Mormons: Crazy Cult, or We Should Be So Lucky?

So lately there’s been all this stuff everywhere about people who would vote for Rick Perry being in a cult.

Wait.

Sorry. The issue at hand is whether Mormonism is a cult. My mistake.

The best man at my wedding, Keith, was a Mormon. I loved that guy. Keith was my best/only friend all through high school. I missed him terribly when he went on his mission trip to France. France! The closest I’d ever been to France was being rude while ordering french fries.

I don’t know if on his mission trip Keith converted any French people to Mormonism. Probably not. The French are a pretty fashionable people. And I think while there Keith still had to wear that Mormon missionary outfit so favored by guys who’ve come to your office to fix the copy machine.

Then again, uber-geek fashion was a bit of the rage back when, like, Talking Heads were first popping. So who knows? Maybe the French thought Keith was an ultra-chic representative of Le’ House of Dork.

I dunno. I know Keith’s extremely lovely family never tried to convert me. Ever. I think they were afraid I might become a Mormom. I think they used to coach Keith on what to say to make sure I was never tempted to become a Mormon.

“Read to him that part from The Book of Mormon about the magic stones,” I imagine them telling him. “Tell him about the crazy underwear we wear. That should do it.”

If that was their plan, it worked. I loved Keith. But I was about to become a Mormon like I was about to become an Eagle Scout. Which Keith also was.

How Keith and I ever got to be best friends is beyond me. Well, it’s not, really. Keith was easily the funniest person I’ve ever met. So that’s why.

Keith’s parents had seriously mixed feelings about me. On the one hand, they were happy their decidedly nerdy son had a friend from high school. On the other hand, that friend was me. I came from a home not just broken, but shattered. I smoked cigarettes. I smoked weed. I drank. I seemed to have a million girlfriends. I drove a car you could hear coming from blocks away. I looked like the cover shot from Every Mother’s Nightmare magazine.

Keith was their eldest son, of five kids. In high school he was already taking college classes. I barely attended our high school. On the first day of my senior year of high school, I saw this small, skinny kid, a freshman or sophomore, pretty upset because he couldn’t get his locker to work.

My locker was just a couple down from his. “Here,” I told the kid. “You can have my locker. It’s fine. It’s yours.” I gave him the combo to my locker, and then tossed my books in some bushes right beside the lockers.

That was my new locker. Bushes. Until I left high school six months later, that’s what I actually used for my locker. And they’d water those bushes. I’d show up to math class, and my book would be all wrinkled, and wet, and dirty, with little branches and leaves stuck all over it. And slugs. Seriously. Baby slugs. Who apparently strived for a better life.

Meanwhile, Keith was already deciding which college scholarships to take.

One time, when I was having Thanksgiving dinner at Keith’s house, I looked around the table, and saw the happiest, healthiest, most loving family I’d ever even imaged could exist. They actually liked each other. And I knew this family. I knew how good they were. I knew how much their religion meant to them. They didn’t talk much about Mormonism, but they sure lived it. In an emergency, theirs was the house you wanted to go to, for sure. Their dad, like, built their house. And their Mom made June Cleaver look like a drunk prostitute. Their whole family was amazing.

Maybe Mormonism is a cult. I don’t know. (Well, I do: it’s not.) All I know is that when I was a kid, it was a Mormon family who showed me what a real family, operating at maximum capacity, looks like. It was the first time I’d ever seen that. And I can’t say I’ve seen it that often since.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrewchow01 Andrew Chow via Facebook

    You have been blessed, John, not only with a best friend, but also his family, and his sense of humor if what say about his true. Funny! Thanks for the smile in the morning.

  • http://www.facebook.com/glee.violette Glee Violette via Facebook

    Thanks! Nice to hear a really Christian reaction to the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter Day Saints!

  • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

    Mormons got their s4!t together. If mainstream Christians had their s4!t together half as well, the country would be ten thousand percent better off.

    (Which isn’t to say Mormons can’t go off the range — and when they do, the results tend to be spectacular viz. http://thefreestylelife.com/tabloid-documentary-2010.html )

    But on the whole, the average professing Mormon seems to do a better job of living his/her faith than the average professing mainstream Christian. (And Mormons ARE Christians — anybody who believes there is but a single creator God, Jesus is His son, and that He died so we may be saved by accepting Him as as personal savior is a Christian; anything else is interpretation and/or opinion.)

    When the musical The Book Of Mormon opened in NYC, the Mormon church responded by sending out a squad of Mormons armed with free copies of the real Book of Mormon that they gave away to any playgoer who wanted one. No protest, no lawsuit, no screeching heads on TV; just take advantage of the free PR to do some outreach. Brilliant…and perfectly Christian.

    A couple of decades ago one of the rare not-so-good Mormons tried to sell some forged historical documents to the Mormon church; these forgeries (had they been real) would have reflected badly on Joseph Smith & his motives. As the con man correctly anticipated, the church leaders were eager to buy the documents — but to his astonishment (and the undoing of his scheme) they planned to make them public!

    Their reason? It was their duty to set high standards by being honest and truthful, and if there existed documents that reflected badly on them & their prophet, hiding those docs would only make it worse. Better to face the truth & deal with than try to hide from it.

    That takes more than guts — that takes faith.

    I respect Mormons even though I can’t buy into their denomination-specific theology.

  • erika

    this has been my experince as well. the mormons i know are the sweetiest, kindist people i know. and besides, how cool do you have to be to get YOUR OWN BROADWAY SHOW?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tggtPHDmrR8&feature=related

  • http://supercrayons64.blogspot.com Blake

    The line about the bushes made me laugh out loud. Unfortunately my only experience with Mormons IS them trying to convert me. Glad you’ve had a better experience though

  • Becky

    John, Love this piece! During school, most of my friends were Mormon. I went to early morning seminary with them, stake dances, and double dated with my Mormon boyfriend. My best friend was Mormon and if not for her and her family, I am not sure I would be here today. The love that her parents showed me and the rest of my family could not be faked. (No birthday or holiday went by without a card/visit/ present/or family singalong from the Kimballs!) And they did all that knowing I wouldn’t join the church (just a few doctrines I dont agree with).

