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Is Mormonism A Cult?

Updated on November 30, 2013
LdsNana-AskMormon profile image

Kathryn Skaggs is the founder of Latter-day Saint Women Stand, a community of over 50K faithful Latter-day Saint women who love their faith!

Salt Lake Temple - I shot this on a beautiful August evening this past summer.  I love photography, although an amateur.
Salt Lake Temple - I shot this on a beautiful August evening this past summer. I love photography, although an amateur.

Here is what J. Gordon Melton has to say on the subject of cults...

"Cults are claimed to be deceitful. They are claimed to be harmful to their members. They are claimed to be undermining American values. Cults are claimed to be just about every bad thing in the book these days, and with the pervasive images of Manson and Jim Jones hanging over us, any group that is called a cult is immediately associated with those two people."

I remember growing up and hearing about Patty Hearst who was kidnapped by the SLA. That is when I learned what a cult was, or so I thought? Remember how she was apparently brainwashed? In this scenario, she could be freed from being accountable for her actions, which ended up becoming quite negative. Her family wer shocked and horrified! Therefore, the cult surely was to blame.... had to be. But if you recall, the courts did not buy it and she was convicted.

Cult: The Unauthorized Definition

The word cult has many new definitions that have come into play in recent years. For some reason, there are those that would like to re-interpret this word beyond its original meaning. In the end of all this confusion that is swirling about, as to what is a cult, here is what the site for religious tolerance says, in conclusion...

"We have seen cult used to refer to Evangelical denominations, the Roman Catholic Church, Unification Church, Church of Scientology, United Church of Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Wiccans, other Neopagans and many other faith groups. The term is essentially meaningless."


As you might figure, of course I agree with this conclusion, as I too have studied the definition and the meaning of the word cult.

These new and unauthorized definitions of the word cult -- are bottom line, a sect or organization that produces individuals that are followers to that which brings about dependence and no accountability of the individual and ulitimately their actions.

In essence, they are then giving up their individual agency for an alliance to that which then chooses their thoughts and actions for them. We then refer to this result of joining a cult -- as brainwashing.

Thus, the negating of ones self of responsibility for the course of their own life. Why, I have even heard this process described as... lost sheep now finding their shepherd. Apparently these sheep are no longer required to think for themselves, let alone are they capable of doing so. And those, from the outside looking at and observing these flocks, are wont to figure out what in the heck is going on?

What We Don't Understand We Love to Speculate About...

But this is a false assumption for any one of us to make. Every thinking person who walks this planet has the agency to pick and choose whom and what they will align themselves to or with. Regardless of the physical freedom, or not, of that environment in which one lives.

Therefore, to label that which produces the potential negative results in the lives of those that join such a group, is merely using this newly re-defined definition of the word cult -- to then become the scapegoat, and not the actions of individual(s) that have made a choice and joined themselves to such groups, good or bad.

Speaking of what is good or bad for a person... Breaking the law is bad. Self-destructive behavior is bad. Hurting others in bad. But what about the good that many of these groups and sects do produce, which have been assigned this new definiton of the word cult?

How is it that some have taken it upon themselves to judge others that are not like them, as bad? Who are they? Maybe they should convert a few of these lost sheep to their cause, and teach them to think like them. What do you think?

What the SLA did was wrong. The cause was clearly bad. It was horrible that they kidnapped a young woman and submitted her to such awful treatment and influence. Most likely, we can all agree. We may never know all the facts in that case. Some believe that Patty Hearst was in on the entire scheme.

In the objectivity of the law, which is required, they had to determine her as accountable for her choice, to align herself with this group or cult as many had determined -- to have independently, acted criminally. Regardless of all that surrounded the incident, and may very well have influenced her misguided choices.

Nonetheless, guilty.

Why Do People Say Mormonism is a Cult?

A little education: What is a Cult?

What then, IS the original definition of the word - cult

a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object : the cult of St. Olaf.

• a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister : a network of Satan-worshiping cults.

• a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing : a cult of personality surrounding the leaders.

• [usu. as adj. ] a person or thing that is popular or fashionable, esp. among a particular section of society : a cult film.

In searching the internet, this was a consistent definition of the word cult.

Should Mormonism Be Considered A Cult?

Frankly, if the definition were simply that a cult is a group of people who align themselves to each other, and worship an individual because of what that person has done for them; and follow that persons teachings to become alike, and which also then causes them to be better people in this life... If Mormons fall into this definition of the word cult -- then yes, by all means, please consider the Mormons a cult!

