International Series: The Mormon Messiah Complex and the Worldwide Church

The American woman stood at the podium in my mid-sized Australia ward, yet paused before uttering a word. The Mountain by BalthusThe bishop had asked her to speak, because it was her last Sunday in this ward. She and her husband were finishing their mission and this ward fell in the boundaries of the mission office where they had driven admin desks for 18 months. They were not in the mission presidency, yet had held office jobs that removed them from everyday interaction with the locals. In a way that I can only describe as Marilyn-Monroe-ish, she swished her perfectly styled and coloured hair then breathlessly said, “What words can I leave the people of Australia with?”

I looked at my husband and snickered as he rolled his eyes. “She is in a solitary, expat-heavy ward in all of Australia! Who does she think she is talking to?” we both said.

She went on with her testimony (which sounded more like a brag-a-mony) about how great her influence was on us locals, how humbled she had been to “serve all of you,” and how she hoped she’d left Australia a better place. Right? Because of all her desk work at the air-conditioned office where she pushed the papers of “the American church,” to its predominantly American missionaries…that was her idea of feeding my spirit?  

And yet, she was typical of many American, Mormon visitors, who are most often missionaries (but also reflective of a large number of American Mormon expats visiting on temporary work visas). This understanding and belief of “American Mormonism” is, after all, what many American Mormons are taught. Corn-fed on conversion stories from fathers and grandfathers who served missions where they saved (or survived) ignorant non-Americans in administering the gospel seem to have fostered a belief wherein American missionaries perceive themselves as teachers of American Mormon culture as a component in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This perception is something I call the Mormon Messiah Complex. Though not a true Messiah Complex which is a psychological state wherein the individual believes they are actually Jesus or Christ, the Mormon Messiah Complex is a sociological state of mind manifested in an underlying belief that somehow the gospel, when companioned with an upbringing in the American Mormon Church, have given the missionary or work expat superior spiritual knowledge and rank. They perceive themselves in authority because the majority, if not all non-American Mormons are ecclesiastical simpletons because they were not raised sufficiently in Mormon piety and culture outside of the Jell-O belt. Mormon Messiah Complex is defined when it is isolated on the condescension side of a thin line that differentiates between empathy of local needs (coupled with a healthy appreciation of one’s American roots) and the sense of superiority in culture, education and spirituality on the other side.

 

To be clear, this is not reflective of all American expats, Mormon Expats, Missionaries, or even all temporary American (or other nationality) workers and their families. Many American Mormons are very good people. They are well and truly devout individuals, who get their hands dirty and calloused in service, regardless of the simplicity or complexity of local congregations. But there is yet a core group who fall into the Mormon Messiah Complex category who can’t see anything outside of their own sphere of cultural understanding. It is a position of ignorant privilege wherein they recognise they are privileged to have a testimony of the gospel and, in many cases, the ability to be educated, yet they fail to recognise that their brand of privilege is void of an adaptable position in the worldwide church. For example, in Southern Cross Saints, Marjory Newton recorded a time when an American YWMIA board member from Utah was visiting Australia in about 1960:

 

“Light the way to MIA” was the slogan and church members everywhere were encouraged to leave their porch lights on each Tuesday evening (to ensure YW were not walking in the dark to and from the MIA activity.)The visiting general board member asked the local leaders in Sydney whether they were finding the “Light the way to MIA” a success. On being told that the program was not operating in Sydney, she became very agitated and insisted that the members must be taught to use this program, which had come, she said, by revelation from the prophet. No amount of explanation could get through to the visitor the fact that, with two million people in a sprawling city of a thousand square miles, not one of the forty or so Latter-day Saint girls lived close enough to an LDS chapel to walk to meetings, let alone pass by another member’s house home on her way.” (p 202-203)

 

This is an example of the Mormon Messiah Complex first, because the board member declared the program was revelation from a prophet -invoking a sense that she had greater knowledge and/or education on the item at hand. Secondly, she could not recognise her privilege of living in a predominantly LDS community, so attempted to force a program that was not adaptable or even relevant in the area she was visiting.

This tyranny of cultural and physical distance further identifies and isolates those entrenched in the Mormon Messiah Complex because it frustrates the ability to gain and give support to church members, and drives a wedge of apathy between them and the church members who might otherwise be better willing to serve alongside the visiting Americans. Examples from my experience include the missionaries in our rural branch who complained because the Relief Society president lived a 50 minute drive away from the chapel (in a branch that encompassed an area of 400 sq. kilometres). This upset them because they perceived that she could not help them in the way they felt was required for their work, and took on an ugly flair of sexism because males- even visiting missionaries, are are armed with priesthood authority, deemed culturally and ecclesiastically superior to non-authoritative, female, church roles.

Likewise, the mission president in this same area laid an edict that missionaries were not allowed more than 1 hour for dinner appointments. This was for an area where dinner appointments were rare, the missionaries were an hour’s drive away from most church members’ homes, and many members, such as us, had driven 4 hours just to attend this non-edifying, “dinner rules” lecture at a Regional Conference. Though a neighbourhood Relief Society president and a quick dinner appointment is likely sufficiently applicable in many areas in and out of the US, to non-US areas where the church is highly uncommon, missionaries and mission presidents alike can inadvertently further the sense of segregation between church members and American missionaries. In this, missionaries and mission president frustrate their own missionary goals, and foster apathy through ignorance regarding utterly disassociating the effort of the church member whom they rely on for referrals in connecting with church at all.

Absence of even minimal financial knowledge, or worse, indifference to economic survival is also a characteristic of Mormon Messiah Complex. To be clear, I do not expect 18-year-old men and 19-year-old women to have sufficient understanding of how to pay off a mortgage in their home county any more than I expect them to understand how to pay the rent in another country, especially when they might not even speak the language. But outright ignorance to local budget needs creates a problem from a church-wide perspective.

Consider this: Prior to 1990, missionaries needed to pay for the cost of their mission according to the local fiscal requirements of the mission wherein they were assigned to serve. This meant, for example, that a mission to Japan would have been significantly more costly than a mission to Guatemala, and the missionary and/or the missionary’s family would have had the burden of paying the expense. In 1990, a flat-rate was introduced for American missionaries that standardised the cost of missionary service. Though this was great for the American side of mission affordability, it also created a disassociation regarding international exchange rates for where the youth served the mission. This feeds the Mormon Messiah Complex in that empathy to the local cost of living became something to be learned at leisure, rather than experienced. To be clear, missionaries would comprehend that the cost of an average meal in the United States is not equal to the cost of a meal in Brasil. But the problem comes when missionaries and expats fail to learn or comprehend when church members are being generous, to the point of missionaries taking advantage of church members’ good will to support the missionaries.

