The word “cult” is quite loaded. I don’t think the Mormon church is really a cult anymore, although it certainly was in the beginning, just as Christianity itself began as a cult of Judaism. However, people still like to use the word “cult” to describe the Mormon church, and I think that’s because the church and its culture still display quite a few cult-like traits, not all of which are bad.
The following is a list of cult attributes that I picked up from somewhere, and I’ve responded to each one by analyzing how much I think Mormonism displays that trait and whether I personally feel that’s good or bad.
Is the leader charismatic? Cults are often created and maintained by the force of the founder’s personality.
No, not anymore. I don’t think any of today’s General Authorities have enough charisma for a cult to form around their personality. They are all more like corporate board members, with no single individual doing or saying much that is unique, provocative, or attracts attention. For me, Mormonism has become too corporate in this area.
Is the leader always right?
Pretty much, but the leader is unlikely to say anything to rock the boat. Plus Mormonism generally requires unanimity among the fifteen apostles to make any real declarative statement, but when all fifteen speak together, they are always right (such as with the Proclamation on the Family). And I can accept that.
I have to admit, I found it quite off-putting when President Hinckley said he didn’t like extra earrings and mainstream, orthodox Mormons turned that into practically a commandment. I don’t think a religion has the right or the need to dictate personal dress and grooming choices on that level, but Mormons are so quick to jump on things like this.
Does the leader not tolerate or receive criticism, while criticizing everyone else? Does the leader discourage negative feedback about the group?
I do not think Mormon leaders at any level generally welcome or listen much to criticism, but I also don’t think they criticize others much. Mormonism is an almost ridiculously positive, conformist culture, in which frankness, candor, analysis, critiquing, and other forms of social and political honesty are not generally welcome.
Is the leader treated like royalty or considered with reverential awe?
Yes, Mormonism is somewhat nauseatingly overboard in this respect. Unlike the early LDS, today’s LDS definitely put the prophet up on a pedestal. Mormons SAY that the prophet is an imperfect man but BEHAVE as if he’s perfect and infallible, whereas the Catholics are the direct opposite regarding their pope.
Is the leader coercive? Does the leader try to compel members by force, intimidation, or authority against the member’s individual will?
My experience with and observation of today’s church leaders, both local and general, has been that they are generally quite benign and inoffensive in this area. (However, Mormon social pressure makes up a lot of the difference.)
Is the leader self absorbed? Cult leaders are often preoccupied with how people perceive them and seek to aggrandize themselves.
There may be a little of this among today’s General Authorities, but not much. I think the current prophet is a little more mindful of these things than some past prophets, or at least he was before he became prophet. (So far as prophet, he’s actually been quite humble and low key, in my opinion, but I remember when I worked at the LDS Church magazine he would complain if the skin tone was off on his photo.)
Does the leader seek sexual gratification from the members?
Ha, not anymore, in the slightest. I’ve never even seen it on a local level, although I guess it happens from time to time.
Is the group organized in an authoritarian, hierarchical power structure?
Absolutely, and proudly so. Not my first choice for how to structure an organization, personally.
Does the leader claim divinity or special knowledge and authority from God?
Yes, but not very much anymore. Personally, I wish we heard more along these lines——as long as it’s true, of course, and not just something the person is saying to increase his or her power.
Is disagreeing with the leader considered the same as disagreeing with God?
You do still hear too much of this kind of talk in the LDS Church. It particularly bugs me when it’s implied that a local bishop’s decision to issue a calling comes directly from the Lord and that saying no to that calling is the same as saying no to the Lord. I don’t accept that.
On the other hand, I personally feel that disagreeing with the fifteen apostles on an issue like same-sex marriage is the same as disagreeing with God and is a very spiritually dangerous thing to do.
Does the leader expect unquestioning obedience?
To a degree. I think at the general level, they do expect that. But at the local level, I think most leaders are willing to talk through things with members, including general-level things the member might be having trouble with. So questioning is OK to a degree, as part of the process of ultimately yielding to obey.
