Apologetics Index

Is Mormonism a Cult?

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Is Mormonism a cult?
Is Mormonism a cult? A lot depends on the definition of the term “cult”

Theologically Mormonism is a cult of Christianity

In recent month there has been much discussion in the media on the question of whether or not Mormonism is a ‘cult.’ 1

A preacher had made a statement to that effect, and though he soon clarified what he meant — namely that Mormonism is theologically a cult of Christianity — lots of pundits had a field day with his comment.

Most of them demonstrated a near-total lack of knowledge of the issues they tried to address. Almost all articles, TV items, columns and blog posts on the topic included the same basic mistakes:

  • the failure to understand the differences between theological and sociological definitions of the term ‘cult’
  • the failure to understand how much Mormon theology and practices differ from Christian theology and practices, and
  • the failure to understand why this is important

The preacher could have — and indeed should have — qualified his statement by at the vary least explaining that he was using he term in its theological sense, rather than the sociological one.

After all, as we explain at our sister site Cult Definiton, “the term “cult’ has a precise definition — or rather, several precise definitions.  Which definition is the right one largely depends on the context in which the term “cult’ is applied.”

The term ‘cult’ has long been controversial in large part because it has in recent memory been applied — usually correctly so — to groups and movements that exhibited, to a greater or lesser extend, certain sociological characteristics that warranted the use of the term.

Before that Christian apologists and other theologians had already used the term to highlight the theological differences between groups and movements that — while claiming to be Christian in nature and/or to be compatible with Christianity — nevertheless violated one or more of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. [See this article on the history and usage of the term ‘cult’]

Thing is: a group or movement that is theologically speaking a cult is not necessarily a cult sociologically.

Many of those who decried the preacher’s claim that Mormonism is a cult were completely ignorant on the distinction — because they were not familiar with the different definitions of the term.

Others said they did understand, particularly after the preacher had clarified his statement, but they nevertheless claimed that Mormonism is not theologically a cult of Christianity. In doing so they demonstrated ignorance of the theological issues they tried to address.

At Apologetics Index we point to many research resources on Mormonism.

In our perspective Mormonism is, theologically, a cult of Christianity.

And yes, sociologically it has many cult-like elements as well.

Keep in mind that Apologetics Index encourages research and that we therefore point to research resources from a variety of perspectives.

In this video, Christian apologists William Lane Craig addresses the question: Is Mormonism a cult?

Video: William Lane Craig on “Is Mormonism a Cult?”

William Lane Craig: Is Mormonism a Cult?
William Lane Craig: Is Mormonism a Cult?

Written by David Anderson

See Also

Also in Apologetics Index:


  1. This article was first published in 2011. In fact, discussion about the cultic nature of Mormonism has been going on since Joseph Smith started his church. And the discussion is ongoing.

Article details

Category: Apologetics Index Blog, Mormonism
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First published (or major update) on Friday, December 23, 2011.
Last updated on July 07, 2024.

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