    I’m a mother now, and although I’m still not Mormon, my most sincere wish is that I give to my children and to those around me some small measure of the compassion and tenderness that family gave me. I couldnt agree more with your last paragraph… thanks for saying so brilliantly the thoughts of my heart!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Fisher/100000120001424 Mark Fisher via Facebook

    You speak from your heart and experience. I like that. But your experience is not always others experiences. The Mormon religion claims superiority over all others and as you know has some vey different and sometimes cult like beliefs and practices. Are they a cult? I guess it would depend on what your definition of a cult is or if you even you believe there is such a thing as a cult. I am cautious of them always, especially their work for inequality and subjugation of the LGBT community. They have much to answer for in many areas, as do all of us I guess.

    • Mindy

      I tend to eschew any organized religion – because every one claims superiority over all others, and through that belief of superiority, the hierarchy of every one gets corrupted by those who care more about power than people. I don’t think Mormonism, in any way, has an exclusive hold on that particular fault!

      There are wonderful people, I have no doubt, in every faith. I don’t believe the Mormon church is any more a cult than any other organized faith.

  • http://www.gabrieljaraba.com Gabriel Jaraba

    Well, I live in Spain, near the French border, and we have here mormon missionaries too. All of them that I have met are very polite people, and after talking a while, they reveal themselves as highly ethical persons, showing worthly spiritual values and a strong sense of commitment and responsability. None of them tried to convert me using tricks or misleaded actions. I have invited some of them to participate in the radio shows I lead or daily newspapers interviews I publish, and always showed up as gentlemen. I have read The book of Mormon and seems pretty strange to me, but it’s missionaries are trustworthly people, following my experience.

  • Nick K.

    This is a very moving story and is an excellent example of how people of differing faiths should interact with each other. This is also an excellent story of how religious people should act in general. If you want others to be persuaded to convert to your belief, then be an example and live the faith. Don’t just yell and shout about how right you are and all others are wrong. Be the living example.

    Sadly, though, I have never had the pleasure of meeting or getting to know any Mormons. They are a bit thin on the ground here in Chicago where the Catholic Church is the most prominent faith. However, I am intrigued by their religion and have made many attempts to read the Book of Mormon. For some reason, I just can’t seem to get into it. Oh well, maybe if one or two of their cute missionaries (they have to do everything in pairs, right?) helped me out there, I might be able to make some headway. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/leigh.kelly Leigh Pinkston Kelly via Facebook

    Technically speaking, all organized religions are cults. Judaism is a cult that believes there is one deity, that it created everything in the universe and that it chose the Hebrew people over all others to be the recipients of the its favors. Christianity is a sub-cult of Judaism that believes that the deity had a son who was sent in a human body to communicate with us and be sacrificed for human sins. Islam is a cult that believes the same deity which the Hebrews believe is name YHWH is really named Lah and demands that everyone submit to its will as revealed to a prophet named Muhammad and recorded in a book called Quran. Most Western religions are derivatives of one of these Big Three cults.

  • Tim Daily

    Perhaps you haven’t heard of the Mormon’s promotion of electroshock therapy to cure teenage boys of homosexuality without parental permission. If one judges a book by its cover, Mormons look great. The devil is in the details.

  • Amy

    You know, I could say the same about most fundamentalist & evangelical families. I don’t understand blasting one but not the other. It doesn’t make much sense to me to blame conservative Christians for hateful acts toward LGBT folks while failing to see that Mormons have done the same–not just Prop 8, but also buying into the ex-gay movement. Just ask formerly “ex-gay” Mormons.

    That said, I do appreciate seeing a sentiment about Mormons that isn’t calling them a cult.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Who are you talking to?

      • Amy

        Um, you, John. You recently blamed Christians who think it’s sin to be gay for the tragic deaths of gay teens. Mormons aren’t any better. Why the criticism for evangelicals but not Mirmons (token post script aside)? By the way, I do agree about evangelicals, I used to be like that myself. I just think this came off as soft/appeasing. And no, I don’t think Mormons are a cult.

        • http://flamidwyfe.wordpress.com Sandi Blankenship

          I just want to add that I am an Evangelical Christian who supports LGBT people. As in all religions and even non-religious people, each person has their own opinion, and while I love the sense of family in my church, I don’t necessarily agree with their philosophy on a lot of things. I thank God for that Free Will :)

          • http://www.unchainedfaith.wordpress.com Amy

            Sandi, that’s how I am, too. I am still at an evangelical church. I stay because I think if we all leave, there will be no one to affirm the LGBT youth. I can’t bear the thought of even one more young person feeling he or she is inherently without value or undeserving of G-d’s love.

          • Diana A.

            Amen!

        • DR

          Huh? Can’t someone highlight a positive aspect about a particular faith and it not mean that the negative aspects are still really negative?

  • Anne Young via Facebook

    I vote for cult – the whole separation of woman for one, harboring polygamy, still, no matter what they claim, and the exclusion of anyone not Morman from their temple, EVEN FOR A WEDDING, because they are “unworthy” (this is true, I have a relative that went all Morman and no one was allowed to see the wedding). Total cult.

  • Anne Young via Facebook

    OH! and the ‘golden tablets” that no one ever saw that the whole thing is based on? really? who on earth thinks that really happened?

    • Beri

      I read Revelation about 2 weeks ago prior to starting a Bible study on the letters to the seven churches. About mid way through it I began to wonder what John was smoking when he wrote it. My point is there are parts of the Bible that cause rational people to question the veracity of the passages.

      • http://slugcrossings.blogspot.com/ Liutgard

        However, that portion of John’s Revelation is not central to standard Christian doctrine. Which I think may be part of the issue; the ‘basic’ stuff, the stuff in the Apostle’s/Nicene Creed, is pretty non-weird. I can’t say the same for basic Mormon doctrine.

