LDS Mormon Indoctrination





Twenty Steps of Indoctrination in Destructive Cults

Here's an interesting primer on cults that you can find in a book on advertising. The author of "Coercion: Why We Listen to What 'They' Say" describes religious cults as powerful pyramid schemes.

Author Douglas Rushkoff lists 20 common steps of indoctrination in destructive cults. His steps are quoted in italics with my comments included below each step.

1. The Goal
Every cult has a stated, vague and metaphorical goal. Because this goal must serve as the "illuminated eye" of the pyramid, it cannot be attainable. Rather, it is expressed as an abstract idea - like "salvation" - which the cult members will enjoy once they have made it to the top of the pyramid.

So what is the ultimate goal for Mormons? Nothing less than Godhood, not salvation. Mormons don't talk about salvation as the ultimate goal. They talk about "Exaltation" and "having all that God has," becoming "priests and kings" and having "kingdoms, thrones, principalities, powers, dominions and exaltations."

The top of the Celestial Kingdom is the goal for Mormons. Yet very little is known about it. And it's certainly impossible to attain and experience that goal in this life. Best case scenario is you die and go the Celestial Kingdom, but it's not something that exists or can be reached during this life.

2. A Charismatic Leader
All cults - whether spiritual or mundane - have a charismatic figurehead. The leader must be someone whose speech, manner and energy exert inexplicable influence. In religious cults, the leader attains his divine status in one of two ways. The first is by claiming to be the hand-picked successor to the last guru. The second is by claiming to embody an entirely new spiritual force - either to have been born sacred or to have suffered an "awakening" trauma or a sudden "new breeze" of insight.

Most True Believing Mormons find the General Authorities to be very Charismatic. They are celebrities and almost worshiped wherever they go among the membership. Even Gordon B. Hinckley is charismatic enough to woo over Mike Wallace from 60 Minutes, who was so impressed with Hinckley he called him "charismatic."

For Mormons, the last guru before Mormonism was Jesus Christ. Smith claimed to be picked by Jesus Christ and God the Father to restore the only true church. He claimed they personally came to him in a grove of trees and started off his prophetic ministry. Every church president since then has also claimed that Joseph Smith was the hand-picked successor to Jesus Christ to restore His gospel in this "dispensation." Only Joseph Smith had the divine mandate to translate and restore the gospel due to his personal calling by God Himself. You can't claim more authority than that.

3. Sacred Doctrine
Most cults have a sacred text or doctrine. Often a cult will adopt an established text, like the Bible or the Koran. Others use a spontaneously revealed doctrine. These are usually "channeled" or transcribed.

Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, Ensign, General Conference Talks, etc..

4. Divine Coincidence
New members must learn of the cult as if by grace. If the members believe they came to the cult through conscious or rational process, then they are in a position to take responsibility and credit for their participation. Cults try to avoid this perception because members should be separated from their sense of willpower in order to be fully indoctrinated.

Most converts see their discovery of the church as a divine coincidence of some kind. Missionaries thrive on stories of divine intervention and every convert has that as part of their story of joining the church.

But I think this goes even deeper than that. Instead of following a rational process, converts follow the irrational instructions of the "Moroni Promise" in the Book of Mormon. Missionaries tell people to join the church because of how they feel when they pray about the Book of Mormon, not because Mormonism makes logical sense.

True spiritual converts to the church do experience divine coincidence either in how they met the missionaries or how they felt their answer to the "Moroni Promise."

5. Positive Results Through Commitment
While discovery and introduction are almost always free, the newcomer is told that he will experience satisfaction only when he has made a financial or equivalent commitment. At sales meetings for another of the cults I investigated, writing a check was equated with the first step toward changing one's life, and new members reported feeling results the moment they made this commitment.

For Mormons, this commitment is primarily expressed in tithing. Tithing is affectionately known as "fire insurance" in the Mormon Church and the Bishop does not see you as a member in good standing if you are not a full tithe payer. Those who do not pay tithing are second-class members that are not given leadership callings, cannot perform church ordinances or attend the temple (endowments or family weddings). Most True Believing Mormons think something bad will happen to them if they stop paying tithing and superstitiously attribute good luck experiences to their paying of tithing. What follows are temple recommend cards which for many believing Mormons is a symbol of their worthiness and self-esteem.

6. Extraordinary Measures
Once new members have made their initial surrender or contribution to the cult, they are asked to do something that contradicts their judgement. What's important is that the act goes against the new members' own internal sense of appropriateness. The members must get used to acting against their own values.

