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The LDS Restorationist movement

Why the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints
is not a cult.

An essay donated by Samuel Klein

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This essay was written by a visitor to this web site. As such, it expresses the views of the author. If you disagree with the opinions of the author of this essay, we urge you to write an essay of your own and submit it to us.

The term "Mormon church" in this essay refers to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- a.k.a. the LDS Church -- which is by far the largest of the approximately 100 denominations that trace their history back to Joseph Smith's original Church of Christ.

In contrast, essays on The LDS Restorationist movement written by the staff of this web site attempt to represent the full diversity of beliefs within the movement.

A Mormon elder who reviewed this essay disagreed with many points, and maintains that his Church does not teach:

  • The plurality of gods,
  • The inequality of women,
  • The deity of Adam,
  • The relative inferiority of Jesus,
  • That Joseph Smith and his successors are the true saviors of mankind, and
  • Unbiblical theology.

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An examination of the practices and beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), combined with a look at popular views and definitions of what a cult is, shows us that when the LDS Church is referred to as a cult, the purpose is to simply deny the validity of the faith.  The facts can only lead us to conclude that this faith group is not a cult, but the next step along the same path that has also produced Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The church is not a cult, but a separate (if immature) religion in its own right.

In today's lexicon, the term cult is applied with a negative connotation. The negative context comes into play when we consider those who have been associated with the term cult in modern times. However, this negative connotation was not always intended, nor were cults always considered the "bad seeds" of society that the general public thinks of them today.

In order to determine if the LDS Church is a cult, the first thing we must do is to define what a cult is.  There is no universally accepted definition of what a cult is.  Because of this fact, for the purpose of this thesis, we will examine three particular views in order to determine if the LDS Church is indeed a cult. 

First, we will examine a dictionary definition, then a secular definition, and finally a sociological definition.  While we explore these definitions, we will establish criteria for to use in determining the validity of the view of the LDS Church as a cult, and then explore those criteria as applies to the Church itself.

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Three definitions of "cult":

Dictionary definitions: The first definition of "cult" we will explore is that of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online. They offer five definitions for the word Cult, listed in the historical order in which they were used.  1 Of these, the first three are pertinent to our discussion.

bullet The first listed definition is: "formal religious veneration: worship." This definition simply states that a cult can be considered any type of organized worship.  This is important because by this definition, any and all religions, sects, denominations and faith groups can be labeled as cults.  The simple act of worship allows the appellation to be used.  The connotation of this definition is neutral, and merely means the same thing that we today mean when we use the word religion.
bullet The second definition is: "a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also: its body of adherents." This expands on the original by including the rituals and surrounding belief system of those who worship.  It also expands the definition to include the group who practices these rituals and beliefs.  Again, the connotation is neutral and simply implies a religion in general. 
bullet The last definition we will explore here is: "a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also: its body of adherents." This third definition offered by Merriam-Webster narrows the scope of its use to those religions whose beliefs are considered outside of the mainstream belief system of the surrounding society.  Though narrowing the definition in this regard, one is still able to place any and all faith groups into this category, depending on one's personal belief.  This is, however, the first use of the word with a negative connotation, and singles out those belief systems which society views as different or unorthodox.
bullet Definitions four and five regard healing, literary or intellectual cults, (i.e. cult classic films, Ann Rand fans, etc.). Although it is arguable whether these particular groups fall into this category, these definitions are not pertinent to this discussion.

