I listened to a podcast a few weeks ago about Dark Patterns. These are deceptive user interfaces on a web site that trick you into clicking on a button or otherwise doing something that you:
- Don’t want to do
- Find difficult to do
- Aren’t aware you are doing
Our brain uses mental short cuts , called heuristics. Like the illustration above, a dark pattern will try to trick your mental short cut, like green for go and red to stop or go back. Also note that you would expect the right button to go forward, not back.
As I dove into learning more about dark patterns, I found that some types of dark patterns closely resemble some of the tactics I was taught to use on my mission, and which I’m sure are still being used today.
You get to the bottom of a web page, and it asks “Did this answer your question?” and you have only one button to push that says “Yes”. There is no way to say no! We were taught on my mission when setting up an appointment, to not ask if they want to learn more, but to say “would Tuesday morning or afternoon work best for you?”
You have two choices for subscribing to a newspaper on a web site, the first says “Yes, sign me up”, and the other says “No, I don’t want to be an informed person” While a missionary, I would ask people if they loved their family and wanted to to be together forever. If so they needed to join the Mormon church. I didn’t need to say the converse, it was implied if they didn’t want to be together forever, then don’t join our church!
This one is an old one (timeshares anybody?). One of the examples they give is that for an online learning tool, you can take a break from your membership if you are too busy to take a class during the month. Unfortunately, you can’t see the parameters of this membership-break without becoming a member first. Sound familiar? As a missionary, I never went over the costs of being a member, except for ten minutes explaining tithing. It was never emphasized that to be a member in good standing tithing was mandatory. Also, the hidden costs of time required to be a member is never discussed beforehand. There is not a complete “informed consent” before one is baptized.
Hard to Get Out 
Once you are in, and you decide you want out of your Hulu account, it is really hard to cancel. They hide the link to get out! Same with lots of other web pages where you want to cancel something. What does this sound like? I’m sure you’ve all read about how hard it is to cancel your membership in the church. It used to be that you had to be excommunicated to get out. Even today, when the people at Quit Mormon started submitted too many names, the church said they needed to get a notarized signature for each name. They made it harder.
So what Dark Patterns have you seen in or out of the church? Is it wrong for the Church to use these techniques that work so well in business, or is this just smart business and inspired adaptation from the business world?
 the name given on the web page for this dark pattern was “Roach Motel”, but that sounded too derogatory in relation to the church, so I changed it.
Amazon try every available trick to get customers to sign up to prime. Moving forward on an order without prime requires clicking on the text without any kind of box at all.
The most agresious lack of informed consent is the temple. You know little of what it is prior to attending. It is too sacred, so we keep it a secret.. Then you are given one opportunity to leave at the start of the ceremony, prior to know what you are covenenting to. This is done with family and group public pressure. Then told the remainer of your life to keep the covenant path and shame on you for not wearing your garments
Has anyone ever seen someone leave the temple ceremony at that stage?
Faith, I’ve not seen that happen, but I thought seriously about doing so. At 19 I trusted the teachings of parents and Church leaders more than I do now. Despite the problems I’m glad I stayed. As difficult as it was, the mission was and remains an extremely valuable experience — for learning, endurance, and lasting friendships. The temple experience has varied and has sometimes been overwhelmingly problematic. The temple and so-called temple preparation are still problematic, but vastly better than they were in 1966.
This is too common place in the church and especially the mission.
Missionaries being told not arrive to church without an investigator. Or missionaries can not see general conference without having an investigator. Or one of my self items for my mission. You have to work pday unless you have baptized someone that month.
The church has almost no conformed consent. We are reared and told that a mission is the best 2 years of life. It is full of christlike service and charity. That is so far from the actual truth. Missionaries are limited to actual service hours to increase proselytizing hours. Missionaries are yelled at and are guilted into things. The whole mission is a bait and switch.
Then missionaries are given rewards of church books or dinners for baptizing the most 9 year Olds.
Being obligated to work on the mission when sick.
I have many many more from the mission alone…let alone other church programs.
This is what started my faith journey of cracks of the shelf….until 25 years later the system of policies an dprograms opened my eyes that this is not the gospel of Jesus christ. It is a corporate group using God to keep their power structure. The lds church had so much potential for doing good in the world. But they focused on the wrong things and not on christ.
The church will not change informed consent.. because in reality who with a sane mind would consent to mormonism 100%?
Every member on some level at some state of their life has a be a somewhat cafeteria mormon. Even if 99% TBM and cafeteria 1%. Their programs and obligations have gone overboard and past sane if you adhere 100%
Faith, Not all LDS missions are like yours. While there are plenty of such horror stories, and my mission was not without its significant problems, there are those that did not have them. It depends greatly on the mission president, the mission culture, and the luck of the draw as to who one works with — both companions and contacts. Long ago in Europe the concept of “service hours” didn’t even exist. For most of my mission we could not do any mission work other than tracting door to door. While I was disappointed in a lot, it really wasn’t much of a bait and switch for me — perhaps because I started on cafeteria Mormonism by age 13.