Examples in my experience include the Stake Relief Society president assigned by the mission office to provide a quarterly meal for all the missionaries. She was given a budget by the mission to feed the missionaries a basic, no-frills meal. However, the Relief Society president was required to double budget from her own pocket in order to pay for the food necessary to feed all of the missionaries present, therefore, she asked for those sisters volunteering their time on that day to further donate food and money to help reimburse her. She spoke to the mission president once about the lowly budget, but was brushed off, as he had created the budget based on the costing of food in the US, rather than based on the costing of food in Australia (2.5 times more expensive than food in the US). She feared taking the issue to the mission president again, so chose to absorb the cost herself. Clandestine sacrifices like this are common (and from a devout member perspective, this is the stuff of miracles and blessings). But this revisits the awkward position of the Mission President as an ecclesiastical authority, though not a direct authority within the stake. In earnest, it positions him as an ignorant authority absent of the responsibility of the local church members. He is under no obligation to seek information regarding the needs of the members who are required though stake assignment to support him and the missionaries by virtue of stake assignment. Thus, unless the mission president is of a particularly empathetic heart and mind, the divide of empathy and apathy between missionaries and members becomes the epitome of the Mormon Messiah Complex.

 

Men are more likely to be identified within the framework of the Mormon Messiah Complex as a result of male-only priesthood which places any Mormon male in higher position than any Mormon female. But men do not suffer from it alone. For example, the sister missionary, when her parents came to retrieve her at the end of her mission. We welcomed her and her parents in our home as they toured are area wherein she had served her mission. Prior to this, her phone had been provided and paid for entirely by the mission, so after she spent a single night in a hotel with her parents prior to visiting us, she finally learned the cost of a local phone call. In that single night, she made enough phone calls that her mother confided to me that they had spent the entire sum of their travel funds in paying that one phone bill. These were not international or even out-of-state calls; these were all calls to church members whom she had received calls from when she was serving in their branches and wards, and whom she hoped to see again before she went back to the US. Although she had been in the country for well over a year, this missionary literally did not know the expense associated with a local phone call.

 

Perhaps the knowledge of the cost of a local phone call is irrelevant in regard to missionary work especially when the mission is footing the missionaries’ entire phone bill. But this situation reveals the larger problem of missionaries who are ignorant of the cost of living, and expect members to interact with them in the same manner as church members interact in the US. Though most church members have grown a thick skin when it comes to the ridiculous advisements of missionaries who, for example tell us to “bottle our own tomatoes,” when doing so costs 3 to 4 times more than buying ready-tinned tomatoes. But in failing to recognise “the widow’s farthing,” of the cost of a local phone call, missionaries can unwittingly surrender the ability to empathise to the real needs of locals and make undue financial demands on them. This can result in hurt feelings, apathy and even anger— on both sides.

 

An example of this is the missionaries who giggled over one of the members in a previous area who heated his water by removing the coil from an electric kettle and placing it directly in hot water. He then plugged it into an active electrical socket, thereby heating the water. His normal hot water heater had broken, and rather than save for a new hot water heater, he chose to use what little money he could spare to provide snacks when the missionaries visited him. To be clear: He risked electrocution so he could provide simple, yet regular snacks for the visiting missionaries. The American Elders thought that this was an hilarious example of Australian ingenuity.  I was numb with shock listening to them laugh at the poverty of a fellow citizen. Even though the laughing might have been a release of stress or anxiety, the Elder explained that their best advice to the man was to not put the element in the water because it was dangerous. They offered no real advice or help (not even to inform the local bishop), and could not see the sacrifice of love offered by the man. He ceased inviting them to his home, and I never saw him at church.

 

The divide between local members, visiting members and church headquarters is not new. At its root, it is the stuff of Church Correlation—or the program to bring the International church in line with the thoughts, focus and even culture of the church headquartered in Salt Lake. The primary goal of Church Correlation was to place “doctrines and ordinances, organizations and agencies, programs and activities, meetings, and printed and audiovisual materials” at a local level in “proper relationship” with Church headquarters (reference). Thus, in and of itself, Church Correlation can be defined as the institutional model of the Mormon Messiah Complex because its goal was to narrow the administrative power of the church in a central line, regardless of the financial, cultural and emotional needs of local congregations.

 

This insular line of prescribed church routine and culture has been slightly loosened in recent years with the introduction of The Come, Follow Me program for youth. In contrast to the hard line of church correlation, Come Follow Me states that:

“Each month all teachers will focus on the same doctrine, but teachers will choose their own lesson topics for each week. You may choose to spend more than one week on a topic. Let the needs of the youth, not a predetermined schedule, guide your teaching.”

In this, Sunday School youth teachers are encouraged to engage students in gospel topics in relationship to local needs, allowing for adaptation based on cultural, financial, and individual students’ needs. From an international perspective, this is a much-needed model of adaptability that can address challenges for teens based on their local and personal situations. Though this is not perfect, it does lend to cure a part of the administrative facet of the institutional Mormon Messiah Complex.

However, even though Come Follow Me may be implemented in global youth programs, missionaries and mission presidents still exist in the hard line structure of Correlation. What’s more is unless they are very motivated to be open and seeking of local culture (if they can find the time) the insular training of missionaries can only exacerbate the issue of the Mormon Messiah Complex, especially in those individuals who think of themselves in an authoritative context, i.e. they are call to “preach the gospel,” rather than listen to locals. Consider how missionaries are welcomed to a country: the Mission President, usually American, greets the new missionaries at the airport and they go to the Mission Home, which, in my experience, is well-stocked with American foods. The Mission president and his wife then teach some basic things about the culture that have noticed in their position, but yet might not be reflective of local thought or culture if only because their largest communication and interactions are with other American missionaries. In missionary companionship, the new “greenie” is partnered with a “training companion,” who, among other things shares some cultural experiences, but who is likely American, has the focus imparting missionary wisdom and no doubt makes some jokes of the cultural habits he finds amusing.

