Friday, January 3, 2014

President Paternoster Trains Missionaries about Cults

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
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. 


Danny Haszard said...

Jehovah's Witnesses are in *breach of the preach*.
Jehovah's Witnesses proselytizing is a false Gospel. (Gal. 1:8)

Straight up doctrinal facts on Jehovah Witness.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach preach that Jesus had his return aka second coming October 1914,then they spin all sorts of doctrinal embellishments on that date.
They teach only 144,000 go to heaven,on and on and on with made up man made dogmas……They have infighting,crime and child abuse as bad as any church out there.

Jehovah’s Witnesses promotion of their Watchtower sect has the net effect of stumbling and turning people off to the real Gospel.
Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte; and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matt 23:15)
Danny Haszard born 3rd generation Jehovah's Witness
*Tell the truth don't be afraid*
FMI dannyhaszard(dot)com

Brother Wright said...

President Paternoster, I would like to bear my testimony that everything you said is true. May the spirit witness to these missionaries that their cult is truly divine.

postmormongirl said...

Oh President Paternoster, you are truly a man of great and sage wisdom! After all, how could the "one true church" possibly be a cult? Cults are only for the non-true "true churches"!

Why They Leave said...

President, I think it was truly inspired that you were asked to train missionaries on deprogramming members of cults. I enjoyed reading the highlights from your training and seeing how thorough you were. In fact, considering how much influence missionaries have, I would love to see the church add a section to the missionary handbook on this topic, written by you, of course. I will pray for just such a thing to happen.

Anonymous said...

President Pasternator,
Just when I think your posts can’t get any more insightful and inspired, the Lord works through you to help reveal even more light and truth. This is my favorite post yet. Oh that I were in your Stake, and could hear you proclaim truths such as these from the pulpit with the voice of an anger. I pray that those emotionally involved in cults can become deprogrammed and harken unto the teachings of the one true church, and obey the inspired counsel of its leaders to fulfill missions and callings—only by sacrificing to build up the Kingdom of God here on earth will they store up blessings in heaven. To anyone reading this who may be involved in an organization requiring blind obedience and implicitly threatening members with loss of salvation for questioning or apostatizing, I want to testify to you that only by leaving that organization and joining the one true church will you find eternal happiness, and be able to live with your family in the world to come.

Anonymous said...

Oops, meant voice of an "angel" above.

Thomas Gail Haws said...

I agree that this is one of your wisest posts yet, President Paternoster. You are a man of great wisdom and experience. Serving as a Stake President, as hard as it is, must be a privilege.

Anonymous said...

I'm so grateful that the Church is nothing like a cult. President, this post is a real testimony-builder, as it points out so many contrasts between the True Church and the cults.

To take just one of so many examples, the Church cannot be accused of having slick well-rehearsed Public Relations, as cults do. Instead, there is a modest newsroom that prepares modest infographics from plain but wholesome clip art. The FAQ it accompanies is far from well-rehearsed. Have a look at this question and the one after, and see if you do not agree with me that President Paternoster's June 21 post does a much better job setting forth doctrine on these points.

Indeed, this infographic and FAQ are not "slick".

Anonymous said...


This is NOT a website sanctioned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Nor is "President Paternoster" a stake president within the Church. Rather, the content of this site varies from farce to pointed criticism [which is, at times, painfully accurate].

Many, but not necessarily all, of the posts are written in mockery of those who are sincerely striving, albeit imperfectly, to follow Jesus.

Caveat utilitor.

Anonymous said...

But the infographic makes Jesus look fat ...just saying.

Anonymous said...

President, you forgot another typical cult behavior. They will often go to websites that are critical of their group, and post rebuttals. It may even be their official church job to do so, and they may post the same disclaimer again and again every week.

Anonymous said...

Hardyharhar, Anonymous at 12:54 PM. I am not employed by the Church (at least not in the sense of earning money in exchange for labor). Rather, I'm just your average, local peon.

James said...

Satan truly is the great immitator. He looks at the true Church, God's only true order, and the only way man can return to God; the LDS Church, and he immitates it!

So, when people see the LDS Church, they say, "Well, the LDS Church looks and acts very much like a cult." This is because Satan has created so many evil organizations that look exactly like God's true church.

The Church may look and act exactly like a cult, but this is just more proof that it's true; because there are so many evil organizations that look exactly like it.

NeverMo Mike said...

Hello PP:

Like others here, I agree that this is one of your best posts thus far. I expect another pesky BRODIE award will be forthcoming from those pesky former temple Mormons who were once in the know.

I'm sure it wasn't your intent, and I surely mean no disrespect, but I burst out laughing when I read that Jehovah's Witnesses have a de facto law of consecration, whereby they consecrate themselves, their time, talents and everything which the Lord has blessed them to their church to build up their Kingdom (Hall).

I've never been LDS. Surely you wouldn't do anything like this in your temple ceremony?

Do you know if JW's are required to bring their right arm to the square and swear to this? If so, that would be controlling. Especially if they have no prior knowledge that they'll be asked to swear to this, swearing under duress.

Such devotion, even if misguided (as with Islam) should be voluntary, not coerced. If the latter, that would be a characteristic of a cult.

BTW, speaking of cults, JW's used to stop by the house occasionally. Since, as you said, no one who's in a cult knows they're in a cult, I printed out a simple cult checklist and put it in the table by the front door. I wanted to show it to the members, to show them their organization has many characteristics of a cult.

Funny - they don't come by anymore.

(I once stopped by a JW convention, where I saw a HUGE map of local neighborhoods on a large table. I've heard they "X" out some houses they are not to visit anymore. Am not sure why, since they say they have truth. I trust LDS mission presidents would never tell Mormon missionaries to avoid certain houses or would move them to another field if similarly challenged?)

