The Mormon Church speaks out against using pejoratives

With all the attention the Mormon Church is getting in the media these days, it’s not surprising that the LDS Church’s Head of Public Affairs, Michael Otterson, has come out swinging over the way Mormonism is being described. In particular, Mr. Otterson does not like people applying the word “cult” to his religion. One can hardly blame him. The word “cult” conjures up images of Peoples Temple and Jim Jones surrounded by his 917 poisoned followers, or Marshall Applewhite’s Heaven’s Gate with its 39 suicide victims. It is no wonder that Mormonism does not want to be lumped in with such horrible and heartbreaking religious disasters.

In his On Faith article, “The Mormon church and the media’s ‘cult’ box,” Mr. Otterson warns journalists that “may be tempted to throw out this nasty word with abandon,” or even tempted to use the word “cult” in the context of what others say, to “expect to be challenged.”

Nobody likes pejorative labels, and that includes critics of Mormonism. People who disagree with the tenets of the Mormon Church are often plastered with the “anti-Mormon” label, or, as we refer to it here at Mormon Coffee, the Mormon N-Word. Since Mr. Otterson said it so well, I will here appropriate a bit of his argument but change it to address “anti-Mormon” instead of “cult.” The words I’ve changed from Mr. Otterson’s remarks appear in brackets.

“If the [Mormon N-]word has no currency in academia, why do some keep repeating it? Because it’s a neat, shorthand and rather lazy way of putting a whole group into a box. Once labeled as [anti-Mormon], there is not much need to explain all of the baggage that comes with it — the implicit ideas of extremism, mind control, authoritarianism and secrecy that play perfectly into the kind of rigid stereotypes beloved of the ignorant and bigoted. [Mormons and] Journalists could and should do better than perpetuate this kind of shallowness when referring to [critics of the Mormon Church]. Rather than continuing to parrot it, it’s time they pushed back against those who choose to use it.”

When Mormons and Mormon apologists label critics with the Mormon N-Word, they believe there is not much need to explain any issues the critics may raise. The dissenters — and their concerns — are shoved into a box with lid tightly closed.

It is not that I care so much what people call me. Sticks and stones…you know. What I care about, and care very deeply about, is that plastering me (and others) with the “anti” label gives Mormons “permission” to dismiss anything I say. As authors Richard and Joan Ostling wrote, “All too often Saints use the label ‘anti-Mormon’ as a tactic to forestall serious discussion” (Mormon America, 376). But serious discussion is exactly what Mormons need. Mr. Otterson said doctrinal differences between Mormonism and “traditional” Christianity should be examined thoughtfully, reasonably and respectfully.” I agree. So let’s get to it.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
This entry was posted in Truth, Honesty, Prayer, and Inquiry and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to The Mormon Church speaks out against using pejoratives

  1. Rick B says:

    I see this as nothing more than a joke, Not a funny, ha,ha joke either. I see the leaders of the LDS church being nothing more than white washed tomes full of dead mens bones.

    I hate the double standers and hypocrisy from the LDS church. I hear way to often from the church PR people how we Christians or people in general that we dont know what they believe and we are getting our facts wrong. But then it is the avrage Lay Mormon like Helen or Ralph or people like that that come to try and defend their religion.

    We never see the PR people or the Mormons who “count” so to speak setting up a rather public Q/A session and saying lets address these issues out in the open and once and for all.

    Like Andy I also have gone to LDS church services a few times, Him more tha me, But I have gone and guess what? I always get tossed to the MM’s who cannot defend what they believe, and when asked if I can talk to a “Higer up” I always here, sorry it’s our job to talk to you, and they are simply to busy.

    We will simply never see the public debates happen as I suggest since we all know they would not fare well for the LDS church since the truth about the doctrines of Blood atonment, Adam God, Many wives Etc would all come to the front with no real valid responce from the Church prophets or presdients. If ANY LDS like Helen or Ralph tells me I am wrong, Then go talk to the Higher up LDS and set up this meeting, I will take time off of work to debate any Prophet or presdient in public.

  2. Kate says:

    I don’t feel that showing Mormon doctrine is “anti”. If the church had been honest from the beginning, instead of trying to hide the more “out there” stuff, this wouldn’t even be an issue. Who’s fault is it really that Mormons don’t know their history or doctrines? Why aren’t those doctrines front and center during church meetings? At my Christian church, Christian doctrine is front and center. We discuss the nature of God (for example). Everything is discussed and picked apart so there is no doubt as to what the Word of God says. If things have to be hidden from most of the congregation because you have to apply “milk before meat” then there is something wrong. When are the “milk” section going to hear about true Mormon doctrines? How can they be Saved without them? How are these people going through the temples not knowing God was once a man, etc….What about the people who just have faith as a little child and follow the prophet because the doctrines are just to weird for words? Are they Saved? Why is it that Christians who show error in doctrines that are supposed to be Christian are called “anti”? Aren’t we to contend for the faith?

  3. falcon says:

    So what’s a cult? Definitions are important. Is it a question of doctrine, church culture or both? cs. I was talking to a dedicated Christian woman about a month ago and she was lamenting that her son, who is in college and mid-twenties, had joined a cult. She was feeling guilty wondering what she could have done to cult-proof him. The problem is that this was an advertised “Christian” group. I didn’t get into what the doctrine of this group was but I could tell instantly that the culture of the group would qualify them as a cult.
    Here are some general characteristics of cults.
    The group is focused on a living leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment.
    The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
    The group is preoccupied with making money.
    Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
    Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting, denunciation sessions, debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
    The leadership dictates sometimes in great detail how members should act, and feel (for example: members must get permission from leaders to date, change jobs, get married; leaders may prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, how to discipline children, and so forth).
    The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and members (for example: the leader is considered the Messiah or an avatar; the group and/or the leader has a special mission to save humanity).
    The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which causes conflict with the wider society.
    The leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control them.
    Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group.
    There are lots of lists out there and this one is not exhaustive.

