Cult accusations

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Brian Johnston
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by Brian Johnston » 23 Feb 2010, 13:02

We should always ask ourselves those probing questions about our own faith, no doubt. I often have a knee-jerk reaction to the word cult though. It's a knee-jerking inducing kind of pejorative word that gets thrown around far too often and freely. It loses meaning when that happens.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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Re: Cult accusations

Post by Cnsl1 » 23 Feb 2010, 23:27

If you look at the etymology of the word "cult", you'll see it wasn't pejorative until recent times. Like just about all of our English words, this one can mean different things. In some ways, "cult" defines our church. In other ways, "cult" is the opposite of our church. On the few times I've been told that my church is a cult, I ask them what do they mean by "cult"? If they mean blindly following an extremist way outside the societal norms, I invite them to sneak into church, listen to what's being taught, and then save me.

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Re: Cult accusations

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 24 Feb 2010, 18:39

mormonheretic wrote:I am reminded that early Romans referred to Christians as a cult. After all, they were practically cannibalistic--Christians claimed to eat the body and blood of Christ as part of a ritual called Communion, or the Sacrament.

This type of rhetoric isn't acceptable today, but it was fair game back then. Perjorative words like cult seem to change over time, though there are some hard-line Evangelicals that refer to Catholocism as a cult as well. Are you comfortable with referring to all religions as cults? The Crusades seem to be much worse than anything Mormons have engaged in.
It almost looks like some of these "cult checklists" were created from the start to single out Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, 7th Day Adventists, Moonies, etc. to try to claim that these groups are more like each other than the majority of "mainstream" Christians. Maybe this cult label is really mostly just name-calling and an attempt to portray the LDS Church as somehow sinister and scary.

Sure the early Christian church was relatively small and must have looked very different and radical to the existing Jews or pagans and all religions could be considered a cult by some definitions. However, what concerns me more than the actual LDS doctrines being significantly different than many popular Christian churches is mostly the idea that the LDS Church relies on mind-control techniques and peer-pressure to manipulate people. Ideally, it seems like the truth should sell itself without the need for mind games or psychological tricks.

When I see Church leaders make comments like "when the Prophet speaks the debate is over" or "not everything that is true is useful" it makes me wonder. It gives the impression that we are expected to just trust everything they say without question and sometimes it sounds almost like they want us to basically stick our heads in the sand and ignore the outside world as much as possible. What happens if what they say is wrong for whatever reason?

I understand that many Mormons are perfectly happy with the LDS Church and if they believe in the assumption that the LDS Church is essential for salvation then it makes perfect sense that they would be disappointed with people around them who reject it. But at the same time it seems like the Jehovah's Witnesses are similarly convinced that they are absolutely right and everyone else is wrong.

My point is that it's fairly easy to make claims like this that we are special and right but as far as everyone else out there, not so much. Personally, I just don't think it's very realistic to expect everyone to believe the same thing and to assume that if they don't agree with us then they are completely wrong to think that way. Maybe different people have perfectly understandable reasons for believing what they do.
Last edited by DevilsAdvocate on 25 Feb 2010, 13:28, edited 1 time in total.
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Brian Johnston
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by Brian Johnston » 24 Feb 2010, 19:37

"Some things that are true are not very useful."
-Elder Boyd K. Packer, "Do not spread disease germs!" Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1981, pp. 259, 262-271

I know this is an often quoted, firecracker statement from Elder Packer. I can't help but think how differently that same statement would sound if it came from the Dalai Lama or a poet like Rumi. I could just as easy see one of those guys saying it. The funny thing is, I actually agree with that comment in a lot of ways. It was just delivered in a context that makes it unpalatable to a lot of people.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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mormonheretic
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by mormonheretic » 24 Feb 2010, 22:53

Some people feel the same way about the Catholic church, which is why they call it a cult. For example, I have heard pretty much the same thing: "when the [Pope] speaks the debate is over"; let's nor forget that the Catholic church didn't like mass production of the Bible. Some Baptists think levi's should never be worn--does that make them a cult too, according to your definition? Isn't this a form of mind-control as well?

