Monday, January 12, 2015

The Mormon Elitist Problem

Sometimes the Mormon community can have a bit of an elitist problem. As "the only true church" we occasionally get caught up in the idea that we are somehow better than others. You can see this in the rhetoric we use at the pulpit on Sundays. 

Just last week I heard two separate individuals stand at the pulpit expressing a testimony in which they proclaimed their belief in the only true church and expressed their commitment to being an example to others. 

A few weeks before that I visited a ward in which a teacher expressed that the blessing of living in close proximity to a temple was a result of her righteousness in the pre-existence.

Something about these kind of statements rubs me the wrong way. They wreak of elitism. 

What happens when individuals proclaim to be an example to others, and then inevitably fail to live up to the standard they proclaim to exemplify? It is hypocrisy and it drives people away. When I hear individuals encouraging others, including teenagers and children, to be an example to others I have a little panic attack. 

Jesus Christ is the only example to others. If we try to set ourselves up as the example we will always fall short. 

Jesus Christ did not ask us to be an example to others. He asked us to be an example of the believers. These are completely different concepts. 

What does a follower of Christ (or example of a believer) look like? Certainly they can take a number of forms from Mother Teresa, to Joseph Smith, to the lady down the street. The number one thing they all have in common is that they are sinners that recognize they are in need of the grace of Jesus Christ. 

True believers don't set themselves up above anyone. 

True believers recognize that God loves all His children, not just the righteous ones, the rich ones, or the ones belonging to a certain denomination.

True believers seek out ways to show the love of Christ to others. 

True believers point others to Christ. They don't take the credit for themselves, they give it to Christ. 

Being an example of the believers is a beautiful thing. It allows the light and love of Jesus Christ to spread in a darkened world. 

I hesitate to even get started on the pre-existence elitism. We know very little about the pre-existence in general. We know nothing of our own personal choices and actions there.

Suggesting that any sort of benefit or blessing in this life is a result of your righteousness in the pre-existence is completely egotistical and implies that others are innately less deserving of blessings. Any time someone makes these statements I want to scream! Think about what you are saying for a minute!

The elitist problem is a big turn off. It sets us up as being hypocrites. Mormons aren't better than anyone. They are not more innately righteous. They are not more deserving of God's love. They are not more adept at being Christ-like. 

What Mormons claim to have is additional truth. Being "the only true church" doesn't mean that other churches are all completely bad and wrong. Mormons believe that God has given something extra to the entire world, not just the Mormons. We believe we have a duty to share that message because it is intended for everyone, not just those in the LDS Church. God didn't give this extra information to the LDS Church because they are special. He gave it to the entire world because all of His children are special. 

We can join with millions of Christians around the world in being an example of the believers.  The sheer responsibility of being an example of the believers is humbling. Being an example of the believers requires a deep sense of humility.  

Humility. Isn't it about time?

As for being an example to the unbelievers? Well, that's much better left to Jesus Christ. He never fails.


  1. AnonymousJuly 29, 2016

    wow! I have judged your religion based on the elitist actions and behavior of a Mormon couple in our neighborhood. Their children are mean spirited liars and the parents will never hold them accountable for their actions. I have come to learn from them that the Mormon religion, in order to foster a favorable view of their religion, carefully crafts the reputation of their children which reinforces that elitist way of thinking. When their kids do something wrong they lie about it and their mother says "Well they said they didn't say/do it". I have completely stopped talking to these people and have formed my opinions of this religion as being very elitist and self righteous (not what a true Christian religion should embody). The mom has waged a slanderous smear campaign on me in the neighborhood because I chose not to be manipulated by her children's lies. Reading this article I do realize now that I should not let a few bad apples spoil the bunch. Thank you!

  2. Thank you for this post. This elitist attitude is what started me on my faith crisis 15 years ago. I had hoped it was getting better and that perhaps it was an attitude fostered mainly among older people, but then heard it in a talk given by a sixteen year old today. I don't blame her; it's the model she has been taught.

    Anyway, I left church after sacrament meeting, found your post on going to church when it is hard, and have enjoyed reading more of your posts. Thanks for writing from this perspective. It is hard to find views of acceptance that are faithful. I would love to see more people write about theses topics as faith crisises seem to becoming more and more common. I have one friend going through a divorce because her husband has left the church and two others who have husbands either not attending or seriously questioning. Your writing has been a balm to my soul today.

  3. Elitism, cultural chauvinism, is the number one thing I'd like to see change in the church. Trust me, there are many, many other things. But if we could just give this up, things would be so much easier.

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