  4. Ralph says:

    Here is something interesting – your beliefs were once considered cultish by the main body of Christian churches. Just look up the word cult in Wikipedia and it gives the references, but here is the main text for my statement (in bold) –

    Origins in sociology

    The concept of “cult” was introduced into sociological classification in 1932 by American sociologist Howard P. Becker as an expansion of German theologian Ernst Troeltsch’s church-sect typology. Troeltsch’s aim was to distinguish between three main types of religious behavior: churchly, sectarian and mystical. Becker created four categories out of Troeltsch’s first two by splitting church into “ecclesia” and “denomination”, and sect into “sect” and “cult”. Like Troeltsch’s “mystical religion”, Becker’s cults were small religious groups lacking in organization and emphasizing the private nature of personal beliefs. Later formulations built on these characteristics while placing an additional emphasis on cults as deviant religious groups “deriving their inspiration from outside of the predominant religious culture”. This deviation is often thought to lead to a high degree of tension between the group and the more mainstream culture surrounding it, a characteristic shared with religious sects. Sociologists still maintain that unlike sects, which are products of religious schism and therefore maintain a continuity with traditional beliefs and practices, “cults” arise spontaneously around novel beliefs and practices.

    Most here claim that you faith/religion is a personal one and you do not need to go to a church to worship God and that the ‘true church’ is the group of true believers scattered throughout the world regardless of denomination. This fills the definition of the bolded section above, thus your religion is a cult according to this definition.

  5. Ralph says:

    Also, the first paragraph in the Wikipedia article gives the original meaning of the word with an evolution of the meaning –

    The word cult pejoratively refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. The word originally denoted a system of ritual practices. The narrower, derogatory sense of the word is a product of the 20th century, especially since the 1980s, and is considered subjective. It is also a result of the anti-cult movement which uses the word in reference to groups seen as authoritarian, exploitative and that are believed to use dangerous rituals or mind control. The word implies a group which is a minority in a given society. The word was first used in the early 17th century denoting homage paid to a divinity and derived from French culte or Latin cultus ‘worship,’ from cult- ‘inhabited, cultivated, worshiped,’ from the verb colere ‘care, cultivation’.

    The popular, derogatory sense of the word has no currency in academic studies of religions, where “cults” are subsumed under the neutral label of the “new religious movement”, while academic sociology has partly adopted the popular meaning of the word.

    Again, according to the original definition bolded above, any religion including the Trinitarian Christian religion is a cult.

  6. falcon says:

    OK Ralph so what?
    Can we agree on a definition of a cult or is it like coming up with a definition of pornography?
    Definition of Pornography: I know it when I see it!
    Are the Amish a cult? I don’t know if you know who they are but they are a religious community quite prolific in my area that I have spent some time with.
    What about the Moonies or the Children of God. What about Scientology.
    Ralph, how much does the LDS church control your life?
    I don’t have any religious group controlling my life. I’m free. I don’t have to pay 10% of my income to a religion so that I can get into a temple to do rituals so that I can become a god.
    I don’t care about the Free Masonry rituals that Mormons do in their temples in identifying them as a cult. What I think makes a cult is control over the lives of the members.

  7. 4fivesolas says:

    I think all this concern about terminology, fear of the word “cult,” betrays a basic insecurity in the Mormon religion. Thes Mormon people are genuinely afraid of examination – can they withstand a sincere look at why people define them as a Christian cult, or, in other words, a group that seeks to define itself as Christian yet denys all of the essential beliefs of Christians. Even if (and I have no reason to believe this to be true) Mormonism were TRUE, it would not be Christianity. Just as Islam, if it were TRUE, it would not be Christianity. Simply put, the Islam belief system shares as much or more in common with Christianity as Mormonism. Mormon teachings deny basic Christian truths. So whether one uses the word cult or not, this is something that is self-apparent.

  8. Ralph says:


    As the Wikipedia article states – ”The narrower, derogatory sense of the word is a product of the 20th century, especially since the 1980s, and is considered subjective. So I don’t think we will ever agree like using the ‘anti’ word on this site. Many have said that yes OK they can see how it fits them, but they don’t like it because of the negative connotations that are usually the first thing that comes to a persons’ mind when they hear the prefix ‘anti’. The Wikipedia article states that the negative sense of the word evolved in the 20th century, especially around the 1980’s. So do you want to go on with the original meaning or with the newer meaning? By your last statement you are going by the newer meaning. That’s your prerogative and that is what the whole premise of the PR bloke’s comments above are about.

    As far as how much does the church run my life? It doesn’t. I choose to live the way I want according to my faith in God. That is how the church is run despite what people think or say. Yes there are some people in the church that go overboard and try and police everyone, but that is not how the church teaches it should be and not how ultimately it should be done, but we are just imperfect humans. If you saw a fellow Christian doing or teaching what you know is the wrong thing, wouldn’t you step in and try and assist them back into the right way? If not, then what are you doing on here?

  9. Ralph says:

    As far as how much does the church run my life? It doesn’t. I choose to live the way I want according to my faith in God. That is how the church is run despite what people think or say. Yes there are some people in the church that go overboard and try and police everyone, but that is not how the church teaches it should be and not how ultimately it should be done, but we are just imperfect humans. If you saw a fellow Christian doing or teaching what you know is the wrong thing, wouldn’t you step in and try and assist them back into the right way? If not, then what are you doing on here?

