Those are the three primary tools or effects that all of us experience many times as we deal with information that contradicts our current beliefs.
When I was given the anti-Mormon literature on my mission, what did I do? I burned it. Clearly, I loved the tactic of avoidance. I had been taught well.
When I was confronted by a Baptist minister that Brigham Young was a false prophet because he taught heresies like Adam was our God and Father and the Father of Jesus Christ. What did I do? I found quotes from general authorities that denied that he ever taught any thing like it. I found apologists who explained that Brigham Young’s words were misconstrued and misreported. I found quotes from Brigham Young, which taught a more simple and traditional version of Adam and Eve.
I cherry picked my quotes and built up an arsenal of defense against these anti-Mormon lies. I only accepted information that confirmed the position I wanted to have. Why? Because I was already right. I already had the truth. I had felt a warm feeling in my chest at some point. So I knew I already had the truth.
That Baptist minister was just a liar and tool of the devil. Again. The devil is so subtle and deceptive.
When I ultimately read the Journal of Discourses and learned first hand what Brigham Young really taught about Adam being our God and Father, I was sick to my stomach. When I read the lecture at the veil of the St. George temple where Brigham Young taught that Adam was the father of Jesus Christ, my head was spinning. When I read a letter from Bruce R. McConkie admitting that Brigham Young had taught false doctrine about Adam, which he considered heresies, I wanted to die.
How could I rectify what I had believed to be true with what now looked also to be true? I was in turmoil. I was suffering cognitive dissonance.
I had been taught that feelings like this (cognitive dissonance) were evidence that I was losing the spirit. When these feelings came along, I needed to retreat into the practice of prayer, scripture study and only reading approved materials so that the familiar spiritual experiences could return.
Early in my adult life, I had a fairly stressful situation where I thought I couldn’t get out of it. I had received an inspirational thought during this moment of turmoil and trial. That thought was this, “the only way out is through”.
The only way to really get to the other side of cognitive dissonance is to go through it as opposed to retreating from it.
On the other side is a greater probability you may achieve a more clear vision of truth.
But unfortunately many of us feel discomfort when we approach issues that cause cognitive dissonance. We have been trained that bad feelings are from Satan and so we usually retreat from exploring the issues. We never get to the other side. We stay on the side of the fence in which we were born.
I ultimately recognized that it is okay to give up something untrue for something more true.
But when you get to the other side of cognitive dissonance, how can you really know what is true?