously) it makes it difficult to be as social as others because it sucks energy, where for people that are extroverts that get more energy from the interactions. That and when I have conversations with people I like them to last longer than 5 seconds, hence the reason I shun parties since that is about as much as you are going to get out of people.

    So, no, pursuing the arts is not selfish as long as you don’t mind living at the wage that it makes you (whether it be a lot of little).

  44. Clark on February 28, 2011 at 1:47 am

    Almost no one gets a job in their major. Considering a major as your job is somewhat dangerous and almost always disappointing. I understand the motive here and agree with it. But I think the description is too broad.

  45. Cameron N on February 28, 2011 at 1:52 am

    Clearly the high councilman is not aware of mormonartist.net, an amazing and inspiring quarterly magazine that interviews mormon artists of all flavors who have no problem exercising faith and giving their best talents to their artistic endeavors while supporting a family.

  46. tristin on February 28, 2011 at 1:56 am

    Choosing to pursue something you are passionate about is not selfish. It might be risky, and it could also mean making less money than you otherwise would; it is never selfish, though. No one ever regrets doing what they love, but plenty of people are miserable because they chose a “safe” career.

  47. Cameron N on February 28, 2011 at 1:59 am

    Based on comment #36, I need to double-post to add a thought:

    I think what the high council member should have said would be more along the lines of not letting passionate career pursuits (artistic or otherwise) dominate our lives at the expense of our families. Day by day and moment by moment (like Sister Beck’s talk) the Spirit can help a passionate creative soul know when to think and create and when to take a break, spend time with eternal family members, and have faith that the Spirit will magnify our efforts in the reduced time we spend on our craft. (Mormon Artist has some amazing interview quotes about such things)

  48. Mark D. on February 28, 2011 at 3:39 am

    This reminds me of one of my old favorite seminary teachers. He said that shyness was selfish.

    That is even more moronic than saying no one should ever major in the arts. True on the margins at best. A comparable example is “illness is caused by iniquity”. Some of the time, sure.

  49. Krissie Ireland on February 28, 2011 at 8:31 am

    For me, this isn’t a question about the arts. Of course pursuing the arts is a wonderful choice – one I made.

    This is really an issue about Priesthood and the way in which it seems to breed arrogance, in some cases.

    The comment here was actually quite tame compared to some other things I have heard Priesthood leaders say. I’ve heard extreme misogyny expressed, and, listened horrified while others laughed a long; I’ve heard racist comments, hateful comments of all kinds. One Priesthood leader expressed his ‘inspired’ view that the “Holocaust happened because it was Jewish people who killed Christ”, another one plainly said that “HIV was sent to earth by God to kill Gay people”. I was also asked if I was a witch during my Temple Recommend interview (Burn the witch!!!). They also justified their points of view with quotes from Church authorities and from Scripture.

    So what is it that makes these particular Priesthood leaders the way they are? Why do certain Priesthood leaders believe they can say pretty much anything – including inciting hate? And why do they believe they are doing the ‘will of the Lord’ in expressing such views?

    The priesthood leader quoted in the post was plainly uninformed and arrogant. I wonder if anyone had the guts to tackle him? I’ve ‘had words’ with people like him. More people need to in my opinion.

    To my knowledge the church took no disciplinary action against any Priesthood leaders in the examples I mentioned – what does that say?

  50. Jon on February 28, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Speaking of those that don’t work in their profession. I got my masters in electrical engineering and am now in the process of switching over to computer programming (I like to create things and it’s a lower barrier to entry in programming vs EE). Most EEs don’t necessarily need a EE degree to do what they do, most are just managers or paper pushers and rarely, if ever, actually use their EE degree. Of course, many of them still use their degrees, just not as many as you would think. All you really need is a technical degree to prove that your mind works in a logical way.

  51. danithew on February 28, 2011 at 9:12 am

    I briefly took on art as a second major at BYU. The first time I went to a class they had two professors there and they both made a point of saying: “this is hard … if you can do anything else, do it instead.”

