Mormonism, Christianity, and Cults

I recently learned of the current controversy regarding First Baptist Dallas Pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress and comments he made in support of one candidate. Reporters heard something that piqued their interest, and went to find out. Turns out, shocker, I know, that this prominent conservative Christian pastor thinks Mormons are members of a cult. This is almost as big news as when the Southern Baptist Convention said they were going to pray for Jews.

The problem in this controversy is one of semantics. Non Christian people and Christian people sometimes can’t communicate clearly. When Jeffress says cult, reporters think of compounds with automatic machine guns and explosives. It takes them about 0.07 seconds to hit the oddball religious news alert, and away we go. Now Jeffress is going all over the place talking about it.

As for how the world views cults, Mormons don’t fit their understanding of one. Calling Mormons members of a cult on national TV just confuses people. Our soundbite generation cannot compute that. Jeffress says that he went on to explain more about what he meant, but of course that is too long for a news soundbite. The Hardball clip that’s going around, the commentator can’t get past his own definition cult. Is Jeffress concerned about a member of a cult in the White House? Jeffress keeps trying to define Mormonism as a theological cult.

Let me boil it down for you.

No, Mormons are not going to give all their money to the church and turn up, en masse, all dead with white sneakers and open packets of cool-aid littered around. In that connotation of the word cult, of course the Church of the Latter Day Saints are not a cult. They are a religion. Everyone I have ever met has been very nice, highly moral, and deeply committed to their faith. But not in that Going-to-mass-suicide-and-take-as-many-ATF-agents-with-us-as-we-can kind of way.

Mormons are an offshoot of traditional Christianity. They claim they have a more complete faith than us regular Christians. But there are several defining characteristics that define them theologically as a Christian cult.

For Christians, theologically, cults can be defined using a simple process:

“+, -, x, /”

Christian Cults are an offshoot of traditional Christianity that:

+ Add to scripture
Subtract from diety of Christ
x Multiply what is required for salvation
/ Divide their followers from traditional Christianity

Groups who do those things are generally thought to be non-Christian but traditional Christianity. Yes, I mean that members of those cults are not going to heaven. (Of course, if you dig a bit into Mormonism you see that I’m not going to be in their heaven either, so turn about’s fair play, right?)

So, how do the LDS measure up to that criteria?

+ Mormons claim that in addition to the Bible, the Book or Mormon and other texts should be considered scripture. They add to scripture.

Mormons do not think Jesus Christ is a part of a Triune God. He is Elohim’s only “begotten” son, but not his only son. In fact, Lucifer is Jesus’ brother. He is not part of the Trinity. He is not God, like Elohim is God. (Before you comment and say it, I know that the word Trinity isn’t in the Bible, but evidence for it is. Traditional Christians believe in it. Mormons don’t.) Mormons subtract from the deity of Christ.

X Mormons cannot achieve the highest level of heaven unless they do certain things here on earth. Salvation is not by grace alone, but works are required to enter the Celestial Heaven. Plus, if you want to be able to have your own planet and be a god, you must be married in a Mormon temple. Mormons multiply what it takes for salvation.

/ Mormons believe that they are the fully restored church, and that while most Christians have some truth, it is not complete. Mormons are the only religion that has complete truth on the earth. Traditional Christianity generally believes that as long as denominations hold to certain basic truths, the minor tenets of each group’s polity and practice do not bar them from entering heaven. These differences have to do with worship practices and general theology, but do not impact salvation, and the work of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in that act. Mormon divide themselves from other Christians as the holders of complete truth.

So, am I saying that every Mormon in the world will end up in hell? No. I don’t know the condition of any other person’s heart. In fact, one of the major LDS “mission” fields is Christian people. They often meet people of faith, and then convert them to Mormonism. It is likely that there are some nominal Mormons who have true faith in Christ. But, that faith did not come as a result of any Mormon theology or teaching.

What I am saying is that Mormon theology will lead you to hell. While they use the same words as traditional Christians (God, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, grace, salvation) they mean something else entirely. If you worship the mormon god, you worship someone other than the God of the Christian Bible. I know that sounds harsh, but when push comes to shove, that’s the cold hard truth of it. Mormons and Christians do not believe the same thing. That’s part of the reason mormon active;y seek to make converts from Christianity. They genuinely care about us knowing the whole truth. I don’t fault them for it, but that doesn’t mean we have the same faith.

What does that have to do with politics? Not as much as some would think. A person’s faith should permeate everything they do, and that won’t stop if that person becomes President. But, as I said before, Mormons are generally great folks with high moral standards. And I’m pretty sure no sitting President is going to try to make Polygamy legal, so no worries there. For me, I won’t vote for someone just because they are a Christian, and won’t vote against them just because they are not one.

Word of note: Please don’t email me or comment and say that I am deliberately misrepresenting the truth. It’s one thing if I have a fact wrong, it’s quite another of my opinion differs from yours.

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