In the news recently, critics have been claiming that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a "Cult." What do they mean when they attribute our religion as a "Cult?" By the critics definition would Jesus Christ and his church have been considered a Cult?

The reason that critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints use the term "cult" when referring to the church is because they believe it will scare people away from learning about the Mormons! This tactic of labeling the LDS church as a cult seems to work well on those who are not acquainted with Mormons. It is to the people who have not met Mormons that I write to today!

Most of the time when critics use the term "cult" they do so without giving a definition. This leaves the hearer with the responsibility of determining what a cult is. Members of the LDS church must demand clarification from the critic by requesting that they define the word "cult." On those rare occasions when you can get the critic to define the term "cult," their definition seems so broad that any religion could fit into their definition of cult.

To show the reader how misleading the term "cult" is, I will list 10 criteria from one critic who chose to define the term "cult." I will then show from the scriptures how this false standard would prove even the early church of Jesus Christ to be a "Cult"! (Each one of these statements could receive a post of its own, but for sake of space I will try to keep it short.)

Claim #1: Cults claim absolute right to the truth!
"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."(John 8:31-32) Then there is John 14:6 where Jesus claims absolute truth through himself "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the father, but by me." Paul claims absolute truth by forewarning those who will turn from the truth he taught, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."(2 Tim 4:3-4)

Claim #2: Cults make you feel more special than Non-members!
How much more special could you feel than to be called a son or daughter of God? "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not"(1 Jn 3:1). Or look at Paul's warning to the saints in 2 Cor 6:14, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" See how Paul instructed the saints concerning going to non-member judges, "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?"(1 Cor 6:1-2) The members of the early church sure sound more special than the “non-members.”

Claim #3: Cults frown on expressions of doubt about their faith!
James you bad cultist you, why do you talk so bad of those who have doubts? (insert sarcasm here) "But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways."(Jam 1:6-8) In 1 Tim 2:8 Paul says "I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." Or look at what Jesus expected of his followers in Luke 12:29-30 "And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things."

Claim #4: Cults expect significant financial contributions!
Thank goodness the Bible never makes us feel guilty for not contributing financially: "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse."(Mal 3:8-10) Those were the good old days, when we were only asked to give 10%. Because anymore would just be asking to much! (More sarcasm.) "And when he was gone forth unto the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me."(Luke 10:17, 21) Or look at Acts 4:34-35, "Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need."

Claim #5: Cults are reluctant to allow you to leave!
Really! Any church that loves its followers should do all they can to reclaim those who have strayed or are thinking about leaving! Matt 18:12-13, "How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them is gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray." Or James 5:19-20, "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death." It seems like the critic would have a church just say good riddance to those who falter in their belief!

Claim #6: Cults expect confession!
"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed."(James 5:16)  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 Jn 1:9) Or look at the instruction Peter gave to those who believed his teaching and want salvation, "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you."(Acts 2:37-38)

Claim #7: Cults expect you to be worthy!
Everyone knows that only the biggest of “cults” ask you to be worthy. Just look at the following example: "As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory."(1 Thes 2:11-12) Or like Paul who told the Colossians in Col 1:10, That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;" Peter chimes in "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."(1 Pet 1:15-16)

Claim #8: Cults claim infallible (perfect) leaders!
This is a false claim when attributed to the LDS church, because we know that our leaders are human, and so they will be fallible as individuals. We believe that Jesus Christ is the true head of the church that bears His name, even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that He guides His church so that it stays on course.  We believe that only God is infallible.  Likewise, the early church did claim an infallible leader, Jesus! So once again the test here for cult does fit the early church. The scriptures do teach that we should esteem the leadership highly, just look at 1 Thes 5:12-13 "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake."

Claim #9: Cults keep you so busy you don't have any time, even for your family!
I want to say something sarcastic about this claim, but I shouldn’t. I just don’t see why being busy automatically makes you a “cult.” Look at an example of Jesus from Luke 9:59-60, "And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." Now that is busy! Paul told the Thessalonians how demanding the work of the Lord was in 1 Thes 2:9 "For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preach unto you the gospel of God."

Claim #10: Cults are works based, not grace based religions!
This also would not apply to Mormons because we believe that we are saved through the grace of Christ. The critic links us to this claim because we believe what the scriptures teach, that you must accompany your faith with works of righteousness! "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace, But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."(Rom 11:6) Paul continues this theme to Titus in Titus 3:8 "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men." And look what Paul has to say about those who refuse works, " They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate."(Titus 1:16)

It would appear that the critic has incriminated the early church that Christ himself established. This is why the critics are so reluctant to define the term “cult,” because if they define the term it just isn’t as scary! When a critic of the LDS church throws around a label like “cult,” ask for a definition. Because you never know, they could be defining your beliefs as well!