Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Ruminations on groupthink and the Church

January 25th, 2018 by Vader

Triggered by this graph in an article by David French:

The formula is simple. Ideological uniformity plus geographic concentration equals groupthink, and with groupthink comes a tendency toward extremism. It’s not a uniquely progressive failing. It’s simple human nature.

This is precisely the recipe for the early Church: Ideological uniformity plus geographical concentration. Converts were expected to gather with the Saints. It did indeed result in some groupthink and some extremism. It also allowed the Church to become a real community with its own culture.

Later, converts were encouraged to remain where they were converted. This checked the tendency towards groupthink and extremism. The Church was sufficiently united in belief and committed to the Gospel that the physical gathering of earlier times had already served its purpose and was now counterproductive.

I do not know how virtual communities, as opposed to physical communities, play out. It may be that they are even worse for the bad aspects without being any good for the good aspects. I note that the Church is fairly aggressive in its use of virtual media, but I also sense that the Church is not really enthusiastic about virtual communities.

Just thinking aloud here, really. Feel free to pick up my stream of consciousness and run with it.

Comments (9)
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: , ,
January 25th, 2018 17:16:13
9 comments

Bruce Charlton
January 26, 2018

It seems clear that catch-all words/ concepts like groupthink, extremism, hate-crime or fake-news are dishonestly introduced with the strategic (but covert) intent that they be used only against enemies. In the case of the current focus on cracking-down on ‘extremism’ I believe the intent is *primarily* anti-Christian.


el oso
January 28, 2018

The current church leadership is not into virtual communities, but does not actively try to eradicate them. They also sponsor or look favorably upon many virtual sub-communities centered around education, missionary work, improving home and family life, etc. The mainstream church still tries to make the home congregation one of the main communities for the faithful.
Although Utah is somewhat geographically isolated still, and has the highest concentration of any single faith in the US, many of the worst trends in groupthink are somewhat ameliorated. Pretty much every family has one or more members who have lived far away and this is even more true of the higher level church leaders. The worldwide mission of the church helps counter the trend.


Zen
January 28, 2018

In addition, the early church had a lot of missionaries going out, and a lot of people coming in, and even quite a few people passing through. Being on the way to Gold Rush California probably helped.


Bookslinger
January 28, 2018

We had a presentation at our Sat night stake conference on the new missionary app that links members, missionaries, and investigators through Facebook, and online live missionary discussions.

It seems the missionary lessons are going online now, a video conference between the three parties.

I suppose people can still self refer through the LDS web site or some church page on Facebook. But the presentation gave off the assumption that all investigators are expected to be member referrals. As if missionaries are not going to actively seek contact with strangers.

The local mission will be distributing smart phones to the missionaries within two weeks.


Vader
January 29, 2018

Books, I have the very distinct impression that the Church is quite openly and deliberately moving towards a model of members doing all the finding and missionaries doing the teaching — to the point where if missionaries have no one to teach, they go and do community service rather than their own contacting.

At least, that’s the discussion I’ve been hearing in my ward and high priests group. (Jedi, like patriarchs and emeritus Seventy, meet with the high priests.)


Bookslinger
January 29, 2018

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I think part/most of this shift is due to the high attrition rate of members who come in without pre-existing LDS friends. A second factor could be that this is a strong corrective measure because too many members totally abdicated the finding to missionaries.

Our EQ had zero investigators in our quorum meetings last year, except for one guy who was visiting the area from out of town, who was investigating in his home ward.

(We had two adult baptisms last year. One a female friend of members, and another who married a LDS guy.)

It’s almost like people with no LDS friends are treated like African Americans prior to 1978: Yeah, we’ll teach and baptize you at your request, but we won’t actively seek you out. Did anyone else see that similarity, or is that a product of my frenzied mind?


Bookslinger
January 29, 2018

It just occurred to me that we will likely see little to no mass media advertising, too.


nakedrat
January 30, 2018

Is this the beginning of a contraction towards Zion?


Bookslinger
January 30, 2018

NR: I don’t believe so. It looks to me like a redirecting and concentration of effort to:
a) where people (members and non-members) actually are today, online; and
b) the people who statistically will be the least-maintenance new members, those who already have LDS connections/friends.

Although the church advertises total membership numbers, what really counts are active participating members. And secondarily, what counts are “low-maintenance” “productive” members, who fulfill callings and do HT/VT and are not net consumers of human capital.

Just a few years ago, the church did a lot of experimenting with mass media
advertising, not just online, but billboards, radio and maybe TV. Maybe there was some statistical sampling interview/followup on the converts who were brought in via media referrals, and if so, I’m guessing the retention rates were not good.

But the “converts who have pre-existing LDS friends have better retention” stat is something that has long been known at all levels of the church. I’m thinking maybe something, some figure, some stat, finally hit some tripping point a few years ago, and that initiated the changes we are currently seeing.

Anyway, whatever the underlying analysis and reasons, I remain convinced that church leaders at all levels are inspired, and that all major decisions, especially policies, and missionary directions, are approved by the Lord. Whether He gave the idea to the Brethren, or the Brethren studied and counciled, etc, and took ideas to the Lord for approval, those kinds of changes don’t get implemented without the Brethren knowing their actions are in line with His will.

Granted, sometimes the Lord tells the prophets to give us what we ask for, if we keep clamoring for something after the Lord/prophets have told us otherwise. (A king for Israel, loaning the 116 pages to Martin Harris, United Order-vs-tithing.) But either way, when the prophets speak as prophets, we need to get in line and salute.

SHaring the gosepl is still a person-to-person thing, no matter how it is organized at the levels above the individual. That still leaves the Lord with plenty of avenues to reach people, as long as members have real live friends and associates.

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