Though the MTC hosts native teachers and more locals are being called to serve missions in their home countries, there is still enough American influence that for individuals who see themselves as authoritative in a disassociate manner to fall into the scope of the Mormon Messiah Complex. Further, the items that are forbidden for missionaries to engage in also serve to isolate and, therefore feed the Mormon Messiah Complex. For example, one of my first posts on the Exponent was about the Queensland Floods. The missionaries serving in our branch were collected by church members before the flood hit, and removed to a safe area. Upon returning to their flat, and finding it (miraculously) undisturbed, they went back to focusing on missionary work, unaware as to why most of their appointments had cancelled. They noticed the UN aid workers on lunch breaks at the McDonald’s where food supplies had been delivered by specially arranged delivery methods, and that all of the local grocery stores remained closed, but it didn’t seem to sink into them that something of a disaster had occurred. The missionaries were forbidden from watching television, and having no access to the news, had literally missed the flood. It was not until branch members showed them a video of their destroyed home when it was still engulfed nearly 2 meters deep in muddy flood water– that the elders understood why their resumed missionary tactics were falling flat. It was a matter of mission policy to not read or watch news on TV, which resulted in unempathetic, ungrateful young men who branch members were content to see transferred.

So how can this issue be resolved? How can we cure the Mormon Messiah Complex, at least in missionaries?

Well, first, I suggest that we need to teach boys and men that they are as nurturing as girls and women. Nurturing is not a gendered personality characteristic, but it is taught as a gendered characteristic in the church. In doing this, we teach men that empathy and the ability to care for others is not something they need to be concerned with. Thus, they end up laughing at locals who cannot afford hot water heaters, rather than seeking to help find resolutions, or reporting the situation to the bishop or mission president. Secondly, I propose that the Relief Society devise a program –perhaps a series of discussions– to help mission presidents, their wives, missionaries and even temporary expats visiting a ward to 1) understand and mindfully adapt to the new traditions of the local congregation, 2) understand the financial culture of the general area, and 3) better try to comprehend the way of life for local members whom they will be reliant upon for member referrals. In short, so they learn the cost of a local phone call (with the added bonus of not overstepping financial boundaries when enlisting local relief societies to provide meals). These classes could be funded through the mission, so as to not be taxing to the local ward or branch, and, in impoverished areas, possibly the women could be paid to teach them. The class might even involve a visit to a local grocery store and community centre. Third and last, the embargo against local new media should be removed for local holiday observations such a Memorial Days (which would manifest nationalism otherwise removed from the mission experience) and during natural disasters, such as for the Queensland floods.

 

The church has long declared itself to be world-wide, but so long as there is a drive to Americanise church culture as preferable or superior to local culture, there will be a divide between traditional American and non-traditional American members. Easily manifested in missionaries, this Mormon Messiah Complex fosters the opposite of what the church is aimed at achieving: the world wide sharing of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When church members, including missionaries, position themselves as culturally adaptable, even and especially when placed in positions of authority, the work of Christ can better continue without the stigma connected with culturally disassociated apathy. So as the numbers of missionaries increase globally, my hope is that the Mormon Messiah Complex might decrease so that member retention and new members might find the church a newer, safer, place to share in the multi-cultured, open love of Jesus Christ.

Spunky

Spunky lives in Queensland, Australia. She loves travel and aims to visit as many church branches and wards in the world as possible.

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67 Responses

  1. HarryStamper says:

    I served in Australia…I cannot identify with what you wrote. The Australian people…especially the woman were loving, kind and non judgemental…and most importantly grateful. You carry a huge condescending weight on your shoulders.

    Also…how many times did you repeat yourself….this article was so oooooooooooooooooo loooooong….

    Write an article about removing chips off shoulders….sheesh….you must be a lot fun….

    • spunky says:

      Harrystamper, I absolutely agree with you that the people in Australia are loving, kind and non-judgmental. This might be why you were unable to discern if there were issues.

      For the rest of your comment, it is in violation of items 1, 3 and 4 of our comment policy. This will not be tolerated; any further comments of similar discord from you will be removed.

    • Grammar Nazi says:

      Maybe Harry wants to write an article about the proper use of ellipses 😉

      • HarryStamper says:

        I’ll try……the best use is at a 24 hour fitness center, great for cardio and easy on the knees.

    • Grammar Nazi says:

      Also, I find it awkward that HarryStamper’s comment is a perfect example of what Spunky was writing about in the first place. “I was a missionary (outsider)….and I know what it was like.” This is the exact Messiah complext that Spunky was talking about. It’s fine for you to disagree with what she wrote but it might behoove you to do so in such a way that doesn’t just illustrate the problem.

  2. Joanna says:

    As a Norwegian member in a ward with quite a large expat community, in addition to the missionaries, I can actually vouch for most of what this sister writes… I have however, usually thought of this issue from our side; how many European members seem to suffer from an inferiority complex in regard to our fellow American Saints… And in regard to the Messiah Complex mentioned, I would tend to say: ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.’ 🙂 So how to remedy both of the complexes? My most radical suggestion would be to pull out the full-time missionaries all together, and perhaps that would shock the local members in to action. But then the cultural exchange part of the mission (for the missionaries) would be lost, and that would be a pity, I suppose. Less dramatic would be to ONLY use nationals as teachers at the MTC, and as mission president couples, and to call local members as administrative assistants at the mission office. When it comes to American civilian expats in the mission field, it’s more nuanced. As a rule, they are often experienced, stalwart, faithful and so very willing to serve. It would be an awful waste not to utilize them. In our ward, we have had expats serve as auxiliary presidents, as councelors in the bishopric, and in pretty much every calling available. They provide valuable training and experience that some of the local members sometimes lack. (However, I do remember an expat sister once exclaiming how impressed she and her husband had been with the caliber of the local members and leadership when they first arrived. They were expecting a small struggling branch, but were met by a thriving unit where most of the adult members had served missions and were second or third generation members. ) Involving them and working with them will in most cases contribute to erasing the ‘Us and Them ‘ tendencies. Unlike Australia though, we also have a language barrier to deal with. We provide translation into English for our English speaking members, (Several members in our ward have translating as a calling, and translating every single class and meeting takes some serious coordinating) but I must admit that I am sometimes a little surprised how some of the English speaking members tend to take this service for granted, as if they were entitled to it, and consider the ‘official’ church language somehow to be English. To be fair though, most of them are profusely thankful. When it comes to the lack of understanding of the real cost of for example phone calls or food, it seems this particular issue it not so much an issue here, since most of the mission presidents have previously served missions here and are fully aware of the price level.
    I remember Pres. Hinckley was once asked in an interview what he saw as the greatest challenge for the church today. His answer was ‘Growth – both in the States and internationally’. It would seem he is right. We continue to suffer from growing pains. I love Elder Holland’s comment:
    ‘Imperfect people are all God ever has to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to him. But He deals with it. So should we. ‘

    • spunky says:

      Joanna,
      Thank you so much for your beautiful comment. I agree with you that my words come across as very direct, and lack the empathy that your comment eloquently expresses. I tend to become very direct and pointed when something frustrates me, and it come across as perhaps too bold in an LDS forum. That being said, I appreciate that you see my point.

