Tanner Call: How the LDS Church gaslights the world and manipulates its members

LDS Church rewards complicity and destroys self-trust under the guise of spiritual enlightenment.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Charitable options are revealed as part of the annual Light The World initiative, with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announcing the return of the charity Giving Machines in the plaza at City Creek Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021.

As we move into the holiday season, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has rolled out its annual campaign, Light the World. It’s a way for the church to present itself as an organization that uplifts people and helps them become their best self.

The only problem is that, for so many of us, the church didn’t uplift us; it tore us down. It didn’t help us become our best selves; it broke us so that we would be obedient members who gave of our time, money and energy at the expense of ourselves.

The LDS Church manipulates its members in many ways, often under the guise of spiritual enlightenment. It punishes question asking, rewards complicity, destroys self-trust and delegitimizes non-Mormon sources, all in the name of spiritual growth. The LDS Church frames these manipulation tactics as hallmarks of being a good Mormon; thus, the more manipulated you are, the more Christ-like the church says you’ve become. Below are just a few of these techniques.

• “Treasures in heaven.” One of the most insidious ways the LDS Church controls its members is by conditioning them to focus on a promised future instead of the actual here-and-now.

The church doesn’t like answering hard questions about its history and teachings, so it creates a theology in which asking those questions can put your very soul in danger. It positions seeking truth as a threat to eternal salvation. One must put their questions on the shelf or risk not being with their family after this life. It’s a manipulation tactic that takes the phrase “families can be together forever” and tacks on a tacit “only if you do as we say.”

• “Blessed be the peacekeeper.” LDS theology is filled with lessons that teach its members to not rock the boat. While seeking peace can be a good thing, it should never come at the expense of justice or truth. Yet, too often, that’s exactly what the church asks of its members.

The church conditions its members to avoid conflict, especially in religious settings. It gets its members to be quiet by aligning that feature with Jesus and aligning anger and contention with the devil. Most Mormons want to be good Christians, and if their religious organization is telling them that a good Christian doesn’t cause contention, then they’re more likely to not publicly push back against problematic policies and teachings.

• “God’s ways are higher than our ways.” Nothing is more characteristic of the LDS Church than the overarching idea that God is omnipotent and, therefore, his servants know more than the average person.

It’s with this teaching that Mormons are conditioned to stop listening to their own instincts. They must consult LDS scripture, LDS leaders or other LDS-controlled resources that, not surprisingly, funnel the person toward the church, not away from it. The church teaches its members that God knows best, and God’s wisdom can only be found in resources that are conveniently controlled by the church.

• “A peculiar people.” In a similar vein, psychological manipulation wouldn’t be complete without a mechanism to enforce an us vs. them mentality. That’s accomplished in the LDS Church by reinforcing the idea that anyone who has left the church was led astray by the devil and anyone not in the church is of the world, not of God.

By teaching that the LDS church is the only source of complete truth, anyone not under their direct control is delegitimized. Its members are taught that, in spiritual and religious matters, non-Mormons have been deceived and, therefore, cannot be trusted.

The LDS Church manipulates and controls its members in a myriad of ways, but these are some of the most insidious and ubiquitous methods. Any religion that claims its critics are deceived by Satan and that trains its members not to think critically about their beliefs is not one that seeks truth but, rather, one that seeks power and control.

The LDS Church may want to light the world this time of year, but be wary that it doesn’t gaslight you instead.

Tanner Call

Tanner Call is a former member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who graduated from Brigham Young University and currently resides in the Washington, D.C., area. He and his wife both enjoy their lives away from the church.