There are anti-cult ministries that either list Mormonism (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) as a cult, or else actively fight against it, employing half-truths, untruths,  and perpetuating misconceptions about the Mormon Church.  Many of these issues are dealt with in detail on another of our websites, MormonFAQ.com.

What is a Cult?

The dictionary definition of the word, cult, includes the following:

1. formal religious veneration : worship
2. a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
3. a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents
4.: a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator <health cults>
5. great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b : the object of such devotion c : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion
Mormon cult ?The word cult has a very negative connotation in the United States, while the word sect usually refers to a religious denomination and carries no negative meaning.  However, the definitions and connotations are reversed in England, where the word sect is derogatory and the word cult generally refers to a denomination.  Americans typically rely on the connotation, or the emotional meanings of words, except the intellectual elite.  Notice that the two most preferred dictionary meanings simply point to a formal religious veneration, a set of beliefs, and followers of the beliefs.  This definition would include all religions worldwide, but this is not the meaning most people think of, when they hear the word cult.
Most people rely on the following definitions,  a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious, with adherents in the thrall of a charismatic personality.  Although Mormons are devout Christians, critics consider Mormon doctrine an affront to Christianity, and the idea of modern prophets and open scripture spurious (false).   These are the two ideas that will be dealt with in this article.  It is important to remember that the Lord said you would know His people by their fruits (Matthew 7:16).  Though suffering bitter persecution from the beginning, the Mormon Church is shining forth among the nations of the world for its successful programs, happy families, and healthy membership; and Mormons are shining forth as clean cut and talented entertainers, great leaders in business and government, good citizens all over the world, and first on the scene of disasters worldwide with humanitarian aid.  The Church began with 6 members in 1830 in New York, and now has over 14 million members worldwide.  Most cults have a small membership in the thrall of a powerful leader, and they tend to self-destruct after awhile.

Are Mormons in the Thrall of Joseph Smith?

Joseph Smith did not found the Mormon Church.  Instead, he organized it under the direction of Jesus Christ and heavenly messengers in order to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Christ.  This is a startling assertion for modern times, but business as usual for biblical times.  None of us cringe when we read about Jeremiah’s revelations or Moses being summoned by a burning bush, but believe such things cannot happen today.  This is natural, because the world has had a dearth of heavenly involvement that we know about for hundreds of years, but should we limit what God can do?  Or what He may choose to do?  If He has worked through heavenly messengers before, why can’t He do it again?  If He has appeared to prophets before, why can’t He do it again?

The Mormon Church might seem modern, but it is not, actually.  It is the restoration of Christ’s ancient church, with the doctrines known by all the ancient prophets, including Adam and Moses.  Remember that on the Road to Emmaus, Christ taught His followers that Moses and all the prophets testified of Him (Luke 24).    Mormons believe as the New Testament teaches, that the original Apostles were given the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the power and authority of Jesus Christ to baptize, bestow the Holy Ghost, minister, and perform miracles.  After Christ ascended, they did so through revelation from Him.  After the apostles died (mostly martyred), the authority and power, and revelatory guidance disappeared.  Men did the best they could, using scripture and their own ideas.  Many of these men were devoted followers of Christ, but true doctrine was gradually lost.  Examples abound.  The early church fathers preached that our purpose on earth was to become like God, a doctrine called theosis.  Paul referred to baptism for the dead, also lost.  The true concept of the godhead was compromised at the councils, where the opinions of kings held sway.  These councils to codify doctrine were never unanimous.  The concept of God as a spirit comprised of three entities (the idea of trinity) was hotly contested.  Just because the Trinitarian concept reigned doesn’t mean it is true.  God Himself can reveal His true nature, and He did that when He appeared as a glorified, resurrected man, in the company of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ MormonSome Christians contend that Mormonism is a cult, because the Church espouses a “different Jesus,” a Jesus who was resurrected and then remained so.  They contend that Mormonism is a cult, because somehow, an uneducated boy with no access to a library, came up with the doctrine of theosis once again, received by revelation the ordinances of baptism for the dead, and the authority and power of Christ’s own priesthood.  Somehow, they believe, Joseph Smith must have forced these weird (but anciently known) doctrines on his people, or all the millions of members of the “Mormon cult” must somehow be in his thrall.  Joseph Smith led his people by this philosophy:  “I teach them true principles and allow them to govern themselves.”  This is the way the Mormon Church still runs.  The current prophet receives guidance through revelation, which he imparts to the membership.  Each member goes to the Lord in prayer for validation of the concept, and acts according to his conscience.  Free agency is honored and protected.  No one is forced or brainwashed.  Mormons do not worship Joseph Smith.

