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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Thomas S. Monson (Until Jan 2, 2018)
Current President: Russell M. Nelson
Established 1830, USA
I. Behavior Control
1. Regulation of individual’s physical reality
a. Where, how and with whom the member lives and associates with Originally the members of the church were to gather to Zion’the church headquarters. Now they are encouraged to build a stake of Zion where they already live. They are encouraged to associate with members and non-members. But you must marry another Mormon in the Temple to reach the highest level of heaven, please God, and be sealed to your family after death. Consequently dating non-members is highly discouraged.
b. What clothes, colors, hairstyles the person wears When you go to the temple, they give you special underwear called garments that you must always wear. Garments are incompatible with sleeveless shirts or dresses and shorts that don’t go to the knee, so such clothing is not worn. Otherwise conservative dress and colors are strongly encouraged.
c. What food the person eats, drinks, adopts, and rejects Coffee, tea, alcohol and tobacco are forbidden. Whether or not you abstain from caffienated soft drinks is often considered an indication of your level of dedication. Otherwise normal.
d. How much sleep the person is able to have Early to bed, early to rise.
e. Financial dependence, they strongly encourage financial independence.
f. Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, vacations. Being active in Mormonism takes a lot of time, but Mormons love recreation.
2. Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals 3-hour meetings every Sunday, a few other meetings during the week.
3. Need to ask permission for major decisions
4. Need to report thoughts, feelings and activities to superiors ‘Serious’ sins should be confessed to the leaders.
5. Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques- positive and negative). You must be deemed worthy by the church’s leaders to attend the temple. Dedication tends to be rewarded in the form of leadership roles. If you break some serious commandments you can be disfellowshipped or excommunicated.
6. Individualism discouraged; group think prevails There could be some disagreement to the answer of this one. The beehive is an important symbol in Mormonism, and being a part of that collective is an important part of their self-identity. They are often reminded that their behavior reflects on the church and they should always represent it well. The church offers a lot of advice on how to live most aspects of your life. But there is also a certain level of independence that is encouraged’to seek personal revelation, to be self-sufficient, and so forth. The church certainly has its share of groupthink. Whether or not it prevails is subjective.
7. Rigid rules and regulations Generally, yes.
8. Need for obedience and dependency One of the primary purposes of life is to test our obedience to God’which in practical terms means obedience to God’s leaders. Financial independence is encouraged. There is a fair amount of talk about spiritual independence, but they are ensured that true answers to their prayers will always be in harmony with the mainstream church.
II. Information Control
1. Use of deception
a. Deliberately holding back information
b. Distorting information to make it acceptable
c. Outright lying Prospective members are given only a very basic set of lessons before they are asked to commit to the church. There is a concept of ‘milk before meat’ only tell them what they need to know in their current stage of spiritual development. There tends to be a distorted view of history. In the magazines and lessons that the church pushes, there is a clear effort to spin everything in the church’s favor. There is a lot of information available to members if they proactively seek it. The church doesn’t really discourage deeper investigation.
2. Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged
a. Books, articles, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio Members have full access to information. But exposing yourself to things that repel the spirit are discouraged. This includes not only sex, nudity, profanity and violence, but also things that are critical of the church.
b. Critical information Reading information that is critical of the church is generally discouraged because it repels the spirit, but if a member really wants to learn about it he is free to do so.
c. Former members Members are free to associate with former members.
d. Keep members so busy they don’t have time to think Members have the opportunity to stay very busy with church work and activities.
3. Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
a. Information is not freely accessible Somewhat. Temple rituals are secret. The church has a big vault of historical information that they keep secret’even from scholars. But a lot of information is freely available.
b. Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid To a limited extent. Some important doctrines, such as the belief that God the Father was once a human being, are not taught to new members. You may not learn about the details of the temple rituals until you go to the temple as an adult who has proven your loyalty to the church. It is my understanding that the top leaders of the church have their own ultra-secret temple rituals.
c. Leadership decides who ‘needs to know’ what To a limited extent. The leadership decides who is qualified to go to the temple.
4. Spying on other members is encouraged
a. Pairing up with ‘buddy’ system to monitor and control Yes among missionaries. No among the general membership of the church.
b. Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership Missionaries are encouraged to report the deviant behavior of other missionaries. BYU encourages students to report other students who don’t abide by the University’s honor code. Outside of those two contexts, I can’t think of any examples where ‘spying’ is encouraged.
5. Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc. The church and its subsidiary organizations publish an extensive array of books, audio, and video.
b. Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources A BYU organization called ‘FARMS’ does book reviews, and its critics argue that their treatment of books that criticize the church or its doctrine is extremely unfair.
6. Unethical use of confession
a. Information about ‘sins’ used to abolish identity boundaries They want you to confess sexual sins to your local leader in a private setting, who may unethically interrogate you on the details and might disfellowship you. b. Past ‘sins’ used to manipulate and control; no forgiveness or absolution Not really’once they declare you are forgiven it is water under the bridge.
III. Thought Control
1. Need to internalize the group’s doctrine as ‘Truth’
a. Map = Reality
b. Black and White thinking
c. Good vs. evil
d. Us vs. them (inside vs. outside) The group’s doctrine is internalized as the ‘Truth’, and many members are prone to a simplistic interpretation of that in the ways listed above. But many other members take a more sophisticated view where they realize that even though they have the ‘Truth’, they still see through a glass darkly, and live in a world with a lot of good people and a lot of gray.
2. Adopt ‘loaded’ language (characterized by ‘thought-terminating cliches’). Words are the tools we use to think with. These ‘special’ words constrict rather than expand understanding. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous ‘buzz words’. Objectively it is hard to say. On the first Sunday worship service of every month, the members have the opportunity to stand before the congregation and express their testimonies about the church. As the member gropes for words to express their various thoughts and feelings, they very often say find the exact same trite buzzwords, “I know this church is true. I know Joseph Smith was a true prophet”)
3. Only ‘good’ and ‘proper’ thoughts are encouraged. Absolutely.
4. Thought-stopping techniques (to shut down ‘reality testing’ by stopping ‘negative’ thoughts and allowing only ‘good’ thoughts); rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism.
a. Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking Mormons generally believe that pure truth comes through revelation and the spirit rather than through rational analysis. They aren’t really against rational analysis per se, but they believe that the spirit trumps rational analysis when there is a contradiction. After all, the spirit gives the pure truth, while rational analysis only gives ever-changing theories. When there is a contradiction between revelation and rational thinking’for example when rational analysis shows that Joseph Smith mistranslated the ‘Book of Abraham’ the reaction of the believer can rightly be described as denial, rationalization, justification and wishful thinking.
c. Meditating Not in a formal or rigorous way.
d. Praying Yes.
e. Speaking in ‘tongues’
f. Singing or humming Yes. They are often instructed to sing a hymn to themselves if they have an impure or negative thought.
5. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate Absolutely. One of the solemn covenants of the temple is to never ‘speak ill of the Lord’s anointed’.
6. No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful Other belief systems can be good and useful, but the Mormon Church is God’s one and only true church, and that the highest level of salvation is impossible without it.
IV. Emotional Control
1. Manipulate and narrow the range of a person’s feelings. Yes. If you are acting righteously then you will feel the spirit. Always strive to feel that particular feeling.
2. Make the person feel like if there are ever any problems it is always their fault, never the leader’s or the group’s. Yes. The members aren’t perfect but the gospel and the organization of the church are perfect. Leaders might make mistakes, but they are given the benefit of the doubt.
3. Excessive use of guilt Mormons do believe that guilt is God’s way of telling them to do better, and perfection is something they strive for. I believe Mormons tend to feel a lot of guilt. But how do you measure guilt? How much is excessive?
a. Identity guilt
1. Who you are (not living up to your potential) Individual Mormons are given special blessings in which they are invariably informed that in the previous life they were the valiant elect of God, and that that is why their spirits were sent to earth to fight for the cause of righteousness during these last days. They tend to see themselves as extraordinarily special, being the tiny minority of people who were either chosen to be born into the church or were spiritually sensitive enough to recognize it as the true church. This self-image certainly puts the bar high and can lead to excessive guilt.