    In order to gain blessings (ie going to the temple) there are requirements to live by, but these I again choose to live because of my faith in God and believing that He has asked me to do this, not the church. I can stop living it at any time I want to quite easily, and yes I mean that, I am not saying it like an addict does, although I am not going to tell you about my experiences which allow me to say this.

  10. falcon says:

    I don’t know where you are going with your “experiences” comment? People in cults have “experiences” that cement their dedication and devotion to the (cult) also. An “experience” is subjective in nature and generally causes an emotional reaction in the person (having the experience).
    Part of the tactics of cults are providing experiences that can hook a person and deepen their commitment to the group. Ceremonies and rituals were used by the Nazi’s as a way of suckering people into the group and psychologically conditioning them. Most groups have some sort of ritual base all the way from the Boy Scouts to the Free Masons. The difference is the amount of control that the group exercises over the life of the member. You don’t live in Happy Valley, but I’m sure you’d recognize the difference in the religious culture if you did.
    Walter Martin in his book “Kingdom of the Cults” included a quote from Dr. Charles Braden:
    “By the term cult I mean nothing derogatory to any group so classified. A cult, as I define it, is any religious group which differs significantly in some one or more respects as to belief or practice from those religious groups which are regarded as the normative expressions of religion in our total culture.”
    Walter Martin writes: “I may add to this that a cult might also be defined as a group of people gathered about a specific person or person’s mis-interpretation of the Bible.”
    As a Mormon you adhere to the interpretations of the Bible postulated by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young among others you consider “prophets”. The Mormons deviate significantly from normative orthodox Christianity and yet paradoxically want to be classified as Christians.
    It’s the desire of Mormons to hide their basic doctrines which I think is also cultic.

  11. falcon says:

    In his book “The New Cults” Walter Martin says that,
    “The Hare Krishna youth and the young girl in the Children of God are both selling a religious experience, a subjective and metaphysical journey focusing on the self. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Roy Masters both claim to be exclusive deposits of heavenly wisdom, the source of spiritual ecstasy.
    However, all of these religious leaders have one primary thing in common: they take biblical Christianity and change it into a clever counterfeit of the real thing.”
    Looking at this description, Mormonism would be considered a cult. Mormonism hides behind a mask of deception as can be seen from the reluctance to reveal their most fundamental doctrine to recruits until the (recruit) has been seduced and properly conditioned to the ways of the organization.
    What Mormons believe is a theological aberration when compared to normative Christianity. When examining whether or not a group could be called a cult, we could use the following as an evaluative tool:
    1. What does the group believe about Scripture?
    2. What does the group believe about God?
    3. What does the group believe about Jesus?
    4. What does the group believe about the nature of man and how man can relate to God?
    The bottom line is that a cult deviates significantly from what they believe about the Bible and the Christian doctrines of God, Jesus Christ, man, sin, salvation, and Scripture. We can ask does the group support the doctrine of the trinity, the deity of Christ, the substitutionary atonement, and salvation by grace?
    Beyond this then we can examine the way the group operates and relates to members. This often comes down to the amount of dedication a person is expected to have to the group leaders, the organization in general and the precepts of the religion.

  12. Kate says:

    You know what else I think is cultish? When a grown man calls up a teenage girl to come to an interview with another grown man (bishop) all by herself without a parent, and then proceeds to ask her questions about her sexuality to make sure she is pure and not sinning. My sister in law just received a call for my niece to go to a bishop that she doesn’t even know (they actually asked for my niece and my sister in law asked what it was concerning). She told them no. My oldest son had such a “meeting” and I was appalled at the questions he was asked. I made sure he never went to another one. I thought for sure it was only the boys that were asked such things, but my son said his girlfriend (at the time) was asked the same stuff from her bishop. I wonder if LDS parents are aware that when they send their teenagers into a bishop meeting, that inappropriate questions are asked? If they know, would they think it appropriate for a male teacher or principal to have a private meeting, no parents allowed, and ask these same questions? How about a male police officer? Would those types of questions be allowed? It’s child abuse in my mind. I’m sure that some bishops are just horrified to have to ask such questions, but what if there is a child molester put in as bishop? I’m just sick that I put my son in that position. I had no idea those questions were being asked. When I was a teenager, I was never called in for a bishop’s interview. I’m not sure my dad would have let me go by myself anyways.

  13. falcon says:

    Oh man is this creepy……..CREEPY!!!!!!
    And it’s really stupid from a position of protecting yourself from untrue accusations as the authority figure.
    Man, I’d like to slap these guys. Sorry, I can’t help it.
    The creep factor is more than I can handle. This is not normal or acceptable. Grilling someone about sexual matters? An adult male grilling a teenage girl? What total idiots.
    Yea, that’s cult stuff.
    And the problem is that these bishops are clueless to begin with because most of them have no training in counseling or the Bible for that matter.
    Excuse me, I’ve got to go hit the heavy bag or something.

  14. Kate says:

    LOL! I know right? My sister in law wasn’t aware of the questions that are asked. She isn’t LDS and only her daughter has been baptized. She told them no because she wasn’t about to let some man she doesn’t even know, sit alone in a room with her 17 year old daughter. She felt that was inappropriate in itself, but also thinks that her daughter’s business is NONE of the bishop’s business. I think as parents, we need to protect our kids. Yes even our teenagers. When I allowed my son to go to his interview, I didn’t think of it as inappropriate. We should trust the bishop, after all he does have the “authority” to act as a “judge in Israel”. Looking back, I allowed my son to endure something inappropriate and very awkward for him. I wonder how many Mormon parents understand or even think about what these interviews can do to a kid? A few years ago I read about a boy in Idaho who eventually committed suicide, I think his name was Kip Eliason. These interviews can really do some damage if a kid takes it all to heart. If a principal or a teacher or even a police officer wants or needs to interview a minor, they never do it alone. They make sure a parent or another adult is present. This is how it should be with a church leader as well. If I had been present during my son’s interview, I would have put an end to the questions immediately! Maybe that’s why I wasn’t invited in the first place.

