A Loaded Word
Using the terminology “cult” is problematic, and enemies of the Church use this to their advantage. “Cult” is a word with multiple meanings, much like a “bat” can be a wooden stick or a flying rodent. In addition, some meanings carry a more negative connotation that others. In the words of this little analogy, I suspect that anti-Mormons use the “wooden stick” terminology correctly, hoping that the negative connotation of the “flying rodent” terminology will stick and leave them blameless.
Let me explain.
The term “cult” is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary in the following ways:
- A system or community of religious worship and ritual
- The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual
- A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
In all honesty, we fit the first two definitions pretty well (we’ll discuss the third definition in Part 5). We, like most religions (including Christians), use both worship and ritual in our spiritual observances. These rituals go beyond our sacred temple ordinances, and include simple ordinances like baptism, confirmation, and administration of the sacrament each week.
But, as Jeff Lindsay says, that kind of accusation wouldn’t sell many books. “Mormonism is a Religious Organization: Find Out Why!” or “Kingdom of the Religious Organizations” doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it?
Some Christians take the word “cult” to mean a religion that does not accept Jesus Christ, or a religion that does not accept their doctrine of salvation. Using this broad definition they include Islam, Buddhism, and religions like Mormonism under the umbrella of “cult”. This claim hardly merits consideration – it is like arguing that 2+2=5, or that the definition of “sky” is “a very large expanse of sea, in particular, each of the main areas into which the sea is divided geographically”. Pretending that the definition of “cult” is something it is not does no good.