        When I was in high school, I lived for a year about 1/4 from the Hawaii Temple, in Laie. I was a completely bizarre year. The Mormon kids I knew, and their families, were fine, upstanding people. The sort of people you’d want for neighbors. But there was no room for personal expression, who you are and what you were going to be was pretty locked down and rigid. I’d have been miserable living that way. And I don’t know if there are people who grew up Mormon who were/are miserable, who try to ignore it and conform, or if they really are that… regimented. You know? I knew moms who could have passed for Stepford wives.

        Think I’ll stay Episcopalian. They accept me as I am.

    • Janell

      About 13 million people. :)

    • DR

      With all due respect, any religious experience – including Jesus becoming human and dying on a Cross – is going to be a bit ridiculous to the logical eye. Calling something “myth” when many of us ascribe to the supernatural in one form or another ourselves seems intellectually dishonest.

      • Suz

        Bingo. Our “myth” doesn’t seem weird to us because we’ve had our whole lives to get comfortable with it, to make it “fit” our perceptions of reality.

  • http://www.facebook.com/maryterry17 Mary Knox via Facebook

    Well, John, I hope you’re satisfied! You’ve got everyone buzzing again; debating whether Mormonism is a cult. I have to admit that I have always understood that it was a cult, along with Jehovah’s Wittnesses, Krishnas & a few others. But the family you described must’ve seemed like heaven on earth to you at the time. I’m sure they met a lot of the needs you had, whether you were aware of them or not! Sometimes the Lord “works in mysterious ways”. I guess the conclusion I have come to is that we will all have to stand before The Lord someday & account for ourselves. All we will have to account for is our own decisions, not someone else’s. So I say…. let the Mormons, the JW’s, Krishnas and whomever else you might want to throw in the mix worry about themselves. Personally, I have enough of a challenge keeping myself where Jesus would have me; let alone worrying about all the “others” out there!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Murphy/48608610 Mike Murphy via Facebook

    This is almost exactly the same bent that South Park took when it did it’s first episode on Mormonism(not that i’m trying to compare your actual life with a cartoon john). It was exactly that, this extremely happy healthy family that everyone looks at for being weird because they are Mormon, while those same people who call them weird have completely unhealthy. I guess what it should show is that people can be what we’d consider “good” or “healthy” regardless of what they believe in about god and the afterlife. There’s plenty of bones you can pick with Mormons, but plenty to pick with any other religion or atheists. I guess the real lesson should be “there’s more that makes the person than who they pray to”.

  • mike moore

    lmao. June Cleaver as a drunk prostitute … brilliant.

  • Allie

    My niece was held prisoner by church elders when she tried to leave her husband. The FBI had to intervene because the police in Salt Lake City wouldn’t. Yes it is a cult.

    It was founded by a man who by any reasonable interpretation of the facts was a con man, and it is based on a book which was made up like science fiction.

    None of this changes the fact that there are very nice Mormons. But there are also very nice people in other cults.

    • erika

      how weird, i thought that LDS had a high divorce rate.

      • http://slugcrossings.blogspot.com/ Liutgard

        No, LDS has a very low divorce rate. Southern Baptists, on the other hand…

        • http://slugcrossings.blogspot.com/ Liutgard

          However, Utah is #1 on the list for downloads of online porn. I don’t know what that means, except for there’s a lot of horny people in Utah…

          • erika

            huh.

    • DR

      Allie in the spirit of debate, wouldn’t it be fair to say this is the exception to the rule, rather than the rule itself?

      • LSS

        when you read a lot of the ex-mormon sites they make out like these things are common and part of church policy … extreme measures for people who try to leave or who come out as gay and try to stay, forcing little kids to undergo interrogation by church elders about their sexual thoughts (alone, without parents), all kinds of things like this. i just don’t know what to believe because both sides are clearly biased… ex-mormons disagreeing with the entire LDS church sort of have to believe that all the awful things they went through were not individual instances but were church policy… and people still in the church who might never have experienced anything awful, don’t want to believe that anything like that is wrong with their beloved church. you can understand both sides… so it’s hard to get an objective idea, especially from so far outside as i am, anyway.

        • Suz

          That’s a good point. Keep in mind that every organized religion has “policies” that are harmful to some. This is a result of man’s interpretation of man-made doctrine. Fortunately, most religions continue to evolve, thanks to their most moral and compassionate members.

  • Suz

    Great post, John, once again. If I had to choose a church based on how its members practice their faith, the Mormon Church would be close to the top of my list. To me, their beliefs aren’t any kookier than those of any other branch of Christianity. Whatever the devilish (by which I mean ‘political’) details, it is usually clear that Jesus is at the core of the Mormon religion; you can see this in the day to day lives of its members. Their understanding of the importance of loving bonds within the family and the community, is a dominant aspect of their culture. My great grandfather ran away from an abusive Mormon polygamist stepfather, and was literally raised by outlaws. 100-odd years later, many of his descendants happily embrace that faith, and live it. Being a recovering Catholic, I can assure you that Mormonism makes far more sense than the religion in which I was raised.

    • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

      As I posted below (above?), I can’t accept Mormon-specific theology as valid, but I think it’s entirely possible God saw Joseph Smith as a guy who could get millions of people to start living more Christ-like lives in the areas where it really mattered so He gave ‘em a gimme on some of Smith’s reported revelations.

      This is my personal mainstream Protestant opinion; others mileage may vary.

      • LSS

        i never thought of that theory before. what do you think of the idea (i forget where i first heard it) that people end up drawn to the religion that fits their personality? i think it’s meant to explain the existence of many religions…

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        love it, buzz. u the man.

  • Val P.