The current, negative definition and interpretations as to what a cult is, does not describe the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accurately. Those who would place this label on the LDS people, do not have a proper understanding of what we believe, based on a true understanding of how and why we believe. For these reasons, unfortunately, they go about to distort the teachings of the LDS Church.

Myths of the Mormon Faith: Christian or Cult?

Cult: A group that you just don't like

J. Gordon Melton -

"My working definition of a cult is a group that you don't like, and I say that somewhat facetiously, but at the same time, in fact, that is my working definition of a cult. It is a group that somebody doesn't like. It is a derogatory term, and I have never seen it redeemed from the derogatory connotations that it picked up in the sociological literature in the 1930s."

For more information on cults, please visit the website for religious tolerance. I have learned much from browsing around this website. They strive to be objective in their information and are considered a fairly credible source. Read about skunk words when you are over there...

I address this topic because of the attempt to place The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints, a.k.a. Mormons, and many other good organizations, etc... into a category that has no validity as to what a cult actually entails, per the proper definition.

For this reason, I must say emphatically, that the LDS Church is NOT a cult, as interpreted and defined by today's voices -- which are a voice of fear, misunderstanding, divisiveness and ultimately a deterrent to truth.

It continues to be my hope, that those who are curious to know about the Mormons, will allow those that are members, tell you about themselves. I believe that in this way, you will be the best person to determine what you think.

Thank you for visiting my Hub, and allowing me to share my thoughts on this somewhat controversial topic.


Kathryn Skaggs

I would also enjoy hearing any respectful comments that you might have on this topic...

Do You Think Mormons Are A Cult? Why or Why Not...

Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    10 years ago

    The mormon occult does not seam much of a cult until you have learned more about the subject.

    On my mission the hardest concern that would arise that never had a correct answer to offer in return was: 1Nephi 4:18, Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.

    Is there any logic here? Listen to the voice in your head to murder another, defenseless person in cold blood. Hmm, tough one! I did not have an answer, nobody did.

    There are so many cop-outs, and extreme polarities in the church that it creates a massive web of confusion, doubt, guilt and ignorant hope. My only advice really is not to listen to myself or LdsNana. Listen to the experts! And then make the right decisions that will benefit yourself and those you love.

    The only un-biased "to mormon culture" expert I know of is Steven Hassan in his book: Combatting Cult Mind Control ISBN-10: 0892813113

    Steven was also invited to give a presentation on the topic at a Sunstone conference:

    God bless and good luck everyone!

  • LdsNana-AskMormon profile imageAUTHOR

    Kathryn Skaggs 

    13 years ago from Southern California

    funwithtrains -

    Thank you for your much appreciation for what I do here on Hubpages, in my hoping to help others understand, Mormonism...

    In response to your three concerns, I will submit three of my other Hubs:




    Perhaps some of what I have shared, in these particular Hubs of mine, will address some of your concerns, about Mormonism...



  • funwithtrains profile image


    13 years ago from USA

    First off let me say that I've been browsing your hubs tonight and appreciate your willingness to discuss your beliefs in detail.

    Now -- and since you asked -- I respectfully think there are several reasons why "mainstream" Christians consider Mormonism a cult. I don't claim to be an expert, but a few of them are:

    1. Secret Temples: Many wonder why Temples (I understand you have Churches also) are needed that the public cannot attend. Most, if not all, "mainstream" Christian churches conduct their worship and other rituals in full view of others.

    2. Secret Beliefs: It can be puzzling to non-Mormons why there are beliefs that are kept secret by Mormons -- some that aren't shared until someone is believed to be fully-indoctrinated -- when the Christianity of the Bible is open to everyone to know, and was for about 1,800 years before Mormonism. If Mormons believe certain things are important for salvation, why not share it with everyone?

    3. Christ is not enough: In addition to secret Temples and secret beliefs, we come to the fact that Mormons evidently believe that belief in Christ's teachings and his work on the Cross are not enough for salvation -- we're to believe that we also need the publicly disclosed and secret teachings of Mormonism also.

    Again, I appreciate your willingness to discuss your beliefs, and mean no disrespect -- but you did ask what we thought.

  • LdsNana-AskMormon profile imageAUTHOR

    Kathryn Skaggs 

    13 years ago from Southern California


    I could not agree with you more on the overuse of the word "cult". It has most definitely lost the original meaning of the word. When we think of most any religious group, we often think of that which is spiritual. Meaning a belief in God, and that which teaches good.

    I think that the few religious groups that are thought of as a true cult, are more among the lines of those who participate in demon worship, etc... This is not good. Most often, these small groups are guilty of such atrocities as you suggest.

