When Belief Backfires You Get Half Truths

So with all the news press about the latest essays from the Mormon church1 around polygamy I have been noticing a backfire effect from believers all over social media to recent blogs posted on the topic.

What is the backfire effect you ask? It is a well known psychological response to severe cognitive dissonance. When a person is faced with a serious affront to their deeply held belief they don't admit they were wrong and move on. Instead they dig in even deeper. A really famous example of this was when Ellen White, prophetess of the Seventh Day Adventists confirmed William Millers prediction of the end of the world and the return of Jesus in 1843. There was a great build up to the day of reckoning where thousands of followers gathered, sang hymns and got ready to meet their Lord. Some were so sure that this was the end that they gave away all their stuff  in preparation for the great event. But the day came and went without incident. It was even termed the great disappointment. Some left the religion after this colossal failure of its prophetic leaders, but the majority stayed. You see after the day came and went a slew of apologetic writings cropped up explaining why this prediction was wrong.  Some pushed the date back some said the whole incident was interpreted wrongly. In general the followers of adventism didn't simply realize their leader was totally wrong, they continued to believe despite the fact their leader in his own words admitted as much.

"To Second Advent Believers," writing, "I confess my error, and acknowledge my disappointment; yet I still believe that the day of the Lord is near, even at the door." 2

So here you have in the past a blatantly huge miss by founding prophets and leaders of the Seventh Day Adventist church. And yet, people still convert and still hold to that religion, about 18 million of them by their count.  You see people don't let things shake their faith, not because their faith is all that amazingly strong but because is it a psychological quirk amongst our species that creates this backfire effect.

This is not an uncommon story, on the contrary it is repeated over and over again on small and large scales especially in religious settings. Waco Texas, Heavens Gate and James Town are tragic examples of this natural tendency causing people to go to their deaths rather than consider they might be mistaken about their deeply held beliefs.

About a month ago I made a profetic prediction that this essay in particular would polarize church members becuase of the history and the media attention it would get. Now it has hit many major news outlets and apologetic blogs like this one are popping up.

These are examples of the backfire effect. Just consider his lines of justification.

It was normal for the time.  Only it wasn't (go ahead and google that one for yourself) and even if it was normal, how does that justify it. Don't members and leaders declare gay marriage is whack no matter how normal for the time it is?

We don't really know what went down… Umm yeah we do. It's in the church's own history books. The same ones all the anti Mormons were pulling from when they pointed out all this sordid history.

He goes on and on with justification for an act that he likely considers heinous himself. How would you know this? Ask him about what Warren Jeffs did and listen to his response. JS is Warren JeffsEvery single Mormon I know readily condemns Warren as a really bad man and no way possible could such an evil vile person be a prophet of God. Yet Warren continues to have followers that think he is a mouthpiece of the Lord telling them God's words for the here and now. Even though he admits he is not a prophet in this video you can hear the believer saying he is a prophet. Talk about an extreme example of the backfire effect. This psychological effect is so strong you can be having a discussion with a devout Mormon believer about Warren Jeffs and literally segue right into a discussion about Joseph Smith and he will slip from condemnation to veneration in a heart beat claiming that Joe Smith was just doing what God required of him.

At least thats the way my un-favorite MLM blogger puts it. To quote the gospel according to Trimble: "Why do people make Joseph Smith into some kind of a monster but omit the fact that Jesus commanded those Old Testament prophets and that those prophets lived that principle fully?

Joseph Smith, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, Moses. These men are the same. Joseph Smith happens to hit much closer to home because the time period in which he lived. Polygamy seems so weird to us because of the time period that we ourselves live in. But time periods mean nothing when it comes to defining righteousness.