      I am saddened by those who do not appreciate the English translation service callings! I have know sisters who have served in similar callings and it is a hard job, especially with slang church lingo added. I am so very glad that your ward offers the service, though.

      RE: “When it comes to American civilian expats in the mission field, it’s more nuanced. As a rule, they are often experienced, stalwart, faithful and so very willing to serve. It would be an awful waste not to utilize them.” I absolutely agree. I have know of cases where an expat who is borderline active in the US steps up to full work and heavy callings in the church when not in the US– in part, due to the feeling that they are needed, wanted and appreciated– something that seems to be lacking for them in their previous places of residence. I still think of the day when the American woman was guest-teaching us from the stake, and she started the lesson by asking grammatical questions- nothing that she was an English teacher, so was impatient with our responses… then she half-apologized by saying that because it was ANZAC day, and we had sung the Australian national anthem, she was nervous, and would have preferred it if we sang the American national anthem. She dd intend it as a joke, and some of the older women chuckled, but it really didn’t add to the spirit of the lesson.

      Thank you so much for your comment!! I hope you are a regular Exponent reader!

  3. Emily U says:

    Thanks for this post, Spunky, I learned a lot by reading it. Your stories about the man with the improvised water heater and missionaries post-flood are especially poignant.

  4. Jenny says:

    Your post has great info that could be beneficial to missionary work in foreign countries. When I first went abroad to Germany as a nineteen-year-old girl, I definitely had this complex. Looking back, I think I could have been much more prepared to go abroad if the narrative taught in the Mormon culture was different. I wish I had not grown up thinking that everything about me and my culture and my church were superior to the rest of the world. I wish I had gone over with an attitude of wanting to understand another culture rather than trying to make them like me. I learned pretty quickly, but it would have been easier without the complex in the first place. Thanks for your post!

  5. Violadiva says:

    What an eye-opening post, Spunky! Thank you! Living in California, I often hear other members talk disparagingly about the “Utah Mormons”, and when I visit family in Utah wards, sometimes they sneer at me for being a “California Mormon,” as though we weren’t “correct” enough to be considered true Mormons, (ie my comments in gospel doctrine have to be rectified by the resident CES retiree.) It sounds like this happens the world over among our members.
    What can be done to build a more Zion people, worldwide? This series is already causing me to think about blind spots to privilege, sensitivity and understanding. How do we see past the blind spots of our various church cultures to focus on what we have in common: an abiding love for our Savior, Jesus Christ? He would not have called them “the Australian people,” he would have called them HIS people, His friends. Perhaps at the end of this series, we can have an open thread post about what each of us can do to make the church feel more inclusive, reduce our own blinders so to speak. Thanks for helping me crack open my blinders a little more.

  6. Amira says:

    Thank you, Spunky. Missionaries, both younger ones and too many older ones, really are isolated from real life. Many expats have the same problem. I think your idea of some sort of culture class is wonderful. I always do a lot of reading and asking questions before I move to a new country, but I’d give anything to have a member of the church sit down with me and let me ask questions about the country and how things work at church.

    We’ve lived overseas many times in very different situations and I’ve also watched my parents as they served drastically different missions; a person’s reasons for being overseas and their lifestyle make such a huge difference in how isolated they are from real life. My parents were much more involved in real life during their humanitarian mission to Lebanon, but that doesn’t mean they wanted to be isolated during other missions they’ve served- they just didn’t have the time and the tools to do much about it. I’m a lot more isolated right now in our current country for a lot of different reasons, and I really don’t like it.

    I do hope, at the very least, that my sons won’t suffer from this when they go on their missions in a few years. They get it pounded into their heads often enough, at least.

  7. I think you’ve given us a lot to think about, though I wonder if many of the conflicts you describe could be ascribed to culture shock and the human (not just American, though we are particularly bad about it) tendency toward ethnocentrism, rather than the systemic, delusional behavior of American Mormons. Sometimes we move to foreign countries, whether as missionaries or for a career, and we make cultural gaffes. It happens. Sometimes we forget that just because we share a language, does not mean we share a culture. It’s an unfortunately easy mistake to make.

    I love your last paragraph and I wholeheartedly agree with your conclusions. I’d just like to believe that most of the people you mention in your post did not have such awful motivations for their actions, and have since learned from their experiences.

    • spunky says:

      Thank you for your comment, Other Bridget!

      ” I’d just like to believe that most of the people you mention in your post did not have such awful motivations for their actions”

      I don’t think that anyone I mentioned had “awful motivations” in the least; I think they were, for the most part, just oblivious at best and primed as “leaders without a clue,” at worst. I am also convinced that most missionaries learn a little something of the country, and a little something of themselves as a result of their missionary experience, but that does not *always* equate to a cultural understanding or empathy for local membership challenges. Sometimes it does. I have seen some brilliant acts of appreciation and compassion by American, Japanese, New Zealand, Cambodian and British missionaries who went the extra kilometer…er, mile. I have also known a number of American RMs who served in, Australia who found their missions difficult, complained of Australian culture and outwardly spoke of their detest towards Australians.

  8. EFh says:

    I have seen first hand the issues you mention in this article when I lived in another country. I have also noticed that the American youth who goes on missions, are very ill prepared even in curiosity on how to learn the culture and traditions of another culture. If they are not called to Western Europe, they assume there is no culture or literature in the rest of the world.

    American Mormons can definitely suffer from a superiority complex as the members in other countries suffer from the inferior one. This is because the missionaries are not only teaching the gospel but also the culture and the admin procedures of running the church. I distinctively remember when I was a Young Woman and the American missionaries told me that I have to teach my fellow young women to wear bras (14 to 15 years old girls) because only whores don’t wear bras in America.

    I do feel bad for the missionaries though because I do recognize they are in such a difficult position. The members don’t tell them that they had to borrow money to prepare a nice dinner for them. And the missionaries do not ask personal questions regarding money because in America, you just never do that. The missionaries also are in a difficult position because I have noticed that the opinion of the Mission President on the country and culture molds and influences how they interact with members. I remember that when the Mission President and his wife loved the people and did every thing they could to learn some of the language and culture, that was the time when the missionaries and the members were very close. Another time, I remember a Mission President whose attitude was completely the opposite and he even banned the missionaries from visiting and dinning at members’ houses. That was a very sad time for both sides.

