Cult accusations

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DevilsAdvocate
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Cult accusations

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 22 Feb 2010, 14:57

Some Mormons find it offensive and even absurd that critics try to label the LDS Church a cult. However, looking at some generic "cult checklists" it seems like there really are some questionable characteristics that are actually quite common in the current culture of the Church. Now I'm not trying to claim that the Church leaders and members are intentionally trying to brainwash or manipulate people (including their own children) in a deliberately dishonest or malicious way. They probably have perfectly well-meaning intentions for whatever they say and do mostly based on the sincere belief that this is (in their opinion) the only "true church" directly approved by God and supposedly the only path to true salvation.

However, one problem with these kinds of exclusive and rigid attitudes is that they can create a rather intolerant and oppressive environment for non-members or less faithful members. If many of your family, neighbors, co-workers, spouse, etc. are all true believers in this tradition it can make it really inconvenient to deal with legitimate questions or concerns in an honest way. In my case, I am basically afraid to openly admit some of my strongest doubts about the Church simply because I don't think my wife would understand; in fact I wouldn't be surprised at all if she left me over something like this.

Who says honesty is the best policy? Not if it means that I have to introduce all kinds of unnecessary stress and pain in my life just for the sake of voicing my own opinions. So at this point I'd rather just suck it up and be a good soldier and pretend to be what everyone expects me to be even if I don't believe in some of the Church's claims anymore.

Personally, I think a lot of the anti-Mormon hate and bitter feelings of ex-Mormons toward the Church are to some extent due to the intolerant and self-righteous attitude of more than a few members as well as what many consider to be deliberate deception and lies by Church leaders. I don't agree with this kind of negative reaction myself but I think a more realistic and understanding attitude on the part of Church members towards people with different beliefs would go a long way towards improving the way people perceive the LDS Church in general.
"Truth is what works." - William James

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Tom Haws
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by Tom Haws » 22 Feb 2010, 15:49

There's no denying we often walk like a duck. And I think good humor can go a long way toward helping ourselves see it. For example, if we have a good attitude, we can occasionally ask whether something or other we see comes across "culty". That's an example of talking about cultiness without pushing the "LDS is a cult" button. And it uses a funny, non-threatening form of the word.

"Yeah, some times we seem pretty culty." I think a statement like that would be acceptable to many traditional believers, and might even come out of their mouths.
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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Brian Johnston
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by Brian Johnston » 22 Feb 2010, 19:14

The emotional and spiritual energy we broadcast out into the universe around us, it comes back to us. We also paint in the colors in the world around us with this energy. People who are angry find a world full of enemies to fight. People who fear find danger all around them. On the bright side though, people who love find beauty and friends everywhere they go.

Church members that treat their neighbors in the community with scorn and fear create angry apostates.

On the subject of being understood and accepted by traditional members, I seek to understand and respect them first. I have had positive experiences. But a part of that I know is that I decide what to talk about with various people based on my relationship with them. You just can't talk about every idea with everyone. It isn't appropriate. I know that need to be understood. We find peace though when we are comfortable with our beliefs, not needing to explain and "convert" everyone around us.

Tom gave good advice. A smile and a sense of humor goes a long way.

I would not even use the word "cult" at all if I really felt I needed to make a point with someone. I would just talk about the behavior (that is in fact cult-like) and point out how it probably isn't the most Christ-like and mature behavior.
"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 Curt Sunshine » 22 Feb 2010, 20:54

Every single organization that ever has been constructed has elements of the cultish when the checklist that was established by existing organizations to describe their newer competitors is used.

Think about that for a moment - seriously - and I think you'll see what I mean. My take is simple:

Are there cultish elements in the LDS Church? Absolutely. Are there cultists in the LDS Church? Absolutely. Would it be wonderful if they were removed somehow? Absolutely. Do I do my best to address them when I observe them? Absolutely.

