When someone who’s served a LDS mission leaves the Mormon church, they generally feel an amount of guilt for the people they have shared “the gospel” with and baptized. My guilt hit me when I was in Chicago on November 6, 2012 (The day President Barack Obama was elected for his second term). I was sitting in my hotel room, having a few hours to myself until my afternoon appointments, and my thoughts went to the people I baptized in Las Vegas from 1997-1999. Their faces and names raced through my head. I remembered what I liked about each of them, their personalities, their logical objections to the message I was teaching them, how I overcame their objections through the techniques I was taught and the impact the Mormon church might of had on their lives…. some good, some not good. My heart broke and I was crushed. I felt like I sold them a lie. I realize I can’t really blame myself, since I was acting on what I was taught, even if I now realize it was all built on fraudulent and misrepresented claims; however, that doesn’t keep the weight of bringing other people into this organization of false truths off my shoulders.
This process of discovering the reality behind Mormonism has been the most painful process I’ve ever had to go through. Even now, at this very moment, I am losing things that I never thought I would almost solely due to my leaving the Mormon Church and being open about it. Will the 59 people I baptized in Vegas discover what I have and go through this same heart-wrenching, sometimes life destroying, process that I have? Will they lose close relationships with people they love? Will they be chased out of social circles and even businesses? Will they lose a part of their identity that was once the strongest and most sure part of themselves, leaving them alone to pick up the pieces that have been shattered on the floor through the honest discovery of truth?
I think of Kristofer, who was a very bright 18 year old kid. His intellect was far beyond mine, at the time. He thirsted for the truth behind everything, which brought him to Mormonism. Was this thirst quenched after baptism or did his inquisitive logical mind lead him down the same path I’ve gone down? He got baptized against his parents will. What did that do to his family relationships? Does he love or hate me for ushering him to the baptismal waters? I’m afraid to even find out….
Jennifer was an amazing single mother, who’s had to overcome some of the most horrible fears and experiences this world has to offer. The church brought her hope and comfort initially but was she accepted into the culture? Did certain people judge her for the experiences she was forced to endure and overcome and shunned by the people in the church who haven’t had to face the devil of this world? The real devil…. human beings who act in ways that are the most reprehensible…. Did her past colliding with Mormon Culture and Perfectionism cause her mental health to further decline and go deeper into the rabbit hole that she worked so vigorously to get out of? Again, even more than with Kristofer, I’m fucking scared as hell to even find out. I’m not sure I can take the overwhelming guilt that would hit me, if this were true.
My thoughts go to Jackie, another single mother but at the opposite end of the cultural spectrum than Jennifer. Jackie was an accomplished nurse and independent woman. Did she find a home in a Mormon culture that heavily stresses the importance of Motherhood over career? Did she feel welcomed, even though she wasn’t able to attend the play groups with the stay-at-home Moms? Would her feminist underpinnings mesh well with the June Cleaver culture she was just thrown into with little warning?
I could write pages of these questions and concerns I have for each of the people that I baptized…….
What makes this guilt even worse is understanding the technique and methods I used to baptize incredible people.
Every missionary, at the time that I served, was taught The Commitment Pattern in the Missionary Training Center (MTC). See the outline of it below. I attribute my sales abilities to my natural personality and tendencies but also to learning The Commitment Pattern on my mission. Check it out. It’s amazing!
In 1999 I served as Assistant to the President (AP), AP’s are the two missionaries who help the Mission President run the mission. This is critical information because I need you to understand the role I played in the manipulation of others. As AP I introduced The Pray Now Approach to the entire mission. I taught all 200 missionaries in the Las Vegas Mission to use it and effectively get people into the waters of baptism in the fastest most efficient way possible. Having little regard for true conversion. Our goal was baptism, leaving the idea of actual conversion to the members of the church itself, after we dunked the “investigators.” I am going to go through the method and explain how I used it in application.
Basically, I had everyone committed to being baptized into the LDS Church in the first meeting we had with them, after teaching them about Joseph Smith claiming to see God and Jesus Christ but BEFORE introducing them to the Book of Mormon. Yes, you read that correctly. The last 5 months of my mission, I committed every convert I taught to baptism before I even told them about the Book of Mormon because that’s how effective and manipulative this technique is. Let’s see how I did it.
First, when I was a missionary we had to teach people 6 discussions before they were baptized. Each discussion was typed out for us and we were to memorize it. However, prior to teaching the first discussion we taught them The Holy Ghost Dialogue:
The Holy Ghost Dialogue
Missionary – Before we begin, we would like to talk to you about something that is very important. We are personal representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, and He has provided a way for you to find out for yourself that the things we are telling you are true. The way that this is done is through the power of the Holy Ghost. In the scriptures the Lord tells us what the purpose of the Holy Ghost is. Would you please read John 15:26? (Give the background and a “look for” question – as in “Look for what the purpose of the Holy Ghost is.”)
Investigator – Reads John 15:26 – “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.”
Missionary – What does the Lord say about what the Holy Ghost will do?
Investigator – Testify of Him.
Missionary – How will the Holy Ghost do this?
