When most of us mention nominal Christianity, we have in our minds especially the Roman Catholic Church and various Protestant Churches (sometimes also Orthodox Churches). Ellen White's "Great Controversy" and her other works largely speak against these communities as either making up the Great Apostasy/Great Babylon or as being largely swept into it. But there exist communities, which are not considered Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, yet they aren't also part of the Adventist movement. These communities or movements constitute themselves Remnants, which were supposedly risen by God Himself to counter the worldwide Apostasy of false religions, in very similar way like the Advent movement was brought up around 1844. These movements came to existence in the XIX century, largely around the time, when Adventism was born.
Right now I can name four such movements: Latter-day Saints, Bible Students, Christian Science and Christadelphians. Most of mainstream Christians view them as cults, from the time of their appearance. We must also remember, that Seventh-day Adventist Church was once also considered as cult, and named next to these communities. The following comparative analysis will try to focus on the two former communities: Latter-day Saints and Bible Students, and their role in the world.
One thing I would like to excuse for, is not making any quotes, neither from the Bible, nor from other books or articles on the given topic. I actually even do not like giving quotes from other articles. Yet I believe, that more information about these movements can be found on Wikipedia (especially on the Latter-day Saints) and some information can also be googled-out. I have taken all this information mostly from Wikipedia and I believe they can be easily found. I tried to provide appropriate terms, so I believe this will not be difficult.
In case someone is not sure about what movements we are talking about, I'll give a brief explanation:
- The Latter-day Saints movement - was founded by Joseph Smith Jr., and after his death the denomination split into few branches. The most known branch is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is popularily called the Mormon Church, with its adherents called Mormons.
- The Bible Students movement - was founded by Charles Taze Russell, who also founded Watchtower Society. After his death the movement split into few factions, leaving Watchtower Society associated with the largest one. Over time, this faction came to be known as Jehovah's Witnesses.
So what's so special about these two communities? Many things! We can name a variety if things we as Adventists have in common with them and many of which are seen as non-orthodox by the rest of Christianity. We will list these issues below.
1. The beginnings of all three movements are in the north-eastern part of United States. Joseph Smith of the Mormons was active in western New York state, near Palmyra, before they ventured far west. It was very near the place, where Hiram Edson lived (about 4-6 miles)! As for Charles T. Russell, two most notable places associated with him and his Watchtower Society are Pittsburg in Pennsylvania and New York City.
2. Some events connected to the founders of these movements happened relatively simultaneously with events within Adventism. For example, Joseph Smith died (was murdered) in year 1844! He received his first vision in 1820, two years after William Miller became fully convinced about the Second Coming. So both men worked at the same time. And after 1844 both movements experienced changes and splits. A very similar case is with Charles Taze Russell and Ellen White. Russell died in year 1916, just a year after death of Ellen White! And again, both movements started to experience changes, especially doctrinal. Coincidence?
3. Let's move to some doctrinal issues. All three movements believe, that they are true Remnants of the Apostolic Church. In Mormonism, this is seen in their name Latter-day Saints. Next, Jehovah's Witnesses believe in a literal 144000 from Rev. 14:1-3, which they apply to their top leaders. Of course we also have a doctrine about the Remnant people. All this is in conjunction with the idea, that the rest of Christianity became part of the Great Apostasy and that people need to be drawn out of it. So all these movement have a kind of a zeal for evangelism within Christendom.
4. All three movements (at least in their beginnings) were non-Trinitarian, as opposed to the mainstream Christianity. Mormonism is generally considered tritheist (although they don't like the term) with many strange views on the Godhead as a whole (like that God the Father was once a human on another planet). Jehovah's Witnesses of course believe, that Christ is inferior to God (Jehovah), therefore not fully divine. The Seventh-day Adventist Church was also a non-Trinitarian movement before, therefore was put in line with Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses as a cult.
5. This may be a little controversial issue - all these movements have been speculating in regard to the location of God's Throne in the Universe. Some or many Adventists believe, that it is located behind the Orion Nebula (we will not go into details here). Likewise, the Mormons believe, that God's Throne is located near a star named Kolob, yet they don't know, where it is exactly (the most popular explanation is that of the Galactic Core of Milky Way). Jehovah's Witnesses no longer believe, but once they believed that the Throne of God is near star Alcyone of the Pleiades cluster. Both counterfeit ideas have supposed Egyptian origin (we will go into this later on). Such ideas (true or false) are in no way the case of mainstream Trinitarian Christianity.