Secular definitions: The next view that we will explore is a secular one, in particular the definition posed by John Ankerberg and John Weldon in their book Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions.  According to Ankerberg and Weldon:

"...a cult may be briefly defined as 'a separate religious group claiming compatibility with Christianity but whose doctrines contradict those of historic Christianity and whose practices and ethical standards violate those of biblical Christianity'." 2

This definition simply states that any religious organization that claims to be Christian, or to be compatible with Christianity, that does not adhere to the basic principles of Christianity, can be considered a cult.  This is actually a very narrow definition because it only includes groups that claim to be Christian in origin.  However, as the book goes on to explain:

"A more expanded definition would include: 'any religious origination (not a standard world religion):

  1. promoting the indoctrination ('to teach to accept the system of thought uncritically') of unbiblical theology in key doctrinal areas;
  2. demanding submission to an unbiblical authoritarian structure, or an individual leader; and
  3. promoting excessive spiritual or psychological regulation or dependence'." 2

First, this definition states that any religious group that uses scripture that is outside of the Bible is by definition a cult.  It then goes on to explain further that groups that require adherence to a non-biblical individual leader or structure of leadership are cults. The next explanation describes those groups that require unconditional acceptance of the beliefs, tenants, scripture and leadership of the group. The last explains that groups that limit or restrict independent thought or personal independence, and instead promote spiritual and psychological dependence upon the group or leaders of the group are cults. 

According to Ankerberg and Weldon, other characteristics of cults include: spiritualism, Hinduism, polytheism, mysticism, occult practices, and the rejection of Christianity. This expanded definition and included criteria imply that this particular secular opinion holds that any non-Abrahamic faith based group is little more than a non-legitimate cult.

Sociological definition: The third and final view of what a cult is that we will explore is the sociological view as posed by James C. Livingston. In his book Anatomy of the Sacred, Livingston states:

"They display a luxuriant diversity of religious experience and....derive from many different sources. Some....have roots in Asian traditions.  Others....are essentially new expression of sectarian Protestantism, although they also reflect the influences of popular culture....A third type....represents an eclectic mix of American pop-psychology, older forms of therapeutic mind-cure, elements of eastern mysticism, and meditation, and a return to the wisdom of the earth. ....Finally there is a flowering of various forms of 'esotericism', for example, systems of astrology, witchcraft, magic, and other forms of the occult."

"Many of these....movements do not conform to the dominant characteristics of traditional sects.  They appear to be new and loose knit, and they are often a mixture of religious beliefs" 3

Livingston goes on to explain further:

"...The term serves to designate those new movements that appear to represent considerable estrangement from, or indifference to, the older religious traditions." 4

This explanation differs from the other two in that it is both more specific than the Merriam-Webster's definition, and more objective than Ankerberg and Weldon's definition.  Livingston's definition encompasses what is more commonly referred to today as "New Religious Movements" (NRM), that is a religious movement that is new and in many ways has not grown past the fetal stages of development.  These movements are not yet well established, have few followers, and are not readably accepted by society.  Their beliefs are often new and unorthodox; often they are based on non-traditional sources, and in many cases may be individualized to the particular worshiper.

In this view, only a young belief system, regardless of its inspiration or affiliation, should be termed a new religious movement (simply a less offensive phrase meaning cult).  But once that belief system becomes established and is generally accepted by society, it would more properly be considered a sect or individual religion. 

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Analysis of the Dictionary definition:

According to Merriam-Webster, a cult would exhibit formal religious veneration.  The LDS church venerates the Bible, the Book of Mormon, their prophets, teachings, and ideology. In addition, the church includes other works of Scripture that it venerates. Along with these the LDS Church venerates, even deifies, individuals including Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, other prophets and angels, and even goes so far as implying that all Mormons can become gods in their own right (self veneration). 

Though religious veneration also entails many other aspects of the church, these facts are sufficient to conclude that it is undeniable that LDS Church exhibits veneration. 

But does this bring us to the conclusion that Mormonism is a cult?  The answer is yes, but not in the same context as is generally meant.  In this context, Mormonism is a cult, but by "cult" what is really meant is a system of worship.  Cult is here representing the same thing as the word "religion" represents in contemporary lexicon. 

Does the church follow a set system of religious beliefs and rituals? The LDS Church conducts formal religious services, formal rituals, performs services in conjunction with the society pertaining to its faith, and teaches a particular theology.  The particular beliefs and rituals are written down in various works of scripture, including the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the writings of the church presidents, which are considered canon.  Many of the rituals and religious services are rooted in Masonic traditions, a society which itself is sometimes referred to as a cult. 