    Being from Dallas, I’m a bit embarrassed both by Dr. Jeffress and the whole Rick Perry/Mormon hoo-ha. Being a reformed Southern Bapt., I caome to the conclusion long ago that the Southern Bapt. are a cult. It’s either their way or the highway – and that highway leads straight to Hell! Any religious organization that discourages members thinking for themselves, and rushes to judgment against anyone or anything that disagrees with them in any way is displaying cultish tendencies in my humble opinion. And personally I don’t care what religious persuasion the political candidates are – all I care about is do they have any ideas on how to get us out of the mess we’re in?

    • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

      Val

      That’s actually pretty much what Mormonism believes and expects from its followers (namely Mormon doctrine is never to be questioned)

      • Val P.

        Brian, I sheepishly admit I have no experience with Mormons. My childhood was apparently pretty sheltered, the only Mormons I ever heard of were the Osmonds. Dr. Jeffress’ message, however, was a familiar one to me – and made me as uncomfortable as an adult as it did as a child. “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world” – BUT if they don’t believe exactly like we do, they’re going to Hell!

        My whole point is – Who cares what church Mitt Romney goes to? He’s not running for Supreme Religious Leader of the US, he’s running for President.

  • LSS

    i don’t know if i should comment on my LDS experience or not… so much of it might just represent the peculiarities of one human experience and not the whole Church. i will agree about the *people* being some of the nicest ever. that right there is a given, but it’s still important that you said it in your article, and to affirm it.

    also one part of my husband’s and my Mormon experiment made me realize what my Atheist friends feel about Christians, so that was useful. i should probably tell that part.

    our LDS friend had been going through some life changes and as a result got back to being more involved with Mormonism. due to this, and admittedly, due to my having expressed some skepticism about Mormon ideas, she sent the missionaries to visit us. i said “i never tried to convert you to reformed presbyterian!” and she told me that the missionaries would help me fix a part of the house that was leaking and find my husband a job when he came back from a bureaucratically-necessitated trip to his ex-home in South America.

    i have to admit i never had a completely open heart or mind to their message. i was raised on the ideas of “Granny Geer” (http://www.amazon.com/Mormonism-Mama-And-Me-ebook/dp/B004Y0Y1G6) and so i had pretty much gotten the “yes, cult” idea. but i was doubting everything i had ever been raised to think, so i resolved to *try* to be open-minded to the Mormons. i didn’t keep my resolution that well, so this might all be my fault.

    well, i tried to read the Book of Mormon. it felt like somebody had overdosed on the KJV and this was what came back out. i have to admit i didn’t read very far in. and the guys came every week (and didn’t know how to fix the leak) but they talked with me about Mormon ideas… an ex-Baptist guy that came with them told some stuff that i think was supposed to be reserved for more advanced lessons, like the part where you and your Mormon spouse really kind of *have* to have babies in this life, but then when you die, you also get your own planet and you have to keep having babies until you populate it. i’m not even brave enough to have ONE kid, let alone a whole friggin’ planetful. it also seems like an awful lot of work, for it being Heaven. i’d rather garden (you have to understand how much i hate gardening for that to make sense). also, i learned that Heavenly Father was once a human before he became God (which, iirc, is actually a controversial topic within Mormonism, and not all LDS believe it) and that so was Jesus and so are we… in the same way. i forget what their explanation of Jesus was … how he was different from us. i wish i remembered. i think he “had more grace” and was a kind of prophet… (maybe a little like what Islam says about Issa or Jesus?) oh and the Bible has undergone changes but the BoM hasn’t since it was translated by divine inspiration… (which is actually false, they took out one or two of the most racist bits later) see, at the same time as the missionaries were visiting, i looked up ex-Mormon sites to see what were the arguments and the crazy stories from the past of the LDS church. so i admit that i was not totally giving my heart to my resolution.

    OK, so after a while of visits, they always asked us (by the last 2 visits my husband was back in the country) to pray and open our hearts that we could believe that the Book of Mormon was what it says it is. i just wasn’t feeling it … not that i feel much about regular christianity, either. but LDS was just not even attracting the dogma-nerd side of me. so after that i told them thank you but we didn’t want to waste their time because we were probably never going to be converted.

    one day around that time we went with our LDS friend to her church, maybe a Ward? and of course the people were all WHITE WHITE WHITE WHITE with even the little boys wearing suits and ties and my mestizo husband and my hippie self were feeling extremely out of place… of course once we got in we saw precisely one family from each of several nonwhite ethnicities, and several people came over to practice their Spanish on him. it was a special service for children’s day, so the little kids were getting up in their age groups and telling different parts of the Mormon Story. wow, i never saw so many brainwashed kids… except for myself and the rest of the kids raised fundamentalist or calvinist or even mainstream protestant!! that was the part where i felt like i suddenly understood my Atheist friends.

    oh yeah and the LDS church never found my husband a job. but then they never even found our Mormon friend a job, either. probably just the economy…

    i wouldn’t say that Mormonism is a cult… and i wasn’t entirely sure whether or not it was a part of Christianity either… neither is a phrase to be thrown around lightly, and as much research as i did, i think i would need to do more. i don’t think it’s a religion that encourages critical thinking *about their dogmas*, but that could be said about a lot of groups within regular Christianity and other religions.

    it kind of seems like individual Mormons believe in the real God, though… which is where i get really confused (if not before).

    • LSS

      sorry this was so long. i do agree with the people that said that mostly Mormons are better at being christian than a lot of other christians (including myself, of course). also, iirc, they were the only group of christians who scored really high on that “how much do you know about religions” quiz that came out last year or so. and that nearly all the things that bug me about LDS also bug me about the regular christian churches, starting with marketing of religion and going on from there.

  • Suz

    OK, peeps, cover me. I’m goin’ in.

    Those of you who insist that Mormonism is a cult, do so based on your own personal observations, not on the broader teachings of the church. There are certainly cults within the Mormon Church. There are cults within EVERY religion. These cults are led by psychotic little despots with delusions of grandeur, who use the “Word of God” to to control their followers, and to justify all kinds of evil acts. (This concept sounds suspiciously familiar…)

    If you can insists that a handful of whackjob extremists speak for most Mormons, then you must accept that sects like AlQuaida represents most Muslims, and “churches ” like Westboro Baptist represent most Christians. Do you really think these are rational conclusions? Does the Reverend Phelps speak for you?

