October 23, 2017

A Rose by Any Other Name…

Reported today at CNN’s Belief Blog:

Billy Graham’s group removes Mormon cult reference from website after Romney meeting
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

* * *

(CNN) – Shortly after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney enjoyed cookies and soft drinks with the Rev. Billy Graham and his son Franklin Graham on Thursday at the elder Graham’s mountaintop retreat, a reference to Mormonism as a cult was scrubbed from the website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

In a section of the website called Billy Graham’s My Answer there had been the question “What is a cult?”

Answer: “A cult is any group which teaches doctrines or beliefs that deviate from the biblical message of the Christian faith.”

“Some of these groups are Jehovah’s Witnesess, Mormons, the Unification Church, Unitarians, Spritualists, Scientologists, and others,” the site continued.

No longer. On Tuesday, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association confirmed that page has recently been removed from the site.

“Our primary focus at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Ken Barun, chief of staff for the association, told CNN in a statement. “We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.”

* * *

Guess what?

I think they just sparked a theological debate.

Comments

  1. The Evangelicals are in a real pickle right now – having spent the last 100 years decrying Mormonism as a cult, the GOP front-runner is now a Mormon AND an opponent of women’s rights and marriage equality. I guess that now qualifies him as a friend of the court, so to speak. Suddenly, theological questions disappear, replaced by social issues. Strange …

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Oceania Has Always Been At Peace With Eurasia, Comrade.

      Since the Chick-Fil-A incident, there’s been a lot of speculation that the BGEA has gone into full All Culture War Jihad mode and is just signing Billy’s name to their political fatwas. Billy Graham himself is old, in poor health, and had his fill of being used politically with Nixon. No way could he be signing off on this unless it’s a “Radar-and-the-Colonel” situation. More likely the BGEA bigwigs are just signing the old man’s name themselves.

    • …an opponent of women’s rights (code for abortion) and marriage equality (code for radical homosexuality)

      It would seem from your post that you condemn some non-biblical beliefs like Mormonism while you support others like abortion and radical homosexuality. How are you different than “The Evangelicals” since that’s what culture war politics are all about?

      …theological questions disappear, replaced by social issues.

      Are theological questions somehow more important than social issues?

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        What is the difference between “radical” homosexuality and your regular, run-of-the-mill homosexuality?

        • IMO the difference between “run-of-the-mill” and “radical” anything is…

          Run-of-the-mill = “It’s my life and I will live it as I see fit.”
          Radical = “I demand that everyone affirm my personal beliefs and legislate against those that oppose my choices.”

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Run-of-the-mill = “It’s my life and I will live it as I see fit.”
            Radical = “I demand that everyone affirm my personal beliefs and legislate against those that oppose my choices.”

            Just like “Lukewarm” and “Radical” Christians…

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            For the folks who are watching at home, what HUG did there was called an analogy. A very apt one, at that.

  2. Susan Paxton says:

    It’s a debate that is long, long overdue.

  3. Mormonism is a cult. It’s weird and self-absorbed and does not rely on the finished work of Christ in any way.

    And what does that have to do with one of their members running a company or a state or a country.

    Nothing.

    • I don’t think that’s the point. The BGEA is a theological organization — they exist to proclaim the Gospel. They are not a political organization, in the arena of promoting political agendas or politicians. Their perspective on Mormonism is a theological perspective, or should be. And whether or not they like Gov. Romney as a presidential candidate, they should not compromise their position on whether or not a group represents the true Gospel of Christ.

      • No, they probably shouldn’t compromise.

        Maybe they are just doing what so many left-wing and right-wing churches do, supporting the candidate which best mirrors their values, politically.

    • Agreed. So, why is it necessary to stop calling Mormonism a cult? As Christianity Today pointed out in their article on the matter, George Washington was a Free Mason. But (not pointed out by CT) no one stopped calling Free Masonry a non-Christian secret society. I think the elephant in the middle of the room is quite easily identified: separation of theology from politics implies separation of church and state. Therefore, theology needs to remained married to politics no matter how strained the relationship becomes.

      • Many people did stop calling Freemasonry those things, just as they stopped attacking Catholicism. Not everyone, of course (Jack Chick is still active), but the mainstream.

