Tuesday, December 9, 2008


There was a little quiz on the Internet challenging us to match a jingle or slogan with its product. I was surprised at how poorly I tested. Some of the matches were easy, bringing the image of the product straight to my recollection. But even after I racked my brain, some could not be recalled though their jingles and catch phrases teased my brain. The problem? The little songs and slogans dwarfed the product.

The same thing frequently happens between people and the principles or products they endorse. Spokespersons and advocates take the podium to bring awareness to the cause they are promoting, and more often than not, they become the focus. Take Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray and George Foreman for example. Who'd a thunk that with a bowl of cookie dough or a pound of ground beef an entire empire could be born?

Now, to some extent, self-promotion is a necessary part of business. As an author, as in any other business, I too have to do a certain amount of "kingdom building" to establish my name, build a fan base and promote my work, but I have become acutely sensitive to how much time I spend promoting myself versus producing something worthy of promoting, and/or serving others.

Speaking at the 2008 BYU Women's Conference, Sheri Dew warned us about people who seek to "build their own kingdom". I've thought a lot about that phrase since hearing her deliver it. At what point do people's efforts turn from the task at hand and begin redirecting the light back to them? Do we notice when the "doing" becomes an opportunity for someone to "build" their own kingdom?

I was listening to the news and a feeling of foreboding washed over me. Thirty minutes later, nestled in the company of the members of our congregation as we prepared for a ward Christmas supper, all I felt was peace. The news and financial forecasts were the same. What had changed? One set of people was bent on building ratings while the other was building the kingdom of God, one smile and handshake at a time.

We are all guilty of building our own kingdoms at times, but perhaps the antidote is to test our motivation from time to time. When we raise our hand to comment in class, when we rise to the podium to bear a testimony, when we visit the sick, comfort the sorrowing, offer our hand, the building of whose kingdom is at our heart? I think it's a good standard to use for self-evaluation from time to time. I've done it, and sometimes it stings.

Imagine if we applied such a standard to our politicians, business leaders and social spokespersons, measuring their words against their actions. And imagine if we only supported people whose actions supported the building of His kingdom, whose decisions furthered the causes that not only pleased people but lifted them. Now that's the kingdom I'd like to build.

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