But It’s a Cult

This post is likely to cause some controversy. Hopefully I’ve earned enough good faith that I can present my ideas respectfully and my readers can take what I have to say with the authentic intention in which it is offered.

I think it’s inappropriate to think of the LDS church as a mind-controlling cult. For theological reasons, mainstream Christians have used the term cult to signify that the LDS church is a heretical sect outside the bounds of orthodoxy. Unfortunately the word “cult” is often also associated with destructive mind-controlling groups. There is a theological definition and a sociological definition of the word “cult” and the distinction is not often well explained. For this reason (and many others) we really need to find a better word to describe groups that we feel are in deep heresy.

Psychologists have developed some methods to discern whether or not a group is a mind-controlling cult. There are many groups that fit these descriptions and they are not limited to religion. There are business networking, martial art and substance abuse cults.

As I stated earlier. I do NOT think that the LDS church is a mind-controlling cult. It’s extremely inappropriate to describe it as such. But there is an aspect of Mormonism that starts raising some flags for me. I find a great many reasons to be alarmed about the missionary program. I am NOT saying that the missionaries are being abused or mistreated. I am NOT saying that the missionaries have been unfairly coerced into being there. I do think that there are some abuses in the system and that from an outside prospective the system is suspect.

Using the B.I.T.E. protocol developed by Steven Alan Hassan, I’ll attempt to make my case. I do not believe that any one of these things is an indictment but rather their collection as a whole.

Behavior Control

  • Missionaries are told where they will be living and with whom they will be living.
  • They are required to wear a white shirt, slacks and a tie in all situations (no less what type of underwear they can wear).
  • They are given very little free time off (only 8.5 hours) every week, the rest of their time is spent either sleeping, proselytizing or studying.
  • Missionaries are financially restrained by a small living allowance each month.
  • Contact with family members is cut off except for 2 phone calls a year and hand delivered letters which must be delivered through church authorities.
  • Permission must be sought for everything.
  • Missionaries must be present with their companions at all times except for a few minutes in the bathroom. Any violation of mission rules is to be reported to authorities.
  • Obedience to church authorities is of utmost importance

Information Control

  • Only church approved reading materials are allowed. All other forms of information are cut off entirely.
  • Missionaries are kept extremely busy

Thought Control

  • Loaded language and jargon is pervasive.
  • Only given titles are to be used (Elder and Sister). Given names are not to be used.
  • Thought stopping techniques are used to block challenging information. All objections which can not be answered are to be met by “bearing one’s testimony”.
  • Missionaries are encouraged to testify that they know the church is true even if they have doubts or have reason to suspect that it may not be the case. Some are told to “fake it until they make it”.
  • No critical questions about leadership or leadership decisions is allowed

Emotional Control

  • Missionaries are told that if they are not “feeling the spirit” it must be the result of some unrighteousness on their part.
  • Guilt is frequently used as a motivator
  • There is a great fear of shunning by not fulfilling one’s missionary responsibilities or by returning home early
  • Any lack of success is the fault of the individual not the message nor the organization

It’s my impression that the top priority of the missionary program is actually to bond the missionary to the church rather than to win converts (a great side benefit). It’s no coincidence that they choose to send missionaries at a time when they are at the most impressionable age and can only think, act, and sleep about the church in an isolated and controlled environment. Some might say that many of these restrictions are a result of the age and maturity level of the missionaries. My response is that if 19 year olds are not mature enough to act as responsible agents of the church without the organization imposing inappropriate boundaries, then perhaps missionaries should be sent out at an older age.

32 thoughts on “But It’s a Cult

  1. Pingback: University Update - Mitt Romney - But It’s a Cult

  2. It’s never OK to manipulate people even if your message is true or it helps people live a better life. “The ends justify the means” is for sure something cults say.

  3. In retrospect, I am divided about my mission. On the one hand, it really was a fantastic experience that I wouldn’t want to trade away lightly. I met great people, I saw cool places, I made good memories.

    On the other hand, there are some characteristics of the mission experience that I find disturbing in hindsight.

