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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 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. 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?
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.
The American woman stood at the podium in my mid-sized Australia ward, yet paused before uttering a word.
The 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.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. 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.