We’ve all heard stories of missionaries playing it a bit loose and baptizing a bunch of Mexican kids who don’t really understand what they’re doing, or teaching those without the mental capacity to process what’s going on. Even some of the best missionaries, in my experience, have stories like this. One guy on Reddit today said him and his companion taught a guy who was high on glue, who then had a “spiritual experience” with The Book of Mormon. (While on the glue. No surprises.) They baptized him, of course, because his soul was at stake, duh!
There is overwhelming evidence that the church isn’t true, but most members are either inoculated to it or totally unaware that it exists. Missionaries are no exception. Young, 19-year-old boys go out on their missions to teach the “simple, fundamental” parts of the gospel, like faith and baptism. (As discovered by Joseph Smith and his multiple first vision accounts.) They ask people to change their entire lives based on a “witness” they’re pressured to receive by the stage being set for them, however loose and sketchy that witness may be.
I joined the church at 17, so I know how it works. The missionaries are interested in you, and they’re nice, and sometimes they’re cool and fun, and you haven’t had much experience with religion before so this is something new that makes you feel things. To someone who doesn’t know a lot (or really anything) about Mormonism, they can answer almost all questions you have very easily. They’re calm and the setting is peaceful. You, at this stage, are of course unaware of the details of rampant polygamy in the early LDS church, having heard only rumors that the missionaries assure you are exaggerated and neglect the culture of that time period. You don’t know who Brigham Young is, let alone that he taught blood atonement and Adam-God theory and racist things about blacks and the priesthood, though the missionaries will gladly challenge you to follow the prophet who they tell you can’t lead you astray. There are so many things you just don’t know, because why would the missionaries tell you? “Milk before meat”! They’re not too aware themselves, and their main goal is getting you baptized/”saving” you.
The problem is, missionaries are baptizing people under false pretenses. However much they might believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s true church on the earth today, they’re still deliberately giving you a whitewashed version of history and neglecting to tell you pretty freaking important things about the character of Joseph Smith and other church leaders. I was definitely not taught that Joseph Smith used a seer stone to translate The Book of Mormon – I was taught something specific and different about the Urim and Thummin. The missionaries didn’t know any differently themselves, I imagine. But the church did. The church has had the seer stone in its possession for decades, and failed to mention it until recently, when the internet and Grant Palmer (who had seen the stone) pretty much forced them to. It has never been in Preach My Gospel and was formerly dismissed as “anti-Mormon lies”. (I know dozens of missionaries who gave that response when asked about it on their missions.)
I don’t care that the missionaries thought what they were teaching me was true, or even that general authorities who knew better regarding issues like the seer stone thought it was true. The fact of the matter is, I deserved to know the full story. Or at least more of it. It should not be up to the church to decide what uncomfortable facts it conveniently leaves out before it commands 10% of your income. That’s the reality here—the church requires its members to pay huge sums of money to it each year, and that shouldn’t be dismissed. Converts are joining the church with very limited awareness.
In business, when someone offers you a deal under false pretenses, it’s called fraud. In religions (tax-exempt in the United States, of course), it’s nothing. It’s like it doesn’t even matter that high-demand religions such as the LDS church are using brainwashing tactics to get you to join their organization, one that requires 10% of everything you earn until you die.
To give you an idea of the cult-like tactics of the LDS church, let me give you some information about cults. I don’t want this post to become all about cults, so I’ll just mention some of the things most relevant here.
Around two-thirds of people who join cults are psychologically healthy people like you and me. The remaining third usually have depression symptoms from the loss of someone close to them or something like that. Here are some tactics they use to recruit people:
Invitation to a non-threatening event
Love bombing: Giving attention and compliments to a potential recruit to give them positive associations with the organization and its members.
Incentives: In the LDS church, the incentive to join is answers to life’s big questions, “families can be together forever” (you know how missionaries will always start with that lessons if they know a family they’re meeting with just lost a child or something?), happiness, etc.
Making you agree to something: “Will you read the chapters we’ve given you in Moroni before we next meet with you?” “Will you pray about The Book of Mormon and ask God if it’s true?”
Praise: Missionaries give you a LOT of praise when you do the things they’ve asked, trust me.
Witholding information: Those recruiting for cults and high-demand religions know that certain things about the religion would scare off potential members. Imagine telling an investigator that the temple where “families can be together forever” is full of secret Masonic handshakes.
Now, let me list some brainwashing/mind control tactics of cults and high-demand religions:
Repetition: Anyone hear Elder Bednar’s recent BYUI devotional? It was about repetition. A lot of it goes on in the LDS church. Memorizing things is not inherently bad, but having primary kids recite “follow the prophet” is a form of brainwashing, whether you like it or not.
No criticism allowed/encouraging members not to read “anti” materials: Scientologists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Latter-day Saints are all taught to avoid resources that are critical of the religion, however accurate and verified they may be.
All-powerful leaders who make decisions: Not that Thomas S. Monson is really saying much these days, but the principle is rampant in Mormonism. (Despite earlier church leaders actually being a lot better about it. President Kimball condemned the “follow the prophet, he won’t lead you astray” notion.)
If the LDS church is “true”, why does God need people to lie for him? I thought the truth couldn’t be harmed by investigation? Thankfully, conversions to Mormonism has been declining for a while, and even the thousands of extra missionaries aren’t increasing baptisms again.
Truth matters. And people deserve to hear it.