    Some of the above characteristics Tim listed are simply normal components of a highly disciplined, rigorous setting like a mission. Every point in the “behavior control” and “information control” categories are also present in, say, Army basic training. That’s not to say they are presumptively innocent, but just that they are also not presumptively sinister.

    They do set up a situation into which the more sinister thought and emotional control elements can easily be injected, and those are where the really thin ice can be found. Looking back, the thought- and emotion- control elements are what bothers me about my mission experience.

    Keep in mind, this wasn’t some kind of nightmarish world of mind control. Mostly, it was just a couple of guys trying hard to do the right thing. But there were those elements of thought and emotion control that would rear their head from time to time, and cast a long, dark shadow over an otherwise extremely positive experience.

  4. Tim,

    Pretty gutsy, I have to give you that. Funny thing is, I don’t disagree with the spirit of your post, at least not outright. It is a fair enough critisism based on outside observation. I have gotten the feeling that you have known a lot of missionaries or former missionaries over the years, and so have a fuller understanding of the program than the average casual observer of the church, and it shows. That being said, there are some points I would like to adress. I will start with some clarifications/corrections to some of the specifics you mention, and then a more general response.

    1. Though there is a dress code, it does not specifically dictate the underwear one wears. That is actually part of the covenant that these missionaries have made in the Temple, and will continue throughout there life if they continue to believe in thses covenants. But you are not asked ever (except in renewing your Temple recommend, which is seperate from your role as missionary) if you wear your garments daily. But your point is still valid about the dress code.

    2. While it is true that verbal contact is restricted to 2 calls a year (mothers day and Christmas), letters can be written weekly. They are not hand delivered nor must they be delivered through Church authorities, but by the normal mail system. The exceptions to this is when certain missions are in places without an adequate postal system (rural mongolia perhaps, I don’t know) where letters are sent to the mission home and held for when the mission president next sees the missionary. This is a fairly common practice even in missions with adequate postal services, though, and is utilized when the family of such a missionary knows he is transferring to a different area soon and doesn’t yet know what his new adress will be. So it is an option, but it is not required or even the general rule. The way you worded it almost gives the impression that church “authorities (duh duh duh)” are screening (opening, reading) missionaries mail to deem whether or not it is an appropriate letter for said missionary to recieve. This is pretty far from the truth.

    3. Permission sought for everything? Not really. If you need to do something that will be in explicit violation of a known mission rule then, yes, you need to seek permission. I will tell you, however, that I can count on two hands the number of times I had to call to ask for permission for any particular activity, be it ot district or zone leader, or mission home. Missionaries have a much greater degree of autonomy (in making decisions about the work in their area) then you seem to imply.

    4. It is really not true that any violations of mission rules is to be reported to authorities. This is usually reserved for when a particular behavior is found by one companion or the other to be negatively affecting their relationship, the ability to work/teach effectively, or is severe enough to threaten a missionary spiritually (such as if one companion is making dates with girls) where the mission president (who is responsible for the physical, emotional, and spiritual well being of every missionary in his mission). I should add a caveat as well that only if the missionaries cannot work it out between themselves will it usually be reported (can you imagine how it would affect the functioning of the companionship if one is known to have ratted out the other). Missionaries are responsible for reporting their own misdeads themselves, and are left free to lie about them if they so choose, unless it gets out of hand and becomes destructive to those around him, or to the work directly (usually they are the same thing).

    5. I hear a lot about how for mormons, “obedience to church authorities is of utmost importance”. What this type of statement ignores is that for us, Christ is THE church authority. So if we are ever asked to do something by any church authority that goes against what you know/feel in your heart Christ would not have you do, then you have a responsibilty to follow Christ. Many members may not see this quite as I do, and I can appreciate this fact. But it is hardly the rule that we obey earthly authority over heavenly authority, which is what is implied in the above statement. That being said, as a missionary, you know when you sign up that you will be subject to a much more stringent code of conduct than as a non-missionary. You may not be aware of every rule you will be following when you sign up, but the dedication to follow the Lord, whatever is required, is solidified quite early on in the mission. So then all that is left to be determined is, Is what my Area authority/mission president/zone leader/distric leader/ senior companion asking of me from the Lord? Does it jive with what I feel the Lords will is for me? The answer will vary by individual person and circumstance.

