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Is Mormonism a Cult? Depends How You Define “Cult”

Some prominent Christian voices have spoken against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, calling his Mormon faith a cult. Most notably, First Baptist Church Dallas senior pastor Robert Jeffress claimed Mormonism is a cult (theologically, not sociologically, he later clarified) at the Family Research Council-sponsored Value Voter Summit.

Later, Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins called the comment “unfortunate,” noting the term moved attention away from key political issues under discussion. Neither Herman Cain nor Michele Bachmann would make a comment. Candidate Ron Paul called the comment “unnecessary.”


But the bottom line is whether the claim that Mormonism is a cult is true or not. Is it? The answer is apparently not as clear as you would think.

Dr. Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, published a post on CNN’s Belief blog stating his view that Mormonism is not a cult. Historically, however, many Christian writings have included the Mormon Church as an aberrant movement falling under the broad area of “cults and new religions.”

This has traditionally been based on key areas of difference regarding Scripture (Mormons have their own Bible plus some other books, especially The Book of Mormon), Jesus (Mormons teach Jesus was a created being and the brother of Lucifer who became the devil), and salvation (faith plus a list of Mormon traditions), among others. Theologically, the differences are vast. This much is clear.


The “cult” label has been avoided more in recent years not primarily due to any changes in Mormon teachings, but in American litigation. Chief among examples that could be cited is the organization I serve, the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute, which was sued for over $100 million for naming a religious group as a cult in a book on cults and new religions in 1999.

This notable case proceeded all the way to the Supreme Court before being turned down, affirming the lower court’s ruling that a religious organization can be called a cult theologically in a discussion of religious beliefs. This type of comparison falls under the broad liberties available under the free speech rights of all Americans.

In this view, Jeffress and others who wish to name Mormonism as a cult can choose to do so in an effort to highlight the historical fact that Mormon teachings are largely different than those of traditional, biblical Christianity. This is not merely a “slam,” as one headline defines Jeffress’ comment or “bigotry” as talk show host Bill Bennett accused.


While Mormons or even Christians may not appreciate the name, it is one with historical and theological precedent, not the accusation of someone simply emotionally upset over a Mormon presidential candidate.

As Jeffress rightly noted, “It is only faith in Jesus Christ, in Jesus Christ alone, that qualifies you as a Christian…They embraced another gospel, the Book of Mormon, and that is why they have never been considered by evangelical Christians to be part of the Christian family.”

For evangelical Christians interested in the beliefs of those running for the Republican presidential nomination, this discussion does matter. There may be many points of agreement in political and social areas, but Christians who vote their values traditionally prefer a candidate who shares their beliefs, not just their conservative views.


Whether one calls Mormonism a cult or not is ultimately less important than the fact that Romney’s faith does matter to many who will make a decision regarding his candidacy in the days ahead.


Dillon Burroughs is senior writer at the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute and author or co-author of over 30 books, including What’s the Big Deal about Other Religions? (with John Ankerberg).

Comments read comments(7)
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posted October 10, 2011 at 8:42 am

You know what is a cult?

The group of Christian Republicans who have changed their theological beliefs just because they like a Presidential candidate (or talk show host).

The discussion of Mormonism is fine, but the fact that I know at least half a dozen people who were of the Mormons-aren’t-Christians segment a few years ago but have changed their minds just because they like Mitt Romney and/or Glenn Beck scares me.

That’s some world-focused thinking.

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posted October 10, 2011 at 9:23 am

An Occult is any church or organization that Denys that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Mormonism beliefs are that Jesus is the devils brother. The father live on a Planet called Kolos. They are not talking about the Jesus of the Bible, But a twisted version of it. I have lived next to Mormons, they are nice People, but they are truly deceived. Jesus Said;
John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

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Jay Howard

posted October 10, 2011 at 6:54 pm

After dealing with mormons of all shades and types (from gungho mormon missionaries to mormons who claim they still believe in its’ founder Joseph Smith but are no longer practicing the teachings)for the better part of 35 years, I would say that mormonism bares more than a minor resemblance to a sociological cult as well as a theological cult.

Spending many hundreds of hours speaking with an untold number of their ranks over these same years, I have found an uncanny similarity in the way that most of these mormons have answered basic questions. They respond as if their answers had been memorized and not just the young zealous missionaries. Not to mention the incredibily over emotional responses I have received by the majority of the mormons that I have spoken with. I have been screamed at, pushed, ridiculed, thrown into walls, threatened with iminent arrest, accused of trespassing on mormon property (the jail in Carthage Illinois, Temple Square in Salt Lake
, and a mormon pagent in Nauvoo, Illinois), and in one case attacked by a mormon and choked.

It is more akin to talking to people from Jim Jones’ People’s Temple cult (minus the cyanide laced grape drink) than any conversations I have had with lutherans, methodists, baptists and other protestant church goers over the years. So while they fit the perameters of a theological cult they also fit into the framework of a sociological cult as well.

Jay Howard
The Religious Research Project

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posted October 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm

If you leave Jesus out then it is a cult. If you do not confess your sins and believe Jesus died and is the son of the Living God I do not want you leading me no where.

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Bill Hoidas

posted October 13, 2011 at 3:31 pm

my thoughts
-Jews are God’s blessed nation and the KJV Old Testament is entirely about them
-mormons have “the book of mormons” supposedly transcribed by Joesph Smith in a closet using a “magic decoder ring” (twice after his wife destroyed the first copy)
-mormons think Christ and satan are brothers of God the Father who is one of many gods. He was born on the planet Kolab and if a mormon gets enough “points” they can become gods also.
so comparing mormons and Jews is lame in my opinion

-the evil kings of the Old Testament were facilitator’s of God’s plan. There nations weren’t blessed under their rule as Israel was under the best parts of David, Solomon. Jehoshaphat, etc. Same applies to your mention of Winston Churchill a great leader but England survived World War II’s daily bomb raids. That’s hardly being blessed

I can tell you I have two former mormon friends that are now born again and they are both very concerned about romney. If they are we should at least consider their concerns. I think that if Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich aren’t elected that the USA is toast and remember as far as we can tell the USA isn’t mention in Revelation.

My 2 cents

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Believe All Things

posted November 21, 2011 at 7:20 pm

It seems that the word cult is primarily based upon modern sociological usage rather than it’s more ancient usage. However, in each case it has its similarities to the beliefs and practices of the LDS Church.

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Ifirmation Anti Aging

posted February 12, 2016 at 7:52 am

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