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HomeClasses, My Articles, Personal Advanced Ritual Course Final Assignment


Advanced Ritual Course Final Assignment

Erin

(Note from Erin: One tiny bit of information… I was taking an advanced ritual class, and this is the essay I did to complete the course.  I chose to do it on the Mormons because the instructor was also an ex-Mormon.  I am pretty proud of this piece and i believe that it stands up in the time.)

For this assignment, and with the permission of Kenn, I chose the Baptism ritual from the Mormon Church.  It’s one of the few rituals in the Mormon Church that I participated in that follows an outline similar to previous rituals discussed in this class.  I never participated in any of the “secret” rituals.  I did not choose the more common “Sacrament Ritual” also know as, bread and wine, transubstantiation, or communion, since it is so frequently done that the ritual looses all meaning in practice.

There are three points I wish to cover concerning the ritual that will be examined in this paper. The first point of discussion is from the initiate point of view.  What is the process of the ceremony for the person on the receiving end of this ritual?  Next I want to examine the Mormon belief in and ritual of baptizing the dead.  The third section will deal with Baptism from the point of the baptizer.  The final section will be an analysis of the ritual of Baptism with a psycho-spiritual viewpoint.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Definitions:

Church:  Used specifically in this document to refer to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormons.

Elder:  A person who has been ordained within the Mormon Church as a holder of the lowest rank of the Melchizedek Priesthood.  This rank is what the vast majority of men in the Mormon Church hold, and it gives them the authority to bless, teach and confer the Gift of the Holy Ghost on others.  It is the higher of the two different types of Priesthood power.

Priest:  A holder of the highest rank in the Aaronic Priesthood, this is considered a lower priesthood than the Melchizedek priesthood.  Generally boys from age 16 to 18 hold this and it gives them the authority to command spirits and to baptize.

Brother/Sister:  This is a general term of respect, like Mr., Comrade, and Friend.  If someone is a member of the Mormon Church, they are Brother/Sister “Smith”.  If referred to as Elder “Smith” then he is a missionary.  Higher titles such as Bishop are referring only to those people holding those offices.  .

Priesthood holder:  Any male who has been ordained into either the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood who is a member of the Church.  In other words, this title refers to any male over the age of 10.

Consciousness Shift:  The state of being in an altered state of mind.  This occurs most notably in various religious ecstasies, although it does occur during such times as meditation.  It is a ritual mindset where extraordinary things can and do happen.  This is also called “C-shift”.

Baptist:  In various sections I mention the Baptist.  This is not a member of the Baptist church; this is the person doing the Baptism to the Candidate.  Since this can be done by a variety of people, and “Officiator” is hard to type out again and again, I chose this term for simplicity’s sake.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part 1:  Data

Section 1:  Being baptized

This section is going to be the longest of all.  The ceremony is the same for everyone and it is very basic in it’s base performance; ultimately the candidate is fully immersed in water.  It is the goings on before the immersion, during and after the immersion that are the relevant ritual aspects that will be examined in this document.

There is an entire process that must occur before the baptism can take place.  The candidate has been taught by the Missionaries and instructed in Church Dogma for the proceeding month or longer.  The candidate has been attending the Church meetings and seeing the Elders and participating in the social life of the Church.  That is an important distinction to make; it is the social, outward part of the church that is shown and highlighted at this stage.  It’s very much a recruitment process and so that which is behind the curtain is kept there for now.

For women, this means meetings with their support groups, study time with other Sisters and their children.  For men, it means attending the Elder’s meetings (this is mandatory for all men over the age of 21).  This process is called “Fellowshipping”.  Only the best of the church is shown to the candidate, encouraging him or her to join.  None of the political aspects, infighting, favoritism and certainly none of the control is seen by the candidate at this stage. They are shown the social structure, the support groups, the friendship, the holiness and the happy, smiling, blessed Church Members.  The candidate(s) are being told at this point that the only way s/he can gain these same benefits is to be a member too and the only path to membership is to be baptized.

The candidate has probably also been paying a tithe of his or her income (10% of the net income is paid to the Church as a sacrifice, although it’s not referred to that way).  The candidate has been getting NO benefits however, but this serves to “prime the pump”.  It gets him/her use to paying with out question for his/her acceptance by other church members.  It helps to reinforce behavior patterns and makes him/her appreciate all the time and attention s/he has received from the church.  Tithing is a crucial aspect of the church since whenever s/he is poised to move forward in the church; the first question asked is “Are you paid up on your tithing?”  The church keeps detailed records on income, and how much each member has paid into it.  If s/he is short, s/he is unrighteous and unworthy of advancement, of further blessings of the church.  The church also makes sure the candidate(s) is inculcated with the body of mythos concerning the urgent necessity of tithing and the rewards for those who walk in the path of righteousness and Salvation.