    I was kind of shocked that they were so blunt about it.

    That was not the reason I dropped the art courses (and thus the major). Sometimes looking back I wish I had stuck with it.

  52. danithew on February 28, 2011 at 9:17 am

    I just want to add that I was shocked because I felt the professors of art would be encouraging people to choose that major and telling them that it was rewarding and wonderful – and instead they were practically pushing us towards the door.

  53. Paul on February 28, 2011 at 9:19 am

    49: In fairness, the high councilor is not a priesthood leader. He has no keys and no authority to lead anyone. He may be assigned to advise an auxiallary or to be an advisor to a church unit, but he is at best “staff”. That said, what he was reported to say was stupid.

    #36: Your charitable attitude toward the HC is commendable, but I still think what he is reported to have said is wrong. Even BY sought to train people in the arts for the building of Zion.

  54. Paul on February 28, 2011 at 9:23 am

    52: As one who studied the arts and works elsewheere, I understand the professors’ point of view. My advice to those who study the arts (including my own children) is the same as those professors. But some are driven to practice their art. And if you are driven enough, then what can you do but practice your art? But if you are not driven enough, then there’s wisdom in following a different path.

    (And anyone who likes can call my advice stupid as I did the HC’s in #53.)

  55. Jon on February 28, 2011 at 9:43 am

    @danithew,

    I had an engineering professor tell me the same thing about engineering because all the jobs were being shipped over seas.

  56. James Olsen on February 28, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Given the near uniformity of response here (one I agree with), I think we should change gears on the thread. Here’s two questions:

    1. Following Krissie’s lead (#49): how ought we to react to such obviously jejune and false statements? How many of you have had the chutzpah to confront someone who said something over the pulpit that made you squirm? Is it the case that one negative element of church culture is not that we get people saying wing-nut things over the pulpit (an inevitability no matter the ascendent culture), but that our culture doesn’t support civil and robust disagreement and debate? I see two problems in our culture: a lack of chutzpa needed to issue challenges coupled with weak stomachs and hurt feelings when we are challenged at church.

    2. Following Jettboy (#23): is the proper response to someone preaching the “prosperity gospel” against the arts to disagree with them by preaching the “prosperity gospel” in favor of the arts? If I’m not mistaken, most people posting here agree with the HC’s sentiments and position, just disagree that a broad brush dismissal of the arts actually helps him toward his goal. Is there really a worry that hard working, generally competent and motivated souls will, despite these virtues, fail to build successful families – regardless of vocational choice or financial situation? What about all of the business and engineering majors who have gone through financial hell during the recent economic downturn, or all the billions throughout history (really, this is among our most universal challenges in mortality) who have not been able to have “economically stable” environments on account of external factors. Are we then damned?

  57. Dane on February 28, 2011 at 11:30 am

    James and Krissie are right that we don’t engage in public disagreement, even when it could be productive. I hear Sunday school teachers say, “Please participate,” but no one does. Here’s a suggestion — if you’re a teacher in church, tell the class at the beginning of your lesson that you are going to make some outrageous, egregious statement of false doctrine somewhere in your lesson, and challenge them to call you on it. That might be a start.

  58. ji on February 28, 2011 at 11:30 am

    James (no. 56), a follow-on to your no. 1…

    We need to appreciate what we’re really doing in sacrament meeting. Individual members share their thoughts and testimonies with each other, and their thoughts are necessarily colored by their experiences. I appreciate the diversity of what I hear in sacrament meeting. Some talks resonate with me, and even motivate me, and other talks not so much, and some talks I tend to dismiss. But our pattern is for each member to share his thoughts and testimonies with each other, and then for each of us to make his or her own decisions. Agree or disagree, we all continue to love and support each other as brothers and sisters in the gospel.

    We cannot ever expect for every sacrament meeting speaker to say EXACTLY the right thing. We do not want such an outcome. Well, I do not want such an outcome.