        For those who don’t know, Freemasonry is open to men of good character from any religion, though atheists (and women) are barred in most countries as a matter of historic tradition. Its members have never considered Freemasonry a religion, although its traditions do refer to God, whose existence is assumed as a matter of course (in much the same spirit that the U.S. Constitution refers to God). It is forbidden to debate matters of religious controversy within the lodge.

        So Freemasonry is only “non-Christian” in the same way that the Boy Scouts are non-Christian (in the sense of not being explicitly Christian–certainly Christianity would be the majority religion represented). Even the phrase “secret society” obscures the fact that the Masons are easily found, and information about their activities (often of a charitable nature) is widely available.

        From time to time, writers have made all sorts of improbable allegations about the Masons. For example, Leo Taxil in the 19th century wrote about secret ceremonies in which Satanic orgies are held (and not only that, but the devil himself attended!). One wonders why such myths and hoaxes continue to thrive in this information age, when the truth can be had with a few clicks of the mouse.

    • Mary Anne Dutton says:

      …and according to Economist magazine it is the poster-child of name-it claim-it prosperity theology, being rich an entitlement from God.

  4. This is really hard and frustrating for me to read. Really it is….. I guess when you have been involved in an organization like the Mormons, it makes it hard to read stuff like this.

    Many fundagelcials throw around the word cult so much that it has lost its meaning. They are very subjective in how they apply it. I use the word cult to describe controlling and abusive organizations. Organziations that are easier than hell to get involved with but difficult to leave. Or oganizations that are spiritually abusive or have questionable roots. That’s why I call organziations like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sovereign Grace, certain Pentacostals, etc.. cults.

    I had a difficult time separatng my ties with the Mormons. I was in a small Montana city and I finished college and what helped me in distancing myself from the Mormons was moving to California. This was in 1997. 2 years later in 1999 I was still getting emails from the Mormon church and then they finally stopped. I wondered what they have about me in their records at Salt Lake City. AND I was just an investigator (to use Mormon parlence….) You want to read some horrifying stories read what’s posted at http://www.exmormon.org. It’s like the stories posted on Sovereign Grace Survivors, Refuge, etc..

    From time to time I read at the ExMormon site. And I have to tell you I don’t exactly know what to do in a few weeks. I like neither person. I like the Democrats social agenda but am weary at their fiscal programs. I was angry and pissed that Standard and Poorer downgraded us, and now Moody is threatening to follow. I do not want the US to become like Greece or Portugal. Laden with so much debt that we can’t recover. Yet I struggle with the Republicans. (I’m going to put aside all the comments about the Tea Party) Do you know how hard it would be for someone who almost became Mormon and has an understanding of the Mormon culture to vote for a Mormon? Think of the influence the LDS Church will have? The LDS Church possibly getting unique access to countries to evangelize the Mormon gospel, and the State Department being abused? Using the Justice Department to adanvce Mormon legislation and laws.

    Ask someone who lives in rural Utah how hard is it to be a Christian of any stripe, ex Mormon or a skeptic at all and live there. It’s hard. And Mormons as I leanred are notorious for being dishonest. Let me give you an example.

    There are many people who suggest that the Mountain Medadows Massacre was an act of blood atonement in Utah. You can read all you want about blood atonement here… http://exmormon.org/d6/drupal/bloodatn

    Former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt was a descendent of one of the members that caried out the massacre that killed about 120 men, women and children on September 11, 1857. A few years ago part of the site was accidently disturbed. And historians and archaeologists wanted to research the sight and study the remains to better understand how the massacre was carried out. It’s standard history and historians and archaeologists did the same thing at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in Montana which is where George Armstrong Custer was killed. Well the LDS Church went into campaign mode to prevent historians from researching at the massacre site. Utah Governor Mike Leavitt used his power as governor to prevent that from happening. It was talked about in many ex-Mormon circles.

    But after what I saw in the Mormon Church I get chills at having a LDS President.

    So I’m sorry Billy Graham this skeptic who almost became Mormon still believes and will forever believe that Mormonism is a cult.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      But after what I saw in the Mormon Church I get chills at having a LDS President.

      Thinking of a White Horse Prophecy coup-from-within like in Dean Ing’s Systemic Shock?

    • Having just released a novel about the dark side of televangelism, I’m in total agreement with your response. The thought of having a President who belongs to a cult as big as the Morman church is frightening. And that fact that the evangelicals are voting for him goes against everything I learned growing up inside a fundamentalist church. The dark side of religion stretches farther than any of us know.

