Mormon confesses he’ll miss the ‘cult’ lifestyle

AFP/GETTY IMAGES Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks with the Rev. Billy Graham during a visit to Graham’s home in … Continued

AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks with the Rev. Billy Graham during a visit to Graham’s home in Montreat, N.C., on Oct. 11, 2012.

Last week, directly following the momentous meeting-slash-prayer between Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and supervangelist Billy Graham, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association removed “Mormons” from its Web site’s list of cults. In a fell, Internet-mediated swoop, the BGEA legitimized a group that has been excoriated for decades as anathema to good ol’ American values. In a simple—and, perhaps precipitous—move, the BGEA has made Mormons like me normal.

I confess that I’m going to miss the cult lifestyle. Staying up all night. Carousing with ne’er-do-wells. Terrorizing farm animals. Plotting to destroy the constitution. I remember, like it was yesterday, worshiping Stephen R. Covey for my 16th sixteenth birthday. Sigh. Once they’re gone, those days don’t come back.

And I’ll miss my friends who still get to be cults: the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Moonies, the Unitarians, the Scientologists. They were a great bunch to hang with. I tell ya, we’d get together on Friday nights and there wasn’t a social convention, taboo, or Christian proscription that one or another of us wouldn’t cross. One time, it was pretty late, and we’d been privately interpreting the Bible and goin’ to church on Saturday, and stuff. Y’know, just knockin’ around. And, out of nowhere, the Jehovah’s Witnesses suddenly stop celebrating Christmas—right there in the parking lot. So, then, the Moonies love-bomb JW’s, and the Scientologists start jabbing the Moonies with an e-meter, and the needle goes F/N. I didn’t know what to do, so I gave up alcohol. We were all laughing so hard we couldn’t stand up.

Now I have to accommodate myself somehow to partying with Methodists.

My new life in the mainstream’s going to take some work. Now that I’m not in a cult, I’m going to have to get up at a reasonable hour on Sunday mornings. I’m going to have to comb my hair and put on the other airs of respectable society. I’ll have to be polite. That one’s going to be especially difficult. When I was a cultist, no one expected me to be polite. They rather expected me to be dark and gloomy, quick with a pessimistic or misanthropic word, and always ready to bite the head off a bat, because people in cults are, of course, wild-eyed sociopaths bent on undermining all that is good and true about a civilized society.

I’ve been in a cult so long, I don’t really know how to be a cheerful and well-mannered member of society. There’s that thing that normal people do with their teeth when they greet each other that the cultist me never had time to learn, for being too busy chasing down eye-of-newt and mandrake roots. I’ve been practicing a “good morning to ya” smile in my bathroom mirror. It makes my cheeks hurt, and I still can’t manage more than a grimace that doesn’t say “good morning” so much as “I’m thinking of biting you.”

But I will press on. By taking Mormons off of his cult list, Graham has given me a priceless gift that I am determined not to squander. I’ve already thrown out my pentagrams and broomsticks, and the goat head is coming down this weekend so that I can blend with the great, formless mass of the American mainstream.

I mean, I can always go back to biting the heads off things if Romney loses in a few weeks and Graham puts Mormons back on his cults’ list.


David Mason is an associate professor at Rhodes College in Memphis. He is the author of “Theatre and Religion on Krishna’s Stage” and “My Mormonism: a primer for non-Mormons and Mormons, alike.” Follow him on Twitter at @fatsodoctor
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David Mason David Mason is an associate professor at Rhodes College. He is the author of "Theatre and Religion on Krishna's Stage" and "My Mormonism." His biography of Brigham Young will be available later this year from Routledge. Follow him on Twitter: @fatsodoctor.
  • XVIIHailSkins

    You’re quite right to show such contempt for the Pope of American Evangelism, Billy Graham. He has no more right to label your church a cult than a Scientologist or a Wiccan should, seeing as he believes the world is 6000 years old and that we are all commanded on pain of eternal torture to simultaneously love and fear an invisible, Freudian father-figure (who needs money). The word “cult” is about as meaningless as the word “religion” is these days, I think you’re all in bed together. Mormonism is a plagiarism of older branches of Christianity (a system of very bad ideas), plus a few more abjectly idiotic ideas.