By this definition, the LDS Church can also be considered a cult, but again, not in the sense that is commonly meant.  Again, this particular definition is referring to what we now term as a religion.   By extension, the body of followers can also be called a cult (the second part of the definition), but this is not meant in a derogatory fashion, only as a means of identifying the group.  The Roman Catholic Church, for example, contains within it numerous "cults" that are referred to as such by the Church, such as the Cult of Mary.  This terminology is not meant as condescending or derogatory towards its members or the movement, only to show that the followers of this particular group venerate Mary in particular. 

The third definition is the particular definition that fits today's perception of what we term a cult:  A spiritual system of belief that can, by contemporary standards, be considered unorthodox.   To put it another way: A religious group that follows a system, which is seen as outside of the norm by the local population. 

There is little doubt that, by American as well as contemporary Christian standards, the LDS Church follows a system of belief that is at times unorthodox, heretical, and in some ways completely abhorrent to the beliefs of the general population.  Much of what the LDS Church believes, (e.g. plurality of gods, inequality of women, deity of Adam) is contrary to the American Christian standard.  By these standards, the Church, along with its members, is what today can be called a cult.  However, also by this definition, followers of Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and any number of other established world religions can also be appropriately termed cults.  

In effect, if we simply follow the dictionary definition, we can conclude that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is indeed a cult; however, we must also conclude that the usage of the word "cult" is not necessarily congruent with the intent of its usage.  The word "cult" is popularly used today to refer to a group of believers who follow unorthodox beliefs that are generally considered to be abhorrent and or inherently wrong.  The current usage of this word implies such things as devil worship, spell casting, spirit worship and other practices which are (often times wrongly) associated with such faith groups as Wicca and Native American spirituality, not with Mormonism.

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Analysis of the Secular View:

The various sects and denominations of Christian theology are so numerous that any reasonable attempt to cover all of them would entail not only several volumes, but also several lifetimes.  For this reason, this essay will focus on one particular secular view of what a cult is. 

According to John Ankerberg and John Weldon, a cult is simply any form of religious practice that falls outside of the standard beliefs and practices as taught and practiced by contemporary Protestant Christians.  Any group which falls outside of Christianity, or outside of their narrow view of what Christianity, and hence a "Christian" is to be considered a cult, and therefore dangerous to the Christian way of life. 

Though it is obvious form their definitions that Ankerberg and Weldon are conservative protestant Christians, they never specifically define what they term as "Christian".  Also, many groups claim that other faith groups are not truly Christian, and that "true Christians" follow only X set of rules and interpretations.  For these reasons, it is now important for us to set some type of accepted definition of what we will term "Christian". 

Because the term "Christian" is itself ambiguous, for the purposes of this
essay, we will define "Christian" as:

"A faith group, or member thereof, who accepts the Bible as an inspired work, accepts the god of the Bible as the only true god, and who views Jesus Christ as the savior of mankind."

These three aspects are the common ground that nearly all those who profess to be Christian can all agree.

Considering this, do the doctrines of the LDS Church contradict those of historic Christianity?  The contemporarily modern answer to this is yes, however historically the answer is more ambiguous.  Let us look at some of the more obvious examples while we explore and compare the aspects involved.

First, the LDS Church is most definitely "a separate religious group claiming compatibility with Christianity".  The Mormon acceptances of outside scripture (Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, etc.) sets the church outside of the traditional Christian view, but are their doctrines compatible with Christianity?

Mormons believe in the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost), but view it as three separate entities. 7 The Mormon Church identifies these entities as: God (Adam), 8,9  Jesus (the Son) and the Holy Spirit (also referred to as Holy Ghost). Some Protestant Christian groups identify these three as aspects of God, all separate yet aspects of the same entity, some as separate yet equal entities, others deny its existence all together.

