In defense of converts to the Mormon Church

by caedmon June 2012

I often read comments on this board that the only people who join TSCC [this so called church] today are low income, uneducated rubes who are clearly of subpar intelligence.

Well, I know three converts well, one is my daughter. She and the other converts I know joined TSCC at a difficult transitional point in life. TSCC knows that people in that stage of life are vulnerable to their pitch and they actively go after them. She was always the child who needed someone to hold her hand in new situations until she got her bearings.

When she graduated from HS and was living away from home for the first time, she still needed someone to hold her hand and TSCC filled that need for her. My DD graduated from HS with a 4.0 and a full-ride university scholarship. She has gone on to earn a master’s degree. She has never smoked, drank, or done drugs. She was popular, pretty, and fun – still is. Admittedly, none of the converts I know (including DD) are particularly deep ‘what is the meaning of life’ thinkers but that can be said about a lot of people who never join TSCC. Her "neediness" and her youthful naivety was what TSCC exploited to recruit her.

“It is important to remember that for the most part, people don’t join cults. Cults recruit people” (Hassan, Combatting Cult Mind Control 48). As we all know, TSCC goes to great lengths to deceive and the deception begins with their recruitment practices. Destructive groups are generally centered on a single, charismatic leader (living or dead). Aristotle wrote that “persuasion is by means of character whenever the speech is spoken in such a way as to make the speaker trustworthy; for we are more persuaded, and more quickly, by decent people…..character, one might say, has in it just about the most decisive means of persuasion” (Sachs 138). For instance, the Unification Church presents its leader, Reverend Sun Myung Moon as a Messianic leader - God’s chosen representative on earth. Potential recruits are not told about Moon’s “tax-conspiracy conviction, the Congressional report on the Moonies’ connections to the Korean CIA, and their suspected illegal activities” (Hassan, Combatting Cult Mind Control 3). Anything that is potentially disillusioning is left out. This is the tactic TSCC is using when they portray Joseph Smith and other church leaders as trustworthy prophets of God.

New initiates are drawn further into the group by the use of what Heinrichs terms “identity strategy”. Group leaders use unique language that makes the initiate want to identify with the group. Heinrichs describes this as “code grooming” which “exploits our instinct for forming tribes and rivalries and our fear of being an outsider” (Heinrichs 191-92).

Cults actively discourage members from considering any information provided by any outside individual or organization that is critical of the group or its leaders. Groups dismiss opposition to their agenda as a conspiracy plotted the enemies of truth or the work of evil spiritual forces. “The ‘huge conspiracies’ working to thwart the group are, of course, proof of its tremendous importance” (Hassan, Combatting Cult Mind Control 79).

The deceptive rhetoric used by destructive cults is the realization of Aristotle’s fear that rhetoric would be used by unscrupulous manipulators to accomplish their own exploitative agendas. Despite their idealistic claims, rhetoric is not used by these groups to leave their members better people than they found them, as Plato urged. Destructive cults use powerfully persuasive rhetoric to exploit a member’s genuine desire to do good in the world, to belong, to succeed, to believe in something or someone greater that themselves.

My daughter was recruited by a cult that used deception to prevent her from making an informed decision, presents a positive image, is seemingly led by trustworthy and kind people, and seems to have all the answers. Anyone is a potential victim of a cult. It is a mistake to dismiss cult members as weak personalities, crazy, or stupid. Among the thirty-nine members of Heaven’s Gate who committed suicide in 1997 were “a bus driver, a computer trainer, an environmentalist, a car salesman, a nurse, a paralegal, a medical assistant, a homemaker, and a local TV personality” (Hassan, Releasing the Bonds 3). Cult members can live in their own homes, have regular jobs, be married with children, and still be unable to think for themselves and act independently (Hassan, Freedom of Mind).

If the goal is to help people recover from their negative experiences as members of TSCC, arrogantly dismissing them as uneducated and unintelligent - the evidence of which is the fact that they joined - is unhelpful as well as often untrue.

Re: In defense of converts
I wholeheartedly agree! I should post a bio, but I do have my story titled under "Mormonism at its finest here...I need to VENT." They seem to find you when your most vulnerable, as in my case. The economy went down, and I went down right along with it. My daughter's story is through a Mormon boy. As anagrammy (love her!) says, "She is in an impenetratable bubble of intoxicating young love." She is entering the temple on Tuesday and I am STILL holding out she will change her mind, i.e., wishful thinking.

Re: In defense of converts
I love anagrammy too! My DH put it this way "you can't talk to someone who is twitter-patted".