In short, the Church has been taking up more and more of the candidate’s life.  It has happened slowly and so subtly that the candidate probably didn’t notice that it was happening; yet the effects are felt all the same.  EVERYONE Mormon around the candidate is preparing them for Baptism.

The buildup to baptism is the start of the Consciousness Shift.  It is designed to do two things, to indoctrinate him/her into the Church’s views on attitude and behavior and to convince him/her that the only path to feeling this way is through membership.  There is NO mention of the pitfalls or problems inherent in the Church, only “happy-happy, joy-joy”.  This is a deliberate course of action by the Church, and those in positions of authority call this “putting the milk before the meat”.  After all s/he has to be tempered to withstand the more difficult elements of the church.

Going into the day of the baptism, the ceremony has been built up in you mind as a pivotal event in your life.  S/he has heard stories from other members, studied accounts of other’s baptisms (like Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist and the Baptism of the Joseph Smith), heard about what s/he is supposed to see and feel.  This is so built up, that many convince him or herself that what s/he has heard and been told will and does actually happen to him or her.

The ceremony is a simple one.  A font (or large tank) is filled with tap water, warmed to body temperature.  The candidate goes into one end of the font clothed all in white, while the person baptizing him/her (most commonly an Elder of one’s choice, although a Priest can do it as you will see soon) is waiting for the candidate, also clothed in white.  Two witnesses are standing outside the font in a position where they have a clear view of the proceedings.  Spectators are at some distance from the font, so as to not obstruct the view of the Witnesses.

The candidate’s hands are placed on the arm of the Baptist (person baptizing the candidate) in a very specific form.  The candidate’s right wrist is grasped by the left hand of the Baptist, palm up.  The candidate’s left hand grasps the Baptist’s left forearm, approximately in the middle, palm down.  The candidate then bows his or her head and closes his or her eyes.

The Elder holds his right hand up behind the candidate with his lower arm vertical and the upper arm parallel to the ground.  This is called “to the Square”, making one corner of a square.

These are the actual instructions taken from a website talking about all the ordinances of the Church for those who wish to read them.

“The officiating Elder should hold securely in his left hand the hands of the person being baptized. He should raise his right hand and arm to the square and calling the candidate by name, say:  “______ having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen” The right hand should be placed on the back of the head of the candidate; he or she should be completely immersed and then assisted in “coming up out of the water.”  [1]”

There is a picture of this position located at http://www.lds.org/hf/multimedia/files/art/43547_gak601tn_st.jpg

The candidate is quickly dunked into the water (and one’s right hand IS allowed to pinch one’s nose closed) and pulled back up.  The Baptist then checks with the Witnesses to make sure everything went right.  This ritual is invalid if any part of the person being baptized is out of the water, and this includes clothing.  If a portion of the body or clothing is not fully under water then this ritual is performed again.  It is done as many times as necessary to make sure that everything is under the water.

In my personal baptism, one of the other people who was being baptized in a group with me (which is unusual only in the amount of people at one time, three.  It was a high number as the normal amount of people is one or possibly two) COULD NOT keep her foot down.  She was supposed to bend at the knees, but she would keep her left leg straight, and invariably her left foot would leave the water.  This ritual had to be performed four times before she was fully immersed, and it was because she finally went straight down into the water, instead of backwards.

After being dunked, comes the next portion of the overall “initiation”.  I have NEVER done this portion, so I can only speak of it from the perspective of one who has received this ritual, and as a spectator.  It’s called the “Confirmation” or “Conferring the Holy Ghost” on a person.

As soon as the Witnesses confirm the candidate’s successful dunking, the folding door to the baptismal font is closed, once again isolating him/her from the rest of the congregation.

The candidate is taken off to another room, usually the bathroom s/he exited from to get to the font, to change and dry off.  There s/he will find a shower facility and changing stall.  Based on my experiences, I can only assume that the format at this point is the same for the women as for men.  The person I had chosen to Baptize me asked about my impressions, what happened, what I felt and used leading questions like “Did you see the Spirit Witnesses too?”

This seems to be a matter of using every opportunity to convince the candidate of some of what they should have seen during the Baptism while the officiator is present and busy changing as well.  It is casual and very subtle.  It is designed to convince or coerce the candidate into going along with the program by agreeing that what s/he has experienced is what everyone else said happened to them too.