    • Gordon R. says:

      There are different denominations of Mormonism. Besides the famous LDS Mormons from Utah, and the polygamist groups that broke away from them, there are also the Missouri Mormons (formerly the RLDS, now called the Community of Christ). They are a liberal group which has never accepted polygamy, believe in the Trinity, and accept historical criticism of the Book of Mormon.

      Utah LDS Mormons are very hierarchical and authoritarian. They kick people out for disagreeing with them, and cover up scandals in a way that the Catholics could never get away with. A whole lot of money is at stake. If that’s enough to be a cult, though, then most evangelicals belong to cults. They too follow authoritarian forms of Christianity, and have no effective mechanism for dealing with scandals. Billy Graham may have been charismatic, and slightly more honest than the other televangelists, but he basically offered easy, supposedly certain answers based on “the Bible” (as interpreted by him), reinforced by sales techniques and the threat of hellfire. People credit him with integrity, but there is no integrity in this kind of message.

      • Why do you think I called Sovereign Grace a cult? I’d add Mars Hill Seattle to that list and part sof the Neo-Reformed to that list. But getting back to SGM being a cult. You just described it Gordon! Covering up Mahaeny’s blakcmail, insiders defending him becuase they need to preserve the system since they are dependant upon it, and sexual abuse being covered up. I interact with someone who goes to a SGM church and I feel like I’m talking to a Mormon. Here’s how he responded the other day to my question about SGM being attached to the hip and his tithes ending up in Louisville. My question, “What about all the titihing money ending up in Louisville?” His response to my question, “You have so much hate for SGM.” I almost pulled my hair out. But in many ways Gordon I agree with you.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          More and more I’m coming to the conclusion that “CULT! CULT! CULT!” is always the OTHER guy’s religion. And Danites are just the OTHER guy’s Armorbearers.

          In Oceania, it’s INGSOC.
          In Eurasia, it’s neo-Bolshevism.
          In Eastasia, it’s Annihalation of the Self.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Note that the BGSC page (now unpage) defines “cult” in the usual Christian Cult Watch manner: entirely by aberrant theology and/or teachings, not by abusive and/or controlling behavior towards its people.

          That is how SGM, MH Seattle, and the others monitored over at Wartburg Watch are able to be “NOT CULT” despite their cultic-abusive behavior. Eagle, that behavior you described is not so much “Talking to a Mormon” as “talking to a True Believer”, whether Mormon, Muslim, Moonie, Marxist, Objectivist, Obamaniac, SGM, or drooling fanboy.

          • HUG…there’s a difference between being a “True Believer” and and being in a cult. People in cults want to be seen as loving, overwhelmingly kind, etc… They can love bomb, etc… I think the guy I know from SGM has drunk the kool-aid and is just misguided. But he hasn’t hammered me over creationism, or other precious issues like other reformed folk have. Let me tell you a story I had with a “True Believer”

            I had a friend who was brainwashed in Mark Dever’s Capital Hill Baptist Church. I had known this guy for a long time. In 2009 as my faith was dying my CHBC friend calls me up and wants to get together. We meet in a Starbucks in DC. He gets all haughty with me and almost starts to yell that I need to repent, and quoting all these verses from Romans. He was so serious and aggressive it through me off. After getting myself together I have this “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” moment and start to defend myself and combat my friend. It was almost as if my friend didn’t know me or recognized knowing me long term. But his combativeness through me off big time.

            That’s the difference. A “True Believer” will be condescending, arrogant, etc… and defends truth to the end. A cult member will kill with kindness. They want to be known as being kind. I saw two differing personalities in two different people. Another point I’d say is that cults are focused on image, where as the “True Believer” believes the ends justify the means. My CHBC friend believed that his rough approach with me was justified at all costs. My SGM friend and his family can almost be a poster boy for a cult. Attractive wife, new kid, always smiling, etc… it’s just like a Mormon commercial.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Also from some ex-Mormon sites, it appears Utah Mormons have a rep for being the most rigid and hard-assed and California Mormons for being the most laid-back and mellow. Possibly a factor of proximity to their center in Utah. The closer to Salt Lake (and when terrain is taken into account, Montana is effectively closer than Los Angeles), the more Iron Rod.

        • Alright, I really shouldn’t weigh in on this but I was Mormon. I was born and raised in a small Utah town. I served a mission when i was 19 and married in the temple. I left the faith about seven years ago. My family was not happy about it, but I have very good relations with them now and really always did.