    6. What do you mean by loaded language?

    7.Thought stopping techniques? You mean like singing a hymn or reciting a scripture? And challenging information, do you mean like pornographic images, or do you mean “Joseph Smith married 14 y/o girls and married women”. I have been taught in sunday school as a child(not as a missionary) to use the afore mentioned techniques to chase away bad thoughts. I can assure you I have not been taught to use anything more sophisticated as a missionary to block challenging information (whatever that means). As far as “all objections which can not be answered are to be met by “bearing one’s testimony””, I have to disagree. Missionaries bear a lot of testimony, this is true. And missionaries don’t have all the answers, also true. But I was never taught to bear testimony as an answer to questions I didn’t know the answer to. A more typical answer for me would be something like “I don’t know. I have actually been studying a lot about that myself and would be happy to share with you any answer I find. But what I do know is (insert testimony of relavent Gospel priciple)”. So testimony is a powerfull tool, but I at least, never used it as a tool to evade a demonstration of my own ignorance, nor was I ever instructed to do so. Though some assuredly did, which is a shame.

    8. “Missionaries are encouraged to testify that they know the church is true even if they have doubts or have reason to suspect that it may not be the case. Some are told to “fake it until they make it”. I don’t know to what degree it is encouraged. I was always encouraged to seek out a testimony where it was lacking, gain one, and then share it with vigor. But I know it is a common practice, both among missionaries and members in general. This has always disturbed me a bit, as I was raised to gain a testimony through study and prayers before claiming such. The emphasis on bearing testimony has always (and likely will always) fostered a kind of culture of, as you say, “fake it until they make it”. This is wrong, IMO, and I will do as much as I can in my capacity to combat this attitude. However, I can also say that in declaring words of truth, the HG can and will testify that it is true. So for someone who already believes quite strongly in a particular truth, bearing testimony of said truth can have a remarkable reinforcing quality, one that has certainly not been overlooked by church leadership.

    9. Who tells these missionaries that if they are not feeling the spirit it is because of unrighteousness? Some overzealous leader, no doubt, who has a skewed sense of self-imporatance and who feels he has the authority to dictate when and why the spirit is felt. It is not as common as you say. Some may feel of themselves that the reason they are not feeling the spirit is because they need to further purify themselves. This is much more common, IMO. But it is doubtfull they feel this way because they were told so explicitly. A lot of it is a product (rightly or wrongly) of the highly influential mormon culture, which some put far more stock into then they should. As long as someone is not overly self-critical, however, I think it is healthy and effective for one to always strive to be pure in spirit. In so doing, they grow closer to God and are more in tune to recieving His guidance.

    10. Any example of how guilt is used as a motivator?

    11. As far as success is concerned, there has always been debate between missionaries and within the church as to what a successful missionary is. I severed in Italy, and I can tell you that no one was seen as being at fault for going their entire mission without baptizing a single convert. Being a successful missionary was not tied in anyway to number of baptisms. The missionary culture is likely quite different in a place like peru where convert baptisms are so high that missionaries (or their leaders) become tempted to measure success by them. This is very much a mistake, and these missions (if they are like this) a in a great need of guidance and oversight.

    This post has mutated far beyond what I intended, and as such, I need to go now. I will comment more generally later. For now, let me just make my biggest objection. I appreciate that you are making generalizations, and knowingly so, and that you don’t intend any of these observations to apply in ever situation. My contention though is that a large percentage of the points you brought up would to me fall into the category of exception (however large an exception, in some cases), whereas they seem to be presented as the rule. This is especially true for the Thought and Emotional control sections. In other words, they are not observations of inherent attributes of the missionary program at large, but in it’s implementation by certain individuals or groups (even missions). If you want to critique the program, that’s fine, and I welcome it. But using points that are hardly representative of the program in question detracts from the discussion and, IMO, diminishes your credibility as it pertains to this critique. Thanks for your honesty.

