Friday’s Dilemma: “Oh Yes, Mormonism is a Cult”

By: Jeff Spector
August 30, 2013

wagging-fingerSo you happen to meet someone who is related to a family member. They happen to be a “Born Again Christian.” They know you and your family are Mormon. You share two meals together. You pray together. Nothing is really said on the topic of religion.  The following day, outside of your presence, they start talking to your family member.

Person: “Oh yes, Mormonism is a cult.”

Family member: “No, it’s not.”

P: “Yes, you worship Joseph Smith.”

FM:  “No, we don’t. We worship Heavenly Father and Jesus. Joseph Smith was a Prophet like Moses and Abraham.”

P: ” That’s not right.”

FM: ” What do you mean that’s not right? I was raised in it, I should know.”

P: ” Well, you’re wrong.”

That’s how it went down. Sounds like the 1980′s all over again.  My family member then left that uncomfortable situation. The challenge is that it is not really over. My family member now has to be around a person who feels this way.

So how would you or have you dealt with that kind of a situation?

 

25 Responses to Friday’s Dilemma: “Oh Yes, Mormonism is a Cult”

  1. mh on August 30, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    I’d probably tell him he was a bigot and should stay away from my family until he learned to become a true Christian. I would also tell him that if he didn’t have anything nice to say he should keep his mouth shut.

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  2. hawkgrrrl on August 30, 2013 at 10:12 AM

    That person is just spouting what their preacher told them. And their preacher did that because they are afraid of losing members of their flock to Mormonism. I would suggest this person trust their preacher when it comes to their own religion, but let other religions be the authority on what they teach, and if they still persist, I would just say: “I’m out, bitches!”

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  3. DavidH on August 30, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    I might say something like, “How we see things depends upon where we sit. From where I sit, my religion is not a cult, and I only worship God and Jesus. I do know that people in some denominations view my religion differently. And while I disagree, I hope we can disagree without being disagreeable and that we can respect one another. And if you don’t wish to respect me for my choices, I understand that, and it is your right. But please know that I will respect you anyway, including your wishes whether you desire to continue to interact with me. The ball is in your court.”

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  4. Lynda Rowan on August 30, 2013 at 11:49 AM

    I would Say, “We are all Heavenly Fathers children. We all worship the same God . We all believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. We LDS believe a little bit more. We believe in Prophets who commune with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and Temples, as did the Israelites in the Bible. These things are in the Bible. What you all seem to have a problem with is The Book of Mormon. If you would take the time to read it you would see that it is a history of the people who Heavenly Father sent away from Jerusalam to another contenant. Their record of their lives with Heavenly Father speaking to them thru the Prophets. Heavenly Father has told us through our Prophet that all religions are christian and we are to get along with each other. ” Then I would probably say what the people in the comments here have said.

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  5. Hedgehog on August 30, 2013 at 12:19 PM

    My husband’s brother and his wife are devout Baptists. She pretty much does view our religion as a cult, though he is more relaxed.
    However it isn’t mentioned when we meet up once or twice a year. If church activities get mentioned it is always as ‘church’ without specifying which church (and it does come up because we all of us pretty busy with our respective churches), and we absolutely do not proselytise eachother. So, we mange to be pretty civil, on the whole. Thankfully.

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  6. Casey on August 30, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    I recently read Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind (which I think one or two people on this blog have written about), and one of the points he makes over and over again is that our minds are like a person riding an elephant: As I understand, the elephant represents our emotional brain, which is heavily influenced by culture and family/friend “tribal” associations, and it’s responsible for making most of our snap judgements about ideas and people. The rider, our rational side, can sometimes influence the elephant if it’s leaning slightly one direction or another, but for the most part it’s just along for the ride and exists mostly to justify what the elephant is already doing. It’s a lawyer, not a philosopher.

    Trying to apply that here, I’d say that telling them off would be very satisfying but definitely unproductive, while trying to reason or even bearing sincere testimony is just trying to influence the rider while the elephant is already committed to not listening. The only good solution is to try and develop some kind of personal relationship with them enough that their elephant starts leaning in your direction, which might open the door to a “rider to rider” conversation. And of course that applies to both parties. I can’t think of many times I’ve had a productive conversation on religion (or politics, sports, music, etc) with someone I disagree with unless I’ve already established a relationship with them on some other ground.

    Anyway, that’s my analysis of what I think I OUGHT do in that situation, but in actual practice I’d probably remain silent, try to leave the conversation, then walk away thinking they’re a bigoted fool and write a sarcastic blog post later on :)

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  7. Brent Hartman on August 30, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    From my perspective, any religion that requires you to sustain a fallible man in order to get baptized is a cult.