Does the leader hold out the promise of salvation, power within the group, enlightenment, or other ultimate rewards in return for membership and obedience?
Salvation, certainly. And I think it’s just human nature to bestow higher leadership responsibility to those who obey and conform and serve more. And obeying Mormon standards makes one pure enough to receive more inspiration, in the Mormon view. None of this particularly bugs me.
Is the leader not held accountable for his actions or the actions of his authority structure?
I think Mormon leaders are generally held accountable as needed.
Does the leader ask for money as a sign of loyalty, to be in good standing, or to go to the next level?
Yes, obviously, in the form of tithing. However, this money doesn’t enrich or support any individuals, beyond a set living allowance for full-time general leaders. This area does not bug me.
Does the group provide an instant community by love bombing a newcomer or presenting itself as a happy family?
Yeah, but that’s just good sales and marketing.
Do the members always appear happy and enthusiastic for newcomers? Or have they been encouraged to appear that way?
Ideally, they’re supposed to. Again, sales and marketing. Plus Mormons really do want others to join, both to validate themselves and for the new convert’s benefit.
Are members unable to tell the truth about the group? Members will often lie or evade the truth about the group in order to present a more palatable vision to newcomers. However, this issue goes much deeper, because members are often unable to acknowledge the truth to each other.
Yeah, there’s some of this in Mormonism, which can be quite disingenuous at times. Individuals are under a great deal of pressure to present themselves to fellow members and to the world at large as being righteous and pure and spiritual and wonderful, and I think a lot of Mormons put on phony masks, at least part of the time. Also, a lot of the history is too whitewashed.
Personally, I’d like to see much more frankness in the Mormon church and culture at all levels, less focus on PR and more focus on just being who and what we really are.
Does the group withhold the full truth about its ideas and practices from newcomers? Cults often refrain from divulging the complete picture until newcomers have gotten themselves in deep.
Yes, regarding the temple, and also regarding the hiding of difficult aspects of early Mormon history. I think that’s fine with the temple, since it’s structured as something to work toward, but I think it’s bad to hide the hard history, because in today’s Internet age lots of people will eventually come across it and then feel deceived and betrayed.
Do group members keep near constant contact with interested newcomers? This prevents the newcomer from having time to rethink their involvement and to think with a cooler head away from the love bombing.
I don’t think Mormonism overdoes this, generally.
Does the group isolate newcomers from family and friends? Cults will try through various means to cut off contact between newcomers and outsiders to prevent the truth about the group from coming to light and to replace familial bonds with bonds to the cult.
No, I don’t think the Mormon church does this, but I’ve seen the reverse several times, with family and friends cutting off a new Mormon convert because they disagree with the choice, feel threatened by the religion, etc.
Do new members estrange themselves from family and friends? Even if group members don’t actively try to cut off newcomers from outside influences, newcomers may start to distance themselves from others who don’t share their new outlook and seem to misunderstand or be overly critical.
Well, if someone keeps insulting something you value, I think it’s natural to draw away from that offender. And while I think it’s important to try to understand other people’s outlook, there are times when it sucks too much time and energy and you need to retreat from it, at least for a season. This happens to me all the time with my debates on the gay issue; I often just have to drop the topic for months at a time, otherwise the debate becomes too consuming.
Does the group emphasize the unimportance or worthlessness of the new member while hyping membership in the group? A cult will seek to break down an individual’s self worth in order to foster dependence on the group. A weakened individual becomes pliable to coercion.
No, I don’t think Mormonism does this. If anything, it pumps up an individual’s self-worth with the whole “child of God” thing. But it does foster dependence on the group in order to receive the proper ordinances, etc.
Does the group solicit confessions of guilt, weakness, or fear? Cults seek to break down normal personal boundaries in order to foster a new identity centered around the group.