6. Some elements seem to be taken from the Jewish religion. We Seventh-day Adventists have the Sabbath, which is part of the Ten Commandments. We also believe the Jewish temple system to be the type of what takes place in Heaven. On the contrary, the Mormons have it different. They have experienced their own exodus, this time to Utah state. They also have set up their own priesthoods: of Melchizedek and Aaron. Also, Jehovah's Witnesses try to be faithful to Jewish strict monotheism and use the name Jehovah for God.
7. When it comes to sacred places, Mormons' most sacred place is the Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah. Interestingly, this temple has something described as The Most Holy Place, or Holy of Holies. Of course we immediately shift our minds towards the Jewish Tabernacle or the Heavenly Sanctuary, also with The Most Holy Place.
8. The next issue is about setting dates for the Second Coming. William Miller believed Christ to return in 1843-1844 - we know, that something different happened back then and do not need to set up new dates. On the contrary, Jehovah's Witnesses (also as Bible Students) have set up many such dates, like 1874, 1914 or 1975. Many of these dates were for different events, not just the Second Coming.
9. All three movements have their own prophets and revelations, different from that of the Bible alone. We have Ellen White and her works, which lead us to the Bible. In Mormonism, Joseph Smith was a prophet, who had visions, wrote and translated many works, supposedly ancient. So Mormonism recognises not only the Bible, but also the "Book of Mormon", "Pearl of Great Price" and some other works collectively termed sacred scriptures. Charles Taze Russell, although not having visions and not recognized as a prophet, was mostly working on biblical prophecies. And while he didn't want to make his "Studies in the Scriptures" to become equal with the Bible, once he stated, that his work is the only means, through which one can approach the Bible without falling in error. What's more, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses actually believe in prophets living today. Mormons believe, that their First Presidency is their prophet, seer and revelator, while Jehovah's Witnesses see their Governing Body as a prophet and channel of God.
10. There are also differences, when it comes to the understanding of Jesus Christ's sacrifice. As Adventists we believe, that He and the whole humanity in Him died for our sins, so that we could be drawn back and reconciliated with our Father in Heaven. Unfortunately, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses have much more legalist explanations. What's more, Mormons actually believe, that Jesus died, so that people may become exalted to become gods themselves in far future. As for Jehovah's Witnesses, they believe in a ransom soteriology, teaching that Jesus died mostly for the sin of Adam, or for the whole Adamic humanity, so that there is no need for personal conviction. Again all of them are outside mainstream Christianity.
I believe we can name many other similarities, or actually differences, that put these movements outside of mainstream Christianity. Let's take the teachings on the Second Coming of Christ: in Mormonism it's angel Moroni as a symbol, who proclaimes a restored Gospel and the Second Coming; Jehovah's Witnesses actually focus mostly on the Armageddon and the future Kingdom of God; and we as Adventists have the Three Angels' Message, the Investigative Judgment, and even the name Adventists. Also teachings about death, health issues and many of future events are very different (Mormon eschatology being the richest), than those in mainstream Christianity.
So basically, it's no wonder that many Christians see us the same way, as they see Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses - outside of mainstream Christianity, outside of Protestantism, and even as a cult similar to these two. Even though it must be also said, that both counterfeit Remnant movements have some things in common, which are not the case in Adventism. So let's discuss them now.
1. The false Remnant movements have some theological connections with ancient Egypt. In Mormonism, one of the books from "Pearl of Great Price" is the Book of Abraham. It is believed to be written by Abraham, and translated from reformed Egyptian by Joseph Smith. This book was initially in a form of a set of, supposedly ancient, papyri and facsimiles - one of these facsimiles contained information about star Kolob, mentioned earlier. As for the Bible Students, Charles Taze Russell was very fascinated with the Great Pyramid. He believed, that it is a "Bible in a stone" and set up a whole set of prophecies based upon pyramidology. He also believed the Great Pyramid to point towards the star Alcyone of Pleiades (JW no longer believe in pyramidology and Alcyone). Adventists, including Seventh-day Adventists, did not have such connections with ancient Egypt, as far as I know.
