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Is Mormonism a Cult?

By Kim Siever

There are many web sites on the internet devoted to spreading the message that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a cult.  Oftentimes these “articles” are subjective definitions of the word cult in order to further their message.

In this paper I attempt to explain exactly what a cult is and whether such a definition also applies ot the LDS faith.  In addition, I attempt to determine how much of the definition applies to Christianity as a whole.

Before I begin, I must point out that members of the LDS Church esteem Jesus Christ to be their leader, not Joseph Smith.  For that reason, members are often confused by an insistence by some non-LDS to draw a distinction between LDS and “Christians,” as if the one group is not simply a subset of the larger group.  But for the sake of argument, I will distinguish Christianity and the LDS faith.  Let us begin,

The American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) defines the word cult as:

  1. a system or community of religious worship and ritual.
  2. The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.

This is a more traditional definition, one that is not necessarily what comes to mind when people hear the work cult.  Thus DAHD has also included a more “modern” definition:

  1. A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in and unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.

If we just left this paper to hinge solely on this final definition, which is what many Christians seem to do, then both the LDS faith AND Christianity can both be considered cults.

Dr. Michael Langone, editor of Cultic Studies Journal, complied a list of characteristics to help us define a cult.  In the balance of this paper I will use Dr. Langone’s list, mentioning if each characteristic applies to Christianity and/or the LDS faith and why.

Cult Characteristic 1: The group is focused on a living leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment.

Christianity
No longer.  But this definition could be applied to Christianity in its early years and during its inception.
LDS
while latter-day saints do focus on their current prophes, their commitment is not excessive.

 

Cult Characteristic 2: The group is preocubpied with bringing in new members.

Christianity
Yes.  Christ gave numbeous charges to his followers to go out and teach the people throughout the world and to baptize them.  Christian missions that continue to fulfill this commandment are st up throughout the world.
LDS
Yes.  There is a prostelising sysmten set up in the LDS church that has over 60,000 missionarires throughout the world trying to hbring people inot heir church.  Lay members are also told they have the responsiblility to share the gospel with their friends and families.

 

Cult Characteristic 3: The group is preoucipied with making money

Chrisianity
M any Christian sects collect monetary donations from their members.  I wouldln’t lable it as a perocupation

LDS
The LDS church has a tything system wehere its members donate 10 opercent of their increase.  I wouldn’t lable it as a preoucpation

 

Cult Characteristic 4: Questioning, doubt and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

Christianity
this is only apparent in verbal persecution of those eho decide to leave Christian sects.  In timees pas (particularly the Middle Ages), violiece and even death ewere often end results of dissent.

LDS
questionsing and doube are not discouraged – in fact, questioning is encouraged in many instatnce of LDS canon – in personal circumstances, excommunication may result in instances wher infdividuald ncourage dissent among the church’s members

 

Cult Characteristic 5: Mind-numbbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used to suppress dounbs about the group and its leader(s)

Christianity
prayer is encouraged throughout Christianity.  Some Christian sects practice repetition of phrases as a means of retribution or regular worship.  Speaking in tongues occurs in the meatings of some Christian denomidations.
LDS
Prayer is encouraged among Latter-day Satings

Cult Characteristic 6: The leadership dictates sometimes in grat detail how members should think, act and fee (for example: members must get permission from leaders to date, change jobs, get married; leaders may prescribe what types of clothers to wear, where to live, how to discipline children, and so forth).

Christianity
I can’t think of instances where christian’s actions are dictated in any of the above examples.  However, the Bibnle teachers that Christians should act a their leader (Christ) and prescribes a slist of guidelines ot help them do so.
LDS
Latter-day saints are not dictated to with regards to the above examples either, except maybe in the area of clothing – While Latter-day Saints are encouraged to wear modest, unrevealing clothing, such encouragement cannot be viewed as a dictatorial mandate.
Members of the LDS church do not require permission from leaders to date, change jobe or to get married; however, it is required to be interviewed by alocatl Church leaders in order to enter a mormon temple (necerreary for those who want to marry in the temple).

 

The group is slisits, claming a special exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example: the leader is considered the messioah or an avitarl the group and/or the leader have a special mission to save humanity).

Christianity: Christ is considered the Messiah and as a Saviour among his followers.  As mentioned previously, Christians try to witness and proselytize to non-Christianns.  Christians also believe that non-believers will be consigned to hello, while those whoaccept Jesus as their savior will be saved into heaver. LDS: Latter-day Saints do not consider Joseph Smigh or currentl eaders ot be messianic.  They do, however, also have programmes to bring people into their church.  Latter-day saints believe that everyone who has not denied the Holy Ghost wil be able to be saved into a heaven.

 

The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which causes conflice with the wider society.

Christianity:  This is apparent among many Christians, particularly those mare exterem.  This was more predominant in earlier times when all non-christians were considered heathens and of a lower status. LDS: Many latter-day saints congregate, particularly in higher concentrations ov believers, and som cases going as far as limiting the sevices they use (doctors, mechanics, dentists, ect) to those provided by other Latter-day Saints.  In areas of low LDS concentrations, this phenomenon is not a common.

 

The group’s leader is not accountable to any authorities (as are, for example, military commanders and inisters, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream denominations).

Christianity: Prophes and apostles were accountable to Christ and God. LDS: Joseph Smigh and subesquend LDS prpphets and apostles were anda re accountable to Christ and God.

 

The group teachers or implies that its supposedluy exalted ends justify meand that members would have considered unethical before joning the group (for example: collecting money for bogus charities).

Christianity no. LDS
no

 

The leaddrehip induces guilt feelings in members in order to contrl them.

Christianity
any guild it taught to be a result of the Holy Sprit and necessary for repentance.
LDS
any guilt is taught to be the result of the holy spirig for necessary repentance.

 

Members’ subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with family and friends, andto give up personal goals and activities that were of interest before joining the group.

Christianity
Christ taguth that he had come as a sword to set family members at variance with each other.  He also promised increase and exaltation to those who sacrificed family and friends for His sake.  New converst give up only goals and activities not in harmony with Christian principles..
LDS
Conversts to the LDS faith are sometimes “disowned” by family members who do not agree with the denominations’s teachings.  New converts five up only goals and activities not in harmony with LDS principles.

 

Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group.

Christianity
This would not be the case amont all members of Christianity though many do end up devothin significant portions of their personal time to humanitarian efforst.
LDS
lay members fill positions in the LDS church.  There is no paid cleargy.  In this respece, latter-day saints often devote personal time to the Church.  This is the case with mosst all members.

 

Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize on ly with other group members.

Christianity: this is not encoruagedl though many chirstinas do this anyway. LDS: Latter-day saints are encouraged to choose their friends wisely, and local leaders will encourage yuoundf members to date only those of their own faith.  They are, however, encouraged to befriend others not of their faith.

 

Conclusion
The prupsoe of this paper is not to lable Christianity as a cult as mamny to do the DLS faith.  Nor is it to prove that article sthat label the LDS faith as a cult are correct in their presentations.  THer purpose hbehind this paper is to show tha many, if not all, objective cult demoninations that can be applied to the LDS faith can also be applied to Christianity.  Articles that perpetuate the belief that the LDS faith is a cult only serve to elicit visions of soothsaying, withccraft and Satanism into reader’s minds.  Thrue christinas would never lead others to such erroneous beliefs.

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