Founded in 1830, by Joseph Smith; a convenient name for a prophet, who was apparently acting under the direct influence of Jesus Christ; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has its headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. This is the principal sect, and many remain in Utah in self imposed isolation, but there are splinter groups which refer to them-selves as being "Mormon".
That this church is radically different is without a doubt. Members used to practice polygamy and are rigid as well as fundamentalist. This is apparent in their complete rejection of the consumption of tobacco, coffee, tea, alcohol, and many other practices which are acceptable to most religions.
One hundred years ago Christian Americans considered Mormons to be a dangerous cult. Today, they are considered to be a fundamentally conservative Christian religion. The dropping of polygamy as a doctrine has helped this image, but they fought against this!
They do good works and adhere to their own scriptures as well as the Old and New Testament. The image of the church has been improved by means of vigilantly cultivated PR campaigns over the past few decades to shed the cult image.
Investigation into cults and the influence they have over people has defined a number of criteria which are used to determine cult status. CAN or the Cult Awareness Network is responsible for these and they make good sense:
Mind Control or undue influence: This is evident, but it is also very subtle, indoctrinated Mormons are kept so busy with church work; they have very little time for anything else. They have no time for dissenters who are summarily dismissed from the church, dissenters are given no leeway to repent.
Charismatic Leadership: Leaders are defined as being divinely inspired.
Deception: Leaders tend to be deliberately deceptive about the churches most embarrassing moments - particularly in terms of the early days and Joseph Smith. But there is a fine line between not telling the entire truth and deception.
Exclusivity: The Mormon Church boldly maintains exclusivity; the claim is that they and they alone are able to act with the complete authority of God.
Secrecy: This is evident in the fact that certain Mormon doctrines are kept hidden from the public. These are also kept from new members or prospects under the premise that they won't understand matters such as "Blood Atonement". This is advocated for adultery, homosexuality and masturbation, and blood atonement means the death penalty!
Alienation: Mormons preach that a member should choose their family before the church, but in practice things are very different. Members are subject to church discipline and even excommunication if they are supportive of family members who are homosexual for example.
Exploitation: Mormonism is un-relentless in this regard. Members are compelled to give of their time and money, and they have a remarkable surveillance system to make sure this happens.
Totalitarian Worldview (we/they): The Mormon Church believes that they will be the saviors of the US Constitution one day when it hangs by a thread. Doctrine states they will take over control of the government; if that is not totalitarianism then I don't know what is.
In conclusion, YOU have to decide whether this is a cult or religion. In my opinion, and the facts point to this, it is a cult. They meet the CAN criteria, but to be completely honest I feel that most religions and cults still have a good deal too much in common.
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Article Added on Saturday, February 13, 2010
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