Seth L. Bryant, Henri Gooren, Rick Phillips, and David G. Stewart Jr.
This chapter first traces the historical framework of Mormon conversion in the nineteenth-century church forward into the twentieth century. Next the chapter analyzes the reorganization of the mission program and the church administration through the 1960s Correlation program. Subsequent sections on contemporary conversion and retention in Mormonism follow a geographical approach, dealing first with the United States and subsequently with Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. The conclusion develops ideas on Mormon conversion and traces the origin of the current low retention rates in developing countries to the new policies of the 1960s. More recent changes in mission policies were defined in 1985 and 2004, which consequently had a substantial impact on missionary and convert recruitment.
Douglas E. Cowan
This chapter discusses a variety of ways in which affiliation and disaffiliation occur within new religious movements. It explores the brainwashing and deprogramming debates that shaped much of the early development of new religions study, pointing out that, though the brainwashing hypothesis has been debunked, it was largely responsible for creating the social panic over new religions. It points out how many of the techniques associated by the anticult movement with brainwashing (or thought control) are common in religious traditions that are not the target of countermovement pressure. Most important, it identifies how the brainwashing hypothesis constructs the problem of new religions by ignoring the issue of religious choice among new religious adherents. It concludes that conversion to new religious movements is a complex process that includes a range of variables, including the strength of social networks, the nature of conversion careers, and conversion as a response to popular culture.
Stuart A. Wright
This chapter reprises an earlier analysis conducted twenty-five years ago of disengagement and apostasy in new religious movements (NRMs). Since then, there has been an impressive expansion of scholarship and an increasing international focus. The chapter begins with an examination of the cultural context in which new religions are viewed. NRMs face contested terrain because they are often seen as challengers to established religions and a threat to the social order. Following this brief prologue, the chapter is organized around three fundamental aspects of NRM disengagement research: (1) conceptualization, (2) theory, and (3) methodological issues. The section on conceptualization attempts to provide some definitional boundaries to terms such as disaffiliation, disaffection, and defection. In the theory section, key theoretical perspectives of disengagement are analyzed. Finally, in the methodological section, three concerns that affect the validity of ex-member accounts are examined: (1) retrospective reporting, (2) temporal variability, and (3) conflicting claims.
Millennialism is a prime philosophical resource pool for the American extreme right. The racial factor being central to the rightist affair and three basic tendencies nourish it: Christian identity, based on legacies of the dilapidated British-Israelism that claims that the lost tribes of Israel migrated westwards; staunch anti-Semitism, non-supernatural racist religions, secular in their fervency against both Christianity and Judaism; and Neopaganism, a revivalist motion, striving to revive ancient Nordic religions through reconstruction. These three pivotal elements cut across the American rightist-racist diaspora. Objective practices range from militarization in anticipation of apocalyptic conflicts with non-whites, purging efforts, the establishment of alternative churches that preach white supremacy and anti-Semitism, to more obviously nefarious things. William Pierce, author of the notorious Turner Diaries, established the Cosmotheist Church, believing in a postmillennial phase of quiteism, a process to achieve fulfillment by merging with God. The pre-millennial evolutionary occurrences include social purging of non-whites.
Susan J. Palmer
Observers have often noted that new religious movements (NRMs) sometimes experiment with gender roles. The position of women in certain new religions has also been a focus of concern for critics. This article develops a typology of NRM sexual identity and points out that the actual arrangements within different new religions are often quite complex. To illustrate this complexity, it examines women's roles in the Osho Rajneesh group and in the Raelian movement.