Re: In defense of converts
Thank you. I was 14 when I joined the church. My father wasn't around very much because he was too busy living a double life out of town with his girlfriends. He was only home on the weekends, and even then, he was too busy to spend any time with us. My mom was just trying to cope. I found in the church a place where I perceived that families were important. I saw happy families, and that's what I wanted. I think that's the biggest reason I joined - the sense of belonging to a tribe that had something that I valued.

Re: In defense of converts
If all you know about the Church is what the missionaries feed you and you believe what the Church says about itself, then it's easy to fall prey to Mormonism.

They put themselves out there as a family-first organization, which teaches good morals and a good way to live. There are lots of people who will think, "That's great. I want that for myself." Especially if they have kids and they're looking for a way to raise them well.

The members of the ward treat them like royalty (as long as they're investigating).

They certainly got me as a teenager, with the social aspect of it all. At that time, the information which exposes the Church for what it really is was not readily available. In fact, in this area, people had never even heard of Mormonism.

In my first years of membership, I constantly got, "You're a what?"

"A Mormon."

"What's that?!"

Re: In defense of converts
And then there is the "love bombing". They worked hard to make her feel special, loved, and included.

Re: In defense of converts
All of the above true! The more I know, the more I despise Mormonism.

Re: In defense of converts
Well said. Thanks for setting out a different perspective than the previous. I think there are all types who join - those who want to "work" the system and those for whom the system "works" for them. I joined as a young woman and like your daughter had some neediness for the security of the doctrine and the same desire as Brethren,adieu to belong to a community that shared my values. Grooming, love bombing, and restriction from outside information were all involved.
Re: In defense of converts
For those of us who are BIC, sometimes it's difficult to

understand what motivates people to convert.

From time I was a teenager all I wanted was OUT. I couldn't

fathom anyone wanting to get in.

It still blows my mind.

You Hit The Nail on the Head!
Your post is amazing, Caedmon! I loved every word of it and actually sent it to my daughter and son to read (they are both nevermo's who supported me during my recruitment into and painful withdrawal from the cult).

Re: In defense of converts
Greyfort, that's how they got ME!!

Re: In defense of converts
There's that old line, "If you want to know anything about Mormonism, make sure you ask a Mormon. Don't talk to liars who say awful things about us."

They don't tell you that they're the ones who are lying, or are brainwashed and don't know anything different.

A person believes that, takes in all the love-bombing and voila, you've got a new convert.

The lucky ones are those who realize the truth quickly and don't last long as a member. Remember the retention rate is not good.

For those who stay, I guess it gave them what they were looking for.

Re: In defense of converts
Greyfort Wrote:
> There's that old line, "If you want to know
> anything about Mormonism, make sure you ask a
> Mormon. Don't talk to liars who say awful things
> about us."
> They don't tell you that they're the ones who are
> lying, or are brainwashed and don't know anything
> different.
> A person believes that, takes in all the
> love-bombing and voila, you've got a new convert.
> The lucky ones are those who realize the truth
> quickly and don't last long as a member. Remember
> the retention rate is not good.
> For those who stay, I guess it gave them what they
> were looking for.

I am confident that my DD would be out by now if she had not met and married her RM/BIC sweetheart. He really is a terrific guy and they are good together. I love him because I know if needed he would take a bullet for her.

Despite the lifestyle fit (no smoking, drinking, drugs) the judgmental, oppressive culture bugs her. She has stated absolutely that she will NEVER again live in Utah. He is only semi-active and she is occasionally - mostly to please him. They have no trouble breaking some of the rules (R-rated movies, shopping on Sunday, sometimes going without garments, finished their education before even thinking about kids, etc). They bring us our wine order from Bevmo whenever they come to visit and she keeps my coffee stash in her cupboard for when I visit them.

Considering some of the horror stories I've read here, we're all very lucky but it continues to be my daily prayer that they will leave TSCC together - hopefully before grandkids arrive.

Re: In defense of converts
I agree with you. My daughter was a well educated, popular and very friendly girl all through school. She never drank, had sex or smoked. She was real shy til 5 yrs. old. Then she blossomed at school. She did not like the Mormon cliques at high school. She had two Mormon girl friends. One she was very close to and for some reason this gal was not in the clique. I think because she was extremely smart and did not like the way they always discriminated against nonmormons.She would call them a couple names now and then and never associated with the clique.

Well, two yrs. passed and she met another Mormon girl when a new school was built that they went to. This girl had family troubles and went to live with her very very very Mormon aunt and uncle. My daughter felt sorry for her. She had no intact bio family and was new to the area. So she and this girl became close. My daughter has always been very compassionate. Well, I knew they were trying hard to convert her to their way of thinking and I had many conversations with her and felt I was getting thru-but she had by this time fallen for a Mormon boy younger than her.....She fell hard....then she left for college. They parted ways and that was good...she was a bit sad, then 9/11 came....she left that college and was back home going to school here. The one Mormon girl was not in college but they hung around together. I think my daughter needed someone to just praise her a lot and I guess we did a good job, but not good enough. This girl was over the top with how wonderful my daughter was.

