This doc will attempt to draw some comparisons between various cultic and cult-like organizations. This is chronically incomplete.
Started in 1879 by Charles Taze Russell.
When Charles Taze Russell died, there was a succession crisis that resulted in the formation of several splinter groups.
Joseph Rutherford succeeded Charles Taze Russell and published numerous books which contained revelations that he claimed to receive directly from God.
The leadership is a small group of men (and only men) referred to as "The Governing Body". It has varied in size over the years from 7 to 13 members. (Sometimes they are referred to as "The Faithful Slaves".)
They claim to have exclusive authority and access to the truth. They further claim to get direct inspiration from Jesus, which they then disseminate to the body of JWs, per this illustration from a 1971 Watchtower magazine.
Governing Body Leadership will occasionally announce "new light", which means they have received some new insight or revelation regarding a Bible passage.
Members are taught that they should never criticize their leaders.
They have several publications: Awake! and The Watchtower.
They believe they are living in the end times and that the second coming of Jesus is imminent.
They reject the traditional, Christian, Trinitarian, view of God.
JWs are encouraged to engage in "Pioneering", which is the door-to-door proselytizing effort that JWs are famous for.
Part of the proselytizing efforts are to tell people that they can live in a "paradise on earth" after the end-times.
Numerous activities are forbidden by the organization:
JWs do not drink excessively (light, social, drinking is allowed), do not smoke, and do not do drugs.
JWs are discouraged from watching R-rated movies.
Every day of the week is filled up with meetings and other activities sponsored by the Watchtower Organization.
Jehovah's Witnesses maintain a clean-cut, well groomed, modestly-dressed, appearance and project a very virtuous image.
Witnesses are taught that if they stay close to the core of the teachings of The Watchtower Organization, they can be with their families forever in a paradise on Earth. However, if they stray from the teachings of Jehovah, they will be eternally separated from their families.
Witnesses are strongly discouraged from pursuing higher education. Leaders fear that members who attend college will begin believing in heretical concepts like evolution.
The Watchtower Organization discourages the use of the cross, considering it to be a pagan / heathen symbol.
They believe the earth is 6,000 years old.
Non-JWs are described as "worldly" or "part of the world".
Members are cautioned not to read articles about the Jehovah's Witnesses that are not approved by the Governing Body, especially articles critical of the Watchtower Society. They have sounded numerous cautions about looking at unsanctioned information on the Internet. Consider this quote from a Watchtower article titled Will You Heed Jehovah’s Clear Warnings?
"How can we protect ourselves against false teachers? The Bible’s counsel regarding how to deal with them is clear. (Read Romans 16:17; 2 John 9-11.) “Avoid them,” says God’s Word. Other translations render that phrase “turn away from them,” “keep away from them,” and “stay away from them!” There is nothing ambiguous about that inspired counsel. Suppose that a doctor told you to avoid contact with someone who is infected with a contagious, deadly disease. You would know what the doctor means, and you would strictly heed his warning. Well, apostates are “mentally diseased,” and they seek to infect others with their disloyal teachings. (1 Tim. 6:3, 4) Jehovah, the Great Physician, tells us to avoid contact with them. We know what he means, but are we determined to heed his warning in all respects?
"What is involved in avoiding false teachers? We do not receive them into our homes or greet them. We also refuse to read their literature, watch TV programs that feature them, examine their Web sites, or add our comments to their blogs. Why do we take such a firm stand? Because of love. We love “the God of truth,” so we are not interested in twisted teachings that contradict his Word of truth. (Ps. 31:5; John 17:17) We also love Jehovah’s organization, through which we have been taught thrilling truths—including Jehovah’s name and its meaning, God’s purpose for the earth, the condition of the dead, and the hope of the resurrection. Can you recall how you felt when you first learned these and other precious truths? Why, then, allow yourself to be soured by anyone who would denigrate the organization through which you learned these truths? (John 6:66-69)"
Or this quote from the 2013 “God’s Word Is Truth” District Convention:
“Like Satan, human apostates are unruly men who cook up wicked reasonings and season their brew with poisonous lies that deceive minds. Their preference is to partake of falsehood at the table of demons. Human apostates are part of the seed of the serpent spoken of at Genesis 3 verse 15. If we wish to please Jehovah, we cannot be feeding at his table and at the same time be nibbling at the table of demons, eating from the hands of Satan’s helpers – human apostates.” Source
Or this quote from the talk Do You Have the Facts?
"To make good decisions, we need solid facts. Therefore, we need to be highly selective and to choose carefully what information we will read. (Read Philippians 4:8, 9.) We should not waste our time viewing questionable Internet news sites or reading unsubstantiated reports circulated via e-mail. It is especially important to avoid websites promoted by apostates. Their whole purpose is to tear down God’s people and to distort the truth. Poor quality information will lead to poor decisions. Never underestimate the powerful effect that misleading information can have on your mind and heart"
JW Survey is one of the leading sites for critical analysis of the Watchtower Society. It's subtitle is "giving a voice to the silent majority". Here is one of the flyers they distribute to Witnesses: 10 Questions For Jehovah’s Witnesses To Consider.
