This comes from http://www.rickross.com/warningsigns.html. Italics are my commentary on how the church fits these lists.
Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader.
- Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.(The General Authorities are answerable only to themselves. The membership must accept what they are told, even if its wrong. They are even told that they are blessed for doing something even if they know their church leader is wrong in asking them to do it.)
- No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry. ("Anti-Mormon" sources are defined as anything that is not church-published and/or pro-Mormon and/or something that does not match the current desired public Mormon image. Members are strongly discouraged from researching anything anti-Mormon. Investigators are encouraged to use the church as their primary source for answers about the church.)
- No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement. (In any country where they can get away with it, most markedly in their home country of America, they do not publish their budget.)
- Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions. (Food storage, anyone? More than their obsessive preparation for natural disasters and end times, they always love to point out past and present persecution. They always manage to forget that they started it.)
- There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil. (Most people who leave will lose good relations with at least one friend or family member who is Mormon. Most are thought to have been weak, sinful, or misled. Members very rarely actually ask an ex-Mormon why they left. They assume any reasonable answers the apostate will give them are just excuses, and personal shortcomings are the real reason.)
- Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances. (Guilt-trips, constant worries about worthiness, absolute control of everyday life...once you leave, you experience ostracism, criticism, lies, verbal abuse, abandonment...)
- There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader. (Oh, goodness. Sources galore! This blog alone is testament to that, and its one of many.)
- Followers feel they can never be "good enough".(As I said, constant worries about worthiness. This is because the church teaches salvation through faith+works, and then gives a huge long list of required works and ways to be and things to do.)
- The group/leader is always right. (Always. Don't question the prophet. If you do, you've "gone astray.")
- The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible. (Pretty sure that's why they call him a prophet and a mouthpiece of God and say that if he says it, it might as well be God saying it.)
Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.
- Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration. (You will hear Mormons say time and again that their testimony is too strong to be swayed by anything else. Many base their most important life decisions on what the church says is okay.)
- Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower's mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused--as that person's involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens. ("I am a Mormon and I follow Thomas S. Monson and I believe he is a prophet of God." The title "Mormon" becomes an identity.)
- Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as "persecution". (It can't be freedom of speech or even true. Nothing will make the church or the prophet less true. If they're criticized, they're true because it means Satan is causing persecution. If they're praised, they're true because people recognize truth.)
- Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior. (Fast and testimony meeting, anyone?)
- Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement. (If its not taught by the church, its not true.)
- Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests. (Not sure where to begin with this one. Missions that take two years out of young people's lives in which they can only call their own family only twice a year? Temple marriages being demanded, and demanded at a young age even though the young people may not be ready?)
- A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor. (Well, I know plenty of Mormons with good humor and who enjoy a good time. My family on my mom's side is a great example. But they look down on many harmless enjoyable things because of all their rules.)
- Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader. (Yeah, that does happen. Especially if the non-member family or friends know that their friend or family member has joined a cult. Other Mormons become the new friends and family.)
- Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful. (Polygamy!! Discrimination!! This abounds in the Mormon church! Mormons are currently discriminating against gays most strongly. Much of America does so, but the Bible teaches to love everyone and that all are sinners and all need a savior. Why are gays an exception? Until the 1970's, it was blacks that met this discrimination.)
- Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided. (I lost a friend when I left. Many Mormons I was once friends with do not seek any significant contact with me now. How strongly contact is avoided depends on the individual. Many people experience much worse than I ever have.)
This part my commentary is not about the Mormon church, but my experiences in what churches do follow this.
Ten signs of a safe group/leader.
- A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive. (Biblical Christianity)
- A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and expenses. Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know. (Biblical Christianity--I can get a financial statement for last year from my church.)
- A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight. (Biblical Christianity--there is a team of staff and pastors at my church to hold each other accountable.)
- A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them. (Biblical Christianity)
- A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them. (While Biblical Christianity does have its critics, very few people can say that those who actually try to follow Christ are bad people. Most of the blacker things in Christian history were perpetuated by power- and money-hungry and institutions.)
- A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened. (Biblical Christianity. While my husband's family didn't like him joining a cult and it strained their relationship with him and made it hard for them to get to know me, they never stopped expressing that they loved him, they still saw him, and most importantly, they prayed for both of us to come to the truth. I loved what my husband's brother said about his fears when Steven joined the church because of me: "I only prayed that he would break up with you for about two days. Then I realized that wasn't good and I didn't know if God wanted that, so instead I prayed every night that you would see the truth. I'm so happy you did.")
- A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others. (Biblical Christianity. My pastor knows he's know all-knowing or perfect. He knows its the Book he holds and not he himself that holds that answers. He is an imperfect man, but I know he can admit being wrong like any other good man.)
- A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem. (Biblical Christianity. A good look at the Bible confirms this. The relationship with God is on an individual level. There's never feelings of unworthiness in a Christian who understands Biblical salvation. I know I always come home from church feeling uplifted and encouraged.)
- A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice. (Biblical Christianity. While its made up of imperfect individuals, a mature Christian knows that sometimes they have to say "I'm wrong, how can I do better?")
- A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas. (Biblical Christianity. I'm not criticized for attending another church, listening to other pastors, or reading books from a variety of authors. I'm encouraged to research other beliefs to better understand my own.)
While I freely acknowledge that Biblical Christianity is not the only safe belief system, its certainly is one of them, and probably the largest one, considering that the two other largest religions/faiths/worldviews in the world (Islam and Hinduism) ostracize or even execute people who leave them and show many of the negative traits of a group or leader.
I know I put my pastor up as an example multiple times, but I have a lot of love and respect for my pastor and know he is a good example of a Christian pastor. I know he's only one of many.
Christians also label Mormonism as a cult because it claims Christian beliefs but in truth does not follow the most important ones. Many denominations differ on the little things, but to be Christian, you have to believe a few things:
1)That there is only one God and no other.
2)That Christ came as God in flesh to atone for the sins of the world and reconcile men to God.
3)That salvation from sins is through faith alone, through grace alone, through Christ's atonement on the cross.
No other beliefs are necessary for salvation from sins, though having sound theological understanding based in Bible understanding using exegesis is definitely not something to look down on.
Mormons, however, believe that:
1)God used to be a man, had his own Heavenly Father, and that we can become gods.
2)That Christ is separate from God and a God in his own right.
3)That salvation is through faith+works and grace just makes up for what you can't do on your own (which means theoretically someone could do it on their own if they're amazingly good enough) and that the atonement took place in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Obviously, there's a huge difference in these essential core doctrines. This is why biblical Christians cannot accept Mormons as Christian and why they are called a cult.