Question: Can you please explain the difference between a sect and a cult?
Response: A "sect" has been defined as a group that has preserved the essentials of the gospel but who has a particular distinctive teaching creating a separation between the group and other members of the body of Christ.
A "cult," on the other hand, may deny nearly every fundamental teaching of the Bible and often attacks the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. They may do this by directly denying it or by presenting it in a way contrary to the teaching of Scripture. For example, Herbert W. Armstrong taught that the Godhead was a polytheistic family of "gods." Joseph Smith and Brigham Young taught similar things. On April 9, 1852, during a sermon in the Salt Lake City Tabernacle, Brigham Young proclaimed that Adam was, in fact, "our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do."
In 2 Peter 2, addressing false teachers, Peter lists the characteristics of these individuals. These "false prophets" (2:1) are "wells without water" (v. 17). A well without "water" ("water" being a consistent biblical metaphor for the Holy Spirit) has the same appearance as a genuine well unless one looks inside (1 Sm 16:7). These false teachers are not guided by the Holy Spirit and speak with their own words, repeating the counterfeit teachings of the adversary. As pointed out above, the Lord warned the church of cultic teaching that was going to come.
Mormons attest that their revelations began with the appearance of an angel to a young man named Joseph Smith. Paul warned in Galatians:1:8, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed."
Joseph Smith spoke with an entity who identified himself as the angel "Moroni." Catholics around the world flock to alleged appearances of "Mary."
Often, cults have a leader who has the ability to charm and sway those he deceives. His teaching, when shown to be unbiblical, is said to be a "new revelation," or a new insight that transcends Scripture. He may teach that he and his followers are the possessors of information lost to everyone else. The leader is the recognized authority, often teaching that he is God's voice for this generation.
As time goes on, a cult may become very protective and closed, believing they are under imminent threat from anyone outside the group. What a contrast to the church, of whom the Lord Jesus promised, "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Mt 16:18). To keep ourselves from deception, let us follow the example of the Bereans who "...searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts:17:11).