Should LDS Church Leaders Sign Autographs?

Would you ever ask an LDS General Authority for an autograph? What do you think they would say to you if you asked? What would you think of them if they signed one for you?

I was part of an interesting conversation a couple of days ago. We were talking about "priestcraft", which requires two things:
  1. To receive the praise of throngs of people.
  2. To solicit and bask in that praise.
Based on the first definition alone, President Gordon B. Hinckley might have been accused of priestcraft--millions of people adored him.

But if the second definition is figured in, he would not be guilty of priestcraft, because surely he didn't do it to receive all the attention and praise.

I suspected that at times such adoration was slightly embarrassing to him, and I wondered aloud in our conversation: "Did President Hinckley ever get asked for autographs? If so, how did he handle the situation?"

I think he would have politely declined, but I guess I'm not sure. There is a policy guideline from over 30 years ago stating the following:
Collecting Autographs and Greeting General Authorities. “There is a growing tendency in the Church for members to request autographs of General Authorities who are visiting the stakes and missions. In some places there has developed a competition to see who can collect the most signatures in hymnbooks and even in books of scripture. When autograph seekers appear at the close of meetings, this becomes a distraction making it difficult for General Authorities to greet people. In addition, it gives something of the image of a celebrity to the Brethren, which may not be in keeping with the sacred callings entrusted to them. …

“General Authorities are always grateful for the opportunity to shake hands with the members of the Church. It would be more in keeping with our pattern of meetings and of worship for leaders to greet the members and shake hands with them rather than to sign autographs.”
The policy seems to imply what should happen. But is that what always happens? The policy doesn't seem like a hard and fast rule. What do you think? Should a church leader--of any church, for that matter--popular because of their position--sign autographs?


  1. Does that mean that I shouldn't ask gerald Lund to autograph my copy of the Kingdom and the Crown? What about when Steve Young becomes a general authority. Should he declare all of his autographs worthless? Or will the merchandisers that have made so much money off of him release the Steve Young Conference Day football.

    I look back with embarrassment on the day when I waited in line to get my Hat autographed by Troy Percival. Did it make my hat more valuable? Do I even still HAVE that hat? No. Did it make me cooler? No. Will Troy look back fondly on the day when he signed ron's hat? NO NO NO.

    So why did I waste my time. Let me know if you get anybody who responds that they would seek a GA's autograph because I would like to be first in line to slap them.

  2. That was the other issue I thought of, and I'm glad you bring it up--famous LDS athletes, performers, etc.

    By the way: who is Troy Percival?

  3. I think I have Spencer W. Kimball's autograph somewhere. But I don't remember exactly what I did with my mission call.

    I don't have any autographs that I've ever solicited. I did end up at a photo op with Orrin Hatch and so I have my picture taken with him with his signature on it. However, in my circle of friends, that is has a negative value associated with it so it stays out of the public eye.

    As for LDS Church leaders? That's up to them and their adoring fans.

  4. I think the 30 year old policy is a good one.

    I have some autographed sports cards. One of my favorites is a card I mailed to John Elway when I was a kid which he signed and mailed back. I've got it in a plastic protector sleeve sitting on my desk at home. I'm out of the card collecting game now, but back in the day autographs added value, and I suspect they still do. Problem is that now days there's also a lot of forgeries out there.

    All this is why I feel the old policy is right. It's just a different thing with a General Authority. I think treating them like a celebrity or athlete, even if only in my mind, detracts from who they are and what they do.

  5. Troy Percival was a star closer for the Angels. One of the best in the game from the mid 90s to the mid 00's.

  6. I agree about sports cards. When I was a kid I sent to and received autographed pics from several Dallas Cowboys and LA Rams players.

    I'm still not quite sure what I think about getting an autograph from a Mormon celebrity...

    Obi Wan: That's right! I have President Kimball's autograph, too!

  7. The other autograph story I have is from when my newborn daughter was at Primary's Hospital with a serious illness and the Jazz dancers came by the room and dropped off an autographed mini basketball, complete with i's dotted with little hearts. As an added bonus, it also has Michael Ruffin and Ben Handlogden autographs.

  8. You said:

    As an added bonus, it also has Michael Ruffin and Ben Handlogden autographs

    My, aren't you special! ;-)

    I actually do remember who Ruffin and Handlogten are. Of course they're more famous than me!!!


  9. A BYU roommate of mine had his Book of Mormon autographed by his religion professor. I thought that was totally transgendered.

    These cults of personality are nothing new. When we lose focus on Jesus, this is what happens.

  10. GAs should just say no to autographs. On a similar note, we were told by a visiting GA at a meeting a couple of years ago that Pres. Hinckley was dining with family members at one of the nicer SLC restaurants when some high schoolers dressed in formals came in to dine before going to a school dance. They went ga-ga when walking by the Prophet's table. He greeted them warmly, but when they asked to take pictures with him, his personal assistant stepped in and politely declined.

    Apparently GA vanity photo ops are discouraged like autographs. Also, there was some implication that at least some of the young women were wearing gowns that didn't quite meet 'For the Strength of Youth' standards. So I don't know if that was part of the reason for declining the photo op.

  11. I think the autographs thing is just very small piece of the puzzle.

    I always got the impression from President Hinckley that he was not seeking for any kind of fame or anything like that, he was just trying to be the best he could be. I wasn't personally acquainted with him, but that was how it seemed.

    Contrasted with a visiting member of the Seventy we had in sacrament on Sunday, and the only thing they didn't have was a red carpet for him to walk in on. He seemed to enjoy it a little too much.

    I think some of the GA's revel in their celebrity status, while others exude the quiet dignity that I feel is more fitting.

    I've seen this policy in a couple of places, worded different, but ultimately saying no to autographs.

  12. Scott,

    That would be somewhat difficult to act in the restaurant scene you describe.


    It is interesting that some leaders think that--even if just because of their position--that they deserve more respect. By contrast, I was impressed with Boyd K Packer's talk in the last LDS General Conference that reminded us that, regardless of position, we are all the same, and should not consider ourselves better than one another.

    What I also find interesting (and comical at times) is how people feel like that--to show proper respect--they must be obsequious to their leaders, and they speak of them as that it would be bad to cross them or we might incur their wrath. In most cases this is the farthest thing from the truth.

  13. I don't think there is anything wrong with getting the signature of a general authority or photograph in the context of friendship: they sign a book for you that they wrote, or they pose with missionaries for a photograph. It is only in the "autograph collection from celebrity" mode that I think it would be inappropriate.

  14. This post has me thinking. I wonder how much I could get on ebay for my mission call? Of course, I'd have to find it first.

  15. Obi, I don't think you'd get much for that mission call signature. I'm told that those have all been signed by autopen since the 80's.

  16. I have collected autographs of celebrities in all fields for about 60 years. (I'm 74 years old now). Included with these autographs, I have a large special collection of just Mormon autographs, letters, signed photos and documents going back to the mid 1800s. Current church policy is this: The General Authorities have been asked not to sign autographs at church meetings, but this is not a hard and fast rule as I've been successful in these situations in the past. They say, however, if you write to them they would be more than happy to comply. Church mission calls have printed signatures, but those early-day church callings did have actual signatures. Also, many GAs have throughout the years signed their books, but not at church services or church events. Sports, entertainment, military, science and political leaders who just happen to be Mormon sign all the time and are not subject to this autograph policy. Joe Kraus


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