“But We’re Better Than Them!”

I wasn’t sure what to write this month’s blog post about until I saw a certain comment on my post from last month. My April 2022 post addressed how disappointingly low the bar is for men in the Church, to which someone replied, “I see more men who are strong and organized and compassionate at church than I so [sic] anywhere else in the world. So I don’t get the point here. Just seems like a poorly formed complaint.” Putting aside the merits of the accusation of whether my previous post is a “poorly formed complaint”, I wanted to discuss the Mormon exceptionalism in the comment. Frankly, I think the commenter and those who think like them are wrong when they respond to any criticism this way.

I call this the “But we’re better than them!” defense, and I find it intellectually useless and doctrinally unsound. It is intellectually useless because even if it is true, it prompts the question “so what?” Jenny wrote about this beautifully in a blog post from 2014: “I don’t care if we are better than Muslims or Catholics or anyone else.  I want to be better than we are.” The “But we’re better than them!” line of thinking is more of a deflection tactic than an honest reflection of oneself or one’s group. It is a barrier to our eternal progression when we make excuses and seek to draw attention to other’s faults instead of the ones we have the greatest power to fix: our own. As the Redeemer testified, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).

Besides that, I don’t believe it is true anyway that active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are inherently better people. Rather, we are all imperfect people making our way together through this mortal life, and plenty of good and kind and loving (and strong and organized and compassionate) human beings do not share the same faith. I am married to a wonderful non-member man and grew up in a non-member family, and most of my closest friends and colleagues are not members of my religion (or any religion). My conversion makes me a better person than I used to be, but it does not make me better than everyone else.

Jesus also didn’t make excuses for His followers. Rather, He held them to higher standards and praised examples from groups they did not get along with, looked down on, and even hated. When Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:4-26, the state of distrust between Jews like Him and Samaritans like her is apparent from the outset when He asks for water and she replies, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” He ends up not only having a conversation with her but sharing with her eternal truths that she then shares with other Samaritans (John 4:28-42). In no part of the Savior’s teaching to her does He say Jews are superior to Samaritans or defend any bad behavior of His own group by saying others are worse or any of the things we would expect Him to say if He ascribed to the “But we’re better than them!” school of thought. As a result, He is more effective in sharing further light and knowledge and empowering her to do the same.

In a separate instance when disciples James and John suggested to Jesus that they burn a village of Samaritans for not receiving Him, He scolded them by saying, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:55-56). This applies to any “other” we might be tempted to destroy (or even just mistreat): members of other religions, races, genders, sexual orientations, ability or disability, the list goes on.

In Leviticus 19:18, we are commanded as follows: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.” I can think of few things less loving towards our neighbors and less exalting for ourselves than the pride that leads us to proclaim, “But we’re better than them!” The fear of others and the desire to seem better than them is natural and reinforced by our competitive society, so we must be proactive in resisting those temptations. When we take the time to see the goodness in those who are different from us and focus on the weaknesses within ourselves and our communities we can improve, then we move a little closer to where I believe God would have us be.

Nicole Sbitani
Nicole Sbitani
Nicole is an adult convert, a mixed-race woman, and a professional diplomat. She blogs at The content of this post does not represent the views of the U.S. Department of State or any other U.S. Government agency, department, or entity. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and in no way should be associated with the U.S. Government.


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I too come from a family of origin of non members and have always known that they are good, kind, compassionate, honest, and full of integrity. Very well worded article. Thank you!

  2. Thank you for sharing this. For me, this idea of being better than others was drilled into my thinking during my teenage years in the church. As young members, we are taught not to engage in certain detrimental behaviors because of the divinity within us, and that that we are especially blessed because we know who we truly are. While I think my leaders did not intend to promote pridefulness, I’ve come to realize it sn’t healthy to have this kind of worldview. My least favorite testimonies are those that go on and on about how blessed we are as a people. Feels a bit too much like the Zoramites on their rameumpton. I think the key is recognizing the divinity within everyone and as you said, acknowledging that we are all just people on this journey together.

