Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - The BITE Model Applied Toward Mormonism’s Two-Year Missionary Program
Note: The following information was submitted by a former Mormon
I. Behavior Control
1. Regulation of individual’s physical reality
a. Where, how and with whom the member lives and associates with
Yes. The church first sends the missionary to a specific mission, and then that mission’s president assigns the missionary to a specific geographical area with a specific companion. The pair must seek permission to leave the boundaries of their area, and must be together 24/7. They must always be in the same room as each other, except when going to the bathroom.
b. What clothes, colors, hairstyles the person wears
The church gives them detailed instructions on permissible clothing and hairstyles.
c. What food the person eats, drinks, adopts, and rejects
Coffee, tea, alcohol and tobacco are forbidden. Whether or not you abstain from caffienated soft drinks is often considered an indication of your level of dedication. Missionaries are sometimes instructed to reject dinner invitations with members of the church, unless the member also invites a non-member to the dinner party.
d. How much sleep the person is able to have
Missionaries must arise by 6:30 A.M. and retire by 10:30 P.M.
e. Financial dependence
The church gives each missionary a small allowance of money on a monthly basis (each missionary is required to give a specific amount–something like $400 to the church per month. It is typically paid by the parents. The church then gives an allowance to each missionary based upon the cost of living in their mission. For example, a missionary in Japan might receive $1000 per month, while a missionary in Honduras might receive $65 per month.)
f. Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, vacations
Missionaries are allowed 8.5 hours per week of “Preparation Time”. In this Preparation Time they are expected to wash clothes, shop, get haircut, clean apartment, write letters home, and if any time is left engage in approved recreational and cultural activities. No entertainment or vacations.
2. Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals
Missionaries are required to study from the approved material for 2 hours every morning, and have frequent meetings of further training meetings.
3. Need to ask permission for major decisions
Yes, permission must be sought for almost anything.
4. Need to report thoughts, feelings and activities to superiors
Yes. Detailed logs of the missionaries’ activities are kept and sent to the mission president on a weekly basis. They have monthly one-on-one meetings with the mission president, who interrogates them regarding their thoughts, feelings, worthiness, and so forth.
5. Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques- positive and negative).
If you obey the rules, are loyal, and work hard, you will be promoted to be a leader over other missionaries. A District Leader supervises a group of about 6 missionaries, a Zone Leader supervises about 20, and the mission president has 2 Assistants who help him supervise the entire mission. The higher you get in the hierarchy, the more benefits –prestige, automobiles, travel around the mission, and so forth. It is a lot funner to supervise people who are doing missionary work than to actually do it.
6. Individualism discouraged; group think prevails
7. Rigid rules and regulations
8. Need for obedience and dependency
One of the primary purposes of life is to test our obedience to God–which in practical terms means obedience to God’s leaders. Financial independence is encouraged. There is a fair amount of talk about spiritual independence, but they are ensured that true answers to their prayers will always be in harmony with the mainstream church.
II. Information Control
1. Use of deception
a. Deliberately holding back information
b. Distorting information to make it acceptable
c. Outright lying
2. Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged
a. Books, articles, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio
The missionary handbook says, “Read only books, magazines, and other material authorized by the Church and your mission president….Avoid watching television, viewing unauthorized videocassettes, and listening to the radio and unauthorized audiocassettes.” (p. 13, 22) Including the scriptures, there are about 10 books that missionaries are allowed to read.
b. Critical information
c. Former members
d. Keep members so busy they don’t have time to think
Kept very busy, with detailed instructions on how to spend every hour of every day.
3. Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
a. Information is not freely accessible
Unauthorized information is forbidden.
b. Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid
The leaders have more access to mission gossip, but in general the entire mission is governed by the same rules of no unauthorized information.
c. Leadership decides who “needs to know” what
Yes, the leadership decides what books and cassettes to put on the authorized list.
