Feb 05 2013

“Personal Growth Weekends”, Cults, and How They Use Recruitment as a Strategy for Survival and Profit

Cults…I talk a lot about the Yearning for Zion Ranch (YFZ Ranch) and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), but what are some of the characteristics of a cult?

Keeping it simple, it’s an organization of narcissistically driven (usually) men who use a variety of methods to manipulate and exploit vulnerable people.

Here are the essential characteristics of a cult:

  • mind control…use of bizarre religious or secular ideas to enforce the obedience of followers
  • emotional disclosure…participants are encouraged to disclose private, emotionally important information…while the leaders do not share emotional information with the larger group
  • recruitment…participants are encouraged/expected to go out and recruit others to join the cult organization using deceptive and manipulative tactics
  • restriction from all outside ideas and influences ( no radio, television, computer/internet, newspapers)
  • claims that the outside world is evil and will lead to the death or damnation of anyone who betrays the cult
  • participants are manipulated to believe that they can not survive without all the cult offers them
  • participants may also be physically and sexually abused, in addition to the pervasive emotional abuse
  • intimidation by threatening to harm others or animals, especially pets, like a pet white rat, a rabbit, puppy or kitten
  • leaders are a few men who directly benefit from the cult by abuse, manipulation, threat of harm, sexual control of women and intricate financial arrangements
  • methods during the activities include various rituals, guided imagery, psychodrama, native american spirituality, sweat lodges, and over-simplified and out of context psychological ideas
  • key to all these experiences is the claim they can “change your life”
  • marketing literature will often claim the programs are based on science, but they don’t mean research. These claims are often followed by non researched based psychological ideas, such as those of Carl Jung (the shadow and persona in personality archetypes)
  • In Carolyn Jessop’s experience, the FLDS used very manipulative religious ideas to threaten her and others. They were taught that in order to avoid eternal damnation and get to heaven, they needed to “obey” the prophet and later their husbands.a

Also, having more children increased a wife’s status and importance within their polygamist family and� overall ploygamist community.
A key belief was that the husband/father was the priesthead of the family and the women and children only got to heaven through their obedience and devotion to him.

This led to patterns of abuse for Carolyn and her children and perhaps many more women and children.

Apparently, several hundred boys were terminated from the community and forced to leave without any support.

Religious, business, political, terrorist…there are many examples of the types of cults existing in the world…

If you know of an organization that uses deceptive mind control and aggressive recruitment for new members where only a few at the top benefit from the work of the members, it may not qualify as a cult.

However, it’s a good idea to check it out more fully before devoting a lot of time, energy and money to it’s organizational goals.

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