The big examples of this are found in the temple. Everything from garments, naked touching and secret handshakes go against what most people would consider extraordinary. The full-time missionary experience is also full of required behavior that goes against the many people's internal sense of appropriateness. One of the hallmarks of all destructive cults is their bizzare rites of passage, which Mormonism has in spades.

7. Member Complicity
Once an extraordinary measure is taken, the members are rewarded with complicity in the greater pyramid. To get out of the cult after this act of complicity, a member will have to own up to all of the cult's practices as if they were his/her own.

This goes back to what happens to people in the temple. After accepting garments for life, being touched while naked, making loyalty oaths and learning secret handshakes, members are then rewarded with inclusion into the temple club and the privileges that includes. Being a temple card-carrying member is a huge sign of complicity.

Apart from the temple, church leadership positions also work this way.

8. A Cycle of Breaking "Self"
After extracting extraordinary measures and complicity, the cult exploits the commonly practiced spiritual discipline of self-denial and demands increasingly difficult acts of faith from its followers. Sometimes these requests seem to benefit the cult - members are instructed to donate huge sums of money or contribute tremendous time and labor to the cult. Just as often, however, these requests will be completely arbitrary or even against the interests of the cult. By interspersing real requests with these random and bizarre instructions, the cult can avoid the appearance of self-interest. It can also paralyze the followers' ability to second-guess cult actions.

Look at this from the convert's perspective. Most don't know about all of the responsibilities and duties of membership before they join the church. For many it is a shock to learn how much time the church really demands of them, from church meetings, home teaching, genealogy work, missionary service etc...

To people who weren't born in the church, Mormonism is very demanding of time and restrictive on behavior. And it gets worse the longer you strive to be a "Faithful Mormon."

Compared to 19th-century Mormons, the church demands less. But compared to a normal life, the church demands more of people and it only gets worse as you climb the church hierarchy, just like other destructive cults.

9. Confusion and Transference
By alternating self-interested and random demands, the cult brings its followers into a state of great confusion - they aren't sure how to please the cult. Sometime leaders will reward members who fail to carry out commands, and punish those who complete them successfully. The CIA suggests using rewards and punishments in a random, illogical manner so that the subjects regress into a childlike dependence. Similarly, the confused cult member will eventually regress to a childlike state and transfers parental authority to the cult leaders - which is why so many cult leaders insist on being called "Mother" or "Father."

Confusion and Transference is all about reducing people to childlike dependence on the church through confusion. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the Mormon obsession with "following the spirit" which leads to all kinds of personal confusion. Look at the people in the church you know are doing their damndest to follow the spirit and you'll see they are adults in the most childlike mentality.

Titles like "President," "Bishop," and "Apostle" all imply these people are authority figures that should be obeyed. True Believing Mormons accept that people with these titles are more "in tune with the spirit" and in a state of personal confusion will cling to their leadership. To true believers, the Bishop is the "Father" of the ward and deserves the same respect and obedience as if he were your father - despite the fact that the Bishop is really just a lay member without any real education or extra wisdom. The whole church system is demeaning to adults and reduces the faithful to dependence, not independence.

10. Prescriptive Behavior
Like any victim of induced regression and transference, once their ability to make decisions have been suspended, the cult members look to their leaders for guidance on how to behave. They long for direction on what to think, do an believe.

Why does the church have Sunday School, Priesthood instruction, General Conference, Stake Conference, Leadership training, Patriarchal Blessings, Seminary, Institute, Scriptures, Magazines etc.. if not for dishing out instructions on how members should think, do and believe?

The Mormon Church is about 90% instructions on behavior and beliefs. The other 10% is testimony bearing, which is modeling of correct thinking and behavior.

In what church lesson or speech are they not telling you overtly or covertly how to think, act and/or believe? That's what Mormonism is all about! It's not about "finding your own way" or "discovering your true self." It's about obedience. All good Mormons know that obedience is the first law of heaven.

11. The Goal of Inclusion
Once transference has been achieved, the elusive stated goal of the pyramid cult is replaced with the much more tangible one of establishing a relationship with the cult leaders and acceptance in the cult. The cult members become, in effect, siblings competing for their parent's approval. The result is a prolonged psychodrama that capitalizes on unresolved issues from the members' own family backgrounds. The cult leaders orchestrate emotional battles, pitting members against one another as they seek to develop a "special relationship" with the leaders.

