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Mormons do not belong to a cult.
Sadly, the label of “cult” is often used to criticize or demean the faith of others with different opinions. Many people apply this label to Mormons due to misinformation or ignorance.
Properly known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mormons belong to the fourth largest Christian faith in the United States that is growing steadily throughout the world. In fact, more Mormons live outside than inside the United States.
At the center of the Church is Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Redeemer of all mankind. Whenever Mormons pray to God, they do so in the name of Jesus Christ. Baptism by immersion, according to the symbolism of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, marks a person’s entrance into the Church. The “sacrament” (what other Christian traditions call “communion”) is administered weekly in Sunday services as members reflect on the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Mormons translate their belief into practice by serving each other and the wider community, including the poor and needy. They give of their time and money to numerous humanitarian aid efforts as one way of following Christ’s teachings.
For Mormons, being a Christian means being a disciple of Jesus Christ, loving and worshiping Him above all. It means centering one’s life on Christ’s teachings from the New Testament. It means striving to live the kind of life that honors Jesus Christ in word and deed. This is the meaning of being a Christian.
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Edward Fairchild answered...
It is a convenient piece of mental juggling on their part. They divide up the Christian world into the "Mainline" Churches and the "Cults." Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists, United Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, American Baptists, etc. are the "Mainline" Churches. Everything else, especially if they don't agree with them, is a "Cult."
Usually most people mean a small, often strange, group that appears suddenly. It often disappears just as suddenly. That is a cult. Plus there is a whole list of derogatory connotations. It's hard to see us as a Cult. We are newer in a sense. Does that make us a Cult? We do differ in some of our doctrines. Does that make us a Cult? We believe in Prophets. Does that make us a Cult? Well that one is hard, because other Christian Churches believe in Prophets too; theirs just have to be dead.
Many well-intentioned people and some not-so-well-intentioned are the recipients of misinformation. When people don't understand what we believe, they often become afraid of us, and the term "cult" comes up to describe us. Most of the time, if you were to ask these people why we're a cult, or what a cult is, they couldn't answer. "Cult" becomes a term to define what they are afraid of or don't know about. If we are a cult, then so are all other religions. But in the most general sense of the word, I do not believe we are "just another whacky cult," and those who are sincerely informed would agree.
Whenever I have heard someone refer to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as a cult, I have always found that they have defined the word cult in a very unique way. For example, one individual defined a religion as a cult if they did not have the same understanding of Christ that he did. Unfortunately many refer to the LDS church as a cult without defining what they mean by 'cult' and others infer that there is something scary or controlling about the LDS church, when that is not actually the case.
I have been a member of the church all of my life, and I was totally confused the first time I heard someone call the church a cult. I guess people are using the word cult just because the church is unfamiliar to them. One of the key characteristics of a cult, as I understand it, is a kind of group mentality where individuals lose or give up the ability to make decisions for themselves. My experience as a member of the church is nothing like that. In fact, one of the central doctrines we teach is that God has given each of us moral agency and that we have the responsibility to make decisions for ourselves. Also, we understand that each person is a unique son or daughter of God. I feel like my membership in the church enhances my appreciation of individuality and free will--just the opposite of what I think belonging to a cult would be like.
Those who would apply the label “cult” to Mormonism usually do so due to misunderstanding or misrepresentation (or both). People sometimes misunderstand our beliefs because they are unfamiliar to them; others misunderstand how the term “cult” has been defined and applied historically and therefore incorrectly use it to describe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These misunderstandings are usually easily resolved once people come to know members of the Church and learn of our beliefs.
Some opponents and disaffected former members of the church deliberately misrepresent the beliefs and practices of the church to emphasize our differences from other Christian faiths...Unfortunately, such portrayals of Mormons and the LDS church are so distorted as to be unrecognizable by members or objective outsiders alike. The irony is that many Mormons are comfortable with being considered "different" so long as we are also given credit for those areas where we are more alike than different; and we are like our traditional Christian counterparts in so many areas that really matter: belief in the deity and divine sonship of Jesus Christ and of the necessity of personally accepting his atoning sacrifice in order to return to the presence of God.