“How do you handle the life-style conflicts between the gospel and your art?” Ensign, Mar. 1980, 41
Larry Bastian, freelance composer, arranger, and conductor; member of Bountiful Forty-second Ward, Bountiful Utah Stake I began my musical career when I was fifteen, playing on weekends with local dance bands in my home city of Spokane, Washington. Since I occasionally had to stay out late, my father was concerned about the influence these experiences might have on me. Understanding my intense interest in music, he wisely offered me this proposition: “Son,” he said, “I’ll make you a deal. You can stay out as late as necessary for your musical work as long as you’re ready to go with me to priesthood meeting on Sunday morning.” I quickly agreed and have never forgotten the conversation. It influenced me not only on Sunday morning but on Saturday night as well. I knew I had to be ready for priesthood meeting.
Lifestyle conflicts affecting Latter-day Saint professionals in the performing arts and other fields often have a bearing on family life, Church activity, and purity of thought. If not resolved correctly, they can jeopardize one’s testimony. I think it’s safe to say that some compromise in either the career or the gospel life is usually required.
A dancer may be asked to perform a provocative dance or to wear an immodest costume. (This applies not only to popular entertainment.) A singer may be asked to sing suggestive or obviously immoral lyrics. An actor’s role may call for him to smoke or to use profane or obscene language on stage. A musician may be asked to accompany a performance that doesn’t meet gospel standards.
Besides these and other rather obvious difficulties (financial instability, evenings away from the family, long periods of travel, constant close association with people of different moral values), there is another major challenge to the performing arts—and other professions are not immune from this—that the Lord has cautioned us about: The reason that many who are called fail to receive the blessings is that “their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men.” (D&C 121:35) The career of a professional performing artist, in particular, is intimately connected with the things of this world and the honors of men. Unfortunately, some members of the Church have found the prospect of worldly success as performers so attractive that they have compromised their gospel standards rather than their careers. On the other hand, many have kept their priorities straight and have done much good while pursuing satisfying artistic careers.
Because of the prevalence of spiritual hazards, the decision to seek any full-time career should be made only with confirmation from the Holy Spirit that such would be pleasing to our Heavenly Father. To receive this guidance from the Lord may require much pondering, prayer, and fasting, and perhaps the guidance of a priesthood blessing.
Like many professions requiring considerable sacrifice, the performing arts are in some ways not so attractive as one might think, especially to a Latter-day Saint. However, the Lord uses talented people to assist in his work. I believe he is also raising up faithful Saints to be highly capable in new artistic areas, so that he may use them at the proper time in the building of his kingdom. They may have to be thoroughly tested to prepare them for that responsibility.
After one has sought the Lord’s guidance and finds himself pursuing a career in this field, what may he do to avoid the pitfalls? I would give him these suggestions:
1. Stay close to your leaders—your bishop, your quorum or Relief Society leaders, and your home teachers. Let them know what you’re doing and how you feel about it. Help them help you keep first things first.
2. Since performances are in the evenings, performers must be away from home at night. Work diligently to compensate. Plan extra activities. Be sure to give each family member your undivided attention on a regular basis. Avoid the temptation to abdicate leadership in the home and the responsibility to teach the gospel.
3. Live the gospel in your career. Think of your career as a mission where “preaching” is done by example. Bear your testimony enthusiastically as the Lord provides the opportunities.
4. Be ready, when the showdown comes, to compromise your career instead of the gospel, to refuse a job rather than lower your standards. Remember the Savior’s loving admonition: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matt. 16:26)