What is a Cult?

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October 21, 2020

Rev. Dr. Stephen Becker and his family are ex-Mormons. Today he is a pastor in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
Rev. Dr. Stephen Becker and his family are ex-Mormons. Today he is a pastor in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

What is a Cult?

Over the years as I present educational programs on “Responding and Witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses” and “Responding and Witnessing to Mormons” I have had to explain to those who attend what a cult is. It is a very misunderstood word.

Did you know that the New Testament has much to say about false prophets, false Gospels, and false Christ? Every New Testament book, but Philemon says something about false prophets and false teachers. I have found Dr. Ron Rhodes book The Challenge of the Cults very helpful in explaining this word. Listen to a program we recorded with Dr. Rhodes about his book.

  • Cults can be cults of Christianity or cults of other major religions.
  • It’s difficult to define cults. Some people define them sociologically. They control or dominate an individual or group. The media defines the sensational elements like mass suicide or bizarre rituals. Family Shield Ministries and most Christians believe it is most accurate to define a cult from a theological perspective.
  • Walter Martin defines cults this way: By, cult, we mean a group, religious in nature, which surrounds a leader or a group of teachings which either denies or misinterprets essential biblical doctrine. Most cults have a single leader or a succession of leaders, who claim to represent God’s voice on earth and who claim authority greater than the Bible. The cultic teachings claim to be in harmony with the Bible, but deny critical doctrines therein.
  • Alan Gomes defines cults this way: Cults grow out of and deviate from a previously established religion. So, a cult of Christianity, would be a group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrinal system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which denies one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible.

Family Shield Ministries, through its Counter Cult Ministry, normally deal with The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses) and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). Both are Christian Cults. They call themselves Christians, but teach major doctrines that are not accepted or taught by mainstream Christianity or the Body of Christ.

I do not recommend you tell the individuals at your door or the person you are trying to witness to that you believe they are in a cult. Although they are, they don’t like it when you say this and saying this might cut the conversation short. I want you, the Christian, to understand they are a cult and what this word means.

When I discuss this topic with Christians who want to learn how to respond and witness to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, I like to share the four basis signs of a cult. Please note: For a religious organization to be a cult it must have all of these signs, not just one of them.

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, that come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). In my book Mission Field on our Doorstep: Jehovah’s Witnesses I have listed Bible verses about false Christ and false gospels.

What are the four signs of a mainstream religious cult? The four signs include:

  1. They deny the Deity of Christ.  They talk about Jesus, but their Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible. They make Him less than He is. They teach He is not God. To learn more about the deity of Christ or his dual nature check out: It’s All about Jesus and Family Shield’s video: Sharing Jesus that focuses on the dual nature of Christ. We can also mail you the tract The Deity of Christ. It has many of Bible verses that share the deity of Christ.
  2. They have an authority head. Jehovah’s Witnesses authority head is The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. They believe their organization speaks for God. The Mormons authority head is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They trust the organization more than God’s Word.
  3. They believe that faith plus works is necessary to be saved or have eternal life. They do not believe they are saved by faith alone (Eph. 2:8,9, Titus 3:6-7, Romans 3:20-24).
  4. They offer secret knowledge and proclaim they are the only true religion. Both Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons proclaim they are the only true religion. They are actually false prophets and proclaim a false Christ and a false gospel.God tells us in His Word how to tell the difference between a true prophet of God and a false one:

"I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And you may say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?' "When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him" (Deut. 18: 18-22).

God’s Word tells us that a true prophet of God must be 100% correct all the time. A false prophet is someone who predicts or says things that do not come true. Even one mistake makes them a false prophet. Additional Bible verses about this topic include:  Ezek. 22:27, Acts 20:28,29, 2 Peter 2:1, and 2 Cor. 11:4.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has called itself a prophet of God in the April 1, l972 issue of The Watchtower and in All Scripture is Inspired of God and Beneficial, p. 9. They predicted the end of the world in 1914 in their book The Time is At Hand, p. 101. They also predicted the end of the world in 1975 in their publications. Family Shield gives away the tract “Whom Can You Trust” produced by Personal Freedom Outreach. It shares additional false predictions they made and what Watchtower publication it was printed in. Let us know if you want a copy by sending us your complete name and address to witnesstofamily@gmail.com.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) have also called themselves a Prophet of God and predicted many things that did not come true.  These predictions include:

  • A Temple would be built in Independence, MO, in Joseph Smith’s generation (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 84:1-5). However, to date, no temple has been built on the site designated by Smith.
  • “The coming of the Lord was nigh—even fifty-six years should wind up the scene” (History of the Church, Vol. 2, pg. 182). This prophecy, given in 1835, specifically dated the Second Coming of our Lord no later than 1891.
  • The name of Oliver Granger will be held in “sacred remembrance from generation to generation” (Doctrines and Covenants, Section 117:12). However, Mormons today do not know who Oliver Granger was, much less keep his name in sacred remembrance.
  • Brigham Young would become the president of the United States (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 5, pg. 219).

There is one additional sign that many ex-JW and ex-Mormons will mention. Cults almost always exert excessive control over members lives. They will tell their followers how to dress, how to cut their hair, how to speak, and how to live. They will go beyond what God's Word says. I don’t always include this sign, but do want to highlight the fact that this is normally true. So, as Jesus tells us, let’s beware of false prophets! With gentleness correcting those in opposition, if perhaps God may grant knowledge of the truth and they may escape the trap of the devil" (2 Tim. 2:25). 

In His Service and yours,

Kay L. Meyer

Rev. Greg Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker, in studio with Kay Meyer
Rev. Gregory Seltz and Kay L. Meyer in the studio together. 

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Join Us in Prayer for the Families We Serve

Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you (Matt. 7:7).

Every year Family Shield Ministries receives hundreds of request from those we serve asking us to pray for them. We also share prayer requests with FSM prayer warriors. Why not submit a prayer request here?

We encourage you to join us in praying for individuals and families we serve through our Counter Cult Ministry. As  you pray for the Christian family member or loved one, pray for their faith to grow, for patience, persistence, and the ability to share God's word and His love when He opens the door. Also pray that many friends and Christians will join them in prayer for their loved ones who are in a cult.

Some of those we serve include: 

  • Jeannette and her daughter
  • Deb and her daughter
  • Pat and her granddaughter
  • Dennis and Janet and their son
  • Vicki and her daughter
  • Matthew and his grandson
  • Sue and her son
  • Charles and his ex-wife and son
  • Jennifer and her daughter-in-law
  • Sharon who prays for her grandmother who is a JW
  • And pray for Dee, a Jehovah's Witness with doubts and for Christians trying to witness to those they love and numerous other ex-JW and ex-Mormons we stay in touch with. Thank you for your prayers!