Perhaps confession to the bishop of serious sins falls into this category somewhat. But on the other hand, Mormon culture doesn’t want to hear about personal weaknesses and fears, beyond a certain superficial point to establish one’s all-important humility within the group.
Does the group demand that new members take some action to affirm their loyalty? These demands may start out small and get progressively bigger. This primes the newcomer to follow directions given by group members. It also causes newcomers to unconsciously justify their actions. For example, “I gave money to this group. I’m a smart person who wouldn’t get cheated. This group must be good.”
Yes, I’d say Mormonism does this quite a bit. For example, the full-time mission required of young men fits this pattern, as well as future demands the church may make on a person’s time and energy. In my own case, I’m at a point now where I’m prepared to say no to something I don’t want to do, though.
Do newcomers need to be trained to think correctly (i.e. according to the group’s ideas)?
Sure, but don’t nearly all human organizations do this, to some degree? Mormonism does it quite a bit, I admit.
Does the group encourage new members to renounce former values or beliefs?
Sure, to the degree that they’re not in harmony with the gospel. I think doing some of this is good, but Mormonism may go a little overboard at times.
Does the group test members before completely accepting them?
It’s easy to get baptized but less easy to gain entry to the temple. I think this is a good thing, giving people a chance to be challenged and grow.
Dissolution of Individual Identity and Independence
Do members use a language that no one else can understand?
Mormons have their share of lingo and acronyms, but not to an excessive or unusual degree, I don’t think. Rather, I think Mormons take some pains to help others understand them.
Do the members have special ways of dressing or other special behaviors that mark them as members? Having a common lingo and similar modes of dress fosters a sense of group cohesion and identity. It also serves to further separate members from the wider society.
Of course. And personally, I have a huge problem with the “uniform of the priesthood,” which is the same as a conservative corporate suit and tie. I don’t think this is necessary or good, and it’s something I just refuse to go along with. I’ll put on a tie but do not own a suit and do not ever intend to buy one. Perhaps this is my own passive-aggressive response against what I see as an excessively conformist, cult-like expectation of Mormon men.
Other than that, Mormons don’t do much along these lines, certainly far less than many other religious groups. I suppose temple garments might fall into this category, but garments are not visible to others, so they're more of a personal reminder. Even other members generally don't know if you're wearing your garments or not.
Do the members have solidarity within the group with little or no outside allegiance? Cults will try to become the entity that members are ultimately loyal to instead of more natural loyalties like family or friends.
Yeah, the church expects loyalty when one’s family is at odds with the church, but certainly whole families and groups of friends can find solidarity together within the church. And at least in the United States, the church and most members are almost fanatically patriotic, which is one way the church lifts itself out of cult status and joins with the larger civilization.
Personally, I’m not very patriotic. I think America has played a key role in the world and that the early events were inspired like Mormonism says they were, but I think America peaked with World War II and has been on the wrong track since then in nearly every way, except perhaps in the development of technology, although even technology has a big downside. I would really like to become an American expatriate for a period of time, if I could find the right situation for my family in Europe or Asia somewhere.
Does the group use guilt to motivate obedience?
Yes, definitely. If you break the rules, you fear loss of blessings and protection.
Is there a system of punishment and reward? Such a system infantilizes the member, creating a relationship that resembles that between parent and child.
Not really in an outward sense. Most of this is left to one’s own spiritual relationship with God, I think. Although with serious sins, there is punishment, so I guess that does make the church like one’s parents in some ways, who will excommunicate you if you screw up too badly.
Do members feel a sense of powerlessness, dependency, covert fear, or guilt?
Somewhat, in all areas. I don’t think an individual member like me feels any power to really influence or change things in the church. To me, Mormonism feels like being a worker bee in a hive——unfortunately, I don't like honey. And Mormonism does make you feel dependent on it for eternal blessings, and I must say that one reason I like being in the church is that I expect to be helped materially if my personal situation falls apart, which is somewhat of a sense of dependency. As far as fear, Mormonism’s teachings that we all need to go through personal trials and that these are the last days and terrible things will happen do cause some fear, although the faith also provides ways to maintain hope that all will come out right in the end.