If polygamy was commanded by God in the Bible…then there is no reason polygamy can’t be commanded in our day"

Well Greg before you assure us it was commanded in the Bible, please for Fridges sake quote a bible scripture that says as much. Oh wait,,, you can't? That's right because there isn't one. In fact the only one that even comes close is when David is condemned for wanting another guys wife. So what this means is because God didn't wipe them out (like he was prone to do with people that displeased him back then) you are saying that God implicitly approved of polygamy. Ok even if we give you the implicit assumption win, then why was David condemned? Because he sent off her husband on a mission to war and then took her to himself. Is this really that different from the polyandrous marriages that Joe instituted after sending husbands on missions? 3

Greg is suffering from the backfire effect (assuming his isn't outright lying) because he goes on thusly:

"Polygamy was not a cultural norm in Joseph Smith’s day. It wasn’t cool at the time and it wasn’t acceptable either. It wasn’t in Joseph Smith’s best interest to put it into place. If he was a bad guy…then there were plenty of other ways he could have found to gratify any convoluted sexual pleasures he had. He knew polygamy might cost him his life so why would he make it so public? He could have secretly used his power and influence to have sex with various women while staying under the radar. One has to ask themselves why he didn’t just head to the local bar or brothel like so many men in his day were doing and continue to do now.

It doesn’t make sense that someone would concoct an entire religion from the days of their youth and place their life on the line just so that they could be with multiple women when there were so many easier ways to go about that."

Kudos to Greg for admitting that it wasn't normal then anymore so than Warren Jeffs actions are today. But then comes the lie buried in the half truth. Joe Smith wasn't public about it at all. In fact he went to great efforts to keep it all secret using temple covenants to bind people to silence and even to the point of ordering the Nauvoo Expositor to be destroyed. Why destroy a printing press? Because it exposed his polygamy and polyandry. Old Joe is on record lying to 300 of his followers in the churches own history books for chills sake!

You see Greg knows about the Expositor because he mentions it in his article as proof that the terrible media is giving you such a skewed version of reality so badly wrong that you should trust his blog more right? So why did Greg write an article filled with half truths? My money is on the backfire effect. You see lots of people use the stuff he writes to feel good about their belief, he connects with people in a way they like so when USA today points out the teen brides of the prophet Joe, they feel that cognitive dissonance and reach out to him. Like any good marketer, he puts together an article that does exactly what they want, creates a warm thread of justification for them to wrap their beliefs in. You see when you get the backfire effect, the only way to deal with it is by believing half truths. Other wise you have to face the fact you might have been wrong about this church you dedicated your life too. Otherwise you have to face the fact your deeply held beliefs might be wrong. You have to consider the possibility of choosing to openly express your doubts and risk the social consequences of being cast out of the clique of believers that is your ward and stake. You see the social benefits of staying in the church for the most part outweigh what happens when you leave it (especially if you have an entire business built up on a blog that is super popular amongst mormons). It is that risk that creates the backfire effect. Do you want to fall prey to the backfire effect? Ask yourself this. If you were one of Warren Jeffs followers … would you want to know it? If the answer is yes then make truth a priority over belief, question everything, even your own assumptions. For thus saith the Fridge:

-If you really want to know the truth, you won't stop looking once you think you've found it.

honest man

  1. These essays can be a bit hard to locate using normal searches and browsing on LDS org. Those church web developers must have some pretty stout shelfs to make this info so hard to get to.
    "First Vision Accounts" http://www.lds.org/topics/first-vision-accounts
    "Are Mormons Christian?" http://www.lds.org/topics/christians
    "Book of Mormon Translation" http://www.lds.org/topics/book-of-mormon-translation
    "Race and the Priesthood" http://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood
    "Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah" http://www.lds.org/topics/plural-marriage-and-families-in-early-utah
    "Book of Mormon and DNA studies" https://www.lds.org/topics/book-of-mormon-and-dna-studies
    "Becoming like God" https://www.lds.org/topics/becoming-like-god
    "Peace & Violence among 19th-Century Latter-day Saints" - https://www.lds.org/topics/peace-and-violence-among-19th-century-latter-day-saints
    "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham" - https://www.lds.org/topics/translation-and-historicity-of-the-book-of-abraham
    "Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo" - https://www.lds.org/topics/plural-marriage-in-kirtland-and-nauvoo?lang=eng
    "The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage" - https://www.lds.org/topics/the-manifesto-and-the-end-of-plural-marriage?lang=eng
  2. Memoirs of William Miller,  Page 256
  3. One more bit of careful wording is avoiding using the word polyandry in the essays, thats when you marry another guy's wife like David did.