  5. But you said so yourself that a cult is not inherently manipulative or mind-controlling, just that it is outside the bounds of orthodoxy. So if the orthodoxy is wrong, and your are a “cult” outside of that orthodoxy and are true, then it would be OK, right? After all, Christianity could have been veiwed during the 1st century as a cult of Judaism, because it was based on Jewish doctrinal teachings and scriptures, but was outside of the orthodoxy. This didn’t make Christianity any less true, though.

  6. I wasn’t intending to nitpick, but I see that’s how it ended up. I was only trying to make the point that he shouldn’t use exceptions to build a innacurate rule. But I can get out of hand. I will try to refrain in the future.

  7. I never saw any techniques used on missionaries that aren’t also used at your standard corporate world team-building retreat.

    Not to say I’m personally thrilled with everything going on in the mission field. But it’s not even close to brainwashing.

    * Missionaries are told where they will be living and with whom they will be living.

    Yeah. So?

    * They are required to wear a white shirt, slacks and a tie in all situations (no less what type of underwear they can wear).

    Not really. My first area in Japan, we’d go to the local high school across the street and play basketball with the high school team. We didn’t wear missionary clothes, or even “garments.” Just normal workout stuff. For service projects we’d usually wear street clothes. Same for our day off.

    * They are given very little free time off (only 8.5 hours) every week, the rest of their time in spent either sleeping, proselytizing or studying.

    Yup. So?

    * Missionaries are financially restrained by a small living allowance each month.

    It was always enough to pay for what I needed. I even bought the entire collection of Dragonball comic books while I was in Japan. We also blew a few bucks every couple weeks at a local arcade with a bit of regularity.

    Occasionally, we’d also go to one of those all you can eat BBQ joints and make ourselves sick.

    * Contact with family members is cut off except for 2 phone calls a year and hand delivered letters which must be delivered through church authorities.

    Nope. My letters went straight into the postal service and straight home. My parents’ letters found me the same way. My kid brother in the Czech Republic even emailed the family on occasion.

    * Permission must be sought for everything.

    No. The only time I ever sought permission for anything was when I had a benign tumor the size of a marble in my shoulder that became infected and had to be removed. I went in and had surgery done and rode my bike home to take the rest of the day off. Only later that evening did I remember that you are supposed to call the Mission Home before getting medical procedures done – for billing purposes and to protect the missionaries from foreign medicine (vital in 3rd world countries, probably not so big a deal in Japan).

    We were utterly alone and isolated from the Mission infrastructure in almost all the areas I lived in. You pretty much ran things as you saw fit. The local members were typically too new and inexperienced to really have fixed opinions as to how we should be behaving. Furthermore, the members deferred to us and admired us so much, we probably could have gotten away with a ton of things had we been so inclined.

    No one was really looking over my shoulder. It certainly didn’t feel that way anyway.

    * Missionaries must be present with their companions at all times except for a few minutes in the bathroom. Any violation of mission rules is to be reported to authorities.

    In theory, yes. I used to sit on the balcony for about an hour at night watching the city lights while my companion was busy elsewhere in the apartment. I went down and fixed my bike by my lonesome on a regular basis. Heck, I even went up on the roof of my apartment building to enjoy the view by myself. I also was chosen by civic leaders to play a samurai warrior escort for a Japanese princess in a local parade, which I did without my companion nearby. No big deal. But I generally adhered to the mission rules and stayed with my companion. You got used to it.

    Knowing what I know about young male behavior, it was a dang good idea too. Not only did it pose a barrier to getting a local girl pregnant, it also prevented some crazed predatory female from accusing you of having raped her or whatever else.

    * Obedience to church authorities is of utmost importance

    Yes. It makes sense, seeing as how they are God’s representatives. But in practice, we didn’t always toe the line.

