Most people believe that individuals who join cults are insecure and are motivated by a desire to find a tight-knit community within which they can find a stronger sense of identity and security-a haven from the outside world. A common perception may be that such people typically cannot make decisions for themselves or bear the pressure of making choices independently. Cult members, according to logic, are people who prefer cultic control and dependency–instead of the burden of independent decision-making. It seems that these ideas are usually an expression of ignorance, foolishness and perhaps a form of denial.
The word “Cult” is often used in reference to many new religious movement/groups and comes from the Latin words colere, which means “to worship or give reverence to a deity.” 1 The dictionary defines the world “Cult” as: A religion or religious sect generally considered being extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader: often system or community of religious worship and ritual. It is seen as the formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual but can be an obsessive, faddish, devotion to/or esteem for a person, principle, or thing. (Studies in the US show that between 2&5 million young adults between the ages of 18&25 are involved in approximately 2,000 to 5,000 cult groups (Robinson, Frye and Bradley 1997)).
However it is also an exclusive group of persons, sharing an obscure, usually artistic or intellectual interest nowadays, in the public mind, the word “cult” is more likely to be associated with brain-washing, manipulation of followers, public scandals over cult leaders’ sex and family lives, murder and mass suicide, rather than religious worship.
The term “Christian” according to the New Testament was first used at Antioch to describe the Jewish faction that believed they had found “Christ” Today it means anyone who trusts in “the Christ” (i.e. Jesus) as his/her Saviour, someone who professes belief in Jesus Christ or follows the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus; they live lives according to the teachings of Jesus in the bible. 1The Church usually defines the term cult by theological standards. In this sense, a cult is a religious group that identifies itself with Christianity and yet fails one or more doctrinal tests of accepted beliefs. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, call themselves Christians, and yet deny the doctrine of the Trinity or “God’s Three-in-Oneness” (used order to describe the phenomena of God) and the resurrection of Christ, among other things. The Mormons identify themselves as members of “The Church of Jesus Christ,” but insist the rise of man to Godhood and deny salvation by grace alone.
Part of spiritual longing is the wish to find answers to burning questions: Who or what is God, why am I here, what is the purpose of existence, if “God” is good why is there so much suffering in the world, and what happens when I die?
For a perspective cult member, their friends seem content with a primarily worldly lifestyle and appear untroubled by philosophical questions. Whereas, for a prospective cult member, there is a deep and insistent longing for answers and established religions seem to fail in providing answers.
One person’s cult can be another person’s religion, and history has proven that yesterday’s small sect, can mushroom into today’s popular religion. Cults can be made up of only a few people, to ranging in the millions. Given enough time we can find what was once considered a cult can be transformed into a mainstream religion, accepted by society. A good example of this is Mormonism with 10 million members today, as they have changed their image and present themselves as another Christian Church, a truer one. Not all religions act like cults, some Christian cults can be worse than another religion due to the fact they take more freedom away and exercise control over its members.
One such Christian cult is that of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). Joseph Smith founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1830.
It attracted 1,000 members during its first 12 months. Joseph Smith received his first vision in 1820, at the age of 14 in New York. God and Jesus Christ appeared before Joseph as separate entities and told him that all of the Christian sects and denominations were in error and that he shouldn’t join any of them. However, he should anticipate a major personal assignment in the future. In 1823, age of 17, he received three visitations from Moroni at the time of the Autumn Equinox. He claimed that the angel revealed to him the location of golden tablets on which was written the history of two early American tribes. Smith claims it was from this information that he started his group (Mormonism).
Some Mormon groups in Utah and British Columbia engage in polygyny, which can be appealing to some people who are already established within a religion but the general consensus amongst most Christians is that Bible teaches that polygamy is a sin2 Polygyny is against the law in theory but legal in practice in British Columbia. Joseph, first secretly promoted the concept of polygyny during the 1830s – involving one man married to multiple wives, also known as the Law of Abraham, the Patriarchal Order of Marriage, Celestial Plural Marriage, or the Law of the Priesthood. It was not until eight years after Joseph Smith’s death, 1852, that the church publicly acknowledged the practice of polygyny.3