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Why Mormonism is a Cult

A lot of people have misconceptions about what a cult is. They think it is either some obscure cultural tribal like religions in Africa, or completely whack religions with highly destructive purposes like the Waco, TX incident or in March of 1997 with the Heaven's Gate cult's mass suicide.

But every cult has similar underlining principles that draw people into the cult and keep them there, despite how destructive the cult practices are or how extreme, though they are usually very far from any norm that exists in their society. Labeling any organization as a cult, or defining cult is difficult, but an extremely common definition of cultism has been used frequently that was defined articulated at an AFF/UCLA Wingspread Conference on Cultism in 1985:

Cult (totalistic type): A group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g. isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it, etc.), designed to advance the goals of the group's leaders, to the actual or possible detriment of members,  their families, or the community. (West & Langone, 1986, pp. 119-120)

You would be surprised how much Mormonism fits to this definition. To use their own words, let's look at the aspects of the definition.

Cult (totalistic type): A group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication....

"Ultimately, what our Father in Heaven will require of us is more than a contribution; it is a total commitment, a complete devotion, all that we are and all that we can be." Howard W. Hunter, "Standing As Witnesses of God," Ensign, May 1990, 60

But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not" (Mosiah 4:29-30, from the Book of Mormon, italics and bold added).

... to some person, idea, or thing ...

The following is taken from the current (1990) version of the endowment session, a ritualistic Masonic ceremony performed in their temples. Elohim is the name of god to Mormons.

Elohim: The posterity of Adam down to Moses, and from Moses to Jesus Christ offered up the first fruits of the field, and the firstlings of the flock, which continued until the death of Jesus Christ, which ended sacrifice by the shedding of blood. And as Jesus Christ has laid down his life for the redemption of mankind, so we should covenant to sacrifice all that we possess, even our own lives if necessary, in sustaining and defending the Kingdom of God.

All arise. Each of you bring your right arm to the square. You and each of you solemnly covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar that you will observe and keep the Law of Sacrifice, as contained in the Holy Scriptures, as it has been explained to you. Each of you bow your head and say "yes."

PATRONS: Yes.

....

Peter: You and each of you covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar, that you do accept the Law of Consecration as contained in the Doctrine and Covenants, in that you do consecrate yourselves, your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion.

Each of you bow your head and say "yes."

PATRONS: Yes.

... and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control ...

This is a handout that a mission president sent out to help us get in doors after the usual freakout of having let us in for the First Discussion. (taken from http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon050.htm)

HOW BADLY DO YOU WANT TO TEACH A SECOND DISCUSSION?
You haven't done all you can and your duty is not complete until you do the following:

Sometimes, even after a beautifully spiritual First Discussion and an effective "I Care About You" call-back, we find people who refuse to hear the Second Discussion. This is because the Spirit has left them and they probably have been confronted by someone who has challenged their interest in hearing more. First of all, set the appointment no more than 48 hours after the First Discussion and sandwich your "I Care About You" call-back inbetween....

If someone rejects you at the door with a comment like, "I have thought about it and decided that I have my own religion and I don't really want to hear more," say to them the following (adapting the dialogue to your own personality without losing the main points):

"We are truly sorry you feel that way. We felt so good when we left your home after our first visit. We have looked forward so much to seeing you again. We are excited about the message we have prepared to give you today and know that it can really bless your life. If what we have to tell you is true, it could be the most important few minutes of yourlife. If it isn't, then you will at least have learned a little more of what we believe. So, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. And we promise you, if after you have heard the message about Jesus Christ that we have for you today, and you still don't want to learn more, we will honor that and not come back. Surely that sounds reasonable, doesn't it? Please let us have just a few more minutes. May we come in?" Then move forward as if to enter the home. When you enter the home, show forth great love and warmth and concern for them.

Now, this is not going to get you into every home, but it will get you into more homes than you otherwise would. If every team in the mission were to do this it would add at least one more second per week per team. That would add up to at least 60 additional Seconds which equates to 5 more baptisms. Now, I ask you, is that worth putting your heart on the line; is it worth a little courage and putting your own personal comforts behind. There is not valid excuse for not pleading with all your heart and soul to be allowed one more chance to teach someone the Gospel. Do it! Every day!

The following is also taken from exmormon.org, please visit this excellent site to view more on the transcript.

