Is the Mormon Church a Cult?
According to non-LDS "Christians" the Mormon Church is a cult, based on the list that follows; which is a compilation of characteristics of cults as identified by secular authors specializing in the cult phenomenon. I will give my RESPONSE on each item and discuss the revelance of the statement to the LDS Church.
Joel Hardy (11/15/01)
1. See themselves separate from the rest of the world: members withdraw psychologically from the world. Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members
RESPONSE-LDS members are not separated from the world physically. They are found in virtually every country and neighborhood of the world. They involve themselves in local government and comunity activities. They do not separate themselves psychologically from the world, although they do try to separate themselves spiritually from the evil influences of the world. We are encouraged to become friendly with the good and decent people of the world who are not of our faith and if and when appropriate to share our beliefs with them, but to remain their friend no matter what their interests are.
2. Evolutionary in its development and the development of doctrine.
RESPONSE-Only the structure of the organization changes and adjusts to accomodate the rapid growth of the Church.
The doctrine is not "developed" nor is it "evolutionary", but we are given more of it as God sees we are ready for it. In the Bible God began with a few simple commandments that He gave Adam and Eve; then came the ten commandments. When God saw that his children could not live the Ten Commandments He gave them the Law of Moses. Then Jesus came in fulfilment of the Law of Moses and taught His Gospel.
The Lord has said that His word comes to man "precept upon precept; line upon line; here a little, and there a little; (Isaiah 28:13) and that He "will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." (Amos 3:7)
Therefore, we know that He dosen't give His children everything all at once, but a little at a time; and when He knows we are ready to receive additional doctrinal information, there would need to be a prophet here on earth with whom He could communicate.
In John 16:12 Jesus said this to His apostles, " I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." Jesus had something important to tell his apostles but they were not yet ready to receive it. He was crucified shortly after this and never got the chance to tell them about these other "many things".
Consider something else Jesus said to His disciples:
"And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath."
Jesus explains in verses 11 and 12 that those who "know the mysteries of the kingdom" will be given more.
3. Rigidly hierarchical: members swear total allegiance to an all-powerful, all-knowing leader. Members must confess their inadequacies to the group or to an individual.
RESPONSE-The early church was also hierarchical. There were the twelve apostles and other officers in the church as explained by Paul in the following:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
The only leader Mormon members swear allegiance to is Jesus Christ, who is all-powerful and all-knowing. We confess all of our sins to Jesus, and only a few of them to our pastor(Bishop), for the purpose of having someone there to help us overcome the sin and repent.
4. Members may come to feel helpless and dependent on the group and/or leaders.
RESPONSE-This is primarily dependant on the individual personality and circumstances of any member of any religion.
Members are constantly admonished to be self-sustaining and dependent only on the Lord. We do practice the principle of loving our neighbor as Jesus taught, when we help each other in times of need.
5. Rigidly believe pure knowledge and salvation come only through their organization.
RESPONSE-LDS Members believe that pure knowledge and salvation comes only from God Himself.
6. Rules and doctrine stand for divine Truth and are not to be questioned.
RESPONSE-When the rules and doctrine come directly from God, who are we to question them?
An apostle of the church, Hugh B. Brown said,
“I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression ...This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences” (An Eternal Quest-Freedom of the Mind, Speeches of the Year, BYU, May 13, 1969, Provo, UT).
7. Comparative and evaluative thought processes become unnecessary.
RESPONSE-Members are encouraged to study the scriptures and ponder things of the Gospel in their minds:
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right,
And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
8. Members are taught to trust their "feelings", personal experiences, or the experiences of others as a measure for truth.
RESPONSE-Members do not trust their "feelings". They trust the scriptures and the promptings and inspiration of the Holy Ghost which are different from psychological or emotional feelings.
The experiences of others can help anyone in any faith. This is why Jesus taught in parables. People were able to relate to His stories in a personal way, knowing that if those He spoke of were successful, then there was hope for them as well.
Our "measure for truth" are the good fruits that come from living the Gospel of Christ along with the witness we receive from the Holy Ghost.
9. Guilt is relieved only by conformity to the group norms.
RESPONSE-Guilt for committed sins is relieved only by proper repentence; asking for and receiving forgiveness from Christ Himself and a renewed commitment to living the commandments.
10. Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
RESPONSE-No such activities or techniques are found in the LDS Church. Members' testimonies and faithfulness to the Gospel are supported through loving concern for each other, and by instruction and prayer.
11. Organization will attempt to control life activities. Members willingly lead the life-style dictated by the group norm.
RESPONSE-Life activities are influenced only by the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Life-styles are incredibly varied among LDS members throughout the world.
12. See themselves as different from and superior to the rest of the world. The outside world is evil, Satanic, and doomed. The member will be evil, Satanic, and doomed if they reject their membership. Underlying commitment to protect the members from outside "persecution". Tend to ignore the rules that govern "less exalted" citizens.
RESPONSE-Members may be a little different from the rest of the world but do not see themselves as superior. They have made promises to God to live a more righteous life, but realize that not everyone has made the same promises as they have.
Only a small part of the world is evil, satanic and doomed. Most religions agree with this.
It is not our place to judge anyone who decides to reject the Gospel. Judgement is left to Christ.