The Mormon view is not compatible with that of Ankerberg and Weldon's because it ascribes different identities to the same entities.  However, the idea of the Trinity is one of the most hotly disputed aspects of biblical studies.  The concept is based only on a few versus within the Bible, and the interpretation of this concept has caused many individual sects and denominations to come into existence.  There is no universally accepted standard explanation of this concept, and therefore, the Mormon idea of The Trinity can simply be viewed as yet another interpretation of the concept. That the idea of a Trinity is a part of historical Christian teaching and doctrine is undeniable, and hence this aspect of Mormon doctrine is not at odds with the Christian view.

According to Ankerberg and Weldon, the Mormon View of Jesus is incompatible with that of Christians. They view Jesus as "Common (One of many gods) and in some ways minor in importance in the larger Mormon cosmology" (Ankerberg and Weldon, 299).  Though roughly accurate, this interpretation of the Mormon view of Jesus neglects that Joseph Smith and his successors are viewed in this same regard. 

The deity of Adam is another incompatibility since by deifying Adam, the Mormons are saying that God (the Father) is not the only god, only the supreme god in what is essentially a pantheon.  Mormons view Adam (in fact all men) as the corporal incarnation of a physical son of God.  Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden (as opposed to created there) in a spirit sense, and a body was made for him (Thus achieving the Second Estate in Mormon terminology).  This is in conflict with the Christian view of Adam as a purely physical earthly creation of God (not to mention in conflict with view of Adam as God). 

Historically speaking however, the Hebrew beliefs may not have always been that there is only one god.  In the original Hebrew, the word that is translated as "God" is el-o-heem. (Strong's Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries, #H430) This is a plural form of the word el-o'-ah, el-o'-ah, which simply means a supreme being or deity. (Strong, #H433)  It would be reasonable to assume that the early writers of the Bible would use words that expressed what they meant, and therefore that the original writers of the Old Testament may well have believed in many gods with yeh-ho-vaw' (Jehovah, or "The Lord") as simply the head of, or greatest of, the gods.  

This particular sentiment is also expressed in Exodus 20:5, which specifically states:  "Thou shalt have no other gods before me". 5 (Emphasis added) This specificity in wording conveys that the early Israelites may well have if not worshiped, at least acknowledged the existence of many gods and that yeh-ho-vaw' also recognized the existence of those gods. We see now that though the idea is not in conflict with what the Bible actually says, the Mormon idea of plurality does conflict with traditional Christian teaching.  

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The LDS doctrine of plural marriage is in stark contrast to the modern Christian view of the subject.  However, in a historical sense, it was not uncommon, at least in the pre-Christian era, for the Hebrew Kings and prophets to possess more than one wife.  Even in the early days of Christianity, the possession of one or more wives by a single man was considered a symbol of material wealth.  This was not necessarily a Christian or Hebrew belief as much as a cultural belief.  Also, historically, polygamy was a common practice in the Middle East, and its practice is quite common in the early forms many religious belief systems including all of the Abrahamic traditions. 

We can now see, as does the LDS Church, that the tradition of
plural marriage itself was an accepted practice throughout history and in many faiths.  Christianity was one of the first which strictly forbid it; however since Mormonism proclaims to be a return to the church which Christ himself arranged, the principle of plural marriage is sound in a historical sense because rejection of polygamy did not come around until after the crucifixion.  Jesus, being a Jew with traditional Jewish beliefs, likely did not himself see anything wrong with the concept. Some eastern orthodox traditions point to the fact that Joseph, presumably an older man, possibly wed Mary as plural wife in a politically arranged marriage.  This can be partially backed by the fact that the Bible suggests that Jesus may have had siblings.  Some interpretations assert the continuing virginity of Mary by asserting that the "siblings" where the children of Joseph from a previous marriage.  It is not unlikely that instead of this prior marriage having been dissolved (by either divorce or the death of the first wife) that Mary was simply a plural wife.