  8. But you said so yourself that a cult is not inherently manipulative or mind-controlling, just that it is outside the bounds of orthodoxy. So if the orthodoxy is wrong, and your are a “cult” outside of that orthodoxy and are true, then it would be OK, right? After all, Christianity could have been veiwed during the 1st century as a cult of Judaism, because it was based on Jewish doctrinal teachings and scriptures, but was outside of the orthodoxy. This didn’t make Christianity any less true, though.

    uhhh, I think you are mixing the definitions of “cult”. Theological cults are not necessarily sociological cults, but often times they are. If Scientology, for example, is actually a true worldview, that doesn’t justify using mind-controlling techniques.

    You’re point about the label “cult” not mattering if the teachings are true is a valid one. I don’t at all disagree.

    Thanks for your reflections and your willingness to hear my criticisms in the spirit in which they were offered.

  9. Tim, so anyone who has a religious ideal that differs from yours is in “deep heresy?” I can think of nothing less Christian than speaking ill of another’s faith.

  10. frofreak:

    “But it is hardly the rule that we obey earthly authority over heavenly authority, which is what is implied in the above statement.”

    With regards to all you said in that point, but especially this, I have found that it is NOT the case the members want you to obey heavenly authority over earthly authority–because most members won’t admit that there could be a difference in these. So, if my bishop tells me to do something but I don’t feel it’s right spiritually, I should still do it. And what happens when two people feel spiritually different about something–and it’s a relevant thing? When it comes down to it, the earthly authority matters because if the bishop feels I should do something, and I feel I shouldn’t, I could be brought before a church disciplinary committee (not that this has happened to me, but it could in theory).

    “Who tells these missionaries that if they are not feeling the spirit it is because of unrighteousness?”
    This is something that is implied by others’ actions. For example, someone very close to me was not feeling the Spirit when praying about the Book of Mormon; in essence, Moroni’s promise was not being fulfilled for him, after years of diligent prayer, commitment, a faithful mission, marriage in the temple. He told his parents about it, and while they didn’t say that it was because of unrighteousness (at least not to his face) behind his back they questioned if he was having an affair, or what other sins he was secretly committing that were preventing the Spirit from speaking to him. Instead of trusting what he said–that for a decade he had been earnestly trying to get a spiritual confirmation that just didn’t come.

    So, while I think it’s great that you haven’t experienced this, and up until I witnessed this with others and when I left the church, I hadn’t either, it happens, and it’s appalling when it does.

    “Any example of how guilt is used as a motivator?”
    Awhile ago, on this site, JLFuller came on and said that in his experience, people leave the church for one of three reasons:
    1. Pride
    2. Sin
    3. Weren’t really committed to the gospel in the first place.

    That is an unfortunately common idea in Mormon culture. So, if you are wanting to believe the Church is true, but the spiritual confirmation isn’t happening, you feel guilty, because you must be either too prideful, sinning, or not that committed. It sucks.

    Anyway, frofreak, it sounds like you have a really healthy attitude about the Church yourself, and I’m glad to hear it! It always makes me feel better to know that there are so many reasonable Mormons out there, because since I’ve left I’ve encountered more than enough of the ones who want to judge me for my decision to leave.

  11. Basically, I think Tim is overestimating how controlled a missionary’s life is. He also doesn’t allow for the fact that missions are highly different, and each mission president has his own approach.

    I found that when I wanted solitude, I could find it. Not as much as I was used to, but I’ve always been adaptable. My letters went directly into the Japanese postal system, and that’s where letters and packages from home came from as well. My kid brother in the Czech Republic even sent us emails from time to time.

    I think there was only one time in my entire mission when I asked the Mission Headquarters’ permission for anything – when I had a benign tumor removed by surgery. And I only called that in after the fact when I remembered I was supposed to report that kind of stuff (I got a worried lecture from my Mission President).

    We had rules, but it was up to us if we followed them. I don’t think I had a single day of my mission life where I followed the set schedule for breakfast, prayer, study, etc. they laid out for us in our mission guidelines. For the most part, your companion only narced on you if you were visiting porn shops or running off at night, or something serious. Those pinheads who would actually tattle on you because you weren’t studying scriptures in the morning, typically got a gentle suggestion that they work it out on their own with their companion.

