The “cult” charge is patently unfair and seems to reflect bigotry, but the perspective that Mormonism is more of an offshoot of Christianity than a variety of it seems fairly well-supported to me. Generally, when you add a new holy book, you have a new religion. ~Matt Yglesias
Perhaps the pejorative use of the term “cult” is a bit much, if by “cult” you mean a group of people who are mindlessly controlled by a cynical, villainous leader who exploits their gullibility. Even if you think that is true of Joseph Smith’s career, it is hard to claim the same thing for his modern successors, who are, if anything, all together in earnest and sincere. In another sense, “cult” refers to any religious group and could be fairly applied to the LDS church. It is a bit intriguing how some cultural conservatives will make a point of noting how culture derives form cultus, referring a religious cult, but how others will use “cult” as an insult.
In any case, the thing that intrigues me most is the idea that, for some people, “values” trump theology, even though it is allegedly from theology and church teaching that these same people derive their “values.” One might suppose that how one reached these conclusions would matter quite a lot, but this “values” talk reminds us that there are some who don’t care how you reach the right conclusion so long as you get there. At bottom, it really is a question of identity politics: can Christian conservative voters knowingly endorse someone who is not really Christian? For some, “values” are enough. But I imagine they are not sufficient for most.