Are We Special? The Truth and the Lie about God’s Chosen People is a forthcoming book that illuminates the source of our culture’s growing obsession with being unique, outstanding, and chosen, and examines the impact of this increasingly narcissistic culture on people of faith generally and members of the LDS church specifically. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often hear they are a chosen people, a royal generation, and the elect of God. In a broader culture that is more focused on the special qualities, potential, and accomplishments of the self than ever before it is possible that members’ understanding of being God’s chosen people could be confounded with the broader culture’s view of being special leading to a number of problematic consequences, including narcissism. Consistent with Elder Packer’s (1997) assertion that a proper understanding of doctrine will do more to change behavior than the study of behavior, a scripture-based truth about human nature is needed to clarify the Lord’s meaning of being chosen and to help members and all people understand and live according to the true origin of their special feelings.
The truth, simply put, is that we are special, each and every one of us, because we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father with whom we shared a close personal relationship prior to coming to Earth. As a consequence of our necessary separation from Him and the veil of forgetfulness we are each left with a vague, but deeply felt sense of an absence, something missing, or for lack of a better term, a kind of homesickness. We also have a latent awareness that we are more than just mortal beings, owing to our very special divine heritage. Knowing we would sense and feel these things and seek out ways to fill the feeling of a void that results from our separation from Him, our Heavenly Father provided the means for us to learn the truth about ourselves (e.g., revelation) and to feel of his love for us on a regular basis (e.g., through the Holy Ghost).
There is also a lie competing for our attention, whispered into our ears by the adversary through many means and various media, which tells us that these vague feelings we sense actually signify our uniquely special nature and our superiority to others; that our being chosen means that we are better than others. As with the truth, the adversary’s lie offers us a way to fill the feeling of a void created by our separation from God, but the adversary’s way only ever acts as an artifice for that alone which can truly fill our lack, which is the love of God. In his cunning the adversary knows that when we indulge the lie and are lifted up in selfish pride the spirit necessarily withdraws and our feeling of the void is enlarged. Without corrective repentance and the renewed companionship of the Holy Ghost we are likely to return to the very artifices that enlarge the feeling of the void in our lives and lead to emptiness, despair, and often addiction.
The truth and the lie present us with four options: 1) We can believe the truth and believe the lie and become lifted up in self-righteous pride, 2) We can deny the truth and believe the lie and pursue egoistic gratification, 3) It is also possible to deny the truth and deny the lie and retreat into hopelessness, or, 4) We can believe the truth and deny the lie and press forward with a love of God and all people (2 Nephi 31: 20) as humble Disciples of Christ. Each of us spends some amount of time living according to each of these four responses to the truth and the lie during the course of our lives. The goal is to move more regularly into the way of living marked by discipleship and to remain there for a longer period of time when we are there.
The solution to the problems of the three other ways of living and the key to remaining true to the way of living marked by discipleship is the atonement of Jesus Christ. When we sincerely repent and genuinely forgive others the atonement purifies our motives and removes any trace of the lie from our lives. Like Lehi, we are filled with the pure love of God and we are freed from the lie to act from a place of gratitude and charity—to do what is right for the right reasons. With the feeling of the void genuinely filled we turn outward to others to help them taste of the exceeding joy of which we have tasted (Alma 36:24) and we know true and enduring happiness, which is the design of our existence and the desire of a loving Father in Heaven.