This one issue is a very interesting one in my opinion, since I believe, that ancient Egypt (not ancient Babylonia) is the greatest heir of Tower of Babel. The native name of Egypt is Kemet, and it is suggested, that this word means not only "black land", but also "the land of Ham". We know, that Egypt was founded by Ham's son, Misraim. I think that most of ancient knowledge from Babel fled to Egypt, that's why they could build the Great Pyramid. Not to mention the occult religion and a theocratic government. So it is strange for me, that these false Remnants (therefore describing themselves as Christians) have something to do with Egypt. Although if we read on, this may become less strange.
2. The founders of false Remnants were in some way involved in the occult, gnosis and Freemasonry. Joseph Smith, when he had visions and when he was translating his works, was using a pair of "seer stones" named Urim and Thummim (or the Interpreters). Not long before his death, in March 1842 he also joined Freemasonry - it is suggested, that the Mormon ceremony of Endowment was taken directly from Masons (see "Mormonism and Freemasonry" article on Wikipedia for details). Charles Taze Russell, although never being a Freemason, had many contacts with them and on many occasions liked to compare Bible Students with Freemasonry, and even their teachings. His sermon "The Temple of God" given in 1913 serves as a prime example. Finally, when it comes to the founder of true Remnants, William Miller, we know that he was a Freemason for some time. But in 1831, the same year he began to preach his message, he left Freemasonry and started to express his criticism towards them. It is also sometimes alleged by our opponents, that Ellen White was a Freemason, but we have no true evidence of that. Furthermore, she was always critical of Freemasonry in her writings.
3. Finally, the hierarchy and organisational structure of false Remnants has a very strong theocratic character. As was stated before, the First Presidency of Mormons and the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses are considered to be contemporary prophets, channels, and revelators of God Himself. Mormons have a hierarchy of priesthoods: a priesthood of Melchizedek and of Aaron. And most of their religious institutions (named quorums or callings, including First Presidency) are set up according to these priesthoods. They also have a political doctrine, theodemocracy, which was historically applied to their provisional state of Deseret. Next, Jehovah's Witnesses may have a simplified organisation, yet they have a class of the so-called anointed (about 11000 people), who are to be part of 144000 (being the only converted people in the world!). The Governing Body is part of the anointed class, and is also named faithful and discreet slave, having also power over Watchtower Society. And the whole system is being described as theocratic. Now, as Seventh-day Adventists we have the General Conference, but we do not see it as a theocratic system the same way, as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. We believe they have a God given authority, but we also acknowledge, that they are only humans, prone to error. And when faced with error, we need to act according to the hierarchy God has set up and pray for our leaders.
So, from the above facts, can mainstream Christianity consider the Seventh-day Adventist Church a cult? Apart from the notion of the word cult, there is actually nothing in organisation or teachings - especially no teachings of pagan origin - that can give a clue, that we are a cult similar to Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses (whether these two are cults or not is a different topic).
The conclusion which I can draw from the above facts is that these false Remnant movements served and still serve a purpose. The purpose is to create more confusion, when it comes to the belief, which Church is the true Church. Adventism, Mormonism and other such movements emerged in the so called Second Great Awakening in the first half of XIX century - of course, other movements followed. If mainstream Christianity sees all of these movements to be false, like a religious pandemonium, it becomes more confident that they are the true Christian body. And probably this will serve a purpose in the events to come. I believe it was the work of Satan, who wanted to bring a great confusion in the first half of XIX century, so that people could not recognize the true God's people. And this still works. And... if Satan has made so much effort in raising counterfeit Remnant movements to make truth even more unpopular, then this gives me one more reason, why Seventh-day Adventism is a true God's movement.
Ending this entry, I hope you have read this to the end (a long entry, I know :) ). I have included here lots of information and dry facts. Basically I wanted to show, that we have much in common with the mentioned movements, and that when God has a great work to do among His people, Satan is always present to produce his counterfeits. For me this issue is another evidence, that the Seventh-day Adventists Church is a true Remnant Church.