Last week we looked at the definition of a cult and explored what a few of the more popular ones believed. This week we are going to look at two of the most popular cults in the world and certainly ones that are very active in my town and many other areas around the world.
The JW’s were founded in the USA towards the end of the 19th century by Charles Taze Russell. The headquarters of the movement is in New York.There are about 6.9 million active Witnesses in 235 countries in the world, including 1 million in the USA and 130,000 in the UK. They are probably best known for their door to door evangelism, knocking on people’s doors and offering their literature such as the watchtower. They are also known for the fact that they don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter because they believe that these festivals are based on (or massively contaminated by) pagan customs and religions. They point out that Jesus did not ask his followers to mark his birthday and they don’t celebrate each other’s birthdays, presumably for the same reason. They refuse to vote and also refuse military service and any form of blood transfusions.
JW’s commonly refer to their beliefs as “the truth” and consider themselves to be “in the truth”. They consider secular society to be morally corrupt and under the influence of Satan, and so will limit their contact and social interaction with non-witnesses unless they are doing evangelism.
According to Jehovah’s Witness’ theology, God is a single person, not a Trinity, who does not know all things and is not everywhere. He first created Michael the Archangel through whom He created all “other things,” including the universe, the earth, Adam and Eve, etc. This creative work took God 42,000 years. At one point, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society taught that God ruled the universe from somewhere in the Pleiades star system. They have since modified this to say that the “Pleiades can no longer be considered the centre of the universe and it would be unwise for us to try to fix God’s throne as being at a particular spot in the universe.” Such changes and even contradictions in teaching are frequent in the Watchtower organization; and when a doctrine changes, they tell their followers that the light of truth is getting brighter.
After Adam sinned, the paradise which God had created for them was ruined. So, God instituted a system of redemption which was revealed in the Bible and would ultimately lead to the crucifixion of Jesus the messiah. But, in the meantime, God needed to have a visible, theocratic organization on earth to accurately represent Him. Throughout history, this true organization had a remnant of faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses (Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, etc.,); JW’s believe that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the continuation of that tradition and it alone can properly interpret God’s Word since it is the angel directed prophet of God on earth.
When it came time for the saviour to be born, Michael the Archangel became a human in the form of Jesus. Jesus grew and kept all the laws of God and never sinned. Finally, when Jesus died, it was not on a cross but on a torture stake where he bore the sins of mankind–but this did not include Adam’s sins. Jesus rose from the dead as a spirit, not physically (his body was dissolved and taken by God); and during his visitations to people on earth, he manifested a temporary physical body for them to see and touch.
Throughout history there have been faithful Jehovah’s witnesses who have managed to keep The Truth in spite of the “demonic” doctrine of Trinitarianism (the trinity) that has permeated the Christian church. They believe that Christianity has sold its soul to the devil and now support his earthly governments. In other words, all of Christianity is false; and only the Jehovah’s Witness “theocratic” organization led by several men in Brooklyn, New York, is true.
Jehovah’s witnesses believe that Jesus returned invisibly in 1914 and is now reigning in heaven. When Jesus finally returns physically to earth, which will happen at the time of the Battle of Armageddon, He will set up his earthly 1000-year kingdom.
During this 1000-year period, people will be resurrected and have a second chance to receive eternal salvation by following the principles of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. After the millennium, those who reject God and His organization will be annihilated; that is, they will cease to exist. The rest of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who have faithfully followed God’s organization on earth will be saved from eternal annihilation and reside forever on Paradise earth. Heaven, however, is a place for a special group of 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses–the only ones who are “born again” and who alone are allowed to take communion in their annual communion service. These are the ones who have “immortal life”; all other Witnesses have “everlasting life.” Those with immortal life do not have resurrected bodies. They have “spirit bodies.” Those on Paradise Earth have everlasting life which consists of a resurrected body that must be maintained through eating, rest, etc.
