“If they shall say unto you: Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: Behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.” -Matthew 24:26
Growing up, one question I was ask quite a lot was why I belonged to a cult. As a child I didn’t know what a cult was, and I quickly found that those asking the question also didn’t understand the meaning of the term either. Most confused the idea of a cult with the occult. But what is the occult? My accusers couldn’t answer this question either. But, as I grew I learned that I did belong to a denomination that long held to occult practices. Merriam Webster defines the occult as “secret,” “not easily apprehended or understood,” or “hidden from view.” Based on these definitions, not only was the denomination I grew up in definitely of the occult, so are many Latter Day Saint churches. For that matter, a good number of Protestant churches would fall into this category as well, as would the Catholics.
Pray in Secret
The question we should ask then would be, is the occult bad? We know we are to do some things in secret. Jesus taught us to pray in secret, for example (Matthew 6:6). Yet he also fulfilled the prophecy found in Psalm 78:2, “I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old,” when He taught. The author of Matthew confirms this, but changes the second half of the verse to, “which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 13:35). We know that Jesus brought true occult teachings into the light. Yet he also stated, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Matthew 7:6). This leaves a little little grey area to discus.
Clearly, our worship is to be personal, building a real relationship with God. At the same time, we must welcome all and reject secret combinations, a major theme of the Book of Mormon (See 2 Nephi 11:93-95 RAV, 26:22-23 OPV; Helaman 2:150-152 RAV, 16:26-27 OPV, & Mormon 4:25 RAV, 8:27 OPV). And we must respect God, and not mock our Lord, or give people reasons to mock our God. I know a number of Latter Day Saint denominations keep revelations, temple ordinances, and other parts of their theology secret, or occult, for this last reason. While it is easy to accuse our brothers and sisters, warring against our fellow Saints isn’t the way to unify our movement.
The Latter Day Saint movement is a part of the occult, just like everyone else. We have talked about cults in the past. Satan is working even harder now to divide us as Saints. Which group then are actually cults?
Some cults will use celibacy or sexual restrictions, fasting or dietary restrictions, or special clothing. This covers a number of Latter Day Saint denominations. The question we should ask though is, how do these restrictions make us feel? Do we feel closer to God? Or, do we fear we will never be good enough? Do we feel greater love for others? Or, do we feel pride, as though we are holier or better than other people? As though we know some great secret.
The End of the World
Many cults are claim belief in a god or some higher being, salvation, and the afterlife, sometimes combined with an “end of the world” view. Leaders will often claim to be an apostle, or prophet. These groups can be strict, sometimes using punishments like shunning or exclusion. Members are encouraged to proselytize as often as possible. Sometimes they will even send people on “missions” to convert people to their cults.
If this sounds familiar, it is probably because it sounds like every church on the planet. Even many Protestants now see today as the “last days.” Again, we must ask ourselves, do we feel closer to God? Or do we feel closer to a group? Both are fine, but no church or leader should ever replace our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
We are the Warriors
Some cults have a “warrior” mentality. “Spiritual warfare” is a term being thrown around, these ideas can be fueled by a belief that we must somehow change society, start a revolution, or overthrow some perceived enemy to rid the world of the “evil forces.” Members might see themselves as an elite people, set apart to go into battle. They might have some idea that the government is on the verge of failure, and only they can save it.
Many times, those in these groups are armed or encourage members to buy weapons. Leadership might discourage this, but little to nothing is done to discourage members of the cult from pushing such ideas. Some may support or even engage in violent activities. If this sounds familiar, it may be because we are seeing more and more of this today. We must ask ourselves, are we fighting to free everyone, or to be free to oppress others?
Status and Wealth
Cults might have secret handshakes, or other ritualized practices. These might be sustained by belief in attaining wealth and power, status, and quick earnings. The wealthy are rewarded with positions of power. They typically push ultra-conservative family values, strict morals, good health, or patriotism. Members are encouraged to give and not to receive.
While they may have systems setup to help the poor, they might use poverty to keep them out of their most sacred rights. And many times these rights ask that members give everything they have not to God, but to the organization. Again, this sounds familiar. There are a number of Christian denominations that teach the prosperity gospel. And a number of Latter Day Saint sects have secret rights, these were started by Joseph Smith himself.
Finally, the last example we will look at are the cults that believe in supernatural powers. These might include “magic blessings” that can heal, or even give someone God’s divine will for an individual. These blessings will claim people are tied to ancient Biblical characters, make promises for their lives or even after lives, and give them warnings or predict great things for them.
Again, this sounds like many churches, sects, and denominations, not just in the Latter Day Saint movement. Again, the real question we must ask if we see these signs in the churches we belong to is: How is my personal relationship with God? If you feel unworthy, or unwelcome then you aren’t where God wants you.
Be Ye One
After looking at this list, did you see things that would make your church a cult? Hopefully the answer is yes, because these are tools used by God for good and by Satan for evil. Every church is a cult. Every church delves into the occult. The question becomes, does that church get us closer to Jesus Christ? Because if an organization is building walls between us and God, or between us as Saints, then we are not where the Lord wants us to be. I can say this because I know and testify that the only thing keeping us from our God is ourselves. The only thing keeping us apart as Saints is ourselves. Let us work harder to love God and love our neighbors and put these things Satan uses to divide us behind us, because in truth we have far more in common than the enemy would have us believe.