Wondering, i acknowledge that we all have different experiences. I was all in TBM. The mission was my first shock, and askimg myself ……this is not the church i grew up in or the church that i thought it was.
My final issue (and i was inl leadership), was the early seminary program and the clique system. If i would have gone to different mission or had a different stake president, then i would most likely be all in. However the system needs to recognize and apoligize for the harm and abuse it has caused….and the self correct…right now the.church offers 0% apology and it making minor corrections.
The only reason i really even care is thsat my kids and most family memers are still active and i do not want more spiritual abuse to future generations.
I have 0% stake in the LGBT discussion …but i have compassion and empathy how the church programs and policies have harmed the community. As a church, we need to see that this program or that policy did not affect us…..there are casualaties and as Chrstians we should bear others burdens and then make change and avoid insanity. Many church missionaries still experience what i did 30 years ago.
It is ironic that Bill brings up heuristics, for you see, it is he that has fallen victim to the most common heuristical simplifications.
Yes the truth is that anything in life that is worthwhile is hard and takes effort. That goes for employment, schooling, and family life. Why should being a member of the Church be any different?
The answer is that it can’t be. Bill and others apparently want church activity to require nothing more than showing up on Sunday to be handed a balloon and a lollipop, with no work, no effort, and no sacrifice during the week. It that was all that was required, the only result would be momentary pleasure with no lasting benefit.
People should be encouraged to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They should be encouraged to sacrifice for the common good. A populace whose time is spent sitting alone in basements watching the latest Liam Neeson movie on Netflix is a waste of human potential.
So yes, Bill, missionaries should go out and should teach the values of morality, piety, and sacrifice. The whole of society will be the better for it.
A super common dark pattern, maybe also called bait and switch. Receiving a calling that the person extending the calling knows little about or downplays the difficulty of the calling. Sometimes they don’t even give you time to talk to your spouse or go home and think about it.
I had a great experience on my mission. The weather was warm, the scenery beautiful, and the people of the area were part of a culture that was very ok with changing one’s religion so we missionaries got to baptize up a storm. I remember feeling shocked when I found out there was a “one hundred club” amongst the missionaries. I was even more shocked to find out there was a “two hundred club.” Most returned missionaries I’ve talked to from other parts of the world describe the mission as an exercise in rejection. Not for us. I think most of us felt that we were living the missionary dream, tallying up long lists of baptisms and reveling in our success.
The dark side is that I was absolutely the worst version of myself on the mission. We achieved those numbers largely through bullying, manipulation, and exactly the sort of tactics described in the OP. I made it into the “one hundred club” but I’d be surprised if more than 5% of the people I baptized are active today. I honestly hope that most of those people remember their experience with me as a couple weird weeks with guys in white shirts a long time ago.
I’ve come to feel a lot of shame about it. But then I have to remember I was very young at the time these same dark patterns were used on me. It’s a perpetual motion machine.
Using dark patterns is proof to me that the church is not something anyone in their right mind would want to be part of. Do children need dark patterns to force them trick or treating? No, the candy and fun are reason enough. They do not need to be tricked into it. On the other hand there is baptism and all the social pressure that we put on children to “want” to get baptized.
For example, I always considered my own baptism as less than half valid because I was forced, sulking and pouting about it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be baptized so much as I wanted somebody that knew and cared about me to do it. But Dad was inactive and grandpa worked (every stake baptism day for a full year, and couldn’t bother to schedule it off for me like he did my older brothers) and every male in my life had some asinine excuse. So, just before I turned nine, my grandmother threw a fit about “getting that girl baptized” and my mother forced me and a stranger who “needed to practice because he was going on a mission” and I resented that nobody cared about what I wanted or my feelings. So, no, I was never willingly baptized, there was just this ceremony done for the sake of the institutional church.
If the church really fed people spiritually, if it really did good in the community, if it brought people closer to God, then the rewards of being a member would be enough that people would not need to be tricked, coerced, manipulated, bait and switched, social pressured, and guilted into doing all that “hard stuff “ that JCS talks about. If the church had good to balance the bad, then all those sneaky tactics would not be necessary. People would willingly do the hard stuff because of all the good they found in the church. But as it is, the church has spiritually stagnated. It has killed social programs. It has dumbed down the doctrine. It has replaced “teaching correct principles” with a list of Pharisee type rules. It has put obedience above love. It has put its leaders above individual conscience. It has put programs above people. It has put its own reputation above the welfare of abused children. It has put conservative politics above the welfare of LGBT members. So, as it is, the costs are too high for the good that comes from it. So, it is forced to use all kinds of sneaky tactics and social pressure and guilt to keep members.
