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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Spiritual Elitism and Faux Humility

Note: This post is not directed at any specific group or individual. It applies as much, or more, to me. In fact, this is best viewed as my own introspection. I share it in the chance it is of benefit to others.

"We believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children..."
"thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst [those] all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren..."
"And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people."

Call it what you want: spiritual elitism, pride, haughtiness, vanity, arrogance, reckless enthusiasm, whatever. The belief that a certain group or individual is more spiritually mature than less-enlightened believers has always been one of the most effective deceptions that Satan has launched upon -- and used to divide and conquer -- Christ's believers.

Sadly, the situation in which Alma and his brethren found themselves "astonished beyond all measure" roughly 2,089 years ago (Alma 31:19) is alive and well again, today.

This doesn't just concern those who consider themselves "The One Mighty and Strong," "The Servant," "The Root of Jesse," "The Man Like Unto Moses," "The Future New Jerusalem Temple President," "The Reincarnated Joseph Smith" or one of the Godhead (see here).

There are others who believe they are (while not actually having been divinely proclaimed) "special," "enlightened," "called," "elected." Maybe even "anointed." They may claim this special status because they:
  1. Have a specific church calling, profession, bank account balance, spiritual gifts, ancestry, race or gender. 
  2. Are part of an insider group, special quorum or school composed of other "elect" individuals. 
  3. Have been supposedly tasked by the Lord with performing special, grandiose operations to assist in Christ's imminent return.
  4. Are in receipt of, or can impart, secret "insider" methods on how to grow closer to God. 
  5. Believe they are already fully or mostly translated.

The Abomination of Humility


These Neo-Zoramites, these spiritual elites who walk among us, very often display a unique characteristic foreign to the original Zoramites: Faux Humility.

They tend to go to great lengths in convincing others of their humility, buttressing statements like "I'm just an ordinary guy," "I'm nobody special," "I'm a sinner, just like the next person," etc. You get the idea. Yet, deep down, they remain convinced of their own special status.

Many Latter-day Saints are experts in exempting and excepting themselves from true righteousness and even, at times, common sense.

For those who truly receive God's words, it should come as no surprise that spiritual elitism and faux humility go hand-in-hand. During the Savior's mortal ministry, he gave this parable:
"Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (Luke 18:10-14)
This combination of spiritual elitism and faux humility results in swift and sure spiritual condemnation:
"Ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts... Ye suppose that ye are better than they (your brethren).
And now, my brethren, do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. But he condemneth you, and if ye persist in these things his judgments must speedily come unto you." (Jacob 2:13-14)
"Pride goeth before destruction and an haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18)
Now, the ironic thing is, the spiritual elitist would agree with the aforementioned scriptures, and might continue to come off pretty humble, eager and anxious to help others. But their belief in their special status remains undeterred and unabated. No wonder it's been said, "Much of what we call humility is actually successfully disguised arrogance."

Have You Been Inflicted With Spiritual Elitism and/or Faux Humility?

"And now, my brethren, I have spoken unto you concerning pride; and those of you which have afflicted your neighbor, and persecuted him because ye were proud in your hearts, of the things which God hath given you, what say ye of it?
Do ye not suppose that such things are abominable unto him who created all flesh? And the one being is as precious in his sight as the other. And all flesh is of the dust; and for the selfsame end hath he created them, that they should keep his commandments and glorify him forever." (Jacob 2:13-14)
I like Jacob's use of the word "inflicted," because one can simultaneously inflict themselves -- and others -- with a disease...no matter if it's physical or spiritual.

But how can you tell if you've caught the disease? Consider these four (and quite possibly more) diagnostic options:
  • Exempt yourself. You may be thinking, "That's a good question, Mr. Perfect Day Blog Writer. But everything you've written so far applies to other people, not me, because God says [  I have an important work to perform / I must keep these things sacred and therefore secret / If you ask Him, He'll tell you that what I say is true / You just don't understand  ]." If that's the case, then you might want to re-read Jacob 2:13-14 until you can proceed beyond this sentence.
  • You have at least a little concern, and want to ask another to tell you if (or for you to tell another that) a humility problem exists. This option runs the risk of inflicting "Mote-Beam Sickness" -- the strong, almost universal tendency to find fault, to focus on the mote (a tiny sliver) of another while you take the focus off the beam (a load-bearing beam in a house) in front of your own eyes (see 3 Nephi 14:3-5 and Matthew 7:3-5). The last thing you need is to add one possible infliction on another.
  • You have at least a little concern, and want to perform self-introspection. IMO, that's better. But still, how can one who is possibly "in the eye of the hurricane" of spiritual elitism ever be expected to objectively discern if they are proud? Pride is a self-blinding sin.
  • Go to God. Good -- that's the best option, because God is the only one qualified to detail the existence and state of your humility (or, conversely, spiritual elitism). When we value God's opinion, we won't set up our own artificial scale of values, which is "abominable unto him who created all flesh." (Hugh Nibley)
As a baseline, I think it's important to know what God said regarding your standing before Him:
"It is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:10-18

An Outright Invitation or Challenge


But what about YOU? Could YOU be a spiritual elitist, even to a minuscule degree? Could YOU be displaying faux humility?

If you sincerely believe you don't fall into one of the five "special" categories I mentioned above, then I extend to you an invitation.

But if there is any possibility you could find yourself in one of the five "special" categories (above), then I extend to you a challenge:

Go to God.  Ask Him about your true standing before Him, with nothing but pure intent (stay tuned for my next blog post).

A Post-Script


I'd like to emphasize two things:
  • First, This post is not directed at any one person or group. So if you're taking this as a personal attack from me, please don't, because it isn't intended to do that. It IS intended to catalyze some serious introspection with only one other person: Jesus Christ (and yes, I have done so and continue to do so).
We've always defined ourselves by our ability to overcome the impossible -- to aim higher, reach for the stars, break barriers and make the unknown known. But sometimes, when we focus on the stars for too much and too long, we tend to lose our focus, our perspective.

When you are TRULY aligned with He who loves you more than you will ever comprehend, you can be assured of one certain thing: that your greatest accomplishments cannot be behind you...

...because your destiny lies above you.

We'll explore some scripturally-based suggestions on how discover that destiny in an upcoming post.

5 comments:

  1. I love this post and I believe it is a perfect reminder for all of us, no matter who we are! Thank you!

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  2. Well said, thank you. Between this post and the vast majority of Isaiah, I am reminded again and again that continual repentance is among our best lifelines come judgement day. Every time I think I've gained an inch, the Lord shows me more to work on. :)

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  3. Excellent point! Thank you very much!

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  4. A timely post and reminder for all of us. I must keep myself in check, as you have noted. And I have sought to know who is a true messenger, and humbleness is a key feature. Pride is one of those sins along with Popularity, and Power that Nibley has talked about in reference to what Nephi expounds on the subject. That goes along with elitism.

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  5. Yea, when I seem to perceive a church leader, even "high" church leaders exhibiting these kinds of faux humility, I wonder if I am engaging in the same or similar kind of faux humility myself (Romans 2:1-3, also that mote and beam thing from the Savior).

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