Finally, the candidate is taken to another room, where s/he will be “Confirmed” as a member and given the “gift of the Holy Ghost”.  The following is also taken from the website about the Ordinances of the Church:

“No set form is given for this ordinance, but a baptized person is properly confirmed a member of the Church if the following words are used by the member of the Priesthood whose hands are laid on the head of the candidate; calling the candidate by name “_____ in the name of Jesus Christ and by the authority of the Holy Priesthood, we lay our hands upon your head and confirm you a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and say unto you, ‘Receive the Holy Ghost.”” [2]

The initiate is the center of attention.  There are anywhere from 10 to 200 attendees during this portion of the ritual, since it takes place after normal church services, it can include every member of the church.  It is only done on Sunday after the Sacrament (Communion) meeting and is open to everyone.  Even non-Mormons are allowed to attend.  Of note, many people then receive a special, personal blessing from the person confirming them, called the Officiator.

The candidate has been prepared and his or her anticipation should be high since it too has been hyped up for this event, with (again) stories of what it feels like to receive the Holy Ghost, how The Dove that descended on Jesus was the Holy Ghost in a physical form.

And once again with the audience watching, with preprogrammed thoughts s/he is fully prepared to experience something outside of the ordinary.

The actual rite is interesting.  Three men all lay their hands on your head at the same time, and the perception is that they are swaying.  I can’t say for certain if they are or not, but when I was being confirmed, I got a definite rocking motion, in a small clockwise circle.  It was in time with my heartbeat, and it did even more to take me deep into a Consciousness Shift.

While different people report different physical reactions, I got goose bumps all over my body.  Normally that is an indication to me that there is metaphysical energy moving in great amounts.  I was told to interpret it as the Holy Ghost itself witnessing my confirmation.  I would like to believe that this is true, but further studies in psychology indicate that it is possible my mind generated this effect as a Pavlovian response.  Any one who has read about religious hysteria will understand the point.  It is a preprogrammed self-generated response to the stimuli.

This leads me to believe that while the forms are there, the substance is often lacking.  Although it can certainly be argued that a true believer does feel and experience all of the above.

Section 2: Baptisms for the Dead

The Baptism for the Dead is a ritual duty performed by young men and women of the Church (here defined as any child between the ages of 11 to 17).  And once again, the C-shift starts long before the actual rite happens.

It starts with travel. This kind of ritual is ONLY performed in a Temple.  At the time I am speaking of there were only about 12 in the nation, so the chosen children are allowed to travel from their homes to the nearest temple geographically speaking. [3] This ritually separates them from what they have known since this is most likely the participant’s first overnight trip away from home as opposed to one-day local events.

On arriving, at the city the Temple is located in, the group has to get to their hotel, into their rooms, clean up, (possibly) eat and sleep.  The desire is to keep the group fairly small, no more than 5 or 6 children.  If the visiting group has more than six children, they are broken up into groups to do their Temple work.

The group enters the Temple complex.  While anyone can come to the temple grounds, entering the temple without a “Temple Recommend” is not allowed unless it’s a very special circumstance. [4]

This ritual is sufficient reason to allow the children limited and restricted access.  The kids are sequestered in a small portion of the Temple complex, and not allowed to go anyplace within the temple proper.  The designated areas they are allowed into are the restroom, the cafeteria, and so on can only be visited with chaperones.

Once again, just like their own, previous baptism, they change from their every day clothes to a white suit, the same kind of clothing they wore when they were first baptized into the Church.  This set them up psychologically to feel the same C-shift and reactions they had in their first baptism again. [5]

Again, peer pressure and rumors and whispering happen and expectations are raised.  In truth, this has been happening all along on the trip up to the Temple.  The limited access to the Temple building keeps the mystery, the otherness, and the sacredness of the Temple intact.

At this point, the ritual changes subtly.  You are taken to a conference room, and seated in one of several chairs, much like an auditorium.  One of the temple workers who may or may not perform this ritual comes in and explains what is to happen and what it means.

The children are taking the place of people who died and being baptized for them serving as the dead person’s proxies. [6] It is Mormon belief that one cannot get into Heaven without specific actions (ordinances) being performed here on the Earth with a physical body.  Therefore, if an ancestor dies without those ordinances being performed, they cannot get into Heaven.  They are stuck in the “Outer Darkness”.  My wife refers to this as “The Giant Greyhound Bus Station in the Sky” since they are waiting around to get somewhere else.