          I have known a girl who when she left the faith her parents told her she was dead to them and have not spoken to her since. She was Jewish. So is Judaism a cult? I have another friend who when he came out as gay, his father beat him and kicked him out, at the age of 17. He was homeless for a few weeks until a friend took him in. His family is Methodist. Does that mean Methodism is a cult?

          I guess what I am trying to say is that plenty of people use religion as a cudgel to manipulate and abuse others. Any religion or church will work. I’m sorry so many have had bad experiences with Mormons. I can assure you that having spent a lot of time in other churches before settling down with my atheism they all looked the same to me when it came to interpersonal relations. Some people used their church and religion as an excuse to do the good they wanted to do, others used it to manipulate and abuse others. Calling Mormonism a cult is like calling all religion a cult. Cult is a word used to insult and belittle and call names. It is not a very helpful term. Wether on is talking about Mormons or some other coup.

          • Most social scientists avoid the word “cult,” since there is no generally-accepted definition, and it does tend to boil down to “a religion I don’t like.” However, as a practical matter, some religious groups are more controlling and authority-centered than other ones. Mormonism (I mean the main group headquartered in Salt Lake City) has more of these tendencies than say, Episcopalianism, but fewer than Scientology (of course). Jewish groups vary greatly, as do their adherents, but some of them (not the majority) really are cults by any definition. I have never heard of a hyper-controlling Methodist church, but would not be surprised. (There are Presbyterian churches like this in Scotland.) Of course, the problem may well lie with the individual adherent.

            That said, I like most Mormons I run across, and am well aware that one can live a happy and fulfilling life as a member of that religion (unlike Scientology).

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I’ve heard “Cult” defined as “a religious group without political power.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Ask someone who lives in rural Utah how hard is it to be a Christian of any stripe, ex Mormon or a skeptic at all and live there. It’s hard.

      I heard similar from a California Mormon lawyer I used to know who had set up practice in a town in West Texas. He got similar hard treatment from the Southern Baptist majority there primarily because he was Mormon. (He told me he was snubbed, shunned, and refused service at restaurants and businesses because of his religion.) Seems to be a general tendency for a majority religion (or other belief system) to stomp on or drive off a minority Other. Like author Steven Barnes’ description of racism — “One tribe shaking its spears at the other” — plus pressing the advantage of numbers.

    • Final Anonymous says:

      Eagle, I don’t know if you remember, but you and I have “discussed” Mormonism on various boards before; I have a similar background and knowledge of the LDS church and have been interested in how similar fundamentalist theology and practice is starting to mirror it.

      If it makes you feel any better (and I’m not sure it will) — I also (regrettably) have knowledge and experience in political circles, and I don’t believe a Mormon’s religious ties are going to make as much difference as we might think. That’s because those kind of ties exist abundantly around and throughout the political world as well, and the scope of them make the LDS networking look petty and parochial by comparison.

      That kind of favoritism, dishonesty, phoniness, under the table, con artistry, etc. etc. will happen regardless of who is elected. Sadly.

      • The LDS does have strong ties in the business world. That’s true. And that’s not to say that corruption can’t exsit in other forms, or faiths. Many evangeliclas are corrupt. True I agree with you. I guess I think of how the LDS Church uses in influence in Utah. Would that be what we’d have if Romney is President?

        • Final Anonymous says:

          They’ll surely try, but from what I’ve seen in American Politics, there are Stronger and Darker forces that can easily override them.

          Cold comfort, isn’t it?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I have a similar background and knowledge of the LDS church and have been interested in how similar fundamentalist theology and practice is starting to mirror it.

        That’s because most of the tropes and characteristics of today’s Evangelicals (Fundies hadn’t yet coalesced into a tribal identity) came out of the Burned-Over District of 19th Century New York State (“burned out” by revival after revivial, One True Church after One True Church). The same time and place where Joseph Smith started his One True Restored Church. The same time, place, and cultural milieu. From that alone, I would expect a lot of similarities.

  5. Maybe BGEA is smartly choosing their battles, that’s all. I for one am glad to see BGEA avoid the politics of what Mormonism is and continue to boldly proclaim who Jesus is! May we all do the same!