    I do think we need to be careful in our general use of the word polygamy. Polygamy is more than a practice, it is a way of life... or the other way around. Many cultures throughout history and even still today in some parts of the world, practice polygamy or it is their way of life.

    Polygamous relationships in themselves, could not always be termed as criminal. Today, in the U.S. there are many different groups that practice polygamy, although illegally. Only two things would make polygamy criminal. First, it is against the laws of the land. Second, taking away the agency of another individual, and one who is under age.

    It is criminal to bring up children in this country, and teach them to break the law in the name of God. I can 't imagine God is too happy about this.

    You are correct though, it most certainly leads to the abuse of children. This is the main focus, that needs to be looked at, whether it is a polygamous marriage, same-sex marriage, or couples living together out of wedlock.

    Innocent children are so affected, generation after generation, by the choices of adults who just want to do their own thing... disregarding societies morals as a whole.

    Thank you for your very thoughtful comment. So much to consider and discuss.



  • talford profile image


    13 years ago from U.S.A.

    Unfortunately "cult" has become like "nazi". It is used too freely and has lost meaning.

    What happens is it takes away from the issue of the attrocities that are happening. In some ways it has the opposite effect that the users intend. When you use the word cult, it automaticly puts it into the realm of religion, which opens the door for the freedom of religion argument.

    I personally do not care what a persons religion or beliefs are. what I do mind is when the actions behind those beliefs become criminal, (as in the case of polygamy).

    I believe it intrinsucly leads to child abuse. If not in the first generation, then in the generations that follow.

  • SweetiePie profile image


    13 years ago from Southern California, USA

    Yes there are a few that do fall into cult like practices such as Jim Jones and different polygamist groups we hear about in the news. However, after my extensive research of the history of Christianity in America I had encountered many people saying things about certain groups such as they were not Christians and using the word cult in the wrong context, which in that case I just find to be extreme. What I was trying to convey here is most mainline churches are not cults, even though some people do try to argue that the Jehovah's Witnesses are. They are pretty extreme in their doctrines and practices, but they are not a cult in the sense of Jim Jones. That was what I was trying to convey that the word cult is used so freely by people without discretion.

  • LdsNana-AskMormon profile imageAUTHOR

    Kathryn Skaggs 

    13 years ago from Southern California

    Thank you SweetiePie. I am very glad that you have found this Hub informative.

    Generally I agree with you, but unfortunately there are some groups in the world that truly would fall into the category of a "cult" and are the worse type. Cult is really not necessarily a bad name. It is just that today we have mis-interpreted the original meaning of what was considered a cult.

    When grown up people decide to follow an individual and choose to be led by them... well that could be considered cultish. But a true "cult" in general, are those very small and isolated groups - who oppose the general culture in extreme ways, i.e. practices, beliefs, giving up of agency, goods, etc... Basically they want nothing to do with mainstream society, etc...

    Today, everything "bad" is now wrapped up into the very mis-understood word - a cult.

    Really, a cult by current standards, seems to fall into the category of that which others do not like about another group of people - that they do not understand. Nor, do they care to understand.

    Needless to say... Mormonism is certainly not a cult by any stretch of the educated mind.



  • SweetiePie profile image


    13 years ago from Southern California, USA

    I really enjoyed this hub your wrote Kathryn. One thing that just always made me mad was when people said Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses were cult members because that is simply not the case. I know this hub is about Mormonism, but I just wanted to add I really do not like it when people state any group is a cult. Each person that attends their church believes strongly in the tenets of their faith and we should never point a finger and say "Oh you are a cult!" We could say ipods are a cult if that were the case and it would become so ridiculous, but it seems okay for people to condemn religions as cults. My view is people do not have to attend a church or any organization if they do not agree with its teachings, but no one should be calling any group a cult. Thanks for the informative hub.

  • LdsNana-AskMormon profile imageAUTHOR

    Kathryn Skaggs 

    13 years ago from Southern California

    Hi SweetiePie -

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. You make some very good points.



  • SweetiePie profile image


    13 years ago from Southern California, USA

    I meant a hospital ran by Seventh Day Adventists. Sorry I forgot to edit :(.

  • SweetiePie profile image


    13 years ago from Southern California, USA

    This hub brought back some memories I had of my involvement with a different religious groups. What I have learned over the years is that majority mainline religions are not cults, but these religions are just not a good fit certain people. For instance, I feel very comforted and more welcomed at Catholic churches than I did at many Protestant ones, but I do not wish to convert to Catholicism because I do not feel I can connect with all the rituals involved. However, one of my good friends is a Catholic and we are still able to have great conversations about the Bible and Christianity.