  15. Rick B says:

    Falcon and Kate,
    With all the talk of Men asking girls questions about sex and maybe some touching going on, you guys sure that their not really secert TSA agents?

  16. That’s really creepy. I’ve never heard of that happening around here! How innappropriate. I agree with falcon, that’s also incredibly stupid. These bishops are putting themselves in a terrible position to be falsely accused of abuse. I know Mormons can be weird and awkward, but there ARE some very nice people trying to follow orders and do the “right thing”. This is a TERRIBLE idea. And those poor kids! I would’ve been mortified. If they really feel it’s neccesary to pry into these kids’ personal lives (it isn’t), they should definitely include the parents or another authority figure.

    Actually, I have heard of something similar to this. My friend, before his mission, had to confess some sins to the bishop, including some sexual stuff. The horrifying part? It was with the bishop’s daughter!! I felt sorry for the both of them! lol.

  17. falcon says:

    Isn’t this a little kinky? I can see some sexual suppressed degenerate getting his jollies with this sort of thing. And then there’s the power ratio. That’s apart of this that needs to be addressed. If a leader can get into the very intimate aspects of a person’s life, then they are exerting power over them. They could use the information in subtle ways to manipulate the person. At least when I was a practicing Catholic (kid), we had the secrecy of the confessional.
    I understand that there are real problems with healthy boundaries within the Mormon culture. According to what I’ve read from ex-Mormons, everybody is into everybody else’s business. Abusive environments foster all sorts of judgmental behavior. Everything must look good on the outside, perfect.
    This is very characteristic of cults.
    At least when I was a practicing Catholic (kid), we had the secrecy of the confessional.

  18. Kate says:

    Missionaries always have to have a bishop’s interview before they can receive temple endowments. My friend had to “confess” to his own father who was the bishop. Bishop interviews are nothing new. They have always been there. I said I was never called in as a teenager, but I was called in at 8 to have an interview by myself with the bishop. My mom waited in the hall. These bishops are opening themselves up for false accusations. Maybe some aren’t false as well. Who knows. I guess there is a double standard when it comes to boys and girls. I used to think it would be OK for my son to have an interview by himself with a bishop. I don’t know about letting a daughter (I don’t have a daughter). Now I think that if they are a minor, it doesn’t matter whether they are a boy or girl, they need a parent present. Of course the LDS church would disagree with me. How can they steer them in the right direction according to church law, if a parent is in the room and puts a stop to the questions? Or the kid just won’t admit their sins in front of their parent? Another way to look at it is, if questions can’t be answered in front of a parent, maybe that question is inappropriate. If a kid is struggling with something, they need to turn to Christ. Repent to him. These men who are put into a calling as bishop by other men, do not have the power to forgive sins. The judgment and punishments that follow some of these interviews are also inappropriate in my mind. We all are sinners. Yes, even the bishops doing the judging are sinners. Who are they to judge righteousness?

  19. falcon says:

    OOPS! Did I repeat myself in my last post? I must have been perseverating and having flashbacks to my days in Catholic school. I wonder if I have PTSS. I use to regal my wife with scary nun stories from my days in the Catholic system. I know it took me some time to flush the negative aspects of the experience out of my consciousness. I’ve reconciled it all……I think.
    You know for the Mormon kids who are pretty tough and don’t take the program seriously, this interview with the bishop could be a real hoot. Can you see stringing the poor guy along? You leave and later they find the bishop slumped over his desk having had a stroke based on your interview.
    He’s mumbling and droll is coming out of one side of his mouth and his eyes are rolled back in his head.
    Poetic justice I’d say!

  20. falcon says:

    Do I know how to spell “drool”? It’s not a word I use too often.

    In his book “The New Cults”, Walter Martin gives some common denominators but states that most of the contemporary cults are in some way offshoots of 19th century American Protestantism. He says that that century was a time of social and religious turmoil. It was a time in which people could and did believe almost anything.
    1. Cults, new as well as old, are usually started by strong and dynamic leaders who are in complete control of their followers. The power such leaders exercise is said to be supernatural and to come from either personal revelation or personal anointing.
    2. All cults possess some scripture that is either added to or which replaces the Bible as God’s Word. Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church believes his “Divine Principles” is today’s Bible.
    3. The new cults have rigid standards for membership and accept no members who will not become integrally involved in the group.
    4. Many of the characteristics of cults are similar and it’s not unusual for a person to leave one cult only to join another.
    5. These groups are actively evangelistic and spend much of their time in proselytizing new converts. One of the reasons behind this drive for converts lies in the almost-insatiable drive of the cult to have some outward display showing that it is truly in god’s favor.
    6. Often the leaders of the cults are not professional clergymen. The primary prerequisite for becoming an important voice within a cult is the ability to be a follower.
    7. There’s a system of doctrine and practice which is in some state of flux.
    8. These cults believe their “new” revelation can contradict “old” revelation.
    9. They claim a new truth and a restoration of “pure” Christianity.
    (pp. 17-20).

