I’ve personally been asked several times about Mormonism recently because of the recent media hype about it and have done my best to answer clearly and thoroughly, but the fact is that I’m not an expert on this.
I have a Book of Mormon that was given to me by a family that I have a lot of love and respect for, but I’m ashamed to say that I have yet to read even half of it. I know quite a few Mormon people and have spoken with my fair share of Mormon elders (who despite their titles seem to rarely be over the age of 30) but the truth is, I haven’t learned enough to engage these issues well, so I’ve been reading opinions from both sides from men and women who are much smarter than myself and one article stood head and shoulders over the rest of them for me: Is Mormonism a Cult?
Please read it if you have the time, his explanations are thorough and not too complex, plus he’s witty! This is the gist of it though:
The ESV Study Bible defines a cult as, “…any religious movement that claims to be derived from the Bible and/or the Christian faith, and that advocates beliefs that differ so significantly with major Christian doctrines that two consequences follow: (1) The movement cannot legitimately be considered a valid “Christian” denomination because of its serious deviation from historic Christian orthodoxy. (2) Believing the doctrines of the movement is incompatible with trusting in the Jesus Christ of the Bible for the salvation that comes by God’s grace alone.”
In light of this definition, Mormonism is most certainly a cult theologically speaking because it deviates substantially from historic Orthodox Christian belief about essential issues related to God, humanity, and salvation. But not in that it deviates from Christian teaching alone, as that would make all belief systems apart from orthodox Christianity a cult, but in that it claims Christianity while subtly subverting it in both practice and theology. Because it claims to be Christian, uses Christian language, but is antithetical Christianity, it must be labeled a cult theologically.
For the Mormons, it is not Jesus blood that makes us righteous, but rather his sacrifice that gives us grace to be good, which leads to righteousness and salvation. The Mormons do not find the work of Christ to be sufficient for salvation but rather the starting point.
In short, Mormons believe that being a good person is precisely what makes someone a Christian. Jesus is not the means of salvation, but the point at which the means begins. This is fundamentally at odds with orthodox Christian teaching, false, unbiblical, and heretical.
The Mormon doctrine of God is often confusing to Christians because it uses the language that is familiar to them but means something different by it.
Many ordinary Christians would, in popular terms and in practical spirituality, identify God the Father with the God of the Old Testament, often referred to as Jehovah. For them the link between Father and Jehovah is assumed and they would not anticipate the counter-intuitive LDS view that equates Jesus with Jehovah. For ordinary Christians it is important to stress this fact: in Mormon terms Jesus is Jehovah and Jehovah is not the Father.
For Mormons, Jesus is in the most literal sense God the Father’s son who was born as a result of intimate, physical relations between the Father God and a young woman named Mary, who is somehow still considered by Mormons to be a virgin.
“One minor aspect of early LDS thought, or perhaps it might better be called speculation, and one that is rarely formally discussed today, is the idea that Jesus did, in fact, marry, and that he married both Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, whom he raised from the dead.
“From the foregoing it has already become evident that in Mormon theology Jesus Christ is basically not any more divine than any one of us. We have previously noted that Mormons deny the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so they teach, are not one God but three gods.”
So what do we make of all this? Simply said, by the theological definition, Mormonism is a cult.
Many mormons are good neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens. But, we cannot go so far as to call them brothers and sisters in a common faith. To do so is to not only confuse real Christians, but to also diminish the importance of lovingly speaking with Mormons about the errors of their belief in hopes of seeing them come to know the real God of the Bible and avoiding eternal damnation for worshipping a false god.
And there you have it. Mormons are largely brilliant, beautiful, and talented people with an astounding amount of character (which is more than you can say for most Christians) but they believe VERY differently than an orthodox Christian on major issues.
Now, with that being said, you are free to choose whose beliefs are really true for yourself.