    I do have a long list of suggestions but the most important thing/advice I can give is that in order for the missionaries to focus on the discrepancies of their lifestyle in America and that of the people in the world, they should focus on the positive. For example, rather than saying “I cannot believe this people have so little” to focus on “This people have so little and yet they feed me and make me part of the family”. What one possesses does not determine the quality of life per se. I find that people in USA are more lonely and stressed out than elsewhere. So everyone has a lot in some way or another. Comparing is not a good way of exploring the world as a missionary.

    • spunky says:

      EFH,
      I feel bad for the missionaries, too– in a way, it is as if they are set up to fail when they are not taught to be compassionate.

      I’d love your ideas on how this can be remedied– as others have mentioned, this is not a situation limited to foreign missionaries, but Utah vs. California, Jell-o belt vs. not Jell-o belt. Care to consider a guest post?

      • EFH says:

        Hi Spunky,
        If I ever become a Mission President, I would organize a fun forum for the members and the missionaries to ask questions to each other and help the missionaries understand their country as much as possible through the eyes of the natives. I think an activity like this would need to happen at least once a year.
        I would have to give serious consideration to writing a blog post because choosing a topic that would benefit the audience here can take some time. Thank you for the invitation.

      • Spunky says:

        EFH,
        That idea alone is awesome. I love it. The invitation still stands. 🙂

  9. Chris says:

    I found this article insightful. Other than short-term military service, I have never lived outside the United States, and I served my own mission in the United States. I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon in US wards outside the Mormon Corridor/Jello Belt, an area euphemistically called “The Mission Field” by “expats” from the Corridor. They love to share with the unwashed masses amongst whom they have been called to live and serve what a great sacrifice it is to live in our communities, so far from civilization and the comforts of home, and yet what a beautiful thing they are doing to help us out in teaching a pure and correlated form of the gospel. Sometimes it is nauseating. At a youth conference, I once heard a seminar on dating from a newlywed couple from Utah. Most of their date ideas involved activities in the mountains. We were in the Midwest, far from anything resembling a mountain, so, much like the Light the Way to the MIA program in Australia, the advice was useless.

    • spunky says:

      I hear you, Chris. As a youth, I envied those who lived in Utah because it sounded like a dating heaven. When I got there as a YSA, I found it was in a lot of ways– but even more painful and awkward in other ways. I recall going on a date with a guy who told me he was engaged, but he was still dating because he didn’t want to be inappropriately attached to his fiance. I still don’t get that.

  10. Erin Whitney says:

    Have you considered sending this article to the current mission president of your area?

    Reading this article here, in this forum, is useful to us, the readers of this site, but I am willing to bet the mission president is completely clueless regarding how his missionaries are perceived, and would do anything to change any negative perceptions.

    Sharing this article might lead to some of the changes you mentioned.

    If you already shared this article with the mission president, what was his response?

    • spunky says:

      I have not submitted this to a mission president. I have lived in 3 countries now, and the experiences included were under the direction of different mission presidents. I like the idea of sending it to mission presidents- but don’t know how to get a hold of their email addresses. Suggestions?

      • Em says:

        I don’t know how to get email addresses, but the website mission.net often has the information for the mission office address. So you could send a paper letter to mission presidents. I know that I have occasionally written to the president in our area, mentioning some recurring issues, mostly with etiquette dealing with members, suggesting a zone conference workshop to address things that were becoming grievances amongst ward members. I don’t think the missionaries had any clue why members were starting to be unwilling to sign up to feed them, and of course it would be impolite to just come up and criticize but privately a lot of women (and maybe men, I didn’t talk to them) were starting to feel upset. So I mentioned that maybe there needed to be a training addressing some of these problems. I never heard back, but things did get better.

      • Spunky says:

        That’s awesome, Em. I’ll look into doing the same! Thank you!

  11. CS Eric says:

    This reminds me of one of my fellow missionaries to Korea. He spent so much of his time engaging in cultural arguments with the locals that he spent most of his mission in the mission office to keep him from offending the members. One exchange that I remember was when an investigator was talking about the high quality of Korean electrical fans to keep cool in the summer. This missionary put him in his place by saying that because in America we had central air conditioning, we didn’t NEED fans.

    • Spunky says:

      Oh, dear. That poor missionary. To be fair, I do think there is a kind of PTSD/acute homesickness that can trigger such ridiculous reactions; I’m glad the mission office was mindful of him.

  12. BP says:

    This was incredibly condescending. I think you have a large beam in your eye.

    • HarryStamper says:

      Thank you for helping to point out the irony…..

    • Liz says:

      Again – personal attacks are in violation of the comment policy. If you’d like to engage in a conversation about tone, feel free to do so, but waging personal attacks will get you put in moderation. If you would like to say why you disagree, feel free. But “you have a large beam in your eye” is inappropriate and doesn’t contribute to the conversation. You’ve been warned – the next one will get you moderated.

  13. winifred says:

    Harry Stamper is actually a breath of fresh air. do you people not feel comfortable disagreeing with someone? it seems I always hear I loved your post it really resonated with me or this was so wonderful. have the courage to disagree with someone or to call them on something

    • Spunky says:

      Winifred,
      Criticism of substance is more than welcome and sought after as a means of developing non-insular thought.

      Personal attacks and judgement are not welcome, nor courageous.

    • Em says:

      Disagreement is fine. Telling someone they have a beam in their eye is not. Picking apart someone’s argument, or providing a contrasting experience, or simply saying “I disagree, that wasn’t my experience” is great. Just telling someone they’re proud, or blind to their own faults, is a personal attack that adds nothing to a conversation. If we were all sitting in Sunday School, instead of anonymously posting online, we’d never turn to someone and tell them “you have a beam in your eye,” or “you have a chip on your shoulder.” We’d find a way to disagree with the comment without attacking the commenter, because that is the way a civil community and a church family operates.

      I agree that often there seems like too MUCH agreement, and I’d like to see more vibrant dialogue in the comments. The problem is that often when people disagree they have a hard time expressing that without becoming personal and hurtful, violating the comment policy.

    • Ziff says:

      A breath of fresh air? In two sentences, he made clear that he hadn’t read the post at all. He’s an annoying distraction.

