Green Man: There are many who say that Mormonism is a cult with charismatic (just look at Joseph Smith's larger than life persona and lifestyle) authoritarian leaders emphasizing absolute loyalty, conformity, and total control of members. The absolute loyalty shows itself in the "all or nothing" "contract" you are under with the leaders of this church. And nowhere is this more the case in Mormonism than in the office of prophet (leader of the church pyramid of hierarchy). Since he (and it's always a man--woman aren't allowed to hold church power) is considered a prophet that means he "gets messages from 'God.'" This fits with Professor Eileen Baker's cult checklist, "Leaders who claim divine authority for their deeds and for their orders to their followers." Therefore, if you don't agree and follow the exact words of the prophet you are seen as disagreeing with "God." If you can not show loyalty to this man then you are ostracized in your local church, often by family members, and will be prevented from entering the most sacred sites to Mormons; their temples.
In order to gain access to their temples you must go through an interview (these are the questions used while I was a member) to be deemed, "worthy" which is usually an uncomfortable and often humiliating affair of questioning that feels more like an interrogation than spiritual "guidance" as they like to refer to it as. In any event, the questioning goes something like the following: "Do you sustain the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, seer, and revelator; and do you recognize him as the only person on the earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys?"
All priesthood keys means the power and authority of "God" on Earth. Then there is the question, "Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?" So, forget having political beliefs that run contrary to the goals of the Mormon church. The leadership will tell you publicly that you can vote for whomever you want but that isn't exactly the case, former Prophet Ezra Taft Benson said, "he could not see how a person could be both a liberal and a good Mormon, and he called the civil-rights movement "a communist program for revolution in America." And this was coming from a "prophet" who Mormons see as infallible, so which is it? In addition, almost ALL members are conservatives; the unspoken, (sometimes spoken) expectation of peer pressure is that a good Mormon can only be Republican/conservative.
That's the way it was during my entire 22 years as a Mormon; I never expected to be anything other than a conservative Republican because everyone else was too. Another demonstration of loyalty is demanded in another question asking if you will obey ALL leaders ordained by "God?" This of course includes the leaders all the down from the prophet including the local one you're talking to--that's some serious intimidation. And these local leaders are regular, fallible men, just as messed up as the rest of us who were supposedly "called by 'God'" to lead the rest in your local church. In other words, the local "leader" or "Bishop" is there to make sure the underlings obey the entire chain of command from the base of the pyramid to the top.
If you fail to live-up to these tests of loyalty you will also be prevented from taking the Holy Sacrament (similar to the communion) which is the most important part of Sunday worship. Everyone spies on everyone else in that church, or at least has been mine and others' experiences too. So, quite often people are always on the look-out for the "sinners" who don't take communion and you quickly are shamed, shunned and bumped to the top of the gossip headline news. It's humiliating and seems a bit designed to get the other "cult members" to do the dirty work of shaming you into thinking you're a terrible person. That's common; Mormons leaders love using guilt as a tool to manipulate. Additionally, low self-esteem combined with a deep vat of guilt are common amongst survivors of Mormonism. And, in many cases a lack of total loyalty to the prophet and his, "henchmen" (as I sometimes refer to them; they call themselves "apostles"-- no authoritarian power or "god complex" goes with that job title!! Catching the sarcasm there?) can in and of itself find you judged by a panel of "priesthood holder" men, which is often degrading and leads to expulsion/excommunication from the church.
Another sign that Mormonism may be a cult is that it fits the criteria for a religious group that separates itself from society, either geographically or socially. BINGO!! Mormons don't often associate with non-Mormons; their relationships are rather incestuous in that they all hang out with each other and nearly no one else. They even have something of a "uniform" that all "worthy" members wear under their clothing--a form of underwear that they believe protects them from evil. And as usual, those who are "worthy" for them are often shunned. The conformity is added in that these undergarments only come in white (unless you're in the military and need camo ones). The clothing conformity continues with men being required to wear a white shirt and tie; preferably with a black suit. Women are expected to wear long dresses to church (no pants) and haircuts are to be conservative. Same with jewelry. Men are "encouraged" not to wear beards or have hair longer than the ears and no jewelry besides wedding rings. Tattooes are a big no-no. Teen-agers are quite often kept from dating non-Mormon girls and the church (seemingly innocently) makes all adult members have a "duty" or "job" in the church. These include: Sunday school teacher, boy scout leader, priesthood leader/teacher, choir director, etc. The result for the leadership at the top is that you get members doing all the work (volunteer based of course) while collecting their money in the form of tithing!!
