An email from a former Mormon (I’ll call “XM”) arrived in my inbox. He was disturbed over a video he found on You Tube. In the video, (now) LDS President Thomas Monson instructs LDS missionaries on how to find investigators (people interested in learning about the Mormon Church with a eye toward membership).
“…listen closely at who he wants the missionaries to target. First he tells them how to ‘set the stage’ [with members] by using ‘loaded language’ (Mind control tactic #6 of 8 Lifton) and addressing the ‘sacred science’ (Mind Control tactic #5 of 8, Lifton). Then he goes on to [clarify] who he wants the missionaries to talk to by asking the member family, ‘first, who do you know who has recently lost a loved one; second, who do you know who has welcomed a newly born child to the family; third, who do you know who has recently moved into the neighborhood; fourth, who do you know who has trouble coping with their teenage children?’ All four of the examples have a common thread, all the people are in a vulnerable position and have just had an emotional or challenging experience happen in their life. Doesn’t it seem odd that the LDS organization that claims that it represents God would use [these] predatory practices?”
If you can get past the strong language he uses, XM raises a point worthy of discussion. Note that Mr. Monson talks about the “best way for a Mission to achieve its optimum productivity.” He says it won’t happen if the missionaries casually ask members for referrals. The missionaries need to find people who are at a vulnerable point in their lives in order to be successful.
“I call these predatory practices because Monson does not ask for people who are: one, Stable in their Jobs; two, have a stable family life; three, who do you know who has raised their family in an honest fashion; and four, who do you know who is looking for the truth. Why would Monson want the missionaries to go after people who have experienced a major change in their life? We all become weak from time to time, emotional stress tends to take its toll, this is when the missionaries strike.
“The reason is surprisingly simplistic. People who have experienced one or more of the life changing or challenging events Monson describes are generally more open to hearing language that is best described as cult like language. Robert Lifton and Alan Hassan describe this technique as ‘Love Bombing.’ Love bombing is basically killing them with kindness. It is easy to conclude that someone who is having an emotional event in their life, who is feeling lonely, or confused by a situation, would be open and more receptive to a cult’s advances.”
When I first watched this video of President Monson, I thought, “Well, hurting people need the Good News and hope that Christ can bring into their shaky lives.” But then I realized that Mr. Monson is not suggesting that hurting people be ministered to in the name of the Lord. He’s not suggesting that the LDS missionaries bring them the hope and peace of Christ. He’s suggesting that these people be used to achieve optimum productivity for the Mission.
“It is completely appropriate to reach out to families and individuals who are experiencing life altering events; as a matter of fact it is important to be the friendly neighbor and friend. Most people help out or lend a shoulder to cry on out of the goodness of their heart. The difference here is that Monson has the intention of converting those families and individuals. The perceived concern for the family or person is conditional, the missionaries have an ulterior motive; that is to baptize. Jesus died for our sins, with no strings attached. It’s just disheartening that the organization that claims to be the ‘one true church’ has to resort to manipulative tactics that prey on people who are already having a tough time.”
People in the midst of these life-changing circumstances are tender. They’re afraid. They’re frustrated. They’re at the end of their ropes or feeling a heavy weight of responsibility. They don’t really need answers to questions about where they came from or why they’re here. They don’t need pressure to join the “One True Church” with all of its burdens piled on top of their already overloaded backs. They need their burdens relieved, their fears calmed, their hopes renewed.
They don’t need to become a statistic that allows an LDS mission to “achieve its optimum productivity.” They need Jesus–the one and only answer for their souls.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.”
Comments within the parameters of 1 Peter 3:15 are invited.