Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Illusions of invulnerability

One problem Mormons face on a regular basis (at least every 6 months) has to do with contemptible instructions handed down from prophets and apostles. What are we to do when our dear leaders screw up or say something awful? Our dear leader Dallin offers this bit of wisdom: 

 But no faithful member should even arrive at the point of criticizing leaders because once the prophet speaks the debate is over. I dare say that most members of the LDS Church never cross the line. Any confusion or frustration caused by the things they hear from our prophets, seers and revelators is put on the back burner, swept under the rug, put on the shelf, etc. In general Mormons readily conform to the thoughts and adopt the talking points laid out to them in General Conference and elsewhere.

This behavior fits nicely into the psycho-social phenomenon known as groupthink. This is where individuals of a given group will defer to leaders to make important decisions regardless of a given leaders competence or of any dissenting opinion an individual might have. Essentially, rational decision-making suffers for the sake of maintaining the status quo.

Irving Janis, the man known for first describing groupthink, created a list of symptoms we can check Mormonism up against. In the category of "Overestimations of the group — its power and morality" we have the first symptom: "illusions of invulnerability create excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking". When I see this I think of the Joseph Smith quote about "no unhallowed hand" being about to stop the Church.

I also think of the LDS Church's quest to dominate the entire world and prepare it for Jesus' millennial rule. How's that for excessive optimism? For a religious tribe that makes up a tiny fraction of the earth's population (about .2% if we're being as generous as we possibly can be) to believe it will save the world and rule it too is nothing short of excessively optimistic.

When it comes to encouraging risk taking the LDS Church is a little hit and miss. In the yes category we have Church teachings on tithing. Members are to take serious financial risks for the sake of paying tithing. On the other hand members are supposed to play it safe by avoiding debt and having food storage on hand. Then again avoiding debt and having food storage only feed the Mormon believe of being invulnerable.

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