Understanding how Mormon Missionary Manipulation works: My experience

The LDS church officially teaches that conversion is done by the spirit of god, which will testify to an individual the truth of the gospel if they pray about it. As set out in the notoriously used verses of Moroni 10:3-5 “Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”

Given this, missionaries are trained to push the “investigator” towards praying about the truth of their message in order to gain a testimony, which is a key part of the conversion process. They describe the spirit of god as a “warm fuzzy feeling” or a “still small voice”. Having served a mission myself, a decade ago now, I of course did this many times and unfortunately, in my own naivety I actually believed it, and often got frustrated that in serving in a deeply irreligious country, the lord never seemed to “reward” the explicit acts of faith and dedication I shown him (I was a true believer and was very serious about it).

But now, looking back, I recognize that in the LDS conversion process, there is no “Holy Spirit” to be found in this instance. Rather, it is a comprehensive act of emotional manipulation which is not about any divine force, but the role of the person itself in connecting to the feelings of another, or to put it bluntly, the social skills and charisma of the missionary involved. It is no surprise that the now excommunicated James J. Hamula, when he visited our mission, taught us that “teaching is not about talking and telling people things” it isn’t, and it never was.

The biggest mistake I made on my mission was, as I stated above, I was a true believer who placed absolute faith in the premise its leaders were telling the truth and were called of god. I genuinely believed as such, that true success in a mission was premised on faith and obedience, and that if I wasn’t getting results that quite clearly I was doing something wrong. The consequence of this horrible mindset was that I beat myself up continually and destroyed my own self-esteem in the process. It distorted my view of reality and left me very angry, depressed, frustrated and also hypersensitive. I did not fully recover emotionally from this experience for 10 years until I joined The True Jesus Church.

Because of this, what I failed to understand is that the most successful missionaries were not the most “obedient” or “faithful” ones, but the ones who utilized the greatest ability in social skills to manipulate, lead on and charm others. What the LDS church do not tell you is that there is no “spirit” in the conversion process, but it is a process of “branding” and “emotional manipulation” in order to make people “feel good” about the church to be lured into it, making them “believe” that is true as a product of that. When viewed from this angle, the church leadership’s understanding of psychology is very, very succinct in a dark way.

Conversion is therefore not based on “facts” or “god telling you anything”, but a social engineering process of constructing “feelings”. I did not understand at the time this because A) I have an intellectual personality and deal too strongly in facts and instruction. I am perhaps a good teacher, but a very poor manipulator as such and then B) I did things by the book to the extent I believed faith and more faith was literally the answer to everything, and therefore if was failing it was “on me”. Now obviously, because I taken my missionary work seriously and therefore tried hard and did not mess around, I obviously did get some baptisms, but failed to see the bigger picture of how it works and why some missionaries got much, much more.

But in understanding this correctly, the LDS conversion process isn’t about the “substance” of how you teach them, it’s the style. It’s an act of marketing, and that’s why a lot of people get baptised with no understanding or real conversion, and therefore leave afterwards. That’s because the process of “believing” something is subjective and emotional. I realize that it does not matter to someone now how many times you say “Joseph Smith is a prophet” the “Book of Mormon is true”, I mean yeah, so what? A Muslim could say the same about Muhammed and the Quran, and would that automatically mean I convert just because he knows it? Of course not. Rather, its about the ability of missionaries to install a “feeling” into their investigator that this religion has something they “want” or “need”, and as such there’s no “faith based conversion” to be had, there’s no “praying to god and getting an answer” because it isn’t true, and god isn’t with them.

Rather, this Mormon process of praying to ask whether the Book of Mormon is true, is a manipulation of the process of confirmation bias. That is if you want something to be true, you will of course subconsciously decide that it’s true. In this world we live in today, there are people who believe the earth is flat, and will never change their position even confronted with “facts” or “logic”, because their belief is underpinned by emotion. That’s why, if a total cynic, who does not believe anything the church says, chooses to pray about the Book of Mormon to really put it to the test, they aren’t going to miraculously change their mind are they? That’s why the instructions on praying contain these words “with real intent” and “faith in christ”- in other words, asking you to pre-emptively believe it is true in order to engage the act.

In doing so, the process of “confirmation bias” then leads you to attribute meaning to various events and circumstances, which are then claimed to be your “answer” from the Holy Spirit and therefore, testimony. The LDS church is very good at this across the board. Little things for example, such as “count your blessings” is a psychological manipulation which trains you to link empirically unrelated phenomenon to acts and sacrifices on behalf of your own faith. For example, you found a dollar on the roadside? Oh, that must be a blessing from god that you paid your tithing! In the world of Mormonism, there are no coincidences, and the process of confirmation bias manipulates you by leading you to construct an “artificial reality” around yourself to build and fortify your faith.

But the flip side of this is, that everything bad that happens to you, becomes an exercise in grotesque self-punishment. And what this done to me personally, in the missionary setting, was to severely damage my self-worth, mental health and self-esteem. But yes to finalize, Mormon conversion isn’t about facts or a spiritual witness, it isn’t about empirically “convincing” people or literally believing god’s will is acting on those you teach (as I assumed), but it’s about manipulating them and locking them into a process of confirmation bias which fundamentally changes their psychology, and it’s fair to say that if I were a sociopath, and I had went on a mission knowing all this, I would have had a lot more success than I did.

One thought on “Understanding how Mormon Missionary Manipulation works: My experience

  1. You’ve hit the nail on the head. So many young men and women suffer through their missions and blame themselves for their lack of conversions. If the message was truly good and useful to all of humanity it would be readily accepted by a large percentage of people that encountered it. Emotional manipulation is the only way to bring people into this belief system.

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