Because Mormons are reduced to a childlike state, they become obsessed with acceptance and its evil counterparts, judging and gossip. Mormons are obsessed with acceptance and being defined by the group. One way to gain acceptance in the group is through unquestioned loyalty and obedience. Other ways include putting up an elaborate façade of perfection - the Mormon image. Another is to gossip and put down others because this makes you feel better about yourself (temporarily).

Anyone who's spent any real time with Mormons recognizes that this is a real problem in Mormonism. But the people aren't really to blame, because it's the Mormon system that brings this out in people. The cult is designed to make people behave like this because it keeps the members off balance and the leadership in control, just as Joseph Smith intended.

12. Never Expose Uncertainty to Those Lower in the Pyramid
By the time a member is this far into a cult, he/she is required to preserve the illusion of its cohesion and perfection.

Since a member's sense of status and nearness to the leaders are directly related to how many people are beneath him/her in the cult hierarchy, he/she must always make an effort to recruit more members. The need to subscribe newcomers outweighs whatever benefits the products or cult system might offer. Cult members seek new recruits to raise their own positions in the hierarchy. The power of networking - social, economic, and technological - is exploited by people who offer little more than the promise of complicity in the scheme itself. The elusive eye atop the pyramid remains as elusive as ever.

Members' statures are directly related to their ability to maintain the appearance of steadfast devotion to the cult. They cannot reveal any lingering doubts about the divinity of the leader lest they lose their own places in the hierarchy to more ardent followers beneath them. Furthermore, expressing doubt to a new member is seen as an act of heresy. In fact, a cult member's very position in the pyramid is defined by his ability to quell the doubts of those beneath him, without being thrown into doubt himself.

Uncertainty here is defined as uncertainty in the authority claims of the cult leadership. When has any church leader ever said he wasn't sure if Joseph Smith was a prophet, or if the Book of Abraham were true? Leaders never express doubts about the church's claims of truth and authority.

At the same time, there's no threat to the cult if the leaders say the members are screwed up, are not obeying the commandments or are full of pride. In fact, these kinds of statements just substantiate the leader's authority even more.

13. Never Expose Uncertainty to Those Higher in the Pyramid
Eventually, any expression of doubt at all is deemed offense against the cult. To spread one's misgivings to a higher member is, in effect, a challenge to that member's own resolve. Such expressions can be allowed up to a point, but ultimately the members must learn that they are the source of their won doubts and must overcome crisis without spreading confusion to others. Confessing one's misgivings to a higher member merely affirms the latter's superior status in the pyramid. If one is to move up, he/she must show less doubt and more commitment that those above him/her.

If you tell your Bishop or Stake President that you don't believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, then you can kiss your temple recommend goodbye. As an institution - not just a culture - Mormonism punishes doubt and disbelief in its truth and authority claims.

Honest, sincere questioning will not earn you any points or blessings in Mormonism - with the Bishop, with the members or with your own family. It's systemic, not cultural and follows the pattern of Mormonism being a destructive cult right up there with the Jehova Witnesses and Scientology.

14. The Cult Precludes All Other Commitments
One by one, each member's connection with the real world must be reinterpreted as base "attachments" that need to be limited or purged. The member's original religion, job, friends, spouse and children are less important that his relationship with the cult and its leaders. The members must not gain positive reinforcement from anything or anyone outside of the cult. Family and social bonds are reinterpreted as distractions from the higher values the member is adopting. All real-world associating, inevitably and by design, come into conflict with one's commitment to the higher goal.

This is true for many members of the church, especially those serving full-time missions and local leaders who feel they can't turn down a calling.

One of the great lies of Mormonism is that it is extraordinarily "family friendly." Most Mormons buy into this myth because the church stresses that image so much. But there is little substance behind it.

One of the main purposes of Mormonism is to make families into mini-cults that reinforce the larger cult's objectives of control. But are Mormon families really that much healthier than families outside of the church?

Does the church really support the family in its needs, or does it simply enforce its own will on families?

The answers to these questions can be found in the real-world practices of Mormonism, not the rhetoric.

Look what the church does when one family member is not following the church dogma. Does the church help the family or add stress?

Do families have more or less time together after they join the church?

Do families have more or less money for family needs after they join the church?

Do families truly accept one another more or less after they join the church?

Do families show more or less tolerance for non-member family members after they join the church?

Do children accept a non-member parent more or less after joining the church?

Is there more or less respect/appreciation for female members of a family after they join the church?

Are families more or less worried about what the neighbors think after they join the church?