4. Spying on other members is encouraged
a. Pairing up with “buddy” system to monitor and control
According to the missionary handbook, “Never be alone. Companionships generate strength and protection. Working two by two is the Lord’s way, you can protect each other from temptation and from false accusers. You can also support each other in bearing testimony (see Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)….
“As companions, pray, study, and plan your work together each day. Take time at least once a week for additional planning and companionship inventory. Seek to be one in spirit and purpose, and help each other succeed. Always address your companion by the appropriate title (Elder or Sister).
“You and your companion are to sleep in the same bedroom, but not in the same bed. You should arise and retire together each day; you should not stay up late to be alone.” (p. 24-25)
b. Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership
“If your companion is having difficulties with the work or in personal matters, be sensitive to those problems and seek advice from your mission president. Although you should be loyal to your companion, you must realize that any indiscretion or violation of missionary standards may threaten his or her effectiveness and salvation. Care enough for your companion to ask for the mission president’s help before a problem becomes a crisis.” (p. 24)
5. Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc.
Yes–only expose yourself to authorized information.
b. Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources
6. Unethical use of confession
a. Information about “sins” used to abolish identity boundaries
b. Past “sins” used to manipulate and control; no forgiveness or absolution
Not really–once they declare you are forgiven it is water under the bridge.
III. Thought Control
1. Need to internalize the group’s doctrine as “Truth”
a. Map = Reality
b. Black and White thinking
c. Good vs. evil
d. Us vs. them (inside vs. outside)
Yes. The missionaries are given a very black and white view of the world, “The Lord desires the conversion of each soul.” (p. 3)
2. Adopt “loaded” language (characterized by “thought-terminating clichés”). Words are the tools we use to think with. These “special” words constrict rather than expand understanding. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous “buzz words”.
Yes. Must use titles rather than given names. Communication is typically forced into a specific speech pattern called “The commitment pattern”. They frequently “bear their testimonies” which mean assuring each other that they “know the church is true”.
3. Only “good” and “proper” thoughts are encouraged.
4. Thought-stopping techniques (to shut down “reality testing” by stopping “negative” thoughts and allowing only “good” thoughts); rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism.
a. Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking
Not in a formal or rigorous way.
e. Speaking in “tongues”
f. Singing or humming
Yes. They are often instructed to sing a hymn to themselves if they have an impure or negative thought.
5. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate
Absolutely. One of the solemn covenants of the temple is to never “speak ill of the Lord’s anointed”.
6. No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful
Other belief systems can be good and useful, but the Mormon Church is God’s one and only true church, and that the highest level of salvation is impossible without it.
IV. Emotional Control
1. Manipulate and narrow the range of a person’s feelings.
Yes. If you are acting righteously then you will feel the spirit. Always strive to feel that particular feeling.
2. Make the person feel like if there are ever any problems it is always their fault, never the leader’s or the group’s.
Yes. The members aren’t perfect but the gospel and the organization of the church are perfect. Leaders might make mistakes, but they are given the benefit of the doubt.
3. Excessive use of guilt
Yes. The scriptures promise that you will baptize lots of people if you are righteous, (“The field is white, all ready to harvest”) But you must have faith and be righteous. If you don’t have a lot of success and converting others, the problem must be your lack of faith and disobedience.
a. Identity guilt
1. Who you are (not living up to your potential)
Individual Mormons are given special blessings in which they are invariably informed that in the previous life they were the valiant elect of God, and that that is why their spirits were sent to earth to fight for the cause of righteousness during these last days. The mission is usually a major part of their blessings, and they are often promised to have specific experiences as missionaries, including leadership and conversion experiences. These things will happen if and only if they are faithful and obedient.
2. Your family
Missionaries are promised that if they work hard and are obedient, their family will be blessed, both physically and spiritually.
3. Your past
Sexual “sins” are considered very bad in Mormonism, and it is sometimes taught that in order to be completely forgiven of such sins, you must bring many souls unto Christ.
