In an interview with Salon, Judy Dushku said something about Mitt Romeny which made me realize why I don’t enjoy spending time with most mainstream Mormons: “He’s not someone to engage people in conversation. He’s a person who comes to a conclusion, is emphatic about it, and he’s not interested in dialogue and exchange.”
Mitt’s inability to dialogue and exchange ideas with others should surprise no one. Mormons don’t discuss. Mormons don’t dialogue. Mormons quote authority. Mormons affirm each others’ faith. Discussing alternative opinions would imply that legitimate ideas exist outside approved discourse. Members who suggest ways of improving the organization are reproved as murmurers. Those who question official policies and doctrines are on the road to apostasy and are best avoided.
The closest Mormons get to religious discussion is in trying to resolve conflicting statements made by General Authorities. Even there, a pattern is followed. Prophets trump apostles who trump everyone else. Recent prophets outrank those of the past—although Joseph Smith gets some deference.
My neighborhood book group came close to having a meaningful discussion recently. After reading Irene Spencer’s memoir, Shattered Dreams, most of the group wondered how the author could have received an affirmative answer to her prayer about becoming a LeBaron plural wife. The discussion about discerning between our own wants and needs and divine inspiration ended when Sister Alwis Wright informed us that only people who keep all the commandments received authentic answers from God. Everyone else can be deceived. “Even what some people think are trivial sins like swearing will keep a person from receiving answers,” she informed us.
Well, that ended the discussion. Who was going to admit to trouble understanding answers to prayer if the problem is secret sins—maybe even swearing?
Thought-provoking questions raised in Church classes are handled much the same way. Askers who push for satisfying answers may find their worthiness questioned—or the topic will be termed a “mystery” about which lesser persons should not inquire.
Our son was asked not to return to his Institute class when he brought evidence (some from LDS sources) disputing the instructor’s insistence that all 66 chapters of Isaiah were written by one person. “Thou shalt not disagree with Church leaders” might as well be the 14th Article of Faith.
Mormons are taught from infancy to follow the prophet and that our leaders will never lead us astray. April points out in her post at Exponent that Mormon leaders even tell us what we think—“Mormon women don’t want the priesthood.”
Black and White Mormon thinking may serve Mitt well during political campaigns where thoughtful answers to complex issues are not the norm. Would it serve him in making the kinds of decisions required of a president?