  14. Cruelest Month says:

    When I left on my mission to Chile, I was gifted Lonely Planet Chile by a lovely non-LDS family. Although not on the list of approved mission literature I brought it anyways. I learned much about the history and culture of Chile, enough to realize that I knew very little. I asked a lot of questions of native companions and Chileans and had a lot of wonderful conversations sparked by little bits of info gleaned from my travel guide.
    Although I don’t think it would solve the problem of the Mormon Messiah Complex, at a minimum missionaries could use a travel guide as a reference for local costs, culture, and history. I gift one to my fave missionaries! I looove the idea of local Relief Society sisters providing instruction on culture and customs. That would have been especially helpful when I was paired with companions that lacked vital knowledge on a community.
    I do think some of the Mormon Messiah Complex is a case of Ignorant American Abroad. Of course when you layer authority and the keys to salvation on top off that brash USA! attitude, well that stink is harder to ignore.
    This post got me thinking that maybe as a new Utah resident I should consider my ward as though I’m visiting a foreign country.

  15. HarryStamper says:

    I’ll try to follow the advice of the moderator.

    The point of the article is good, well intended and applies probably to many on both sides of the issue…American or other.

    My point….the article is very long, giving example after example, perhaps shorter articles convey the issues and maintain the thought process better….”brevity is the soul of wit”…..compared to other postings, this is very long.

    Secondly, I come from a knowledgeable point of view, I’m an American Mormon who served one of those missions in Australia, I’ve traveled back to Australia several times and love the people and consider many to be very good friends there. The article refers to me and my fellow companions as unemphatic, ungrateful, no ability to discern, on the side of condescension, sense of superiority etc. You may be absolutely correct! I’m all of this and worse……I simply point out the irony of how you present it. Please notice how the message carries less weight due to the language and presentation…….Proof….look how you responded to me and my words……threats of banishment…..Lo I have a Bible…therefore I need no more Bible…..Forgive me for feeling the same when you direct it at me….”you drew first blood”…..”John Rambo, 1982″

    • Spunky says:

      Harrystamper,

      Thank you for engaging constructively. Clearly you took my post as personally directed at *you,* hence, you responded with personal attacks at me. I purposefully did not mention any individual names, and left it open as to which mission(s) were involved as I saw the problem as more widespread than direct; it was not intended to be personally directed at you. Please note that I included the following:

      “To be clear, this is not reflective of all American expats, all Missionaries, or even all temporary American (or other nationality) workers and their families. Many American Mormons are very good people. They are well and truly devout individuals, who get down and get their hands dirty in service, regardless of the simplicity or complexity of local congregations. But there is yet a core group who fall into the Mormon Messiah Complex category who can’t see anything outside of their own sphere of cultural understanding.”

      I understand that the length is a problem for you. I used it and varied examples in an effort to have the points and situations applicable to a widespread audience. The examples included one where the missionary was hurt by the excessive phone bill because she did not know- at the end of her mission- the cost of a local call. This is to prove that it hurts the missionaries as much as it hurts the missionary effort.

      For curiosity’s sake, where did you serve in Australia? I am sure that you are well aware that Sydney is rated as one of the most expensive cities to live in the world, and there is an increasing problem that most individuals will never qualify for a mortgage; based on its smaller size Brisbane is not included in global comparative studies, yet it has an even higher housing cost than Sydney. I had a friend visit from Japan; when we went to the local Cole’s she took photos of the food prices because they were so high she was sure others would not believe her. At last check, it was about two and a half times more expensive for a woman to have a baby in an Australian women’s hospital– if they have insurance to supplement medicare, than it it for an uninsured woman to have a baby in the US.

      I do not see your point in irony. Would you specifically address this?

  16. Ziff says:

    Outstanding post, Spunky. Sorry, this is kind of a tangent, but the people exhibiting MMC in some of the stories and their unwillingness to consider that maybe stuff made up in the US (or Utah) might have to be adapted or dropped in a different place with different circumstances totally makes me think of traditionalists who strongly resist any changes or adaptations to Church practice to make it less discriminatory toward women. As you observe, Correlation is clearly helping drive MMC, and it may be driving the traditionalists as well. It kind of meshes with the idea of prophetic infallibility and that anything passed down from Salt Lake is God’s Own Very Mind and Will.

    But back to your points: Your description of the problem totally makes sense, and I hope your suggestions are adopted.

  17. You made a lot of great points, Spunky. I was frustrated on my mission with the rules against watching/reading the news, because I felt like we were always coming across as ignorant Americans. I was lucky enough to have most of my companions be native Spanish speakers (I served in Chile, but had Chilean, Peruvian, Bolivian, and Argentine companions), and there was often conflict between the American missionaries and the South American missionaries over these kinds of cultural misunderstandings (let alone between the members and the missionaries).

    On another note, I would have liked to know in which country each example occurred, to give some context to the stories. Thanks for raising some much-needed points. I am very much in favor of more cultural training for missionaries and mission presidents.

    • Spunky says:

      Thanks for your comment, Sarah Familia! I tired to not make an issue of the location of the experiences as to invite a wider audience application because the things can happen almost anywhere. But- most examples are from Australia, New Zealand, and one from the US.

  18. X2 dora says:

    Spunky, I love that you have concrete examples of when cultural ignorance, or a superiority complex, can hinder the development of good relations and missionary work.

    In talking with my brother last night, he noted that our uncle, who served as a mission president in S. Korea, had missionaries skim the newspaper, so that they had an awareness of local/national/international events. This awareness helped the missionaries engage with older Koreans, who were culturally unlikely to condescend to speak with post-adolescents. This uncle also allowed the sisters to wear pantsuits! And missionaries are encouraged to use their musical skills (guitar and piano that I’m aware of) to uplift the members and investigators.

    • Em says:

      I think that idea of skimming the newspaper is great. I served my mission in the U.S. and when Hurricane Katrina happened I felt like a complete idiot. Everyone was rightly concerned and engaged in this catastrophe, even though I was far from where it actually happened. Later we taught a woman who was a refugee from the storm, and here I knew basically nothing about it and had not even seen any images. It is hard to pray in faith for needs when you only have a hazy idea from letters that something terrible has happened.

  19. Lyn says:

    So much of what you wrote rang true for me. Although I have not lived outside the US, I have lived 40 years on the East Coast and Texas and have traveled internationally for periods of time. My ward for the past 20 years is 30+ miles wide by 30+ miles deep. My stake is almost half the state of Connecticut.