Why does being a member of the church have to be hard, JCS? Why are experiences and lessons learned only of use to us if they are hard and require effort? It’s certainly drilled into us as members that it IS hard, that it’s supposed to be that way. That it’s valuable because it’s hard. But really, why? I’ll be honest: some things in my life are hard, some things are easy, lots of things are in between, but the value of each of those things isn’t actually based on how hard (or not) the thing is. The value of things in my life are based on a variety of things, but a common thread seems to be how those things enrich my life (and yes, some hard things enrich my life. But so do some easy things.) But back to my question, phrased differently: why does something being hard and taking effort mean it’s a good thing? Driving to the middle of nowhere in a storm is hard and takes effort…..
I’ve been married 53 years. I can’t tell you how much pleasure it gives me to say that I’ve enjoyed all of them. I’m not going to tell you there weren’t times when we had to deal with hard unpleasant stuff and I’m not going to tell you that there were never unpleasant issues between us that we had to work through. There were many cycles fo that. But, as a metaphor for the church experience, if we hadn’t chosen well so we were always on solid ground and had committed to something that was going to give us happiness and mutual support and made it possible to carve out a life in the big wide world we never would have made it this far. Every success and pleasure and affirmation of us individually and jointly confirms again the rightness of it all.
I don’t want to have to imagine having to “work” at something or to “sacrifice for it for 53 years. I don’t want to think about being imprisoned in something I don’t find my trust in and respect for grow and grow. I think it would be hell to have to constantly be molding myself to the demands of something that wasn’t a good fit. for who I am.
I love my husband now in a different way but far more than I ever would have imagined half a century ago. At the same time, I can’t imagine devoting my whole life to something with lesser affirmations and rewards than that.
“Yes the truth is that anything in life that is worthwhile is hard and takes effort. That goes for employment, schooling, and family life. Why should being a member of the Church be any different?
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
I teach community college students and I can tell you that they are definitely looking for the easy path. They quit jobs as soon as they get hard. They quit school when it gets hard as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if they quit church because it asks a lot of them as well. Although JCS is wrong about a great many things, he is right about this one.
In my ward’s Primary today, a young man taught the children I Feel My Savior’s Love using American Sign Language. Somehow, I think the Holy Spirit was with us in the room as he did his best to be helpful to the children. I didn’t detect any dark patterns.
Thank you vajara2.
“I think the Holy Spirit was with us in the room as he did his best to be helpful to the children. I didn’t detect any dark patterns.”
This is how it could be. If only we could focus on the things that matter most. This single-minded emphasis on following the lessons of Jesus should be something we focus on at all administrative levels in the church, Too often it is not.
This sounds a lot like John Dehlin’s rants on informed consent. I understand that there is a problem, but it is impossible to prepare someone entirely for what they are going to experience in the church. Each person is so different and their ward, leadership, privilege, experience will vary so much. Some people love the temple with no preparation and some still hate it with plenty of preparation. No one would join this church if we spent hours talking about the warts and little time talking about the benefits.
I have found that young kids who speak and share testimonies tend to talk about Christ and service. It gives me hope for the future. What really rubs me wrong is the old “get off my lawn” types who dress in their one piece Dickie overalls and run to the restaurant to get the early bird senior discount at Denny’s on their way to play bingo with all the other stale smelling, grumpy, bitter, racist, homophobic geezers who think the youth of this church are the problem. They are the solution.
I want to become an old, cheerful, and open-minded croc-wearing geezer who likes Bon Jovi music and Liam Neeson movies.
I am that old geezer, except I don’t wear Crocs. I am the ghost who hovers in the foyer and tries to show an interest in anyone who wanders through. If no one is there, I read a book on my tablet.
Beats most lessons taught in my ward.
There is a dark pattern at play when we are asked to believe the fantastic underpinning of the founding of our church and also to believe that Benson and Monson among others had the same prophetic gifts and also that Come Follow Me is a modern day revelatory offering.
There are dark patterns at play when:
-people brag about their callings. Somehow it is made to be an “honor” to sacrifice the most important things in their life for the “honor” of a leadership position.
-that rich members’ expenses are generously covered for their callings, but not working class members’. (GA & mission pres, vs bishopric, RS, youth leaders, ….)
-someone is considered “bad” for being concerned about the concerning issues in the Gospel Topics Essays on LDS.org.
-someone is struggling with their testimony by discussing the issues brought up in the GTEs on LDS.org.
-when someone talks about them to a tbm, they are harming their testimony.
-that we judge others by what they wear, not their heart.
-the “but” in, “he’s not Mormon but he’s a good person”.
-the emphasis on temple marriage, to the point that many women, and some men, will not marry “in this life”.
