“Groupthink” is what naturally happens when a group becomes sedentary and sluggish. When change is introduced or new people are introduced, they challenge the “groupthink.” I’ve never seen the word groupthink (when used correctly) as a positive. Does the church suffer from groupthink or just unity (“being one,” and “if ye are not one, ye are not mine.”)? You decide.First, a definition of the word groupthink: n. The act or practice of reasoning or decision-making by a group, especially when characterized by uncritical acceptance or conformity to prevailing points of view. So, do Mormons practice groupthink? If so, is that a good thing (aligning with God’s will) or a bad thing (stifling oneself in favor of the perception of the majority)?
There are some traits that are commonly expected among members of the church. The traits I want to evaluate are: loyalty, conservativism, conformity, hierarchy, structure, tradition, and formality. There may be some who generally dislike one or more of these traits, but upon further examination it is probably just a reaction to being out of sync with the current consensus of the Mormon community. Each of these traits could be considered on a scale from the opposite of the trait to an extreme version of the trait. Where do you draw the line for yourself personally on each of these?
- Loyalty creates cohesion. But if it goes too far, you get radicalism.
- The other end of the loyalty spectrum is opposition, rather than disloyalty, because both ends of the spectrum are activist by nature, not passive. How do you feel about each of the following on the continuum: persecution to the point of killing church members, active opposition to the church, expressing outsider criticism, harboring resentment toward the church (but not acting on it), expressing insider criticism, verbal defense of the church, active defense of the church, willing to kill church enemies.
- Where do you fit between active opposition to the organization and active loyalty to the organization?
- Conservativism creates stability. But if it goes too far, you stop progressing.
- The other end of the conservative spectrum is anarchy or instability–actively breaking down existing practices and stable structures.
- Where do you fit on this scale – how radical are the changes you would like to see introduced and how quickly would you like to introduce them? How opposed are you to changes that are even now introduced? Do you yearn for the good old days?
- Conformity creates unity. But if it goes too far, it creates inauthenticity and stifles self-expression.
- The other end of this scale is complete individuation, and prizing uniqueness by looking to distinguish everyone as individuals. The conundrum is that often what passes for self-expression is just a desire to conform to a different model that the individual finds more appealing.
- Do you accept the conformity standards at church or do you feel you have to be inauthentic to fit in? Do you feel free to express yourself while still being accepted by the community?
- Hierarchy creates order. But if it goes too far, you get unrighteous dominion and blind obedience.
- The opposite of hierarchy is a populist, grass roots, egalitarian leadership – leadership by the vocal masses, loosely similar to the ideal of communism (certainly not the practice of it). On the downside, this can be chaotic and result in the rule of charismatic underdogs. Likewise, some prefer to relinquish their own responsibility by relying too much on hierarchy, even in a lower-power structure organization, taking even the most innocuous statements as law.
- How hierarchical do you feel the church is? Is it too hierarchical (too many detailed mandates from the highest levels) or not hierarchical enough (too many decisions made at the local level)? What level of hierarchy is most comfortable to you?
- Structure creates security. But if it goes too far, it is like a prison.
- The opposite of structure is having no programs and free, open meeting agendas. The risk is that nothing gets accomplished and nothing is measured.
- How much structure is comfortable to you? Is there too much structure in the church (checklists, correlated manuals) or too little (open dogma, lay clergy, not commanded in all things)?
- Tradition builds a legacy. But if it goes on too long, it becomes obsolete.
- The opposite of tradition is spontaneity. In worship, this could be constant change to meeting formats, speaking and music styles, etc. To some extent, charismatic meetings are more spontaneous in this manner, but consistently charismatic meetings have their own traditions.
- Cultural preferences in Mormonism can embody the whole religion for some people. How do you respond to changes in tradition (no more roadshows, no more farewell meetings run by the family, changes to the temple ceremony)? Do you feel there are some traditions that should end or are you comfortable with the traditions – do they make it your home?
- Formality creates a sense of purpose. But if it goes too far, form overtakes function and erodes meaning.
- The opposite of formality is casualness. Some religions are very casual by comparison – preachers in jeans, barbecuing with worship, etc.
- How formal is too formal to you? How casual is too casual? Do you like the balance in Mormonism or is it too formal or not formal enough?
If there is a continuum for each of these, where do you think the church sits? Where do you sit? Are you aligned? If so, how do you avoid the perils of groupthink? If not, how do you avoid ostracism from the church community? How can a group like the church remain cohesive while avoiding the negative extremes of groupthink?