    When I was younger my mom was approached by Jehovah's Witnesses and we started attending the Kingdom Hall for a few years. I actually wrote a hub about my experienes with that group because I have dealt with many different groups, but the Witnesses are very strict. Some people enjoy the structure of the Jehovah's Witness faith, but I myself do not feel it is a good fit for me. Many people argue that the Jehovah's Witnesses are a cult. People argue many different religions are cults, but the truth is these religions just have different interpretations of faith than other wish to adopt. I enjoy eating vegetarian food and I like to go to a hounded by Seventh Day Adventists, but that does not necessarily mean I agree with all their doctrines. Some people say the Seventh Day Adventist are a cult because of their eating practices, but the truth is each religion has their own twist and interpretation of different issues. What I am trying to convey is most religions are not cults and we each of us just need to find the place where we feel most at home. In my experience that has been going to a non-denominational chuch with other Christians who have a range of opinions.

  • LdsNana-AskMormon profile imageAUTHOR

    Kathryn Skaggs 

    13 years ago from Southern California

    Tom -

    Thank you very much for taking the time to comment, and share your personal experience and opinions here.

    Let me just say, that I do not believe that the general practice of polygamy between consenting adults is necessarily evil. In this country, it is not legal.

    Polygamy of today, looks nothing like polygamy or plural marriage of the early days of the LDS Church. There is absolutely no comparison, although is made and assumed often.

    But, as you bring out... it is evil when any person loses their ability to exercise their individual agency. This, I agree - is the main point that is to be zeroed in on with the current polygamist group being scrutinized.

    There is no doubt in my mind, that Warren Jeff's actions have been evil, and that many innocent people have had their agency removed or hindered because of their association with his polygamist group.

    In particular, the children... or when they were children.

    I also believe that this same principle is the one that the same-sex marriage movement is not willing to address. If religious people even try to bring up the children that are involved within these arrangements and the loss of their rights - watch out!

    One must ask the question -- are equal rights really what the battle is about - or perhaps justification and validation?

    Truly, a Pandora's box...

    I am so sorry that you were lured in by a "cult" group. Surely one who has had their agency hoodwinked - knows how important choice is - when directing One's own life!

    Mormonism teaches the power and absolute eternal necessity, of an Individuals right to exercise agency. The LDS Church teaches that individuals are accountable for the choices that they make, therefore they must act right if they desire positive consequences as the result. Some people refer to this principle as carma.

    I could go on... but the accusation that Mormonism is a cult, when applied to the principle of individual agency, which is powerfully taught to even children, from the youngest age within the Mormon Church - - is unbelievable really.

    You are so right. This has nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with individual rights - to choose the course of their own lives, and what is right.



  • talford profile image


    13 years ago from U.S.A.


    I too, do not like the word cult. It is ambigous and predjudiced in it's use. I belonged to a "cult" for about 21 years. In reality it was a fundamentalist Christian group with athoritarion pastors.

    Since I left, in late 1990, the group has moved into some strange and some out right perverse doctrines, including polygamy.

    To me the bottom line is, if someone breaks the law then they need to be brought to justice. This group has allowed their pastor to have sex with underage children. Some reportedly as young as 10 years old. Of couse, he calls them all his wives to his congregation, but denies it publicly.

    These actions, and others , are crimes. It is not a religous issue, it is a child abuse issue, and an issue of enforcing the law.


  • LdsNana-AskMormon profile imageAUTHOR

    Kathryn Skaggs 

    13 years ago from Southern California


    Thank you for reading my Hub, and commenting on it. I appreciate your questions and will answer as best I can.

    Choice or brainwashed?

    Our inherent ability, responsibility and right to choose for ourselves, and the ability to also be brainwashed, except under extreme circumstances, are less debatable than many would agree.

    I believe that I used the term as applied to the mis-understanding of the word cult, as it is currently being applied to groups that just do not meet the criteria for labeling as a cult. The Mormon Church definitely does not fit the definition, nor do most if not all of the others that are being targeted by this kind of anti-movement.

    Brainwash - make (someone) adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure.

    I agree, that we have information of some remote groups, that could fully fall under this definition of brainwashing. Although there have been some devastating consequences, which have occurred as a result of what appears to be possible brainwashing, it is difficult to know. Most of these extremist groups are very very reclusive and relatively small. They are leery of anyone investigating their activities, etc..