    As long as sacrament meeting speakers offer honest testimony and thoughts, for the purpose of building faith in and helping others, and avoiding speculative off-limits topics, I’m okay with them.

  59. Jeremy on February 28, 2011 at 11:44 am

    I doubt the High Counselor was advising people to eliminate the arts from their lives entirely. That is too myopic a view.

    I have to agree with the High Councilman, however. I wonder how many of our General Authorities have degrees in dance or music and have successful careers stemming therefrom. D&C 88:79-80 makes it clear that one of the main purposes of gaining secular education is so that we will be able to magnify our calling and spread the Gospel throughout the world. While there certainly are cases where such a degree has supported a family, there are arguably more instances where that is not the case. In those cases, the individual’s ability to serve in the Church may be substantially curtailed.

  60. Brad Dennis on February 28, 2011 at 11:50 am

    I’d like to know what the high-counselor did as a profession. Blanket criticism of the arts as a non-viable career is just foolish. It is like blanket criticism of business as greedy, risky, and unethical.

  61. Paul on February 28, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    #59 Jeremy — You’re right, of course. My BYU theatre professors who served as bishops, stake presidents and temple sealers were in no position to serve.

    What your remarkable comment does not do is explain why a study of the arts is selfish (which is the contention of the high councilor cited above).

    Consider:

    1. The number of commenters who majored in the arts, but work in a different field

    2. The number of commenters who indicate from their own experience an ability to support a family

    3. The risk of having “art” in our lives with no Latter-day Saints studying the arts:

    a. Relying solely on Babylon for our “arts”
    b. Consuming art without understanding it (which in my mind is probably far more egregious than “a”)
    c. Ignoring the need to create (regardless of one’s profession) and failing to receive education in the creation of arts

    If you ask me, anyone entering any of the professions (for which one earns a professional graduate degree such as law, business, medicine, etc) should be educated in the arts first. That is, first and foremost, the role of the liberal arts education: to teach a student HOW to learn, HOW to process the world around him, HOW to communicate, HOW to create, HOW to think, HOW to analyze.

  62. Sonny on February 28, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Paul #61,
    Well put, and amen. I am one that pursued a career in business/technology, and while I really enjoy what I do I am only now (middle-aged) starting to appreciate the arts–fine literature, poetry, art, photography, etc. I appreciate and value those that produce great art and realize now now much better off I would be had I made it a bigger part of my life.
    If someone feels they should pursue a career in the arts and have God-given talent, then who is a high councilman to say that they should not follow that?

  63. Krissie Ireland on February 28, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Hi, number 53. Sorry for using the incorrect term. But whether he is a ‘leader’ or not he holds the Priesthood and is treated as someone having authority, as someone exercising God’s authority – whether he actually has it or not, I guess is another issue. But that was really my point. Priesthood leaders, Priesthood holders – whatever it is – can say all sorts of things as if it’s ‘gospel’ and so many people treat their comments as if it is ‘gospel’ when so often it isn’t. I recall having a rather in-depth conversation with a priesthood holder/leader (a bishop) about what constitutes ‘tea’. He was talking complete nonsense and wouldn’t at all accept my viewpoint because being a lowly female I didn’t have the priesthood and so he obviously felt there was no ‘authority’ to what I was saying. I could give other examples! I think we overindulge priesthood holders – I really do think if they are talking complete rubbish someone really ought to say…

    Back to the arts – I did ask my local ward if they were interested in being a venue for contemporary arts events – one off events that would be held in the evening, focussing on film works, installation, sound pieces etc. Contemporary arts crosses boundaries, after all, and I thought it would be wonderful. They never got back to me…

  64. Paul on February 28, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    #63 Chrissie, sorry — I didn’t mean to be “schooling” you; you are speaking from your own experience and who am I to say anything against that? I really mean my comment to go to the high councilor who thinks he is more than he is.

