A Potential Convert looks at the Art of Manipulation

Dear Eric,

A heartfelt thanks for your website-even a bigger thanks to your contributors who served to educate me on Mormonism. When my wife became concerned about my increasing interest in Mormons, she downloaded a selection of your pages. Our first meeting with the missionaries was that night. I read-I saw-I canceled. Now I hope to give something back.

The evidence refuting Mormon doctrine is damning. The doctrine is so outrageous it should not even be an issue. It's like discovering that fire is really hot when you grew up believing that it was cold. What needs to be looked at is how our behavior can be influenced by others, creating a false faith. We need to understand concepts like social proof, herd mentality, hypnosis, commitment and consistency, common sense and paradigms. People who understand these concepts probably have already left the Mormon church. People who don't-are called Mormons.

This isn't about church-bashing. The Lord instructs us to be part of His body. God is everywhere and I was looking for a new church. I had heard the grumblings from other religions about Mormons-the same churches that will also say, "It's my way- or no way." I am more interested in being accurate than in being politically correct. And the church did say, "of Jesus Christ."

I consider these statements to be fact: The Mormon church is a religion which was built on faith. This "faith" is often supplanted by a need to believe; this "need" can and will overtake logic and common sense; ignorance is based on fear. The Mormon church is an organization which survives on social proof because, in view of the growing body of historical evidence that refutes Mormon doctrine, the Mormon people have become stuck in their own dying paradigm. The Mormon people are held to this dying paradigm by the employment of psychological compliance techniques.

Consider this true story taken from a book by social psychologist Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D., titled "Influence" (Quill). Influence is a study of compliance techniques and how and why people agree to things.

A group of social scientists infiltrated a secretive, doomsday cult based in modern-day Chicago that believed they were about to be whisked away on a spaceship because the end of the world was at hand. The scientists wanted to study the group's behavior in its natural occurrence. The group sold or gave away its belongings, students neglected their studies, people quit their jobs. They were committed, they believed. When the time came to leave, the group made public the coming disaster so the media came to watch. When the saucer didn't show, an atmosphere of despair among the group prevailed. The group had given up so much (property, money, jobs, education) that they could no longer afford not to believe. Next came a revelation from the group leader-because the group had cast so much light upon the world, God had saved the earth. Then came an instruction to publicize the explanation. What they had once kept secret, they now felt the need to publicize in the grandest scale.

Cialdini explains, "If they could spread the Word, if they could inform the uninformed, if they could persuade the skeptics, and if, by so doing, they could win new converts, their threatened but treasured beliefs would become truer. The principal of social proof says so: The greater the number of people who find any idea correct, the more the idea will be correct. The group's assignment was clear; since the physical evidence could not be changed, the social evidence had to be. Convince and ye shall be convinced!"

The parallels between this UFO cult and the Mormon church are striking. The Mormon church does not have physical evidence (even instructing its people to stop looking for it) supporting its doctrines and beliefs. So it seeks its support in the form of new believers in order to make its existence credible. This explains why the church is so actively involved in missionary work. Since the physical evidence is lacking, the social evidence must be overwhelming. Every Mormon can look at the steady stream of new recruits and feel their own commitment is more validated. The principal of social proof makes it so.

Cialdini discusses another concept which sheds some light on why people will continue to believe what they believe (in our case Mormons remaining Mormons) even after they become aware of its error.

In the chapter titled "Commitment and Consistency," Cialdini states, "Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment. Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision." In another part he says, "Indeed, we all fool ourselves from to time to time in order to keep our thoughts and beliefs consistent with what we have already done or decided."

In this chapter the author relates an experience he and an associate had in attending a meeting on Transcendental Meditation (TM) which was designed to recruit new members into the program.

At the question and answer period, Cialdini's associate, a university professor who specialized in statistics and symbolic logic, "gently but surely demolished the presentation" that they just heard. He pointed out why the lecturers' complex argument was "contradictory, illogical, and unsupportable," leaving the discussion leaders devastated and acknowledging that the professor's points required further study. Later, the leaders were faced with a "crush of audience members submitting their seventy-five dollar down payments for admission to the TM program."

In questioning several new recruits in the reception area, Cialdini learned that all had understood his associate's comments quite well. As one of them put it, "Well, I wasn't going to put down any money tonight because I'm really quite broke right now; I was going to wait until the next meeting. But when your buddy started talking, I knew I'd better give them money now, or I'd go home and start thinking about what he'd said and never sign up."

Cialdini observes, "These were people with real problems; and they were somewhat desperately searching for a way to solve those problems...now, in the form of my colleague, intrudes the voice of reason...Panic!...Something must be done at once before logic takes it toll and leaves them without hope again...Here, take my money...Whew, safe in the nick of time...No need to think about issues any longer...The decision has been made."

What Cialdini has shown is that when people want and need to believe in something they hope will solve their problems, they will commit themselves to it (for instance, by becoming Mormon). Even knowing that their judgment may be impaired because of fear, panic or an extreme desire to solve a problem. They will then adjust their behavior to support that decision in order not to have to think about the problem, or try to find solutions, anymore.