My daugther didn't like college here so she went to Texas soon after. The last straw for her was my break up with my hubby. Had to be and the Mormons moved in. Oh, yes, you need to join up with us. WE have forever families. She met a different Mormon boy with all the lovebombing going on she informed me after 6 months that they were serious. There had to be at least 20-25 Mormon young people after my daughter to join then. All but three left when it didn't work. But she did stay with the guy. Soon she said they may get married. And they did. He was a Jackmormon so he could have cared less whether she joined then or later. She quit school. I was devistated. She still has not finished college.

They have one child, break Mormon rules a on Sun. See R rated movies, etc. I think she only is a Mormon now because of love. And the temple there is no use of the word love. I totally agree that people in a cult are recruited. There is so much pressure to join up. Be one of us. You are just like us. YOU need to join the club. My daughter fought it. She had a good spiritual upbringing in the Methodist church and she liked our church. I know there was a great deal of a struggle there. She was married three yrs. before she got baptised Mormon. I know why too. Another vulnerable time in ther life....they went thru a bankrupcy.

Like you I just pray she will see all that the Mormon organization really is and come to her senses and free herself and her son. It is my greatest hope. Nothing could make me happier.

Most mormons in the UK are converts, or children of converts
There is a great deal of diversity within the mormon culture that I remember. Nowadays though, the converts are not the same. I do feel a little irked when I see the likes of my mother, who was a very intelligent and well-read woman and in fact a WWII hero (having served in the WRAF where she met dad and seen real action), described as less-than by Utah ex-mormons because she joined the church voluntarily.

Had she been exposed to the real truth she'd have thrown off the church like an old coat but we all know how that works don't we?

Personally, she had a very balanced view of almost everything and was certainly questioning as she got older. I was the one who was asking her to hang on in there, more fool me.


Re: In defense of converts
It's the social support people experience from members of an organization rather than doctrine that is primarily responsible for conversion. Most converts join a group because of association with family or friends who are part of the religion. Acceptance of doctrine is part of becoming a member of the group and part of maintaining allegiance afterward rather than the primary reason for joining. In this kind of scenario critical thinking about the group is secondary; relationships are primary.

That is to say, converts aren't stupid rubes. They are people looking for social connection and order their priorities accordingly. From what I see, from my experience, this priority also plays out in disaffection or separation from the group, although at RfM a dominant narrative is we are (globally) smarter or better critical thinkers than Mormons. I'm not convinced of that, personally.

I think some kind of emotional dis-identification from Mormonism comes first and critical judgments further open the emotional gap. But because we feel vulnerable to the criticism from Mormons that we left because we "took offense," we don't emphasize that in our ex-Mormon narratives. There is a grain of truth, in my opinion, that we leave because we are offended. However, when Mormons say this, they imply the "offense" is trivial and should be overcome or overlooked.

I don't agree with that. In my own case, I became "offended" at what I perceived as lying and deception from church leadership, as unreasonable demands, and as unconscionable social and political positions. These perceptions entailed critical thought and judgment on my part but they were driven by feelings of not wanting to associate with an organization whose positions first cause me embarrassment, then shame, and finally disgust.

Along with this, as a convert with no other Mormons in my family, I had an alternate non-Mormon history. I could imagine a life without Mormonism because I lived without it. Leaving Mormonism meant I needed to come to terms with aspects of that non-Mormon that seemed insoluble and contributed to my considering Mormonism in the first place, but living without Mormonism did not seem unimaginable, which is partly why, I am guessing, that many unhappy Mormons stay with the church. They can't imagine some other life.

Also, in my opinion, while Mormonism has features in common with cults (as do some non-religious organizations), I don't consider it a cult. My judgment is based on the degree of penetration of larger society into Mormonism and the church's continuing to be influenced by its demands. That is not to say the Mormon Church isn't powerful, controlling, and deceptive, because it is. I just don't think it has the degree of control (at least outside Utah) that is attributed to it.

Love you MORE.....:)) 

Yes, me too. Then the realization that Mormonism is not, how to put it delicately, "as advertised." 

Robertb - would you mind reposting this on a new thread? I think it would be very important for readers to fill that void of what life would be like with the reality of the rich lives we live who have left the church.

They wonder how we fill those empty hours that used to be donated to building the kingdom.

How we connect with people if not in a ward, how we find people to date, etc.



his dudeness
Re: In defense of converts
Methods of deception list:

"Recovery from Mormonism -"