  65. Paul on February 28, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Krissie — double sorry — how could I not read your name correctly just ONE comment away. Clearly a failure of my liberal arts education…

  66. Clark on February 28, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Choosing to pursue something you are passionate about is not selfish. It might be risky, and it could also mean making less money than you otherwise would; it is never selfish, though. No one ever regrets doing what they love, but plenty of people are miserable because they chose a “safe” career.

    It’s selfish to the degree that you neglect your responsibilities to others such as your family. It’s fine to pursuing ones passions so long as one doesn’t go overboard. Imagine someone who continues playing in a band despite having kids, being away from them most of the time and bringing in little money. Yes it’s pursuing their passion and they may feel fulfilled. But it’s hard to see their activity as anything but selfish.

    While I think the original quote goes too far the fact is that lots of people pursue the arts or even many sciences without even considering what they are going to do with their life. Sadly far too many universities encourage this sort of behavior, never explaining that getting a job in their field is unlikely at best simply due to the vast number of people competing to be professors: many from top schools or who are far smarter.

    There’s nothing wrong with pursuing such degrees so long as one is going in with ones eyes open. I just wonder how many people are.

  67. Visorstuff on February 28, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Heaven forbid we have people in the church who can Create things that are pleasing to the eye and the ears and can call their creation “Good.”

  68. Jeremy on February 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    I wish this would have happened in my ward: after the high council stepped down from the pulpit everyone would have waited around silently for the chorister, my wife. She’d have been home fixing herself lunch by then, having learned that her graduate music degree was no longer needed.

  69. Nate on February 28, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Jeremy #59 – I couldn’t disagree with you more. As someone who has made significant sacrifices to earn a doctorate in music, I am dismayed at how you conflate financial responsibility (ie. living within a budget so that you can serve in the kingdom) with the major you pursue. They are not related. Plenty of artists who know how to manage their money are able to do everything more well-off members do. And what are you implying with the General Authority comment? I know scores of artists who have served as Stake Presidents, Mission Presidents, Bishops, and on and on. Gerald N. Lund is certainly more well known, and has likely brought in much more money as a writer than as a teacher. The point is that anyone can live within their means regardless of their chosen pursuit. It’s mildly insulting that you seem to be saying that more money would make me a better servant.

    Also, I would say that in my particular case I have felt a certain sense of sacrifice attached to my chosen profession. I felt impressed to pursue this course even though I know it might make my financial life more challenging. It’s hard to do something that you feel will allow you to make the contribution that Heavenly Father wants you to make, even though you know that the world might not value it as much as He certainly does.

  70. Jeremy on February 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Paul, I’m not sure if you were being facetious in your reply, but I stand by my assertion. In my opinion, the selfishness referred to by the HC may be derived from one’s apparent inability to devote time in serving others in the Church because they would be more focused on making ends meet financially. I don’t think there is any argument that liberal arts majors (i.e., those who pursue lifelong careers in the liberal arts) make less money than those in other majors, such as engineering, etc.

    Nate, if you choose to take offense to another’s opinion, so be it, that is your choice. There can be no argument that one of the reasons Gerald Lund was able to serve as a General Authority was because he was financially independent at the time. And yes, he became so mostly by selling his written works.

    However, the Church does not call GA’s, mission presidents, or even senior missionaries who cannot devote their time entirely to the Church without worrying about personal finances. Becoming financially independent is arguably (but certainly not always the case) easier using a degree outside of the liber arts. That is my point.

  71. Paul on February 28, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    #70 Jeremy, following your logic, then everyone in the church should chase filthy lucre in order to be of more service. So, we should all be atheletes and work on the sabbath? Or investment bankers?

    And are we to strive to be general authorities??

    I knew plenty of bishops and elders quorum & Relief Society presidents in Latin America who could barely make ends meet in their homes and still devoted hours and hours of service to the church and its people. They would be surprised to hear that financial independence is a requirement for service.

    That said, I’m all for financial prudence, the avoidance of debt, living within one’s means, and so on. But those principles apply to the up and coming mid-level executive as much as to the Art History professor or professional musician.