In order to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses, you have to agree to attend five meetings a week where you are taught from Watchtower literature. You cannot be baptized until you have studied their material for at least six months and have answered numerous questions before a panel of elders. Men are not supposed to have long hair or wear beards, and women are to dress in modest apparel. A schedule of door-to-door canvassing is required where you distribute the Watchtower literature, acquire donations, and forward all monies to the headquarters. If you ever leave the Jehovah’s Witness organization, you are considered an apostate and are to be shunned.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded by Joseph Smith in 19th century America and was then developed by Brigham Young who migrated with the new Mormons to Salt Lake City in 1847. Mormons believe their church is a restoration of the Church as conceived by Jesus and that the other Christian churches have gone astray. Mormons believe that God has a physical body, is married, and can have children. They also believe that humans can become gods in the afterlife. Mormons are strongly focused on traditional family life and values. They oppose abortion, homosexuality, unmarried sexual acts, pornography, gambling, tobacco, consuming alcohol, tea, coffee, and the use of drugs.
One of the more common misconceptions is that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints advocates polygamy. However, this was discontinued over a century ago and the Church excommunicates anyone who practices it. There are roughly 13.5 million members world-wide.
Mormonism teaches that God used to be a man on another world and that he became a god by following the laws and ordinances of his god on his home world. He brought his wife to this world, a woman he had married on the other world. She is essentially a goddess.
In his present god-state, he rules our world. Since god and his wife are both exalted persons, they each possess physical bodies. In their exalted states as deities, they produce spirit children that grow and mature in the spiritual realm. The first spirit born was Jesus. Afterwards, Lucifer was born along with the rest of us. So, Mormonism teaches that we all pre-existed in the spirit realm–having been produced from the union of god and his goddess wife. Therefore, we all existed in spirit form before coming down and entering the bodies of human babies that are being born on earth. During this ‘compression’ into the infant state, the memories of our pre-existence is ‘veiled.’
God the father, who is called Elohim, was concerned for the future salvation of the people on earth. In the heavenly realm, the Father had a plan for the salvation of the world. Jesus endorsed the Father’s plan. Lucifer did not. Lucifer became jealous and rebelled. In his rebellion, he convinced a large portion of the spirits existing in heaven to side with him and oppose god. God, being more powerful then they, cursed these rebellious spirits to become demons. They can never be born in human bodies.
The remaining spirits sided with God. Since they chose the better way, when it comes time for them to live on earth, they have the privilege of being born in races and locations that are relative to their condition and choice made in the spirit realm.
In the Mormon plan of salvation there needed to be a saviour: Jesus. But Jesus was a spirit in heaven. For him to be born on earth, Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon church, said that instead of letting any other man do it, God the Father did it with Mary. He said that the birth of our saviour was as natural as the birth of our parents. Essentially, what this means is that Brigham Young taught that god the father came down and had relations with Mary, his spirit daughter, to produce the body of Jesus. Though many Mormons will not entertain such incestuous thoughts about God and Mary, this is what Brigham Young taught; and as far as we know, this has not been denied by the Mormon church.
Nevertheless, Jesus was born, got married, and had children. He died on the cross and paid for sins–but not on the cross only. According to Mormonism, the atonement of Christ was not only on the cross. It began in the Garden of Gethsemane before he went to the cross.
In Mormonism, men and women have the potential of becoming gods. President Lorenzo Snow said, “As god once was, man is. As God is, man may become.” In order to reach this exalted state of godhood, a person must first become a good Mormon, pay a full ten percent tithe to the Mormon church, follow various laws and ordinances of the church, and be found worthy. At this point, they receive a temple recommend, whereupon the Mormon is allowed to enter the sacred temples in order to go through a set of secret rituals: baptism for the dead, celestial marriage, and various oaths of secrecy and commitment. Additionally, four secret handshakes are taught so the believing Mormon, upon entering the third level of Mormon heaven, can shake hands with god in a certain pattern. This celestial ritual is for the purpose of permitting entrance into the highest level of heaven. For those who achieve this highest of heavens, exaltation to godhood awaits them. Then he or she will be permitted to have his or her own planet and be the god of his own world, and the Mormon system will be expanded to other planets.
As you can see, on the surface, these two dangerous cults can seem very similar to Christianity and for a Christian who is not well versed in the scriptures it would be possible to be drawn away. It is so important we know what the word of God says and get good biblical teaching. The most important thing to do with members of these cults is to show them grace, because their movements have no true grace in them. Mixed with love and acceptance, I believe it is possible to win them over. God’s word is stronger than any heresy and I believe He will win many over to Himself. Let’s continue to pray for that.