Things are beginning to heat up in the Republican presidential primary. Mitt Romney’s status as a frontrunner in the race has kept Mormonism in the spotlight, although his faith has not been a major factor until very recently. Yesterday afternoon one of Rick Perry’s supporters referred to Mormonism as a “cult” and suggested that Mormonism is not a “Christian” faith. He tried to distinguish between what he calls a “sociological cult” and a “theological cult”, which is perhaps a step in the right direction from the norm (most Evangelicals don’t seem to make that distinction).
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve discussed the meanings of those two words (“cult” and “Christian”) with both Mormons and non-Mormons, and with LDS sympathizers and critics. Suffice to say, I think it is utterly meaningless to divide religious groups into “cults” and “non-cults”. It is merely arbitrary boundary maintenance with no meaningful or consistent definitions. And, of course, Mormons are clearly Christians. I’m not going to rehash my views on those discussions now, but I would like to plug a few resources.
“Offenders for a Word” by Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks is perhaps the very best treatment of this topic. You can read it for free here: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=58
The LDS Newsroom has an excellent discussion of this issue: http://newsroom.lds.org/blog/are-mormons-christian
Here is another relevant Newsroom article: http://newsroom.lds.org/article/real-differences,-real-similarities-and-biblical-christianity
And here is a recent talk by Elder Ballard in last week’s General Conference that is relevant to this discussion: http://lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/the-importance-of-a-name?lang=eng