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  8. Kaimi on August 30, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    Oh, yeah? Well, _you_ worship Cookie Monster.
    No I don’t.
    Yes, you do! C is for cultist, beyotch.

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  9. Dave on August 30, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    Read this post reviewing William Lobdell’s book a couple of years ago for some examples of cultish Evangelical behavior.

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2010/05/review-losing-my-religion/

    And then there are the money-driven cults of personality that Evangelical pastors foster.

    http://mormoninquiry.typepad.com/mormon_inquiry/2006/11/evangelical_cul.html

    If Evangelicals understood cults and wanted to avoid them, they wouldn’t be Evangelical.

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  10. hjisha on August 30, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    Why not just embrace the family member and say, ” I know our love for Jesus and each other is bigger than our differences.”

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  11. Anders on August 30, 2013 at 6:11 PM

    Does a person have to believe in Joseph Smith to enter the celestial kingdom? Yes or No?
    Is it enough for a good Christian to believe in Jesus 100% or do they also need to believe in Joseph Smith to gain exaltation?

    If Jesus did not believe in Joseph Smith as a prophet would be worthy to receive a temple recommend?

    One sign of a cult is you are required to believe in the man who invented it.

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  12. Angela C on August 30, 2013 at 6:37 PM

    The biggest sign of a cult is you can’t get out. Fail.

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  13. Jeff Spector on August 30, 2013 at 7:19 PM

    Thanks for the suggestions. My own experience is that it usually doesn’t matter what you say, they will continue to believe what they want. Once in a while you’ve heard the stories about someone who has been taught that the Church is a cult and a number of other things which are usually wrong or not represented correctly. many of those folks end up joining the Church once they are told the real story. But, they are the exception rather than the rule.

    I’ve never had that happen to me, personally. And I used to encounter those Christian folks a lot.

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  14. Sandy Liscom Emmons on August 31, 2013 at 12:01 AM

    I agree with Hawkgrrrl in that they are just spouting foolishness taught from the pulpit. Many other religions teach from the pulpit the evils of other religions. I would hand her a pass along card with the 13 articles of faith on it. It clearly defines our basic tenets. Arguing does nothing to convince someone they are wrong. I usually say, I am a Mormon and I know my own religion. If you wanted someone to know about your religion would you ask a Mormon? Probably not. Getting correct information for another religion should be to ask someone of that particular religion.

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  15. SilverRain on August 31, 2013 at 6:07 AM

    “One sign of a cult is you are required to believe in the man who invented it.”

    You mean like Luther, or the creedal councils, or Wesley? Your questions are pure silly.

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  16. Angela C on August 31, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    Hear, hear, SilverRain!

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  17. Timree on September 1, 2013 at 9:02 AM

    If the church did away with the missionary program once and for all, it would appear far less cultish to the outside world. Identically dressed missionaries who are restricted from seeing their loved ones, having a personal life, etc. might seem cultish to many, and they may think that missionaries represent all Mormons.

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  18. Anders on September 1, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    “You mean like Luther, or the creedal councils, or Wesley? Your questions are pure silly.”

    No one has to believe in Luther or Wesley or creedal councils to gain exaltation in Christianity.
    But you have to believe in Joseph Smith to gain exaltation in Mormonism…don’t ya?

    Come on you know you do. What happens if a Mormon deny Joe as a prophet of God? Now what happens to a Christian if they deny Luther, Wesley or the Pope….Nothing that is what. A cult requires you to believe in the con man that created it to gain exaltation.

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  19. nate on September 1, 2013 at 4:09 PM

    Anders says, “But you have to believe in Joseph Smith to gain exaltation in Mormonism…don’t ya?”

    Yes, we do have to believe in Joseph Smith to gain exaltation in Mormonism. That’s the simple answer. There are some caveats to this and a whole range of other doctrines in the LDS church universalize what seems on the outside to be a cultish and outrageous doctrine.

    Anders also rightly points out the dramatic difference between our prophets and other church leaders like Luther or Wesley. However, Anders is wrong about the Pope. The Catholic church also believes that you have to believe in the Pope to gain access to heaven, and be baptized in the Catholic church.

    The Pope and the Mormon prophet both claim to have been given divine priesthood authority and keys which are nescessary to perform ordinances like baptism. This is extremely different than Protestant sects like Lutherns and Methodists, who believe that authority resides in the Bible, not in any living man.

