With the advancements in the study of social sciences, there has been a somewhat parallel growth of cults which though have their foundations in the original Bible and the Christian teachings, yet one may observe that the majority of the present day cults not only deny the essential doctrines, they openly emphasize and present their own personal reinterpretations of the biblical scriptures. The following paper will present two such cases, those of Christian Science and the Mormons, and strive to present some of the comparative elements, their beliefs, customs, religious ceremonies and leadership aspects.
Christian Science – Leadership
Founded by a woman named Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) in 1879, the cult of Christian Science primarily bases its beliefs on the personal healing experience of its founder, after suffering from various illnesses. Eddy later embarked upon a detailed study and research mission of the Bible, paying particular attention to the various healing methods mentioned in the Biblical Book of the Christian followers. Perhaps inspired by a healing method, which Eddy dubbed as Christian Science, she authored a book titled “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”. The launching of this book provided for the emergence of this new cult, which she duly named “Christian Science”, followed by opening of a college, a church, a publishing enterprise and a newspaper, “The Christian Science Monitor” that later found considerable fame amongst the followers of Christians as well as believers of other faiths. Though the faith did not emerge until after 4 years of the publication of the first issue of “Science and Health”, it was only in 1879 that a proper metaphysical college was opened followed by the opening of the first Church for the followers of Christian Science. (Slick, 2003; Kramer, 2004; Meyer, 1961)
Christian Science – The Faith
The primary set of contradictions present in the Christian Science are that though God’s creations including human beings are flawless and appear to be the spiritual likeness of the Divine, yet evils such as disease, death, and sin are not a part of fundamental reality. The faith further teaches that the said evils are the result of staying away from the original teachings of God. To overcome such a dilemma, the Christian Science offers prayer as the primary and central measure to eliminate the distance between God and healing the current spate of ills, which have encompassed mankind.
Christian Science – The Customs
Some of the salient customs of the Christian Science include a daily prayer ritual which serves to bring realization of God, and God’s Love as well as assist others in experiencing the harmonizing and healing effect of the primary understanding of the Christian Science. The cult also emphasizes on the spiritual healing effect and gives more than a mere emphasis as compared to the medical treatment of the ailing humanity. The cult has nor formal ministers, and instead the Bible, Science and Health are its pastor and preacher.
With its headquarters in Boston, duly called the First Church of the Christ, Scientist, or The Mother Church. It is assisted with a number of local churches, which serve as its branches. Run under a Manual of the Mother Church, the Christian Science has a Board of Directors, which governs the Church on a democratic system, and is duly assisted by its branches. (Slick, 2003; Kramer, 2004; Meyer, 1961)
The Mormon Cult – Leadership
Founded by Joseph Smith in 1830 in New York, the cult of the Mormons is yet another faith that derives its teachings from Biblical scriptures. Though most, if not all the elements of this cult are founded in the original Biblical texts, followers of the Christian belief due to some of the extreme contradictions and deceptions in both the books of the Mormons as well as its teachings largely oppose the faith. The cult has some 7 million members, out of 5 million are residing in the United States of America.
The Mormon Cult – The Faith
Some of the strongest contradictions found in the “Book of Mormons”, which is the given the official status of the cult’s book, are the addition of some 125 new verses in the New Testament and the changing of some 1,475 verses in the Bible. Another strong belief of the Mormon cult is their book, which they believe and consider it to ‘their Bible’, hence also inviting stern opposition from the followers of the Christian faith. Furthermore, though ‘Jesus Christ’, ‘Father’ and ‘Trinity’ are terms commonly used by the Christian followers the world over. Yet, for the Mormon followers, all these are interpreted and in a totally different manner and present a more than a new version to the Holy Scriptures and the said terms. For example the birth of Jesus Christ according to the Mormons was through sexually cohabiting with Virgin Mary in a physical and flesh relationship, which is entirely contradictory to the original beliefs of the Christian followers. The Christians rightly believe that Jesus Christ came into this world through a Holy Ghost.
The Mormon Cult – The Customs
Some of the salient customs and beliefs of the Mormons aside from the coming of the Jesus Christ are found in the practice of polygamy, as also followed by its leader Joseph Smith who is said to have had some 27 wives officially and 60 unofficially. This was followed by its second in command, Brigham Young with 25 wives and more than 56 children. Such is the strong emphasis on the practice of polygamy that Mormon belief proclaims that “he who rejects the doctrine of polygamy shall be condemned and the only men who become gods are those who enter polygamy”. The practice was however abolished by its third leader in the year 1904. (Slick, 2003; Kramer, 2004; Meyer, 1961)
With its headquarters in the state of Utah, the Mormon followers forbid women to become priests, church leaders or even gods. It is also widely believed that women of the Mormon cult perhaps have the highest rate of suicide, the highest percentage of being incarcerated in mental institutions, and the highest percentage of divorces in the nation.