    • But Tom, that is exactly what they are not doing! They are compromising their theological beliefs for political expediency.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        This is a real kicker considering the GOP primaries were all about “NOT THE MORMON! NOT THE MORMON! NOT THE MORMON! CULT! CULT! CULT!”

        • And now it’s come to this: Christians telling Christians that they’re not really Christians if they don’t vote for the Mormon.

          Oceania is at war with Eastasia and always has been, comrade.

          (Watching the debate just now and fed up. Taking an internetmonk break.)

    • Uh, but to paraphrase the late Dr. Walter Martin, Which Jesus? The failure to distinguish themselves mightily from a group that teaches a different Jesus and a different gospel is a fundamental theological failure and a disservice to the church. Nothing good will come of it.

      You can argue about whether they or we should call Mormonism a cult, but you can’t change the fact that it is not Christianity but purports to be, and that any Christian group that tries to gloss over that theological difference has capitulated rather than standing up for Christ.

      • Christianity today last week answered that question: it doesn’t matter in which “Jesus” you believe as long as we all believe that “Jesus” is our “savior”.

        • The Unification Church therefore is not a cult, because they, to believe “Christ” is their savior. Pay no attention to the fact that for them Sun Myung Moon is Christ. Praise the “Lord” and stuff the ballot boxes!

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Huh? How does someone avoid the politics of Mormonism by supporting a Mormon political candidate?

  6. Really. To a true SBC church attending Christian until recently, Anyone from the Roman and other Catholic (upper case “C”) faiths were also cults. Some even referred to American Baptists in such language.

    If we evangelicals can deal with what goes on TV as a part of our faith (on the edge but still in the circle) then we have a hard time drawing a line most anywhere.

  7. This just goes to show that too many Christians are worried about kingdoms of this earth, like the kingdom of america, rather than the Kingdom of God.

  8. Romney was governor of a state. How did he use his Mormonism to dictate or implement any policy change?

    JFK was a Catholic. Did the Pope end up running the country? Jimmy Carter was a Baptist. Did he bring back prohibition?

    Weird beliefs aside. These are executives, not Grand Poohbahs.

    • You’re missing the point, Steve. If BGEA wants to endorse Romney as a candidate that’s fine.

      But that is something different than removing their stated convictions about the Mormon religion from their publications.

      That is what’s being criticized here, not their support for Romney.

      • Yes. I hear you. I’m making a related point.

        That is allowed here…is it not.

        ___

        They are probably just scared to death, as many of us are, that this President who does not have American ideals, but European ones, will remain as President and this country may never recover from it.

  9. For the evangelical right and Graham, power/access/influence has always been more important than truth. Confirmed again today!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Not so much for Graham, after he got used by Nixon. That’s why I think this is BGEA brass invoking the old man’s name & signature for legitimacy.

      • Gordon R. says:

        “After he got used by Nixon”? You’re just saying that in hindsight, now that Nixon is remembered almost as a criminal. At the time, Graham thought he could benefit from Nixon’s popularity. So who was using whom? Why do these preachers hang around politicians, and make a show of advising them?

      • Why are we surprised? Billy Graham got invovled in the North Cariolina gay marriage amendment. This isn’t the first time he got invovled in poltics. And it will not be the last.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          If that NC gay marriage amendment was the one earlier this year, which Graham are we talking about? Billy himself (90 and a retired invalid) or Franklin (and the current BGEA staff) signing the old man’s name to HIS agenda?

  10. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Since we’re on the subject, here’s an appropriate music video, mashed-up from the works of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Lauren Faust.

  11. Maybe the BGEA realizes that this is an important election and does not want to sway or confuse voters by with information on a current candidate’s religion.

    Rightfully so. After the election, put up all the bad stuff about the false Christian religion.

    Would that not be the fair thing to do, for the sake of the election?

    I wouldn’t like it if they publicized just how many times Obama attended worship services or not.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Still, this is the same Romney who was vehemently rejected by Evangelicals in 2008 (despite being the most electable candidate on their Family Values front) just because he was Mormon. Now the same Evangelicals are all but telling us “God Saith Back the Mormon”. THAT is what gets me.

      Apparently “CULT! CULT! CULT!” don’t matter when the White House is within reach.

      Ave, Caesar.

    • Final Anonymous says:

      No, it’s not right, because they shouldn’t be involved in the election at all. At least not to the point of implying that God endorses one candidate / party over another, and to disagree would be going against God.