Barring this analysis, the practice of polygamy is not congruent with the modern accepted Christian doctrine.  The practice has not been accepted within the Christian community for most of its existence, and therefore, even considering it in a historical context, polygamy does fall outside of accepted historical Christian doctrine. 

Though we can say that Mormons view the Bible as inspired, they do not view the God of the Bible as the only true God, and although they view Jesus in a similar light, they accept that Joseph Smith and his successors as the true saviors of mankind, not only Jesus.  We now see that Mormons do not fit our established criteria to be considered Christians, thus we must now admit that they are not.  Because of this, they do fit Ankerberg and Weldon's first definition of a cult. 

The second, expanded definition of a cult that is offered actually gives us a little more leeway to explore what, in Ankerberg and Weldon's view, a cult really is.

The LDS Church does promote, even requires, "
indoctrination of unbiblical theology in key doctrinal areas".  Much of the doctrine of the LDS Church comes not from the Bible, but from the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants -- two works not accepted as scripture outside of LDS society.  Where it not for these works, there would be no LDS Church. The very existence of the church is based on the assumption that Joseph Smith was given divine guidance, which led to his discovery of and translation of, the Book of Mormon

Those who do not learn of the
Book of Mormon, and accept the doctrine contained within, are considered Gentiles, just as those who do not read and accept the Torah are called Gentiles by the Jews.  The acceptance of these doctrines, by both groups, must be uncritical.  Critical dissection of any religious doctrine frequently results in the questioning that doctrine, something any theocratic society necessarily wishes to avoid. This applies to Christians, Jews, Muslims and Mormons alike.  The inclusion of this particular criterion in Ankerberg and Weldon's definition of a cult would predispose all religious belief systems to be cults.  The only reason that this is not so is because of the catch-all "not a standard world religion" that they included in their definition. 

Mormonism does demand submission to an authoritarian structure, and that structure does not appear to be biblical.  However, there appears to be no such thing as a defined biblical authoritarian structure, other than a purely theocratic form of government. The only exception to this could possibly be the structure established by the
Roman Catholic Church, and mimicked by many Protestant and Orthodox groups.   However, that structure is not biblical in origin, but based more on the old Roman style governments.

Too, the faith does demand submission to an individual leader, however if this is really a criteria of a cult then, again, most world religions fall into this category.  The
Roman Catholic Church has now and has always had its Popes.  Islam once had its Caliph, and Judaism once had its Kings, all of whom where individual leaders, at least in theory. 

Finally, the Mormon Church does promote excessive spiritual regulation within its ranks.  However, again this is not unusual inside of a religious environment.  Ankerberg and Weldon themselves promote such a concept and in fact every religion, with the possible exception of the
Universal Life Church, promotes excessive spiritual regulation.  Excessive spiritual regulation is the primary moving force behind nearly every religious movement that has ever been developed.  Including this particular criterion in the definition simply allows Ankerberg and Weldon to call anyone that they disagree with a cult.

Probably the most revealing thing this says about their definition (and possibly their understanding of the Bible) is that Ankerberg and Weldon seem not to realize that all of these aspects are part of the basic foundations of the Christian faith.   The most basic assumption of Christianity is that Jesus (an individual leader) will return and set up just such an authoritarian government.  This government itself is not adequately described in the Bible, other than that it will be a rule of God, and thus a theocratic one.  By the definition stated, if Jesus where to return, and every man, woman and child converted, then the resulting new religion would still be a cult because it would not conform to exactly what Ankerberg and Weldon personally perceive the
Kingdom of God to be.

The other characteristics described by Ankerberg and Weldon that a cult exhibits, including spiritualism,
Hinduism, polytheism, mysticism, occult practices and the rejection of Christianity are ambiguous at best and subjective at worst. 

Spiritualism is a requirement of religion as a whole as is mysticism, though generally the latter is practiced only by a select group within a faith (the priesthood or, ironically, a figure cult such as the cult of Mary).  Occult practices are not clearly defined, however generally they include whatever the observer feels that they are.  Polytheism is normally associated with occult practices as is rejection of Christianity.  However, these are included as but a catch-all to include every religious group that does not conform to what Ankerberg and Weldon believe. 

