Examining Mormon Mind Control – Recovering Agency w/ Luna Lindsey Corbden | Ep. 1443-1447

John Dehlin interviews Luna Lindsey Corbden, author of Recovering Agency: Lifting the Veil of Mormon Mind Control, which employs the tools of social psychology to identify ways in which the Mormon Church uses coercive techniques often associated with high demand religions (also referred to as cults). Throughout the series, we will be asking: In what ways does the Mormon church behave in ways similar to other high demand religions (or cults), and what can it do to become less cult-like?

The primary goal of this series is to help people raised within the Mormon Church unpack and separate their own identity from church doctrine and policies. In their book. Luna explores 31 different mind control techniques used by high demand religions generally, and by the Mormon church specifically.

Luna Corbden (who also writes as Luna Lindsey) was born into the LDS Church and left the faith in 2001 at age 26. They now live in Washington State and write about psychology, mind control, culture, and autism. They also write science fiction and fantasy novels, and their work has appeared in Journal of Unlikely Entomology, Crossed Genres, and the Recognize Fascism anthology. When they’re not busy traveling to improbable worlds, they’re thinking hard about this improbable world.

Show Notes:


Part 1:

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Part 2:

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Part 3:

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Part 4:

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Part 5:

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  1. Taelor Vanderhoff

    Dr. Dehlin, first I want to thank you for all you’ve done to help me process the trauma that has been waking up from and working towards leaving the LDS church. Second, I’ve just begun listening to your podcast with Luna and I felt compelled to share an experience. I was born into the church, married my husband in the temple, and have been a member for nearly 30 years. As I’m listening to your podcast I clearly remember my both my Sunday school and seminary teachers (in Salem, Oregon, around 2009) teaching our classes on how we should respond if/when someone tells us we are in cult. We were supposed to respond by essentially explaining what is defined as a cult, and then tell the person that therefore all religions are cults, including whichever one they believed in. I’m sitting with this memory just shocked and horrified that this was taught AND accepted as normal and an appropriate response. By AT LEAST two teachers with large, impressionable classrooms. I remember at the time thinking, “that’s a little weird, but they probably tell all youth in different churches something similar”… Looking back, I don’t think that’s the case. It’s one of those personal experiences that your podcast has helped to process and clarify for me. I wouldn’t have made it through this process without people like you helping me to work through everything. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much. Please, keep up the good work!!

    1. Taelor, thanks for sharing this. I remember being taught the same thing in seminary in the 80s,and again as a missionary in the 90s. Something like “a cult is any group of people who follow a leader.” Looking back, I can’t believe I actually believed that! smh

  2. Dear John and Luna,

    Your series is groundbreaking in dissecting the mind control techniques used by the church. The multitude of expert social and psychological references with examples provided makes Luna’s work monumental and truly extraordinary.

    At age 20 I was finally diagnosed with OCD (scrupulosity), and during this interview series I could map out the onset of my OCD and how my cognitive structures and personality collapsed under the weight of these mind control techniques.

    Luna, you mentioned the fear of death early pioneers felt from the Brigham Young in Utah, and the social castigation by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo if they didn’t march in step with their dictates. Their legacy of intolerance is alive and well today. My scrupulosity was so severe as a teenager, I was ridiculed and lit of fire (with third degree burns) by our stake president’s son, the other teachers and priests in our neighborhood tried to hang me on the church flagpole but the linkage broke before they could hoist me more than a few feet into the air. If the linkage would have broke after being hoisted to the top I would be dead or paralyzed today.

    The pressure on congregants in mind control groups is so severe that the mentally ill pay an especially high price. They are targeted and become victims of other people’s internalized shame. They become the sacrificial goats because these mind-controlled groups need to create social proof that others are more miserable than they are. They must punish those with disabilities because only they- the whole, pure and obedient deserve the rewards of the cult.

  3. Hi! In part 2 of this series you mention that members of the church couldn’t resign from the church and could only leave if they were excommunicated. You referenced a Supreme Court precedence possibly in Arizona related to this. I was curious if you can direct me to that court case, or any information about that. Thanks! Keep up the great work! This was a SUPER powerful series :) Hat tip to Luba for all of their incredible work.

  4. Thank you, Luna! For over a decade I’ve been angry with myself for allowing the church to control me. I could not understand how I’d been so blind and stupid.

    But after listening to you, I finally understand. I can finally forgive myself. And I can forgive others too. There is a person from my previous ward who really hurt me. She has texted me periodically throughout the years and it would upset me. But when she texted me today, I felt nothing but love and compassion.

    I’m off to by your book. Thank you so much!

  5. Dear John and Luna,
    What an impressive ground breaking series. It has given me permission to forgive myself and I can breath for the first time. I was raised with unbelievable shame and guilt. When I received my endowments in 1973 a week before my first marriage, it was the worst day of my life and I cried solid for days. I tried to get out of a moving car on my honeymoon because I was so depressed. I was taught to not ask questions and just accept everything. Discussions were not something that was allowed as you can’t make people uncomfortable. We were both so emotionally immature we had no right getting married. Our families were just relieved that we made it to the temple before having sex. A temple marriage was the only thing that mattered to them and sex was the only thing we could think about so we did what we had been indoctrinated to do. The marriage lasted 17 years with three children.
    Three days ago my doctor diagnosed me with PTSD, ADD, and prescribed ritalin. With John’s podcasts and this series, the puzzle pieces have fallen into place. Thank you so much!!! I have bought your book and several others.

  6. Luna’s work has been enormously helpful in my recovery from Mormonism! I’ve been one of those people who left the church, then stumbled into other cultish communities, not realizing what I was doing. No one who is “brainwashed” can see that they are being controlled. Examining every way the church and its culture hold back our free thinking has been liberating for me. If mind control tactics were obvious, people would see it. But Mormonism and other high-demand groups work subtlety. Being born in the church makes it even harder to think critically. Luna’s work is nothing short of enlightening!!

  7. I just wanted to thank John and Achim in the first video at 2:47:00, for talking about “soft shunning” and for John to label it as abusive. As a trans person and an ex-Christian, I experience this from my family who are generic evangelical Christian, and it’s so hard to see past the basic facts of our social dynamic, of, “Oh, but they invite me over for dinner and they’re polite to me, why do I feel like crap.” But you’re so right that perpetually being treated like “a disappointment” is awful to experience.

    Luna is extremely cool and their slideshows are super interesting and thoughtful! Thank you so much for all the work you put into this!

    (I discovered Mormon stories because I wanted to hear the Tyler Glenn interview, but I relate to so much of the conversation here as a former Christian! Come for Tyler Glenn, stay for thoughtful fact-based dissection of religion, lol.)

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