    As for clothing, we wore gym clothes when working out, street clothes when doing dirty service projects, street clothes on our day off. I only wore a suit on Sunday. Rest of the time it was short sleeve shirt and tie – which was actually more comfortable than my street clothes in hot and humid southern Japan.

    I don’t think you realize Tim just how alone, unsupported, and self-governing I was in my mission areas. I did proselyting my way. The members in Japan were either too new, or too inexperienced, or too in-awe of the missionaries to tell me differently.

    Sure I had to report to the mission home on my statistics every week. Sure I was guilty about how I failed to measure up. But I eventually got over that and realized I could only do what I could do. Part of growing up I guess.

    Honestly, I can’t think of a better way I could have spent my two years after high school.

  12. Katyjane,

    I agree with just about everything you say. I have never tried to imply that I didn’t believe these things happen in the church, nor that I never witnessed them myself. In fact, for every point Tim listed, I have witnessed a member (or more relavent to the discussion, a missionary) behave that way. I am very sympathetic to the scenarios you mention, both real and hypothetical. I have several family members or freinds who have left the church as well, and it pains me to know that they are treated by current members in the way you describe. What is gross about it all is how these types of members have a tendency to paint everyone who leaves the church with the same brush, ignoring the sincere, often painfull individual process each one has gone through, and trying to understand the context of their decision to leave, or the circumstances surrounding that decision. But we don’t do any better by painting any group with such generalities, which was really my biggest contention with the original post: That it portrays a group (missionaries, or the missionary program) as being a certain way based on a collection of generalities, many of them, IMO, clearly exceptions to a much more benign rule.

    As far as a bishop disciplining you for not doing what he says, I have a hard time coming up with a scenario in which this might happen, even theoretically. But I have been known to overlook many things. Maybe if you felt strongly about speeking out in favor of a controversial political issue for which the church was against, ERA comes to mind. But even with that issue many of the excommunications that were related have 2 sides to the story surrounding them, many of the stories are too heated to be reliable, so I hesitate to even bring them up. I do agree with you, however, that a pervasive attitude in the church is that God’s will and the Bishop’s will are the same thing, and should therefore be given equal weight. This needs to be adressed, for the purposes of clarification, from the top down, but I doubt it will be any time soon. Which is too bad. I know for myself where my allegiance is, and it will always be with God. I will obey the wishes of my Bishop when they jive with my own feelings as to what God’s will is for me. When they don’t, I will decline to participate. As long as I maintain a healthy relationship with God so that I will be able to know his will, then I should be fine, whatever the outcome.

  13. ‘Cult’ is a loaded word and triggers many different responses. Most people disagree with the “right” definition because there are so many different definitions out there. There’s a joke that a cult is “any religion that’s not mine.” Don’t get hung up on the word. It’s just a label. You can take a label off a can of beans and slap on a peach label but you still have beans inside. What’s important is recognizing the contents. (I teach cult education in Denver, Colorado.)

    Cults are toxic in many ways, even though they may start out with some wonderful ideals (peace, love, harmony, community). I think everyone would agree with that statement. And a toxic organization is any group that uses deception to manipulate and control its members. In other words, a toxic group manipulates you into joining by lying to you and then coerces you into staying when you feel something’s not right. Shunning members who leave is a perfect example of coercion. People stay because they fear the consequences, not because it is their choice. That’s when the group has crossed the line and has become abusive.

    If you study the eight points of mind control described by Robert J Lifton, a leading thought-reform expert, you’ll see that many, many groups can have some thought-reform elements and exert unorthodox control, but any group that uses all eight points of control is definitely considered dysfunctional and dangerous…a “cult.”

    Jim Jones, leader of the People’s Temple, began his climb to the top of the world’s most notorious cult as a fairly benign entity and he was revered by political leaders in his early days. It wasn’t until the group turned deadly that most people began to see it as a cult. What’s important to remember is, any group that lies to and abuses you (emotionally, physically, spiritually) is not healthy for you, regardless of the label you put on it.

