Lessons from the Life of Mack Wilberg

While Mack Wilberg is a world-renowned conductor and composer, he also remains a humble and committed disciple of Christ. Learn from Elder Gerrit Gong how Dr. Wilberg maintains this balance.

Dr. Mack Wilberg has been the music director of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square since March 2008; between 1999 and 2008, he was the storied ensemble’s associate director. His twenty-four-year-long (and counting) stint with the choir has made him a beloved figure to Latter-day Saints all over the world. However, not many know much about him—beyond his obvious talents for composing, arranging, and conducting (which are on display biannually at each general conference and weekly during Music & the Spoken Word). In an Ensign College devotional entitled “All Edified of All,” Elder Gerrit W. Gong filled in some of the details of Dr. Wilberg’s life.

Elder Gong mines Dr. Wilberg’s biography for spiritually uplifting and encouraging insights on building a joyful and abundant life. Such themes are quite meaningful to young adults, who are in the midst of building their own lives. Although Elder Gong shares eight valuable lessons we can learn from the life of Dr. Wilberg, whom he calls a “hero of Temple Square,” two of them struck me as particularly relevant to young adults.

First, Elder Gong notes that “success and the opportunity to lift others do not depend on where you were born or where you come from”; Dr. Wilberg was raised by a single mother in the small central-eastern Utah town of Castle Dale.

Secondly, Elder Gong teaches that we should strive for excellence in all that we do, like Dr. Wilberg does—whose “musical arrangements have been performed at the funerals for three presidents of the United States: President Ronald Reagan; President Gerald Ford; and most recently, President George H. W. Bush.”

Elder Gong adds encouragingly that we must “remember perfection is in Christ, not in the perfectionism of the world.” His reminder is an echo of Moroni’s powerful concluding words in the Book of Mormon: “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32; emphasis added). Excellence achieved on any other terms will ultimately fail to satisfy. Dr. Wilberg has certainly achieved excellence on Christ’s terms, extending (unselfishly) his work beyond the Tabernacle Choir. As Elder Gong notes, “Brother Wilberg…believes in the principle of ‘giving back.’ Once a week on Wednesday, he goes to the Utah State Prison to conduct the inmate chorus.” While few of us will ever sing with (let alone conduct) the Tabernacle Choir, we can all nonetheless follow Dr. Wilberg’s pattern of humbly, unselfishly, and persistently pursuing excellence through Christ in our chosen vocations.

Read Elder Gerrit Gong’s full address, “All Edified of All,” to discover all eight lessons Elder Gong draws from studying Dr. Wilberg’s life.

Source: Ensign College Devotionals

—Josh Stevenson, Latter-day Saint Insights


Find more insights

For more insights on Mack Wilberg’s career, read the Church newsroom article from 2008 “Mack Wilberg Named Director of Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”

Additionally, consider reading the 2013 Tabernacle Choir blog post “Mack Wilberg: The Mind Behind the Music” to learn more about Dr. Wilberg’s musical philosophy and motivations.

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One Comment

  1. I always love seeing Mack Wilberg conduct during General Conference! These are cool facts about his life that I never would have known otherwise. Thanks for sharing.

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