  21. Kate says:

    Ha ha ha! falcon I’m cracking up over here! I can see this same son who is now a young adult doing that! He’s such a character and would have no problem making the poor bishop believe the unbelievable. He does that to me all the time. I’m a sponge though. I’ll bet the bishops are committing sins just as the teenagers are. We all are! LDS church leaders are put up on such a pedestal. It was always hard for me when a man that I had no respect for, because he wasn’t a very nice person, was put in as a new bishop. I was then faced with having to “respect his authority”. I was told that you need to respect his “office” and that “yes he is a horrible person, but maybe god gave him this calling to help him more the you.” I agree with falcon when he said “What I think makes a cult is control over the lives of the members.” The LDS church wants all control over the lives of it’s members. Lots of LDS are of the same mindset as Ralph. There are rules and they have a choice to follow them. That is true to a point. These teenagers can refuse to answer questions, but what are the consequences of that? Probation? Disfellowship? What happens if a temple endowed Mormon can no longer pay the 10%? Right, no temple recommend. If there is no temple recommend, there is no exaltation. Authority, discipline, Salvation/Exaltation, etc… are all held over the heads of people involved in a cult. Best just to tow the line! Do what you are told. Don’t think for yourself and for heaven’s sake don’t ask questions!
    I believe John 14:6

  22. Brian says:

    Dear Sharon,

    This is a fine post, as usual. Falcon and Kate have made some insightful comments; I’ve learned a lot. You bring a helpful perspective, Kate.

    I can easily understand why Michael Otterson would prefer others not call the group he speaks on behalf of a “cult.” He would probably like to be called something else, such as an LDS member. It can be easy to become preoccupied with what we would like others to name us. Perhaps we want other to see us as we see ourselves.

    In the Bible however, we discover there really are just two kinds of people in this world:

    “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

    As far as God is concerned, one is either saved or is perishing. LDS people do not claim to be saved. Therefore, they must be perishing. What is Michael Otterson? Sadly, he is perishing.

  23. Ralph says:


    If you reread what I have said, I was talking about experiences that allow me to know that I can pick up and walk out when ever I want to, unlike an addict that says they can stop whenever they want but in reality they can’t. I have had those type of experiences, but I am not going to explain them here.

    But yes, I have also had experiences that have helped me to know that I have put my faith in the correct place and that I should keep it there, which I have said many times in the past and have also told you one or two of these. But what you said about these type of experiences can also apply to your faith regardless of what you want to think.

    Your quote from Walter Martin echoes part of the wikipedia quote I gave above. But in none of the original definitions of a cult is there anything about mind-control or other things like that. That only came into the meaning in the 20th century, mainly around the 1980’s. So I can agree with the Walter quote.

    But then let’s drag in the “anti” word. It’s definition means “against” and you are against Mormonism. So why do you want us to grant your wish and stop calling you by that word because of the negative connotations it currently has, but you not grant the LDS church its wish and stop calling it ‘cult’ when that word now has the negative connotations? I don’t really care what you want to call us, if we are right you will have much to answer for on the Day of Judgment.

  24. 4fivesolas says:

    The reason Christians continue to call Mormons a cult is to add clarity to the conversation. Mormons deny the essentials of the Christian faith as found in Christian Scriptures and affirmed through the teaching of the Church throughout history, and YET want to blur the line and for others to see them as Christian. Using a short but concise label such as “cult” helps Christians communicate to others that these are not mere doctrinal differences between different groups of Christians, the teachings of the Mormons do not fall within the boundaries of authentic Christian doctrine. If Mormons quit trying to look, sound, and appear as another Christian denomination, then we could drop the label. Mormons need to stand up and say “hey, we’re a different religion with different gods, and completely different rituals – we share basically nothing in common with Christians.” I think Christians would then feel much less need to use the term cult. We don’t use it with Muslims because basically they don’t identify as Christians although they teach falsehoods about Jesus. I hope this helps provide some clarity as to why we use strong terms – it helps provide clarity that we’re really not the same at all. If Mormonism is true, then I am deceived and far from the truth. Likewise, if Christianity is true, Mormons are denying Jesus and the cross and are far from the truth unless God should break in and bring them to faith.

  25. falcon says:

    As far as applying the anti-word, I really don’t mind if someone attaches it to my stance against “Mormonism” (a false Christian cult) as opposed to “Mormon” (a person who belongs to that particular cult). That’s a good way of clarifying that I oppose the claims and doctrine of that religion (that it is a restoration of “original” Christianity) but not the people.
    Does the Mormon religion exercise unhealthy control over the members? I’ve never lived in the culture pervasive of Mormonism, but the accounts I read and the first hand reports I hear, paint a picture of a religion that is most interested in pressuring its members to conform to a Mormon ideal. I’ve often quoted from a book called “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” and I don’t think it would be difficult or a stretch to claim that Mormonism contains abusive elements.
    The account Kate gave regarding the teenager’s interview with the bishop is one such example. I would also say that continuing to “call on” members that have dropped out long after they have indicated that they are no longer interested in the religion is also indicative of cult-like and intrusive behavior. Plain and simple, it’s stalking.

    You clearly articulated my sense of the issue. It’s not only the claims of Mormonism, but their desire to hide and equivocate the facts regarding their doctrine and history that’s a problem.

  26. falcon says:

    I would say that the techniques Mormons use in recruiting new members could also be listed under the reasons why Mormonism could be considered a cult. From the pamphlet “Enticing Words of Man’s Wisdom: A Survey of the Mormon Missionary Mind-Manipulating Methods” by Wesley P. Walters:
    “The whole presentation is an extremely well tuned sales approach incorporating sales techniques that have worked successfully for unscrupulous salesmen from wheeling-dealing car hucksters to clever, encyclopedia peddlers, but usually avoided by more reputable salesmen.”
    Since archeological research and Biblical studies discredit Mormonism, the only thing a Mormon has left is some sort of emotion or feeling to support what they believe. Because of this the MM presentation is geared towards generating emotions in the prospect. The goal is to stimulate desire. This desire or feeling is sold as “spiritual” rather than emotional.
    That’s why it is so difficult for many Mormons to ask probing, revealing questions about the history of their faith and the basic doctrine. They have been taught that the feeling (interpreted as God speaking to them) has confirmed the Mormon gospel as true. This is also extended to the Mormon church and its leaders. The scenario is that since God told you it’s true, now you can’t question it.
    It’s a cult mind manipulation game.