About Face

There is a Chinese saying; ‘tiu lien’ it means literally to lose face. It is considered a really bad thing in their culture, the last thing they want to have happen in fact when it comes to anything public. If you are as old as me you remember the story of the Emperor with no clothes. When you think about ‘losing face’ you might get a glimpse of the reason no one was a willing to tell the Emperor about his wardrobe malfunction when you consider the peasants that made the Emperor lose face risked some seriously painful repercussions.

The fear of losing face is a normal human thing. Nobody likes to be proven wrong, especially if it were something they were so adamantly confident about. Tiu lien if you will is a manifestation of cognitive dissonance, a piece of basic human psychology.

birds in a cageIt takes a lot of guts to admit you were wrong, sometimes you have to look like a fool to even do so. Such is the thing I see happening in the faith I lost faith in.  After confusing messages from leaders and even edits to prayers for heavens sake 1. They did an about face and said yep the women’s stuff really is legitimately part of general conference. I give them kudos for reversing their stance so quickly even though it meant losing face by being so wishy washy in the message they are trying to give women.

I have blogged about the revolution women are creating in the church as the first followers are gathering about leaders like Kate Kelly and agitating for change in the religion that is at least if not more meaningful than when the blacks got the priesthood. I even mentioned before that I think the women will get the priesthood before gays get to be married in the the temple because of simple math. Women represent at least 50% of the base membership in the church. Far far more than the 2% of gays you find in the general population. The only reason up till now they haven’t got as much attention was the general apathy of females in the church towards this change. They didn’t know that they deserved more freedom, they didn’t realize that they were being gently coerced into a position of subjugation. They didn’t know there was a better option until someone else pointed it out. But that has changed. And the oppressors know it.

Over the last couple of years, the grasshoppers at top have been trying to fend off this rising tide by making little concessions here and there. They let women pray in conference for the first time in 183 years. Even though they turned them away at the door of the mens session, they made sure to bar the media from the female session to keep things the same,,, sorta. Guys still preside over the women in their general meeting(not to mention all meetings), usher them around and such. Local congregations seemed to tell women no, but still let them in the boys only meeting this last session showing further signs of this movement gaining acceptance. And now after some clear disagreement amongst the leadership, the Female session is a legitimate part of the official LDS conference.

fall or flyI personally expect this trend to continue, with the acceptance of gays now in so many states the national focus on preventing marriage is fading. It will no longer be the big issue it was in the church. What is important to realize is the faith can survive just fine without addressing equal opportunities to a couple of percent of the population. But women make up over half of the church and that means you need not be coerced into thinking it was a-ok for 37 year old guys to marry 14 year old girls, you don’t have to agree that God would want his leaders marrying other mens wives at any point in history. You can think for yourself and draw your own conclusions without deferring to the council of a priesthood holder. It’s ok to be your own person. They can kick out one lone voice, they can beat up on the single ant to keep from losing face. But they can’t boot you all. They need you more than you need them.

Women of the faith, the church cannot survive without you, and the grasshoppers know it. If you want true equality, if you want equal opportunity, if you want the priesthood. All you have to do is ask for it. Because like the grashopper says, ideas are very dangerous things…..(<wisper> to the grasshoppers). It isn’t about the doctrine 2 you see, its all about face.

womens tears

  1. litteraly :)! Remember, puniness is next to godliness saith the Fridge
  2. I say this because even Jesus was better to women than Peter the guy that came after according to the gospel of Mary, yeah I know that’s not on the approved as scripture reading list. It is after all a dangerous idea! And besides, the church quietly disavows doctrine all the time.

