Is the Mormon Church a mind control cult?
If you had asked me this question less than a year ago I would have defensively replied NO! I found the allegation offensive & believed it to be wrong.
As a faithful Latter-day Saint for over 46 years, I held strongly to the following beliefs:
I believed in following the prophet and Church leaders without question, and had faith in the beliefs, ideology, and practices of the Church as the literal Truth, and as Heavenly Father’s law. As the one and only way to be with my family & God for Eternity.
I believed in reading my scriptures regularly, attending church every week, doing my home teaching, attending the temple, fulfilling assignments joyfully and magnifying my callings because they were calls to serve the Lord and his children. I believed in doing everything my priesthood leaders asked me to do because I believed they were inspired and it would ultimately be for my good.
I believed in following my priesthood leaders counsel at all times, even when they dictate how I should think, act, and feel. This includes how I should dress and shave. It also includes what I should eat and drink or avoid, how I should spend my free time, what types of activities are appropriate, what I can watch on TV or cinema, and what I can read.
When I was young I followed the Church counsel on who I should date and how I should behave on those dates & where I should marry.
I am uncomfortable with dissent and felt it was wrong to criticize the leaders or the Church, even if the criticism was true. I believed members should not speak evil of the Lord’s anointed!
I believed the Church to be the only true church on Earth. I believed membership in the Church, and faithfulness to its leaders and teachings was the only way to find true happiness and eternal life.
Because of my strong testimony and commitment, I believed it was my duty to share my beliefs with my non-member neighbors, friends and even strangers, so they could have the same opportunity to be saved and be blessed.
I believed in supporting the Church even if it went against what the world may believe. This included my beliefs against homosexuality, and other moral issues.
I believed that because God leads Church I should do anything the Prophet asks us to do, even if it seemed ridiculous, unethical, reprehensible or went against world values, because sometimes the Lord tests our faithfulness like Abraham being asked to kill Isaac. I believe we do not have a full understanding of what is for our good, so all things Heavenly Father commands us to do are for our best interest and will ultimately enable us to return to His presence and have everlasting life. I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
I believed in keeping myself worthy to receive blessings in this life and eternal life in the next. So much so that I was willing to confess my sins to priesthood leaders and rely on their mercy as servants of the Lord and Judges in Israel as I gave a personal accounting of my observance of the commandments and requirements of the Church & gospel.
I was willing to sacrifice my time, talents, and money, in fact everything that God had blessed me with. This included paying 10% of my gross income as tithing and also extra financial offerings as fast offerings once a month and contributions to missionary funds etc. in an effort to build up the kingdom of God. I was willing to pay the Church even when this meant personal and family sacrifice. Often it meant going into debt or overdraft in order to pay our bills after we had paid our tithes and offerings to the Church. I believed in paying tithing because I was grateful to God for all that I believed He had given me and so that I could attend the temple and be worthy to accept callings. I believed if I did this the Lord would open the windows of Heaven to pour out blessings upon us.
When I was called to serve in the Church I believed the callings were directly inspired by God. I was willing to devote huge amounts of time to serving in the Church, which as bishop often meant being out of the home 3-5 nights a week and all day Sundays with the hope that my service would help others and bring me and my family blessings.
Because of my devotion to the Church almost all of my friends are LDS. I found I had little in common with non-members, and was careful not to associate with non-members unless they shared the same moral background. Over the years I have gradually lost contact with most of my non-member friends due to a combination of lack of time to spend with them and differing interests.
My whole life has been the Church. All my values, every decision I have ever made has been through the lens of the Gospel. Who I am as a person is based on the Church and it’s teachings. I couldn’t imagine ever not being a member of the Church.
My whole life has been tied into the Church for the duration of my life. If my membership were to be revoked, it would be comparable to death. All would be lost and life would become meaningless. My only hope would be for me to repent of my sins and be forgiven by those in authority over me so I could be re-baptized. My eternal salvation is dependant upon my membership in the Church, and I will never doubt it or even consider leaving, no matter what.
So what of the question, “Is the Mormon Church a cult?” We can either retreat and further entrench our long held beliefs and views, or we can consider the possibility of that claim and examine it, scrutinize it, study it, research it and draw our own conclusions. Do the following “cult characteristics” apply to my formerly held beliefs?
1. The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
2. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
3. The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
4. The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
5. The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
6. The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
7. The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
8. The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt iin order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
9. Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
10. The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
11. The group is preoccupied with making money.
12. Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
13. Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
14. The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
Without any doubt or hesitation I can in the clearest and unrefrained terms I know, declare I was self-deluded and experienced first-hand the harmful effects of cult mind-control. I only needed to open my eyes, heart and mind to the possibility that the Mormon Church wasn’t what it claimed to be. I have my integrity and honesty intact, I am happy, my marriage is strong and life is good! I am healthier & fitter now than I was over 15 years ago! My relationships with my children are stronger, we spend lots more time together & I get the pleasure of reading a bedtime story to the my youngest son every night! I get to think rationally & instead of making important life decisions emotionally I can think clearly!
Where we go from here is a mystery. The past is history. The present is now and I’m living it exuberantly!
Adapted by Stephen Bloor from original thoughts by my friend David van der Leek, because his experience so very much mirrored my own.