JW Facts is a website that exposes facts that proselytizing JWs won't tell people about.
Watchtower Watch: "Keeping constant watch on the 'Faithful Slave'..."
Watchtower Lies: Exposing the deception of the Watchtower society.
<< more sites to look at here
See this 3 minute video: Top Ten Shocking Beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses
Believers are told by leaders that they must shun apostates and that it is a commandment from God to do so. They have a formal process of shunning apostates: During a Sunday service, a local leader will announce the name of a former member, say that they are no longer a Jehovah's Witness, and give the reason for their excommunication.
Various predictions about the end of the world were not fulfilled, such as the predicted date for the second coming of Jesus in 1874, 1914, 1917, 1918, 1925, and 1975. See this list of failed JW prophecies.
The Watchtower Organization has been criticized for creating an environment where sexual abuse (including child abuse) can flourish. Many of these abuses have been covered-up. See this video: The Kingdom's Dirty Secrets Documentary.
Critics occasionally point out that when Charles Taze Russell started his magazine "Zion's Watchtower" in 1879, he incorporated many doctrines that he had learned from his exposure to Adventism (e.g. ransom doctrine, heaven on earth, criticism of the traditional churches, the soul sleeps after death). The Jehovah's Witnesses can be seen as an "Adventist splinter group", or (less-flatteringly) an "Adventist cult".
They have their own version of the Bible called the New World Translation with verses altered (and in some cases deleted) to harmonize with Watchtower doctrine. Critics point out that the people who wrote the NWT lacked scholarship credentials and did not do adequate research (e.g. did not consult original Greek / Hebrew sources) but simply invented a Bible that would support the Watchtower's views & practices.
Critics point out that by discouraging members from attending higher education, it reduces their earning potential, makes them more likely to be permanently low-income, and keeps them dependent on their ingroup. JWs have some of the lowest income / earning potential of any religious group.
Non-JWs are described as "worldly", which critics say reinforces the ingroup / outgroup mindset.
Charles Taze Russell was criticized for using Masonic symbols, which are considered "occult" rather than Christian/Biblical. Examples include the winged solar disk in his published literature and the pyramid on his gravestone. Russell's father was a high-level Freemason, which would have given him a lot of exposure to the organization during his upbringing. In June 1913, Russell spoke in a Masonic hall in San Francisco and said:
"Although I have never been a Mason ... Something I do seems to be the same as Masons do, I don't know what it is; but they often give me all kinds of grips and I give them back, then I tell them I don't know anything about it except just a few grips that have come to me naturally."
See this page for photos, scans, and documentation illustrating the connection between Charles Taze Russell / Jehovah's Witnesses and Freemasonry.
Alcoholism and (prescription) drug abuse are widespread problems among Witnesses. Critics point out that members self-medicate as a way of trying to relieve the stress and anxiety they experience as a result of hearing the guilt-inducing / phobia-inducing messaging inside the org.
Many critics describe Jehovah's Witnesses as a "cult". This link shows how the BITE model applies to the organization: Beware the Cult-Like Control and Abuse of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Governing Body says that they receive "New Light" on various issues. Critics will sometimes point out that some instances of "New Light" conflict with "Old Light" that was received previously. One apologetic that believers will reply with is, "Well, their light just keeps getting brighter!"
Members are taught that they should completely trust the counsel of their leaders, but also that their leaders are imperfect men who will make mistakes sometimes.
"The Governing Body is neither inspired nor infallible. Therefore, it can err in doctrinal matters or in organizational direction...Of course, Jesus did not tell us that his faithful slave would produce perfect spiritual food."
And yet, despite them being able to make mistakes, they say about themselves: “Since Jehovah God and Jesus Christ completely trust the faithful and discreet slave, should we not do the same?”
At a recent meeting, JWs considered the following: "The only way that we can ever receive perfect counsel delivered in just the right way is to receive it from a perfect person. (James 3:2) Jehovah uses imperfect humans to counsel us, so it is wise to avoid focusing on the way the counsel is given. Look, rather, to the content of the counsel, and prayerfully consider how to apply it."
Here is another quote along those same lines:
Every person in this organization—every one of Jehovah’s Witnesses including the governing body—we’re all imperfect and thus we are subject to making mistakes. Which means that if you look hard enough, all you will see instead of seeing these amazing things that Jehovah is accomplish- ing and our tremendous privilege of being part of it, all we are going to see is the errors of men. But when we focus on the good, on the guidance and loving support that we’ve received, aren’t we moved with appreciation to cleave to this body of fellow worshipers. And just look at what Jehovah is accomplishing by means of his imperfect servants. There is no other organization on earth providing spiritual food like the one that we belong to. When we look at all of this, how could we possibly let the failings of just a few people undermine this overwhelming proof of Jehovah's backing? (From the 2016 "Remain Loyal to Jehovah" Regional Conference.)