Caught in the Web

In case you hadn’t already heard, the LDS church has acknowledged on its website, lds.org, that Joseph Smith married women other than his wife, Emma, including one as young as 14. The LDS church wants you to think that it’s okay because he was a prophet and God told him to do it. News flash: polygamy is not okay. Not then. Not now. Marrying children is not okay and never will be.

This is what it looks like when a young girl is married to a man 20+ years her senior.

yemeni-child-brides-husbands-615

This is what it looks like when a “prophet” marries a young girl in modern times.

1470225_929970027031432_5924889154698883606_n

Dieter Uchtdorf, of the first presidency of the LDS church, has given a number of speeches directed at women. Here are a few thoughts from one of them.

FMNflat

You can’t have it both ways. If the Lord loves women, he does not tell his prophets to marry young girls under the threat that it’s the only way for them to go to heaven and be with their families.

If the Lord loves women, he does not give them to men to collect  like dolls.

Meet The 'Barbie Man' From Florida

If he wants us to be happy now, not at some vague point in the future in some as-yet-unreached heaven, then he does not ask women to turn their lives over to a man so they can be one of many, where true love may not exist, real intimacy is not shared, and a valued partnership never occurs.

If God loves women, he does not coerce them into unwanted marriages with threats of physical violence against their prophet and an eternity of separation from beloved parents.

If God is God, he does not manipulate, he does not lie, and he does not sell his precious daughters en masse to his favorite sons.

Polygamy has been the spider lurking in the corners of Mormon history for a long time.

spider

Now that it’s out there, don’t swallow the lies.

3

 

Careful Wording

So the religion I once cherished took a huge step forward this week in my opinion with the release of the latest essay explaining the polyandry and teenage brides of the founding prophet.

For the most part I think this is a really good thing. It means the discussion can finally move past the ‘you are spreading anti mormon lies’ to we agree on the facts, lets discuss motives.

For the most part other than a few well versed historians, most members of the church that I dealt with thought I was just making up stories or repeating falsehoods with every bit of evidence that I produced to explain why I lost my faith in the church being a divinely recognized institution. I really appreciate the church making this effort to come clean even if it is carefully worded because at least my friends and family no longer believe I am making up the facts I am referring to.

As the profet of the Fridge I kind of expect this particular admission to have more of an effect than all the others to date, while it might not get the hits that the underwear video did it is sure to be talked about in Elders quorum on Sunday. I wonder how I might have talked about it if I were still attending church. No longer is it taboo to bring up these difficult things. The reason this one will be more popular than all the rest of the articles? Because of the emotional content. This time we find out that JS really did marry almost a dozen teenage girls! Ok, the article only admits to one, but hey don’t you think people are at least gonna wonder about the whole list now and go looking for it? For me personally this is the phrase that stood out the most:

“The rumors prompted members and leaders to issue carefully worded denials that denounced spiritual wifery and polygamy but were silent about what Joseph Smith and others saw as divinely mandated “celestial” plural marriage”

Did you catch that carefully worded bit? I think it is specifically referring to this statement by the prophet himself:

“…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; and I can prove them all perjurers.” – History of the Church, Vol. 6, Chapter 19, p. 411

I read this statement1 a long time ago when I was enamored with church history. Back when I kept digging and digging discovering more and more about the final few weeks of the prophets life. This particular meeting happened just a few weeks before he was killed. At the time he had many many wives, since polygamy was illegal at the time, they were often called spiritual wives by his detractors due to the fact they were church sanctioned. Specifically one William Law who would print a list of all these wives in a newspaper called the Nauvoo expositor. The release of which caused Smith as mayor of Nauvoo to order destroyed leading to his arrest and eventual mobbing at Carthage. At that meeting he decried William a liar for saying he had multiply wives and proclaimed the carefully worded denial above.