    Are you being the kettle or the pot?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      You DID go in! Awesome. And very well said, Suz. You definitely cover yourself as you go in.

    • DR

      Nicely said. I mean, Christians believing that Jesus is the Son of God who came down as a human and allowed himself to die on a Cross is pretty out there. People having their own planet when they die isn’t exactly that far of a stretch.

  • http://flamidwyfe.wordpress.com Sandi Blankenship

    There you go again… not judging! Being a true Christian… sure wish more people would follow your lead! :) You rock and I am so glad I found your blog! Thanks to the Christian Left for sending me your way!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jo-Hargis/100002882420472 Jo Hargis via Facebook

    Mark Fisher said: “The Mormon religion claims superiority over all others and as you know has some very different and sometimes cult like beliefs and practices. Are they a cult? I guess it would depend on what your definition of a cult is or if you even you believe there is such a thing as a cult. I am cautious of them always, especially their work for inequality and subjugation of the LGBT community. ”

    Mark has just described to a TEE the evangelical tea party. They believe they’re superior. Some of their members are racist and persecute gays and people of color, and they are legislating the hell out of gay rights and women’s rights. Guess that makes the tea party a cult too!

  • http://a-bright-blog.blogspot.com Jason Paul Bachand

    John, I’m just wondering where you stand on the issue of Mormonism as a form of Christianity. You may have heard of a recent poll (granted, it was conducted by a SBC-affiliated group) finding that 75% of pastors do not view Mormonism as a Christian faith. (If you haven’t – http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/poll-three-in-four-pastors-say-mormons-arent-christian/2011/10/10/gIQAHdlkaL_story.html). What do you think?

    And now for my (probably expected) rationalist query – how are talking stones and magic underwear any different from talking donkeys and magic staves? Put otherwise, if you’re willing to accept one idea that defies the physical laws of the cosmos and all evidence to date, why be so assuredly critical of another?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I was talking about how I saw/heard those things when I was a kid. That was the (explicit) context.

      C’mon, people. Let’s concentrate! :-)

  • Kristen

    Great post. I have always noticed and admired how Mormon families tend to be so strong and joyful. As you said, they actually like each other.

  • denver

    I think the difference is: the people (possibly very nice, possibly very messed up, just like the rest of us) versus the dogma (rather wacky, IMHO, but so is a lot of religious dogma if taken literally), versus the practice/leadership (prop 8 donations, “ex gay therapy”, kicking out boys from the polygamist sects so there isn’t too much competition, etc., etc.). The same could be said about any religious group: you could say Catholics (caveat – I’m a quasi-Catholic, so don’t think I’m picking on Catholics) are very nice or messed up people, has some wacky dogma, and the leadership seriously is in need of a reformation in light of the pedophile priests, and various other screw-ups. Does that make Catholicism a cult? Nope. So Mormonism isn’t a cult either. Perhaps some of the crazier sects that the general LDS doesn’t recognize could be considered such, but the general church? I don’t think so.

    • denver

      have* some wacky dogma… couldn’t ignore that oops.

  • http://www.facebook.com/laura.chaplinski Laura Green Chaplinski via Facebook

    Funny as hell! So, you were leaving the blog to be a writer? Facebooks not a blog so this doesn’t count? I wish you well; but 7 days? You gonna make it?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      wft?

      • Donald Rappe

        wtf? indeed! The wonders of new FB.

  • Donna W.

    Love you, John, but my experience with LDS members has been a bit different. My daughter was best friends with a little Mormon girl when they were in early elementary school. What a lovely family and a sweet little girl! They invited us to attend the daughter’s baptism and we were delighted to attend. The thing I remember most about it was the mother’s pained expression when the leader told the little girl that from this day on, the “Bishop” or whatever would be her best friend and the most important person in her life, next to her father. She went from smiling to looking like she’d been punched in the gut. Shortly after they started to invite my daughter to go to a church function once a week with them in the evening. I talked with the mom and she said it was purely recreational and nothing about faith or religion was ever discussed. She knew we were active, happy members of our mainstream, moderate, Protestant church. She assured us that it was just kids having fun and there would be no teaching about the LDS. Cool – I thought it was great. Then my daughter came home and started telling us weird stories about their “recreation.” Apparently they were reenacting parts of the book of mormon. I called the mom and she couldn’t deny it, but said our daughter had really been enjoying it, and it was really for her benefit. That was the end of that relationship. By the way only in my worst nightmare would I consider June Cleaver an acceptable role model for my daughters to look up to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jill-Joiner/100000809409370 Jill Joiner via Facebook

    As the wife of a Mormon survivor I would have to personally say cult. I have yet to meet a true Mormon family that is happy without painting a veneer or at risk of losing there Temple Recommend. John I have one question. Was your friend RLDS LDS RULDS? I know by what you put in your post that is not FLDS.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    Huh?

  • http://www.facebook.com/laura.chaplinski Laura Green Chaplinski via Facebook

    Oh, ouch. ‘writing me off” was September 12, sorry!! I misread.

