When the mission president found out that I am one of Irelands leading authorities on cults and cult deprogramming techniques he asked me to meet with the missionaries to share with them some thoughts and counsel on the matter.
I explained to the missionaries that Satan is the great deceiver and one way he leads people away from the truths of the restored gospel is by getting them involved in cults where they are indoctrinated to such a point that they are unable to recognize the truth even when it is clearly presented to them.
While I have personally ‘deprogrammed’ many souls I explained to the missionaries that most people involved in cults are so hopelessly dependant on the system they are in that they will fight to protect it even when the evidence shows that their beliefs have little to no foundation or that the organization they are in is corrupt. To some it is all they have known and the feeling of belonging to a group and fitting in is more important to them than the truth.
I further explained that it is not possible to be in a cult and at the same time know that you are in one. Only when someone comes out of a cult and can clearly see it through the eyes of an outside observer can they realize that they were in one.
I displayed a large screen where we read the well researched and crystal clear definitions of a cult directly from the website http://www.howcultswork.com/
I first explained that what makes an organization a cult is not what they believe. What makes an organization a cult is whether they use manipulative control techniques on their followers. We read from the site exactly how cult leaders control people and I made it clear that the organizations the website is referring to are one’s that have absolutely no priesthood authority or power upon the earth. This is what was said:
“Cult leaders need to make you believe that there is nowhere else you can go and still be saved, and if you ever leave the "one true church" then you are going to hell.”
I explained as per the website that the problem with other churches doing this is that it “is a fear based control mechanism designed to keep you in the cult. It also gives the cult leaders tremendous power over you. If you really believe that leaving the group equals leaving God (or means you are leaving your only chance to succeed in life), then you will obey the cult leaders even when you disagree with them.”
Continuing on we read the following right from the site:
“Cult leadership is feared. To disagree with leadership is the same as disagreeing with God. The cult leaders will claim to have direct authority from God to control almost all aspects of your life.”
I taught the missionaries that this of course is the ultimate control. If leaders of other Churches can, under the influence of Satan, convince their followers they are authorized of God then members will be in their power. Followers in this situation will do whatever they are asked including donating large portions of their incomes to the organization even if it means that their own families go without. I gave the example to the full-time missionaries of one lady who I recently deprogrammed out of Scientology who was working long hours day after day for the organization with no pay, but who had been mentally programmed from her birth that serving in this way would ensure spiritual rewards in this life and the next. She explained to me that her whereabouts were always known to at least one other person, she couldn’t phone home to talk to her own mother and if she complained it was seen as a sign of weakness and lack of faith by her peers and leaders.
Another important point about the more advanced cults is that they “will have a slick well-rehearsed Public Relations front which hides what the group is really like. You will hear for example how they help the poor. You will not be told what they really believe. These things will be introduced to you slowly, one at a time, so you will not notice the gradual change, until eventually you are practicing and believing things which at the start would have caused you to run a mile.” For example if you knew that by joining the Jehovah's Witnesses you would at some point in your progression be required to commit all of your time and talents to the building up of their Kingdom, you would probably not have joined in the first place.
I explained to the missionaries that when groups with no authority from God deceive people like this it inhibits mans God given free-agency to accept the truths of the restored gospel.
Having given the missionaries a basic overview of how cults work, we then got to the important point in the discussion that dealt with getting people out of a cult.
I explained that the art of deprogramming involves reversing the indoctrination process used by cults with the goal of showing cult members how their own decision-making power has been taken away from them. Convincing them that they are under control (and that they aren’t just doing things because they love to serve and want to be obedient to God) is extremely difficult, takes a lot of patience and requires listening attentively to and following the promptings of the spirit. The problem, of course, is that those involved in a cult cannot see that they were being controlled until they are out (even though it is blatantly obvious to us onlookers).
I went through the following deprogramming steps that I often adopt when meeting with someone who is in a cult:
1. Discredit the figure of authority: the cult leader – This is highly effective. In the case of Scientologists showing the follower that Ron Hubbard (the founder) was convicted of fraud is a great way to get them to ask further questions. I can’t imagine anyone belonging to a group which was started by someone with a clear track record of fraud.
2. Present contradictions (ideology versus reality): "Jehovah Witnesses preach family values but if you leave the organization family members are warned not to talk to you and you are considered lost forever…" is an example of where their ideology doesn't match reality.
3. The breaking point: When a subject begins to listen to the deprogrammer; when reality begins to take precedence over ideology.
4. Self-expression: When the subject begins to open up and voice gripes against the cult. You will find that all members of cults have things that they lived with and accepted but didn’t like; since they were unable to voice their concerns while in the cult part of the process when coming out is that they will express these things to you. They may also create online forums where they can connect with others in similar circumstances. Those who are still in the cult that read these forums will view them as a bunch of whiners who were obviously weak in the faith. In reality they are a group of people who have figured out the truth with regards to the cult they were (or perhaps still are) in.
5. Identification and transference: when the subject begins to identify with the deprogrammers, starts to think of him- or herself as an opponent of the cult rather than a member of it. Those who learn the truth about the cults they were once in and that they dedicated their lives to will almost always become an opponent of the cult once they are out. This does not usually occur in the case of non cultish organizations. In fact you can get a good idea of which organizations are cultish by the way people react when they are in steps 4 and 5.
I tried to convey to the missionaries the true joy of bringing a person to the point where they have opened their minds and can see through all the lies that they have been programmed to believe. They realize that they have been duped and they come out of it. It’s incredible to see the effect it has on someone when their mind starts working again. And most importantly when this happens they are finally ready to hear the message of the restored gospel.