Take a look at what he said, I didn’t realize how carefully worded this was till I showed it to a friend. He pointed out it is was totally possible that only Emma was at that meeting making his statement technically true. I thought about that quite a bit. It was very careful wording that could be technically true. And it reminded me of another denial that was technically also true that happened in my life time. This is the one I’m talking about, I am sure you will remeber it:

You see after reading all the legal mumbo jumbo on Bill’s case2  I found out that the term ‘sexual relations’ could be narrowly interpreted to mean intercourse only, and not include the oral type that Bill engaged in. Thereby making his careful worded denial technically and legally true while misleading everyone.

Once I realized that clear back at the beginning the leaders were willing to omit critical information in an effort to keep people in the church it became obvious to me that I needed to question everything. So when this document came out, happy as I was it did, I looked it over for careful wording. I found a plethora of it, for example this:

“The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball… who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday”

Why not just say she was 14? Is this an effort give the impression she was older?3 Now consider this:

“A few men unscrupulously used these rumors to seduce women to join them in an unauthorized practice sometimes referred to as “spiritual wifery.””

Why not mention the names of these men? Tell you what, google John C Bennet and find out a little bit about the doctor that was one of these guys and a close friend of the prophet. You see Sara Pratt (yeah wife of that apostle guy) said that Bennet preformed abortions  for the celestial consequences of Josephs actions. It would explain why we can’t find any seed of his these days doesn’t it? But you can see why this name is to be avoided if you are crafting your words carefully can’t you?

Now of course any true believer reading this post will probably say ‘those are all LIES!’ But think about that for a minute if that is your gut reaction. Just last week it is likely you would have said that same thing about Joe getting married to a 14 year old… and that turned out to be true didn’t it? Doesn’t it behoove you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions before taking these crafters of careful words at their word?

When I read this document after having done extensive research on the topic myself I see loads of careful wording that is designed to give you the best possible impression of some pretty despicable behavior. The part that winds me up the most? The impression that it was hard for Joseph to do this, so hard that God sent an angel to kill him if he didn’t do it. You see the part that careful wording omits, is the fact that is what he told many of the women and their husbands when they wouldn’t accept his advances. If you didn’t get it on with the prophet, God was gonna kill him. Imagine the pressure on a young teen girl to feel like she must make this sacrifice for the church and for God. It would definitely explain this poem by Helen Mar on the topic:

 “I thought through this life my time will be my own
The step I now am taking’s for eternity alone,
No one need be the wiser, through time I shall be free,
And as the past hath been the future still will be.
To my guileless heart all free from worldly care
And full of blissful hopes and youthful visions rare
The world seamed bright the thret’ning clouds were kept
From sight and all looked fair…

…but pitying angels wept.
They saw my youthful friends grow shy and cold.
And poisonous darts from sland’rous tongues were hurled,
Untutor’d heart in thy gen’rous sacrafise,
Thou dids’t not weigh the cost nor know the bitter price;
Thy happy dreams all o’er thou’st doom’d also to be
Bar’d out from social scenes by this thy destiny,
And o’er thy sad’nd mem’ries of sweet departed joys
Thy sicken’d heart will brood and imagine future woes,
And like a fetter’d bird with wild and longing heart,
Thou’lt dayly pine for freedom and murmor at thy lot;

But could’st thou see the future & view that glorious crown,
Awaiting you in Heaven you would not weep nor mourn.
Pure and exalted was thy father’s aim, he saw
A glory in obeying this high celestial law,
For to thousands who’ve died without the light
I will bring eternal joy & make thy crown more bright.
I’d been taught to reveire the Prophet of God
And receive every word as the word of the Lord,
But had this not come through my dear father’s mouth,
I should ne’r have received it as God’s sacred truth.