      If they were so concerned about wrongly influencing the voters, why didn’t they remove the Mormon information way back before the primary, when Romney’s religion would have been far more likely to sway the Republican primary voters from the “real” issues?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        f they were so concerned about wrongly influencing the voters, why didn’t they remove the Mormon information way back before the primary, when Romney’s religion would have been far more likely to sway the Republican primary voters from the “real” issues?

        Because at that time their “Great White Hope” was God’s Anointed POTUS du jour, from Saran Palin to what’s-her-face to Saint Sanctorum to Godly Gingrich — anybody but Teh Mormon. And God’s Anointed choice changed every week or two as the previous God’s Anointed POTUS bombed in the next primary.

    • What? Huh? I don’t understand? What does the BGEA’s stance on Mormonism have to do with the election? Shouldn’t the BGEA stand firm in their positions and statements regardless of what’s going on the world?

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Exactly, because the will of God (which I am assuming is the only thing this group cares about) is dependent on this election. If Obama wins, then God is rendered helpless, for we serve an all-needy, all-dependent, God. Hence, the BGEA has to get involved in politics.

  12. Dave K eh? says:

    Joseph Smith’s original intentions for Mormonism was to distinguish it from any and all Christian churches in existence at that time. When he supposedly had one of his conflicting versions of the famous “first vision”, he said that he asked God the Father & Jesus which church that he should join. He claimed that God the Father & Jesus told him that he should not join any of the churches “for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight” (Joseph Smith History 1:19)

    At some point Mormons must have decided that being separate from all of the other “abominations” known as Christianity was no longer convenient because it made them look outsiders and like a cult. Their PR machine & church leadership must have worked overtime to try to rid Mormonism of that image because any Mormon will tell you today that they are indeed Christians. (On You-tube, look up “I am a Mormon).

    I think it is very disturbing that Mormons try to cover up their history & doctrines and white wash one of the founding principles of their faith in order to blend in and give them a more acceptable image. They have done it before they will keep doing it until everyone is convinced that Mormonism is just another Christian church.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Joseph Smith’s original intentions for Mormonism was to distinguish it from any and all Christian churches in existence at that time.

      That would fit with a new “startup”. You want to distinguish your startup from all the similar existing “brands” out there. When you’re pitching yours as the One True Way, you must pitch all the Others as false/apostate/whatever. And Joseph Smith wasn’t the only one to do it that way. You see a similar pitch in any “One True Church” startup.

      And lets face it, Mormons ARE Southern Baptist Zombies. (Or Evangelical Zombies.) Clean-cut. Sexual Morality. Dry Pledge. No Smoking. Family Values. Respect for Authority. Missionaries Witnessing(TM). Tithing. America’s Christian Roots. One True Church founded directly by Christ, restored from the Great Apostasy. (Similar to Landmark Baptists, except without the claimed “Trail of Blood” historical trace.) And, unlike Evangelicals, they have a rep for taking care of their own in hard times — my writing partner says that’s the reason Mormons are making inroads in his part of the country. They do more than say “I’ll Pray for You(TM)” and cross on the other side of the road.

      I think it is very disturbing that Mormons try to cover up their history & doctrines and white wash one of the founding principles of their faith in order to blend in and give them a more acceptable image.

      Remember that everybody has stuff in their past they’d like to cover up. The question is, how much stuff and how bad?

      Now there IS an interesting angle to the origins of the Mormons. It had to do with a fringe-literature belief of the time (similar to today’s UFOlogy or Von Daniken Ancient Astronauts): The Mound Builders and fascination with the idea of Lost Civilizations.

      When white men first pushed west of the Appalachians, they ran into large-scale artifacts of the vanished Mississipian culture — great earth mounds, some with burials, some with artifacts, some just large artificial hills. No clue where they came from or who built them. The Mound Builders entered popular belief — the lost civilization which had built all those mounds where there were now only Red Savages who could not have possibly built such things. Lost WHITE race — exactly who depended on who was writing the book — Romans, Celts, Phonecians, Anglo-Saxons — and the Lost Tribes of Israel. Who must have built the Mounds before vanishing without a trace — maybe wiped out by the Red Savages?

      That was one of the common fringe beliefs of the time and place of Joseph Smith. Fascination with The Mystery of the Mound Builders, in both speculation and fiction. And the overall story arc of the Book of Mormon IS a story of the Mound Builders. Their origin, rise, and disappearance all following Mound Builder belief conventions.

