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What is a Cult, Is Mormonism a Cult?

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What is a Cult and is Mormonism a Cult?

Is the use of the word cult out of date and inappropriate in our day?  What by what definition is a religious group considered a cult?    Is the term just used to label others with which we do not agree?  These are questions that are not uncommon in an age of relativism. 

There are two primary definitions. One is theological and the other is sociological.

THE THEOLOGICAL DEFINITION OF A CULT

A cult is any group that claims to be the orthodox, authentic representation of a historical religion that has deviated from that orthodox and historical religions basic authoritative revelation. A cult is a group that is counterfeit but claims to be the true representation of a historical faith.

A cult of Christianity then would be a group that claims to be the true representation of Christianity but has departed from the Christianities historic authoritative revelation - namely only the Holy Bible.

A cult of Christianity is a group that is a counterfeit but claims to be the true representation of biblical historic Christianity. There are other false religions that are not considered cults because they are not a counterfeit that claims to be the true representation of Christianity.

A couple of groups that would be consider to be counterfeit but yet claim to be the true representation of Christianity are…

Jehovah’s Witness
LDS or Mormonism
Unification Cult or Moonies
there are many more smaller groups

What are the basic theological tests that would qualify a group to be considered a cult?

1. What is the group’s source of authority?
2. What is the group’s view of the Trinity?
3. What is the group’s view of the deity and person of Jesus Christ?
4. What is the group’s doctrine of salvation?
    

Now to explain these four questions…

1. What is the group’s source of authority?

Does the group see the Holy Bible as its sole authority for all things pertaining to doctrine, faith, and practice? If a group adds to the Bible with other books or tampers with and alters the Bible, they are considered a cult. 

Mormonism adds the Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and The Doctrines and Covenant.

2. What is the group’s view of the Trinity?

Does the group believe that God is one God but three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Does the group believe that the three persons of the Trinity are at the same time and for all eternity coequal as divine but yet as one and that the Trinity is not a modelistic view where God is sometimes a Father, sometimes the Son, and sometimes a Spirit? On the other hand does the group accept the biblical historic view that there is one God always yet always revealed in the three persons?   

Mormonism denies the doctrine of the Trinity.

3. What is the group’s view of the deity and person of Jesus Christ?

Like the doctrine of the Trinity. Does the group believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal creator of all things as the second person of the Trinity, and that He is one hundred percent God as if He were not man at all, but also at the same time and one hundred percent man as if He were not God at all? Does the group believe that Jesus is the infinite God man and that he is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father? Does the group believe that at His incarnation Jesus took upon human flesh as He was born of a virgin?  Does the group believe that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God and understands the meaning of this teaching in the same way as understood by historic orthodox Christianity?

Mormons believe that Jesus was the brother of Lucifer, and that He has spirit brothers and sisters.  Mormons believe that Jesus is only begotten in that Elohim came down to Mary and had physical relations to bring about the incarnation.  (Many Mormons are ignorant of this or deny it.)  Mormons also believe that the spirit brothers and sisters of Jesus are sent into people by the heavenly Father when a baby is conceived. Mormons reject that the Holy Trinity alone is divine; and that people are created beings only and will never be gods.

4. What is the group’s doctrine of salvation?

Does the group teach salvation by God’s free grace without any service, qualification, or works added as a form of merit to be made acceptable to God or to help grant admission to heaven, or help one stay in a good standing to go to heaven. Does the group believe that salvation is by God’s fee grace and that it is only accomplished by Christ blood atonement on the cross and His glorious bodily resurrection? Furthermore, does the group believe that all men everywhere are in need of salvation and are in a state of lostness and sure damnation apart from God’s interrupting gift of grace? On the other hand, does the group believe that salvation is by human achievement rather than by divine accomplishment? Does the group deny that Jesus accomplished all that is needed for salvation on the cross?  

Mormonism as well as other false religions and cults add that a person needs to perform service or good works before God to help gain admittance to heaven or in the case of Mormonism the ultimate heaven.

These are four theological tests for a cult. If a group, first, claims to be a true representation of Christianity but fails one of the four theological tests, then that group is classified most often as a cult. It is for sure classified as false. Mormonism fails to pass all four of the theological test above.  By all theological terms, Mormonism is definitely a false cult that deceives people while claiming to be the true restored form of Christianity.  

THE SOCIOLOGICALLY DEFINITION OF A CULT

A second major consideration about the definition of a cult is this.  Is the group being considered a cult sociologically?  This question is different than a theological question. The secular news media would be more interested in this type of classification and definition of the term cult.Here are some questions that are asked when considering if a group is a cult sociologically.

