Is Mormonism properly defined as a cult?

Most people are familiar with Mormon missionaries, donned in black pants, a white shirt, and tie. As a whole Mormons are generally considered kind and hard-working, known for their positive attitudes and missionary work. The more than 15 million Mormons worldwide describe their beliefs as the truest form of Christianity. Nonetheless, some of their more radical practices have given them the label of cult.

In general terms, a "cult" is a system of religious worship. But common usage of the word "cult" has given a narrower definition: a group that identifies itself under the umbrella of a larger religion, but contradicts some of the core beliefs of that religion. The Mormon church technically fits this definition since it claims Christian roots, yet opposes the main teachings of Christianity. Below are some examples of how Mormonism contradicts biblical truth.

Mormons believe that the Bible is corrupted and unreliable. They only apply the Scriptures that align with Mormon doctrine laid out in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price, all of which they consider to be other texts inspired by God (History of the Church, 4:461). The Bible teaches that it is complete and infallible (2 Peter 1:20–21).

Mormons believe the Trinity is three separate people while the Bible teaches that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all one (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 372; Articles of Faith, p. 35). Mormons believe that God was once a man from another planet who was exalted to His position of deity after living a righteous life (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345). In addition, they believe that Jesus, like God, is an exalted human and the offspring of God and a woman rather than God Himself (Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, p. 115). The Bible teaches that God has always existed and is the Creator, not a created being (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 43:10). He is perfect and is the only true God. Jesus is fully God and fully human. He lived a perfect life in order to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins (John 3:1-3; Hebrews 2:5-18; 1 John 2:2).

Mormons believe there are four levels in the afterlife and that everyone has eternal salvation, but their position in the afterlife will depend on how they lived while on this earth. They preach a faith in addition to works model with godhood, the fourth and greatest level, the goal to reach in the afterlife (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345-354; 2 Nephi 25:23, Articles of Faith, p. 92). The Bible teaches that the afterlife consists of two destinations: heaven and hell. Heaven is reserved for those who have salvation, not by their own works, but by the forgiveness of their sins made possible by Jesus' death on the cross and proven by His resurrection (Ephesians 2:8–9). Hell is for those who do not have a relationship with Jesus and choose sin over forgiveness (Matthew 7:21–23).

Although Mormonism clearly opposes the core beliefs of Christianity and is technically a cult, it is unwise to regularly term it as a cult in our modern culture. For many people, the word "cult" calls to mind a group in which the followers submit to a controlling yet charismatic leader and do dangerous or illogical things. The term is generally seen as offensive and derisive. In labelling Mormonism as a cult, we could alienate the Mormon community and lose the opportunity to speak truth into their lives. Instead of ostracizing them, we should approach them lovingly. We can gently reveal the errors in their doctrine and explain to them their need for forgiveness. Like most people in this world, Mormons think that salvation must be earned in some way. The good news we get to share with them is that Jesus has already freely given what we could never earn. All we have to do is ask for His forgiveness of our sins and put our faith in Him.

Related Truth:

What do Mormons believe? What is Mormonism?

What is the definition of a cult?

Are Mormons Christian? Do Mormons and Christians believe the same things?

How should Christians view the Book of Mormon?

How can I best witness to Mormons?

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