    Kindly climb down from your high horse and spare me your fake outrage. There are a great many people in this country who are uncomfortable enough with every last one of our elected officials embracing ancient, hysterical dogmas. You’re not convincing any reasonable person that they should feel sorry for being slightly more uncomfortable with a man who believes in a much newer, much more ludicrous delusion drawing almost within reach of the American nuclear arsenal. The backhanded political endorsement of an entirely political preacher (who still thinks you’re headed to the inferno, by the way) doesn’t change anything.

  • commonman1

    If it isn’t our old buddy the bitter flogger of all things believing. I think David should stay right up there on his Mormon high horse instead of climbing on yours.

  • David L Sadler

    The fact the USA is even contemplating the election of someone who believes that Brigham Young fathered 57 children to 16 different women, several of whom were legally married to other living men at the time… Because GOD commanded him to. LOL … To the position as Leader of the Free World in control of a nuclear arsenal… Represents a very sad state of affairs. Have you all lost basic common sense?

  • TElden

    CULT: n. 1. Church down the road that I don’t believe in, that I want others to fear and hate.
    2. any religious group that’s not mine (Linda Fiatoa)

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a cult. The Church fully believes and teaches that Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior and Redeemer. It also accepts the Bible as scripture. Church members participate fully in society in public schools and employment, pursue secular knowledge, and accept and abide by all civil laws. The Church now consists of over 14 million members in 150 countries, is politically neutral, and has many limitations on Church leaders acting in a dictatorial or tyrannical manner.

  • E32

    I’m right with ya, Bro. Mason, now that we’re not cultists. I’m gonna miss those all-night sex orgies, offering blood sacrifice to Odin, and flattening crops into huge circles. It’s tough to see the old traditions die.

  • brentlabeau

    Orgies! How did I miss out on that one. It will be tough get rid of my horns.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    I have to point out that this type of sarcasm rings a bit hollow when any of those practices you mentioned could be seamlessly replaced with sporting holy underwear, rewriting history, and baptizing dead people.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    I suppose it would be redundant to point out that I think you should think differently. What a great point you’ve raised.

  • SODDI

    Don’t worry – you’ll always be a cultist to me.

    Go back to marrying your 13 year-old nieces and kidnapping women off the streets and destroying the lives of those who have decided to leave mormonism.

  • reformthesystem

    Mormons reportedly believe there’s a Planet Oliblish — the final staging point before flying on to KOLOB where the Mormon deity is. Contrary to what Mitt is preaching, in reference to the Being that lives on KOLOB they don’t use the word God much. Poor old Billy, the former Fuller Brush salesman, after a session with Mitt doesn’t think that’s cultic; nevertheless, he didn’t say he believes he will soon be on his way to KOLOB via Oliblish.

  • HB in SC

    WOW. Don’t feed the trolls. And no. Just… no.

  • It wasn’t me

    Never mind Mr Mason ,if you miss it that much then convert to Islam ,after all we are Scientology/Mormonism/J.Witnesses rolled into one.

    Good article.

  • Danny Haszard

    Destructive cult or benign religion?

    The *Cult* word gets overused,but in some cases it is appropriate.
    The definition of a destructive religious cult is like alcoholism-if booze controls you instead of the other way around you are an alcoholic.
    I was in the Watchtower society Jehovah’s Witnesses,they are not benevolent and won’t let you leave their organization in peace.The Jehovahs are not without scandals-child abuse,deceptive mind control tactics, sex scandals, money scams, general bad behavior.
    Is it a cult?
    If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck….
    Danny Haszard *tell the truth don’t be afraid*
    FMI dannyhaszard(dot)com

  • mormonpatriot

    Hey. So I’m a Mormon. And I’m not going to say it again, and I’m not going to argue at length with you, but this is not Mormonism you’re talking about. There is nothing more important to us than our families. So have a great day, and I invite you to find out what we really believe and what we really do. We may not be perfect, but it is plain that we serve God.