    You can call Mormonism a cult if you want, but you have to call Catholicism a cult as well. We both claim to have the exclusive authority to perform saving ordinances. Not everyone in Mormonism and Catholicism is dogmatic about these authorative claims. But that is nevertheless the official doctrine.

    I think Mormons try to agree with Evangelicals and Protestants too much. We try to shove everything under the carpet and say, “we’re just like you! We believe in Jesus too!” But we are much closer to Catholics than Protestants. What makes Mormonism Mormonism is our claim to have authority. Otherwise, we would be just any other Protestant sect with some random interpretation of the Bible.

    Evangelicals don’t particularly hate Catholics, but they hate Mormons. Why? Catholics have extra-Biblical scriptures (The Apocrapha), like we have the Book of Mormon. Catholics have modern, authoritive prophets (Popes) just like we have Joseph Smith and Thomas S. Monson. Catholics believe in works (in addition to grace) just like Mormons.

    I think we should focus on pointing out our differences clearly. Otherwise, Evangelicals become obsessed with thinking we are dishonest and decieved. If they know that we are happy to be different than them, and to proudly point them out, then they can begin to simply accept those differences.

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  20. Wyoming on September 1, 2013 at 6:09 PM

    Do you have to believe in the words of Apostles such as Mathew, Mark, Luke, Paul, Isaiah to be saved? Unless you have seen Christ, you are relying on the words of His witnesses for information about His reality and the path to salvation.

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  21. Ray on September 1, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    Mirrors are to be avoided at all costs in conversations like this – and I apply that to us just as often as to others.

    My favorite response of all time (and I forget the source, but it was in the Bloggernacle) is:

    “Lord, is it I?”

    Having said that, if I was in a pissy mood, I would say:

    “If you are right, you can laugh at me as I burn in Hell. If I am right, I will happily embrace you in Heaven – and I won’t be laughing at anyone burning in Hell.”

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  22. Douglas on September 1, 2013 at 11:56 PM

    There are times I think the Good Lord allows “Born Agains” just to screw with us. Though most of them are decent enough folks, and we do have a lot in common, their tendency to label Mormons as “cultists”, to demonize us (some even declare with a straight face that Mormons are demon-possessed), and to rely on the likes of the late Walter Martin or Ed Decker as the last word on Mormonism is annoying, to put it mildly. To those that would scripture-bash, I prefer to just briefly bear my testimony, place a Book of Mormon in their hands, and tell them to feel free to query me about my faith AFTER they’ve read the thing cover-to-cover. Until then, leave me alone.

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  23. Sandy Liscom Emmons on September 5, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    My cousin is a born again Christian. She has a real dilemma on her hands because on one hand she is taught over the pulpit that the ‘other’ side of the family is part of a cult and going to hell, however, on the other hand after having a lengthy conversation with her and her very opinionated husband at the family reunion, she has come to realize that we actually have minds of our own and are capable of independent thought. We are not brainwashed. We are intelligent. We know our religion. We study things out for ourselves. We read the King James Bible the same as she does. We are not mindless robots. We are Christian in every sense of the word. We are kind, charitable, and loving. We have opened her eyes to the possibility that we may indeed be Christian. Perhaps a different type of Christian from herself. We have some very different beliefs from her, but the basic belief in Jesus Christ is the same and we live accordingly. (For the most part) I also have learned an appreciation for Born Again Christians from her. She is very sincere in her belief system. She is kind. She is a good person. She is moral and keeps the commandments. We are taught that people from other religions will make it to the Celestial Kingdom. Yes from our pulpit. I appreciate this view most of all. That is one of the things I love most about being LDS. We don’t claim that good people of other religions are going to hell.

    When I think of a cult I tend to think of someone who is brainwashed into following some random guy and handing over all of their worldly possessions to him. They are not encouraged to study anything for themselves.

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  24. Jeff Spector on September 6, 2013 at 6:35 AM

    We may be subject to some “cult-like” behaviors around personalities and frankly some members act like cult-members according to the standard definition.

    But then again, what religion does not have that? the fact that some BACs will just believe what they are told about us without question and argue with us when we say they are wrong, puts them in that same category of cult-like behavior….

    Which is weird because, most of the time, we are talking about good, Christian minded people.

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  25. Kullervo on September 6, 2013 at 2:09 PM

    We are Christian in every sense of the word. We are kind, charitable, and loving. We have opened her eyes to the possibility that we may indeed be Christian. Perhaps a different type of Christian from herself. We have some very different beliefs from her, but the basic belief in Jesus Christ is the same and we live accordingly.

    Nonsense; you reject the Trinity. “Who Jesus is” is a basic belief in Jesus Christ.

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