Does the group demand complete loyalty or trust in the group and its beliefs? Is the expression of doubt suppressed through guilt or character assassination?
Yeah, I would say it does. Certainly you can’t successfully blend Mormonism with other faiths and still really be a Mormon. And I do think Mormons are VERY effective at freezing out people who express doubt or otherwise rock the boat. That’s not character assassination, though. On the other hand, I think anyone who leaves the church is automatically assumed to have some secret sin or flaw that made them want to leave, and I admit that I personally think that is indeed the case, even if the flaw is simply pride.
Do members feel dependent on the leader? Would they feel lost without the leader’s direction and presence?
To a degree, yes. But any leader can be readily replaced in Mormonism, so it's about the role, not the personality.
Do members allow the leader to make decisions for them?
Not really. Leaders invite and ask members to do or think certain things, but members still have to make their own decisions. When I've sought counseling on certain issues, my leaders have usually made it clear that they cannot and will not decide things for me.
Do members lose the ability to make choices contrary to the group’s beliefs? Nearly all decisions are weighed against how the group would look at the choice.
To some degree, yes. The area that comes to mind is again the full-time mission thing. Far fewer people would go or would last the whole mission without the intense Mormon social pressure. The same could be said for marrying outside the church and other things. Then again, there’s plenty of room in Mormonism for people to make plenty of choices against the grain, as long as they don’t cross certain moral lines, and even then there’s good opportunity for repentance.
Does the group deprive members of the sense of time by removing clocks and watches?
Perhaps in the temple? Which is why the endowment session always feels like about four hours to me... But they don’t make you take off your watch, do they?
Does the group encourage child-like or uninhibited behavior? Disinhibition fosters child-like dependence and further opens members to coercion.
Not in the slightest. On the contrary, Mormonism fosters all kinds of inhibitions, cultural and moral and otherwise. Some are good, and some are unhealthy, especially the cultural ones.
Does the group demand public identification with the group or expressions of solidarity with the group? The more often a member publicly identifies with the group, the more membership in the group dominates individual identity.
I think it’s fairly possible to be a Mormon and fly under the radar, unless someone happens to notice that you don’t drink alcohol or something like that.
I think in the near future, as persecution increases due to Mormonism’s resistance to gay marriage and other issues, this will become a much more significant issue where it might be tempting to deny one’s affiliation with Mormonism.
Does the group have rules that govern every aspect of life? Members get in the habit of following rules and the cult comes to dominate their thoughts throughout the day.
Not every aspect, but certainly enough aspects to be a daily concern. But most of these rules are good for you, helping you avoid addictions and vices and other unhealthy things, as well as increase spirituality. Personally, I’m pretty good at avoiding the evils but quite poor at doing the positives. I pray most mornings, but other than that I don’t regularly read scriptures or do a lot of the other regular spiritual disciplines, except I do attend church more often than not.
Do members endure verbal abuse or character assassination?
Yes, absolutely, and I think we’ll have to endure a lot more of it as civilization and Mormonism increasingly part ways.
Are the members malnourished or sleep deprived? Members who are physically weak are less able to resist mental coercion.
No, not for any reason directly related to the religion, although the religion does promote parenthood, which leads to sleep deprivation. On the contrary, I think more Mormons are too well fed than otherwise (including myself).
Personally, I never wake up early for church meetings, such as 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. priesthood meetings. I don’t get enough sleep during the week, and it’s important to me to get plenty of sleep on the weekends.
I wonder if fasting can be considered malnourishment? I don't think so, since 24 hours is hardly enough to cause nutritional harm, and experts say fasting like that is actually physically beneficial. And no one tries to mentally coerce you when you're fasting, although you're encouraged to focus on spiritual things in your own mind. Anyway, I'm not a very good faster, only doing it about once a quarter rather than monthly.