  • sbrian

    Humorous to a point. But the truth is that modern Mormons do follow and revere a man who was definintely a cult leader in his own time: Joseph Smith. Smith illegally “married” over 30 women (1/3rd of whom were already married to other men and 1/3rd of whom were teenagers). He did this at a time when he lied to the world in the name of God that he only had one wife. He put stones in a hat and magically dictated the Book of Mormon (I am not kidding)–a book about a vast non-existent civilization in the Americas. He left behind a legacy of racism that disallowed black Mormons from holding the Mormon priesthood or to enter Mormon temples to be married. He taught that all other Christian Churches were corrupt and that only his church was “true Christianity.” It’s time for people to wake up! Would we elect a devoted follower of Warren Jeffs? Smith was the “Warren Jeffs” of his time (he would have gone to jail just as Jeffs has, if nothing else due to his illegal bigamy in the state of Illinois). Mormons, and Mitt Romney, will always have a problem with integrity until they disavow this dishonest, immoral, egotistical historical figure. There are many fine Mormon people, but in this dialogue we need continued full disclosure on their continued, unwavering devotion to Joseph Smith.

  • sbrian

    Humorous to a point. But the truth is that modern Mormons do follow and revere a man who was definitely a cult leader in his own time. Joseph Smith illegally “married” over 30 women (1/3rd of whom were already married to other men and 1/3rd of whom were teenagers). He did this at a time when he lied to the world in the name of God that he only had one wife. He put stones in a hat and magically dictated the Book of Mormon–a book about a vast non-existent civilization in the Americas. He left behind a legacy of racism that disallowed black Mormons from holding the Mormon priesthood or to enter Mormon temples to be married. He taught that all other Christian Churches were corrupt and that only his church was “true Christianity.” He endowed himself with “sole authority from God” and used it to take his followers’ money, wives and daughters, and to exact strict obedience to his “revelations. There are many fine Mormon people, but they will always have a problem with integrity until they disavow this dishonest, immoral, egotistical historical cult figure. Billy Graham should press Romney and other Mormon leaders on this point. The sooner the better!

  • reformthesystem

    Yes, yes, yes!!! Money is what the USA is all about.

    For Billy – the most successful Fuller Brush salesman in history – there was even more money to be made making 80,000 Southern Baptists at a time feel guilty. Now there’s money to be made from “donations” for making them feel it’s okay to believe in KOLUB (despite quasars, pulsars and black holes) cause it’s not a “cult”.

    That way Southern Baptists can vote for Mitt who fudges only a bit to claim KOLUB is pretty much the same as what folks in South Carolina believe in. Any how, they still both believe in the evil of what Ulysses S. Grant was drinking when he made them stop owning slaves – whiskey.

  • Dilldall10

    What kind of idiot wrote this? I’m mormon and none of this is true. No offence to anyone that’s brainwashed into thinking we’re a cult.

  • psmithphd

    Phillip C. Smith, Ph.D. 10.220.2012
    CORRECT, SCIENTIFIC DEFINITIONS OF CULT AND SECT
    Many people, inconsistent with and contradicting valid science, use the terms “cult” and “sect” improperly with reference to religions. In its historical usage in Christendom the terms have a pejorative connotation and refer to movements said to espouse heretical beliefs that often deviate from orthodox practices. Valid, ethical science enlightens and thus avoids such pejorative applications of the terms cult and sect.
    The intent here is to provide scientific definitions of these terms in hopes of helping others avoid future application misuse. I will apply the use of these terms to the religions with which I am most familiar, namely the Church founded 2000 years ago by Jesus Christ, and his Church as restored by Joseph Smith, namely The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereinafter the Church).
    Cult: A small, recently-created, innovative religious group, headed often by a single charismatic leader, that exists in some state of tension with the predominant religion or with more established and conventional sects and denominations.
    The Christian religion, as it existed in 30 CE, might have been considered a cult early since it involved one leader and 12 or 70 devoted disciples as followers, but is now far too large and universal. The Church restored by Joseph Smith and a few followers also met this definition of cult early, but has outgrown this label to become an established religious denomination of over 14 million members.
    All major religions likely began as cults. As they became larger they shed their cult-like qualities and, as is the case with both early Christianity under Christ and restored Christianity (Church), they are today properly and accurately classified by thoughtful, knowledgeable people as religious denominations.
    Sect: A small religious or political group that has broken off from a larger group, for example from a large, well-established relig

  • mdlong09

    I think this is a very humorous article. I laughed out loud at some points. Who really cares one way or another? Only those who want to label people who are different than themselves. I’m happy that Billy Graham felt that he had wronged an entire group by labeling them. It takes courage and humility to make such a move. I hope the heat he is taking from his own followers isn’t too hot.

  • mike76277

    Rewriting history? The horror!

