Recently, I finished Steve Hassan's book "Combating cult mind control". I half expected the religion of my birth, Mormonism, to be brought up as an example of a cult and it was not. The book focused on destructive cults like the Moonies, The Way, The people's temple (Jim Jones) etc. The author, Hassan, was a top Moonie recruiter for 2 or 3 years and after an accident was wrenched out of the Moonie cult and deprogrammed successfully.
Throughout the book I drew parallel after parallel. Until I read this book, I never considered the Mormon church as a cult. I concluded that the Mormon church takes on many prevalent cult characteristics. The last chapter in particular hit me that my 2 year service as a missionary in Spain was the biggest parallel to Hassan's Moonie cult experience. The Mormon temple experience also takes on significant cult characteristics.
Here is my list… in progress of course:
1. In Temple recommend interviews, members are told that the interviewer represents Jesus and should answer all questions as if they were talking to Jesus. This is a break down of barriers designed to condition the member to completely submit to church’s authority
2. Naked touching during the washing and annointing initiation rite in the temple breaks down personal barriers, creates submission to church authority (*Note: Naked touching was finally removed from the indoctrination rite last year)
3. New name given to inductees at the temple, suggests reassignment of identity
4. Temple endowment experience is hypnotic, produces a relaxed, even sleepy alpha like state for receptivity to church indoctrination, oaths, instruction, commitment. Similar to Moonie repetitive indoctrination sessions where chanting, singing, and long periods of lecturing happen.
5. Secret signs, tokens, passwords to get into Mormon heaven are given in the temple. If one does not have this exclusive information, they will be denied access past certain angels along the way back to God's presence. This is an element of control designed to produce exclusivity
6. Requirement to wear church approved underwear night and day, conditioned to believe they possess special protections. Another design to control via exclusivity
7. Strict tithing requirements. Yearly face to face confrontation with a high church authority to declare to him (as the lord’s representative) how much money the member was able to give to the church. Encouraged to give everything that the lord blesses you with even ones time, talents to the building up of the LDS church. In addition to tithes, generous fast offerings are encouraged. Giving to other charities or worthy causes outside the church is heavily discouraged. The member intuitively knows that the tithing, fast offering, missionary funds and perpetual education funds must be donated to first… and only THEN should outside charities be considered. This cult characteristic, to me, falls under extreme duress to give only to the church organization. The member is even told that if the tithing is not "honest" they will literally burn up at the Lord's 2nd coming.
8. Outsiders not permitted to enter the temple. Exclusivity.
9. Members believe Jesus literally walks the halls of the temples and no other buildings on earth receive this priviledge. There is only Faith promoting rumors to back this up of course. Yet it is a very strong and widely held belief in the church that this is so.
10. There is a blatant Us vs Them mentality. The LDS testimony conditions members to “know” based on feelings that they are the only ones on earth with the Truth or approved plan of God. Everyone else is wrong and must be saved or baptized into the LDS church. This doctrine goes as far as to maintain that every living human who has ever lived in this earth must be baptized. While logically impossible, the doctrine is widely believed. God will figure it out. This rationality is supposed to support this impossibility
11. LDS church has more evidence to prove it false than it does to prove it true, yet members see this as a test of faith and God’s way of strengthing his "Elect". Or members have been conditioned to never look at this material. Very similar to the Moonie approach that outside information was evil and falls under satanic origins. Anything that could potentially deprogram a Moonie was satanic. Family members, spouses, newspaper articles, radio… you get the idea.
12. Members are encouraged strongly to never look at “anti” literature. Yet early apostles encouraged the discovery of truth and preached openly that truth would stand up to highest degree of scrutiny. This was before damning evidences to the church's platform of ideology was widely known or even challenged. During this era, the church had a sense of infallibility as the saints were securely sequestered in the desert of Utah. Completely isolated from the outside world.
13. Bishop interviews are obsessed with sexual purity for youth & missionaries. Adults have been told which sexual acts are permissable and which are not. Though, this is not consistent throughout the church. Young people must disclose any sexual acts, even minor ones. This young person (male or female) believes they are talking to Jesus Christ's representative in these interviews. Lying to the bishop is equated to lying to Jesus.
14. Missions are extreme examples of Cult experience as I will outline bleow:
A. Missionaries work 80 hrs a week free labor (Missionary makes no money) in fact the missionary pays largely for his own meals, lodging, transportation and clothing out of his own pocket. The missionary is told that the 2 years in service is a "tithing" of the first 19 years of his life that God gave him/her.
B. When not working in field one is encouraged to read scripture & pray constantly
C. High amounts of self-indoctrination and mass indoctrination at zone, district meetings. Guilt tactics are used. If low recruit numbers are happening, the missionary is frequently blamed. Reasons for low recruit numbers are tied to unlikely reasons such as a lack of dedication or commitment to mission rules or even a suggestion that too many missionaries were masturbating too frequently in the past month. This is a gross abuse of mind control.
D. Encouraged to frequently recite scripture and hymns, carry a prayer in ones heart at all times so as to fortify ones efforts to keep rules, remain "sanctified to the cause" and not have impure thoughts or masturbate.
E. No outside influences, no TV, no radio
F. Must always be with companion except for showers and toilet
G. Confined to one area, not permitted to go outside geographic boundaries
H. Extreme limited contact with family, letters once a week, no phone call home but twice a year
I. Primary job is to recruit new members, give the prospect milk and NO meat doctrine. Deception (by only telling the rewritten version of the church's history and doctrine) is encouraged most often without the missionary NOT knowing he is testifying to untruths.
J. Every person met in any circumstance is sized up as potential recruit. Every person talked to is seen directly sent to the missionary by god and must be testified to. This is a serious duty.
K. Current members are badgered for referrals for new recruits, friends and neighbors
L. Loaded language, acronyms. Outsiders cannot follow many regular Mormon conversations.
15. If one ever leaves the church, they are told and conditioned to think they will be sent to outer darkness in the afterlife. There is a fear of eminent damnation if they leave the group.
16. One man (the prophet figure) speaks for God. Members see this as extremely positive as they believe the prophet will never lead them astray. When confronted that prior prophets in history have been wrong or even preached harmful doctrine that was widely held up as God's word (racial discrimination) the member quickly dismisses this. This is supported by the perceived good works the church produces and the notion that mormonism produces good people and strong families.
Just my 2 cents worth of observation as a former Mormon.
I would be interested if anyone has done a similar comparison to Jehovah's Witnesses, Christianity, Islam, etc.