Does the group employ peer pressure and the desire to belong to change member’s behavior?
Big time. Mormons are way excessive in trying to look good so others will think well of them and so the world will think well of Mormonism, but so much of it comes across as not genuine or believable.
Are members punished and rewarded for similar behaviors? This confuses the members and keeps them off balance.
Can’t think of any real examples. Of course, sex is rewarded within marriage and punished outside of it, but it’s still the same activity, so maybe that counts. And I think that does confuse a lot of young people, when suddenly marriage flips the sex switch from bad to good.
Do members report each other’s misbehavior to the leader?
Yeah, I think this happens a lot in Mormonism, especially at BYU, which is like Mormonism on steroids.
Does the group keep members so busy with activities and meetings that they don’t have time and energy to think about their involvement or to spend time with non-members?
Yes, I think Mormonism definitely does this. Personally, I have no interest in spending as much time on church things as I see a lot of people do, and I blow off a lot of it. I even think the three-hour Sunday meeting block is too long. Because I teach night school during the week, I have a personal policy of refusing any callings that require weeknight time, even if the calling would take place on a night that I don’t teach. I need SOME time during the week for my family and myself, after all.
Are the members’ personal boundaries and privacy violated?
Some would say that the temple-recommend interview questions do that and the requirement that sexual sins be confessed to the bishop. Personally, I think this is OK as a way to help members keep their lives more on track, if they want to stay in good standing.
Suspension of Rational Thought
Is the member blamed for all failures or disappointments? (E.g. you aren’t recruiting because your heart is full of sin.) This allows the cult to shift blame for its own failings to the member while simultaneously breaking down their self worth.
This definitely happens to full-time missionaries, and I personally really dislike the full-time missionary program and think it’s just chock full of psychologically harmful nonsense. The missionary program IS a cult in so many ways, and I personally really hated it. But I don’t think these kinds of things happen much to regular church members.
Does the group use hypnosis (sometimes presented as meditation or relaxation)? The difference between legitimate use of these techniques and how cults employ them is that the cult uses them to suppress rational thought in order to make the member more pliable.
No, I think Mormonism is known to be, if anything, too slim on things like meditation. I suppose prayer could be considered a form of self-hypnosis and meditation.
Does the group tell members what they should read or watch? Leaders want members to avoid opposing points of view so the spell the cult has woven over its members won’t be broken.
Mormonism does this a lot, but not to cult-like extremes, I don’t think. I’m a member in good standing, but I watch and read whatever I personally want, although I do not indulge in outright pornography. In addition, I freely read anti-Mormon stuff on occasion, as well as difficult, honest history. I take that kind of stuff with a grain of salt.
Does the group employ thought-stopping language, clichés, or slogans? These sayings are presented as self-evidently true, but their true purpose is to shortcut logic and critical thinking.
Yeah, Mormonism does a fair bit of this, especially in bearing testimony. For me, I don’t say “I know”; rather, I say “I believe.” But most Mormons say “I know” when they really don’t know but rather just strongly believe or hope. And there are others as well, such as “Follow the prophet.”
Do members repeatedly chant or sing mind-narrowing phrases? These techniques make an end-run around rational thought and implant ideas through sheer repetition.
Yeah, we have our share of hymns like this, and the temple is full of this kind of thing. I don’t think it’s bad, but I think it’s really very boring.
Does the group discourage members from asking questions?
Somewhat, beyond a superficial level. Mormons are often reminded to stick to the "plain and precious" things, the vanilla. Another problem is that the church isn’t always good at answering questions, because it doesn’t acknowledge a lot of realities or want to admit error or ambiguity.
Do they encourage the experiential instead of the logical? For cults seeking to hide the truth or foster dependence, it is simpler to manipulate emotions than to provide a reasonable chain of logic.