  • aes

    As for me, I shan’t even have to divest myself of Halloween accoutrements, since I long ago tossed them away. Yeah, I guess Brother Graham should have checked with the Lord before putting Mormons on the “cult” list in the first place. Interesting that the listing has been taken off because Mormons have supposedly gone “mainstream.” Actually, this going mainstream is not in the least laudable. What’s the point of being mainstream? Mainstreamers have never been interested in obeying the Lord in all things. How are Christians going to ever come out of the world if they are so proud of being in it?

  • aes

    Maybe Reformthesystem should to go to Planet Repentance and Humility before the Lord. Sounds like he could use a trip there. A long one.

  • aes

    Yikes, Keith! Do you ever consider going to the Lord before you go off like this? You really ought to. Believe me, there are plenty of things Mormons can be criticized for — chief of which, is they often take themselves more seriously than they do the Lord. But you, in hurling inaccurate accusations are just making the case clear that you never sought the Lord on your knees before drawing erroneous conclusions. If you must criticize Romney (and he deserve criticism), criticize him for not standing by the Lord at all times when he certainly knew that was what was required of him. And if you’re going to rake Mormons over the coals, at least rake them over the right coals, which is they have no excuse for pleasing themselves instead of pleasing the Lord.

  • aes

    All these definitions, you can be sure, will be ignored by those who don’t ever care about being accurate when they hurl pejoratives around.

    But I do, certainly, take exception to the classification of “cult” as a small group only, since the cult of wickedness has many members, and they aren’t all secular, either. But this very real cult has members who never bother to check with the Lord on things … they just go along with the crowd.

    Also, I would certainly not have said Jesus spoke as one “having” authority from God, since Christ himself is God, the true and living God, our only Savior.

  • aes

    Um … you don’t really have your facts straight at all. Not in the least. It is not modern Mormons who are fine people, but those who obey the Lord, even unto death. And I can assure you, Joseph Smith was of the former ilk. It would be hard indeed to find a modern Mormon of his kind among the self-satisfied, self-righteous Mormons of today, many of whom could not be bothered to listen to the Lord in anything, let alone give their lives for Him.

  • aes

    I would not say the JWs belong to a cult. What I would say is they have the spirit of anti-Christ, which is to say, they deny that Christ is God Almighty, even the Most High, the Lord our God. And this, I would say, is a more severe condemnation … completely accurate and undeniable.

  • aes

    Um … I’m just a little embarrassed here. I feel like I’ve been slurped, unwarned, into another sacrament meeting where Mormons are praising their families but not giving praise to the Lord. I hope you did not really mean, “There is nothing more important to us than our families.” Because, actually, there ought to be: the Lord our God, Jesus Christ.

  • aes

    I guess we’d better redefine the word “seamless” if we’re going to be guilty of the latest jab from someone who doesn’t know the Lord. Guess what? If you don’t know what the Lord has to say on the subject, XVIIHailSkins, then you have nothing noteworthy to say.

  • aes

    Didn’t you miss something? And something rather important? Jesus Christ is the Lord our God, Jehovah. He’s the Most High. If you’re a Mormon and you don’t know that, you’d better get on your knees and find out. Also, I think it is completely inaccurate to say that the church is politically neutral. Nor is it desirable to be so. There is very little that belongs in the realm of politics that does not have a moral base in it. In other words, politics doesn’t have a separate existence from morality. And when moral issues are deemed political, you never step aside. You fight to the death for what the Lord has said is right and tell men to shut their filthy mouths.

  • aes

    What is actually lacks common sense is a man who thinks he can take power unto himself, and be his own moral compass, when it’s the Lord who is in command. The very sad state of affairs is an America that has turned away from Christ. To be a leader of the free world, you need to answer to the author of our liberty — He who frees the captives from sin — Jesus Christ.

  • aes

    Hey! Back off of Billy Graham! He knows more about the history of the earth and God’s hand in it than you do. He may not be right in every thing he says, but he certainly has a respect for the Lord, and the need to repent and obey Him. (By the way, in case you are in doubt of your destination to an inferno of hell, you ought to seek the Lord in repentance before that destination is fully locked in.)

  • aes

    Oh, and again, in case you missed it, Billy Graham is correct about the age of the earth, so in trying to criticize him for it, you just revealed your own lack of credibility on this or any other subject. That’s because a man who thinks he knows more than the Lord is bound to be the worst kind of fool.