    Furthermore, those who study the arts are not trapped in those careers forever. Many people move from one career to another to improve income (or quality of life) and students of the arts are no different.

    It is not only wrong to suggest that one can buy his position in the kingdom, it is counter to the counsel of the prophets through the ages. In my youth (in the 70’s) we were regularly told that we could choose any profession we like so long as it was honest.

    The church calls CES employees as mission presidents all the time. Those men are not financially independent, and depend on the small living stipend the church provides to mission presidents. Area authorities are called to serve on a less-than-full-time basis. The two that I have known personally have continued to work and made themselves available for travel on extended weekends for their church service. Senior missionary couples, of course, are retired when they serve.

    Your assertion that those who study the arts are somehow not fit to serve is offensive.

  72. Roger on February 28, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Just to stir things up. Should we also avoid pursuing athletics/sports because so few people actually make a living at them? What about law school? There has been a lot of discussion about law students who can’t land good jobs. The list of jobs that are not financially secure is pretty long these days.

  73. Raymond Takashi Swenson on February 28, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    I was a high council member for several years, so I question anyone who thinks that the kind of talks I was assigned to give have authority equivalent to a talk from Dieter Uchtdorf. They should be approached more like the Apocrypha: If you have the Spirit with you, you can sift out the true from the false.

    I am surprised that no one has cited President Kimball’s famous talk about the need of the Church to produce our own artists of all kinds, from authors to musical composers and performers, to painters and sculptors.

    The Church created a museum to feature works of art in order to promote the arts. In the Conference Center, it has featured works of art, including the original Arnold Friberg paintings of Book of Mormon scenes.

    The Church created the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to promote musical art. It constructed the organ in the Tabernacle, and the new one in the Conference Center, to promote the enjoyment of music as an integral part of our worship. It added an orchestra and bell choir to the musical organizations on Temple Square for the same purpose. While members of those organizations are volunteers, many of them are professional musicians and music teachers in their private lives.

    The Church follows the admonition of Paul (and the 13th Article of Faith) by pursuing all things “lovely”. It sent artists on missions to Paris to bring back the skills needed to paint the murals in the Salt Lake Temple, and has invested in original art and craftsmanship of all kinds in creating modern temples around the world.

    The Church magazines for children, youth and adults are full of the arts of writing, painting and photography. So are the Church web sites. The Distribution Centers are full of art offerings. The architectural design of meetinghouses and temples is an artistic endeavor (on a limited budget, but that is true for most art for hire).

    The Church has sponsored numerous events involving music and dance, including the annual pageants that are put on in Palmyra, Nauvoo and Manti, and special pageants held in conjunction with temple dedications. The Church invests heavily in producing films, from short TV commercials to feature length movies, as an instrument for its instruction and missionary work efforts, not to mention the temples.

    Every woman who sews a lace cloth to place on the altars of the temples is an artist. Every woman who sews a quilt for donation is adding an artistic sensibility to something that could be utterly mundane (and cheaper and faster) without it.

    No sacrament ordinance is complete without a hymn. No General Conference takes place without large choirs performing several times per hour.

    The Church performs its mission through communication. Communicating effectively, getting audience attention and understanding and acceptance, requires art.

    Just imagine a Church without its art. There have been attempts to have such churches, such as among the Puritans. But Joseph Smith rejected the notion that art is ungodly, and instead promoted music as a prayer to God, dancing, and the written word. He was a master of the spoken sermon.

    Brigham Young carried on that love of arts in the Church and built the Social Hall and the Salt Lake Theater, including making the chandelier for the theater with his skills as a glazier.

    When the scriptures talk about what our jobs will be in the eternities, they constantly describe us singing. They don’t talk about plowing, or having sales meetings, or bookkeeping. Undoubtedly there will be some sophisticated technical skills involved in what we do, but the activity that God has emphasized to his prophets has been an artistic one.

