Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Church or cult?


noun [C]
1 a system of religious beliefs and rituals
2. adherents of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices
3. an interest followed with exaggerated zeal
This begs the question - which one is the cultist?

Last night I had the most lively and blunt conversation with Ron than I believe we've ever had. Ron is from Cedar City, Utah (his driver's license does prove this fact) and was raised strict Baptist. He has a very limited viewpoint towards LDS (Latter Day Saints, Mormons). We've really only discussed the LDS church once that I can recall - and I plowed through it pretty quickly as I was pretty fresh out of the LDS church and the tiny conversation made me uneasy.

This was several months ago.

When I saw Ron last night, I asked about the phone call he had committed to make - to his sister to help him get home to Utah to be with his family. As I emptied the coffee containers and refilled them with fresh coffee - I lightly and absent mindely joked, "Hey when you get home, I bet you'll get all sorts of casseroles from all those nice LDS women up there," - to which his entire countenance fell and he become irritated, "Don't talk about those cultists..."

Before I continue - may I just suggest for anyone else who has problems controlling their tongue, perhaps listening to the 12/11 podcast from Focus on the Family? It's called, "Family Nights" and shares the story one family used to help their children control their tongues. If they spoke unkindly towards a sibling for example, they took a "time out" holding a 12" cow's tongue. Perhaps this year Santa will fill my stocking not with coal, but with a 12" cow's tongue - because I need one!

I didn't even have to think - old habits weren't dead, they had just taken a nap. "It's not a cult,"

Now this wouldn't be such an issue for me except that I do believe the culture and the body of the LDS church itself is a cult. Look at the culture, to the reactions, doctrine, authority, to even what is and is not allowed - ie Bible studies, associations with Christendom groups, to strict counsel to avoid "spiritual pornography" (this does not mean porn that most people talk about).

First, Ron tried to make his argument from the Bible. I carry a small one for my purse or bag that I carry with me and so my pride took over, "Really Ron? Can you tell me which verses say this?" First, he tried my (former) favorite argument - the Bible says there won't be anymore prophets, so a belief in a modern day prophet is heresy. Nailed that bad boy with Ephesians 4:11-13 and Hebrews 13:8. I then shared Galatians 1:8 with him, "
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" and other verses that spoke of false prophets, "The LDS church may be false, but it's not a cult. And if you were going to go with a false church, it'd be the best one to go with."

But he didn't want to give up - we continued on - looking to the Bible, the dictionary, then even culture. I did concede that Utah Mormons are different than the rest of LDS outside Utah, but it didn't make the LDS church a cult.

Neither of us backed down and it wasn't until I was getting ready for bed later, that I realized what I had done. I hadn't been defending the LDS church - that wasn't my goal anymore; I was defending my family. Every part of me can see that the culture and leadership has turned the body of the church into a cult - but to be fair, any religious person (yes, even the people with the relationships with Jesus ) can act and react in a "cultish manner" - but there's no way I will admit that my family, my parents are in a cult. I find the term offensive and horrible. It's cruel and overused.

Yet, at the end of the night as I rethink every part of the debate - I realized how wrong I was. I hate the term, I literally wince when it's used. But it's true. Is it a church? Yes, in every sense it's a church. Is it a community, a whole culture to itself? Absolutely. Even today, now almost eight months away from it all, I still find Mormon influence in our home, language, choices, etc. Is it a cult? Eh, I feel nauseous just writing it - but yes.

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