Is the LDS Church a cult - in the generally understood meaning of the word or in any unique way? Absolutely not.
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

swimordie
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by swimordie » 22 Feb 2010, 22:48

I agree completely with everything Ray said.

However, the church in Utah with BY as prophet??? That may have been a cult??? In some ways, you may be able to trace every major religion back to its roots... and find a cult. :shock:
Perfectionism hasn't served me. I think I am done with it. -Poppyseed

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mormonheretic
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by mormonheretic » 22 Feb 2010, 23:34

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.

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Konvert Kid
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by Konvert Kid » 23 Feb 2010, 09:42

Personally, I think a lot of the anti-Mormon hate and bitter feelings of ex-Mormons toward the Church are to some extent due to the intolerant and self-righteous attitude of more than a few members as well as what many consider to be deliberate deception and lies by Church leaders. I don't agree with this kind of negative reaction myself but I think a more realistic and understanding attitude on the part of Church members towards people with different beliefs would go a long way towards improving the way people perceive the LDS Church in general.
May I point out that in most cases the actions of a few are reflected as a policy of the church.
Ray said:
The emotional and spiritual energy we broadcast out into the universe around us, it comes back to us. We also paint in the colors in the world around us with this energy. People who are angry find a world full of enemies to fight. People who fear find danger all around them. On the bright side though, people who love find beauty and friends everywhere they go.
I think that all the answer have been full of great advice.

I do feel the need to add a word of caution.
Cults; as they destroy the lives of those who interact with them,are a serious danger that should be avoided. (run like ----) I usually don't even give them energy by speaking about them. These are the bad guys not the folks that wear funny hats or have strange clothes. The boy scouts can be consider a cult "by some generic "cult checklists" There are groups that try to destroy or torture both the body and the soul. By their fruits you shall know them. The church is a favorite target of these groups.

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hawkgrrrl
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by hawkgrrrl » 23 Feb 2010, 10:21

Shoot - I made a comment to this but it didn't go through. But then several of you mentioned the same things I did. Early Christian sects were called "cults," as are almost all new religious movements (NRMs - another term used interchangeably with "cult" that generally applies for the first few hundred years a religion exists). If a new religion didn't get people fired up and committed, it would never get off the ground. IMO, though, the word "cult" is simply a slur aimed at successful, competing emerging sects.

As far as "cultish" behavior - IMO, a true "cult" requires both conspiracy and fraudulent intent to qualify as well as clearcut strong-arm tactics to prevent one from departing the group. There are wack jobs in any organization and people who like to turn their brains off and march to the beat of someone else's drum, and there are manipulative people and bullies. But that doesn't make every organization a cult - it just means some practitioners are jerks.

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Tom Haws
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by Tom Haws » 23 Feb 2010, 11:09

I think that the darkest example of cultiness in Mormonism is Mountain Meadows Massacre. It's a great example of how a system (a people) can take bright eyed, hopeful youngsters, involve them in a cold blooded atrocity, then defend or deny that action for decades. When we continue to cry persecution over people's indignation and inquiries on the massacre, we continue to look culty. A recent comment thread I saw on Youtube was downright embarrassing (then again, most Youtube comment threads are downright embarrassing :lol: ) in the way that the Saints talked right past the humane issue toward their own suspicious defender of the faith agenda. In the 21st century, it's that very attitude that harms us most, I think.
Tom (aka Justin Martyr/Justin Morning/Jacob Marley/Kupord Maizzed)
Higley and Guadalupe
Gilbert, Arizona
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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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hawkgrrrl
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Re: Cult accusations

Post by hawkgrrrl » 23 Feb 2010, 11:54

Tom - I agree that MMM qualifies as cultish behavior. It meets my standards of conspiracy and fraudulent intent and even throws in bullying to boot. So, is that a chicken & egg question? Are new religions prone to cultish behavior because they create or attract fanaticism? Even so, there are factions that are cultish in some long-standing religions (Opus Dei comes to mind).

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