      • “Lost WHITE race — exactly who depended on who was writing the book — Romans, Celts, Phonecians, Anglo-Saxons — and the Lost Tribes of Israel.”

        Don’t forget the early American stories of blue eyed “Indians” and the theory that Scandinavians made it all the way to the Mississippi River.

        • It’s funny you say that, because many Christians believe the earth is 6,000 years old and dinosaur bones were put there as a part of a massive conspiracy by liberals to subvert the Bible.

          By the same token, many Christians ought to be classified as belonging to a “cult.”

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Don’t forget the early American stories of blue eyed “Indians” and the theory that Scandinavians made it all the way to the Mississippi River.

          The “blue-eyed Indians” — that would have to be based on the Mandan tribe. The theory I heard about them was that they’d interbred with the survivors of Roanoke Colony or something similar.

          Now for you fringies, there’s the story of the name “Allegheny” and the 19th Century fringe stories of giant skeletons (with multiple sets of teeth) being found buried in mounds. The Allegheny were a legendary tribe of giant cannibals who were driven out of the land in the mythology of this one tribe. The tribe in the direction they were driven out also had a myth or legend — of hostile giants coming from the direction of the first tribe and being wiped out in war with the second. My guess is there was an “Allegheny” tribe, probably noticeably taller than the others around them (genetic drift) who practiced cannibalism (like the stories about the Tonkawa of Texas or the Attacapa of Louisiana).

          Now as for “Scandinavians made it to the Mississippi”, I’ll do you one better. In the deserts around the Salton Sea (just north of the Gulf of California) there’s this old prospector’s tale about a derelict Viking Longship revealed and hidden by the shifting desert sands; the more extreme version of the tale tells of the longship being stuck halfway up a mountainside like an arrow shot into the mountain. (This latter one also tells of the mountainside collapsing and burying all the evidence…)

    • “I think it is very disturbing that Mormons try to cover up their history & doctrines and white wash one of the founding principles of their faith in order to blend in and give them a more acceptable image.” Clearly, Billy Graham is meeting them half-way. Calling attention to a false gospel and a different Jesus is no longer considered politically correct

  13. Is it really a secret that evangelical THEOLOGY includes an unwritten, but very real mandate (believed to be from God Himself) to aiign the United States with their moral and political beliefs? I have been involved in evangelicalism for half a century, and for every mention of the Kingdom of God from pulpits, or the radio, there have been 25 for America. And now we are reaping a very unusual harvest our marriage to the Republican Party.

    The compromis boils down to this: We are in the sad position that our politics are more important to us than our theology. We would prefer the Republicans to win than for the Gospel of Jeus Christ to be unsullied. May the Lord be merciful . . .

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Is it really a secret that evangelical THEOLOGY includes an unwritten, but very real mandate (believed to be from God Himself) to aiign the United States with their moral and political beliefs?

      How does that differ from the Mormon urban legend of the White Horse Prophecy?

  14. This has Franklin’s fingerprints all over it. This is the guy that flew with Sarah Palin to Haiti, to see all the work he was doing – with taxpayer money through millions in USAID contracts. Poor Billy is helpless; in no condition to work this all by himself. His legacy is being shamelessly capitalized on; it isn’t this first time junior has just plain used him. It is so sad to see him exploited like this. The verse that comes to mind is, “when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go”. L. Nelson Bell must be rolling over in his grave at how politically craven and theologically shallow his grandson – the heir apparent – has turned out.

  15. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Another bit of bizarreness: I have a stepbrother who bears a close physical resemblance to Joseph Smith. (His family did come from the same part of the country as Joseph Smith, so it might be a common local ethnic look.)

  16. I recall in the early days of the “Moral Majority” Jerry Falwell downplaying theological differences in order to unit under the banner of moral values. Over thirty years later, here we are at the fulfillment of Jerry’s dream, where all that matters is political power and theology is a mere inconvenience. As Randianism slowly takes over the party platform, even the morality which supposedly unified us is fading away, being replaced with the economic agenda of Ayn Rand’s privileged class.. But here we are, still voting together like the lemmings we have become.

  17. The quest is the quest.

  18. “It’s true they’ve got morals,
    their values stand by their side,
    they can’t tell how they got them,
    they can’t tell you why.”
    – Andy McCarroll

  19. Personally, I couldn’t help but laugh when my evangelical friends would talk about Glenn Beck, and now Mitt Romney, in terms that made them sound like the “great Christian hope of America”. They’re both Mormons!