    When that high council speaker sat down at the end of his talk, he was followed by the entire congregation singing a hymn accompanied by someone playing, probably, the organ. Organ playing is a skill that must be studied. Hopefully the irony of that juxtaposition was not lost on the congregation.

  74. Suleiman on February 28, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    I’ve got to agree with Raymond (#73). Not even talks from the First Presidency and the Q of 12 are necessarily regarded as doctrine. Why are we giving so much attention to a high council talk? I’ve heard some very goofy opinions ring forth from the pulpit form some local leaders, and they are just that, opinions. And the Brethren have encouraged the arts in a variety of ways.

    The real value of a posting like this is that it forces supporters of the arts to think out their positions and support many youth who would love to pursue vocations/avocations in the arts and need our support.

  75. observer (fka eric s) on February 28, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    My degree from the Kennedy Center at BYU was worthless in the job market when I graduated. But I sold a few paintings that I did on my floor my senior year.

  76. Tim on February 28, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    This may have been presented in a different context, but in the context presented my reaction was: “wow, this guy is as insightful as a lamp post”.

    Seriously? Graphic design, interior design, multimedia design are in huge demand now-a-days. They are creative jobs that can’t (at least anytime soon) be performed by a machine (though a machine can certainly insist), so I would argue that the arts (creative work) will continue to become more important as machines continue to replace humans in many job markets.

    Maybe the guy was talking about those who want to be a full-time painter… but those skills totally transfer. Just like someone who likes to write stories can also perform well in the corporate world writing for a magazine, writing advertisements, etc.

    I’m sure glad that some people choose to devote their life to the arts, we have some wonderful music, art, and literature thanks to their sacrifices pursuing the thing they love.

  77. Tim on February 28, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    ^insist^assist

  78. Jacob F on March 1, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Just because a child has musical (or other artistic) talent doesn’t mean that child should then be pigeonholed into music. I saw that too much growing up.

    Instead, assume that talent reflects an overall ability to do things well–not just music–and let the child see where that ability takes him or her.

    It was so liberating for me to realize during college that, although I was very good at music, it was okay for me to not be a music major. Wow, that was a relief.

    I’ve seen a lot of people never make that breakthrough. Then they graduate, pull in poverty-level income teaching lessons or something, and wonder why they can’t support a family.

  79. Crick on March 1, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Krissie, I think your experience and perspective is valuable and definitely supports the notion that priesthood holders and all leaders should not exercise unrighteous dominion, including by using their power to give their own opinions undue influence.

    That said, I have never encountered priesthood leaders using the extremes in language that you have described. Had I encountered them I might tend to think they are prevalent in the Church, but at this point I do not.

    On the other hand, if we are talking about boneheaded statements in general–yes, I have heard many of them in classes and from the pulpit, but I tend to think that boneheaded statements come from a)boneheaded people or 2)non-boneheaded people who chose words poorly. And I disagree that obtaining the priesthood generally makes people feel like they have more license to utter views that they would previously kept hidden. In other words, I think that personality* trumps priesthood when it comes to this type of thing.

    *(and circumstance)

  80. Crick on March 1, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Statements like “shyness is selfishness” may or may not be warranted depending on the context it is uttered and what/who the Seminary teachers is really talking about. As for saying that pursuing the arts in education is “selfish”…that actually goes against the thrust of what the High Counselor seemed to be trying to say …that art degrees are not economically viable. Those called to sacrifice for art missions in the early days of the Church might have fared much better had they “selfishly” ignored those callings and took up jobs as stockbrokers or doctors, but I don’t know.

    I don’t have a problem with mentors giving career specific advice one-one-one or maybe even at a career fireside. For instance, a professor once told me that America had 4% of the World’s population but 70% of its lawyers (trying to dissuade me from persuading the law). Others asked me about the practicality of a political science degree. I appreciated his advice even though I ultimately didn’t follow it. But I would be careful about going into specifics from the pulpit since it could offend the painter or graphic designer in the room. It makes it all the more problematic when one uses a poor choice of words (e.g. “selfish”), which, for all we know, the High Counselor may have later regretted.

