Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What I think of Mormons

The media has been full of news of late over a certain presidential political candidate who is an adherent of the Mormon faith. Seeing as the Religious Right is a major contributor to the party of that political candidate, one of the burning issues is whether Mormonism is Christian or is Mormonism a cult? (And subsequently whether a Mormon could or should be President of the United States.)

I have watched with some interest to see where people I know (either in the media or in person) fall on that. On the one hand, the "Don't Judge lest you be Judged" and "Diversity if Life" crowds are out in force on the internet via blogs and such. One the other hand., there are the good Christians (some of whom are extremely mainline to catholic folk) I know who very much quietly with a wink and nod agreed with the Baptist pastor in the news who denounced Mormonism as a cult.

People have asked me my thoughts on the issue. While I theologically disagree with a lot that the Mormon church teaches, I don't really care one way or the other. Other churches and religious groups are free to believe whatever they want to believe. Unless they are advocating genocide or some such horrendous thing, I do not feel like it is really any of my business what they choose to believe amongst themselves.

My major question is simply, "What do you mean by the term "cult?" I think therein is the crux of the argument. The base definition of cult according to the online dictionary is actually, "a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies." So, by that definition, any organized religious body would in some sense be a cult, be it Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Anglican, or Methodist.

People hear "cult" and think of something like the Branch Davidians or Jim Jones in Guyana or whatever. That is a cult that unhealthily worships one (usually crackpot) leader who leads people off into seclusion so he can poison the Koolaid or what have you. Obviously, the Mormons are not that. Most Mormons I know are good, hardworking folk who vote and raise families and try to be good citizens. All of which is a form of civic Virtue (Virtue with capital "V") that I think is to be commended actually. So, to me, the "Is Mormonism a Cult?" discussion is ridiculous.

I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. According to the Latter Day Saints website, Mormons have 13 Articles of Faith. While there was some things I disagreed with, particularly the one concerning the Book of Mormon being on par with the Bible as Holy writ, they seem to believe in Jesus and the cross and the Resurrection and all that. So, to my mind, they seem to at least adhere to the Big Stuff of Christianity.

Doctrinally, I think there is a lot that is suspect, but the question of whether Mormonism is heresy (and by heresy I mean false doctrine that is so detrimental and wrong that it presents a danger to the eternal salvation of one's soul) and whether Mormonism is Christian or a cult are completely separate issues. I am not here going to get into a doctrinal debate on that.

To me, that's for God to judge; it is not my job to be Saint Peter's bouncer at the pearly gates.

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