I know. Bad pun. What are ya gonna do?
When a cohesive group collects in one locale the culture is definitely affected. But does a pervasive culture necessarily comprise a cult? Let’s explore. Maybe my simple-mindedness will suffice as a guide.
Steven Hassan – From Wikipedia:
Steven Alan Hassan (born 1954) is an American licensed mental health counselor who has written on the subject of mind control and how to help people who have been harmed by the experience. He has been helping people exit destructive cults since 1976. Hassan has appeared on the TV news programs 60 Minutes, Nightline, and Dateline, and is a published author and lecturer.
Hassan is a former member of the Unification Church (aka “Moonies”), and he founded Ex-Moon Inc. in 1979 before assisting with involuntary deprogrammings in association with the Cult Awareness Network. In 1999 Hassan developed what he describes as non-coercive methods to help members of cults to quit their groups.
How does one recognize a cult? What are the signs? Can an organization or a culture posses only some of the characteristics and still be called a cult?
Steve and his organization have a website deserving exploration here. Please visit and explore. Answers to these questions may be found on the site.
One part of the site I will share and discuss here. It regards the “BITE model”. I will share this model and then make a comparison with a familiar organization.
The BITE Model
As a preface to the BITE model, Hassan’s site has a very brief page with some pertinent and important information and questions I suggest you review. Please do so now.
The BITE model is linked on that page and I hope you looked at it as well. If not, you may find it here.
B – Behavior control
I – Information control
T – Thought control
E – Emotional control
These things are clearly understood by me, a former Mormon for the vast bulk of my life and now an ex-Mormon because of “apostasy” after a 14-month intensive study of LDS Church publications and scripture. I have the not so unique (nowadays) viewpoint of both member and non-member. My LDS family and friends may be aware of some of the issues I have learned but they make a choice. This choice is based on complex emotions, attitudes, and indoctrination. In my case, reason finally broke “the spell” of this complex mix. I freed myself from a cult on my own, essentially challenging leadership which responded in a way cults sometimes do.
They excommunicated me.
Cults work so hard to retain members but some become more “toxic” than can be tolerated and must be ejected, impugned, and shunned. The complex makeup of some Mormons can lessen or obviate the shunning but it still happens too often. I am the beneficiary of the former, fortunately for me.
Let’s evaluate the LDS Church. An ex-Mormon’s analysis is here. An expert’s analysis is here. Please review these. Then, come back here for my own perspective, having been “in” and now “out”.
B: Does the LDS Church control behavior?
Does it promote dependence and obedience?
Modify behavior with rewards and punishments? Oh, too easy! The promise of Eternal life? Forever families?
Dictate where and with whom you live? It used to encourage (note: not dictate) joining with Zion. Members are “in the world, but not of it”.
Restrict or control sexuality? Yes.
Control clothing and hairstyle? Modest is hottest! Women are to dress to keep men from having impure thoughts! Men, no beards or long hair.
Regulate what and how much you eat and drink? Word of Wisdom.
Deprive you of seven to nine hours of sleep? Callings. Temple work. Genealogy. Home and Visiting Teaching. Meetings, although less than years ago. Early morning seminary. You get the idea.
Exploit you financially? Conference talk by Elder Valeri V. Cordón, see section “Second: Strong Modeling in the Home”
Restrict leisure time and activities? See sleep time question.
Require you to seek permission for major decisions? No. Seek guidance? Yes. Stay within prescribed guidelines? Yes.
I: Does the LDS Church control information?
Deliberately withhold and distort information? Yes. Ask about the Journal of Discourses. What about the “Essays“? Isn’t that transparency? No. It’s inoculation. Unless you follow the references and the references they reference, you will not get the right perspective.
Forbid you from speaking with ex-members and critics? Temple recommend interview question.
Discourage access to non-cult sources of information? Yes.
Divide information into Insider vs. Outsider doctrine? Most definitely!
Generate and use propaganda extensively? Missionary program.
Use information gained in confession sessions against you? This will depend on leadership! Church-wise and church-wide, I would say no.
Gaslight to make you doubt your own memory? Depends, as well. Your interpretation may vary. All I will say is that you should refer to the Gordon B. Hinckley interviews by Mike Wallace.
Require you to report thoughts, feelings, & activities to superiors? Worthiness interviews.
Encourage you to spy and report on others’ “misconduct”? Not per se, but members and former members can become “projects” and may be discussed in councils.
T: Does the LDS Church control thought?
Instill Black vs. White, Us vs. Them, & Good vs. Evil thinking? Yes. “One true church.”
Change your identity, possibly even your name? Not your name. Your identity? Potentially.
Use loaded language and cliches to stop complex thought? Absolutely.
Induce hypnotic or trance states to indoctrinate? Only if High Council droning counts! Actually, there have been studies on the sing-song cadence of GA speeches that indicate they do, indeed, induce somewhat of a trance state.
Teach thought-stopping techniques to prevent critical thoughts? Not so much.
Allow only positive thoughts? Certainly encouraged.
Use excessive meditation, singing, prayer, & chanting to block thoughts? I would have to say generally no.
Reject rational analysis, critical thinking, & doubt? Oh, yes!
E: Does the LDS Church control emotion?
Instill irrational fears (phobias) of questioning or leaving the group? Yes.
Label some emotions as evil, worldly, sinful, or wrong? Yes.
Teach emotion-stopping techniques to prevent anger, homesickness? This may vary. As a rule, only missionaries would seem to me to be so subjected.
Promote feelings of guilt, shame, & unworthiness? Yes.
Shower you with praise and attention (“love bombing”)? Absolutely!
Threaten your friends and family? No.
Shun you if you disobey or disbelieve. Disobey, no. Disbelieve, more likely.
Teach that there is no happiness or peace outside the group? Absolutely!
I have presented my case. The decision is yours. Do your homework. Anything I have written here, including the materials from Steven Hassan and his site, can be verified. I try to be honest. And I honestly wish to free my family.
From a verifiable cult.
Last thought, from “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari (my advice is to read the whole book):
Now, it’s your turn. Please, comment with your own opinions! I am very interested in your thoughts on this matter.