NeverMo Mike said...

Please forgive me for leaving a suggestion for a topic in a comment. I don't see an email (even an anonymous one) on your blog to privately contact you. And I'm not on FB.

Anyway, I see in your post you are from Ireland.

I don't mean to foster a negative stereotype if you take it that way, but since the Irish are notorious for beer and ale, I have a question.

I'm only a NeverMo, but I know Mormons aren't supposed to drink alcohol (and caffeine too?). Nevertheless, I've heard that special (worthy?) Mormons used to gather around in secret, put on aprons, raise their hands in unison, and give a salute to a peculiar ale.

If I have it correct, it was "Pay Lay Ale."

As an LDS expert from Ireland, can you please elaborate on this peculiar practice?

Anonymous said...

A cult is a cult is a cult.... but I would vote for Tom Cruise before I'd ever vote for Romney.

Peter Wilkins said...

You're an arse so you are. (and there is no longer a Mission President in ireland.

Cindy said...

This post has been both informative and frightening. Thank-you President Paternoster for sharing this with us. No one likes to be told that your way is better than theirs. This makes it very difficult to share the gospel with others. I think the guidelines and information you have provided here can be very helpful to member missionaries. It’s scary to think there are people out there who would do what ever their cult leaders say. I felt very saddened about that lady whose every move was being watched and couldn’t even talk to her own mother. I hope that as I put into practice what I have learned from this post that I will be able to prepare people to use their “God given free-agency to accept the truths of the restored gospel”.

JT said...


I couldnt tell if this was parody or not but from my point of view it is I indeed who is laughing all the way to the bank.

Thanks for the comedy gold.

Love it! Love it! Love it!

Anonymous said...

Ah, Cindy... once again, you leave us scratching our heads: brilliant character actress, or deceived fool?

Anonymous said...

Cindy, you're back!!!

anonymous sister missionary said...

Dear President, as a full time missionary for the church I am wondering if this training you give isa new direction from the brethern, or just something that is happening in your area?

I work at a visitors' center in the states, and just recently a young man from one of our wards got into a conversation with a so-called "proselyter" on temple grounds and after just a couple of minutes he has become antagonistic toward the church.

I guess I just feel that it must be a cult that had influenced him to change his mind? How else could it have changed so suddenly? I'm really freaked out by this, and don't know how to help this kid as we are not trained in helping people out of cults. Well, at least I can use the list you gave. Thank you. I really appreciate it. (p.s. I have to be anonymous because I'm not supposed to be on your website right now. :( sorry.)

Anonymous said...


Dear Anonymous Sister Missionary:

"President Paternoster" is NOT a stake president within the Church.

Anonymous said...

President, your post could not have come at a better time for me and my family. My sweet sister has been ensnared in a cult and, despite our continued fasting and prayer, she cannot find her way out.

I have tried to explain to her, under the authority of the holy priesthood which I bear, that one sure sign she is in a cult is that the leader begins to prey upon the women of the cult and assert their power of them. In this instance it has been manifested by the cult leader marrying very young girls (some as young as 14) as well as marrying himself to the wives of other cult members. A more clear example of cultish behavior I cannot imagine, yet my sister does not see.

Oh that she still had the promptings of the spirit that could help her now. But alas she has forsaken the spirit and succumbed to this false prophet. Pray for her President.

Yours in faith
Brother Heber

Anonymous said...

Goodness... being one who is currently "deprogramming" myself, I was so confused when you said "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. " I wasn't sure if you were serious or not, and then I came to the comments and was even MORE confused.. thankfully I saw Gideon's comment reply.

Anonymous said...

How can you be an expert on cults yet be in a cult?? All the points outlined in this post correspond with the LDS religion. The LDS religion is also a cult.

Kathleen said...

Anonymous, honey, this is satire. Very, very well written satire which has delighted those of us who have left the LDS cult and has infuriated those who are still in it because there is nothing said here that is untrue or could not fall from the purple lips of a General Authority.

Anonymous said...

No one ever believes they are in a cult - until the lat 15 minutes, when leaders are ladling out the cyanide.

Bishop Smegma said...

President P, your work in sustaining the One True Church in the face of so many invidious cults strengthens our testimony. We must redouble our efforts to rescue those who have been misled by false prophets, idolaters, money-grubbers, and mall-builders.

Thank you, President

Anonymous said...

Name calling does not make a cult less of a cult.

Learn to read - he said stake president.

Anonymous said...

¿ Salen de una secta para entrar en la "iglesia Restaurada" que és otra secta? Están locos.

Danny Boy said...

This is possibly the funniest title to a blog I have ever come across. The member of a cult teaches over brainwashed individuals about cults. Thank you I haven't had such a hard belly laugh for years. Keep up the good work lol.

Gottastayfreetochoose said...

President I once again ask you to pray for my husband...I was reading this insightful entry about cults to him and for some reason, as an LDS member he became very uncomfortable and very angry and warned me against reading won't believe what he said next..."anti-Mormon" stuff??? I'm dumbfounded?!!! There's you trying to warn us how to keep safe and away from harmful mention of LDS in that website at all, and yet for some bizarre reason my husband seemed to read more into it than was actually there! He seemed offended and I don't understand why? I mean, LDS is the one true church right? So how could he be offended by a silly little article explaining what a cult is? Help me President, i feel like you're my only hope.

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riyah said...

Thank you for sharing! A good read for LDS and non-LDS members!

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Anonymous said...

Did you read President Hinkley's book Between Husband and Wife? He said as long as you were both comfortable and not harming anyone else. All was fine.

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