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Group Think

Group Think

Have you ever sat in a meeting, half awake, doodling on a notepad, when suddenly someone suggests an off-the-wall, ridiculous idea. You don’t take much notice at first; it’s not worth serious consideration, but then someone supports it, and someone else chips in with “yeh, that’s great and we can also . . .” and pretty soon a group of people who you previously thought were sensible and rational are ready to set up an office on the moon or build a tunnel under the Atlantic. Councils and committees can go temporarily insane, chasing after a hare that’s zig-zagging wildly up an impossible mountain.

Ahh, but just hang on a minute. Suppose it’s you or me that throws out the stupid idea. Of course, that would never happen in real life would it; we are level headed, sensible people, aren’t we? Mmm, who am I kidding—I still cringe in embarrassment remembering some of the stupidly foolish things I’ve said, plans I’ve proposed, or maybe even a good idea blurted out at entirely the wrong time.

Even the Lord’s apostles, men of immense spiritual stature, weren’t immune. James and John (nicknamed, remember, “the sons of thunder”) had a really great idea when a village refused accommodation for the Saviour: “let’s call down fire from heaven and destroy the place!” they said. “That’ll show ‘em!” (Luke 9:54) We can imagine their frustration: the Son of God, Creator of the World being turned away by a tiny Samaritan village. Jesus quietly invited them to retire to a waiting room and rethink.

So even the best of us are prone to say and do daft things on occasion. Hopefully there’s someone sane nearby to help us reconsider. If so, how do we respond: with anger and loud argument, or sit fuming in a silent sulk? I confess I’ve done both. Recent recordings of the Handforth town council Zoom meeting went viral. Jackie Weaver, a temporary stand-in, had set up the meeting and was therefore the Zoom “host”. When some members lost their cool with offensive shouting, she calmly removed them to the waiting room; this included the Chair and Vice Chair. If all abusive bullies in meetings could be treated that way, we might get better decisions.

A frightening modern challenge is that aberrations, once reasonably confined in obscure meetings where they quietly withered, get bounced around the social media echo chamber, gaining traction as they go. Clever manipulation elevates fringe ideas into orthodoxy and silences all contrary opinions. The trend is to suffocate agency, deny free speech and impose dictatorship on all discussion. A scripture from Isaiah comes to mind:

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:20-21)

The incessant, relentless battering of wrong-headedness can be wearing though, not just through social media but in news media, education, entertainment, commerce, fashion, advertising—everywhere. This is intellectual bullying on an industrial scale and even creeps into government legislation. The shear size and vehemence is intimidating and pointing fingers from the Great and Spacious Building seem more like thrown rocks. However our challenge is to hold on to truth and reason. Thankfully, there are still persons of sense in positions of influence. An email yesterday reminded me of that. Currently, legislation is being passed on maternity benefits, and it was noticed that the word “person” had been substituted for “mother”. Here’s a quote from the email:

“And so a truly shocking precedent was set to be created. If the Bill had become law, it wouldn’t have been long before ‘mother’ was expunged from other legislation too. But on Thursday night Lord Lucas tabled an amendment to replace “person” with “mother”. The Government has now backed the amendment and accepted that pregnant persons are in fact mothers. Without exception. . . . We’re glad motherhood hasn’t been eliminated from the law. We can still celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday 14 March. Somehow, “Person’s Day” doesn’t have the same ring about it!” (Coalition For Marriage, 27 Feb 2021)

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. His prophet, President Nelson, said this:

The adversary is clever. For millennia he has been making good look evil and evil look good. His messages tend to be loud, bold, and boastful. However, messages from our Heavenly Father are strikingly different. He communicates simply, quietly, and with such stunning plainness that we cannot misunderstand Him. (Russell M. Nelson, “Hear Him”, April 2020 General Conference)

Here are some statements from God with unambiguous clarity, expressing our beliefs on sexuality and the family.

Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God . . . the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. . . . Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose. . . . God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife. . . . Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. . . . We warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”, 1995)

This is what Latter-day Saints believe. We are unmoved by fashionable philosophies, often patently absurd, that deny gender, cancel mothers, or redefine marriage. Even some populist theology, contaminated by moral relativism, supports an agenda weakening the values that support and sustain our society. We say with Joshua of old, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

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