Salient Differences Between the cults of Christian Science and Mormons
One of the first and perhaps strongest difference found is that the cult of Christian Science claims that the Bible has a number of mistakes, and further that a number of sections Are untrue. The Mormons on the other hand only consider their own books, namely the “Book of Mormons”, “Doctrine & Convenant”, and the “Pearl of Great Price”. (Stevens, 2004)
Second vital difference found in the two cults of Christian Science and Mormons is that the first rejects the God of the Old Testament, and claim that God is All in All. The Mormons believe that there are numerous gods, and that individuals too can become gods. (Stevens, 2004)
Third difference, that on the Person of Jesus Christ is that for the Mormons Jesus Christ was a normal human being, just as anyone of us. Further, that one of the first gods was born of Elohim, the spirit brother of Lucifer (the Devil) and a polygamist, who was married to both Marys and Martha. The Christian Science, on the other hand is of the view that Jesus Christ was not at all God, but a simple human being, with the exception of “Christ” as the Divine Idea. (Stevens, 2004)
The Holy Spirit
The concept and belief on the Holy Spirit is too different in both the cults. For example the Christian Science rejects the Holy Spirit duly replacing it with “Comforter as the Divine Science”. The Mormons on the other hand view the Holy Spirit as the mere substance of fluid, a person totally different from the Father or Jesus Christ and confined to a single place and at a certain time. (Stevens, 2004)
Blood of Jesus Christ
Another severe difference of beliefs found in the cults of Christian Science and Mormons is on the Blood of Jesus Christ, and its implications. The Christian Science views the Blood as being devoid of any power to forgive sins, and that it is no more of value than that of a normal human being, simply because of the rejection of Jesus Christ as a God. The Mormons view the Holy Blood as being insufficient, and that human blood must “atone” for sins committed by human beings, including crimes of fornication and murder. (Stevens, 2004)
The crucial aspect of Salvation too is disputed by both the cults. The Mormons believing only in their own books claim that salvation can only be accomplished through the teachings of Mormon Church, and practicing their faith, baptism, repentance, good works and keeping God’s commandments. The Christian Science too rejects Salvation as preached in the Biblical Scriptures, and instead gives importance to harmony and Christ in Divine Science, and that it is only path towards Heaven. (Stevens, 2004)
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ too is disputed by both the subject cults. The Mormons believe that human beings will all be resurrected, and find their way to heavens. The most obedient of the Mormon believes will enter the 1st heaven, while the less obedient will enter the other 2 heavens. The followers of Christian Science are of the view that Jesus Christ did not really die, and that the concept and belief of ‘Resurrection’ is a mere spiritualization of human thoughts. (Stevens, 2004)
The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
The Second Coming of Jesus Christ as believed by the Mormons is that He will return at a time when all Jews are gathered in Palestine. At that particular moment of time, all followers of the Mormon cult will be called and gathered in Missouri and judgement duly announced. The Christian Science on the other hand believes that Jesus has disappeared to material sense and that He has risen only in the spiritual sense of existence. (Stevens, 2004)
The characteristic of Virgin Birth and that of Virgin Mary is disputed by the Mormons, yet the Christian Science followers have a somewhat similar set of beliefs as believed by the Christians the world over. The Mormons are of the view that Jesus Christ was born out of sexual intercourse between God the Father and Mary, totally rejecting the concept of the Holy Spirit. The followers of the Christian Science, on the other claims that Jesus Christ was born out of Mary’s Spiritual thoughts. (Stevens, 2004)
Heaven and Hell
The concepts of Heaven and Hell too have totally different perceptions in both the cults of Christian Science and Mormons. For example, the Mormons are of the view that each human being will be assigned to any of the 3 heavens as preached in the Mormon set of beliefs. The Christian Science in rejecting the concept of both heaven and hell preaches that sinners make their own hell, while saints make their own heavens, each according to their actions. Furthermore, the Christian Science also rejects the judgement day as preached by Christians, and claims that it is one event occurring all the time. (Stevens, 2004)