Cult Characteristics According to the Professional Association of German Psychologists

In this article, the extent to which the Mormon church meets the criteria of the Professional Association of German Psychologists is investigated. This assessment is not substantiated in detail (this is done here for a similar model) but is based on the knowledge and experience of well over 30 years active church membership. In cases of doubt or nuance, “no” was chosen.

The Professional Association of German Psychologists has created a checklist of what it calls “objective criteria to determine the profile of a particular group”, consisting of six elements:

> Ideology, theory, faith, goals (6/6)

1. Superior idea: through the group, paradise can be established within the forseeable future (delusions of power and grandeur): Yes

2. Monopoly on truth: the group’s world view is the only correct one: Yes

3. Black-and-white thinking: thoughts and actions are based on simple good-evil or right-wrong dichotomies: Yes

4. End-time phantasies: the end of the world is nigh: Yes

5. Plan for salvation: exclusive solution to achieve salvation: Yes

6. Expansive claim to power: “we must save the world”: Yes

> The central figure: leader, guru, master (3/3)

7. Veneration of the leader: the leader is revered as a god, a saint or a “channel”, can do anything, is a seer, has miraculous powers: Yes

8. Leadership style: the leader is the highest authority, is beyond criticism, requires blind loyalty, and claims a monopoly on truth: Yes

9. Charisma: veneration of saintly figures, idealised myths are propagated: Yes

> Group Structure (5/6)

10. Shutting out outside influences: the group is a closed system with clear boundaries: Yes

11. Group cohesion: the group is tightly knit, the members monitor, control and punish each other. There may be internal jargon: Yes

12. The group is hierarchical, the leadership commands, the membership obeys, information is layered: Yes

13. Elitism: group members feel they are a special force to save the world/humanity. The group’s identity is determined by missionary zeal and being persecuted: Yes

14. Exploitation: member allow themselves, more or less voluntary, to be exploited or used as cheap labour: Yes

15. Subversive and illegal activity: the group believes it is above the law and urges its members (openly or in secret) to engage in illegal activities: No

> Influence over the Member (5/6)

16. Deinviduation: total commitment is required, the group and the common goal take precedence over the individual: Yes

17. Influence on daily life: regulation of diet, clothing, hygiene, daily activities, leisure, contacts, communications, relationships and sexuality: Yes

18. Material dependency: group members have no private property or money. They are not paid for their labour, nor do they have insurance. Passport, driver’s license are taken in: No

19. Magical thinking prevails in the group. Everything is meant to be, god’s will: Yes

20. Break with personal past: relations with the family of origin, partner and friends are broken off. School, studies, ambitions are given up. Previous life is reinterpreted: Yes

21. Cult identity: the group member receives a new name, moves almost exclusively in group circles and undergoes a revaluation of values. This is accompanied by a reduced sense of reality and fitness for life outside the group. Psychological dependency develops: Yes

> Personality Changing Methods (2/3)

22. Use of techniques to raise emotions, induce euphoria and manipulate consciousness, such as hyperventilation, chanting, speaking in tongues, excessive meditation, etc.: No

23. Repeated debilitation through fasting, sleep deprivation, physical or mental overburdening, sensory deprivation, etc.: Yes

24. The goal is to generate “spiritual experiences” which are interpreted as the emergence of the true person: Yes

> External Contacts and Dealing with Criticism (4/4)

25. The group employs manipulative recruiting methods to lure people with unrealistic expectations: Yes

26. Trench mentality: the group isolates itself (“in the world but not of the world”). Conspiracy theories and paranoia abound: Yes

27. No legitimate reason to leave the group. Former members are declared enemies and avoided, sometimes blackmailed: Yes

28. Critics are intimidated and silenced with threats, slander, phone terror, law suits, or even physical attacks: Yes


The Mormon church scores “Yes” to 25 of the 28 questions on this list (89%). This means that, in the psychological sense, the Mormon church exhibits many characteristics of a cult by exerting far-reaching, one-sided influence on the emotions, thoughts and behaviour of its members through the application of manipulative processes and authoritarian structures.