Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The Manipulation Pattern...A Mormon's Favorite Tool

Rusty's post on a Bishop with a questionable leadership move got me thinking about this whole thing we call the "commitment Pattern." It has been taught to us since we entered the YM/YW program and then had it drilled into our lives as missionaries. Even those who haven't served recognize how it works. It is a simple pattern that anyone can follow to get others to take action.

Normally, we try to use this pattern in order to bring someone closer to God, but where do we cross the line in doing so from commitment to manipulation? Usually our intents are pure but our actions are not (and at other times our intents are not pure!). Over the past week or so I have been struggling with how to best present this idea. I asked a lot of people their opinions on the matter and failed to reach a consensus.

So, maybe the best way is to ask...WHAT is the manipulation pattern? How does it compare to the real commitment pattern? Finally, (and most importantly) how do we avoid falling into the trap of using manipulation? It is an important question because it happens all the time. We have all seen it happen.

Here is what I came up with at present. We start to commit people using the right reasons, but then bring in reasons that are irrelevant and attempt to force them into commitment.

For example, a missionary is attempting to commit an investigator to baptism. To try and persuade the individual, the missionary uses reasons that will pull at the person's heart-strings. They will say "You love us, right? So why wouldn't you want to be baptized?" instead of letting the Lord convince them through the power of the Holy Ghost and the doctrines of the church. They try to befriend them into the church.

This of course, is not isolated to missionary work. Everyone knows a story of a young man getting revelation that he should marry a certain young woman and tries pressuring her into the commitment even though she may have doubts.

I would venture to say that commitment is something that has already happened inside a person and we are just there to confirm and voice their feelings. Manipulation happens when we attempt to force people into something they have not prepared themselves to do. Are there times when people do not know they are ready for a commitment when in fact they really are? Sure, but I would consider that the exception that happens rarely and must be faced with much thought and prayer.