4. Your affiliations
No affiliations to feel guilty about exist.
5. Your thoughts, feelings, actions
Children in the church are constantly taught that your mission will be “the best 2 years of your life.” If you don’t feel that they are the best 2 years of your life, if you aren’t productively converting people, and aren’t keeping your thoughts focused on righteous, faithful things, immense guilt will usually follow.
b. Social guilt
c. Historical guilt
4. Excessive use of fear
a. Fear of thinking independently
Thomas S. Monson, the number two man in the church, recently said in a church magazine, “Should doubt knock at your doorway, just say to those skeptical, disturbing, rebellious thoughts: ‘I propose to stay with my faith… I accept God’s word. I wasn’t with Joseph, but I believe him. My faith did not come to me through science, and I will not permit so-called science to destroy it’.” (Ensign, Feb 2001)
b. Fear of the “outside” world
Yes. Simple things such as leaving your area to go down town or going swimming are considered very major sins that will likely cause great evil.
c. Fear of enemies
Possibly–missionaries see themselves in a big fight of good against evil.
d. Fear of losing one’s “salvation”
Yes. You must endure to the end to gain salvation–if you screw up the effect could ripple across generations.
e. Fear of leaving the group or being shunned by group
Quitting your mission is leads to incredibly high stigma.
f. Fear of disapproval
Depends on the individual.
5. Extremes of emotional highs and lows.
Yes. Missionary life is often characterized by a few bursts of inspiration and success surrounded by months and months of drudgery. If you are righteous you should feel the spirit–especially as a missionary–so if you don’t feel wonderful it is your fault for not being worthy.
6. Ritual and often public confession of “sins”.
Every month the missionary has a private interview with the mission president where he is encouraged to confess his sins.
7. Phobia indoctrination : programming of irrational fears of ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader’s authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group.
a. No happiness or fulfillment “outside”of the group
b. Terrible consequences will take place if you leave: “hell”; “demon possession”; “incurable diseases”; “accidents”; “suicide”; “insanity”; “10,000 reincarnations”; etc.
Absolutely. In a particular scene in the temple ceremony, the devil is about to be banished. Before he is, he says, “Aah! You have looked over my kingdom, and my greatness and glory. Now you want to take possession of the whole of it. (He then looks at the people going through the ceremony) I have a word to say concerning these people. If they do not walk up to every covenant they make at these altars in this temple this day, they will be in my power! “
c. Shunning of leave takers. Fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family.
d. Never a legitimate reason to leave. From the group’s perspective, people who leave are: “weak”; “undisciplined”; “unspiritual”; “worldly”; “brainwashed by family, counselors”; seduced by money, sex, rock and roll.
Absolutely. The group is God’s one and only true church, and the missionary has the unique responsibility and opportunity of helping God save people. A huge responsibility with tremendous opportunity for blessings.
A story that is often repeated among missionaries and prospective missionaries is a scene of two pre-mortal spirits awaiting their “callings” to come to earth. One of the friends is thrilled to be called to a righteous Mormon family, where he will be born “into the covenant” and sealed to his parents upon birth. To both of their horrors, the other friend isn’t being sent to a Mormon family, but rather to a non-Mormon family in a distant land. Right before they are born in their respective circumstances, the one spirit desperately pleads to the other “Find Me!”
The implication is that there is very little value to life without the church, and that you have a friend out there who is desperately waiting for you to bring them the gospel.
An alternate version of the story is after our mortal life, and a spirit who never heard about the gospel learns that he was supposed to hear about it, but the particular missionary who was called to bring the gospel to them wasn’t faithful enough or obedient enough to find them. In utter despair, the spirit approaches the missionary who committed the faux pas and harshly reproaches him for not doing his duty and bringing him the gospel. The fallout of disobedience ripples out as this person’s friends and progeny lose the opportunity to live and spread the gospel.