Friday, November 28, 2014

The LDS Church Was a Cult but Isn't Now, Just Like Every Other Major Religion

The most historically-based definition of "cult" is a movement where a charismatic leader draws followers away from "the established religion(s)" of the time. In other words, those who lose members define what is a cult, based often on the amount of success of the charismatic founder. Thus, Jesus was seen as a cultist who was drawing away followers from the synagogues - and, even worse, gaining the attention of the Romans who didn't appreciate rabble-rousing, apocalyptic, Messianic preachers who might lead a political revolt.

Mormonism absolutely started as a cult by the first, traditional, broad definition; pretty much every successful religion and denomination started as a cult, based on the standard definition. Even the word "culture" gives a nod to that simple fact.  Frankly, we collectively overuse the term "cult" so much in our modern society that many people have lost the ability to distinguish between the definition above and the more sinister definition that includes explicit mind-control, brainwashing and coercion.

Having said all of that, it is possible for individuals within any organization to lean toward the more sinister definition of culthood.  Thus, my favorite introspective response ever to the question of whether the LDS Church is a cult is:

"Lord, is it I?"

1 comment:

Patty said...

I remember looking up the word "cult" for the first time (many years ago) and being shocked and then entertained by its definition- I took it as a compliment when others would say that my church was a cult. :)