  27. Mike R says:

    In seeking to dialogue with the Mormon people I personally feel that being respectful
    to them is of utmost importance . I’ve always tried to make a difference between the
    person verses their beliefs. It seems that in using the “anti ” word Mormons are
    seeing a person who disagrees with their beliefs as being against them as persons etc.
    This then would label these persons as persecutors . I think that rank and file Mormons can
    mimic their leaders to a unhealthy level , the phrase “follow the prophet” is a time honored
    one for most LDS , and when these men say some of things they have about other “christians”
    then this is seen as appropriate . Mr. Otterson should know that the term ” cult” has been used
    by some influential leaders of his church towards others, even those who revere Joseph
    Smith as a prophet. I think we here who have a desire to see the Mormon people free from
    the shackles of being misled by a ” modern day prophet ” , and coming to see that Jesus is
    able ….[Heb 7:25] , need to treat these decent people with respect always .

  28. Kate says:

    I for one am tired of the word “anti” from Mormons. Seriously? I guess I could turn around and call every Mormon I know “anti” Christian. Mormonism IS “anti” Christian. From the official first vision account, to the temple rituals, temple ceremonies, lesson books, right on down to the individual member who believes all that is taught in church about Christians and Christianity. So it goes both ways. The difference is that as Christians, we know Mormons have this attitude towards us, for Mormons, all they can do is play the persecution card. Woe is me! It IS NOT “anti” to bring up Mormon doctrines and show the truth about what is and has been taught by Mormon leaders. Isn’t that exactly what Joseph Smith and others did with Christianity? Bring out all Christian doctrines? This is still done by the LDS church. I think it’s wonderful! Christian doctrines are all out there for the world to see and study! Christians have nothing to hide. What about Mormonism? Why is it that the LDS missionaries don’t teach what Mormons believe about God??? Shouldn’t that be where they start? I was a Mormon for 40 years. I was never taught some of these “hush, hush” doctrines. I was in the “milk” section for sure. How can a Mormon have a chance at Salvation if they don’t even know who God is? Try leaving the LDS church. I asked for NO CONTACT! I’ve had missionaries showing up at my door. I’ve had phone calls and I come home to notes and invites taped to my door. If this isn’t cultish behavior then I don’t know what is! These people need to MOVE ON! I’m never giving up Jesus and Christianity for a false, cultish religion.

    I agree! You’re nicer than me 🙂

  29. I think the problem Mormons have with the word “cult” being used stems from the fact that the majority of Mormons don’t know they’re in one. How can they? Those born in the religious system don’t know any better and are taught from birth that they belong to the “one true church” and all others are “apostate” (ie. evil). The converts have been duped into thinking this is just another denomination or form of mainstream Christianity. A friend of ours converted (his marriage was about to end unless he converted), but in his explanation of why he was joining, he said that it seems like a nice church, they do a lot of good, etc etc. They’re told the preschool versions of the first vision account, the BoM, etc, but it pretty much stops there. They go to church, hear about prophets and temples and sometimes Jesus. They think it’s harmless. So when someone calls them a “cult”, they don’t understand why. It doesn’t help that they’re doing everything in their power to come off as more like mainstream Christianity… I see Mormons post things about “grace, not perfection” (that was originally written by a Christian leader), yet it goes against everything their founding prophets taught. They get mad when critics even talk about polygamy or odd rituals. They think people are making them up. That they’re being hateful. No, they’re just pointing out the history. I mentioned somewhere on here before how a random commenter on an article said Mormons never practiced polygamy; he was a Mormon for such-and-such amount of years and had never heard of that. Something tells me he’s not the only one…

  30. They also (understandably) don’t particularly like the word “brainwashed”. Yet does it strike anyone else odd that they send these young men (and women) into a “training center” for month(s) without any contact with the outside world, in order to be taught 24/7 the doctrines and converting techniques? When they get out and go to their assigned places, they are forbidden to have any contact with their friends and families, except for letters. Phone calls may only happen on Christmas and Mother’s Day (poor dad). No tv, no radio, no entertainment besides church approved stuff. When my husband was sent out on his mission, I sent him a care package that had Christian music in it. His companion tattled on him, saying he was listening to apostate music.

    Bottom line… their behaviors, rituals, salesmen/converting techniques, promising godhood, etc IS very cultish sounding.
    I agree with Mike. People want to be respected. So it’s pretty important to distinguish the difference between anti-Mormon and anti-Mormonism. I love my Mormon friends, but I don’t love their religious system. As for the word “anti”? I think it’s most bothersome when Mormons use it to avoid reading or hearing any kind of critiques. My most productive conversations with Mormons have been when they DON’T automatically grill me on “Where did you hear that?? Who told you that??” It’s much more productive when they simply listen and discuss things, instead of screaming “Anti! Anti!” and running away.