The children are going to take the place of 10 to 25 deceased people each and be baptized and confirmed for them.  The ritual is identical to a normal baptism; the dogma of the church demands it.  The children are told that the deceased is there, present so they can accept this sacrament as well.  Additionally, angels are present specifically to serve as Divine Witnesses to the events, just as there are physical Witnesses to this ritual.

Other than that, the “flavor” for this ritual is somewhat different.  It’s perfunctory.  These poor temple workers have to perform this ritual five or six hundred times over the next four or five hours, standing in water the entire time.

The kids, forbidden to witness anyone else’s baptism, come in one at a time through one door, and then are sent out another door to an area to dry off in.  Once again they go to another room where they are confirmed, this time for the same 10 to 25 people.  And the ritual (which is also the same as when they were confirmed) is, again, perfunctory.

While the Confirmation ritual in this case is short (there is no personal blessing like the ones that these children may have received on their own baptism day), they are told by their chaperone and by the Temple Workers they meet that only holy and special people do this.  They, as a participant in this ritual, are one of the elect since they are helping the deceased to gain Heaven.  They are further inculcated with the belief that this is a privilege and that there will always be a connection between them and the deceased they helped.  They will, in effect, have their own personal network when they get to Heaven.

I have done this rite for about 200 different people.  I couldn’t remember one of their names if my life and the lives of my wife and daughter depended on it.  The kids are herded like cattle, shuffled from one place to another with barely any time to breathe.  They are dunked so fast that they almost literally have no time to catch a breath between dunkings, they are waterlogged, confused, dizzy (being moved around that rapidly and put underwater that often does mess with your equilibrium), and probably have an earful of water.  Add to that the rushing from here to there, the lack of food (from the fasting you are “encouraged” to do before hand) and the expectations that are built up in their own psyche, and these kids are ready to believe anything you tell them.  It is a great brainwashing technique.

When I went through this, I was expected to do more than one session since I would gain additional blessings.  When things went wrong and the second group we were with got to play tourist almost the entire time we were there, we didn’t see our additional work as a bad thing, we saw it as a way to reap additional rewards.  In effect, we were encouraged to think of ourselves as “more blessed than thou”.

The Confirmation ritual tends to bring it all back down, since the kids serve a passive role. They sit there with their eyes closed and are touched over and over on the head by one old man, who will probably give them a headache from being too heavy handed.  He’s reading off a list of the people the kid is supposed to be one after the other, and he sometimes may get things wrong.  If he says the wrong name, he simply has to repeat the rite again with the correct name.  So an inattentive Confirmation worker could have to do the Confirmation ritual 40 or more times if he keeps getting the names wrong.

These children re not told these same people could have been baptized yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that.  Apparently it’s common practice to reuse names in the Temple if they don’t have enough people turning in Genealogy records.  [7]

Once the ritual is over and the children are back in their chaperone’s care, they are carefully lead to varying conclusions and interpretations of events with leading questions.  There is much discussion amongst the teens themselves, encouraged by the adults of the party.

Normally at this point mundane events are occur, shopping at the Temple Bookstore (in my case, it was the Temple in Atlanta, and the bookstore was called “The Liahona” [8]) or tourist events are scheduled (one group I was with toured Washington DC and the Smithsonian after doing a double shift in the font, while the other half simply did tourist stuff through a mix up).  I can only assume this is to bring the kids back to the real world while staying within the boundaries of Church Standards.  My wife feels it is the bribe needed to get the kids to do this in the first place as well a reinforcing the otherness of this time.  Who plays tourist in their hometown?

If it’s an overnight trip, there is a discussion (called a “Fireside”) over dinner during which the events of the day are rehashed.  The topic of the Baptisms performed that day WILL come up and if it doesn’t the adults are supposed to bring it up.  Everyone talks about their impressions and what each has experienced, subtly putting peer pressure on each other to have had the same experience.  Prayers are then said, and the event is over.  If this is a day trip, then the Fireside will still occur at the Church building before the kids are released to their parents.

There did seem to be a palpable feeling of “difference” among us all.  While there was no obvious special treatment, the adults seemed more respectful towards us.

Section 3: Conferring the sacrament of Baptism

The perspective of the Baptist is somewhat different.

I have only done this once, to baptize my youngest sister.   I had only been while I was a Priest for about 9 months or so.  I could only baptized her; I couldn’t participate in the ritual to Confirm her, only observe.  I was allowed to take her out of the mundane world and into the “in between” state.

Prior to the actually event, I spoke with the Bishop and was told what to do and how to do it.  I was advised that deviation from the script would be highly frowned upon.  (The Mormons are very proud of the fact that they use no rote scripts for their services and ordinances, except for the three most important ones in the Church, Baptism, and Blessing of the Bread and Water for the “Sacrament”, i.e., communion.)

