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Cult! A Classic False Claim
Some public figures have labeled the “Mormon” church as a “cult”. Most recently, ABC News reported that Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress applied such a label in an interview following a political gathering where Jeffress introduced a political rival to Mormon candidate Mitt Romney.
Use of such a term to describe Mormonism is highly offensive to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Cult” carries the connotation of dangerous, even violent groups whose beliefs are irrational and whose practices are immoral and lawless (Koresh and the Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate, Aum Shinrikyo, and The People’s Temple are all prominent examples) . The term cannot be applied to Mormons unless it is so broadly defined that its use could be applied to virtually any religious body.
Like racist language, the use of the word “cult” to describe a religion usually tells us very little about the religion, but a great deal about the person using the word. In short, it tells us only that the person using the label “cult” doesn’t like the religion in question, or thinks it is illegitimate. Bryan Wilson, a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and a noted sociologist of minority religions noted:
Lumping together minority religions [as “cults”] is a favored trick of the mass media, and a way of imputing guilt by spurious association. Serious sociologists of minority movements have repeatedly shown this device to lead to fallacious conclusions….
The appellation “cult” lacks a definitive definition: its use among lay people is almost always pejorative and derogatory. Technically, among sociologists, the term is generally applied to movements which advance teachings that are not derived from the indigenous tradition (i.e.: from any sort of Christian tradition), and which tend to be eclectic. (Bryan Wilson, letter to the editor, Evangelical Times ( Darlington, England), 23 September 1999.)
The 14 million member worldwide Church strenuously teaches moral agency, and resists efforts to exert control over individuals, condemning such actions in its religious texts in the strongest terms (see D&C 121:39).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has more than 14 million members worldwide, with more than 6 million in the United States. It has a history of national loyalty to the nations where it is established, including to the United States. The Church is well known for encouraging its members to submit to the legal jurisdiction and laws where members reside. Members are strongly encouraged to think for themselves, and are only admitted into membership through baptism after receiving a personal conviction of the truthfulness of its claims and committing to a virtuous life of service. Most importantly, members are encouraged to be honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous and in doing good to all men.
Calling the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a cult evidences bigotry that should be offensive to good people everywhere.
Mormon Voices encourages anyone who knows and respects Mormons, and who encounters characterizations of the Church as a “cult”, to let your voice be heard by denouncing such characterizations. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we stand with good people everywhere who are wrongly maligned because of their religious convictions.