“The Lord’s anointed.”

This is a term you hear from time to time related to church leaders.

This is a powerful framing of church leaders, but what does it actually mean?

Or better yet, how does the perceived meaning of “The Lord’s Anointed” influence church culture in our Latter-day Saint experience?

Dan Duckworth, in a recent post, talked about the concept of the “anointed complex.”

He described it as “the belief that divine assignments are reserved for a select few who are deemed to be highly obedient and worthy.”

Dan explains that the “anointed complex” leads to negative cultural dynamics such as:

  • Capable people waiting around to be “called” in order to have influence
  • Hyper-conformity as individuals try to prove their discipleship worth, which dampens innovation, revelation, and leadership style variety

I would also add that the “anointed complex”:

  • Leads to Hierarchical leadership ladders, where former bishops should mainly be considered to be stake presidents, and former stake presidents should mainly be considered to be mission presidents
  • Causes our culture to fall into the chalkboard-in-heaven fallacy. This is where we assume God has a specific name next to every calling, and it is a leader’s job to pray until they know who God wrote down on His chalkboard in heaven. When in reality, every time a new leader is called there are numerous individuals who could be called and succeed in that role.

So how do we avoid the “anointed complex”?

Dan says the answer is self-authorization, or in other words, consider yourself anointed and get to work regardless of whether or not you have been given a formal title.

One of the most intriguing challenges I have, now that my formal church leadership days are behind me, is seeking positive influence in the Kingdom of God without a “titled” calling.

Like most of us, I have already covenanted with God in His temple to do this.

In short, the main point to consider when a leader assumes they are the “chosen one” or “anointed one” is that they are correct: those endowed in the Lord’s temple are “anointed ones”; however,

**Read this closely**

We are not leading because we were previously anointed.

We are anointed because we are called to lead.

We are anointed because we are in a covenant relationship with God, which is available to all people through temple keys, not through church callings.

In general, I feel this perspective releases the pressure we put on ourselves and others.

What specifically could leaders do to avoid perpetuating the “anointed complex”?

  • Self-authorization: if you feel you can influence your church culture for good, get to work
  • Leaders can strive to call those outside of the leadership mold and give them a shot at serving
  • Leaders should avoid defaulting to those with “church leadership experience.” There are too many capable people who are rarely called to lead because there is an assumption that leaders must have prior experience.

What would you add to this list?

For more insights on this topic, check out Dan Duckworth’s perspective.

Kurt Francom
Executive Director
Leading Saints

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