I stepped out of the mundane world and into the Holy world by changing from my suit into the white garments of the baptism rite.  It was a change in mental attitude, and because I had been in the Church for a while, it was a consciousness shift into “PRIEST”.  But that mental change was incomplete.

Sadly, while I was performing this ritual, I was so focused on doing it right, so hyperconscious of the “audience” I couldn’t get into the ritual enough for the mundane to go away.

This also seems to be deliberate on the part of the Church.  It’s as though the Church authorities want the person being baptized to be in a state of ecstasy and in a full C-shift episode, but the person DOING the rite shouldn’t be in that same place.  This is an impression only and I am unable to confirm it one way or the other.  (This has since been confirmed by other ex-Mormons.)

This was the pervasive attitude as I baptized my sister.

I was not told to lead her with questions, nor did I.  I was not instructed to brainwash her, and I didn’t go through any debriefing with her other than sharing the stories of my own baptism with her.  She chose me because I was her relative.  Had my father been a member of the church, as the head of the household, he would have been the one to officiate for her.

Part of this may have been myself, as I had been having questions for some time and was beginning to have severe doubts.  Point in fact, less than 2 months later, I left the Church completely.

As a result, my shift into the ritual state of mind was incomplete.  I was too aware of what I was doing, what was going on around me, of those who were watching.  I was very nervous.  In fact, while I checked with the Witnesses, I didn’t see them either confirm or deny her full immersion.  I have assumed all this time that it was because I looked at them while they were not nodding.  I did note that my sister was in a state of ecstasy.

I won’t speculate if this “suspension of C-Shift” on the part of the Baptist is deliberate policy on the Church’s part or not, as I don’t have enough data to be able to discuss it.

Part 2: Analysis

In looking objectively at this ritual, in all three aspects, there are several things that stand out.

First and foremost is the C-Shift at every stage in the performance of these rituals.  There is a deliberate and concerted effort by EVERYONE to force the participant into a different mindset.  It’s done by an act of will, and the tools to bring it about are many and subtle.

The build up:  By telling the person who is undergoing this ritual what they will experience, they start the participant thinking and speculating about what will happen.  The person undergoing this rite is bombarded with stories, testimonies and talks from many people, telling the candidate all the wonderful things that happened to the storyteller. The candidate naturally start to feel anticipation of, and hope for the same thing.

In turn, this starts the participant grasping toward an experience that may or may not happen.  It has a self-hypnotic effect since the participant will interpret their experiences through the lens of this anticipation.  They WILL have a mystical experience no matter what happens.

The separation:  This actually begins when the candidate start taking lessons from the Missionaries (as the lessons separate the mental attitude of the candidate from those of their parents or friends), and it continues to a lesser extent with the other forms of this ritual (Baptism for the Dead and performing this ritual as a Priest).  It is the time when the participant moves away from the world of the mundane and into the world of the Church.  It happens over time, but there is an anticipation that builds, and the gentleman who is to baptize you comes and takes you away from your family to “get ready”.  This is a psychological actual severing of ties with your family in a non-Church sense.

The anticipation for many who are undergoing baptism peaks at this moment, as the new member realizes that they are taking a huge step that will forever alter him or her.  In many ways this can be likened to an epiphany, where there is a flash of illumination, of understanding and oneness.  Such an event needs time to be assimilated.  But in this case, that time is NOT granted to the newly baptized member until much later.  This multiplies the effect of the event several times, since the candidate cannot adjust their mental equilibrium to compensate before they are hit with the next mental shift.

The shedding of the old in changing clothing:  This may seem like a minor thing, but it’s actually a critical point.  First, the clothing is all white.  Second, it’s been worn and used by other people.  Third this clothing is very thick, heavy polyester, something most people do not wear under normal circumstance, helping to set this event apart.  Fourth, you have to take ALL your clothes off and put on these special clothes, right down to the underwear.  All these factors combined serve as a symbolic shedding of the old and the taking on of the new, a conscious shift from the pervious life of the World and the entering of the Church.

This certainly adds to the entire sense of wonder and anticipation that the person is undergoing.  Having had the separation and buildup happen fairly rapidly, the switch from the mundane to the new sacred you is crucial.  While nothing is said to point out that the change of clothing is the outward symbol of your inward change, for anyone with any mind at all, it is implied by all the events leading up to this point.  It turns the participant into a passive receptor for whatever the Church wishes to insert.  I really feel that this stage, more than anything else, is when the people stop thinking for themselves and become Mobots in more than name.

