The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the Mormon Church, has opponents who derisively refer to The Church of Jesus Christ as a cult. Latter-day Saints (Mormons) do not consider The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a cult or source of brainwashings, intimidation, or black magic often associated with cults.
Dictionary.com defines cult as:
- a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
- an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.
- the object of such devotion.
- a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
- Sociology. a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.
- a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the Mormon Church, has opponents who derisively refer to The Church of Jesus Christ as a cult. Though not correct definitions of cult, typically the term conotes images of brainwashings and participation through intimidation on one end of the spectrum and black magic on the other end of the spectrum, but most especially being in the thrall of a charismatic leader. Latter-day Saints (Mormons) know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a cult.
What Do Mormons Believe?
Truly Mormons are “a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.” The Church of Jesus Christ’s 1st Article of Faith states, “We believe in God the Eternal Father and in His Son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost” (1st Article of Faith). Members of the Church hold the Prophet Joseph Smith in high regard, but they do not worship him.
Mormonism is “a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.” Every tenet and doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ reflects the mission and atoning sacrifice of the Savior Jesus Christ. The Savior revealed commandments, covenants (a two way promise of an obligation fulfilled by man and a promised blessing by God), and ordinances (ritual acts, like baptism, that teach literally and metaphorically of man’s journey back to God’s presence).
The Church of Jesus Christ’s ordinances and rituals occurring in its church buildings for individuals are: baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, administration of the sacrament, and the blessing and naming of young children. Any person, Mormon or not, can view these ordinances in the church building.
Other ordinances and rituals of The Church of Jesus Christ occur in its temples. To enter Latter-day Saint Temples, a Mormon confirms he or she lives a specific standard of worthiness and receives a temple recommend.
The interview for a temple recommend is guided by questions composed by the First Presidency of the Church. The questions are standard and universal. The first and overriding question is, “Do you believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost?”
Worthy Church members are expected to be honest in their dealings with their fellowmen, to pay an honest tithe (10% of one’s “increase”), to deal kindly and lovingly with family members, to be morally clean, to live the Word of Wisdom (the health code of the Church), to have repented of past sins, to be willing to attend church services and serve in callings, and to uphold the doctrines of the Church. 1
The ordinances and rituals occurring in temples comprise the temple ceremony and include initiatories (symbolic cleansing), and the endowment (symbolic of mankind’s journey through life, emphasizing the role of Jesus Christ, and instructions on how to return to God’s presence). In addition, marriages and the sealing of families for time and all eternity occur in Mormon temples.
Proxy work, including baptism by immersion for the dead.
Mormon doctrine teaches that baptism is a necessary ordinance to return back to the presence of Heavenly Father. Not only does the ordinance need to be performed, but it also must be done in the proper way and with the authority of Christ’s priesthood.
“Because all on the earth do not have the opportunity to accept the gospel during mortality, the Lord has authorized baptisms performed by proxy for the dead. Therefore, those who accept the gospel in the spirit world may qualify for entrance into God’s kingdom” (See Guide to the Scriptures). One thing that should be made perfectly clear about baptisms for the dead is that when a baptism is performed for a person, he has the option to accept or reject it. There is nothing in Mormon doctrine that says that the person who is being baptized by proxy must accept this ordinance. However, doing baptisms for the dead does at least give the person the ability to make a choice.
Baptism for the dead is an ordinance that has been performed throughout the history of Christ’s Church. In 1 Corinthians 15:29 it says, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” 2
Temple ordinances are sacred to Mormons and considered an important part of the journey back to God’s presence.
Led By a Living Prophet
The last definition of cult-“a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader”-is subjective. Mormons do not consider the sect to be false, unorthodox, or extremist. Nor do members live outside of conventional society. Mormons believe that The Church of Jesus Christ is the Savior’s true Church and has been restored to the earth as the Savior established it during His New Testament ministry. The unique and remarkable things about The Church of Jesus Christ are its successes, which demonstrate that the Church and its members bear “good fruit” its vast and effective welfare and humanitarian aid system, the huge force of young Mormon missionaries, the clean living and success of Mormons in every walk of life.
The reestablishment of The Church of Jesus Christ in modern times began by an event known to Latter-day Saints as The First Vision. After studying the tenets of religion and wanting to obey God’s commandment to be baptized, Joseph Smith read James 1:5. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.” Emboldened by God’s promise to answer his sincere prayer, Joseph knelt alone in a grove of trees to ask God which church he should join.
I saw a pillar of light, exactly over my head above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. … When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other–This is my Beloved Son. Hear Him! (See Joseph Smith-History 1:16-17.)
God the Eternal Father and His Beloved Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith! They told Joseph not to join any church, that the Gospel in its fulness was not found on the earth and needed to be restored.
God called Joseph Smith to be a prophet. After Joseph Smith’s death, Brigham Young became the prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Upon the death of each president of the Church, a new one is appointed in his stead. The line of succession is clear. At the president’s death, the President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles is the Lord’s designated successor. Thus, Mormons are not in the thrall of any of their leaders.
As a Mormon, I am encouraged by Church leaders to study each principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and gain an understanding and testimony of it. To do so, I read the words of past and present prophets and then pray to know if it is the word of God. Some ways I have known that what I’ve studied is true is when the Holy Ghost answered my prayer through feelings of peace and comfort, and thoughts that enlighten and teach.
I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true Church of God on the earth today. I worship and venerate Him!
If you would like to learn more about Jesus Christ’s teachings and God’s commandments and ordinances, please contact the Mormon missionaries!
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.