  • csintala79

    Dilldallio, if you are referring to the author of the oped, I think he intended it as a satire, not to be taken seriously. If you are referring to something else, sorry, I wouldn’t have a clue.

  • csintala79

    Now he should review the others on the list. Really, Mormons were the most heterodox of the group, with the exception of the Scientologists.

  • csintala79

    Now, you see, that whole issue of the nature of Christ, Christology, was one settled by persecuting and burning and crucifying and who knows whatnot those who disagreed, not by logical discourse. There were a goodly number of dissenters from what has become the orthodox version of Christianity, i.e., Trinitarianism. Regardless of the protestations of those Trinitarians, they play fast and loose with the commandment prohibiting worshiping other gods before worshiping The God, i.e., it walks a narrow line between monotheism and polytheism. Given the convoluted logic used to prove this belief, one has to suspend disbelief to accept its conclusion.

  • SODDI

    Well, I guess if you marry your 13 year-old nieces and force them to have babies with horrible congenital birth defects caused by inbreeding, that proves how important your family is to you.

    And the members of your families who you declare apostates because they don’t want to belong to your little cult anymore (for whatever reasons) – because they’re apostates, they’re not your family any more and you can treat them badly along with the rest of your cult.

  • SODDI

    All religions are cults.

  • retrocon1

    Satire often goes over the heads of half the population. Mormons are pretty much just like the average good member of society, minus the drinking, smoking, lasciviousness, and coarse language (for the most part).

  • eezyslim

    SODDI, I totally agree!

  • Keith Walker

    One of the more popular arguments used by Mormons is they will claim that something is inaccurate without explaining exactly what it is that is supposedly inaccurate. It makes the first commenter look uninformed and the second commenter takes the role of the victim. Brilliant tactic, but not entirely honest. I don’t know if you are a Mormon or not, but you use the tactic just like one.

    Lots of verbiage there, but I’m not really sure what you said. What exactly is it about my post that you disagree with?

  • Charlie30

    Mormons are not a cult? This is from the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Belmont, Mass., Mormon temple website. Everyone dressing in white is a little scary but the part that really says cult is you can’t talk about what is done in the temple. It is secret and if talked about might open the Mormons up to ridicule. It really says that. Read on:

    How should I dress when I go to the temple?

    Wear modest Sunday dress when you attend the temple. Avoid extremes in dress and grooming, just as you would in a sacrament meeting. You show reverence and respect for the Lord and His house and invite the Spirit by being clean and presentable.

    In the temple there are private dressing rooms where you change out of your Sunday clothing and put on white clothing. This change of clothing serves as a reminder that you are temporarily leaving the world behind and entering a holy place. White clothing symbolizes purity, and the fact that all are dressed alike in the temple creates a sense of unity and equality.

    When should I receive my endowment?

    Most likely you will receive your endowment shortly before you serve a full-time mission or before you are married in the temple. Single members in their late teens or early twenties who have not received a mission call and are not engaged to be married in the temple are generally not recommended to receive their own endowment.

    New members wait at least one year after their baptism and confirmation before receiving their endowment.

    Receiving your own endowment is an important matter. Discuss it with your bishop. Pray and ponder to know when you are ready.

    What can I say to others about my experience in the temple?

    You can talk about what the interior of the temple looks like, and you can freely share the feelings you have in the temple. However, temple covenants and ordinances, including the words used, are too sacred to be discussed in detail outside the temple. By avoiding discussion of these sacred things outside the temple, we protect

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Indeed, I do not. I think the point that universally flies over the religionist’s head is that he does not either.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Quite a country we live in where disputing the claim that the world is 6000 years old diminishes one’s credibility. May I ask if you are one of the young earthers who believes that God must have set the light that we observe from distant stars (which takes millions of years to reach us) in motion partway through its course when he created the stars and the earth at the same time? Creationist astronomy is a guilty pleasure of mine.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Don’t worry, his Holiness Pope Graham does not believe for an instant that Mormonism is anywhere in the vicinity of the mainstream. In fact, he is as certain that Mormons will burn in hell as he is of unbelievers like myself. The problem with being a politician first and a preacher-man second is that you quite often have to make nice with people who you believe are headed to the inferno.

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