I think Mormonism has a good mix of both. My own belief is based more on the logic of Mormon theology, which I think is superb, but I also have a number of experiential things. I think you need both to have a strong belief.
Does the group present incomprehensible doctrine that confuses members and discourages the use of logic? Members may try to reconcile contradictions in doctrine, but their efforts prove ultimately fruitless. At this point, cults can insinuate that logic is impotent and discourage its use.
Mormonism has its share of fuzzy doctrines and unanswered questions, but like I said before, the theology really appeals to my overall sense of logic of why the world exists, why we’re here, the nature of the earthly test, etc.
Do members neglect to verify information they receive from the group? Do the accept something as the truth simply because it came from the group?
Yes, I think Mormons tend to do too much of this. As for me, I’ve come to rather dislike some of what I hear from the church’s PR department regarding the issues of gay rights, and I think errors have been made. (As an aside, since President Monson took over, I sometimes get the feeling that the church is being run more by PR than by prophecy.)
Do members avoid thinking in ways that are contrary to the group’s beliefs? Members may have a strong mental aversion to merely entertaining an opposing point of view.
Yeah, I think most Mormons feel some of this pressure, and I do think there are some real risks of being deceived when one goes off the Mormon track. I have several friends who I feel are deeply deceived when it comes to the gay issue, for instance, people who are living gay and people who sympathize with them to the degree that they think gay sexual relationships should be embraced.
There are some areas within Mormonism that don’t have a clear answer, though, and it’s possible to find members with opposite opinions, such as about polygamy. Personally, I think polygamy is the eternal order of things and, when authorized by God, can be a superior family structure here on earth, but a lot of Mormons think it’s practically evil or, at a minimum, a lesser form of family life that won't necessarily be part of exaltation.
Attitudes about the Group
Does the group have all the answers to the important questions in life?
Yes, nearly so. And I think that’s a good thing. I see too much agnosticism in the world, the idea that it’s impossible to know so much. What a limiting, illogical world view.
Does the group claim to be the only or the best source of truth?
Yeah, but what’s wrong with that? Mormonism doesn’t claim to be the only source, but it does claim to be the best, and I agree with that, otherwise why be in it? I don’t think it’s reasonable to say all religions are equally true, when their doctrines and authority claims are different.
Do members consider themselves to be the elite or the chosen?
Yes, and in Mormonism’s case, if you can embrace its truths and abide by its disciplines, I think you have some valid claim to that, although there’s no use in becoming prideful about it. I see this earthly test as survival of the spiritually fittest, and I think someone who fully lives Mormonism (which I don’t personally claim to do) is indeed at the top rank of spiritually fittest.
Do members consider themselves the only ones who will be saved or earn the ultimate reward?
Yes, but Mormons also make it plenty easy for everyone in the world to hear about Mormonism and accept it. It certainly isn’t an exclusionary religion in that sense; quite the opposite.
Does the group see its role as preparing for the imminent end of the world?
Yes, a source of both considerable angst and fascination for me personally.
Attitudes Toward Outsiders
Outsiders are dangerous to the cult——unless they feel an interest in joining——because they threaten to disrupt the spell of the cult over its members.
Yeah, there’s definitely truth to this. On the one hand, Mormons are supposed to reach out to outsiders, but on the other hand, there’s a very real danger of being tempted or corrupted by them. I know lots of people, Mormon and otherwise, who aren’t a good influence on me, and I also know some non-Mormons who I think are better Christians that I am and a lot of Mormons are. So you have to judge on an individual basis.
Do members avoid association with non-members?
Yes, this happens, especially in Utah. Personally, I don’t do this, but it’s more because I get bored with Mormons than because of any higher-minded reason.
Are virtually all of a member’s close associates also members?