1. Does the group follow an over powerful dominating charismatic leader? 

2. Does the group call for unusual devotion to a charismatic religions leader?

3. Does the charismatic religious leader claim to have direct revelation from God? Is he an authority on equal footing or with greater footing than a book like the Bible?

4. Does the group call for complete separation from society?

5. Does the group call for a giving away or selling of all or almost all person property?

6. Does the group require communal living?

7. Does the group call for a radical separation from family members or other loved ones who are outside the group?

8. Does the group claim to be a God honoring religion but participates in rampant immorality, including sexual favors for the leader?

9. Does the group exert a controlling influence over the routine lives and thoughts of its adherents?

10. Does the group classified as a “dooms day cult” in which the group calls for a halting of all or most all normal living as it waits for a coming set date for the return of Christ or the end of the world?

11. Does the group encourage others to commit suicide?

Mormonism Fails Some of the Sociological Test for Determining if a Group is a Cult

Main stream LDS or Mormonism only fails on a few of the sociological test questions today. It failed more test at the time of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young than it does today. But today Mormonism is more cleaned up and refined than in the days of its infancy.

When we say that Mormonism is a cult sociologically, some probably identify the term with David Koresh or Jim Jones or some group separated in the mountains somewhere isolated and following a charismatic leader. Mormons started out that way in following Joseph Smith. 

There are also questions about the sexual motivations of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young as they introduced polygamy with multiple wives.  Joseph Smith even took wives from other men committing adultery with them and fathering children by them.  See http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org/  Brigham Young is said to have had 52 wives. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigham_Young#Plural_marriage All of this is contrary to the New Testament teaching requiring a spiritual leader to be the husband of only one wife.

1 Timothy 3:1-2(1)  This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.(2)  A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife,

To be sure, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were immoral sexual deviants.  These are men that Mormons revere as there founding Prophets and most important leaders.  Sociologically, Mormonism is definitely a cult though it has largely reshaped its image in modern times.    For the most part today, Mormon people don’t live in commune groups separated from the rest of the world. Mormons are normal people and often very good neighbors and citizens. However an exception today is the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or FLDS which still practices polygamy and is considered oppressive to women and is known for incest. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalist_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter_Day_Saints

Presently there are an estimated 30,000-60,000 polygamist “fundamentalists” living in Utah and surrounding states. The two leading groups are the United Apostolic Brethren, located in a suburb of Salt Lake City, and residents of the twin border towns of Colorado City and Hildale (originally called Short Creek), straddling the Utah-Arizona border and known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.   http://www.signaturebookslibrary.org/essays/mormonpolygamy.htm

Main stream LDS Mormonism also still clearly fails the sociological test question #3 for the following reasons why. The question stated above is repeated here again.

3. Does the charismatic religious leader claim to have direct revelation from God? Is he an authority on equal footing or with greater footing than a book like the Bible?

Consider the following selection from the 14 points in how to respond to the Living Prophet taken from BYU.

# 1 The Living Prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

# 2 The Living Prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

# 3 The Living Prophet is more important to us than a dead Prophet.

# 6 The Prophet doesn’t have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture.

# 9 The Prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.

#10 The Prophet man be involved in civic matters.

#14 The Prophet and the Presidency - the living Prophet and the First Presidency - follow them and be blessed, reject them and suffer.… If we want to know how well we stand with the Lord, then let us ask ourselves how well we stand with His moral captain. How closely do our lives harmonize with the words of the Lord’s anointed-the Living Prophet the President of the Church of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  

To read more and see the source from BYU click below…

http://pastors4huckabeeblog.com/are-christians-bigiots-if-they-can-not-support-mitt-romney-because-he-is-a-mormon/  

and read the article What Mormonism Teaches About Following Their Living Prophet

These above facts make Mormonism very cultic sociologically as well as theologically. But, on the other sociological aspects, the LDS group fails the sociological tests today less often. Mormonism fails sociologically the previous question #3 and to some degree question #2 when it comes to how Mormon teachings call address the revelatory authority of the Living Prophet. The oath that Mormon Bishops take like Mitt Romney also qualifies Mormonism as a cult sociologically. The main reason that Mormonism is considered a cult is because of the theological test, not though in some cases also the sociological test.   

                                                   Sherwood Haisty, Jr. 

                                                   pastorsherwood@fbcfillmore.org 

 




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