  3. Hmmm, a bit to think about. I am going to be contrary, just for the fun of it, because I do see two sides. So, Nicole, first off I enjoyed your post and I agree that we in the church grew up on, “don’t be like the world. You are better than that.” The expectations for our behavior was high, too high, because we were better than all the other kids in our high school. And I grew up wondering why we were “better” just because we knew we were children of God. Weren’t the nonmembers also children of the same God? Didn’t he love them just as much? Just how were we “better”? Or was it just something our elders were using to shame us into the behavior they wanted.

    One example I remember was from my early feminist mother in the late 60s. My friend and several girls at school had pierced ears and wore a small stud of about 1/4 inch. While the adult Mormon women I knew wore huge, gaudy, but extremely painful screw on earrings. The back of my mothers earrings had a screw about 1/8 inch wide in back that you tightened and tightened onto your earlobe, tight enough to hold up the weight of this big earring. After her day at church, my mother’s earlobes were blistered where this screw in clamp had been tightened onto her ear like a thumbscrew. Painful and certainly not modest compared to the small stud my Catholic friends wore. But, no, I could NOT get my ears pierced because only hookers and Catholics were, what? They were both more modest and more comfortable. But I was too good to get a tiny hole punched in my ear and endure a week or so of moderate pain, compared to the red swollen blisters my mother was getting. But I could join her in being tortured by huge ugly gaudy earrings, when what I really wanted was just a tiny birthstone stud. So, now 50 years later, I have two piercings in each ear with a small hoop in one and a birthstone stud in the other. Still, smaller and more modest than most LDS who proudly have one hole, but three dangly loops from one piercing. And they are proud to be obedient to an arbitrary standard of modesty, than is less modest than my two holes per earlobe. But those obedient women think they are better than me because “one piercing” never mind how big, sparkly, dangly, eye catching, immodest their one earring is. It may be stupid, but they are proud to be obedient.

    Now for the other side of things, me being contrary just for fun. The post where the quoted comment came from and all the comments, including my own, felt a bit like women whining but we are just as good as the men, probably better than those scummy Mormon men. When that post showed up defending Mormon men as a cut above your average nonMormon dude, I had to agree with it. Our insecurity was showing. Why am I not valued as much by the church when I try so hard, and yet a man comes along and does a half assed job and gets heaped with praise. The problem has nothing to do with the quality of Mormon men. The problem is that the church takes its women so much for granted. We feel like we are not valued, so we strike out at the men. The men are not the problem. Mormon men are really pretty great. They seem to respect women better than their nonMormon counter parts, at least the ones I dated. But as Mormon women we start to resent the men because they get priesthood and we grew up with them going to great scout camps once a month and we got a crummy camp once a year, and the church values them because of the callings they can hold that are needed, while there are more active women than calling available. The church as an institution devalues us and we resent it. Men can get away with being slackers, while women have to be spectacular in their callings or join the ranks of women with no calling. So, the bar for men to be “good enough” for the church is much lower than it is for women. And of COURSE we resent it. But Mormon men are still pretty great. It is the institution of the church that sucks.

    This “you’re better than others” is used as a compliment to the men, and a hammer to guilt the women into doing more and giving more and no matter how much we give and how hard we try, it is never good enough for the church.

    • I look forward to a day when nobody judges anybody else for their earrings regardless of number or size. I am sorry that you were taught judgment of others and experienced judgment for something like that.

      I still don’t think Mormon men are better than others or seem to respect women better than other men. My non-Mormon husband quit his prestigious and lucrative job to follow me around the world for my career. He is the primary caregiver for our child. He has no issue standing up to anybody who criticizes our family’s choices. He is a good man who serves people in and out of the Church. I’m not looking to bash Mormon men here or anywhere else, but rather to criticize our low expectations that infantilize them and diminish their capabilities.