After reading the Da Vinci Code, I became more interested in Opus Dei, a lay Catholic organization. Do a google search for them. I found sites that referred to Opus Dei as "Mormon Catholics" for their recruiting tactics, mind-control techniques, etc. In fact, I was amazed at how the writing about this group was very similar to anti-mormon writings. The word "cult" is always thrown out as a pejorative. When we look at it, many religions and even some organizations seem to resemble cults in some way. Any group which tries to enforce strict adherence to certain principles could be accused of cult-like behavior. Even Toyota's attempt to minimize bad publicity from these recent recalls seems to have exhibited cult-like attempts at damage control. The word has taken on a connotation that is almost about as bad as a racial slur at this point, which is why I think so many people take exception to its' use.

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Re: Cult accusations

Post by Curt Sunshine » 24 Feb 2010, 23:47

Admin statement:

We have been very patient with this post and thread. There has been good discussion, and I appreciate it greatly. However, even soft charges of brain-washing will bring this conversation to a screaching halt. I will shut it down quickly - for a very important reason that is deeply personal to me.

"Brain-washing" is even more loaded than "cult" - and it has absolutely no basis in fact. I have seen religious brain-washing effects first-hand - and the LDS Church isn't even in the same universe.

We had this conversation already in a different post (viewtopic.php?f=9&t=208&start=0) and tangentially in another (viewtopic.php?f=9&t=502). Read them and comment there, if you so desire - but we need to avoid suggesting brain-washing is part of the LDS Church. It simply isn't.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Brian Johnston
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by Brian Johnston » 25 Feb 2010, 09:40

Yes. We do have to be careful with some topics here. The cult/brain-washing topic is one of them because those are highly-charged words. Some of our audience that we try to reach (especially the mass of people that just read the forums), can be offended or put off.

It's best to cushion the language in less certain formats when we talk about it.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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Re: Cult accusations

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 25 Feb 2010, 10:54

Ray Degraw wrote:Admin statement:

We have been very patient with this post and thread. There has been good discussion. However, even veiled or soft charges of brain-washing will bring this conversation to a screaching halt. I will shut it down quickly.

We had this conversation already in a different post (viewtopic.php?f=9&t=208&start=0) and tangentially in another (viewtopic.php?f=9&t=502). Read them and comment there, if you so desire - but lay off the brain-washing verbiage. It's even more loaded than "cult" - and it has absolutely no basis in fact. I have seen religious brain-washing effects first-hand - and the LDS Church isn't even in the same universe.

Seriously, drop that topic or this gets shut down.
Sorry, I didn't see this earlier thread and wasn't trying to offend people. I mostly brought it up because these accusations are out there and spreading (there are whole books on the topic) and I wasn't really sure what to think about the idea and wondered what other members thought about it. Rather than thinking absolutely not or "yes for sure the LDS Church is definitely a cult" I suspected that the real answer was actually somewhere in between.

It seemed to me that some members occasionally do exhibit some cult-like behaviors whether intentionally or not and this can easily create a mildly cult-like environment but I think the actual overall harm done by this is not really that much compared to any other religion or lack of religion. Personally, I think the LDS Church is mostly good for people and the members are some of the nicest and happiest people around.

As far as the us-versus-them mentality and claims of being exclusively right, divinely approved, etc. it seems like many different church leaders make similar claims whether Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical, etc. It just seems like Mormons are more likely to believe ideas like this rather than just ignore them. I guess this makes sense with the official doctrines of continuing revelation and priesthood restoration whereas other churches will probably just try to claim that they somehow understand the Bible better than others.
"Truth is what works." - William James

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Tom Haws
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by Tom Haws » 25 Feb 2010, 11:52

I find that rather than making accusations or protesting them (whichever side of the fence I am on at the moment), it's most helpful for me to consider the possible grain of truth behind whatever others are saying.

I find the following truths in what has been said on this thread:

1. I can be aware of and examine any tendency I have to see groups or people as "the enemy".
2. I can be aware of and examine any feelings I have to defend myself and all things/people I "own" from "attacks".
3. I can be sensitive to the power of the word to offend people, and choose my words carefully.
4. I can affirm the core goodness of myself and others in all I do and say.

Tom
Tom (aka Justin Martyr/Justin Morning/Jacob Marley/Kupord Maizzed)
Higley and Guadalupe
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Sure, any religion would do. But I'm LDS.
"There are no academic issues. Everything is emotional to somebody." Ray Degraw at www.StayLDS.com

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Re: Cult accusations

Post by Curt Sunshine » 25 Feb 2010, 16:39

Excellent summary, Tom.

DA, it's cool.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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