    I will say that missionaries are being called to do more and more humanitarian work now. In our little shoreline area of southern Connecticut, we have had 2 devastating hurricanes (Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012). Missionaries have stopped everything for weeks to go help anyone and everyone with devastated properties alongside LDS members, and even going after Sacrament meeting to render help, for wards have cancelled other Sunday meetings. On the Friday after the worst hurricane, the Boston-area mission president gathered all 100+ area missionaries for a conference in our wardhouse, after which Elders slept in the building and members put sisters up in their homes so that they could get an early start out to flooded areas and at shelters — anywhere there was need. Missionaries I have spoken with have looked at me with tears in their eyes, grateful for the opportunity to serve up to their elbows 7 days a week. They have loved and been loved through such Christlike service. This has played out after tornadoes in the Midwest, in Japan, in the Philippines, and many other places.

  20. Laurel says:

    My husband is a Latin American who served in Central America. He loved his gringo companions, but he felt a degree of respect lacking in them — although feelings are, of course, subjective. He was frustrated that they would speak English amongst themselves, excluding Spanish-speaking elders from socializing, in spite of mission rules and direct requests to switch to Spanish. One elder expressed undue surprise that my husband could play chess. ( And then my husband kicked his butt at it.) My husband tried to correct some of their condescending attitudes toward the people, and their indignation that the new Latino mission president (who’d replaced a gringo) was doing things “wrong.”

    I was with him when he ran into a former companion in the States. The companion, seeing him outside of missionary and P-day clothes for the first time, exclaimed, “Look at you! You look like an American!” Granted, I had dressed him in head-to-toe Gap, but my husband was a bit miffed. What else would he wear — guayabera shirts and a Panama hat?

    I have to admit, when I first met him in the States, I pegged him down as one of those sweet, humble converts of homecoming talks. While he was learning English and the culture, I honestly perceived myself as smarter because of his social faux pas — which were cultural but I had no comprehension of that because I unconsciously assumed American norms were universal. It’s very humbling to look back on our earlier relationship, but I’m glad I’ve been humbled!

  21. MaoriMama says:

    Thanks for this insightful post. As a kiwi I found so many points you raised resonated with my experiences. Two of my sons served missions in Australia, albeit on different sides of the country. While the cultures between New Zealand and Australia are very similar, they are different enough that both sons found some difficulty adjusting, but they did try. However, both had problems with American missionaries who would not even try to adjust and were very patronising to and about the people, the country, the culture and other non-American missionaries. They both were disgusted by the overt racism the American missionaries displayed towards Polynesian missionaries. I think that rather than MTCs teaching these kids -and Mission Presidents – how to teach discussions and baptise, they should focus on teaching them how to spread the gospel message of love through personal example.

    • spunky says:

      kia ora Maorimama,
      I love your suggestion of spreading the gospel through personal example. I too wish that missionaries were that that as the epitome of missionary work.

      Thank you so much for your comment. Xx

  22. Manuel Padro says:

    I grew up in Utah and chose not to serve a mission at 19 because I observed a lot of what you are writing about. Missionary work had largely become an act in exercising the ego of the church, the culture, and the missionary. I feel that it is largely lost on most missionaries that the mission isn’t about the converts, its an experience to strengthen them. If God wanted to convert people, there are much better tools available than 18 year old boys and 19 year old girls. The experience is meant to teach people to love and care for people who are different than they are in terms of religion, culture, economic status, and personal experience, it is meant to show them how much God loves even the people who might not feel welcome in their own community and provide them with the chance to be an agent of that love. Its about building up Zion and learning from one another.

    I ended up leaving the church but before I did I spent 3 and a half years as a volunteer working on food security projects in remote communities in Mexico, in the drug war. It was without question the most important experience of my life, and I benefited from not being removed from the local context at all. I owe a great deal of gratitude to the church as BYU introduced me to these communities nearly a decade earlier, and because so much of what took me there and guided me while I was there were the missionary experiences of friends and family. It was not a Mormon mission, but it was beneficial none the less. I continue to advise all of my students and colleagues to spend two years abroad in true service and co-living with a community different than their own. The more different the better. The less removed and the more dependent you are on the local context, even better. It isn’t meant to be a safari, it is meant to be a two year period where you live a life radically different from your own.

    After returning home I read a lot about the original mission of the Quorum of the Twelve to the England and Northern Europe of Charles Dickens and Karl Marx. They were not removed from the situation, and described the ravages of early capitalism with an honesty and frankness that lends credit to what other social observers of the time were trying to change. It inspired the Perpetual Emigration Fund, and the alternative economy that developed in Utah previous to the 1890s. I suspect that converts from holland helped the Church develop the irrigation system that made farming throughout the western United States and Canada possible.

    It would be good to see the church focus its missionary efforts more on true and genuine acts of generosity and charity, and to work towards intertwining missionaries into the lives of locals. This would create more charitable and soft hearted members, as well as generating more converts by leading through example. If the LDS Church cared about church farms and the bishops storehouse as much as it does about baptisms and temple ceremonies, people would be knocking at the missionaries’ doors, and not the other way around.

    That said, let me end on a quote from Joseph Smith which is painted on the walls as you enter the LDS Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City:

    “A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.”

  23. Canuck says:

    On a trip to Las Vegas a couple of years ago, my husband and I found ourselves seated at a table at the Donny and Marie show with a group of seniors from Utah. It was clear to us after a few minutes that they were LDS. I told the woman seated next to me that we were also LDS, from Canada and that I had converted to the church almost 40 years earlier as a teenager. She seemed pleased to know this and proceeded to tell me that her husband had recently been released as a temple president at the Manti temple. He was her second husband, but even so, he was a good man. She then said, “I always say the two greatest blessings are to be born into the church and to be born in America.” I don’t know if she realized how insulting that was. I shudder to think of someone with this kind of attitude on a mission.

    • Manuel says:

      Or having them as a neighbor and adult authority figure…..

    • LauraN says:

      Ummm, Canada IS in America, unless it moved since I last looked. So maybe she thought that was something you both had n common.

    • spunky says:

      I have yet to meet an American who refers to Canadians as Americans, and I’ve never known a Canadian to introduce themselves as an American. US citizens have a corner on the ‘American’ name tag, and even in Canada, are not well liked. In Australia, if a North American sounding accent is heard, it is asked if the individual is a Canadian, NOT an American. The reason? When Canadians are mistaken as Americans, they are insulted and become verbally abusive toward the one who supposed them an American. So people don’t ask if one is American, they ask if one is Canadian to avoid being berated. (When Americans are asked if they are Canadian, they aren’t bothered). So, what the elderly woman in Las Vegas said was a cultural insult to the Canadian.

