There’s a word that sometimes gets thrown around when people talk about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the “Mormon Church”). The word is “cult.” While in its most benign uses, the word “cult” can simply mean “a system of religious beliefs and ritual,” the reality is that most of the time when people use the term “Mormon Cult” it’s not a benign label. Wikipedia’s entry on the word cult notes the more realistic (and negative) use of the word: “The word cult pejoratively refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre.” Later in the article, it’s noted that:
Because of the increasingly pejorative use of the words “cult” and “cult leader” since the cult debate of the 1970s, some scholars, in addition to groups referred to as cults, argue that these are words to be avoided.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Church PR director Michael Otterson recently had some pointed push-back for people in the media who perpetuate the label of the Mormon Church as a cult. (See his article here.) In this time of the alleged “Mormon Moment,” Otterson calls on journalists to not be part of contributing to a shallow view of the Latter-day Saint faith, which is the fourth largest church in the United States.
Lest anyone think I am unduly thin-skinned, it’s the insult implicit in the word “cult” that I am objecting to, not the reasonable point that some Christians are indeed uncomfortable with aspects of Latter-day Saint theology. … [But doctrinal differences] should be examined thoughtfully, reasonably and respectfully in any national conversation about a particular faith. And they should be examined alongside the enormous doctrinal and practical similarities between these different branches of Christendom.
Here at Mormon Women, we’d like to make a similar invitation to our readers and commenters. We understand and respect the reality that many people will not agree with and/or choose our faith. There may be elements of Mormon life and belief that don’t resonate with you. Or maybe religion just isn’t your thing. But feeding the notion that Mormons are a cult shuts down conversation and breeds misunderstanding, and can even invite bigotry and intolerance.
We hope that if people disagree with Mormonism, it’s because they are informed about what Mormon life and belief really are about, not because they have bought into the idea that Mormons are a cult to be feared.