January 27, 2010
January 14, 2010
Social psychologists have studied a theory called “cognitive dissonance” for decades. One of the more interesting facets of this theory is a phenomenon they have come to call “effort justification.” In brief, the theory states that people tend to like things more as the cost to them increases (see study). For example, the theory essentially states that if you were to fill up a theater with 100 people who came to see a sneak peek of some movie, and were to randomly charge some $50 and allow some in for free, that the people who paid the most would enjoy it significantly more than the people who got in for free. Or if you charged them all the same amount, the people who drove the farthest to get to the theater would like the movie more than those who came from a few minutes away.
The explanation is that we keep the effort and cost in our minds and build up what we experience in order for our efforts to be worth the cost. We say subconsciously, “Well of course I love what I’m doing. I wouldn’t have paid all that money and made all that effort if I wasn’t going to love the consequences!”
While the theory applies to dozens of areas of everyday life, I have noticed it also applies to the LDS church as well. If one considers all the effort being a member of the Church requires, one can see why, according to effort justification, the believers are so terrified to think they might be wrong about the Church.
- Think of the countless hours given to the Church, in callings, preparation for callings, talks, attendance of several meetings per week, beginning seminary at 5:45am (as I did for 3.5 years), cleaning the building, sometimes driving for hours to attend the temples, etc.
- Consider the thousands of dollars in tithing money the Church requires to be “donated” from average members.
- Remember the two years of 60+ hours weekly spent being rejected in the name of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, Jr. while being denied phone calls to family, relationships with the opposite sex, television, casual dress, a decent haircut, etc., and also paying for the experience out of own and family’s own pockets.
After all of this, it is only natural that members of the Church would insist that they do not want to know if it is a lie. One of the greatest ways to create a testimony of the Church is to instill the deepest fear of learning that it is a fraud. After all of the cost to be a believer, members insist to themselves (and others) that they do it all because they know they are right. In reality, these are all just another reason to want so badly to believe. The alternative is that all of that time, money, and heartache were for much less than eternal salvation. And they say to themselves, "I wouldn't pay it if I wasn't absolutely sure."
And so, it appears that the crippling fear of having wasted time, money, and effort is often the foundation for loving a bad movie, or having an unquestioning testimony in the LDS faith.
January 8, 2010
For example, the historian Tacitus reported that Romans were intensely cruel to early Christians. Many were crucified, fed to wild animals, and killed in other horrible ways for the simple fact that they were Christians. Yet Christians killed people in similarly horrible ways, believing they were witches.
The Hebrews believe they were enslaved by Egypt for centuries, yet many Jews were involved in trading slaves (source).
I bet if one were to look at any race or religion in history, one could find a time when that race or religion was hated and oppressed by some other group. What's more, I bet one could find a time when that same group became the oppressor to another group different than they.
Similarly, the early LDS suffered great hardships as a consequence of following their beliefs. They were forced to leave county after county, were robbed, tarred and feathered, and even killed for no reason other than being LDS. Those who stuck to their convictions regardless of the consequences are admired and revered in LDS culture. And yet, if a person sticks to his convictions, and they are somehow in conflict with the LDS faith, he is quickly attacked, hated, shunned, and often oppressed.
Why is it that people are so bad at remembering when they were on the receiving end? They gasp in horror at the stories of Joseph Smith, Jr. being chastized for reporting visions, and the early LDS being driven out of their homes. Yet these same people harshly attacked and some ostracized me when I announced that I was following my conscience. We all want to be allowed to follow conscience: to walk to the beat of the drummer we hear.
LDS know the horrors of being oppressed for belonging to something they felt they could not deny, yet the LDS sure were intolerant of anyone with Black skin, even when they shared the exact same religious beliefs! Once again, the oppressed became the oppressors.
Even more recently, the Church retains a disdain for homosexuality (here is one example, here is a response). I was told by a stake president a few months ago that he was "born a believer." I don't think he could stop believing in the LDS church if he tried. Yet he expects a person who is born with same-sex attraction to give up what is at his or her core. He would be furious if I told him he had a flaw that needed to be fixed. Yet he expects that individuals who feel they were born homosexual must deny it, or be fixed.
Why does this double standard persist throughout history? Our own predecessors knew exactly how wrong and horrible it was to oppress others for reasons such as skin color and religious beliefs - because they were on the receiving end! Why then do we, who have finally been accepted for who we are and what we believe, still not accept others for who they are and what they believe?
January 5, 2010
- For example, He apparently has lost His taste for blood over the centuries (see Exodus 32:27-28; Ezekiel 9; Ezekiel 26; Amos 9:1-10; etc. compared with Matt. 5:39, 44).
- He also seems to have really come to look upon women with more appreciation (1 Cor. 11:3, 9; 14:34; Numbers 5:30-31; 1 Timothy 2:11; compare to Luke 7; John 8; this article; contrast with complaints in this blog; note that women were not permitted to speak at general conference until 1988; etc.). Oh, but then really changed His mind about other things regarding women.
- No one can argue that He has significantly changed His mind about skin color and righteousness (compare these statements with this and this).
- He's become less direct in His communication (compare Moses 7:4 with "impressions come... I think...").