The Isolation:  There is a time where the participant has to wait.  The Font is already full, and the people are assembling in the room to witness this, and the Elder is probably already in the Font waiting.  The screen is opened and it’s time for the Diva to take the stage.  But first they have to wait backstage for some period of time while others get their acts together.  It can be as short as a minute or two, or as long as 20 minutes.  During this time, the participant’s mind is probably running in circles.  It’s probably replaying things that they have heard, things they expect, what they should expect and so on, even up to stage fright and REAL anticipation.  These mental gymnastics only heighten the C-shift that has been being built on from the beginning.  In delaying, even for a short while, all the fears and worries can come to the fore, be dealt with by the participant, moved past and into the next stage.

The non-mundane act:  It’s not normal to wear a suit into the water.  It’s not normal to wear shoes and socks into the water either, but this is exactly what the participant is asked to do.  They are helped to do so, probably by either the Witnesses or the Elder doing the baptism.  The Baptist is also standing there in his suit and shoes, another non-normal act.  This signifies to the subconscious that this is not a place where normal rules apply, further enhancing the C-shift.  The Baptismal Font literally becomes a place that is not a place in a time that is not a time.

So far, we have anticipation, the separation from the old, the shedding of the old, the contemplation of the new, fear and other atavistic responses now we have the statement to the back of the mind that we are outside of this World and in another place altogether.

The Rite:  While this is the event that is almost boringly repetitive for the Baptist, for someone experiencing this for the first time, this is THE event.  You go into the water as one person, and come out as someone else.  Or, at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.  The anticipation should have been enough at this point that the shell cracks and with the symbolism of going under the water, most of who and what you were before should actually fall away, much like a lobster shedding its shell.  During that time, the participant is extremely vulnerable to programming, and should ideally be in an alpha brainwave state naturally, if only through all the C-shift tools that s/he’s been exposed to by now.  This means that for a while this person is highly suggestible by anyone else.  It will fade naturally over the course of time, generally a week or more, but they are not allowed out of the company of Church Members for the next few hours.  While in theory anyone can attend, in practice, few if any non-believers do choose to attend.

Of note is the symbolism of being born again, literally out of the waters of life.

The in-between state before confirmation:  On coming back up from the dunking, the Baptist will check with the Witnesses, to make sure.  If there is a problem, repeating the whole rite will only serve to reinforce to the participant that this is a serious business, and it HAS GOT TO BE DONE RIGHT or Heavenly Father (their name for God) won’t accept it.  If it has gone right, the new member is in a state of not being.  S/he has shed his/her old shell, and the new one has not yet formed.  S/he is left vulnerable and the Church knows it.  The Newly Fellowshiped soul knows that s/he is wide open to Satan (having been being told this repeatedly by others) and it adds another layer of fear/concern/anticipation to this the entire day, keeping him/her in an altered state of consciousness.  Prepared to fight off any and all attempts to reach them from outside “Mother” church.

It’s now when the participant’s own mind may start providing wish fulfillment.  If the individual in question has been told it’s Satan may try to sway him/her (for example, offering the world (al la Jesus’ temptation during his time in the desert) if s/he abandons the “true” church), they can easily start seeing coincidental things that to be interpreted as they wish it to be.  It may have nothing to do with temptation, but their anticipation level has been so elevated that they will actively be LOOKING and their own mind will supply things if that is not fulfilled.  This is the Chimerical response I mentioned earlier.

The meaning of the baptism: One reason for this chimerical effect is probably the meaning attached to the ritual itself.  The Baptism is only for the cleansing of the “sin” of the participant. That’s all.  And s/he is told this multiple times and in many ways.  It’s in the “Articles of Faith” they memorize; in anecdotal stories and so on.  All this says to the participant “You are clean and pure.  But you are NOT safe.”  The “safety and shielding” comes during the Confirmation.  That’s when Heavenly Father accepts you as one of His children, and sends His servant, the Holy Ghost, to fill your heart and mind and protect you.

The confirmation:  It can be argued that this is a shielding ceremony.  The Church removed the shields off the person that was, now they are putting the Shields of Heavenly Father on by the confirmation ritual.  This is not what is stated as happening, however.  They say they are giving the participant a blessing and giving the “Gift of the Holy Ghost.”  Basically, and this is stretching the case, they are inviting spirit possession and commanding the participant to be possessed.  Again, this is not what is stated and they will argue that this has nothing to do with Spirit Possession, but when they command the Holy Ghost into a person, that’s what it sounds like to me.