This happens a lot with Utah Mormons. I think many Mormons tend to be somewhat guarded with non-Mormons, at least on some level, even perhaps subconsciously. Mormons are supposed to be best friends with the Lord and their own spouse, so I don’t think we make as many intense friendships as those without a religion might. At least, I remember that my friendships were a lot more important to me during my two irreligious years than at anytime after I got converted; when you’re irreligious, you’ve got no savior except your friends.
Do the members live together, sequestered from non-members?
I do not like this tendency in Utah. I experienced it growing up in Bountiful from age 10 to 17, and I’m experiencing it now in Provo, much to my dismay. But I’m too old and lacking in ambition to do anything about it now, and besides, my mortgage only has about seven more years, so I’m staying put! Anyway, I do have plenty of non-Mormon and former-Mormon friends at work and online.
Do members attack the character of critics or those who are not in the group?
Of critics, yes, because they really ARE lacking in character——or spiritual integrity, or SOMETHING——if they think Mormonism is something to fight. I don’t think Mormons typically attack the characters of people simply because they’re not Mormon, though.
Do members devalue the opinions of outsiders?
To a degree, perhaps. But I think most Mormons can find value in any outside opinion that contains truth and wisdom.
Are non-members considered less enlightened?
About God’s true, authorized religion, yes. But not necessarily about other important subjects. I think most Mormons could acknowledge that many non-Mormons have more enlightenment than Mormons, in many areas.
Does the group encourage thinking in us-versus-them terms?
To a degree, but Mormonism also encourages the building of common bridges, if often with the ulterior motive of converting people. I think some “us versus them” is necessary and unavoidable, especially as civilization falls further away from God.
Do members avoid listening to the perspectives of non-members?
I see it happen regularly, yes. And I perhaps do it myself. I personally don’t really care to hear much about the beliefs of other religions, to tell you the truth, simply because I feel confident my religion is more true than any other religion and religion is just not a topic that interests me much.
These days, I think I see this problem more related to politics than religion, with Democrats and Republicans unable to really consider each other’s perspectives because they’re too worried about defending their own party lines. I really don’t have much respect for politics or interest in it; I think it’s all just a big clusterf*ck.
Is it difficult to leave?
I know it is for some people. I don’t think it would be for me, because I would likely leave simply out of boredom, not out of anger or offense or collapse of faith, although you never know. Some people go from hot to cold and suffer some resulting shock to their system, but I’m more just lukewarm. I suppose I would feel some pressure from family, but not much, and I’m not a guy who is terribly subject to social pressure, although certainly not completely immune to it.
I don’t think I’d ever completely leave Mormonism unless my wife wanted to as well, and even then I’m sure I’d continue to believe deep down, while enjoying not having to deal with the religion anymore, which is really almost completely a source of good-for-you tedium to me, much like doing the treadmill. I guess eventually I’d come crawling back with an empty soul or whatever, so I guess I would never really fully leave the religion, so in that sense I suppose it is difficult to ever really leave! (I could pretty easily check out any time I like, but I could never leave.)
If members try to leave, are they considered rebellious against the will of a higher power or of the leader?
I would say more rebellious against the Lord than anyone else. I would also say that most people who leave are rebelling against the culture and the members in general more than against any particular leader, although I’m sure there are many cases of rebellion against a leader too.
Are people who leave considered deserters, weak, or evil by members?
Yes, I would say so, and I personally agree. Weak, at a minimum. Oftentimes simply hedonistic. Also sometimes just confused.
Do members avoid association with onetime members that have left the group?
Many do, yes. I personally enjoy former Mormons in some ways better than Mormons, because they’ve thrown off many of the cultural inhibitions that make Mormons boring. But I don’t really want to be like them, because I believe in the eternal rewards of living Mormonism, and I think without Mormonism I might be in trouble by now with addictions and other worldly problems.
This was a fun analytical exercise. So yes, Mormonism does still have some features of cultism, even if not overall enough to be labeled an actual cult, if only because the church is now too large and long-lived for that status.