The inclusion of Hinduism is simply as an example of the kind of hypocritical thought that is followed by those who wish to include a particular faith as a cult. Hinduism is an established world religion, something that Ankerberg and Weldon's definition excludes.

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Analysis of a sociological view:

According to James C. Livingston, cults as we perceive them do not exist. What we term as a cult is simply a religious movement that is new and does not conform to what the society as a whole accepts as religious truth. 

The most important aspects of Livingston's definition are that cults, or "New religious Movements" (NRM's) as he calls them, "...are essentially new expression[s] of sectarian Protestantism" and that they "also reflect influences of popular culture" (Livingston pg. 177). In addition, Livingston states that "many of these....movements do not conform to the dominant characteristics of traditional sects."  They also seem new and loose knit, and often mix many different religious beliefs.   

Possibly the most important aspect he mentions is the age of the movement. Mormonism is less than 200 years old, over a thousand years younger than its youngest cousin, Islam.  The question now is does this relative youth qualify Mormonism as a new religious movement? 

Comparatively, Mormonism is quite young and immature.  Its canonical scripture has not solidified as the scriptures of Catholicism, Judaism and Islam have.  The Church is still in the process of a strong recruitment drive that has been going on continuously since the 1830's.  Even the doctrine and beliefs of the church are mutable with the times.  These are all symptoms of a young, immature church. 

Considering this is Mormonism new?  The beliefs that the church where founded on have been, in various forms, around for quite a long time before they where reveled to Joseph Smith in The Book of Mormon.  Virtually nothing (other than the historical side of the Book of Mormon) is new.  Polygamy, plurality, even the belief that Native Americans could be descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel where not new ideas when they where revealed to Smith.

As an organization, the LDS Church is relatively new, but as for the beliefs that they follow, they are not.  Even a short 200 years is a long time for a NRM to continue to exist.   In fact, it was not much more than 200 years before Christianity grew into a powerful enough force within Rome for it to be considered a threat. Mormonism was a powerful political and religious force, as well as a perceived threat, less than 10 years after its inception. 

Added to this is the fact that there are not now, nor have there been, any NRM's with nearly the membership quotient of the LDS Church.  We would have to believe that over 11 million people follow a small, loosely organized new religious movement.  The sheer number of adherents proves the folly of this assumption.

Mormonism is inarguably a Protestant movement.  It rejects the Catholic ideology itself for that of the Book of Mormon and the beliefs of the church leaders.   It was, in its beginning, a new movement that reflected the disgruntlement many felt with the current Lutheran, Pentecostal and Catholic churches.  This clearly qualifies it in the "influenced by popular culture" field. 

In addition, Mormonism does not necessarily conform to many of the characteristics of traditional sects.  However, a large part of Mormon theology is directly based on Christian theology.  Conformity is practically a prerequisite for acceptance in religious circles. Nevertheless, Mormonism does not conform, and oddly, this is one of the strengths that has helped it to grow.  

Mormonism is not loosely knit.  It follows a stringently structured power base reminiscent of the Roman Catholic Church in many ways.  Its members are active in social circles, they do not keep to themselves, and they are not necessarily asked to keep themselves that way.  Many Mormons are pillars of the community, something that cannot readily be said of members of NRM's (though this is not always the case).

Finally, Mormonism does mix many different styles and beliefs into its belief system; however, this is ambiguous because not a single religious movement or faith can claim that its rituals, beliefs and doctrine are 100% original.  Every belief system grows out of another, older belief system. 

The idea that Mormonism is a new religious movement, basically a Protestant sect, which was influenced by popular culture and does not conform to traditional religious norms, is also in essence true. 

In fact, Mormonism in essence conforms to all three definitions of a cult that we have explored.  However, so does every other faith group in existence.  What makes Mormonism a cult is the same thing that makes every faith unique in and of itself.