    I have a firm conviction that we are responsible and accountable for the choices that we make, as well as those that we do not make. My understanding of 'choice' comes from the Lds teachings. I have a strong conviction of this principle, which goes beyond mere belief. It is a truth, that I believe is an absolute.

    In saying this, I also believe that it must be taught and allowed in an individual, before they can exercise choice responsibly, understanding their accountability for their actions. I believe that we are to act, and not be acted upon. Both are most often a choice that we make or allow. And of course, I apply this to those who have the freedom to choose...

    But we can choose to do a thing in our hearts, that we may not be able to follow-through physically, depending on our circumstances. We see this in some of the third world countries.

    I hope this clarifies.

    Thank you again for stopping by.



  • helenathegreat profile image


    13 years ago from Manhattan

    What an extremely interesting hub. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us (and that beautiful picture you took!)...

    I have a question, though. It seems you are saying that, because human beings are born with the capability to choose for themselves, then "brainwashing" is not really possible. Is this what you mean, or are you just saying that it is not always as simple as "She was brainwashed"? Because I would have to say that the child soldiers in Sierra Leone and similar places are pretty well into brainwashing territory due to the cocktail of drugs and extreme violence in their tiny systems.

    There is an extraordinarily interesting article written by Jonathan Z Smith about Jonestown and the Peoples Temple called "The Devil in Mr. Jones." It discusses whether or not the Peoples Temple was a so-called "cult" (as even Wikipedia describes it) and what the elements of a "cult" really are. Its extreme derogatory connotations today make me agree with your quote from Melton; "cult" is merely a word used to describe a group that you don't like.

    But its etymological and other histories make me unable to ignore it as a word completely. While I agree with you that Mormonism is hardly a "cult," there are several groups that call themselves "religions" that I would easily argue lean closer to the "cult" side of things.

    Thank you for bringing your thoughts to the HubPages community. While I may not always agree with you, I'm going to join your fanclub. I look forward to reading the rest of your hubs!

  • LdsNana-AskMormon profile imageAUTHOR

    Kathryn Skaggs 

    13 years ago from Southern California

    Thank YOU, Peter.

    Talking to each other brings understanding to all of us. As I basically stated in my profile... I am sad that so many have distorted the teachings of the lds church.

    It amazes me, not just how and that they do, but that so many are willing to listen to resources that have no understanding of the foundation or the doctrine of the lds Church. Although they claim to be authorites. But how can any of us be authorities of others lives?

    So I appreciate your wilingness to shake hands. I think we will be great friends. Even IF we may have differences. We both desire to do a good work, and I see that in so many, who are different than myself.

    I just really enjoy talking with others. Isn't this how we learn and eventually grow up?

    Thanks Again. I hope you continue to read my Hubs. I will do the same of yours.


  • Peter M. Lopez profile image

    Peter M. Lopez 

    13 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

    Thanks LDSNana. I appreciate your openness and sincerity. If only all Christians could have such an open and honest discussion.

  • LdsNana-AskMormon profile imageAUTHOR

    Kathryn Skaggs 

    13 years ago from Southern California

    Thank you Wehzo,

    I am of the same mind as you, in the necessity amongst all those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ... the evidence of such, will be that there is unity amongst one another, regardless of our differences.

    Jesus said, "If ye are not one, ye are not mine". I am afraid that those who push for divisiveness, do not adhere to these teachings.

    I prefer to find that which we have in common, through sharing, teaching and discussing with mutual respect for each others paths. I love to seek for truth from what we all have been given by the Spirit. For God is no respecter of man, who seeks honestly for His truths.

    Gordon B. Hinckley, who is the current prophet of the lds Church, makes a comment that goes somewhat like this... bring us all the truth that you have and we will give you more. Can it not be the same in reverse? I believe it can and is.

    The honest seeker of truth is not one of divisiveness, but joins with others of the like, to find truth. To be right, is not the mark of one with the Spirit.

    I continue to enjoy hearing and learning from you as well. You are a true fellow Christian, of which I am glad to have met.


  • profile image


    13 years ago

    Very interesting hub LdsNana-AskMormon. I must agree that the word 'cult' is thrown around far too much. And your definition of it is as I know it. As a matter of fact, Christianity was believed to be a 'dangerous cult' from it's inception. Knowing what you believe, and why you believe it, is enough. A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still. Those of us who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ cannot work out our differences in the public arena. A house that is divided from within cannot hope to have any commonality abroad; and if we can't find commonality abroad, our commonality is in Jesus Christ, then we cannot hope to live and breathe in the presence of the Savior.


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