  • John Williams

    Well, I dunno–I’m not a terribly clever or funny writer, but I do take the issue somewhat lightly, and here’s why: (I’m speaking as one of those strange Christians who accepts and respects everyone and the path they’ve chosen as their own–and as someone who welcomes to the Communion table anyone who wants a closer relationship with God–if they figure out they believe in one or want to try to do so). From my perspective on Christianity, no–Mormonism is not traditional Christianity; but it IS a religion that believes in Jesus so strongly that they figure he teleported himself to North America to leave them a message. (Why would he do that? The winters in NY are awful! He spoke to me from under a nice shady fig tree somewhere in Judea. I figure he was in a much better mood then than he would have been digging a hole in a hillside in NY. And besides, why would he want to HIDE his testament? Oh, well…) The thing is, the Mormons believe in Jesus as a prophet, just as Muslims do and just as modern-day Judaism respects him as having some inspired-of-God things to say. And we (hopefully) treat Muslims and Jews with common acceptance and respect–so why not Mormons? And to those who say, “As a Christian, I couldn’t vote for a Mormon for President”, I say, “As a Christian AND American, I can vote for anyone who has a vision for an America filled with justice and peace”. In fact, since voting is a civil act accomplished in accord with the U.S. Constitution, having nothing whatsoever to do with religion, I could vote for someone of ANY religion–or none–because, you see, the Constitution places no religious test on the office of President. I hope this added to the discourse–even if it didn’t, I feel better now, having said it. I just can’t take this question very seriously–I mean, shouldn’t we be more interested in living the love for others that Christ taught us, and less concerned about what someone else believes? Besides, if we do a good job of living Christ’s love, won’t our actions be our witness to what we believe? Since actions DO speak louder than words, maybe we ought to stop arguing and start doing.

    • LSS

      yeah that’s the thing … just because some aspects of somebody’s religion might *personally* creep me out, they are supposed to uphold the constitution and get the country going in a useful direction and stuff like that.

    • mentalutopia

      As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I assure you that we view Jesus Christ as much, much more than a prophet. He is my Lord, Savior, and Redeemer. His life is my perfect example and through faith in Him and His atoning sacrifice I can be made perfect and return to dwell with my Father in Heaven someday. Without Christ, I would have no hope of anything. With Him, I have hope of everything.

      John Shore–I’m sorry your books got wet and sluggy, but that was awfully nice of you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    Oh, righto. gotcha.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    I have no idea.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sspencerwolff Scott Spencer-Wolff via Facebook

    Loved this blog… my experience (about the family dynamics) with some LDS friends too. Disgustingly healthy and functional. Maybe it’s what’s possible without caffeine. I shudder at the thought.

    • LSS

      oh i forgot that part. yeah, maybe?!

      • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

        I can’t be a Mormon b/c of the no caffeine rule, I can no longer be a So. Bapt. b/c of the no alcohol rule

        I have a feeling I’ll die a Rastafarrian…

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Buzz: FUNNY! Great one.

        • http://slugcrossings.blogspot.com/ Liutgard

          The Episcopalians would be happy to have you… ;-)

  • Don Whitt via Facebook

    Here’s my status from the day the Perry/Romney kerfuffle occurred:
    Funny. Christians were originally branded a cult, rounded up and killed. And here’s two branches of Christianity arguing over who’s a cult and who’s not. Shouldn’t they ALL proudly claim cult-hood?

    • Christy

      We all know it’s pejorative….and indicative of the sin of religious superciliousness (I always wanted to use that word: Triple word score!). Anyway: caveman-like chest thumping about how my God is bigger than your God, and how my theologians are smarter than your theologians, and how the people who follow your God are delusional and doing it all wrong. Meanwhile, back in heaven, God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit (er, just God) created a clap of mountain-shaking thunder while executing a Holy Facepalm. Either that, or the vein underneath the right eye of our anthropomorphized concept of God as an old guy with a long white beard (Thanks, Leonardo) has begun to twitch…. and he does some holy cursing:

      #$*F@%^#$@*^#$&F@&#&$F&#!?!!!

      “Are you still so dull…..” Matthew 15:16-18

      (Not you, Don, but you – as in us. You know what I mean: you plural, you all, ya’ll.)

      Anyway. <>

      • Christy

        was supposed to have a – Deep sigh – in it.

  • David J Martin

    How one differentiates a “cult” from a religious denomination really escapes my ability. There are many Christian denominations as well as non Christian religious followings. In my spiritual path I have come to accept people of “good will” – those who work for, care for, and love one another as my own Saviour, Jesus Christ, has mandated. If,therefore, wittingly or unwittingly, people are doing this, then aren’t we all advancing the Kingdom of God which Christ teaches is upon us and within each of us. He spoke of his Father’s kingdom having many mansions. Perhaps He was telling us that we believe in Him and are followers of Him even if we do not truly know Him by living a life of love. This makes the silliness of determining whether a following is a cult, Christian, non-Christian and so, moot. He became incarnate to live and experience our lives and finally to bring us to His Father. When we start judging the value of another person or faith community, we become the Pharisaic – He despised and condemned their hypocrisy but their person. By living love “unconditionally” we live Christlike, and isn’t that our/His goal ?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sharon-Aldridge-Kaufman/1328865837 Sharon Aldridge Kaufman via Facebook

    I dunno, but I read something years ago that attributed Joseph Smith’s supposed visions to his having eaten rye grain tainted by the fungus, ergot. Ergot was the original source of LSD, so maybe his visions were, in fact, hallucinations. Who knows?

    All of which does nothing to resolve whether Mormonism is a cult. Personally, I think salvation is so personal that it’s not up to us to determine such things. Some of us are too willing to assume certain powers to which we have no right. – such as judging another’s faith and whether it’s right or wrong.

    My late parents-in-law was LDS, and their marriage was sealed in the Salt Lake City Temple. They raised their five children LDS (LSD? sorry…) and only two of the four still living still adhere to the faith. I wouldn’t trade any of them for the fundamentalists I grew up among. I only know my Jack-Mormon husband grins when I telll him I don’t care what they believe, if going to Heaven means I have to keep having babies throughout eternity, I’m not going.

    Sheesh! I ought to start my own blog!

  • wolfanddragon

    Friendship makes strange friend-fellows. :)

  • Skip Johnston

    Any group that can build buildings that look like retro-Soviet space ports is cool by me!

  • http://wilkinsonweb.com Dan Wilkinson

    Lots of good comments to a great post. Many of my thoughts on the topic have already been quite ably expressed…but I think it’s worth emphasizing some important points:

    Whether or not a particular group is a “cult” depends entirely on your definition of cult. Without a clear and carefully delineation of what you are (and aren’t) saying by labeling a group a cult you’re merely engaging in irresponsible rhetoric.

