Ross Douthat explains why meritocrats feel like they deserve their success. He says that you probably won’t succeed without the luck of good brains and good upbringing, but that then you have to follow that luck with lots of determination and hard work. Since the hard work and determination is closest to your success and the luck is so remote, you give all credit to the hard work.
This is the inverse of a model a lot of Mormons have of the relation between grace and works, in which you work really hard and then grace steps in at the end (which model you may or may not agree with, but that’s not the point of this post).
But whatever model Mormons use, my impression is that they are acknowleding grace a lot more than they used to. The question is, why? Is it possible that as Mormons become more accepted Mormons can participate more in the meritocracy, and the more Mormons can participate in the meritocracy the less they want their religious life to be a venue where they establish worth through good works? Religion becomes more a consolation and a refuge from the rat race then an alternative source of merit.
Postscript: Ross Douthat has a related post critiquing the new elites. Its worth your time.