      However, because the elderly woman was in the states when she said it to the Canadian who was also visiting the US, I think it’s okay to give her some leeway. The Canuk was visiting the US, the conversation was in the US, so it was probably presumed that there was a mutual Americana appreciation. Likewise, if I were in Italy, and a local told me their greatest blessing was that they were born Italian, I would not presume offense at all; in fact, I’d probably share the feeling of love for Italy, while maintaining my appreciation of my own nationality. I’d probably add that one of my greatest blessings was being the nationality that I am.

      In the end, I did not intend the concept of the Mormon Messiah Complex as anti-American, or American-bashing. In fact, one of the Elders in one of the stories above was a Canadian. So, Canuk, can you explain as to why you felt this couple presumed religious superiority “over” you at the Donny and Marie show?

  24. Catmina says:

    I enjoyed the articles and the comments. I am a convert from Argentina, joined 30 years ago. What you said is true for many American missionaries felt superior and would look at us natives as inferior. In my very Mormon neighborhood the same thing exists, not all members. Americans look at my brown skin one way, once they know that I have a college degree, they look at me a different way….

  25. Malcolm McLean says:

    So much of this article resonates with me, as far as US proselyting missionaries are concerned. I well remember, as the president of a small branch, having almost all and any local initiatives denigrated as “bloke effort” because we could not put the resources into things that the missionaries had been used to back home.

    On the other hand, we had had several missionary branch presidents who were (almost) uniformly wonderful, and sensitive to local conditions.

    And, best of all, we had a good contingent of US servicemen and their families, due to a nearby US military base. Not only did these expats merge with the local efforts in everything that was going on, but they also provided a great well of experience that we could draw on. (They also provided one half of several marriages.)

    In the end, I suspect that the main “fault” of the young US missionaries was their general immaturity, coupled with their complete faith in the total superiority of all things American, and the lack of any “sensitivity” training to provide any counter-balance.

    • Manuel says:

      Having never been in the MTC I ask this out of genuine curiosity, does the MTC provide cross cultural communication and/or cultural sensitivity education?

      • Coriander says:

        When I was there about 20 years ago they gave us one evening to attend a presentation about our destination (I attended two because I was going to a Latin American destination and my companion was going to Spain). Not a whole lot else beyond personal anecdotes from instructors and branch presidencies. I remember looking at manuals they used to use, maybe back in the 80s, but they had stopped using those by the time I got in. I don’t know how they’ve changed things over the past 20 years.

  26. Adele says:

    I have to admit with great shame that when we moved from the West to the Southeast US, to the “mission field,” we somehow smugly expected that the people would be backward in the ways of the gospel. We were amazed to find that the absolute contrary was true. We learned from and loved our brothers and sisters there, with whom we were fortunate to spend about a decade. Later, we were assigned to attend the Spanish branch in our stake. Both my husband and myself were Spanish speakers (though not entirely fluent, so attending church in the 2nd language was humbling and sometimes exhausting). Again, we expected to have a much better command of the gospel than these branch members, but were once again humbled and amazed as we listened to deep, insightful gospel discussions in Gospel Doctrine and Priesthood/Relief Society classes and to many Sacrament Meeting talks. These experiences have opened our eyes so that we realize that we should never pre-judge another’s gospel experience or understanding. We are not “God’s gift” by virtue of growing up in the mainstream of the Church.

  27. Tayler says:

    I was a missionary in Australia and had the privilege of meeting you, as well as receiving a reprimand post-mission about Priesthood and some misguided opinions I held. That said, I was shocked, while on my mission, to hear some fellow missionaries (though notably, no companions), act exactly as you mentioned here. I have a hard time understanding how so many people lack at least a small degree of empathy and curiosity about unfamiliar cultures. I won’t say that I was always empathetic, because I’m sure I fell into the Mormon messiah complex a few times, but I DID learn a ton about the culture I was in, and I loved every minute of it. My first companion (who was American and from Utah) actually made a point setting aside time during each dinner appointment we had to ask questions about the culture, the area, the vernacular, and so on. It set a tone for me throughout my mission to always be trying as best I could to understand the people I was serving.

    My experience has been that being shown how to be curious (and hopefully by extension, empathetic) by an immediate superior (like a trainer) was the best way for me to learn to be empathetic and absorb the culture I was in, rather than try to impose my culture on the people I was around.

    Missionaries are taught to expect some culture shock, but it’s left at that. “you’ll get used to it” is basically the only encouragement given. Though my trainer was unique in his understanding of people in general, he had some habits that I think all foreign-serving missionaries should be taught from the get-go. Most missions hold training meetings for trainers before they train a new missionary, and this should be a core learning point. Missionaries are encouraged to learn as much as possible. It doesn’t make any sense that learning about the culture they’re in isn’t explicitly included in the things they should be learning about.

    • spunky says:

      Tayler, you are the best 🙂 In my eyes, I never saw any of the MMS in you or your service! Ever since the first time you spoke at E-branch, you were became one of my favourite missionaries! Since then, I continue to appreciate you and your sincere, Christlike and heartfelt work towards egalitarianism in the world. (You and/or your wife should write guest post for us– she’s awesome!)

      Thank you for your comment!

  28. Tammy Hinckley says:

    I’ve never been to Australia, but the Mormon Messiah Complex is clearly functioning in other places around the globe. I once lived in England for a year and the stake Relief Society President told me I was the first American Mormon she’d ever met who didn’t try to tell her how to do her job.

  29. John Lundwall says:

    I absolutely loved this article. I laughed. I cried.

    I live in Utah. A few weeks ago in Elder’s Quorum they were talking, once again, about the family and eternal family principles–all of which turned out to be eternal, middle class family principles. I raised my hand and asked how much of what was being said applies to arranged marriages, caste systems, marriages of 12 or 13 year old girls, the polygamous marriages and concubines of the Old Testament, etc? Stunned silence. We teach, very often, a provincial and temporal theology. And missionaries carry this message abroad. We do have to work on it.

  1. September 4, 2014

    […] She went on with her testimony (which sounded more like a brag-a-mony) about how great her influence was on us locals, how humbled she had been to “serve all of you,” and how she hoped she’d left Australia a better place. Right? Because of all her desk …read more […]

  2. November 10, 2015

    […] The Mormon Messiah Complex And The Worldwide Church […]

  3. September 29, 2016

    […] Some other 2014 posts that received lots of comments addressed church culture, such as Libby‘s post On the Subject of My Highest and Holiest Calling and Spunky‘s post The Mormon Messiah Complex and the Worldwide Church. […]

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