Eric's website is full of flame mail from Mormons because he has successfully challenged their belief structure using common sense, logic, Scripture and historical and scientific facts. Their reaction is based on fear and panic. He threatens their way of life. He is making them think hard about being Mormon when it was far safer and easier not to question their commitment. As the bumper sticker says, "My mind is made up, don't confuse me with facts!"

A third concept needs to be better understood in order to get a handle on the workings of the Mormon church. Most people have heard the word paradigm, but few really understand how it affects our thinking.

"The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by Thomas S. Kuhn introduced the concept of a paradigm. Mr. Kuhn's premise was that the scientific community operates at any given time under a ruling set of beliefs and theories. This set of beliefs (or paradigm) is based on their previous findings and allows them to move forward and propose new theories, construct experiments and evaluate data within the framework of the paradigm. What Kuhn demonstrates is that while a paradigm helps a scientist by structuring his work, the scientific community as a whole is restricted from seeing evidence that is contrary to the paradigm. Then along comes a rogue scientist with a different theory, based on his results, that does not fit the existing paradigm. The response from the scientific community is usually denial. This is, however, the beginning of a paradigm shift.

Joel Arthur Barker's book "Paradigm" built on Kuhn's idea of paradigms and applied it to the business arena. It is an important concept in understanding the psychology as it relates to the Mormon church. Simply put a paradigm is a belief system that has a set of rules which support that system. The Mormon church is falling victim to its own paradigm.

Perhaps the best example of becoming victim to one's own paradigm is the Swiss. The Swiss once dominated (by far) the world's market in watchmaking, holding 85% of the market share. Then they invented the quartz-digital watch. Viewing it as a novelty, the Swiss exhibited this new technology at a trade show in Texas. So sure were the Swiss that the technology was of little significance, that they never bothered to legally protect it. After all, no one would want a watch that didn't have jewels and springs and needed batteries (the Swiss paradigm). Texas Instruments and Seiko thought differently and the rest is watch history. A paradigm shift occurred, and today, the Swiss control less than 15% of the world's watchmaking market.

The Mormon church faces a dilemma. In the face of mounting, indisputable, historical and scientific evidence, they must continuously change, modify, disallow, ignore, and create new explanations and doctrine to fit the old paradigm originally set forth by Joseph Smith. The native American was not the descendant of European man as claimed by Joseph Smith, the Egyptian papyrus was not the Book of Abraham as claimed by Joseph Smith, lions did not roam the forests of early America as claimed by Joseph Smith, etc.

Because the Mormon church understands the losing battle they are fighting in holding on to a treasured but flawed belief, they promote the use of social proof. Social proof is group hypnosis. The most susceptible victims of social proof are the young and the ignorant, which explains the youthful age of the elders and the volume of flame mail from the ignorant. How nice it would be to be a low level god on my own planet with lots and lots of eternal wives for my own enjoyment. Unfortunately, Scripture just does not support this. Bummer.

I was amused and astonished when speaking with four young missionaries in the course of my studies. They all had name tags that said "elder." By definition "elder" means older age or higher rank. Wrong in the first instance, a pompous assumption in the second. But these young men, with so little life experience, take themselves very seriously. Give them a name tag and they'll do anything. Where is the common sense in pinning an elder title on a nineteen-year-old kid?

Church is in one aspect a business, and it is the nature of a business to perpetuate itself or it will die. Churches live by recruiting new converts. Churches are run by men and men will always have a sin nature. Accountability is the key to maintaining a healthy church, assuming of course, that the doctrine is correct. And the Mormon doctrine is not correct.

I hope that this information will be healing and offer some explanation to those former Mormons still hurting. They overcame social and psychological pressures that were very real in order to leave the church. They accomplished a paradigm shift into a new way of life (or thinking) which is always difficult and requires adjustment. They came to new realizations based from factual information that simply would not fit into the church's old paradigm. They are to be praised.

It could have been worse. The dynamics of paradigms, social proof, and commitment and consistency have been exploited to destroy countless numbers of lives. The Reverend Jim Jones of "The People's Temple," convinced 910 of his followers to willfully and peacefully commit suicide. Joseph Goebbel was Adolph Hitler's close confidant and propaganda minister in World War II. Goebbel's policy was based on the notion that a lie, repeated often and forcibly, gains the legitimacy of truth. As "the final solution," millions of Jews died, in part, because they believed that they were only being moved to relocation camps, when the evidence suggested otherwise.

Faith is an activity of the Spirit that cannot be defined by the mind. Behavior is a product of thinking which is an activity of the mind. Too often the church departs from the words of God to follow the minds of men. Too often, we confuse our faith with our mental activity. Men exploit mental activity. The church is full of cows, cowards and crooks who choose to operate in the comfort zone of the shades of gray instead of standing in the black and white. Jesus calls them lukewarm. Too much time is spent worrying about where we have been or where we will be when God wants us to enjoy him right here and right now. We keep placing conditions on ourselves when God's love has always been unconditional. God is more than faith or belief. He is reality. The Mormon church is not.

Again, thank you for your crusading work, Eric. Truly you are saving souls

- Jason

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