Open Scripture

Another reason some people think the Mormon Church is a cult is that it has an open body of scripture.  After limiting the Lord to revelation anciently, but not today, people also want to limit scripture to the Holy Bible, which in itself is incomplete, referring to books and prophets that have been lost to our knowledge, and disagreeing with itself often.  They refer to the “curse” in the Book of Revelation that says nothing shall be added, but the Book of Revelation was written earlier than some other books of the Bible.  The books in the New Testament are arranged by length, not chronology.  Also the Mormon Church has not added nor taken away one word from the Bible.  Mormons study the Bible two of every four years in Sunday School, both the Old and the New Testament, but the help of modern prophets and other scripture goes a long way toward increasing understanding of the Bible.

The Lord has made promises to Israel, and has always sent her prophets who have recorded scripture.  In 600 B.C. a family living in Jerusalem, and whose father, Lehi, was a prophet and contemporary of Jeremiah, was warned by God to flee into the wilderness.  Not only were prophets being killed, but soon the Babylonians would invade and destroy the city, killing or capturing the inhabitants.  This family and some friends traveled south into Arabia, taking with them the scriptures to that date.  God led them across the sea into the Americas.  They lived the Law of Moses, but their prophets taught them to look forward to the coming of Christ.  The people were shown dramatic signs of Christ’s birth and death.  Because of the revelations of their prophets, they knew Jesus would be born of a virgin, and would be crucified and resurrected.  They awaited the atonement.

mormon-jesus-christ-nephitesAfter His resurrection, Christ visited this branch of Israelites and organized His church among them as He had in the Holy Land, with twelve apostles.  The people became Christ’s followers and enjoyed over 200 years of perfect peace and equanimity.  Then, they descended into wickedness and destroyed themselves.  Their record, known as the Book of Mormon, had been hidden in the earth for centuries, and revealed to us in this last dispensation of time to benefit us in various ways…

  • The Book of Mormon is a second witness that Christ lived on earth, was crucified and rose the third day, that He atoned for our sins and gave all men the gift of resurrection and deliverance from death and the sin of Adam.
  • The Book of Mormon refers to biblical events that some scholars have dismissed as fanciful — the Tower of Babel, the experience of Jonah, and others.
  • The Book of Mormon is the record of a fallen people.  There is a detailed report of their struggles with freedom and government by coercion, and with organized crime, great messages for us today.
  • The Book of Mormon adds reassurance to the Bible that Israel will be regathered, and Christ will come again.

Mormons have other books, the Doctrine and Covenants, which is a collection of modern revelations, and the Pearl of Great Price with further knowledge of the creation, and pre-mortal life.  The Doctrine and Covenants contains much revealed knowledge, but especially wonderful are two revelations:  Section 76, with Sydney Rigdon and Joseph Smith’s vision of the kingdoms of heaven mentioned by Paul; and Section 138, Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the Spirit World.  One has only to read the Book of Mormon and other scriptures to recognize the words of Christ, opening our eyes to more and more knowledge in preparation for the Second Coming.  Mormons expect more scriptures to be found or revealed, including those that will accompany the Ten Lost Tribes when they return.

Additional Resources:

Mormon Cult? Learn the truth from the official site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Inadvertently called by friends of other faiths as the “Mormon Church”)

Mormonism is not a cult. Attend a local meetinghouse and find out for yourself.

The Bible is a testament of Jesus Christ and his gospel, request your free copy today!

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