Members are occasionally told that "the organization is perfect, but the people are not".
The Ex-JW subreddit is an online community for former Jehovah's Witnesses.
The Reluctant Apostate (subtitle: "Leaving the Jehovah's Witnesses comes at a price") is a book by former JW Lloyd Evans describing his upbringing in the church, his "awakening", and his eventual exit. He describes how the JW leadership brainwashes & controls the members. He describes his search for a new life and offers hope for other doubting/exiting JWs on how to live their own life. You can watch the video trailer for the book here. There are many other videos offering JW-related commentary and humor on his YouTube channel.
See this series of Mormon Stories interviews with Lloyd Evans, a famous Ex-JW and activist:
There's also this Mormon Stories episode: Amber Scorah - Leaving the Witness: Exiting Religion and Finding a Life
Stumbling Blocks: Watchtower's Foundation Challenged (Part 1 of 3): A very comprehensive video by two (young) ex-witnesses detailing the history and practices of the Watchtower organization and questioning whether this is what God's true church would look like.
Vast Apostate Army is a group of ex-JWs who infiltrate Kingdom Halls wearing hidden cameras and expose the truth about child molestation, the harm done by shunning, and the needless deaths caused by anti-transfusion doctrine. You should definitely watch their introductory video.
Some Ex-JWs engage in form of activism called "Kingdom Hall Crashing", where the dress up as a regular attendee, visit a Kingdom Hall, and then at some point stand up and tell believers the truth about the Watchtower Organization. Crashers are typically silenced and escorted out very quickly. For examples, see this list of videos.
JW Crisis is a website run by a guy who is trying to rescue others from the grip of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society.
JW Victims is a site created by a former JW who hopes to help "wake up" people who are involved in / have been victimized by the Jehovah's Witnesses.
See I'm Worldly for an activist Ex-JW YouTuber.
See this article: Ex-Jehovah's witness reveals secrets of religious group. He discusses the poor treatment of women, child / sex abuse scandals, and how to avoid unwanted contact from the organization.
To leave the organization, some Ex-JWs write a "disassociation letter" where they express their disbelief and their desire to no longer be counted among the body of Jehovah's Witnesses.
The Prodigal Boys is a podcast hosted by three former JWs who dissect the teachings of their upbringing and try to navigate the troubled waters out of (what they call) the cult.
This JW Life is a podcast hosted by a former JW who chronicles his experiences joining the Watchtower organization, his time spent there, and his eventual exit.
Many ex-JWs express sadness that they had to watch a family member die because they were forbidden from receiving a life-saving blood transfusion.
Some ex-JWs have actually been diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), due to the emotional distress they have gone through.
Many ex-JWs express sorrow about being shunned by their (faithful) JW friends and family. The disfellowshipment / excommunication process can be very humiliating and emotionally traumatic.
It was founded by a prophetess named Ellen G. White on May 21, 1863.She claims to have had over 2000 visions during her lifetime from age 17 to age 70.
The 28 Fundamental Beliefs sum up the doctrines of the Seventh-Day Adventists.
They believe in baptism by immersion as a criteria for accepting Jesus Christ and joining the Seventh-Day Adventist church.
They believe that the second coming of Jesus is imminent. (That's the "Advent" in "Seventh-Day Adventist".)
The leadership is comprised of a "General Conference" of men (and only men) who govern the church.
They have regular, global, meetings where the top-tier leadership addresses the general body of the church. (Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the SDA church, addresses the membership in the photo below.)
Conservative members regard Ellen G. White's writings as equivalent to the Bible in terms of reverence / importance.
Most Adventists do not hie away to exclusive communities, but mingle with the greater society. They are usually regarded as friendly coworkers and neighbors.
That said, Adventists are encouraged to attend SDA schools & universities where they can receive a faith-centered education.
They teach that Adventists should only marry other Adventists and discourage mixed-faith marriages.
Adventists regard non-Adventists as "worldly" or part of "The World".
They believe that the last days will be a time of widespread apostasy and that they are the "remnant church" which has been preserved from this apostasy and called to prepare the way for the second coming ("advent") of Christ.
It is forbidden to eat any meat that comes from a pig. If a member eats ham, that is enough for them to be disqualified from salvation.
They believe the earth is 6,000 years old.
Some websites critical of SDA are:
Scholars who have analyzed Ellen G. White's writings have concluded that up to 90% of them were plagiarized from contemporary sources (though the White estate claims it is only 2%).
By regarding non-SDAs as "worldly" or "of the world", the church creates an Us-vs.-Them worldview that reinforces an ingroup bias and "otherizes" non-Adventists.
Some critics point out that the Adventist church is a very closed, insular, organization. Members are encouraged to attend Adventist schools, regularly attend Adventist meetings, and only associate with other Adventists.
Members will often shame / shun other members who engage in sinful / transgressive behavior (such as eating ham).
Many critics describe SDA as a "cult".
When confronted with evidence that the earth is more than 6,000 years old, Adventist apologists will reply "Those dinosaur bones were planted by Satan", or "Those fossils were planted there by Satan".
The Ex-Adventist subreddit is an online community for recovering Adventists. They occasionally refer to each other as "Badventists".
Leaving SDA is a website devoted to helping people leave the Seventh-Day Adventists. It provides a guide for leaving the church and helps to educate (former) members on the cult-like nature of the church.
Ex-Adventist Outreach - subtitle: "A ministry of former Seventh-Day Adventists".
This page discusses how the SDA is losing members in droves.
Many Adventists who leave the church express their sorrow at how their relationships with believing members have become tense and strained. Others report being shunned by still-believing members.
Many former Adventists report that SDA church is very hard to leave.
Most Ex-Adventists end up becoming Atheists. Here's an explanation that I heard from an Ex-Adventist on Reddit:
"Adventists have a self image of being the most literal, accurate interpretation of the Bible. It's part of the sales pitch. This is why most ex-SDAs become permanent atheists, rather than other religions - the perception that if Peak Bible wasn't good, you won't find something better in another religion."
Life After God is a podcast hosted by ex-SDA pastor Ryan Bell. He tries to help people navigate the space between belief and unbelief, usually via interviewing people of various faiths (mostly Christian sects) who had "awakenings" of some sort and experienced a deconversion.
The Seventh Day Atheist Podcast: Subtitle: "There may not be life after death, but there is life after Adventism."
Started by L. Ron Hubbard.
Hubbard often ran afoul of the law and was occasionally booted out of various countries for trying to set up Scientology there. He died as a recluse, hiding from authorities in his compound in Hemet, California
Members sign a "billion year contract" where they commit to be loyal to the church.
Members are cautioned against searching for Scientology-related information on the Internet. They are advised to read only information published by the Church of Scientology. Consider the following quote from this article: The RELIABILITY of APOSTATE TESTIMONY ABOUT NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS
"There is no denying that these dedicated and diehard opponents of the new religions present a distorted view of the new religions to the public, the academy and the courts by virtue of their ready availability and eagerness to testify against their former religious associations and activities. Such apostates always act out of a scenario that vindicates themselves by shifting responsibility for their actions to the religious group. Indeed, the various brainwashing scenarios so often invoked against the new religious movements have been overwhelmingly repudiated by social scientists and religion scholars as nothing more than calculated efforts to discredit the beliefs and practices of unconventional religions in the eyes of governmental agencies and public opinion. Such apostates can hardly be regarded as reliable informants by responsible journalists, scholars, or jurists. Even the accounts of voluntary defectors with no grudges to bear must be used with caution since they interpret their past religious experience in the light of present efforts to re-establish their own self-identity and self-esteem."
They have a formal process of shunning apostates known as "disconnection".
They have numerous, impressive-looking, churches/buildings, most of which just sit empty most of the time. Critics see these as expensive status symbols.
Scientology is criticized for spending a relatively small amount of money on humanitarian aid, compared to the large amount of money they bring in.
Some claim that their humanitarian efforts are thinly-veiled PR campaigns / fronts for recruitment.
Scientology used to list all their missions & churches in the back of all their publications. As the church grew, you could see the growth over the years. Then one year, the growth stopped and the church quietly stopped printing those statistics in their publications.
People who are known to be critical of Scientology are branded as "Suppressive Persons" (or "SP"s for short) and are targets for harassment by faithful Scientologists.
Numerous people have reported being molested as children when they were involved in Scientology, and the church did nothing about it.
This Mormon Discussion podcast features an interview between host Bill Reel and Reporter Tony Ortega who has covered Scientology for 20 year. Various parallels are drawn between Scientology and the LDS church.
<< I NEED TO LISTEN TO THIS AGAIN >>
Many critics describe Scientology as a "cult". This link shows how the BITE model applies to the organization: Taking A BITE Out Of Scientology.
The Ex-Scientology subreddit is an online meeting place for for former Scientologists. Many of them discuss their regrets at having spent so much money and lost so much time to this organization. They frequently lament that they were part of this cult for so long and share deprogramming advice with each other.
Many ex-Scientologists express sorrow about being shunned ("disconnected") by their (faithful) Scientologist friends and family.
Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath: Is a documentary where Former Scientologists share their exit stories.
Going Clear is another documentary on (leaving) Scientology.
See this article for a list of parallels between Scientology and the LDS church.
Islam was founded by a prophet named Mohammed who claimed to have seen the angel Gabriel and received new scripture from him in the form of The Koran.
Islam has grown very rapidly. As of 2015, there were 1.8 billion Muslims in the world. Projected estimates predict that by 2050 there will be as many Muslims in the world as there are Christians (approx 2.8 billion each).
Muslims follow a strict dietary code that prohibits the consumption of pork and alcoholic beverages.
Muslims believe that people arrive at an "age of accountability". For boys, this happens at age 15. For girls, it happens at age 9.
Muslims believe in a multi-tiered heaven. Martyrs (such as Mohammed) reside in the top tier. Children who died before the age of accountability reside in the lower tier.
Many Muslims believe that if they die in the service of Allah, they will get 72 virgins in the afterlife.
Muslims give two types of offerings:
Islam: Truth or Myth? is a site that challenges some of the claims of Islam (such as growth rate), and exposes some of the difficult / disturbing aspects of islam (pagan origins, violence, intolerance, etc.)
Islam is often criticized for its treatment of women, including limiting women's career opportunities, making them wear the hijab / burqa, genital mutilation (female circumcision), and rampant rape and abuse. They cite verses from the Koran which explicitly allow husbands to beat their wives.
Related: Women often receive a harsher punishment for sinning than men do. For example, if a couple commits adultery, the woman might be stoned to death while the man would be forgiven by Allah and allowed to live.
Islam is criticized for its belief that homosexuality is an abomination / a sin, and its mistreatment of gays.
Islam is sometimes criticized for forbidding abortion.
Some people criticize Mohammed for taking multiple wives, including some girls that were very young.
Some critics question whether the depiction of Mohammed we have is historically accurate, or if he has been lost in his "legend" status, leaving us with a fictionalized version of the man. Still other critics question whether Mohammed even existed at all.
Eating pork can result in your being shunned by your fellow Muslims.
The ExMuslim subredit is an online meeting place for former followers of Islam. (The subtitle is "You are not alone".) They frequently talk about:
Of interest is the 2017 ExMuslim survey.
Listen to this episode of the Life After God podcast for an interview with an ExMuslim woman: Talking About Islam Without Being a Bigot with Eiynah
Listen to this episode of the Cosmic Skeptic podcast for an interview with an ExMuslim man: Armin Navabi - Free Speech and Leaving Islam
Formed by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879 under the name "Church of Christ, Scientist".
They believe in the divinity of the church as established by Christ in the New Testament. They further believe that, through the drift of time, the true church was lost through disuse and neglect. They believe that Mary Baker Eddy was the Lord's chosen servant that brought Christ's church back in its fullness.
Christian Science eschews modern medicine, believing that any sickness is an illusion that can be cured through prayer alone.
Some critics describe Christian Science as a cult.
It was founded in 1830 by a prophet named Joseph Smith who claimed to have several visions (much like Ellen White). In his "first vision", he claimed to see one or more heavenly beings who said that he was to be the prophet of the restoration.
Later, Joseph Smith said he was visited by the angel (Moroni) who instructed him to bring forth new scripture: The Book of Mormon (much like Mohammed and the angel Gabriel / the Koran).
Church members have suffered persecution from non-Mormons in various places where they have tried to establish settlements, e.g Kirtland and Nauvoo.
Joseph Smith often got in trouble with the law for things he practiced (like polygamy) and was booted out of various states / cities (much like L. Ron Hubbard). He ended up dying in a gunfight in Carthage jail.
When Joseph Smith was killed, there was a succession crisis that resulted in the formation of several splinter groups (much like Charles Taze Russell & the Jehovah's Witnesses).
They believe that the "primitive" church established by Christ was lost and a "great apostasy" followed. They further believe that Joseph Smith restored the church just as Christ taught (much like Mary Baker Eddy / Christian Science, and the Seventh-Day Adventist claim that they are a "remnant" church).
They believe that the second coming of Jesus is imminent -- That's the "Latter-day" in "Latter-day Saints" (much like the "Advent" in Seventh-day Adventists).
The church is led by a first presidency (3 men) and twelve apostles (also men) who claim to receive revelation directly from God, which they then disseminate to the greater membership (much like the General Conference of the SDA or the Governing Body of the Jehovah's Witnesses).
Members are taught that they should never criticize leaders of the church, even if the criticism is true, per this quote from Dallin H. Oaks (much like the Jehovah's Witnesses).
They believe that the leaders of the LDS church have exclusive access to the truth via a direct link to God. See this video for an excellent side-by-side comparison: Exclusive Truth Claims: Jehovah's Witnesses & Latter-day Saints
They reject the traditional, Christian, Trinitarian, view of God (much like the Jehovah's Witnesses).
They believe in baptism by immersion as a criteria for becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ and joining the LDS church (much like the Seventh-Day Adventists).
Mormons maintain a clean-cut, well groomed, modestly-dressed, appearance and project a very virtuous image (much like Jehovah's Witnesses).
Mormons are discouraged from watching R-rated movies (much like Jehovah's Witnesses).
Mormons are encouraged to only associate closely with other Mormons, including attending church meetings, youth activities, church-sponsored schools (like BYU), and the like (similar to Seventh-Day Adventists).
Mormons follow a strict dietary code that prohibits consumption of coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol and drugs (much like the dietary restrictions in Islam or Jehovah's Witnesses).
They believe the earth is 6,000 years old (just like the Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses).
They have several publications: The Ensign, The New Era, and The Friend (similar to Awake! and The Watchtower published by the Jehovah's Witnesses).
Mormons give two types of offerings (much like Muslims):
Young men (and sometimes young women) are encouraged to serve a full-time mission where they devote 2 years of their life to proselytizing and trying to convert people to the church to enlarge its membership (similar to the "Pioneering" done by Jehovah's Witnesses).
Mormons believe that "priesthood blessings" can be administered to a sick person to cure them of their illness (much like the Christian Scientist belief that sickness can be cured through prayer alone).
LDS Article of Faith #10 says: "We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory." (much like the Jehovah's Witnesses teaching about living in a "paradise on Earth").
Every day of the week is filled up with meetings and other activities sponsored by the church: Sunday service, FHE, mutual activities, etc. (much like the Jehovah's Witnesses).
Mormons regard non-Mormons as "worldly" or part of "The World" (much like the Seventh-Day Adventists or Jehovah's Witnesses).
The LDS church discourages the use of the cross (much like the Jehovah's Witnesses). The typical explanation is that they "celebrate Jesus' life rather than (the instrument of) his death".
They teach that Latter-day Saints should only marry other Latter-day Saints and discourage mixed-faith marriages (much like the Seventh-Day Adventists).
Members are taught that "families can be together forever" in heaven, provided that everyone stays close to the teachings of the church. If, however, someone strays from those teachings (e.g. due to disbelief), they will be eternally separated from their families (much like what the Jehovah's Witnesses teach). See this video: Families, Eternity, & Collateral Damage.
Many male Mormons believe that if they are faithful in this life, when they get to the next life, they will be rewarded with numerous wives (much like Islam and the 72 virgins).
Members believe that children arrive at an "age of accountability" at age 8, which is the age when they are baptized. (Similar to Muslim "age of accountability" beliefs.)
Members believe that there is a multi-level afterlife consisting of (from lowest to highest), the Telestial kingdom, the Terrestrial kingdom, and the Celestial kingdom. They further believe that the Celestial kingdom is divided into three levels. Their martyred prophet Joseph Smith is believed to reside in the highest level (similar to Muslim beliefs about a multi-tiered heaven with their martyred prophet Mohammed at the top).
Members are cautioned against viewing information about the church that comes from unauthorized sources. They are told that information written by the "faithless" are full of lies. They are told to "ask God, not Google" (much like Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientology).
Consider this quote from Glenn L. Pace from the 1989 General Conference talk entitled Follow the Prophet:
"It seems that history continues to teach us, You can leave the Church, but you can’t leave it alone. The basic reason for this is simple. Once someone has received a witness of the Spirit and accepted it, he leaves neutral ground. One loses his testimony only by listening to the promptings of the evil one, and Satan’s goal is not complete when a person leaves the Church, but when he comes out in open rebellion against it."
Or this quote from Boyd K. Packer from his talk The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect
Several years ago President Ezra Taft Benson spoke to you and said: “It has come to our attention that some of our teachers, particularly in our university programs, are purchasing writings from known apostates … in an effort to become informed about certain points of view or to glean from their research. You must realize that when you purchase their writings or subscribe to their periodicals, you help sustain their cause. We would hope that their writings not be on your seminary or institute or personal bookshelves. We are entrusting you to represent the Lord and the First Presidency to your students, not the views of the detractors of the Church”
I endorse that sound counsel to you. Remember: when you see the bitter apostate, you do not see only an absence of light, you see also the presence of darkness. Do not spread disease germs!
(Note the similarity to this talk by a Jehovah's Witness leader about apostates being "mentally diseased".)
Other quotes / cautions regarding avoiding apostasy:
The Letter to a CES Director provides a list of questions that a (then) faithful member had about the church. After three years of receiving no answers, he was called into a disciplinary court and threatened with excommunication. He resigned just before he could be excommunicated. The CES Letter is a one-stop-shop for concerns / criticisms / questions about the LDS church.
MormonThink is a website that presents official beliefs, critical observations, and apologetic responses, and allows readers to decide for themselves. They address a great many controversial topics in extensive detail.
Critics cite examples of Mormon leaders practicing deception and not living up to their own standards for honesty. See: Lying For The Lord - In Their Own Words.
The LDS church is criticized for shunning people who come out as gay or unbelievers. While not as formal as the process of shunning in the Jehovah's Witnesses, or the "disconnection" practiced in Scientology, the framework for shunning is spelled out in talks given by church leaders. Consider this quote from D. Todd Christofferson, from his talk Saving Your Life:
'The challenge we may confront is remaining loyal to the Savior and His Church in the face of parents, in-laws, brothers or sisters, or even our children whose conduct, beliefs, or choices make it impossible to support both Him and them. It is not a question of love. We can and must love one another as Jesus loves us. As He said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” But, the Lord reminds us, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” So although familial love continues, relationships may be interrupted and, according to the circumstances, even support or tolerance at times suspended for the sake of our higher love.' --
"A few of you may have run into some who have ceased to hold fast to the iron rod, have wandered off the strait and narrow path, and have become lost. They started sometimes with online tours of the territory of the faithless. This indiscretion is often accompanied by failing to earnestly study the Book of Mormon every day and by the companion problem of gradually becoming lax in keeping other commandments. This sometimes leads to listening and then hearkening to those who mock the Church, its leaders, or its history.
The faithless often promote themselves as the wise who can rescue the rest of us from our naïveté. One does not need to listen to assertive apostates for long to see the parallels between them and the Korihors, Nehors, and Sherems of the Book of Mormon. We should disconnect, immediately and completely, from listening to the proselytizing efforts of those who have lost their faith and instead reconnect promptly with the Holy Spirit." (N.b the use of the word "disconnect", the same terminology used by Scientology.)
See also: The Shunning Key: Whom Mormons shun and why.
Some people criticize the LDS church for exaggerating the size of their membership. As of 2017, the church claims to have almost 16 million members, but only about 4 million of those are active. Many members described as "inactive" no longer identify as Mormon but they are not removed from the rolls unless they explicitly request a "name removal". Said name removal is a tedious process involving lots of paperwork and unwanted contact from ecclesiastical leaders. (Similar to the "disassociation letter" that exiting JWs must write to be removed from the rolls.)
The LDS church used to proudly publish their membership & unit statistics (wards, stakes, branches, etc.). You could see the growth of the church over the years. In April of 2018, when the growth started noticeably contracting, the church ceased announcing these number in General Conference, pulled these statistics from their website and sent legal notices to other websites that published these statistics to pull them as well. (Much like what happened with Scientology.)
Joseph Smith's writings have been shown to be plagiarized from contemporary sources (much like Ellen White, founder of the Seventh-Day Adventists)
Joseph Smith made his own translation of the Bible, subtly altering various verses to harmonize more closely with Mormon doctrine (much like the New World Translation used by the Jehovah's Witnesses). Critics point out that he made some amateur mistakes, such as thinking that 'Elohim' referred to a single person, when it actually means "gods" (plural). << need to research this, give more examples >>
In the History of the Church Volume 2, page 182, an eyewitness's account of Joseph Smith's prophecy in 1835 is recorded as:
"President Smith then stated that the meeting had been called, because God had commanded it; and it was made known to him by vision and by the Holy Spirit. He then gave a relation of some of the circumstances attending us while journeying to Zion--our trials, sufferings; and said God had not designed all this for nothing, but He had it in remembrance yet; and it was the will of God that those who went to zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh--even fifty-six years should wind up the scene." He later said, "I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time." (D&C 130:14-17).
Joseph smith said that Christ would return in the year 1890, on his 85th birthday. This prophecy failed in two ways: 1) Joseph Smith did not live to the age of 85, and 2) Christ did not return in 1890, regardless. (This is similar to the failed prophecies of Christ's second coming given by the Jehovah's Witnesses.)
The LDS church is often criticized for its gender inequality, specifically, for treating women as second-class citizens (much like Islam). Critics will occasionally point out inconsistencies between what they practice and what they preach. One example: In The Family: A Proclamation to the World it says "fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners", but earlier in the same paragraph it says "By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families". Note that it does not say that "mothers are to preside over their families"; men are clearly being placed in a higher station than women, despite the doublethink statement about them being "equal partners".
In the same vein, women often receive a harsher punishment for sinning than men do (much like Islam). For example, if a couple is involved in an adulterous affair, it is not unheard of for the woman in the affair to get excommunicated, while the man in the affair isn't even disfellowshipped. Similarly, If a girl loses her virginity pre-marriage, she might be described in any of the following ways:
Boys who lose their virginity pre-marriage are never described this way.
Joseph Smith is criticized for taking plural wives (including teenage girls and women already married to other, living, men), despite the fact that polygamy is expressly forbidden in the Book of Mormon. (See Jacob 2:27) (Similar criticism is levelled at Mohammed, founder of Islam.)
Critics will point out that there are numerous LDS teachings that are in conflict with science (much like Islam, and SDA).
The LDS church is sometimes criticized for forbidding abortion (much like Islam).
The LDS church is criticized for its belief that homosexuality is an abomination / a sin (much like Islam). Critics point out that the church's anti-gay policies likely contribute to the high rate of suicide among LGBT youth. See this compilation video: Religious Leaders Condemn LGBT Community.
On 12 September 1962, apostles Spencer Kimball and Mark Peterson and BYU President Ernest Wilkinson agreed on a university policy that "no one will be admitted as a student ... whom we have convincing evidence is a homosexual." They agreed to share information about individuals cases of homosexual members between general church administration and BYU administration. This policy was reiterated in Wilkinson's address to BYU in September 1965 when he stated "we [do not] intend to admit to this campus any homosexuals. ... [I]f any of you have this tendency, ... may I suggest you leave the University immediately .... We do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence." Source: Brigham Young University LGBT history
The LDS church is criticized for being very opaque in terms of their business & finance dealings. Mormon Leaks is a site dedicated to publishing information leaked by various people inside the church (church employees, church leadership, ordinary members, etc.).
The Mormon church sometimes makes a big show of providing emergency disaster relief. Some critics see this as a thinly-veiled PR campaign / attempt at recruitment (much like Scientology).
See this video that shows a side-by-side comparison of different churches using their humanitarian efforts for PR purposes: Religion, Charity, & PR.
The LDS church has been criticized for creating an environment where sexual abuse can flourish. Many of these abuses have been covered-up (much like the Jehovah's Witnesses).
Some critics have challenged the church's tax-exempt status, saying that the church uses its for-profit arms to commit tax fraud.
Joseph Smith was criticized for stealing many practices from Masonry and incorporating them into the Mormon temple ceremony (similar to the criticism levelled at Charles Taze Russell about his use of Masonic symbols). See: Masonic Symbols and the LDS Temple.
Official church publications must go through the "Correlation Committee" which approves all material. Members who publish articles critical of the church may run afoul of the "Strengthening the Church Members Committee", which monitors what members do in "Big Brother" fashion. Critics see these committees as a form of censorship and / or intimidation.
Prescription drug abuse is a widespread problem among Mormons (much like Jehovah's Witnesses). Critics point out that this is a byproduct of the stress and depression that many Mormons feel from constantly hearing that they're not good enough or that they're guilty of various sins. Utah ranks #1 in the U.S. for opioid abuse.
Many critics describe the LDS church as a "cult" (just like JWs, SDA, Scientology, Christian Science, and others).
Various faithful Mormons make attempts to respond to the criticisms leveled against the church and its truth claims.
See also: LDS Scholars Defend Mormon Truth Claims
The Exmormon subreddit is an online community for former Mormons.
Of interest is the 2017 Exmormon demographics survey.
See Jeremy Runnells "Court of Love" for a video recording of a member who was brought to a disciplinary court for asking questions about Mormonism.
Listen to The Excommunication of Lyndon Lamborn to hear a recorded session of a "Court of Love" where a questioning member was excommunicated.
This series of videos shows numerous parallels between disaffected members of both Mormonism & Scientology: Mormonism reflects on "The Aftermath"
"New Name Noah" is the handle used by a former member who infiltrates Mormon temples and video records temple sessions. You can see his recordings on his YouTube channel. (He is similar to the "Vast Apostate Army" of ex-Jehovah's Witnesses.)
Many former members express sorrow that they are now shunned / shut out by their (former) friends and family (much like Jehovah's Witnesses & Scientology).
Healing from the Past is a blog intended to help people transition from Mormonism.
Quitmormon.com is a site that allows people to easily resign from the LDS church. Normally, resigning is a tedious & time-consuming process involving lots of paperwork and unwanted visits from local clergy. The LDS church likes to inflate their membership numbers, so they make it very difficult for members to resign. This site provides free legal assistance to help shield resigners from this hassle and get their names off the rolls.
See this video: Defectors Or Truth Seekers? which gives an excellent side-by-side comparison of so-called "apostates" of various different faiths.
"The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also." -- Mark Twain
Sections could include:
Origin and History
Beliefs & Practices << applies to current members >>
Other candidates that originated in the burned-over district:
Other, 20th century, candidates:
When woman comes forward telling that she'd been sexually abused by priests, the Catholic church attempted to assassinate her character.
In 1981, an Indian spiritual leader kicked off a a strange chapter in Oregon's history. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers began building a city with the goal that it would be a utopia. At the town's height, Rajneeshpuram had 3,000 people, a public transportation system, a strip mall and a dam. Members of the group ended up committing one of the largest bio-terrorist attacks on U.S. soil in their attempts to influence local government.
The Anabaptist Rebellion has virtually all the major elements of Joseph Smith's Restoration including:
William Miller's failed prediction of Christ's second coming in 1843.