The definition of the term ‘cult’ as provided by the Merriam-Webster dictionary covers a variety meanings:
1 : formal religious veneration : worship
2 : a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
3 : a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents
There are other definitions with regards to celebrity and health guru worship, but for the purpose of this article, I’d like to focus on the labeling of Mormonism as a cult simply by definition. It has been a bone of contention with many of my readers who feel I’ve assigned the term “cult” unfairly and malevolently to this faith. Here are a few traits attributed to a cult that Mormonism resembles rather strongly. Obviously, Mormonism is not the only cult, but when it’s thrust upon the mainstream by an ultra-devout Mormon like Mitt Romney, we should know as much about it as possible.
Those raised within a cultist environment are influenced by the following as outlined by the International Cultic Studies Association.
1. Milieu control—the control of communication within an environment; this creates unhealthy boundaries.
Mormons (amongst other cult followers) are explicitly admonished NOT to read, watch, listen to, or discuss anything that the cult’s hierarchy would label “ANTI-Mormon.” Reading Kay Burningham’s “An American Fraud” or Park Romney’s The Apostasy of a High Priest or other non-sanctioned works is deemed a SIN, the work of the DEVIL. Only church-approved materials about the church are allowed. They would even frown on works that are not even aimed at Mormonism, but that nonetheless run contrary to its doctrines, such as Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” or Hitchen’s “God is not Great.” This IS controlling communication: it is called censorship. See Germany in the 1930’s if you’re not sure if this can end badly.
2. Mystical manipulation or “planned spontaneity”—experiences which appear to be spontaneous are actually orchestrated in order to demonstrate “divine authority,” which enables the leader(s) to use any means toward a “higher end” or goal
The cult also takes advantage of any “coincidence” to suggest divine purposes. So serendipitous, Mormons feel, the very day of the 150th anniversary of the church happened to also be General Conference, and Easter Sunday, and the profit (pun intended) Spencer W. Kimball directed the session and spoke to the membership NOT from the Tabernacle, but from the very room in Fayette, New York, where Joseph Smith started the church. Obviously, the event was planned, yet members came away with the impression that the entire cosmos had aligned on that very day as a testament that god is in control.
During World War 2, my apostate friend’s Mormon ex-father-in-law was hit by shrapnel. Coincidentally, the only affected areas were those unprotected by the sacred garments (magic underwear) and this was seen as the manifestation of their holy purpose. Of course outer extremities (he was hit in the arm) are always the most vulnerable, but this fantastical garbage is passed down to future generations as “proof” of divine intervention.
3. The demand for purity—absolute separation of good and evil within self and environment
The most pernicious and wide spread tool that the cult uses is that there is something “wrong” with YOU. If someone doubts, questions, leaves the cult, the automatic conclusion is that the person has “sinned” in some way: if not by having sex outside of marriage, or masturbating, or breaking the word of wisdom, of even not paying tithing, at least by “tempting the devil” by being exposed to anti-Mormon thinking. Combine this tortured logic with forbidding any vices common to humanity (drinking, smoking, porn consumption to name a few), you create an unattainable ideal which often fills members with unbearable guilt and feelings of iniquity.
4. The cult of confession—one-on-one or group confession of past and present “sins” or behaviors, which are often used to humiliate the confessor and create dependency upon
The most horrific example is when the Bishop and Stake President interrogate teens about masturbation. This is branded a sin, a perversion, “unworthy,” something that will lead to… wait for it… homosexuality. Make no mistake: what this does above all else is teach young people to LIE. They then LIE in the interviews to be ordained in successively higher offices in the priesthood, receive a patriarchal blessing, go to the temple, serve a mission, get married, then while married, etc., etc., etc. This, of course, adds to their inner GUILT and SHAME, for they know damned well that they are masturbating regularly, probably as much –if not more– than non-Mormons their age. Boyd K. Packer, Mormon prophet was famous for equating masturbation with inevitable contraction of the dreaded homosexuality.
5. Sacred science—the group’s teaching is portrayed as Ultimate Truth that cannot be questioned.
A personal account from Mark Larsen, former Mormon and Professor on the matter:
When I entered the mission home, they had all the missionaries gather in the “Solemn Assembly Room” in the SLC temple, where Ezra Taft Benson spoke to us. Afterwards, he allowed us to ask questions. One missionary raised his hand and asked: since the temple endowment session we just went through is a reenactment of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, what does that mean about evolution? Holy Hell! Did Benson ever chew him out! “What do you THINK it means?,” he yelled, pounding on the pulpit. “Men’s understanding is nothing compared to God’s… we are his children, his special creation, not descendents of monkeys..
I suppose that’s all that needs to be said on the matter. Sounds a bit like the Evangelical Christians denying evolution, because it doesn’t fit into their scripture.
6. Loading of the language—use of terms or jargon that have group-specific meaning, phrases that will keep one in or bring one back into the cult mindset.
Phrases that have jumped out at me include: Temple Recommend, Blood Atonement, Endowment,“Pay Lay Ale” and Consecration. These phrases unique to the cult seek to legitimize it.
7. Doctrine over person—denial of self and self-perception.
Special thanks to Mormon Teachings for the photos.