Is the Mormon faith a "cult"? Which denomination is the most accurate according to God’s word?


The answer to your question depends on how one defines the word cult.  I am looking at my Webster’s and it defines a cult as "a system of religious worship or ritual."  By this definition, true Christianity is a cult, and so is mainstream Mormonism.  I assume that when you are asking whether Mormonism is a cult, you are assuming a much more negative connotation of the word cult.  Let me give a definition of the word cult as I believe it is used in a negative sense in the US today.  A cult is a religious group which is headed by a living authoritative figure who controls major aspects of the lives of the followers such as their finances, living situation and employment.  By this definition, Scientology works as a cult for many of its followers.  Also, Catholic and Orthodox monasteries function as cults.

As for Mormonism, I believe that the Mormon movement in the mid-1800’s met this definition of a cult.  Both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young met the classic negative definition of the cult leader.  They were highly charismatic leaders who expected total devotion from their followers–to the point that members gave up their livelihood and moved to follow the movement.  Also, the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints–a splinter group which split from Salt Lake City Mormonism about one hundred years ago definitely is a cult.  They practice polygamy, use exclusion as a weapon to enforce conformity and live in exclusive communities.  However, I believe that the definition I have given above for a religious cult does NOT apply to mainstream Mormonism today.  Bottom line, despite some really wierd practices (from our perspective as Christians) such as the wearing of odd undergarments and the rather strange ceremonies surrounding temple worship, Mormonism has moved from a cult to a religion.

Perhaps what you are really asking is whether this group is Christian.  Some Christian apologists label any group which is pseudo-Christian but which does not accept the orthodox view of Jesus as a cult.  Using this sledge-hammer approach, they will label Jehovah’s Witness and Mormonism as a cult.  I believe this is not a careful use of vocabulary.  By this definition Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism are cults.  Of course they are cults by the Webster’s definition I mentioned above, but then probably the group you are a part of is a cult as well by that definition.  The word cult should not be used as a weapon as such a weapon can be turned back on the one who uses it.  I believe that Mormons are not Christian because their view of Jesus is a radical departure from the biblical view, but I would prefer not to use the word cult indiscriminately on this group.

Which is the most accurate denomination?  I prefer to leave that decision in your hands.  I have some rather strong opinions about what is correct doctrine and practice, and even specific religious groups with which I have a strong disagreement, but I feel it is a healthier thing to ask people to do their own thinking and reach their own conclusions.  For this reason, I will give only a general answer to your question rather than name names.  I am not in the denomination-bashing business.  (note:  I feel groups such as Mormons and Jehovah Witness are specifically NOT Christian, because their view of Jesus is wrong, so they are in another category, in my opinion)
An "accurate" Christian group is one which is devoted to worshiping God "in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24).  An "accurate" religious group is one which watches its life and its doctrine (paraphrasing 1 Timothy 4:16).  In analyzing a particular religious group, you should look for qualities which reflect correct biblical teaching and a church life which reflects the life and ministry of Jesus.  This group will be accurate on the essential teachings, such as who Jesus is, what is the nature of God, how one is saved, what is the nature of our relationship with God (a correct balance between grace and works, for example), what is the nature of the church and so forth.  Their practice will be based on biblical patterns rather than man-made creeds, traditions and rituals.  Presumably they will have a rather simple worship and practice.  They will also reflect the ministry of Jesus.  Specifically, this group will "love one another as I (Jesus) have loved you" (John 13:34).  This is how you will know they are disciples of Jesus.  The "accurate" denomination is one distinguished by love for one another and by compassionate service to the community.  They will have a passion to seek and save the lost, as did Jesus.  You should look for these qualities rather than a particular name on the sign at the door.  Some groups are very strong on doctrine, but weak on "life."  Others have a lot of zeal and emotion, but do not exhibit Jesus-like compassion for people or correct doctrine.  You will do well to discriminate such things, but realize that no group will be perfect.

I hope this general description will help

John Oakes

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