  31. falcon says:

    I think another way that we could examine if Mormonism is a cult or not could be based on how much a member has to surrender their life to the religion. What if someone says, “I’m passing on the underwear requirement.” Is that acceptable to the organization? I remember a woman talking about the “Mormon feel-up” that her grandmother always did to her. The idea was that grandma wanted to know if the woman was wearing the garment so she’d “hug” the woman and run her hands up and down (the woman’s body).
    At one time my understanding is that part of the endowment ritual in the temple included naked touching. Talk about breaking down barriers and getting someone to surrender.
    What about the missionary experience. If one were to task analyze the expectations placed on the missionaries, could it be concluded that its cult indoctrination and control? I realize that these are young kids who’d rather be out chasing about and that a certain amount of discipline is required but does the LDS church go overboard? What happens if recruitment numbers are low? Who gets blamed? I’ve read a statistic that 50% of returning missionaries go inactive. Is there any wonder that they do? Is there pressure on returning missionaries to get married fast and start having children?
    What about the “giving” requirements. Not only is the member expected to give 10% of their income to the church but there are a variety of special offerings not to mention the amount of time (a member) is expected to give to the organization. Can a person realistic make a choice about this?
    If a member doesn’t fall into line with this they do not get the all important ticket to the temple where by they can secure deification for themselves and their family.

  32. Very true, falcon.
    I told my husband I’ve never understood why everyone is so interested in their underwear. Seriously, my father-in-law noticed my husband wasn’t wearing his, and it also happened to one of our friends who stopped wearing them… another friend commented. It’s really weird. Everyone is very concerned about eachother’s status in the church. And the callings? I never realized some callings were considered “better” than others… as in, people look down on the people with lesser callings.
    As for the missionaries, yes, a big percentage eventually go inactive. Also, it takes the missionary several weeks to adjust to normal life when they get back home. Everything is church, church, church for 2 years… so when they get back? They’re socially inept. They get behind on their education (unless they go to byu, which considered the mission part of their curriculum). They feel the pressure to get married, because if you’re not married within a certain amount of time after your mission? There’s something wrong with you.

  33. And if you’re sent home early from a mission? Heaven help you. Lots and lots of judgement from outsiders, friends, relatives. The amount of time and money spent towards the church and doing more is amazing. Many members’ lives seriously revolve around it. They’ll tell you all about “free will” and they can choose to do or not do whatever they want… however, if they have any desire to “progress”, they better accept any and every opportunity to do so. As one Mormon once stated, “if you’re not progressing, then you’re falling backwards”. And while I do love how most Mormons go above and beyond to help eachother, I can’t help but wonder if they’re helping because they want to? Or because they’re going to get a few more brownie points with Heavenly Father, thus getting them all the more closer to reaching the Celestial kingdom.

  34. Either way, the societal (peer pressure) and control of one’s life by the church is maddening. For those who live the life, they just accept it as part of the deal. For those trying to leave or questioning? The pressure gets more intense and, like falcon said, very stalkerish. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had missionaries show up or the bishop bringing a gift basket to lure us back in (I didn’t mind. free chocolate is free chocolate…). Once they start noticing the attendance dropping of members, they start knocking doors and making phone calls.

  35. Kate says:

    I feel sorry for some of these missionaries. They don’t want to go on a mission, but it’s such a social stigma if you don’t. A lot are forced into it by parents. Some really want to serve a mission, but not all. I worked with a lady who’s husband was the bishop. The oldest son went on a mission and came back 2 years later, so far so good, then the youngest son went through the temple on a Friday, entered the MTC on Saturday and came home Sunday. You would have thought the world had ended! She was so upset because what would the people in her ward think? If the bishop can’t even get his own kid to go on a mission. As I look back now, I’m wondering if the strange temple stuff really turned this kid off. I wonder how many times that happens and those kids just go with it because it’s expected of them? I know Mormons who are so sincere and humble in there faith, very genuine people, but so many Mormons are all about the social status. Right after my oldest graduated from High School, my visiting teachers stopped by. One of them had a son who graduated too. She asked me where my son was going on his mission, I told her that he has 15 years of College to get through, he doesn’t have time to waste on an LDS mission. I may as well have shot her dead. I’m sure I was the topic of discussion for them for the rest of the day. Speaking of High School, one of the head coaches only picks kids who he knows are active in the LDS church. Not active? Too bad, you don’t make the team. Social status.

  36. falcon says:

    Fifteen years of college…….fifteen? I’ve got a lot of years logged but not fifteen. He must be in the medical field.
    I was wondering what happens with these MM kids who have a proclivity for same-sex attraction or some confusion in that area regarding which team they’re playing on? And what if a couple of these young men get paired-up as missionary partners? Man, talk about anxiety and emotional pain. I don’t have much contact with Mormons but I do know of a case where this happened (not the pairing up but a kid coming off of the mission and declaring he was gay).

    FREE CHOCOLATE? How do I get on that program? What a deal. I could get the chocolate and witness at the same time.

  37. 4fivesolas says:

    Falcon, I think one issue with Mormonism is it offers no real solution/forgiveness. When it’s all up to you, and you’re having homosexual feelings, then where do you turn? “You’re just not trying hard enough.” Thank the Lord that He has provided a way – He knows we are sinners and offers His free forgiveness. These religious systems that are based on personal perfection, doing it yourself, living by the law rather than grace – they have nothing to offer those who truly struggle with sin. It’s great for those white washed tombs who can put on a facade of perfection and delight in showing others how to live a moral life – oh, they get all kinds of satisfaction out of their own self-perfection. For the rest of us sinners, well, we’re just out of luck in the Mormon system. Thank the Lord for His mercy and grace given without reserve the moment we say forgive me Lord, have mercy on me a sinner! Jesus really does forgive – even things like homosexuality, drug addiction, adultery, murder – the sins that those morally upright would never commit. However, Jesus said if you lust or feel hatred in your heart you have commited adultery and murder. Jesus shows us just how much we ALL need God’s mercy. There is no holy righteous people versus those wicked sinners – just those who have received God’s unmerited favor through His grace and mercy and those sinners who have not. There’s nothing special about us, and nothing in us that we should feel superior to anyone. We even have forgiven self-righteous hypocrites – so there’s always hope for those trapped in works righteousness like Mormonism.