An honest look at Mormonism in practice reveals that families are better off without Mormonism. That is of course, unless you've bought into the carrot of the "Celestial Kingdom" dangling in front of you. Then you're willing to sacrifice family time, money and love in order to reach the unattainable goal of the cult.

15. Never Refuse a Request
A member may never refuse a request made by a cult leader, or in the name of the cult. To do so is to place some other value ahead of the sanctity of the group.

Members can refuse church callings, but it's frowned upon and that's no way to get ahead in the cult. In non-cult churches people recognize that the church is a voluntary organization and there are no serious ramifications if you turn down a request.

But in the Mormon cult, it's not volunteer work but "callings from the Lord" and tremendous pressure is brought to bear on people to accept "callings" to work. If you don't believe this, then ask nineteen-year-old males in the church if they feel pressure to serve missions. Ask the twenty-year-olds that didn't go if they feel second-class for not going. Mormons are conditioned to accept callings despite their better judgements.

16. All Requests Can Be Challenged
A cult member who has made an inappropriately personal or self-interested request in the name of the cult will be challenged. On the other hand, members who are in the leader's favor can get away with almost anything of those beneath them.

Real churches have moral and ethical obligations to their members. But if you're in a church that doesn't teach or enforce what the church owes the members, then you're probably in a destructive cult. In Mormonism, the church doesn't owe the members anything - not even financial disclosures or honest history.

17. Never Take Action in the Cult Leaders' Names
The cult leaders are free from all responsibility. To make a request in the cult leader's name is to blame the cult leader for any ill will that might result. To claim, for example, that "I divorced my wife because the leader told me to" is to refuse responsibility for one's own actions. Although a cult leader may have "shown the way," a member divorces his wife or disowns his children because it's the "right thing to do." To use the leader as an excuse is just another way to express doubt.

When have church leaders ever stood up and accepted responsibility for their poor counsel, false prophecies or financial incompetence?

If the church isn't working for people, the church teaches that it's the members' fault, never the leadership. Mormons held the common belief that "the church is perfect, but the members aren't." In other words, the system is perfect and never to blame. If the Bishop tells you to get divorced and things go sour, it's not the Bishop's fault, now is it?

18. Act Automatically
Members must strive to act in accordance with the cult leaders' wishes without thinking. The conditioning, confusion, and fear to which the members are subjected result in a set of new behaviors that take the place of what normally might be called intuition or instinct. Once achieved, this automatic behavior is a welcome relief from the constant questioning of one's own actions.

Choose the right! Follow the Prophet! Just Do it! Obedience is the first law of Heaven! Isn't that what Mormons are taught?

Are there any church lessons on real critical thinking?

19. Witness and Accept the Leaders' Faults
Once they reach the highest levels of the cult pyramid, members are privy to their leaders' darkest actions. Members must also come to terms with the abusive behavior of their leaders.

Mormon missionaries also experience this cult phenomena first hand. True Believing Missionaries in the field think their assignments are inspired and the Mission President is a prophet. Those who end up working in the office learn the President has a dark side that is petty, arbitrary and cruel. Yet those exposed to this still propagate the myth that the President is divinely-inspired leader. This is also common in ward and stake leadership.

20. The Cult Leaders Are Perfection
The final stage of cult indoctrination is to accept the leaders as the perfect center of the universe, from which all else derives. The "fully evolved" cult member thus understands all the pain and suffering as resistance to the cult leaders' divinity. The leader is the single point of entry for God and perfection in the otherwise imperfect universe.

Once cult leaders have achieved such a stature in his followers' minds, the leader can ask them to do anything, even to kill themselves. They already have been trained to go against their own instincts. Thwarting one's natural tendency toward self-preservation becomes a pleasurable, almost fetishistic obsession. As members look for more outrageous ways to break their own attachment to life, suicide emerges as the ultimate act of devotion.

This is the one aspect of destructive cults that does not currently exist in Mormon practice. Nor do I think that current Mormon Church leaders have reached this status in the minds of believing members. What Mormon would commit suicide solely on the order of the Bishop, Stake President or Prophet?

Granted, the dogma still exists in the temple endowment when members covenant to "sacrifice all that [they] possess, even [their] own lives if necessary, in sustaining and defending the Kingdom of God." But this little clause in the endowment is not currently exercised by church leaders.

Today, the Mormon Church enjoys the benefits of the first nineteen indoctrination steps of a destructive cult. If it ever needs to resort to indoctrination step number twenty, it's certainly not out of reach.

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