As I was pondering Rick’s post on avoiding drugs/alcohol and other nouns members of the church don’t feel comfortable with, I began to wonder about the tradition of avoiding controversial topics in the church.
I’m not just talking about President Hinckley’s reluctance to talk about blacks and the priesthood or the church’s history of polygamy. His media wrangling has been both criticized and praised by a variety of people, but I think it’s safe to say that when the camera is rolling and millions of people are making opinions on the church based on his every word, it’s not prudent to get into a debate over the highest level of heaven achievable for members of the church that like the occasional can of Coke.
What I’m talking about though, is how members of the church deal with controversial topics when they are first made aware of them. It’s that feeling you get when a doctrine being taught in church causes your mind to go, “Wait just a gosh darn minute there brother! I have relatives from Utah and what you just said doesn’t jive with the gospel as I know it.”
Perhaps for you, it was the first time you heard that there is strong evidence that Joseph Smith DIDN’T translate the Book of Abraham, or perhaps it was the discovery that Emma Smith didn’t believe Brigham Young had the authority to take over leadership of the church and along with others started a new church!
The kind of topics I’m talking about are the ones that can create huge problems even for people who think they have a pretty strong grasp in the gospel.
Social psychologists call it cognitive dissonance. It’s a psychological phenomenon which refers to the discomfort felt at a discrepancy between what you already know or believe, and new information or interpretation.
Instead of getting wrapped up in the topics themselves, I’d like you, good reader, to discuss how members:
- should deal with dissonance
- how they do deal with dissonance
- what to do if one finds the new facts so compelling that old beliefs must be dropped.
I’m hoping we won’t get too bogged down on the specifics of the topics, just how one should go about dealing with dissonance.
Now I can already hear the wheels turning for many of you, typical answer I expect are deep faith based prayers and perhaps couple that with scripture study and a visit with the Bishop or Stake President. Let’s just say (for the sake of keeping this interesting) that you have prayed about your concern, you’ve done all the research you can stand, your religious leaders have left you high and dry and you still feel that your new knowledge is overriding the old. Go!