  81. Crick on March 1, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    pursuing…not persuading

  82. Raymond Takashi Swenson on March 1, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Crick: Those of us already in the legal profession would generally benefit from reduced competition if more students took your professor’s advice. However, those points did not seem to dissuade the Brethren from creating a law school at BYU 35 years ago. One would think, based on the resources the Church has invested, that the prophets think there is value in creating a cadre of both artists and attorneys who are also faithful Latter-day Saints.

  83. David on March 1, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    What an ignorant High Council person. I just retired from the public schools as a teacher of the arts. And for those concerned about money I do just fine.

  84. Crick on March 1, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Well said Raymond. I think your comment and earlier points support the notion that the Church is not only against any* profession, but that it encourages many that can help it (art, law, etc).

    *With previous few obvious acceptions, such as organized crime, etc.

  85. Crick on March 1, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Jacob: your comment may be the most valuable practical comment I have every found on any blog.

  86. Krissie Ireland on March 1, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Crick, I’m glad that you have “never encountered priesthood leaders using the extremes in language that I described” because it’s extremely off-putting to say the least… Unfortunately, it happened… I know I’m not unique in experiencing that kind of weirdness…

    And Raymond Takashi Swenson…

    “Every woman who sews a lace cloth to place on the altars of the temples is an artist. Every woman who sews a quilt for donation is adding an artistic sensibility to something that could be utterly mundane (and cheaper and faster) without it.”

    Every woman?

    My husband’s the domestic goddess/god in our house…

  87. Jax on March 1, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Krissie: You are not alone in those “weird” moments of listening to a priesthood holder speak about things he has no business commenting on. I got kicked out of a meeting I was teaching for confronting a member who put forth one of those comments. Some of us do stand up you know.

    Raymond is right though, every woman who does those things IS an artist, but I concede that every man who does them is one as well! *sigh Must we nit pick everything?

  88. Clara on March 2, 2011 at 2:11 am

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned (or maybe they have and I just missed it) that many of us in the arts have had direct personal revelation to pursue these degrees and careers. This was the case for both my husband and for me. The church needs people with all kinds of skills, not just those that make a lot of money.

    And speaking of finances and the arts: my husband’s degree is in music. My parents were concerned that he wouldn’t be able to support me. He has done better than OK, and we have been blessed financially as well as artistically. I’m glad he listened to the spirit and didn’t give in to fear. He’d be a pretty miserable businessman.

    So for me, personal revelation trumps a HC speaker every time.

  89. Mark on March 2, 2011 at 4:11 am

    Well, playing the saxophone is about one of the only things I’m really good at at the age of 23. I just got accepted into the music program at my university and I don’t really have any other feasible, able-to get-done-in-less-than-several-more-years-majors that I could apply to.

    Music seems to be a part of my personal plan established by Heavenly Father. As a member of the church and a near life-long musician who will probably have to rely on my ability for my maintenance, here’s what I think about the substance of the High Councilor’s controversial points of his talk- Starting with what I partially agree with: If you don’t harbor talent, or don’t have a realistic hope of succeeding with music and your mind is filled with dreams of glory instead of a desire to serve (blotting out warnings or promptings from your heart possibly) then the arts may not be such a good idea.

    For one, it takes a great deal of skill to succeed in the arts, and there’s an abundance of skill in the world, and I would say particularly in the U.S, so dreaming of a career in the arts with no experience at an age close to college age would be unwise unless there’s a powerful, burgeoning talent aglow in there somewhere. The competition is not mild.

    Furthermore, dreaming of becoming some sort of star is not only dreaming of priestcraft, but it’s unlikely to occur and when it doesn’t the sad dreamer (who takes things too far for too long without thinking) will find themselves bereft of anything but the shattered remnants of their broken dreams.

