October 12, 2011
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) is a world-wide religion, diverse, dynamic, and growing. Mitt Romney is a practicing member of the LDS Church, he is also a top-tier GOP presidential candidate. That puts a target on his back. Accusations from certain Evangelical Christians that the LDS, or Mormon Church, is a cult and that’s its members are not Christians are incendiary, and totally inappropriate in a political race. I will use the work of experts who have studied the nature and practices of modern cults to illustrate why the Mormon Church is not a cult. I will answer the following “cult” criteria with examples of LDS doctrines and organizational practices.
Note: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has few clergy members who receive compensation for their service. Virtually all leaders on the local and regional levels are volunteers. Nearly all adult members of the church have a leadership, teaching, or service calling. The Mormon Church is lead by its members, and its leaders are members of the church on equal standing with all other members. They will usually serve for a short time in their leadership position, and then be released from that calling, then placed into another capacity. It is a truism in the LDS Church to say that, “A Bishop (Pastor) may serve his time as the leader of many, then find himself rocking babies in the nursery within the blink of an eye.”
- The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology and practices as the truth, as law.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints follows its leaders; the Prophet, his counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and hundreds and hundreds of leaders at every level who are sustained by the people and who, save for the Prophet and Twelve Apostles, serve in a temporary capacity in their given callings. The church has checks and balances at every level, the most important of which comes from the members of the church who regard Jesus Christ as their Savior and King whose power and authority cannot be usurped or opposed by a man.
- Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints makes no demands on general congregations of the church other than those which are reasonable to a people who claim the church to which they have aligned their loyalty is the correct church. It is a church in which political and world views differ widely, with the greatest expectations of fidelity being to the moral precepts and holy practices of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
- The above mentioned practices are non-existent in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The LDS Church encourages its members to make their homes and families the center of their lives. The church community and its temporary leaders serve to facilitate the strengthening of families, service, missionary work, and teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry–or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
- Members of the LDS Church are taught to “be anxiously engaged in a good cause.” There are no dictates which come from leaders, either local or heads of the church, which are specific to issues of daily human society and functioning. This is how you get Mormons who are faithful members of the church but are worlds apart in opinion, Harry Reid and Glenn Beck for example.
- The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar–or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
- Mormons regard themselves a children of God, equal in worth and origin to all human beings who have lived or ever will live. The church regards mortality as a time of probation, the exercise of faith, and a time of trial and learning in which all people are set upon a unique and sacred course. Each individual is a precious son or daughter of God, and one is set apart as a leader or teacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ only through righteousness and the power of their faith.
- The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict in the wider society.
- The Church of Jesus Christ is oriented to world-wide missionary work which requires unity and peace. The church teaches commonality between all people, the most important aspects of which are our divine inheritance and eternal purpose.
- The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis or mainstream religious denominations).
- Latter-day Saints are a people who hold themselves and the leaders accountable at all levels. Husbands are accountable to wives, wives to husbands, children to parents, teachers to students, and leaders to their flock. All are held to account for their personal behavior relative to the commandments of God, and civil society. No one, including the Prophet and Twelve Apostles, is above the law of God.
- The group teachers or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities thy would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, Lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regards no purpose as higher than the laws of God. There is no rationalization for wickedness among the members of the church, or its leaders. Repentance is required when transgression causes suffering in the sinner and those whom the transgression has harmed.
- The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
- The focus of the Mormon Church’s is on the worth of each soul. The members are taught to build up one another, support one another in their infirmities, and guide one another is righteous living.
- Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
- Personal decision-making and self-determination are central themes to Latter-day Saints, most of whom are morally and ideologically conservative. The LDS Church believes that key to the exercise of moral agency is the right to choose one’s own way.
- The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
- LDS missionary work follows a process of inquiry, instruction, conversion, commitment, and baptism. It is a unique process for each person. It cannot be forced. The leaders of the church have discouraged the attitude of “quantity over quality” in the shepherding of people who have an interest in the LDS faith.
- The group is preoccupied with making money.
- The chief source of support for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is tithes and offerings given by its members. Tithing consists of 10% of an individual’s increase. This is a precept which is as old as Abraham and has not been altered despite times of difficulty or shortage.
- Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
- The LDS Church teaches its members that,“No success can compensate for failure in the home.” Members are often asked to serve in challenging positions which may require several hours each week. But all are reminded that the home, family, employment, civic duties, and wholesome recreation must be balanced with service in the church.
- Members are encouraged to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
- Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are encouraged to be actively engaged in their communities. Most Mormons feel that it is important to be a good example and loyal friend to those who don’t belong to the church. It is inferred that you teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ first by example, then by word.
- The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisal to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
- Autonomy is a hallmark of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although people are invited to be active members of the church, there is no reprisal or shame if they choose to leave activity. There is no doctrine in the LDS faith which purports that lapses in church activity, or personal doubts, are offences to be condemned. There is an understanding that doubts may arise, circumstances may change, and people may lose faith. Mormons generally feel that love and acceptance are the only remedies to such problems.
- We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
- We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
- We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
- We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
- We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
- We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
- We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
- We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
- We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
- We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
- We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
- We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
- We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
On a personal note:
It is a strange for me, as it would be for others of my faith, to be told by others who don’t know me and who are not acquainted with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that I am not a Christian. I pray daily, and sometimes the sweetest and most powerful thing I can utter is the name of my Lord. Jesus Christ, His character, His plan, His compassion, and His kindness have been taught to me by my church since I could comprehend the concept of an all-knowing, all-loving being. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His resurrection are central to all the doctrines of my faith. Without Him, there is no salvation, there is no way. He is the way. Some may contend that “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ” is not a Christian text. This is an excerpt from that book.
2 Nephi 25:25-26
25 For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.
26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.
My heart sings with the testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ. He, born of a virgin, is the living Son of God the Eternal Father. He atoned for our sins in the fiery torment of Gethsemane. He died on the cross to cleanse us from our sins. He rose on the third day, glorified and perfect. He lives. I know that my Redeemer lives.
My name is Marjorie Haun and I am a Mormon.