2. Your family A popular children’s song in the church says “families CAN be together forever.” But the one and only way that they can be together forever is if the family unit is ‘sealed’ in the temple. If you were married in the temple then you are sealed to your spouse and your subsequent children will be sealed to you. But if you were not sealed in the temple, then you will lose your spouse and children upon death. The top level of heaven is only attainable to couples married in the temple’not to individuals. If you aren’t righteous enough for that level of heaven, then you will lose your family. If your child gets married outside of the temple, then the family chain is broken’not only will your child not be qualified for the top level of heaven, your grandchildren will not be sealed to you either. The result of this doctrine is often a tremendous amount of guilt. If your child gets married outside of the temple, you mourn the wedding and the marriage rather than celebrate it. If your child chooses a path other than the Mormon one, then you will lose him or her forever. If your spouse doesn’t meet the strict requirements for the top level of heaven, then the only way for you to make it to the top level of heaven is with a new spouse. Any individual member of the family who doesn’t meet the rigorous requirements of righteousness will permanently breaks up the family unit.
3. Your past
4. Your affiliations
5. Your thoughts, feelings, actions In general, Mormons strive to eradicate everything other than godly thoughts, feelings, and actions. Many believe that guilt is God’s way of telling them that they are less than perfect and need to try harder. In his very popular book ‘The Miracle of Forgiveness’, a late prophet of the church said, “THERE ARE SINS WHICH ARE SO SERIOUS THAT WE know of no forgiveness for them. These we will discuss in greater detail in a later chapter. There are also sins which approach the unforgivable ones in seriousness but seem to come in the category of the forgivable. These are the diabolical crimes of sexual impurity. In varied form they run from aberrations involving self-abuse, sex stimulation, and self-pollution to abhorrent and unnatural practices involving others. Whether named or unnamed in scriptures or the spoken word, any sexual act or practice which is ‘unnatural’ or unauthorized is a sin. (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p.61)” In an Internet discussion group, someone said, ‘This book is responsible for warping the sexuality of a couple of generations of Mormons.’
b. Social guilt
c. Historical guilt Probably not.
4. Excessive use of fear
a. Fear of thinking independently Thomas S. Monson, the number two man in the church, recently said in a church magazine, “Should doubt knock at your doorway, just say to those skeptical, disturbing, rebellious thoughts: ‘I propose to stay with my faith; I accept God’s word. I wasn’t with Joseph, but I believe him. My faith did not come to me through science, and I will not permit so-called science to destroy it.” (Ensign, Feb 2001)
b. Fear of the ‘outside’ world Not significantly.
c. Fear of enemies Not significantly.
d. Fear of losing one’s ‘salvation’ Yes. You must endure to the end to gain salvation’if you screw up the effect could ripple across generations.
e. Fear of leaving the group or being shunned by group Depends on the individual. f. Fear of disapproval Depends on the individual.
5. Extremes of emotional highs and lows. I don’t know how to measure this. I would guess not. But it might be pertinent that Utah leads the nation in Prozac use. 6. Ritual and often public confession of ‘sins’. Confession is in a business-like interview. Not really a ritual. It might be before a council around a big board room table, but it is confidential outside of that arena.
7. Phobia indoctrination : programming of irrational fears of ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader’s authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group.
a. No happiness or fulfillment ‘outside’of the group Absolutely.
b. Terrible consequences will take place if you leave: ‘hell’; ‘demon possession’; ‘incurable diseases’; ‘accidents’; ‘suicide’; ‘insanity’; ‘10,000 reincarnations’; etc. Absolutely. In a particular scene in the temple ceremony, the devil is about to be banished. Before he is, he says, ‘Aah! You have looked over my kingdom, and my greatness and glory. Now you want to take possession of the whole of it. (He then looks at the people going through the ceremony) I have a word to say concerning these people. If they do not walk up to every covenant they make at these altars in this temple this day, they will be in my power! ‘
c. Shunning of leave takers. Fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family. Yes. If you leave, you won’t be able to attend the wedding of your children (assuming they are married in the temple).
d. Never a legitimate reason to leave. From the group’s perspective, people who leave are: ‘weak’; ‘undisciplined’; ‘unspiritual’; ‘worldly’; ‘brainwashed by family, counselors’; seduced by money, sex, rock and roll. Absolutely. The group is God’s one and only true church’true happiness in this life and salvation in the life to come can be found nowhere else.