The subject of meritocracy was stated on the facebook status of one of my friends. A hyper-intelligent and talented philosopher who is very knowledgeable about Mormonism confidently declared meritocracy a false doctrine to be refuted. This is a subject I posted on once or twice and wanted to do it again and figured now may be as good a time as any.
As I understand it, meritocracy is usually a term applied to government. In a meritocracy, government officials are appointed based on some system of merit possibly including attributes like intelligence, morality, aptitude, etc. Problems with this type of system include who decides the criteria, who evaluates the candidates, and how are the characteristics objectively measured?
Principles of a meritocracy applied to religion, and particularly to salvation short-circuit some of these problems. God decides the criteria, does the evaluating, and measures the character. But can salvation be profitably considered to include principles of a meritocracy? While such a line of thought may be dangerous in terms of pride, I think there are some merits to meritocracy.
When one considers the eternal state of the soul after death, and assumes that some form of salvation is not absolutely universal, then one wonders what is the difference between those that are saved and those that are not. The important point here, I think, is that this is necessarily a relative difference between saved and unsaved souls. This line of thinking is almost inescapable with Mormonism’s idea of degrees of glory, but is also relevant in a heaven/hell dichotomy.
In a government model of meritocracy, being selected for a government position does not imply that you created the world, or mankind. It does not mean that you independently invented the concept of government. It does not mean that you absolutely and independently created yourself along with your characteristics that were thought of as being superior. You were simply evaluated by a higher power as having certain characteristics that made you more fit for the position than others were.
Similarly, meritocracy applied to salvation does not mean (to me) that you independently created heaven without any help, or that you resurrected yourself, or that God did not do a single thing for you whatsoever. It does mean that those saved were saved because they were evaluated by God as meeting criteria which He set, that make them more fit for salvation than those not saved. Thus salvation is not some arbitrary decree of a capricious God, or the equivalent of winning some type of lottery. These ideas bring even more power for me when combined with the degrees of salvation found in Mormonism.
To me, this makes God a fair, just and merciful God. This also gives meaning to the parable of the sower, the parable of the talents, and the Sermon on the Mount.