The added bonus is that according to the prophet and his apostles the bishops of the local churches are granted authority to receive "revelations" but only for their local church members. So, they craft the "jobs" as "callings" because they supposedly came from a revelation your bishop received from "God" saying he needs you to do job "x" or job "y." The other benefit for the hierarchy is that it keeps the members busy and away from non-Mormons. And, well, before you know it, the only friends you have are Mormons and if you do have some socializing time the church has crafted their "callings" to keep you actively doing church things with other members throughout the week--at the church building itself!!
O.k., next item on the cult check-list: Important decisions in lives of adherents are made by others; again, bingo. Each young person at a certain age goes to get their Patriarchal Blessing, which is seen as a kind of foretelling the future as to what you're life will, and should unfold as. The person giving you this "revelation/vision" is called the church "Patriarch" who is of course a man. There isn't a direct command to follow it and make it happen but it is worded in a way as to suggest that this guidance is coming directly through "The Patriarch" from "God"--just for you. So, that pretty much puts the screws on and guilts you into doing what "'God' told me to do." This dove-tails into the next one on the list, "Adherents who become increasingly dependent on the movement for their view on reality." Everything in most Mormons lives is determined and checked against what their church leaders say. There is pretty much no area of their life where they don't look to the church and other members on how to deal with whatever reality is throwing at them. It influences: their politics, who they associate with, jobs they'll do, colleges they'll attend, sexual problems in their lives, money issues, marriage issues, and on and on.
The other aspect of this one is brainwashing, which includes: social pressure (which we've discussed and will further), guilt, (again, already touched upon) and sensory deprivation. In Mormons this takes the form of long church sessions that last half the day, which tire members out and being tired increases supportability to control. This sensory deprivation also includes days of fasting that make one more susceptible to thought-insertion and control as well. Ironically, these days are the same days where "testamonials" are undertaken by the members led by the Bishop who is the first to give his testimony. It basically consists of people restating (in front of other members) how sure they are of the exclusive truth to Mormonism. The peer pressure is strong as people stew in their seats wondering if they should get up front to bear their soul to the other members and say how much they believe in the church. "Sharing your testimony" is what they call it but it's nothing more to me than making people hungry and thus vulnerable to thought suggestions to those who might be wavering in their beliefs.
Next criteria: "Making sharp distinctions between us and them, divine and Satanic, good and evil, etc. that are not open for discussion." Mormons are often arrogant, elitists who think only they hold the real, true and only religious truth on Earth. A lot of them see all other belief systems as inferior; if not "Satanic" and contrary to the goals of their truth!! This often leads to talk about members versus non-members and how evil, bad influences non-Mormons are to them and their youth. In the Mormon stronghold of Utah, non-Mormons neighbors are often shunned and looked down upon. To even ask questions about the verasity of Mormon beliefs and read "non-Mormon literature" is considered playing with "The Devil." Mormons are taught that not only are these other beliefs wrong; they are to be eradicated by converting the adherents to Mormonism. Thus, the reasoning behind their army of drone missionaries, and why they are so pushy and often rude when trying to get you to let them into your house to teach you about the "True gospel of Jesus Christ."
The final one is, "Leaders and movements who are unequivocally focused on achieving a certain goal." For Mormons that certain goal is preparing the world for the "End Times" and the supposed return of Jesus Christ. This preparation demands all Mormons seek to convert non-Mormons (for their own good of course). Thus, young boys are groomed from a young age to go on a two year mission at the prime of their young adulthood (19-21) when their peers are attending college. This often sets these young men back educationally for years. Women and non-missionary members are expected to strike up conversations about Mormonism with those outside the church at your workplace, with the neighbors and anyone else you might run into. As a means for forwarding their goal of converting the world. They almost always push and guilt people into doing this and even give them free copies of the Book of Mormon to hand out to their non-member victims.
So, are Mormons in a cult? You decide.
PHOTO: Mormon temple in the background with a figure in front that I think symbolizes the zombie-like, robotic behavior of members.