Helen’s words are far less crafty that those of the essay, that is probably why I tend to trust them more, after all she was there. The simple fact is this episode in the churches history is a very close parallel to the same drama we have seen play out among Warren Jeff’s and his followers.4 The facts themselves are virtually the same. Women and men that revere him as a prophet did unspeakable things by coercing their daughters into marriages that he said were what God wanted. In Warren’s case it was clearly revolting, but when I first found out about this stuff Joe did, for some reason I kept trying to justify this terrible behavior, my gut told me it was wrong, but my testimony said these guys were prophets. ‘Was I just like the followers of Warren?’ I asked myself over and over again. ‘Was I justifying awful behavior because I wanted to believe it was true so badly that I would condone this as something a loving heavenly father would endorse, yea even command?’

My shelf didn’t collapse with all this on it, but it sat very very heavily there as I added on the many other issues that came up over the following months of study. But in the day it collapsed I realized these were just men. They were making stuff up5, either being crafty or deluded it didn’t matter because my mind was free! I didn’t have to say this behavior was ever right in any circumstance, it is always wrong to coerce a 14 year old into marriage against her will! If there was a deity that would condone it, I decided that morally I would rather be cast into hell than worship such a mob boss type supreme being.

So you see, carefully worded this document is, I think it is going to  be wildly transformative as far at the Mormon church is concerned. Polygamy has always been a problem for the church when it comes to public image, now the polyandry and the teenage brides are out there as well. The past admissions on polygamy will bring focus on this newly admitted to information. Members will dig deeper and question more, many will fall away disillusioned with the institution they trusted as I did. Some however will remain steadfast and firm in their faith. I believe the new core of the Moralitychurch will be far more zealous and extreme as the moderate believers dig deep for the truth and eventually choose to leave.

Because to keep the faith and to know these things you have to justify it all. And the only justification that works without destroying the very foundation of the church is it was ok because God said so. For some that works and they will believe, for others they will question the morals of a divine being that would command such an action that they as a father would not. Helen said she wouldn’t have done it had her father not asked her to. As a father of an 11 year old girl, I can’t imagine asking that of her ever. I’d rather go to hell. Heber would not though and some will respect him for sacrificing his little girl to become a God in the next life. Personally I think that was a most selfish act on his part.

Either way you go you see this type of admission forces a choice. Blind obedience is gone, it is your duty to study and read and know what you have signed up for! And when you see careful wording,6 I suggest you dig a little deeper, because it is really likely it means someone is carefully making sure you aren’t getting all the needed information to make an informed choice.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Please do not take my word for the context, read Rough Stone Rolling, at a minimum follow this link to the church history record and read the full statement
  2. I personally think Bill’s apology was more forthcoming since he admitted to being deceitful, I kind of wish the church was as well it, it wouldn’t win me back though just help me feel more respect for the efforts of the current leaders
  3. The article also says her age was ‘legal’ while omitting the fact that plural marriage was definitely illegal at the time. That’s why it was called spiritual wifery!! There is also a clear effort to make it also seem normal which a quick google search proves it wasn’t (Talk about some crafty wording!) fact is it was just as awful then as now. In fact that’s why Joe was actually tarred and feathered if you dig deep enough to find out how much people were outraged by it.
  4. I didn’t realize it till today that there was another self declared prophet taking child brides as well. Personally I tend to think that the behavior in the past somehow helps these men justify their actions today.
  5. If you think about it and leave the emotion out, the simplest explanation for all the conflicting evidence for the changing doctrine and all the things that would fill up your mental self is: ‘They were making it up.’
  6. One last thought, if you haven’t noticed yet all these articles the church is releasing are really carefully worded. So much so that there is never an author listed nor a date when they were produced. this runs so counter to this press release that I sense an effort to look transparent without actually being so, we are so open that we will tell you when we make a little change to a video, but just right to search out these new essays on LDS org and see how easy they are to find, I’m pretty sure church sponsored links to the essays won’t show up on google anytime soon even though there will be dozens of blogs about it!