Richard Bushman, a Mormon who is a professor emeritus of history at Columbia University, said that after “the Jewish dust-up,” Mormons “backed away” from “going to extravagant lengths to collect the names of every last person who ever lived and baptize them — even George Washington.”
A media “firestorm” (mostly a “manufactured” controversy, I have little doubt) arose recently when Robert Jeffress, pastor of historic First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, and a strong supporter of Texas Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry, declared that Mormonism, the religion of rival candidate Mitt Romney, was a cult. Some in and out of the media expressed concern, disdain, even outrage at this insensitive, even, some said, bigoted remark. Regardless of the response to Pastor Jeffress’ words, the real question is—did he speak the truth? Is Mormonism in fact a non-Christian cult?
The first issue in settling such a question is the matter of definitions. What is a “cult”? I have seen various definitions, but have settled on my own, which is more of a characterization than strictly a definition.
First, cults claim to be “real” or “restored” Christianity, which had somehow been “lost” somewhere between the first century and the time of the founding of the cult.
Second, cults are almost uniformly non-Trinitarian (most are Unitarian, but some are polytheistic).
Third, cults teach de facto or de jure the inadequacy and incompleteness of the revelation in Scripture, and hence the need for two things:
Fourth, cults, as with all false religions, teach salvation by means of human religious works.
Fifth, there is no salvation outside the cult.