We’ve all taken dishes to potluck dinners, hoping our salad or casserole will be a popular offering that everyone will eat and enjoy. We think of ingredients most people like, and a pleasing presentation. Dishes like these are called crowd pleasers.
That’s also the formula for popularity: Please the masses. We see it in schools, at the workplace, even at church. You win acceptance by making others comfortable. You could do it artificially by studying a crowd and mimicking the traits that would help you most fit in, or by genuinely matching the population in your appearance, language, and opinions.
We see youngsters who have figured this out, trying to dress and act like their peers, often masking the very talents and traits that would make them stand out. Most kids don’t want to be different; they want to blend in. This is why smart kids, and righteous kids, often conceal that in order to gain approval. We also see some paid preachers saying what their congregations want to hear, and various rock stars singing messages their audience will applaud. The key is not to rub folks the wrong way, or to make them feel shame or guilt about their choices.
But, while tailoring a recipe to your audience is one thing, tailoring oneself is quite another. When crowd pleasing means you’ve dropped your standards or been less than your best self, you’ve paid too high a price for acclaim. When we try to mirror the slipping standards of the world, our brain starts justifying our new values and we become defensive of our new stance, our new cluster of friends.
Too often we place the opinions of man before the opinion of God, forgetting to do what we know is right, and “let the consequence follow.” In Matthew 6:24 we read, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other… Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” And Paul wrote to the Galations, “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Galations 1:10)
Imagine Christ worrying about popularity. Or Abinadi. Or Moroni. Or just about any righteous leader in the Book of Mormon. That sacred text is packed with one example after another, of people who held firm against the winds of public opinion, and stayed true to what they knew was right.
It’s been said that of all the virtues, courage is the most important, because without it the others are useless. Hard as it may be, we have to choose whom we want to please: Our Father in Heaven, or the crowd. Every one of us, myself included, needs to continue in this effort, and fight the pride that would sway us to shift our priorities.
So does this mean popularity is always a sign of selling out? No. Sometimes people are deeply impressed with those who show integrity, especially when it’s combined with a genuine caring for others. Workers, students, whole neighborhoods will often follow a strong leader they admire for their strength and high morals. The key is not to buckle or drop your standards, but to rise above the petty worries of acceptance, run your course, and allow others to see the joy it brings. Popularity isn’t the goal.
And that’s the recipe for the kind of crowd pleasing that saves souls and pleases God. We all want our friends, our co-workers, our elected officials, to be honorable and brave. We want heroes. We want people who’ll stick to their guns, who won’t back down when the heat gets turned up, right? When we become a person like this, we no longer care if others follow, agree, give us a hard time, or a high five. If popularity comes, it’s a pleasant surprise, but it’s not something we ever focused upon or sought.
Taking a delicious, tried-and-true recipe to a potluck and allowing others to enjoy a superb offering is a good thing. But being righteous and true to the best you know is even better, and pleases exactly the crowd you want.
Hilton’s LDS Nursery Rhymes is hot off the presses and can be purchased at the BYU Store, or at this link.
You can find her other books here.
She is also the “YouTube Mom” and shares short videos about easy household tips and life skills at this channel.
And be sure to read her blog.
Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.