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Resistance is Futile

I didn’t really want to be there. The Mormon missionaries had called me and asked if I could visit a young woman with them. I felt obligated to help despite being on the verge of leaving the Mormon church. I hadn’t come out of the closet to anyone except my wife, so I had no good reason to refuse which wouldn’t out me. Besides, I was trying to be as faithful as possible to try one last time to receive a witness of God’s existence.

The urge to leave only got stronger as I sat listening to these two young men pressure and manipulate the young woman. She was obviously reluctant to commit to a religion that was so new to her. Her reluctance to disappoint the three men sitting at her kitchen table won out in the end. She agreed to work toward baptism into the Mormon church within a few weeks.

As we left, I’m sure the missionaries were expecting me to be excited to have participated in introducing someone into God’s church. I was instead feeling the pangs of a conscience struggling to be heard.

It wasn’t long before I had sent in my letter to resign my callings and ending my active participation in the church.


Chris Hedges over at TruthDig attended a seminar where he was taught how to convert people to Christianity. He then wrote an insightful article about the manipulative methods which in many ways resemble Mormon missionary tactics. I kept thinking to myself while reading the article, “So they’re finally taking a page from the Mormon missionary play book.” I think most former Mormon missionaries will recognize the tactics known in my time as the Commitment Pattern: prepare, invite, follow up, resolve concerns, build relationships of trust, etc. Just change some of the argot in the article and it becomes a story about Mormon missionary efforts.

I highly recommend reading the article which lays out how religious converts are often made: identifying the susceptible, building false friendships, promising to cure (sometimes nonexistent) fears and shames, smothering the prospective convert with attention, weakening or cutting ties with old friends and family who don’t belong to the group, introducing new rules which function as tokens of membership, imbuing a sense of group superiority, emphasis on an emotional experience rather than thought or reason, peer pressure, and deconstruction of individual identity in favor of a new group identity. I’ve never seen a more concise summation of exactly how missionary efforts are carried out.

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