Of course we try to protect each other from outside persecution.
We are always encouraged to obey all the laws of the land:
"We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law." (12th Article of Faith)
13. Recruitment techniques are deceptive because information is withheld.
RESPONSE-Those investigating the church for the first time are taught in a logical systematic manner that teaches them the basics first before going on to more advanced concepts; just as Paul explained to the Corinthians;
1 Corinthians 3:2
"I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able [to bear it], neither yet now are ye able."
This is basic practice when attempting to study anything for the first time.
Christ Himself at one time withheld information from His own Apostles when He said, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." (John 16:12)
14. Cult followers are expected to work long hours for no compensation.
RESPONSE-A few members might feel this is so, however most members attend church worship meetings for three hours on Sunday and probably donate only 1 to 2 hours per week in other church-related activities. Of course there is no compensation; this is a religion, not a business.
15. Families are often broken up when members are encouraged to renounce spouses who do not approve of the group or who leave it.
RESPONSE-Members are never encouraged to "renounce spouses", nor is it even suggested unless they are being physically or emotionally abused by them. The family is the most important organization in the church and worth doing everything possible to keep it together.
16. Believe they are the only group to usher in the eschatological climax of history.
RESPONSE-The church does believe that the appearance of God and Jesus to Joseph Smith ushered in a new era called the "Dispensation of Fullness of Times" as mentioned by the apostle Paul;
"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; [even] in him:"
This is what happened when God restored the full Gospel of Christ to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith. However, we recognize that many other people of the world were also involved with this as well; great reformers such as Luther, Calvin, and Knox, Christopher Columbus; the influx of Gentiles into the New World; the American Revolution; the signers of the Declaration of Independence; and other religious, political and scientific leaders.
17. Beliefs are shrouded in an aura of secrecy and mystery. Promise new members "further knowledge" as they become more involved.
RESPONSE-Jesus Himself taught that we might be able to know the mysteries of heaven;
"He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given." (See also Luke 8:10, 1 Cor. 13:2)
Anyone in any religion will obtain "further knowledge" as they become more involved.
18. The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
RESPONSE-We follow the admonition of Jesus when He said,
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:"(Matthew 28:19)
We have been given a commandment from God to bring the gospel to all people.
19. The group is preoccupied with making money.
RESPONSE-Most of the money that the Church runs on is from donations from members who obey the law of the tithe as stated in the Bible. (Mal. 3:8-10) The LDS Church is a non-profit organization and keeps only enough money that is needed to further the work of God. The church uses any available extra funds to make large donations to other organizations or needy people throughout the world. Most other money producing businesses owned by the Church originated from investments that started back when the pioneers first came to Utah. These businesses were started out of necessity to get the economy going for the new territory, and the church was the only entity existing that could accomplish it. We are preoccupied with saving our own souls and the souls of others.
20. Do not disclose financial information to the members or the public.
RESPONSE-All members know exactly where their contributed money goes. It pays for building and upkeep of Temples, Church buildings, and Administrative buildings; Administrative expenses(telephone, office supplies, postage, printing manuals and books etc.); building and maintaining colleges and universities; Church Education System(CES); Missionary work; Missionary training centers; Temple Square; Church historical sites; insurance; accounting expenses; legal expenses; welfare farms; Deseret Industries buildings; Church Welfare program; Family History Centers, genealogy libraries and archives; and taxes; all of which are money-consuming assets and not money-producing assets. The church has an extensive independent auditing system that accounts for every dollar that is taken in and every dollar that is spent. As a private non-profit organization the Church is not legally obligated to report its financial matters to the rest of the world.
21. The group's leader is not accountable to any authorities (as are, for example, military commanders and ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream denominations).
RESPONSE-Christ Himself is the "leader" of the LDS Church and is accountable only to Himself and God the Father. The President of the Church is accountable to Jesus Christ. Local leaders are accountable to other authorities within the Church.
22. The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify means that members would have considered unethical before joining the group (for example: collecting money for bogus charities).
RESPONSE-No such unethical activities are a part of any program or policy within the LDS Church.
23. Have an axe to grind: seeking to establish their legitimacy and to quell any criticism. May be very aggressive toward their opposition who is perceived as the enemy.
RESPONSE-If there were no critics of the church there would be no need to answer to the criticism. When we do try to answer to the criticism we are labeled a cult. If we don't answer to the criticisim, people claim that we have something to hide.
Members have always been counseled to only teach and testify and to never argue with anyone about the Gospel. But everyone has their own personalities that will dictate how they respond to criticism.
Our only enemies are Satan and our own weaknesses and sins.
24. Feeling they have been marked for persecution, they use this claim to rally their troops.
RESPONSE-We don't need to feel we have been marked for persecuton. History validates the fact that we were persecuted during the early days of the Church. However, now most members don't really notice much persecution; or if there is any, they try to just ignore it.
We don't ever need to "rally" our troops. We have always been ready, willing, and united in our efforts to live the Gospel and to love and serve God and man. This is our best defense against any persecution.
Conclusion: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a cult.
"...if you believe in it, it is a religion or perhaps THE religion;
if you do not care one way or another about it, it is a sect;
but if you fear and hate it, it is a cult." Leo Pfeffer