    Who will the Baptists vote for, now that the more conservative candidates belong to faith groups that they believe need evangelizing?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Depends which is more important — Christ or Family Values? God or the White House?

  20. The connotation of ‘cult’ as a deviant religious group developed in the 20th century from what appears to have originally been an attempt at a sociological distinction that become popularized. That popular modern usage of cult, as opposed to the traditional definition of a religious system of belief and ritual, is poorly enough defined that it’s not particularly useful.

    I also don’t think it’s correct to define Mormonism as a heretical Christian sect (which is a more useful descriptive term than cult) such as Arian, docetist, or other groups. (Though outside the boundaries of the historically rooted and continuing church traditions, it’s never been clear to me that ‘heretical’ — rooted in the idea of ‘to choose’ as in to choose something apart from the tradition of the Church — really has much meaning either.)

    If anything, I would describe it as a new religion spawned within the context of a predominantly Christian culture by a man who had a vision of an angel who told him that what passed for Christianity was false, named him a prophet of God, and provided him a new religious text. Of course, change the context from the 20th to the 7th century and that origin could, in general terms, be applied to Islam. I don’t think anyone would argue that Islam is anything but a different, new religion and not a Christian sect.

    And that’s not a value judgment on either Islam or Mormonism in and of itself. It’s just a description that from a Christian perspective, though influenced by Christianity, they are both distinct religions from Christianity. And their founders both clearly considered them distinct, correcting the errors into which Christianity had fallen with the true faith.

    Of course, even though an Islamic candidate would share many of their values and opinions on issues ranging from abortion to the death penalty, I can’t really see the evangelical culture warriors endorsing such a candidate. I’m unclear why Romney is any different from their perspective.

  21. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    For what it’s worth, here’s a bad copy of the South Park version (which is shall we say skeptical of JS).

  22. The quesion is will the Mormon win the election or will the man win the election.

  23. WOW – I am very surprised that Franklin Graham took such as stand AGAINST Obama by deciding to refuse to have contact with him, but is now taking such a remarkable stance in favor of Mitt Romney by removing a mormon cult reference.

    How is that not one sided?

    Also, when has their ever been any debate that Mormonism isn’t a cult? I’ve always known it to be pretty widely agreed by 90% of Christendom that Mormonism, is in fact, a cult, but the literal definition of what a cult is.

    This has certainly made me lose some respect for BGEA

  24. It seems the point of the article is that Evangelicals have for decades taken the position that Mormonism is a cult. (This is true. When I was involved in Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship decades ago, I passed out pamphlets explaining why Mormonism is a cult.) But now, with a Republican Mormon candidate, the BGEA has apparently changed its tune regarding Mormonism.

    Romney’s candidacy has placed anti-Obama Evangelicals in a predicament — how can they justify supporting a candidate who is a member of a cult? One way, apparently, is to deny that Mormonism is a cult. (Another way is to deny that Romney’s Mormon beliefs have any bearing on his duties as President.)

    For the last few years, I’ve been hearing that American Mormonism has been losing its younger members in droves, due in no small part to the availability of unfiltered information about the faith and its founder(s) on the internet. This would have been an opportune time for Evangelicals to take the lead in making a clear-eyed examination of the Mormon faith.

    But instead, the leaders of Evangelical Christianity have declined to engage in dialogue about Mormonism and has chosen politics over doctrine. It’s another blow to the credibility of Evangelicalism.

  25. Marcus Johnson says:

    I have no intention of voting for Romney, but it has everything to do with his politics and nothing to do with his faith. Can someone please tell me what the conspiracy theorists with the tin foil hats and secret bunkers think is going to happen, should Romney be elected office? Will we be forced to wear magic pajamas? Will the White House be moved to Salt Lake City? And if so, does Romney actually have a plan for how he will pay for the master plan of LDS dominance over America (or is he just planning on “closing loopholes” for that, too)?

    In case you’re wondering, yes, I did just make fun of both Romney and his LDS-fearing foes in the same post. I am so proud of myself.

    • What would happen to America’s spiritual landscape if Romney were to be elected?

      The main outcome is that Mormonism would be validated. No, wait — thanks to the support of the Anyone-But-Obama evangelicals, that’s already happened. