Ep 132 – Brother Jake Explains: Mormonism is Not a Cult


Posted November 26th, 2014

Jake, Tom, and Glenn discuss the newest Brother Jake video: Mormonism is Not a Cult.

If you have suggestions for future Brother Jake videos, or just want to drop Jake a note, email him at askbrotherjake@gmail.com

And if you just want to play Words with Friends with Glenn, search for Gadianton Rob.

  • Sweet! I just started this video. And I must be in sync with you Jake. I just started typing up a new blog post yesterday (Probably won’t be posted till next week) And guess what it’s about? CULT and my thoughts on is the lds church one, and going over “warning signs” that people have put out there and all that! I even started out with the exact same definitions you started out with on your blog. (Thanks Google) Anyway, can’t wait to listen to this episode on the way home from work today! Time to go finish this video….

    • darth_bill

      Post a link if and when. I’m not sure if I follow you or not. I have lots of blogs that I follow.

      • Will do. My blog is fairly new. http://exmormontales.com/ I will probably post my Cult post on Monday or Tuesday, since I just posted a new post yesterday.

  • hunterkorvis

    Realizing the “cult-like” attributes of the church helped me accept who I was within the church and how I could be so delusional. It’s a lot easier for me to accept myself if I realize the ways I was just a brainwashed clone. So in a way it helps me distance myself from actions I made that I now view as mistakes, so I can feel less guilty.

  • Ciarran

    I almost peed myself last night when I saw there was a new Brother Jake video so imagine my delight when I woke up this morning to find an accompanying podcast! Great video Jake! One of your best ones yet.

  • So… I tried to start a game of Words with Friends with Glenn, but there is no such user as Gadianton Rob! 🙁

    • Glenn

      Weird. It shows Gadianton Rob on my screen. Try Glenn Ostlund. Tom did. 😉

      • Your name worked!

        Also, you should have used my outro for this episode instead of the one before! The cult theme would’ve worked perfectly!

    • Allison

      Pretty sure the guys who created Words With Friends are Mormon. Lolz.

  • Allison

    Mystery solved: Glenn is the TBM Whisperer because he never got released from his Super-Duper-Sacred-Holy-Priesthood-Missionary-Mantle-Calling-Thingy when he got back from Japan.

  • Christian Hawes

    I think it’s helpful to call it a cult to realize that the people I had always discounted as crazy when they said I was in a cult were actually being pretty accurate. It’s just another incident of realizing that what I was always told was anti mormon are actually factual.

  • Randy_Snyder

    To me “cult” is just like psychopathy. There’s a cult checklist just like a psychopath checklist. So it becomes a matter of degree. How many of these apply and to what extent. But you have the demarcation problem in both examples meaning at what point do you call something a “cult” or a person a “psychopath”? Therefore I prefer to say the Mormon church scores relatively high (compared to say, the Methodist church) on the cult checklist or is “cult-like” but the blanket statement of it is a “cult” makes me uncomfortable.

    • Matthew Vernon

      Right – it depends to a huge degree on where you stand. Now that I’m out I see cultishness in most (or all?) of organized religion, but it’s undeniably more so in LDS and a few others (JWs, scientologists, Moonies, etc. come immediately to mind). But, as was stated, the word has become such a pejorative that the discussion essentially stops once someone throws it out there. Do we need a new word for it maybe? But what are we trying to discuss anyway? who is craziest, or which is the most harmful? Because even the most benign of them believe there is a man in the sky that made us all and tortures people for eternity if we don’t do what he wants. I love Brother Jake and this video but in the end I think the discussion is moot: all religion is superstitious insanity, and it’s all harmful because it makes us suspicious and intolerant of each other.

  • Cyn

    Great Video! Great discussion! The greedy, selfish part of me wants Brother Jake to continue to create these wonderful, funny, enlightening videos. The not-a-Mormon, new me, wants Brother Jake to do what ever is best for him. Right now, the selfish side is winning. I left TSCC almost two years ago and since then, very few days go by without an awe haw moment. I believe it’s a cult, because it’s so hard to see all of the crazy until you are on the outside. Jake mentioned going to a political event, enjoying meeting President Clinton, but finding the meeting cult like. That story made me think of all the Facebook posts this past week supporting Joseph Smith’s marital adventures. As a life long Democrat, I was so excited when Bill Clinton became president. I was so disappointed when he wasted much of his political capital by not knowing when and where to keep his pants zipped. Joseph Smith seemed to have as much trouble with his buttons as Clinton had with his zipper, but believing members are not allowed to voice disappointment in him, because to do so is a sin. I believe that the commandment to speak no ill of the Lord’s anointed makes TSCC a cult.

  • alta_parent

    brother jake – you’ve nailed Rick Moranis as defense attorney in Ghostbusters….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_th4Xe6Dsm4…well done!

  • youngestalma

    This really resonated with me. Earlier this year it was learning about the temple that really spurred my disaffection. I learned about the endowments, anointing (first and second) and it freaked me out. I had “this is a cult” running through my head for days after that. Finally it just hit me that if there was a God, this was not of him. I never looked back from there.

    Thanks for the great podcast and video again guys! Keep it up!

    • VFanRJ

      …mmm. I never did recover from the Endowment but it took me 20 years to realize that I was in a cult. You should feel grateful that you figured it out so quick.

  • While silly, the argument in this video is simply silly. As the word “cult” has become derogatory, it has ceased to be used academically. So functionally you’re only arguing over the popular definition of a pejorative word and insisting that your name-calling is appropriate (pretty flimsy ground to insist on).

    In my opinion, your list of characteristics of cults is phony. You’ve taken qualities you see the in the LDS Church and then defined those as characteristics of a cult. Yes, the LDS Church is horribly guilty of white-washing its history; but white-washing history isn’t high on the list of qualities of cults. When I think of Jonestown, the thing that sticks out in my mind is not whether the People’s Temple was busily white-washing its history.

    Your second point: worshiping the charismatic leader, is correct as a core component of the pop definition of a cult. And it’s very true the members of the LDS Church worship Joseph Smith. However, the key point you’re missing is the fact that Joseph Smith is not the leader of the LDS Church. Joseph Smith is dead. The LDS Church lacks charismatic leadership; its charismatic leader has been dead since 1844. Was the early church a cult according to the popular definition? Very likely. Is the current LDS Church a cult? Absolutely not as it fails to meet this qualification.

    To sum up: (1) it’s not valid to call groups “cults” since it’s nothing more than name-calling; (2) the LDS Church doesn’t fit the pop definition for your pejorative.

    Does the LDS Church engage in bad practices, many of which are common to groups that do qualify under the pop definition of cult (like the People’s Temple)? Yes. Since it is bad, it can be validly criticized up and down the wazoo for being bad. When there are valid criticisms to be made, it’s counterproductive to make invalid criticisms.

    • Brother Jake


      First, I’d like to point you to the podcast. Tom, Glenn, and I actually addressed many of the points you bring up and end up agreeing with much of what you say. Based on your comments, I’m assuming you hadn’t listened to it when you wrote this.

      As for your assertion that the list of characteristics is “phony,” I have to disagree, and I’d say that disagreement comes as an outgrowth of the nature of the word “cult.” As you pointed out (and we addressed in the podcast), calling something a “cult” isn’t particularly useful, since the term is both ambiguously defined and unambiguously pejorative. Also, since the term is so ill-defined, there is no agreed-upon criteria for identifying one. However, I disagree that I “took qualities [I] see the in the LDS Church and then defined those as characteristics of a cult.” In preparation for the video, I read dozens of blog posts/news articles/general PSA’s regarding “cults” to get a feel for the most commonly recognized warning signs, which I then included in this video. (Granted, that’s not exactly a peer-reviewed study, but since a) as you said, academics don’t really touch the word anymore and b) I was going for a pop definition anyway, I thought this method was appropriate.) Yes, I chose to emphasize some points over others, but I wouldn’t call the list phony or intentionally fabricated.

      Regarding the specific “signs” you disagreed with, I dunno. Since there is no specific definition of the word, there can’t really be a hierarchy of cult indicators, so to argue that whitewashing history isn’t “high enough” on the list to matter seems odd. Also, yes, Joseph Smith is dead and the current LDS leadership isn’t exactly “charismatic,” but deification of the current leadership structure is still very much alive and well within LDS Mormonism, so I think to say that the negative effects of charismatic leadership (such as extreme deference to authority and hero worship) died with Joseph Smith is a bit simplistic. (Also, I did notice that the points you disagreed with specifically were those that could apply to non-LDS branches of Mormonism, such as the religion’s origin and history, rather than the points that are more LDS-specific, such as the missionary program or temple ceremonies.)

      Ultimately, I mostly agree with your larger point–calling something a “cult” isn’t a good idea most of the time, since the word is poorly defined and always used as an insult, and for that reason, I balk at the idea of flatly labeling LDS Mormonism as a “cult.” However, I do think there are many aspects of the LDS Church that emulate totalitarian, cult-like characteristics, and I believe pointing those out as such isn’t necessarily invalid or counterproductive.

      • Yes, I only realized later that the Youtube video was an outgrowth of the earlier podcast (which I hadn’t listened to) — my response here was solely referencing the argument made in the Youtube video. Regarding current leader worship in the LDS Church: I agree that this is a problem, but it’s not an argument you made in the Youtube video, which refers to worshiping Joseph Smith. (To repeat, my reply above was only to the video.)

        I also agree with you that it’s appropriate to say that the LDS Church engages in certain “cult-like practices” and then list the various characteristics you’ve listed. There is a nuanced distinction between saying that and simply trotting out the cult label as a blanket. There may be value to make the more nuanced point, but in my opinion the latter is counterproductive and unnecessary. My feeling here is based on the general strategy that if you have a winning hand, you have no reason to overplay your hand. Indeed, overplaying a winning hand is one of the main ways you can lose while holding winning cards.

        • Glenn

          Actually, John, the podcast episode was an outgrowth of (or response to) the Brother Jake video. But we’re splitting hairs now.

    • VFanRJ

      The Church’s practice of hiding faith destroying information is disingenuous and dishonest. Religion is a serious topic with lifelong consequences, there is no defense for anything less than honesty. Yesterdays, anti-Mormon lies are today’s topic essays. Why are they there? Because the internet information age. Nevertheless, the essays are watered down in a major way for anyone who doesn’t study the footnotes and sources.

  • Pingback: The C Word….. |()

  • sd

    Fun episode. I have come to look forward to Jake’s contributions. No complaints here. Good topic, lively discussion. Thanks, guys!
    And is there a nicer person on the planet than Tom?

  • Bitherwack

    The first time I came up against the problem of manipulating people with lies for people to do good things…
    was when I was in the MTC and we had a general authority devotional, and the GA told us about a time that a woman who had committed to baptism got cold feet. He told us that he asked her to get baptized as a favor to him, because it was his birthday. And she did. But it wasn’t (his birthday.) It really just didn’t seem like conduct becoming of a general authority, and certainly something you would want to tell 20,000 wide eyed green bean missionaries as an exemplary act.

  • Bitherwack

    I find it so odd that when people leave the church, they end up going to another religion. In my perspective, it is just like you said, all religions are in one way or another, a cult. To me, if mormonism isn’t ‘true’, how can any other religion be ‘true’? In the end, if you criticize the cult of personality…is the cult of Kim Jong Un, the cult of Thor, the cult of Joseph Smith, the cult of Jesus any different?

  • Bitherwack

    The scary culty thing about the temple is that it is a movie, and everyone sitting silently in a darkened room…

  • Bitherwack

    My request for Brother Jake’s next topic would be the “HeartSell”(TM) / building relationships of trust / high pressure sales techniques.

    • Bitherwack

      My other suggestion would be one on why mormons are christians, but don’t use the cross.

  • Thomas Moore

    I loved the discussion on how you felt the first time through the temple; but for us “older” ones who went through prior to 1990; it definitely was more Masonic and Cult like with blood oaths and penalties. Protestant ministers selling their tokens and priesthood. Yep, I belonged to a cult.

    • VFanRJ

      I don’t understand how the Endowment could go through so many edits in 1930 and 1990, ordinances were defined before the world was.

  • Gabriel von Himmel

    Brother Jake, I’m Ephima Morphew –– William Law –– Gabriel von Himmel and Gus O. Kahan.
    Enjoyed the Mormon Stories cast with Infants on Thrones, I truly appreciate your Brother Jake satire.
    Satire is a most important tool for exposing fraud and duplicity.
    I have a site that contains many images you may find helpful in your vision–quest.

    If you have use of my work please feel free to use with link or credit to scar.org.
    Keep the good work up infants. Mocking the Religion Making Business is a worthy
    calling in search of honesty.

    And it came to pass, it will be all sorted out in the end,
    Pax and Fare thee well.


  • Gabriel von Himmel

    Perception management is alive whether it’s called Arbeit Macht Frei or Liberty Through Obedience, the message is the same. Mormon Group-Think lives on for the Willfully Bamboozled.
    Whether the shibboleth is Liberty Through Obedience or Arbeit Macht Frei fealty is required for the oxymoron to shepherd the flock to its destiny.
    Arbeit Macht Frei = http://www.scari.org/Mormons.R
    Liberty through obedience= http://www.scari.org/Mormon.De
    What would George Orwell do with Mormon Magic? If Orwell were living in Utah today he’d see his dreams manifest. Orwell was not aware of Mormon Magic and its mysteries, he’d be flummoxed by the lengths taken to control and manipulate the lumpen folk