My grandma always used to say that "growing old is for the birds". Obviously she didn't think much of all her growing health issues. In that same spirit, I say that triumphalism is for the birds. Unfortunately, it came out strong at times with our early church leaders. Exhibit A:
"And this is the gospel which God has commanded us to preach to all people, once more, for the last time. And no other system of religion which is now organized among men is of any use; everything different from this, is a perverted gospel bringing a curse upon them that preach it, and upon them that hear it."
—Parley P. Pratt ("A Voice of Warning" 1838)
Find me someone who still believes that and I'll find you a fool. And this deeply offensive rhetoric certainly doesn't help our cause. Small consolation is the fact that it's out of step with the majority of modern-day Mormonism, not to mention our thirteenth Article of Faith.
The smugness of superiority, however, still comes out from time to time. Yesterday in our priesthood lesson it was implied that having a prophet clears up doctrinal confusion and chaos, as if the rest of Christianity finds itself in a doctrinal maze and yet Mormonism is crystal clear. Of course anyone who believes that is not only ignorant of traditional Christianity but oblivious to the concerns of Mormons and non-Mormons who find plenty of doctrinal uncertainties that the living prophet hasn't seemed to clear up much.
Just because "the morning breaks" isn't a guarantee that the rest of the the day contains a perfect forecast. Pinning down Mormon "doctrine" with any degree of certitude is still quite a challenge.
Richard Bushman has written: "Our covenant with God is to bless the people of the earth. That should be our motto. Establishing Zion does not mean sweeping vast masses of people onto our membership records but creating a people of God dedicated to blessing others. Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship, and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve."
That "new voice" is already strong and growing in today's Church. But it would certainly help if we can remember to not keep shooting ourselves in the foot.