Question: Do Mormons actually believe that they are morally, ethically, spiritually superior to others?


Question: Do Mormons actually believe that they are morally, ethically, spiritually superior to others?

Brigham Young praises the people not for being morally, ethically, or spiritually superior, but for being more obedient to the word of the Lord through prophets

The critical book One Nation under Gods claims that Latter-day Saints believe that they are "morally, ethically, and spiritually superior to non-Mormons." (page xxiv (hardback); page xviii (paperback)). The author cites Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:269. and Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 236. to support his claim.


Brigham Young praises the people not for being morally, ethically, or spiritually superior, but for being more obedient to the word of the Lord through prophets. Brigham Young's quote reads:

We are placed on this earth to prove whether we are worthy to go into the celestial world, the terrestrial, or the telestial, or to hell, or to any other kingdom or place, and we have enough of life given us to do this. And as I frequently say, and think more frequently, it is a disgrace for the Latter-day Saints to say, "Let us lay hold now, and have a reformation." We should never cease reforming and seeking to the Lord our God; and wherein we can better any trait in our lives, let us go to with our mights and reform ourselves, and not ask an Elder to come and preach reformation to us....

I remarked to brother Kimball last Sabbath, that this people are the best people that ever lived upon the earth; I am actually a good deal inclined to think so. Do not marvel at this remark. How long did it take Enoch to purify his people—to become holy and prepared for what we want this people to be prepared for in a very few years? It took him 365 years. How long has this people lived? It will be 27 years on the sixth of next month, since this Church was organized. What do you think about this people? I say that the virtuous acts of their lives beat the whole world. Were the children of Israel ever so obedient to Moses, as this people are to me? No, they never began to be; for obedience they could not favourably compare with this people. Moses led his people forty years in the wilderness in rebellion, fighting, stealing, whoring, and every manner of iniquity; and their evils where so great, that God cut every one of them off in the wilderness, except Caleb and Joshua. He did not suffer one of them to go into the land of Canaan, except the two I have named; they never revolted from Moses, but held up his hands all the time. They never turned away, not even when Aaron, his half-brother and right hand man, made the golden calf. When Aaron gathered up the earrings, and finger rings, and jewels, and made a calf, and led the children of Israel astray to worship an image, and say, "These be thy Gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage," while Moses was in the mountain talking to the Lord, Caleb and Joshua did not turn away; and if they were in that company, their souls shuddered while the people were making that calf.

Brigham Young praises the people not for being morally, ethically, or spiritually superior, but for being more obedient to the word of the Lord through prophets

He continues:

Were Enoch's men as obedient and advanced as far as this people in the same time? I think not. Let this people continue to make the improvement they have made, and it would not be 165 years before they could take this part of the country and go off, should it be necessary, until the earth is purified. Yet Enoch had to live and strive, and toil during 365 years, in order to bring his people under the principle of strict obedience. This contrast is encouraging to this people.

Now let me tell you that there are hundreds of men and women in this community that believe they ought to repent, but cannot find out for what, cannot tell wherein to do differently, from what they do, and do not know what to do. Do you do everything you know to be right and pleasing in the sight of God? Yes, say hundreds and thousands of the people. Do you do anything you know to be wrong? Hundreds may reply, "We do not know that we do, but we do not feel as though we enjoyed as much as we should." Hold on, do not get away from us. If you were now in the enjoyment of the things you have a presentiment of in your own feelings, that in the anxiety of your own hearts you are longing for, if you could get all that in your possession, you would not stay here; we should lose you, for you would be too pure to tarry in our society. Do not be in a hurry; let us stay together and fight the devil a little longer. Some of you think that by next fall you must obtain all that the Elders preach, if you do, you will go behind the vail, and we cannot have your society.

With many, a presentiment arises in their hearts like this, "We want something wonderful, or we must do something that we have not done. We must revolutionize our lives; we must reform," but they do not know wherein. Serve God according to the best knowledge you have, and lay down and sleep quietly; and when the devil comes along and says, "You are not a very good Saint, you might enjoy greater blessings and more of the power of God, and have the vision of your mind opened, if you would live up to your privileges," tell him to leave; that you have long ago forsaken his ranks and enlisted in the army of Jesus, who is your captain, and that you want no more of the devil.

Brigham goes on to give comfort and encouragement—the Saints have many weaknesses and difficulties. Despite this, Brigham encourages steady, consistent Christian discipleship. He reassures the Saints that they are "in the army of Jesus," and by "serv[ing] God according to the best knowledge [they] have," they need not worry about their ultimate fate.

These are not words directed to those smug in self-satisfied assurance of their moral or spiritual superiority but to people who know their weaknesses but strive through Christ to serve God.

Joseph Fielding Smith does not praise the Saints because they are "ethically, morally, or spiritually superior," but because they have received the gospel of Jesus Christ, and followed it faithfully

We are, notwithstanding our weaknesses, the best people in the world. I do not say that boastingly, for I believe that this truth is evident to all who are willing to observe for themselves. We are morally clean, in every way equal, and in many ways superior to any other people. The reason is that we have received the truth, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not to us a dead letter, something perhaps to be followed on the Sabbath day and forgotten on the six other days of the week, but our religion is an everyday religion. We are expected to live in accordance with the principles of truth every day of our lives, for these principles are just as true in the middle of the week as they are on the Sabbath day (citing Conf. Rep., Apr., 1951, pp. 152-153; DC 6:6; DC 11:6; DC 12:6; DC 14:6.)

Note that Joseph Fielding Smith does not praise the Saints because they are "ethically, morally, or spiritually superior," but because they have received the gospel of Jesus Christ, and followed it faithfully—obedience is. The gospel transforms weak people into better people.

Elder Smith continues:

CONDEMNATION FOR SLOTHFUL SAINTS. The man who has received the truth and yet will not walk in it deserves the greater condemnation. A member of this Church who will indulge in the use of tobacco, who will violate the Word of Wisdom, who refuses to pay his tithing, to keep the Sabbath day, or who in any other way will not hearken to the word of the Lord, is not loyal to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints....These shall receive the greater condemnation. (p. 237)

Once again, a decision to accept the gospel and its precepts or not is the deciding factor, not moral, ethical, or spiritual superiority.

Notes