  4. I have never commented before but couldn’t stay silent. In my personal experience and anecdotal evidence of friends there is no proof Mormon men are in fact any more respectful or kind or concerned with women’s well being. To the contrary LDS men seem to have a greater likelihood of being highly conservative and therefore less concerned with “women’s issues”, more likely to support the pay gap, less likely to be concerned with consent, especially in sexual situations where it is assumed the woman will “be the brakes” and beat them off to prevent the man from “Sinning due to lack of self control”, more likely to adhere to traditional gender roles, more likely to believe women don’t need education or are inherently less intellectual/knowledgeable. Outside of conservative religious circles men and women are using to operating as equals and in equal capacity. Patriarchy within the church, not limited to-but certainly exhibited by- a concern that revering Heavenly Mother too much will take away from Heavenly Father, shows just how deeply the belief that women are second class goes. And just like all the fairy tales the patriarchy will continue to claim it is for our own good and “to protect women”. I don’t need a man to protect me, I need him to understand no means no and treat me like an equal. And in that, conservative religious men fall egregiously short.
    Also, in response to the comment the OP is responding to, men and women’s garments are essentially the same- because they are fashioned after men’s underwear from the 1940’s. After which point men and women’s underwear differed substantially as women’s underwear changed drastically. They are not remotely similar to what is considered the norm for women’s underwear anywhere in the industrialized world. That is not the same burden or peculiarity. Lastly, garments changed WITH fashion in the early days of the church. They were never meant to be some benchmark for modesty. The only time in scriptures clothing is mentioned it is to address costly apparel, vanity and pride. For instance- the Zoramites being kept out of religious services for not having clothing deemed nice enough. I have seen plenty of church art showing Jesus wearing a robe that would not cover my garments. Does this mean he is being portrayed as “immodest”? Modesty has nothing to do with hemlines or shoulders and everything to do with peoples intentions. And I’m sick to death of people using garments as a yard stick to measure their own holiness or others perceived lack there-of.

  5. I agree. We are called to be better than ourselves. There are some characteristics I see in men of the Church that seemingly are becoming less common among the general population (but that is entirely perception, not data-driven) — namely a willingness to marry, to have children, to prize family life as the primary goal. Which of course is not to say that non-member men do not do these things – just based on movies, tv, books etc one gets the impression that it is hard to find men who want to settle down.

    But then (again, perception and anecdote rather than data) there are things men in the Church could learn from men in less patriarchal institutions. Belonging to the Church of the Gender Roles means that many men are held back from some of the emotional growth and steps towards equity that are happening beyond our doors.

    • I agree that Church men are probably more likely that men in the general population to prioritize family life, but they’re probably not more likely to do so than Muslim men or Catholic men or other men they are most commonly compared to because that is something emphasized as important in many religions. I totally agree with the point about patriarchal institutions, though of course the Church has no monopoly on patriarchy or oppression.

  6. I couldn’t have phrased it any better myself. Perfect statement for which no
    Improvement can be offered. Thank you so much!

  7. I remember reading the original comment this post is based on and sighing my lungs out. The commenter is completely and utterly delusional in claiming that men and women in the church are held to the same standards when it’s so obvious that isn’t the case.

    Anyway. So much of the “we’re better than them!” mentality comes from being told repeatedly that we’re the “chosen generation”, that we’ve been reserved for “the last days”, and that “we have the gospel”. I think hearing that being repeated to us over and over again has led to that “we’re better than them!” mentality. The reality is that there are members of the church who aren’t good people, and good people who practice a faith that is different from ours, or not at all. Being a member of the church doesn’t give someone a monopoly on being superior to others.

    An aside, I’ve read Laura’s comment and wonder if the resentment women in the church feel towards the men is because there’s a sense of “they know better.” These men hold the priesthood, have made temple covenants, and have the fullness of the gospel… and yet don’t live up to these privileges and the opportunities that come with them. There is a real sense of trying to have it both ways: wanting to claim, “we’re better than them!” and “we’ve made covenants and have special privileges that we want to keep, but don’t hold us to the standards that come with them!” And I think that goes for both sexes.

    A lot to think about here. Thanks for this post.

  8. The idea that Latter-day Saints, either men or women, are better than others is ludicrous. It is blatantly false. While there are very good people in the Church there are many more very good people in the world.

    When someone says they are impressed with the quality of the people in the Church I interpret that to mean that they are impressed because they have found people with similar goals and purpose. This usually means someone who has made a commitment to Christ and His restored Gospel. Someone who wants to allow Christ in their lives so that He can change them into someone better than they currently are. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory if God. Only through Christ can we overcome our weaknesses.

    As we allow Christ to make us better may we do what we can to love our families and our neighbors that their lives may also be better.

    • Thank you so much for saying this. I’ll keep it in my back pocket for a potential talk for my next ward, as I haven’t been able to attend my current branch due to a lack of pandemic protections. Good thing I’m moving soon!

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