Consider this true story taken from a book by social psychologist Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D., titled "Influence" (Quill). Influence is a study of compliance techniques and how and why people agree to things.

A group of social scientists infiltrated a secretive, doomsday cult based in modern-day Chicago that believed they were about to be whisked away on a spaceship because the end of the world was at hand. The scientists wanted to study the group's behavior in its natural occurrence. The group sold or gave away its belongings, students neglected their studies, people quit their jobs. They were committed, they believed. When the time came to leave, the group made public the coming disaster so the media came to watch. When the saucer didn't show, an atmosphere of despair among the group prevailed. The group had given up so much (property, money, jobs, education) that they could no longer afford not to believe. Next came a revelation from the group leader-because the group had cast so much light upon the world, God had saved the earth. Then came an instruction to publicize the explanation. What they had once kept secret, they now felt the need to publicize in the grandest scale.

Cialdini explains, "If they could spread the Word, if they could inform the uninformed, if they could persuade the skeptics, and if, by so doing, they could win new converts, their threatened but treasured beliefs would become truer. The principal of social proof says so: The greater the number of people who find any idea correct, the more the idea will be correct. The group's assignment was clear; since the physical evidence could not be changed, the social evidence had to be. Convince and ye shall be convinced!"

The parallels between this UFO cult and the Mormon church are striking. The Mormon church does not have physical evidence (even instructing its people to stop looking for it) supporting its doctrines and beliefs. So it seeks its support in the form of new believers in order to make its existence credible. This explains why the church is so actively involved in missionary work. Since the physical evidence is lacking, the social evidence must be overwhelming. Every Mormon can look at the steady stream of new recruits and feel their own commitment is more validated. The principal of social proof makes it so.

Cialdini discusses another concept which sheds some light on why people will continue to believe what they believe (in our case Mormons remaining Mormons) even after they become aware of its error.

... (e.g. isolation from former friends and family, ...

When missionaries, mostly 19 year old boys serve their mission for 2 years, they are sent far away from home into a military like strict environment where they work 74 hours a week. In their handbook, it explicitly states they are not to contact friends, family, even people in the small district the work in. They are allowed to write letters once a week, and even then letters outside their immediate family is discouraged. Twice a year they are allowed to call their family. Recently that time has even been limited to a "few minutes" by an announcement by Boyd K. Packer published to mission presidents, stake presidents, and such in December 2001.

"Have good associates or don't associate at all. Be careful in the selection of your friends. If in the presence of certain persons you are lifted to nobler heights, you are in good company. But if your friends or associates encourage base thoughts, then you had best leave them." (Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974, p. 241.) Base thoughts would include things such as the possibility that the Mormon church is not god's true church, contemplating of drinking coffee, etc.

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more. than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." Matt 10:34-37

... debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, ...

In the following quotes, be aware that the word murmuring is the common Mormon word for expressing doubt or disagreement, or simple expression of not understanding. Also watch the nature that the questions are phrased in as to invoke guilt, and also that "prophets" and "brethren" are leaders of the church.

We have sustained by uplifted hand our living prophets. We rejoice in the privilege of hearing the revealed word of God in our day from our living prophets. What do we do when we hear them? Do we follow the instructions of our living prophets with exactness, or do we murmur?

The simplest of instructions may reveal the tendency to murmur. I attended a meeting once when the presiding authority invited members of the congregation to come forward in the meeting room. A few stirred. Most did not. Why not?

I feel sure there were those who questioned why they should leave their comfortable position. "Why should I?" That question was, no doubt, followed promptly by an excuse or rationalization as to why it should not matter whether the seat was changed or not. I believe there followed some irritation that the presiding authority should make such a request. The last step, obvious to all who observed, was slothfulness in responding. Few moved. Was that a small thing? Yes. But it reflected a deeper, more profound lack of willingness to obey. It reflected a spirit of disobedience. That is not a small thing. (H. Ross Workman, "Beware of Murmuring," Ensign, Nov. 2001, 85)

Observe the demands to find out and how the way must include "dropping pride of your knowledge", ie ignorance:

He has given the key. You may know. You need not be in doubt. Follow the prescribed procedures, and you may have an absolute knowledge that these things are absolute truths. The necessary procedure is: study, think, pray, and obey his commandments and teachings. Revelation is the key. God will make it known to you once you have capitulated and have become humble and receptive. Having dropped all pride of your own knowledge and wisdom, having acknowledged before God your confusion, having humbled yourself (lost your feeling of self-importance) and having surrendered yourself to the teachings of the Holy Spirit, you are ready to begin to learn. With preconceived religious notions stubbornly held, one is not teachable. The Lord has promised repeatedly that he will give you a knowledge of spiritual things when you have placed yourself in a proper frame of mind. He has counseled us to seek, ask, and search diligently. These innumerable promises are epitomized by Moroni in the following: "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things" (Moro. 10:5). What a promise! How extravagant! How wonderful!.

