One of the news channels had Steve Hassan speaking about cults last night. "Cult" is another one of those exquisite weapon words. If you don't like another person's religion, just call it a cult. Clearly there is disagreement over a strict definition of the word 'cult'. Nevertheless, there seems to be consensus that it can rightly be applied to situations like Jim Jones' Jonestown People's Temple mass suicide event in 1978. We have heard the word used regarding Sun Myung Moon (the Moonies) and also to the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh who set up an enormous cult commune in Oregon (only later to run into immense legal problems and deportation).
Yours Truly, Renn Oldsbuster, has few peers more committed to the ideal of religious freedom, so I am prompted to wonder if, in a reclusive cult, religious freedom can suffer its greatest restraint. It has become ridiculously convenient for outside critics to call the FLDS community a cult, so does it really satisfy the definition? There are rumors being circulated by ex-FLDS people that certain cult-like conditions are developing in the FLDS society. Are they true? Are the people free to come and go and associate freely with whomever they choose?
Some have suggested that, with a complete media blackout, the pro tem FLDS leader can spin the news of his brother Warren's conviction as a terrible miscarriage of justice - the proof of gross religious persecution. If a large number of the members can thus be fooled into continuing to follow deceitful direction and false information, does that not then constitute cult-like control? Do they even have a clue that they are not being told the truth when all news and information is filtered or manipulated?
Surely this has not been the case under all FLDS leaders? There have been periods of openness - Glasnost. Not always have other, fellow Fundamentalist Mormons been derided as "APOSTATES". Why now? Is it a carefully orchestrated cover-up? Can the cover-up go on much longer?
With inevitable leaks, is there now a schism brewing? Are there some community members (aligned with William E. Jessop) who have repudiated Jeffs' idiosyncrasies (excuse the euphemism), and who want FLDS-ville to return to the kind of society envisioned by Joseph Smith? Are their numbers growing, as more and more members discover the inescapable truth and draw a line in the sand, morally distancing themselves from priestcraft and mind-control, accepting that they were temporarily and innocently misled by dangerous one-man-infallibility deceptions?
Are the "cult" rumors true, or it is time to make sure that they at least STOP being true?