    Generally speaking, using the term “cult” has extremely negative connotations. It’s often used as a marginalizing pejorative, conjuring up images of Jim Jones and Charles Manson and David Koresh. Sure there are appropriate uses of the term, but to cavalierly apply it to large groups of people who exhibit absolutely no characteristics commonly associated with cults is at the least ignorant and at the worst deliberately malicious.

    Whether or not Mormonism is “Christian” depends entirely on one’s perspective. What is orthodox belief from one person’s point of view may be heresy from another’s. But Mormonism’s conception of God is clearly at odds with the understanding of God proffered by mainstream Christianity. If a Mormon wants to call themself a Christian that’s fine, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that they have some very different foundational beliefs than those of orthodox Christianity.

    To return to the point of the post…kids have a knack for seeing through all this crap. It doesn’t matter what label you’ve been given or what other people call you. We’re all just people, and rather than seeking to label and group and box each other in (often with the intent of marginalizing and suppressing), we’re all better off when we seek to relate to one another as individuals, to understand our differences and to rejoice in our similarities.

    • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

      Dan,

      “Very different foundational beliefs”, is THAT everr an understatement. Just a basic study of their doctrine proves their beliefs are entirely different, so much so, that I don’t know how anyone could group them with any mainline Christian denomination. I wouldn’t go as far and call them a cult, but Christian? Nope

      • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

        Do they (a) believe in God as the Creator of the universe and (b) that Jesus Christ is His son and (c) Christ died to save mankind and (d) by accepting Christ as one’s personal savior one is indeed saved?

        Sounds Christian to me…

        • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

          They have Christian sounding terminology, but the definitions are vastly different. For example, Jesus Christ isn’t God – he is a created being, there are many gods, man can be a god with celestial wives over thier own planet. There are other sacred writings on the same level as the Bible and on it goes into the truly bizarre The use words that sound Christian, but it is “very different” as Dan said. As the Bible says,”things that are different are not the same”. The Jesus of the Bible is not the Jesus of the Mormon.

        • http://wilkinsonweb.com Dan Wilkinson

          Mormons believe that God was once a human who evolved into one of an infinite number of gods and that we also can evolve to become gods, whereas Christians believe that God is the only self-existent being and that he created and sustains all things. These two beliefs are mutually incompatible. That doesn’t mean that one belief system is better than the other, or even that someone one who self-identifies as Mormon understands and accepts those beliefs. But as Brian W. pointed out, Mormons often use religious language in different ways than Christians. Again…it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re a cult, or that they’re wrong or going to hell or whatever. It’s just means that to conflate Mormonism with Christianity is theologically incorrect.

          • Brian W

            Well said Dan.

          • Katie D.

            Thank you! I totally agree! Whatever they are is fine, but it’s just confusing people for them to call themselves christians… and not to sound like a total paranoid dick, but I think that it was planned that way. Not to say by your average everyday mormon, but the higher ups? definitely. It’s a conversion tool and it works really well.

  • gretchen

    I am a product of a Morman town, whose 85% friends were Mormon. I was a proud UCC Protestant. When the missionaries come to my door, I let them know that I am a happy (now) Methodist, and that if I wanted conversion, I would let my dear Mormon friends know. I also ask them over for dinner, which they politely turn down. We do bat for the same team (Christ), but we have different beliefs. I love my Mormon friends, and just like my Muslim neighbors, I will stand up for their beliefs, because they are peaceful people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/maryterry17 Mary Knox via Facebook

    @Sharon – Too funny!! Loved the part about some of us assuming certain powers to which we have no right… PERFECT! I, too am a fundamentalist survivor…. it DOES get better!!

  • Peet

    I probably shouldn’t say anything, but I can’t stop myself. I worked at a Christian bookstore for awhile (at John Wimber’s church in Anaheim Hills), and there was a whole section on cults. How tro identify them, what they were, how dangerous the oculd be. And there were several standard reference books there, I think primarily of Walter Martin’s Kingdom of the Cults. And there’s a huge section on how cultic Mormonism is. Martin himself released a four cassette tape series on Mormonism, outlining its many non-Biblical beliefs. AT THE SAME TIME, I heard from the pulpit, over and over, how important it was to elect doctrinaire, theologically sound Bible-believing Christians to public office.

    You can see where this is going.

    I want to be VERY clear, I am not making any judgment call whatsoever on Mormonism. Simply because I hold quite a few beliefs that would not exactly pass muster with the Doctrine Squad. I only say this: the conservative christian movement has had its backside exposed. It seems to me really obvious that political power has been the primary goal all along, and the insistence on doctrinal purity was just a way of getting to this point. Now….inh…we don’t care what you believe as long as you’re a republican.

    • Diana A.

      I think this is the truth.

  • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

    Y’know, when you think about it, a denomination w/a history of polygamy should be very supportive of gay marriage.

    I mean, they hafta give the odd guys out somethin’ to do…

  • Amelia

    Back in the day I worked in Customer Service at the Christian Coalition. I lived a mile from Pat Robertso’c CBN, blah blah.

    Anyhoo, I remember reading Ralph Reed’s book (Ooo, I had a signed copy!) and all the fundraising letters that went out. What hit home to me at the time was, when the referencing religious conservatives the CC was claiming to represent, three groups were ALWAYS mentioned: Christians, Jews and Muslims.

    I say this because, being around all that, right in the middle of it all, it was glaringly obvious that Mormons were okay, too, because politically they would be on the same side.

    • Amelia

      Omg, glaring typos. So sorry. It’s not even 6am…

  • Caliban

    You’ve already mentioned the Mormons and Prop8 thing, which ties into the larger Mormons Meddling In Politics, so I won’t belabor the point other than to mention that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), perhaps the highest profile anti-Marriage Equality group, has strong ties to the Mormon Church. (Some claim it’s a Mormon front-group. I don’t know that’s true or claim to.)