May I repeat, the time will come when there will be a surrender of every person who has ever lived on this earth, who is now living, or who ever will live on this earth; and it will be an unforced surrender, an unconditional surrender. When will it be for you? Today? In twenty years? Two hundred years? Two thousand or a million? When? Again, to you, John, I say, it is not if you will capitulate to the great truth; it is when for I know that you cannot indefinitely resist the power and pressure of truth. Why not now? Much time has been lost. The years ahead can be far more glorious for you than any years in the past.

You cannot cast off this appeal and warning without grave responsibility. You will have to answer to your Creator if you ignore it, just as I would have to answer if I ignored it. I am doing my best to present it. I know that this is the only complete, divine, eternal program which is recognized and approved of God! (Spencer W. Kimball, "Absolute Truth," Tambuli, July 1979, 1)

"My dear brothers and sisters and family, can't you see what we need to do? Be submissive-do not murmur-endure to the end. If we will do this, the Lord will show us the way, if we will but follow his prophets and Apostles. Do not question their direction! It is as simple as that." (Waldo P. Call, "Follow the Prophets," Ensign, Nov. 1990, 82)

... powerful group pressures ...

Here I will add a personal note. When I was on my mission, I had a conflict, problem that I had been meeting with my mission president about quite a bit. I had gotten to the point where I was completely disagreeing with him and what he believed. I also had lost a lot of faith and was talking to him about leaving. He very frequently pointed out the fact that my great uncle was in the Seventy, that all my family was in the church. "Think how disappointed they will be if you leave the church," he said, appealing to group pressure and guilt over logic and looking at the situation and discussing it.

I grew up in a small Mormon town. 98% of the people I knew were Mormon. Before I left on my mission, my mother consistently bugged me to send in my papers fast, thinking I would delay it, often citing "all the other boys in your grade have filed theirs. You're one of the last to go." Our seminary teacher pushed a lot to encourage our friends not to date early.

When young Mormons serve missions, they join a huge force of 60,000 others serving. They have to constantly be with another partner, never to leave their sight. Any deviation of the rules (which are extremely strict, military like) is considered a sin. This is used to deeply engrain the thinking of Mormonism without question, quickly quelling any doubts or free thought. Any disobedience is to be reported up through the chain of power and dealt with swiftly. In the Mission Training Center, the theme was "Obedience with Exactness" and not questioning ANY rule at all.

"In Alma 57:21 we read: "Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness." (Italics added.) They were totally obedient. Hence, they had unbelievable protection and success." (Ted E. Brewerton, "Obedience-Full Obedience," Ensign, May 1981, 68)

... information management ...

Mormon missionaries are not allowed to read anything but scriptures and church magazines, (even other Christian materials) watch TV,  listen to music, or use the internet. Members are also refrained from reading material that is negative to the church, or anything that would destroy their faith in christ.

... suspension of individuality or critical judgment, ....

Remember that there may be many questions for which we have no answers and that some things have to be accepted simply on faith. An angel of the Lord asked Adam, "Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?" He answered, "I know not, save the Lord commanded me." (Moses 5:6.) There may be times when we are called upon to climb Mount Moriahs and to sacrifice our Isaacs without a full and prior explanation. Faith is the first principle of the gospel; it is a principle of progress.  (Carlos E. Asay, "Opposition to the Work of God," Ensign, Nov. 1981, 67)

To Mormons, Faith in god is the key, to build that in people is their purpose, and everywhere you look, they express that obedience is a key to gain faith. Also, the opposite of faith is doubt, thus we must surpress our doubt and just believe, just follow and obey. You don't need to know, just fork over the money to them, let all the old men's opinions govern every thought you have, everything you wear, you watch and read, contradict what you've been taught and any logic you might have left after giving them all your "might, mind, and strength."

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