  38. CD-Host says:

    I think one issue with Mormonism is it offers no real solution/forgiveness.

    Neither do lots of religions. The focus of the Mormon religion is not a punitive God. Mormons aim to perfect themselves so they reach exaltation but their works in this life are steps in that process. They aren’t facing a situation where its game over when they die. Some Mormons even believe in multiple mortal probations.

    Someone who has homosexual feelings does the best they can. At some point in their eternal life they perfect beyond those feelings. Same as someone who constantly thinks about stealing, or someone who is a repetitive gossip.

    If I were to say Protestantism has no solution for achieving Śūnyatā (emptiness), well yeah, Protestantism doesn’t focus on achieving that sort of perfect inner peace and mostly is hostile to the ideals that it implies. It’s the same thing.

  39. falcon says:

    That which you wrote is right on. One of the things that has become more apparent to me is how messy people’s lives can be. They show-up with a whole boat load of issues. It’s a fine line we walk between accommodating sin while at the same time understanding that as far as sin goes it’s all a matter of degree because we’re all in it at some level.
    It’s easy to get self-righteous when in fact it’s just a matter of certain sins not tripping our trigger. That’s why we’re not succumbing to the temptation. The lure of the sin just isn’t the right bait to hook us.
    Although I’m sort of retired I teach college classes here and there. In one class that I teach I cover moral development in children. Talk about a mine field. Being the brave soul that I am, I always start out by talking about the seven deadly sins and how a teacher (for example) can enforce a moral code when many of the parents are not setting a real great example for their children.
    When it comes to the seven deadly sins I tell the students that the toughest one to talk about morally is lust/sex. There are a lot of ancillary issues like abortion, homosexuality, promiscuity and on and on. The popular culture doesn’t reinforce chastity and abstinence.
    The interesting thing is that these perfectionist type of religious groups usually end-up with a lot more problems with sin because of the attempts at suppression. Even some groups of Amish have something called “rumspringa” loosely translated, “time of running around”. It precedes the decision to join the church.
    I know the more someone falls in love with Jesus, the better “walk” they have. This is in opposition to legalism which just produces sin.

  40. 4fivesolas says:

    Falcon, There is a fiction book that deals with this that I understand is very good. It is on my list to read. It is called “The Hammer of God” by Bo Giertz. It is the story of a pastor who arrives at his first Church as is discouraged by what he sees as sinful behavior in the congregation. So he begins preaching the law – and neglecting the gospel. The law brings us to repentance and faith in Jesus through the preaching of the gospel. In the absence of the gospel, the pastor sees his congregation becoming more moral, however, he begins to see a disturbing self-righteousness and hardness creeping in. If you are interested in the importance of both the law and gospel this should be a good read. I have heard much about it, I just haven’t gotten around to reading it.
    I agree – the only true way people are motivated to live righteously is to bring them to repentance through the law and point them to Jesus who freely forgives EVERYONE who asks for mercy. Read the Bible, those who approached Jesus as righteous law keepers he brought low by proclaiming the law and showing how far from God they really are. Those who said “have mercy on me” he NEVER turned away – in both the Old Testament and New!
    Paul also agrees with you – the law (by itself) brings death – seems counter-intuitive that something that is good for us and brings life (through repentance) also brings death. Legalism produces hard hearted self-righteous hypocrites. The gospel produces forgiven sinners free to follow Jesus in repentance and faith. Mormonism is a legalistic cult that offers no life, it only brings death.

  41. falcon says:

    The social problems in Happy Valley are well documented. All the way from child abuse to mothers who need pharmaceutical help just to make it through the day. Temple marriages that end in divorce mirror those in the population at large. I don’t have the numbers here to back up my claim but I”ve heard that Utah has an extremely high incidence of folks accessing porn sites on-line.
    Now I mention these things to point out that the Mormon culture promotes an attitude of perfection that’s unsustainable because of the methods used to attempt to achieve it. This is pretty typical of legalistic religions. The people simply get choked off or if they succumb to the pressure of the religion, they blow a gasket. Basically these types of religions end up with a bunch of self-righteous people with holy-er than thou attitudes.
    Remember a cult is interested in things looking good on the outside. There are lots of social “rules” and pressure to conform.
    There’s a reason why two-thirds of those on the membership rolls of the LDS church are inactive. The self-righteous among them will say it’s because these folks just can’t cut it. The fact of the matter is that they probably get sick of the smothering atmosphere of a religion that worships itself instead of God.

  42. helenlouissmith says:

    From the lips of Helen.

    I admit that less then 50% of the membership attends Church actively.
    I admit that of that 50% not including children, less then 30% have Temple Recommends.
    I admit that tithing is only paid by 25% of the whole membership.

    I get my information from the Bishop of our Ward and he admits this is pretty much true of our own Ward and true of most other Wards.

    Being active and a good member are not easy for many. But those who are faithful are faithful in all aspects of the Gospel and I imagine are truly those who will be exalted.

  43. Kate says:

    So Helen, those who have just enough money to either feed their 6 children or give that money to a multimillion dollar corporation aren’t faithful and worthy of Salvation/exaltation if they choose to feed the children? God does not put a price tag on Salvation/exaltation. What does the LDS church do with the millions? Shopping centers, political agendas, salaries for the first presidency and apostles, new temples, etc. Tell me, do they have enough to feed their children? I’ve seen this in action. Ever watched a friend try and feed her six kids on nothing but 13 cent ramen noodles? It’s heartbreaking. So because someone is less fortunate they are denied exaltation. This is Mormon thinking. May one day these poor souls find the true and living Christ of the Bible and know that Salvation is through him alone. Not how much money they can dole out to the LDS church.

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