For those who were born into the church, as I was, the brainwashing begins as soon as you leave the womb. I suppose it could be called education, indoctrination, whatever you want to call it, but the result is the same. Shortly after birth, you receive a name and a blessing, and that information is added to the church records.
From then on, you are told every Sunday that the church is true. You don't even question it. That was certainly the case for me. Attendance at Sunday services-all three hours-was mandatory, with rare extreme exceptions. Right from day one, you're taught about milestones in your life, and what to expect when you reach them. The first is when you turn 8. That's when you're baptized and confirmed a member of the church. Supposedly, 8 is the age of accountability, where you are old enough to make your own decisions and choose whether or not to become a member. Realistically, it's not an option. If your parents are active Mormons, you get baptized. That's just what's expected.
When confirmed, you receive "The Gift of the Holy Ghost." From then on, the Holy Ghost will always be with you to help you avoid temptation, purify your heart, and provide you inspiration from on High. Growing up, I really looked forward to that. When the day arrived, I was eager to see how things would be different. I really tried to be my best so that I'd be ready for this Gift. Problem was, I didn't feel any differently.
I thought that maybe I did something wrong. I thought that maybe it would get stronger as I progressed through the church, gained the Priesthood, and understood more fully how to utilize and benefit from it. I was ordained into the Priesthood at age 12, and continued my progression throughout my education years, but things never changed.
I was always taught how to recognize what the Holy Ghost was and how He would manifest Himself. It would come in a still, small voice in your head; a feeling of peace; a burning in the bosom. I was told as I got older and exercised my Priesthood authority, that He would guide me and inspire me to say what God had in store for the recipient of the blessing. I never felt it. I never felt any inspiration. I felt like I was just making stuff up when performing a blessing, and I felt like a failure. The inspiration never came.
Thus began a repeated narrative taught to me throughout my life. If you're not getting the Holy Ghost's guidance, if you're not getting His inspiration, it's probably your fault. I was taught to self-examine my life to determine where I fell short, where I had erred, where I needed to repent, where I needed to be more diligent to once again be worthy of the Spirit. This was never more stark than when I was a missionary. When we weren't teaching and baptizing, it was because we were breaking the rules somehow (probably masturbating). It was always our fault. The idea that maybe nobody wanted to hear what we were selling simply was not part of the equation. People's souls were in jeopardy, and it was our responsibility to bring them to the "One True Church," and if we fell short and did not meet expectations, that soul's loss would be on our heads. There were always more rules to follow, more ways to be diligent, more ways to improve, in order to be worthy of the Gift upon which we were bestowed. But I could never measure up, and I suspect most missionaries also feel that way.
But herein lies the rub: The Holy Ghost testifies to you that the Book of Mormon is true. Without the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith wasn't a prophet, and the Church isn't true. So what happens when you pray about the church, but never get a response?
I lied. Many refer to it as "Lying for the Lord." This concept comes from the Boyd K. Packer talk titled "The Candle of the Lord," a sermon published in the January 1983 issue of The Ensign, wherein he stated, "A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it!" (If you haven't read this article, you really should. It's very easy to find with a simple internet search).
Every missionary I knew had that passage memorized, including myself. I lived by that, and bore my testimony at every opportunity. I had convinced myself that I had a testimony, that I truly believed what I was preaching, but I was lying. I didn't know. I was promised that with time and diligence, my faith would pay off. It never did.
I had to come to the realization that despite my best efforts, it was not my fault. I did everything I was taught to do, and never got the promised reward. This certainly played a factor in my eventual departure from the church.