    I’m atheist, so take this with a grain of salt or perform whatever “warding off evil” ceremony your religion prefers, but even I can see the difference between a religion that has evolved over thousands of years (for good or ill) and one started roughly a century and a half ago by a convicted con-man, whose claims about discovering the Book Of Mormon follow rather closely the treasure-dowsing fraud for which he was convicted.

    Basically I view the Mormon Church as the Beta version of Scientology. If there IS an afterlife, somewhere Joseph Smith is kicking himself for not charging per ‘religious’ lesson like Scientology instead of merely having introduced enforced tithing. (I envision his reaction being a very Homer Simpson-like “D’OH!”)

    That enforced tithing has created a fantastically wealthy governing body able to exert influence outside the religious sphere. The organization of the LDS church requires a level of obedience from its adherents, under threat of excommunication, that’s certainly cult-like at the very least. To examine the difference, look at what the Pope says and how Catholic laypeople respond to poll questions. There’s quite a difference there.

    Though atheist, I believe that religion can and often is a positive influence in the lives of individuals and communities. Which isn’t to deny its negative impact, just giving credit where it’s due. That’s true of the Mormon church too, but the meddling in and control of the lives of their parishioners via Stake Presidents and local temples is unusual at the least, the enforced tithing is a form of extortion, and their direct meddling in politics goes against everything I believe about religion’s proper place in politics.

    Ask yourself this. How much of Mormonism’s aggressive proselytizing and public relations work is about sharing truth and salvation and how much is about gaining power and wealth? Who does their alleged “do-gooding” really benefit? Even their mythology promises a pretty big pay-off at the end, not just GOING to a nice place but one you can be the boss of. All in all I’m not seeing a whole lot of outwardly-directed magnanimity there, just a lot of “Looking Out For #1″ self-interest in the guise of piety. Even above and beyond the usual money and power-grubbing we’ve come to expect from religion, I mean.

  • http://www.nathanaelvitkus.wordpress.com NathanaelV

    While I might not agree with some of the fundamental beliefs Mormons believe, I know some who exemplify Christ some fellow followers of Christ do not. Have I ruled them out completely? No. It’s not my place to judge and only God truly knows the contents of their heart, it is between them and him.

  • Jeannie

    I grew up next to the Mormon church. I have had Mormon friends and close acquaintences my entire life. Every single one of them are kind, wonderful people. Their families are the “Beaver Cleaver” version contrasted against my “South Park” like family. Their children seem to actually enjoy their siblings and parents.

    Some have tried to convert me. Most haven’t. I can honestly say that the biggest barrier is not my disagreement on doctrine. Neither is it my jaundice view of Joseph Smith being a prophet. While being opposed to their mingling in the political realm there is a even stronger deterent to my becoming a good Mormon lady. I cannot imagine spending the rest of my life without coffee. Seriously? Why did they make that a rule? Alcohol, I kind of get, but Coffee? Okay. That one rule alone will guarantee as much as anything else that I will NEVER become a Morman.

  • Molly

    Did you see “8: The Mormon Proposition” documentary? It’s on instant stream if you have Netflix. It speaks to the LDS church and it’s stance on homosexuality…not just its stance, but its very under-handed actions. :(

    Not cool.

    Do I know lots of really sweet LDS folks? Yep. Love them. Admire many aspects of the LDS church. And yet…the underlying fundamentalist viewpoint that makes up LDS doctrine and practice, particularly the requirement of obedience to the church (the prophet speaks for God, disobey the prophet and disobey God), doesn’t lead me to applaud or support the church as a whole (any more than I would applaud or support my own conservative evangelical heritage)…

  • Megan

    My Mormon experiance was very similar to yours….

    As a kid, before I met my best friend, I was fasinated with Utah. This was stemed from a research project that 2nd grade me was forced to do; you’re assigned a state, you research it’s physical geography. Mine was Utah. I always thought since then I’d live there when I grew up; it was beautiful. But my mom reacted in horror to this statement, telling me that Utah was bad because of something called “Mormons.” I never changed my mind, but from then on whenever I heard the word “Mormon” I was made more and more curious about it. What was a Mormon? Why where they bad?

    In fifth grade, I met Nathan. Nathan was the picture of childhood; a boy who irritated, amused, and changed you permentantly in the same breath. He was infectious, contagious, influential. We were instant best friends, bonding over our love of theatre and music, milkshakes and owls. I had no idea he was a Mormon; he never said anything about it and I never asked.

    When we were 11, I visited his house for the first time and that’s when things began. His father, supremely freindly and supportive, and his mother, endlessly patient and nurturing, were the vision of parenthood; in love with eachother and united in the raising of their four kids. The way their family opperated stunned me; I had never met a family who not only loved eachother, but actually LIKED eachother before, ever. They taught me what it meant to be family; from an outside perspective it felt like what you wished your family was.

    Something I knew about the Freezes was that they all seemed to love something called “BYU.” I watched games with Nathan and his twin Tyler, but it was my mom who told me what it meant.

    “Byu?” she questioned. “They’re Mormons?”

    I thought about this, thought about everything bad I’d ever heard about Mormons, and then realized now I knew the truth behind the nasty comments.

    “Yes.” I said proudly. “Yes, they are, and I love them, all of them.”

    My mom met them and she changed her heart as well, but still to this day I wish I’d met them sooner. They helped me with so much; they were who you’d want to go to for anything. It’s no wonder I love them all so much; they’re my family now. Mr. Freeze said I was a part of their family so many years a go, and I never fully grasped that until recently. I cannot thank them enough, and while I have yet to convert to Mormonism, I have utmost respect and love for them, because that was what they showed me.

    • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

      They really do have the most loving, supportive families of anyone I’ve ever met. I always find it so odd that those of us who are Christian – who believe that God sent His Son to die for us and then rose from the dead – find other belief systems about other planets, etc. so preposterous. If you step outside the Christian narrative, it reads like a fairy tale!

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