One thing that’s fascinating about brainwashing is how transparent the tactics are of other groups, yet evidence for those same tactics is highly elusive in your own group. There was little dispute as to the motivations for Scientology offering free “screenings” to victims at the Virginia Tech shootings a few years ago, or doing the same for the Haiti earthquake victims. In both these situations people have had to face the shock of tragedy and, in some cases, losing a loved one or close friend. Because of this they are put into an emotionally vulnerable state, which makes them easy pickings for cults which promise escape, happiness, or the possibility of seeing your loved one again.
Anyone who has been on an LDS mission has probably been told to seek out people who are in mourning for this very reason. Even the slightest feeling of vulnerability or insecurity will destroy your defenses against brainwashing. That’s why it is of paramount importance that the church use any technique it can to make you feel vulnerable when you are being indoctrinated. Bearing your testimony in front of the congregation is an obvious example, but of course when it comes to brainwashing the whole concept of the testimony is an obvious and easy target, so let’s skip that one.
Using Scientology as an example again, since few who are not Scientologists would dispute that they’re a textbook cult; imagine yourself alone in a room with a man who is interviewing you probing for any “regrets” or anything that you need to be “cleared” of. In other words, sins. He has a crude lie detector so you know he can tell if you’re being dishonest, and the outcome of this interview could have a major impact on your life here and in your next life. You are loaded down with guilt, more and more as the interview goes on, and are made to feel terrible and guilty. That guilt leaves with you, and you have to come back for his help in clearing you of your body thetans. It’s not hard to imagine how in such a situation you would sign your life away at a moments notice in order to clear yourself of that guilt, and you will believe almost anything this man tells you because he is in authority.
Replace the auditor in his little office with a bishop in his office, the lie detector with the spirit and the “gift of discernment,” and getting “cleared of your thetans” with “repenting to secure your place in the Celestial Kingdom” and you have the exact same situation. What’s happening here is you feel vulnerable in this little room with a man who has authority over you, and who can potentially control your fate in the hereafter. You are likely to believe anything this man tells you, and the experience will create a dependency to get rid of the guilt. In Scientology’s case you need to come back for repeated audits, in Mormonism’s case you need to come back to proceed in the repentance process.
Anyone who has been through an LDS Endowment session can easily identify another place the vulnerability tactic is used in Mormonism. Your first time attending the temple is always strategically placed at a major life decision where commitments have already been made, such as marriage or a mission, and while surrounded by family thus heaping on tons of extra pressure. At one point in the ceremony they even have the audacity to invite anyone who doesn’t wish to “take these covenants” to leave, conspicuously omitting what said covenants actually are. Being surrounded by family, or worse, your soon-to-be spouse; you are under enormous pressure to conform and accept these covenants (which ultimately amount to giving your entire life to the church). This is not the only brainwashing tactic used in the temple (others include exclusivity/superiority, chanting and repetition) but it is by far the most penetrating and serves to intensify the others.
Finally, for years, the Catholic church has been using massive buildings and impressive art such as sculptures or murals to create that sense of vulnerability. A casual stroll through the Vatican is very impressive even to our modern eyes. In such an environment, a skilled performer can create any emotion they want for their participants and tell you that these emotions came from another source — perhaps divine. Sports venues and other sectors of the entertainment industry have been using this technique for years, take a look at sporting arenas and the flashy presentation used in broadcasts. More recently, mega churches have caught on to this idea and began building massive auditoriums to house their congregations. Brainwashing is frighteningly easy in such an environment where the building itself creates the vulnerability needed in order for the pastor to penetrate your natural defenses. Ultimately the LDS church caught on and added this technique to their arsenal of brainwashing tools.
Since this is a recent addition to the church’s brainwashing tactics, they have only two of these auditoriums so far. (to my knowledge anyway) The second, on the campus at BYU-Idaho, is pictured below.
The church knows very well how effective the use of such facilities are in creating that sense of vulnerability. You are in a large, impressive building surrounded by thousands of people who are all like-minded. Imagine how intense the social reinforcement is here. Imagine the pressure to believe exactly what everyone else believes.