Definitions for "cult" vary all over the map. The most standardized definition, if there is one, is the following taken from Dictionary.com:
a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, orextremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.By this definition, the only thing that would make the Church a cult would be "unorthodox" by the world's standards. "False" is a relative term and entirely open to interpretation. Mormons live in conventional society and not outside of it. We don't have a particular charismatic leader either although President Monson is our prophet.
Dr. James T. Richardson is Professor of Sociology and Judicial Studies and Director, Grant Sawyer Center for Justice Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. He specializes in religion, especially new ones. He recently wrote, "My Take: Rethinking the word 'cult'" for CNN. Below are some highlights.
The term cult became a social weapon against unpopular religious groups, new or old.
So it’s clear that the application of the term cult has become a battleground, and that those opposing the spread of new religious movements have won the war over how to designate them.
But more and more courts have recognized that members of so-called cults have the same rights as other believers. I hope ordinary people are coming around to that point of view, too – and that they begin to rethink the term “cult.”Clearly the term, "cult" has been used as a social weapon against Mormons. I suggest people take Dr. Richardson's advice and rethink the term's use.