There is one further definition of a cult that we have not yet explored.  It is not a definition you will find in a dictionary, as a part of secular opinion or a sociology book.  It is the definition by which society unconsciously weighs its view of a religious movement: 

"Any Faith Group that is not accepted as a legitimate belief system by any group or individual."

The deciding factor that causes Mormonism to fall outside of these definitions of a cult is something which none of these three perfectly acceptable views address: Mormonism is accepted by society as a whole.  It is an accepted religious belief with millions of adherents.  Its following is made up of misfits and the pious, the rich and poor, pillars of the community and hardened criminals.  The LDS Church is one of the top-ten highest grossing corporations in the United States, with land holdings, business holdings, and personal riches which add up to the multibillions. 

Members of the LDS Church either serve now or have served in the past as governors, senators, White House staff members, cabinet members, treasurers and general secretaries, and even presidential candidates. 

The Mormon Church today has grown in its maturity to a point at which it can no longer legitimately be called a Christian sect, if indeed it ever could have been. It has progressed in the same traditional way that other Abrahamic traditions have.  A new book (or collection thereof) has been revealed through spiritual means to a prophet who then spread those works to as many people as they could.  That prophet was martyred, and their death helped to solidify the church as a cohesive unit.  The members of this new faith where pushed out of their homes, persecuted, killed and then after time where finally grudgingly accepted in and of themselves. 

The only real difference between the rise of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Mormonism is that Mormonism rose in recent memory, its rise and history are well documented by contemporaries inside and outside of the church, and that first hand documentation survives to this day.  In this respect, Mormonism is virtually unique, and its inception, rise and progression have served as a virtual treasure trove of knowledge for sociologists and social anthropologists.

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In conclusion, after examining this evidence, it is clear that, though Mormonism does essentially fit three traditional definitions of what a cult is, those definitions are inadequate to society's view of what a cult is. If we follow those definitions, we can call Mormonism as well as anything else we want to, a cult. However, when we realize that the particular beliefs of a church do not a cult make, and we understand what we ourselves view as a cult, we can see that this is not the case.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a cult and is much more than a religious movement or a sect. Instead, it is a new and legitimate faith in and of itself.  In the process of its evolution, LDS Church has taken the next great step along the same path its Abrahamic cousins have already traveled.

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Works cited:

  1. "Cult," Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, at:
  2. John Ankerberg and John Weldon, "Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions: Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, Mind Sciences, Baha'I, [sic] Zen, Unitarianism (In Defense of the Faith Series, 2)," Harvest House Publishers, (1999). Introduction, Page XXII. Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  3. J. Livingston, "Anatomy of the Sacred," 4th edition, Prentice-Hall, (2001) Page 177. Read reviews or order this book
  4. Ibid, Page 178
  5. "King James Bible with Strong's numbers," E-Sword Electronic Bible Software, (2003), at:
  6. "Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries,"  E-Sword electronic Bible Software. (2003), at:
  7. Note from the webmaster: The statement that Mormons believe in the Trinity has triggered some irate Emails from some of our readers. What the author appears to mean by the word "Trinity" is that Mormons believe that the Godhead is united in goals and purpose, but exists in three separate entities: God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. In particular, God and Jesus Christ have separate bodies of flesh and blood. Within most of Catholic and Protestant denominations, the term "Trinity" means that the three form a single spiritual unity: three persons in one God.
  8. See: Russell Anderson, "Is God Adam?," at:
  9. Brigham Young taught that God the Father became a human being, as Adam. He came to the Earth and brought one of his wives, Eve, with him. See his sermon dated 1852-APR-9, available in Journal of Discourses 1:50. But these views were probably not generally known to LDS members in the past, and are probably not known to most members today.

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Copyright 2003 by Samuel Klein
Originally written: 2003-SEP-11
Latest update: 2010-FEB-07
Author: Samuel Klein

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