    Before you ever join ANY group anywhere, talk to FORMER members and ask, “What do I have to lose if I join and want to leave someday?”

    Brenda Lee, author of “Out of the Cocoon: A Young Woman’s Courageous Flight from the Grip of a Religious Cult” http://www.outofthecocoon.net

  14. I really like Brenda Lee’s comments. I was a member of a Bible-based cult, the Trinity Foundation, for seven years.

    As a Christian who was raised in the mainstream Southern Baptist denomination, who had earned an undergraduate degree in Sociology and a master’s degree in Religious Education from one of the world’s foremost Protestant seminaries—Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary—and who had worked in the mental health field for twenty years, I should have been the last person to join a cult!

    Steven Hassan, an expert in the cult field, says that the fact that people think they would never become involved in a cult is the very thing that makes them vulnerable to cult recruitment.

    Educate yourselves about cults – from a psychological perspective. I had taken a course on cults that dealt with them on a doctrinal level — there’s more to a cult than just their doctrines and belief system.

    Wendy Duncan, author, I Can’t Hear God Anymore: Life in a Dallas Cult. http://www.dallascult.com

  15. I will admit that the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah was a rather strange place. I’m sure you could find evidence for all the “cult criteria” in that setting.

    Fortunately though, that experience was only for a couple weeks if you were stateside, two months if you were foreign-bound.

    It was like military boot camp in a lot of ways. I was glad to be rid of the place.

  16. The MTC in particular has left a bad taste in my mouth in retrospect. Lots of head games. Some of them might not be part of the “official” program, but they’re ingrained into the system nonetheless. It’s a really vulnerable time.

  17. I have to agree with the sentiment about the MTC. If Seth can compare it to boot camp, then something must be wrong. It was my least favorite part of my mission, to say the least.

  18. It’s not really like boot camp, though–I’ve been to both, for what it’s worth. There’s an intense mental/emotional component to the MTC that is not present in basic training.

  19. I also have to agree with the MTC sentiment—both as a former missionary and as a former language instructor. There were many, many wonderful experiences there, but there was also that oppressive feeling…

    That said, I can sympathize with the MTC leadership: 4,000 or so 19 yr-olds on a small campus, full of excitement, away from home for the first time, etc. It’s the kind of environment that screams for trouble (freshman dorms, anyone?). So if they overdo the discipline, I can see why.

    That’s not to say that they couldn’t improve some things at the MTC, just that I get the reason for strictness. (The same applies to mission rules.)

  20. kullervo, 23—yeah, I always imagined that boot camp would be more pleasant than the MTC in many ways. Is that what you’d say?

  21. Apples and oranges. Don’t underestimate the suckiness of basic training. You get yelled at a whole lot. It’s pretty physically demanding. And the gas chamber utterly, utterly sucks. Basic training is really stressful and difficult, but I didn’t feel like it was mentally or emotionally intrusive. If that makes sense. I was the same person after basic as I was before (just in way better shape), but I was not the same person before and after the MTC.

  22. wow, I did not expect the comments on this post to go the way of “I think you may have a point when it comes to the Missionary Training Center”. If I can start to suggest that there are some inappropriate mind games that border on cultic and several Mormons agree with me, there’s something there. I think it would be really healthy to see a believing Mormon blog about some of the inappropriate things they experienced while there. At this point all you hear from faithful LDS is “all is well”. There’s no way any organization run by men is perfect in every regard. If any group gets insulated from dissent there it’s impossible for it to remain healthy.

    Speaking of inappropriate flag raising behavior. . . I just watched “Jesus Camp”. Holy Cow! That was an ugly side of Evangelical Fundamentalism that I have not seen. I knew there were some weird things going on in the Pentecostal churches, but hadn’t considered them from an outside-the-church perspective.

  23. About the No critical questions about leadership or leadership decisions is allowed, If you do they treat you like you should be there at all. They don’t really want singles in the church to. They tell them if they not married that they are not cared for and treated like crap. So i still don’t know what is wrong with the mormon church but it seems that they are screwed up in some why of their preaching!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s