case study

Studies on Creativity and Religion

I have spent the last several months studying creativity and the creative process as they relate to what we do here at the Church. There have been many talks given by Church leaders on creativity that serve to enlighten, inspire, and instruct. I am in the process of documenting the things I have learned and turning them into something interesting, but that is a little ways off. In the meantime, I wanted to share a few of the more thought-provoking bits of wisdom I found.

What is an Artist?

The word artist is not included in holy scripture, but the presence and importance of artists are unmistakable. The scriptures include myriad references to “all manner of workmanship” described as “exceedingly fine” and “curious.” That the creative process is rooted and revered in heaven is evident in the Lord’s use of the word workmanship to define not only the artistic accomplishments of his children but the results of his own creation, “And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease” (Moses 1:4; emphasis added). God’s purpose for the artist is to inspire, to give us visions of ourselves that we might not otherwise see, to make us better than we would have been. The world is better for the arts and righteous artists in it. In the quest to achieve greatness in artistic pursuits—whether in painting, dance, music, drama, film, sculpture, or the written word—we should always seek first to achieve God’s purposes. “All great art is the expression of man’s delight in God’s work, not his own,” said John Ruskin, the great nineteenth-century English art critic.

(M. Russell Ballard, “Filling the World with Goodness and Truth,” Ensign, Jul 1996, 10)

Creativity Comes from Action

We each have to say to ourselves, What will I create of my life? My time? My future? First, go where the Spirit directs. Be still and listen. Your Heavenly Father will guide you as you draw near to Him. Immerse yourself in the holy word of the prophets, both ancient and modern, and the Spirit will speak to you. Be patient, ask in faith, and you will receive guidance in your creative efforts. Second, don’t be paralyzed from fear of making mistakes. Thrust your hands into the clay of your lives and begin. I love how Rebekah of old responded to Abraham’s servant who came in search of a wife for Isaac. Her answer was simple and direct, “I will go,” she said. Rebekah could have refused. She could have told the servant to wait until she had the proper send-off, a new wardrobe, until she lost a few pounds, or until the weather was more promising. She could have said, “What’s wrong with Isaac that he can’t find a wife in all of Canaan?” But she didn’t. She acted, and so should we. The time for procrastination is over. Begin! Don’t be afraid. Do the best you can. Of course you will make mistakes. Everyone does. Learn from them and move forward.

(Mary Ellen Smoot, “We Are Creators,” Ensign, May 2000, 64)

Creativity Comes from Action, Part 2

Every individual has creative capacity. The satisfaction and growth creativity generates is intended for each of us, not just for the most gifted. To “try it” takes courage. A famous watercolorist, Edgar A. Whitney, said: “No door is closed to a stubborn scholar.” The most challenging barrier one must overcome is to begin; from there it gets easier and more exciting. Then as you try, realize that you personally are going to be hardest on yourself just when you need the most reassurance. Let your self-evaluation be a source of discovery rather than of self-criticism. Believe in yourself. Doubt destroys creativity, while faith strengthens it. As your ability increases you will seek the objective criticism of others more experienced. Find ways to learn basic principles about your field of interest. Enjoy the process of discovery, not just the end result of your efforts. As you experiment with new things you will discover a great deal about yourself that likely won’t be revealed any other way.

(Richard G. Scott, “Try It!,” New Era, Aug 1995, 4)

The Creative Process

The law of the harvest is simply that you don’t get something for nothing in life. The scriptures tell us the law of the harvest is that as ye sow, so shall ye reap (harvest). “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Since then, I have learned that working out creative solutions to life’s problems uses these same law-of-the-harvest principles. There is so much work that goes unseen. We go to the store and see only the final results of the creativity of a farmer or a dairy man. We see beautiful vegetables, fruits, and dairy products. But unless we have been involved in the creative process we do not realize the amount of time, hard work, heartache, and worry that went into these finished products. The same is true when we hear someone play the piano or sing or when we read what someone has written or when we look at a beautiful painting. As I have observed the process of creative thinking, it has reminded me time and again of the work we used to do on my uncle’s ranch. The steps used in growing crops offer a good guideline:

Prepare the soil. Start with prayer to clear your mind and set the proper atmosphere. Research the problem thoroughly. Develop a positive attitude that a solution can be found. Establish an atmosphere of trust in yourself and in others.

Plant the seeds. Investigate what you can do to help. Determine where you may need help. Don’t ask for counsel yet, because you aren’t prepared to take the advice. Don’t ask someone else to make the decision for you. Remember the counsel in Doctrine and Covenants 9:7: “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.”

Let the seeds germinate. Don’t uproot your idea before it has a chance to grow. This is the stage of the creative process where a good positive, nonthreatening attitude is vital. Back off and give the idea time to develop. But you must be willing to face failure with a willingness to try again.

Examine your crops. Weed out ideas that don’t belong. Through obedience to the Lord, you are entitled to inspiration. Review Doctrine and Covenants 9:7–9. Inspiration comes when we ask if we have made a correct decision. “Therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” Remember that your greatest strength will come by keeping the commandments.

Harvest. The most productive farmer in the world would be unsuccessful if he didn’t harvest his crops. Do something about your ideas. Take the initiative to share your thoughts with others and to take action on your own.

(Robert D. Hales, “Every Good Gift,” Tambuli, Dec 1984, 34)

The Personal Benefits of Being Creative

If you possess creative gifts, you have an obligation to use them in such a way as to bring beauty, peace, quality, utility, and refinement into life’s experience. As mentioned before, sharing your gifts can bring satisfaction to you as the gift giver as well as to those who enjoy the fruits of your creativity. Creative diversity has so many potential benefits. Simply by making an attempt to develop some talent or skill, you are almost certain to bring new dimensions of appreciation into your life. It is an enterprise well worth the effort.

(Dean L. Larsen, “Building Creativity,” New Era, Aug 1991, 4)

posted by Rick Moore on Friday, Aug 15, 2008
tagged with creativity, creative process, creation