Mormons are known throughout the world as great humanitarians. We are some of the first people there to help after disasters and the last to leave. How could such a church with over 15 million members around the world be considered a "cult"?
I think the answer is that the definition of cult is pretty indefinite and subjective. It can simply mean a culture, or can mean any group that is "culturally deviant, however peaceful or law abiding it may be. and "deriving their inspiration from outside of the predominant religious culture". (wikipedia) " So a newscaster could technically get away with calling Mormons a "cult" enabling them to bask in high sensationalism ratings. After all, aren't we all curious about what happens in a "cult"?
So any group that is different or "strange" can be called a "cult". Any religion that does not follow exactly the "traditional" Christian beliefs would be called a cult by some. Since Mormons do not
believe in the concept of the Trinity (the mystical three beings in one but separate-- I never could understand that), some call us a cult. Actually, our beliefs go back to the original teachings of the Savior. We are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the early Christian church was The Church of Jesus Christ of Early-day Saints (saints just means church members). Many good people have tried to define Christianity over the centuries, but we prefer to be led by God Himself . We believe that God sends revelation to lead His church today just as He did in Bible times-- through prophets and through personal revelation.
That brings another point that some use to call us a cult -- our belief in revelation from God.
"Those who talk of blind obedience may appear to know many things, but they do not understand the doctrines of the gospel. There is an obedience that comes from a knowledge of the truth that transcends any external form of control. We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see. The best control, I repeat, is self-control." from Agency and Control by BOYD K. PACKER Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1983/04/agency-and-control?lang=eng
"We are following the admonition of the Prophet Joseph Smith: “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.” (Messages of the First Presidency,comp. James R. Clark, 6 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75, 3:54.) https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1990/04/teach-them-correct-principles?lang=eng also by President Packer
I do not feel that I am being forced to do anything. In fact I think it is funny. Can you imagine some force of church policemen and women all dressed bursting into homes checking on people? Silly! Don't we all have better things to do? I know I do!
I am simply an intelligent person who chooses to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I pay tithing because I want to. The Lord has always asked his people to pay a tithe (see the Bible - Deuteronomy 26:12, Hebrews 7:9, Nehemiah 10:38 and 2 Chronicles 31:6 for a few of the many references). https://www.lds.org/topics/tithing?lang=eng Paying tithing not only helps us overcome selfishness, but I enjoy being a part of building the kingdom of God upon the earth (building temples, meetinghouses, and helping people in need etc.) We also have to remember that everything belongs to God and all He asks is that we give 10% back to help others.
People point out that we "have to pay tithing" or we will excommunicated, or we will be denied temple privileges. I know of many people who do not pay any tithing and they are not excommunicated. Yes, you are not allowed to go to the temple if you do not pay tithing. If you are not willing to give back even a tenth of what the Lords has given you, why would you want to go to the temple to make further commitments? It is a protection only to be allowed to attend the temple when you are ready to make the covenants that are made there. You need to be ready to keep the promises you make to the Lord.
Some also think that since we claim to be the true church of God, we are a cult. Is there no real truth?
If there is truth, how can contradictory beliefs all be correct? I believe in the doctrine of our Savior Jesus Christ, not in people's interpretations. One person said that he didn't want to drink downstream where the cattle had muddied the water. He preferred to go upstream to the source, so do I.
Another claim is that since the Church does not allow anyone to stroll through our temples anytime they feel like it (everyone is invited to tour temples before they are dedicated), then Mormons are a cult. Most major religions (Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Judaism, etc,) have ceremonies which have sacred meaning to them and to which they do not invite the curiosity seekers. In our temples we make covenants to keep all the commandments of Christ. Any person who is ready to make and keep these covenants can enter the our temples.
So is anyone who isn't "traditional" a cult? Is any religion who believes in revelation from God a cult? (What about our Puritan heritage?) Do people only do good when forced by a cult leader?
The more I try and keep the commandments of Jesus Christ, the more He helps me to become a better person. He sends the Holy Ghost to change my heart; to make me a "new" person. Yes, people left to themselves are selfish, but through the Atonement of our Savior we can change and become better. We can truly desire to do good. With the help of revelation and ordinances available to us through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we can become Christlike.