In addition to this, they encourage a dissociative episode in the participant by the use of the Sway.  It’s a normal reaction to a combination of things, notably the fact that everyone’s eyes are closed and because of that the balance centers are thrown off.  Everyone is in a slight meditative state (as with normal prayer in ANY faith or religion), and so most don’t notice this.  But the three men who have their hands on the participant’s head start slightly swaying in time to their heartbeats, and since everything connecting them to the participant (namely their arms) is rigid, this sway translates into the head of the participant.  This sway effect is magnified several times because the spine and neck are NOT rigid and all the balance monitors are in the head of the participant.  So the perception is that the person who is receiving this “gift” is rocking and rotating.  This is absolutely a physical reaction, although it translates in the mind of the participant as a mental or spiritual reaction, more evidence of the power of the Priesthood holder.

The Voice technique:  Among deprogrammers and those who watch and study the topic of cults and cult-like behavior, there is a well know technique called the Voice Roll. [9] This is a standard brainwashing tactic.  It starts when the person speaking is talking in low, steady tones, so the listener has to strain to hear the person.  The timbre builds up, the pacing gets faster, and emphasized words are yelled, in the midst of this slow controlled patterning of words.  It shocks the listeners into a new awareness since they are listening closely.  This technique is taught in most seminaries (not the Mormon kind), and is used by almost all preachers of any stature today.  It can and has been used in blessings and Confirmations, although the Mormons probably won’t recognize it if pointed out.

The Debriefing:  This stage can actually occur at any time over the next week.  Normally it’s done at a follow up with the Bishop (local church’s leader).  This is when specific questions are asked in a face-to-face interview with those that have “been there, done that”.  The interviewer monitors the tone of voice and facial expressions of the one being interviewed, and the interviewee can see the reactions of interviewer.  It’s here that many make up experiences to be more in line with what is “supposed” to happen, whether or not it actually happened, and “spin” is put on those events that did happen and things that aren’t QUITE in line with Church Doctrine.  It’s also normally when the new member finds out that there are a LOT of other rituals like this and that he can lead these rituals.  The anticipation is being set up that “you think just participating in these rituals was a kick, wait till you get to LEAD them….” This, of course, encourages the new member to keep working to be worthy of leading those rituals.

Unfortunately, if you are a girl, now is the time when you start finding out that the only way you can feel this same way on your own is if you are having a baby (which you can’t do unless you are married).  That the only way to feel that C-shift and that “specialness” is to have a husband who can do it for you, since you are unworthy of having it on your own.  This starts the pattern of second-class citizenship in the female mind, which is exploited later in her life.  By the time the second-class citizenship of the female comes into play and the lady in question would be rebelling against this marginalization, their reaction is usually so ingrained that the “knuckling under” is unquestioned.

The inculcation:  This stage is the programming phase.  Normally when the baptism is finished, and the confirmation completed, there is a general celebration by the membership that attended.  The new member is the center of attention in this party, and normally s/he is asked over and over by those who witnessed it if s/he feels different.  The expectation is that the person DOES in fact feel different.  S/he is expected to say things like s/he feels more holy, cleaner, less connected to the mundane world.  This is, actually, probably how s/he does feel, since s/he is still in the middle of the disassociative episode as well as being in a waking trance.

This feeling of specialness is confirmed by the others as being “Heavenly Father’s Power” or the “Holy Ghost” being in his or her heart.  It’s confirmed over and over that this is a “wonderful feeling” and one to be sought after.  This starts the programming in that the new member is now seeking the “proper” reactions.  This state can last for up to a week.

The Mormon Church would be wise to include a testimony meeting at this point, to reinforce this programming in the new member.  If they were to have a parade of people getting up in front of the new member, saying all the catch phrases such as “I know this Church is True” and “The Prophet is guided by Heavenly Father and Joseph Smith was a Prophet” and similar phrases that they program themselves with, the reinforcement of the new member would be absolutely devastating.  While I was a member of this Church, the time after the Baptism was for celebrations, not Witnessing.  But over the course of the week when this special feeling persists (and is actively sought after by the participant) others are bearing their testimony to the new member.  It is a sporadic and hit-or-miss proposition, not organized and mandated.  However the persistence of the contact cannot be overlooked for its ability to reinforce the emotions felt, and the conformity of the experience.  It may keep a flagging feeling persisting long after it should have run its course.

This inculcation period usually ends when the new member reverts to human nature and does something considered to be a “sin”, such as lying, lusting or some such thing.  This is a horrific time, and when the realization of what has happened comes home to the new member, they are thrown out of the programming phase by the terror of what they have done.  It means they are no longer “pure” and could signify to them that Heavenly Father will withdraw from them and leave them bereft of His presence.

