During the recent controversy over Church disciplinary councils, several critics have leveled the accusation that, because of the way the Church treats Members Who Simply Ask Questions [sic], it has proven itself to be a “cult.”
Calling Mormonism a “cult,” and Mormons “cultists,” has been a popular pastime among certain conservative Protestants for several decades now. It seems to have really gained momentum with the late “Dr.” Walter Martin.
Lately, though, the charge is being made by more or less secular critics.
However, the characterization is ill-founded in both cases, because (outside of very narrow and specific applications in fields such as anthropology and archaeology) the word is so terribly ill-defined, even incoherent.
My friend Professor Stephen Ricks and I published an essay on this topic quite a number of years ago, in our book Offenders for a Word: How Anti-Mormons Play Word Games to Attack the Latter-day Saints. We had our Evangelical/fundamentalist friends principally in mind, but the essay is, I think, relevant to the more current secular criticism, as well: