I remember the first time I realized that the Mormon church is a cult. That was the most uncomfortable Fast & Testimony meeting ever. I had coincidentally been reading about brainwashing just hours earlier and had learned that one of the easiest and most widely used brainwashing techniques out there is to get the subject to say (often repeatedly) whatever it is you want them to believe. When the first person got up there, got all emotional and declared how she knew the church is true my heart sank. Cult brainwashing uses your emotions against you.
I sat there for the full hour watching in horror as members of the congregation wandered to the front of the room and participated in what I had just realized was a cult brainwashing technique. I had seen meetings like this for as long as I could remember and never once did I make the connection before now. Of course my mind spiraled into a whirlwind of thought as the church became more and more transparent. Part of what makes testimonies so effective is the fact that what they believe is not only false, but patently absurd; and members have to justify it. Sharing their conviction justifies their belief and makes the dissonance go away; but more importantly, it acts as a thought stopping technique. Presented with a really hard question about the church? Just bare your testimony and “their heart will be softened.” The church teaches that, but not to get the subject to convince the person they received the “bad” information from, but to prevent them from thinking any further on the issue.
There is a silver lining here though. When you argue with someone over the “truthfulness” of the church, or simply challenge them on the idea of whether or not it is true, they usually bring out what they think will be a trump card very early on in the conversation, and you can use this to your advantage. Once you destroy that they will still fall back on their testimony as a last line of defense, but you can still get your message past the first line of defense just by making them realize that their “strongest argument is weak.”
So the testimony is one of the weaker brainwashing tactics the church uses, and is just one of dozens, but it ‘s also the most obvious and easy to recognize. Always remember that real truth is self evident. It does not need weekly reinforcement, no “testimony” that can be lost, or faith. It just is what it is. If you believe in something that is not necessarily self-evident, then that may be cause for concern.