28 A Mormon in the Cheap Seats: Cognitive Dissonance 101

I have remarked more than once that Mormons are often able to juggle contradictory ideas without, apparently, even being aware of the internal tensions (and without, therefore, being the least bit troubled by the cognitive dissonance that would otherwise weigh down even the sturdiest among us).

Here’s an example:

Sunday School Comment #1: “Sometimes people who aren’t Mormons just think that we’re robots–that we do whatever our leaders tell us to do.  That’s not true.  Each of us has to make decisions for ourselves.”

Everyone nods in agreement.  The lesson goes on.

Sunday School Comment #2 (not more than 5 minutes later): “At the end of the day, what’s important is that we are obedient.  The prophet will never lead us astray–we’ve been told that–so if we’re exactly obedient, we’ll be safe.”

Everyone nods in agreement.   The lesson goes on.

Here’s another one:

Family Proclamation: “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness. . . .”

Family Proclamation (2 sentences later in the same paragraph): “In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”

And here’s another example I ran across today (after my 12-year daughter said she had “another” lesson about “why men are in charge of women” in Young Women’s and I checked the lesson out on the church website; Note that the smartass comments in parentheses are not in the manual):

Chalkboard discussion

What can you do as a young woman to actively support a young man who holds the priesthood? List the young women’s ideas on the chalkboard. Some of the following might be included:

1. Concentrate on his good points [Okay, I'll let this slide.]

2. Supply ideas [Ideas for what? How he can do a better job leading while you try to improve his driving from the backseat?]

3. Treat him as you want him to become [In other words, treat him as a spiritual leader--as your spiritual leader--unless of course you subscribe to the radical notion of gender equality when it comes to religious authority.]

4. Have a listening ear [Okay, listening seems fairly harmless, but after the last two entries, I'm suspicious of pretty much everything on this list, so I'm reserving judgment.]

5. Be honest in your praise [And if being honest doesn't involve praise, is it still valued?]

6. Support him in projects and callings [And realize that you will never have a calling in the church that doesn't involve you serving under the direction of men.]

7. Be a counselor, when asked [Because, of course, women have no right to counsel men, unless asked.]

8. Do what is delegated to you [Well, this statement about sums it up, doesn't it?]

9. Sustain him with your prayers [Because presiding is, after all, hard work.]

And then, in the NEXT paragraph, it states:

There is indeed no privileged class or sex within the true Church of Christ; and in reality there can be no discrimination between the sexes only as human beings make it or permit it. Men have their work to do and their powers to exercise for the benefit of all the members of the Church regardless of sex or age.

I particularly like that this paragraph, which contradicts at least half of the list above it, also contradicts itself.  After stating that there is no “privileged class or sex” within the church, the second sentence starts out by explicity naming a privileged class defined by sex: “Men have their work to do. . . .”

***Face Palm***

Here’s the standard Mormon approach: 1) Start out by assuming that there cannot be any contradiction, 2) Assuming that there is no contradiction, come up with some way of explaining why there only “appears” to be a contradiction), 3) If for some reason there still appears to be a contradiction, then simply assume that “God’s ways are not our ways” and forget about it, 4) If one is still bothered by the apparent contradiction, then go back to #1 and repeat.

I’m not sure even the standard Mormon approach works in this case.

Anyone else want to add a contradiction or two?

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