When they are reassured that talking to the Bishop will result in forgiveness for their sin and their restoration to Heavenly Father’s good graces, the relief is normally overwhelming and can result in another disassociative episode.  This reinforces the feeling that this person is after and since this is a repetition, their unique physiological response indicates what they “should” feel when Heavenly Father speaks of the “truth” to them.  This creates a critical chimerical response that they then wish to seek out as reinforcement.

The release:  Eventually after several weeks of this programming, reprogramming, learning responses, learning dogma and so on, the new member is ready to start interacting with the normal world on a fairly regular basis, and they are self-policing enough at this point to remain “uncontaminated” by mundane life.  They can censor themselves and know enough to be able to accurately keep themselves from temptation, and thus from the heresy of questioning the Church.  It can take up to three years to get to this state, and the earlier it’s started, the better.  This is why many children at 8 years old are baptized and considered, among the Church, to be responsible enough to conduct their own moral lives.

Part 3: The Conclusion

It’s up for debate as to whether or not the Church actually initially realized what they were doing.  More likely these techniques were stumbled upon by accident, by trial and error and incorporated into their way of doing things since it pays to keep doing what works.  It’s only when you have been involved with these techniques or ways of doing things, and then leave to study other ways that one can see a persistent pattern.

Whether or not these techniques are used deliberately and maliciously, the fact remains that they use these techniques and use them well.  All the critical elements of ritual are present, and the C-shift elements are the ones that truly start the brainwashing process.  With the amount of C-shift that the average participant is going to undergo in this process, there is almost no choice, s/he will having one or more major disassociative episodes and will feel isolated from the rest of the world.  To offset this isolation, the Church deliberately fosters a feeling of family within the Church social structure that draws the new member deeper inside the Church.  This fulfills the whole purpose of the Baptism rite, that of an initiation from one world, the mundane, into another, the Church.

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Footnotes:

[1] http://www.helpingmormons.org/ordinances_of_the_church.htm

[2] Ibid

[3] It is normally organized and supervised by the leaders of the youth groups.  Youth group leaders are those chosen by the bishop and his council to teach the children of specific age groups based on the amount of tithing you pay, not on skills and abilities.

[4] A Temple Recommend is a document that is given to you by the local Bishop of your Church Group, called a Ward.  It is a statement that you are worthy to enter into the holy space of the Temple and perform the ordinances within.  Only a small fraction of those who can get Temple Recommends actually do so.  http://home.teleport.com/~packham/templex.htm

[5] This “temple clothing” is used again and again. While I personally did not have to pay to rent the suit I wore, I know that adults do pay a fee to rent them from a store inside the temple.  I can only assume that the clothing rental for the Baptism for the Dead is part of fees that the parents must pay when their child is chosen for this Holy Work.

The parents by the way pay for everything.  Food, transportation, money for souvenirs lodging, everything is paid for not by the church, but the families.

[6] While ordinarily it is the ancestors of Mormon families that are baptized, exceptions are made for famous or historical dead people like George Washington, Queen Elizabeth I, etcetera.  After who wouldn’t want to get out of the Holy Bus Station in the Sky once they know the “Capital T”ruth?  Thus the Mormons are encouraged to do much genealogical research so that their entire family can be with them in heaven, presumably back to Adam.

[7] While not stated out loud, this is a pretty safe assumption to make based on the fact that they DO reuse names for OTHER ordinances for the dead in those same temples.  See:  http://home.teleport.com/~packham/templex.htm and http://home.teleport.com/~packham/temples3.htmn for details on this.

[8] According to Mormon mythology, the Liahona was the “moral compass” the original immigrants to the Americas used in their trip.  These were the original ancestors of the Incas, Aztecs, Toltecs, and all the Native American Tribes.  The Liahona literally worked on their good behavior.  As long as the families in the ships were being righteous and good, at the opinion of Heavenly Father, the Liahona lead them in the correct direction.  If they messed up or were being “bad”, it did not work and they would be lost.  Apparently ship navigation didn’t work back in the time of Babylon.

[9] http://www.ctyme.com/bwash/bwash.htm

 

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Random thought:

This indoctrination starts resembling a “chain letter of spirituality” after some time.  “Brother Harter shared the Gospel with five people and the next day he found $20 lying in the street.  Sister Struthers didn’t share this with everyone, and had to go and be a blonde on a sitcom, laugh like a pig and sell Thigh Masters on QVC (the harlot).”

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