I’m still angry — with myself and others — for pushing (in my case, not fighting off the pushing) my 8yo son to be baptized. The bishop was chill about it (both bishops, actually; my son’s delay in baptism lasted through a bishopric change), but family members were intense. He’d be asked to explain himself. An aunt asked him, “Don’t you want to be on the Lord’s team?!” No one pushed him harder than my husband. In the end, he relented. Because he said he wanted to, I couldn’t defend him anymore, but he later admitted he just wanted the pressure to stop. Now, when my husband tells him, “You chose to be in this church” and therefore is obligated to do X or Y, I want to scream!
Laurel, Is there any chance your husband could learn not to say that? or that his pressure exerted in both the baptism and apparently thereafter is more likely to damage your son’s relationships with both the Church and with his father than to produce any lasting good result?
In some ways what you say of your husband reminds me of my father who was so focused on duty (and his conception of duty) that it impacted relationships with some of his children extremely negatively. After hearing talk at his funeral that was supposed to be comforting assurance that we would see him again, one declared to another that it would be soon enough after he had learned to value people for who they are and not as extensions of himself. It is one thing to mourn the loss of a father. Quite another to mourn never having had a relationship of love and respect with a father. Maybe your husband doesn’t know what he’s doing. Maybe your son will be more resilient than some of my siblings. Wishing you and your son the best — whatever that may be..
Wondering, thanks for your kind wishes. I’ve made similar arguments to my husband, but we just don’t agree. For him, it seems to come down to, this is how my sainted mother and grandmother (single parents) raised me, therefore it can’t be wrong. I have to hope their father-son relationship is otherwise healthy enough to survive.
Zack, I’m hearing rumors that the church will soon release the whole temple ceremony on their website, minus the few words that cannot be spoken “except at the veil”. While everything is already online, including the verboten words, having it on the church web site will let TBMs look at it before they go through for the first time. If this happens, it will appear John Dehlin’s ranting got through to somebody!
Bishop Bill. Such rumors sound to me like wishful thinking of a truly imaginative order. There are still those who believe there was a covenant not to speak outside the temple of anything seen or heard in the temple. I think this comes from the pre-1990
lecture at the veil in which it was said: “You must keep in mind that you are under a solemn obligation never to speak outside of the temple of the Lord of the things you see and hear in this sacred place.” In fact, at least since the mid-60s there was no such general covenant of secrecy; the non-disclosure covenants were and remain much more specific and very much more limited. While there remain pre-1990 temple goers in the Q15 it is at least seriously questionable whether they could or would jettison what they used to hear in that lecture, even though some of them have been talking outside of the temple of the things seen and heard there.
Much of the historical texts are already on the internet, but not the current text. Those sites can never have the same impact on temple preparation that placing the text on a Church website would. I guess there is no harm in wishful thinking.
BB – I am having a hard time lately with people wanting religions to pass through the same rigorous scrutiny that science has to endure. Comparing a membership in a religion to a timeshare or a Hulu account has its similarities, but I just don’t like the comparison. All religion is screwy at best. For instance, we tell people that ancient Jews sailed to America and that they wrote stories on Gold plates and people are upset about a rock in a hat? How silly are Gold plates and how silly are rocks in a hat? They are both about as silly as a guy raising people from the dead and walking on water. It is a freaking religion filled with silly beliefs. Years ago when I started following Wheat and Tares I made fun of Brother Sky because he said he did not believe the BOM to be historical. It took me a little longer but I am now part of that club. The members have become too dogmatic and the skeptics have become too critical. There has to be some middle ground or I simply can’t stick around. Dehlin and company have capitalized on the dogmatic approach. I have heard him and John Larsen compare prophets to calculators. “If it is wrong 5% of the time, it has no use”. That is the standard that we have to hold prophets to? If that is the case the world has never seen a prophet. What if Joseph Smith added a tiny fraction to the conversation about who God is and started a movement that creates pretty good people. Shouldn’t that be enough to classify him as the prophet? Dark Patterns exist, but most of them are created by small minded leaders who like to use fear as a way to practice unrighteous dominion. Leaders have been guilty of thinking we are too stupid to know what is best for ourselves and limiting all the pertinent information to help us make the choices and draw the lines they want us to make. Honestly, at this point there is enough information on the church that I have little sympathy for those who whine about informed consent. The same goes with businesses. Read the reviews, do your home work. If it fits for you go with it, if it doesn’t, find something else that does.
My last paragraph was directly aimed at a recent commenter that loves to make stupid stereotypes and who has made the W&T comment section hard for me to read lately. Love you guys and have a nice evening.
In December of 2009 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a 4th mission of the church, emphasizing caring for the poor and the needy. Ten years and ten days later, a whistleblower revealed that the LDS church’s investment arm, Ensign Peak Advisors, had amassed over $100 billion in assets.
Maybe instead of “Roach Motel” you could have used, “Hotel California”