(Ask Investigator to read Galatians 5:22-23. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”)
Missionary – So how will the Holy Ghost testify of truth?
Investigator – Through our feelings.
Missionary – That’s correct, that’s how the Holy Ghost operates, by impressions on the mind and feelings in the heart. Feelings will come to your heart such as a peace or a warmth.
These feelings will result in an assurance and confidence that the things we are telling you are true. You may not be able to see the Holy Ghost but you will be able to feel his presence. You shall feel in your heart that it is right.
Tonight we would like you to be particuarly sensitive to the feelings within you, because the Lord has said that this is the way the Holy Ghost communicates with us. When your heart tells you something your mind doesn’t know, you are listening to the Spirit of the Lord. When you feel these feelings, will you accept them as an answer from God that this message is true?
Investigator – Yes.
Missionary – When God gives you that answer, will you be baptized?
Investigator – Yes.
Note: If the investigator does not say Yes to the last question about being baptized when God gives them the answer through their feelings, go back through the scriptures again. If you are unable to get them to commit to be baptized once God tells them this message is true, then leave the house immediately. Do not continue the discussion.
PROCEED INTO EXPLANATION OF PRAYER (This is when we taught them the “correct way to pray.”)
We would begin the first discussion. It had 6 principles or sections of the discussion. They were:
- The Plan of our Heavenly Father
- The Divine Sonship of Jesus Christ
- How The Plan Has Been Revealed
- The Prophet Joseph Smith: A Modern Witness of Jesus Christ
- The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ
- The Holy Ghost: A Witness of the Truth
We were taught to bring up baptism in every principle. Things like, after reading John 14:6, you say, “Christ showed us how to follow him by being baptized.” This made the word “Baptism” not seem scary and the more we mentioned it, the more likely it was that the investigator was going to accept our invitation to be baptized.
After teaching about God, Jesus Christ and Prophets, we would go into the story of Joseph Smith. The 14 year-old boy who went to a grove asked God which church to join. We told them that in answer to Joseph’s prayer, he saw God and Jesus Christ. Here is the quote we used with this picture:
I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me…. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name an said, pointing to the other — “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”
After reading this passage we would pause and let silence fill the air. After a few seconds, we would say to the investigator, “Do you want know if Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ that day?”
The investigator would say, “Yes.”
We would reply, “How can you know if this is true?” (Keep in mind, we taught them about the Holy Ghost and prayer in the beginning of this lesson, which was only 20 minutes ago)
They would respond with, “I need to pray.”
In a serious tone, we say, “Let’s pray right now. Let’s kneel down and ask God together, if Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus in the grove this day in 1820. I’m going to say the first prayer. It’ll be simple and easy. We’re just going to ask if Joseph had this experience and if he’s a prophet. Then my companion will pray. Then we’ll ask you to pray for yourself.”
We all kneel down and I say a prayer. Always using a soft, sincere but serious tone. My missionary companion would pray. Then the person we are teaching would say a simple prayer. For some people, this might be the first time they have ever prayed out loud, so we provide encouragement and support.
After the investigator says their prayer, we remain on our knees and silent. The idea is to let “The Spirit” fill the room. After about 30 seconds of silence (imagine how long that really is, when you are just sitting there), I raise my head and in a tender voice go through this dialogue:
Missionary – How do you feel?
Investigator – I feel good. (They might also give feelings of peaceful, calm, happy and etc….)
Missionary – Where are those feelings coming from?
Investigator – The Holy Spirit (Might also say God)
Missionary – That’s right. God is speaking to you right now. What is He telling you about this experience that Joseph Smith had? Did he see God and Jesus Christ?
Investigator – He’s telling me he did. He did see God and Jesus.
Missionary – That’s right! God is answering your prayer right now. He’s touched you just now and is showing His love through giving you this answer! (Some people may never have had an answer to a prayer before, so rejoice with them that God cares for them enough to communicate with them through His Holy Spirit. Expect an influx of emotion and possibly tears at this point.)
Missionary – What is God telling you about Joseph Smith being a Prophet of God?
Investigator – That he is a prophet.
Missionary – Yes. Now that God has answered your prayer and you know Joseph Smith was a prophet, will you be baptized?
Investigator – Yes, I will.
Missionary – We are having a baptism in 2 weeks, on Sunday. Will you prepare to be baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on that day?
Investigator – Yes, I will.
(Celebrate with them, as they make this commitment)
Missionary – Now, let me introduce The Book of Mormon to you……
Again, YES, you just read that right. I had many people committed to be baptized before I even introduced them to The Book of Mormon. I think you can see how…..
Some are probably wondering why we are pushing for them to be baptized in 2 weeks. Well, I have a document I was given to explain just that. This should make it very clear:
OK, so I am having a visceral reaction, after writing this out. I might be sick and my fingers are shaking, making it hard to type. I don’t see this process as one that is spiritual or of God. This is psychological manipulation, at its best. I feel so much guilt and anger in this moment. I can’t even finish this blog post. Excuse any typos I might have, as I’m not even going to proofread this post. I’ll attach a bunch of photos of people that I baptized on my mission, although not all 59 will be represented here.