    Unfortunately, the councilor did not say these things specifically. Young people should not have their dreams quashed because someone thinks (and it is a false opinion) that a particular pursuit is less likely to enable one to support a family. Perhaps more artists will be poorer, but fortunately it doesn’t take as much money to raise a family in righteousness as some might suppose.

    In that vein, I disagree with the idea that the arts are harbingers of doom for the family building potential of an artist. Even if the artist is not rich.

    For example, I have been given a talent, a God-given one. I grew up and honed my ability, I was recruited into bands straight out of high school, and had a scholarship to my first college. Other options don’t seem as realistic for me at this point, and God will enable me to raise a family whether or not this pursuit of mine is risky, or even lucrative. If I keep the commandments in this land I will be blessed both temporally and spiritually, I believe even to the point where I could raise a family. There is no counsel in the scriptures about what jobs are better than others, but they do teach that one should work hard and life their life in accordance with the gospel. I think an emphasis on this in the lives of every individual member would be more useful in the auxiliary pursuit of a job rather than suggesting what jobs should be taken and which should be avoided.

    In essence, I think music is for some people to do, and for some not to do. For those who can, there is nothing about music or the arts that will prevent them from raising families in righteousness. For those who are unable to pursue this path, yeah, this would be a bad, high risk scenario that might destroy what would have been a happier time for them.

    If one hearkens to their creator consistently, they’ll have a pretty good idea for what they need to do generally, and not because they ask Father for every little thing. I think the High Councilor would have done well to suggest that to the congregation he was addressing in the context of his concern.

  90. Mark on March 2, 2011 at 4:12 am

    Heh….sorry, that was really long and probably partly unnecessary

  91. BHodges on March 2, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    God bless the arts!

  92. Krissie Ireland on March 3, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Jax (87): I’m glad for your comment. It’s good to hear that…

    I also agree with both you and Raymond that those women are definitely artists. But, when it comes to gender stereotypes I think there are many scabs worth picking (ones that have never healed), if you know what I mean…

    And Mark (89) – that was a really lovely, thoughtful comment – completely necessary…

  93. Mark on March 3, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Thank you Krissie!

  94. Steven on March 3, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.

    William Shakespeare

    A OF F

    13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

    One of my favorite books

    Art & Physics, Parallel visions in Space, Light and Time.

  95. Cameron on March 3, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    One of the jobs that Elder ELRay L. Christiansen a former Assistant to the Twelve had was being a cellist in the Utah Symphony Orchestra

  96. Richard Remington on March 3, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    So just so it’s clear here. That high counselor who gave that heinous anti-art speech didn’t have a clue and said some incredibly stupid and destructive things, nay inane beyond idiocy1 Hmmmm, so if Mormon, the namesake of our church, spent all his time studying to be a warrior (and was incredibly successful in his chosen trade even with corrupt recruits, by the way) how would that have gotten us the Book of Mormon, much less his superb editing of everyone elses’ literary works? I kinda get the idea that a god who has people writing compelling history on gold plates might see just a LITTLE value in the arts. Could just be me. Yeah, maybe Mormon should have just stuck to his chosen profession and not learned how to write. And um, then were would we be? Oh, right, a worse hell than the one we’re already in, a purgatory of all types of war from financial to visceral. It’s my opinion that a god who made over 10,000 varieties of pink roses just might have a real soft spot for the arts.

  97. palerobber on March 8, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    51. danithew:

    i had an art professor at BYU (no doubt one of those to whom you refer) tell me exactly the same thing. ultimately i did switch from fine art to a more marketable major and don’t regret it.

    btw, i don’t know about art majors, but BYU fine art *professors* certainly were selfish — wrapped up in their own work and uninterested in teaching. that was another reason i dropped the major.

  98. David on March 15, 2011 at 9:19 am

    I taught music for 30 years with my degrees in the arts. I have retired very comfortably. My three children have college degrees. How pompous of the High Council person to refer to me as selfish. I hope this was not said in sacrament meeting! I smell contempt.