Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Power of Cognitive Dissonance

Can you ever imagine yourself defending something you despise? 
Would you defend adultery? 
Would you defend using manipulation to take another man's wife?
Would you defend coercion to get teenage girls to marry you?
Would you defend lying to your wife in order to take new wives?

I have been astonished for the last few weeks as the new Mormon church articles have come out on polygamy and I have watched good Mormons who are usually moral people defend these types of actions in Joseph Smith.

When I was a believing Mormon, my believing Mormon friends and I would have many discussions on polygamy and I remember those discussions well. We didn't like it, we were offended by it. We hated D&C 132 that stated we would all live it in the Celestial Kingdom. Of all the things taught in the Mormon church, it was this doctrine that disturbed us the most. We despised the doctrine of polygamy.

Now, the Mormons who are defending it are coming out of the wood work. They not only defend it, but defend it in gory details none of us knew about growing up, such as taking teenage brides, lying to Emma and taking wives behind her back, and marrying women who were married to other men at the time. Joseph would also use strong arm tactics and manipulation to gain access to these women. Since this has all been verified through and I love this article, I will only link to the sources as there is no reason to repeat it all again here.

None of  this is moral or can be justified, either by today's standards or standards from 200 years ago or 1,000 years ago. This is why; if God is in charge of his church and god is the same yesterday, today and forever, and these things are immoral today, then they were also immoral 150 years ago. If God would not tolerate Warren Jeffs taking child brides today, then he would not tolerate Joseph Smith doing it, nor would he tolerate Muhammad taking a nine year old bride in 600.  Immoral is immoral, no matter what generation.

So, my question is this...what leads good people to defend immoral behavior? Could it be cognitive dissonance?  

Cognitive dissonance is being in a mental state of having conflicting beliefs, behaviors or attitudes.When confronted with information that conflicts with their current state, they seeks to balance it. The more extreme the conflict is, the more the discomfort and people desire a state of equilibrium and will work to achieve this state, so they must change their beliefs, values, behavior or reject the new information.

With the acknowledgement that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy and in such an immoral way has come out, it has put Mormons in a state of cognitive dissonance. They must now find a way to rectify that. How can the church, the Book of Mormon and the prophet they have been told all their lives be god's true church, while also being immoral?  The only way they can rectify these two opposing states of mind is to embrace polygamy where they never did before. To reject polygamy is to reject their esteemed prophet and ultimately the church and everything they have come to believe is true.
It is a crisis of faith they did not expect and are not ready for.
I say if they are going to defend polygamy with such force, they need to embrace it fully and live the principle once again...let go of the cognitive dissonance once and for all and just live it!

"What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago [when charged with polygamy shortly after his marriage to Emma Hale]; and I can prove them all perjurers. (LDS History of the Church 6:410–411)"
Joseph Smith, perjuring himself 1844

If you are a believing Mormon or a former Mormon, how many details of polygamy did you know about as a Mormon? Take this quiz and find out:

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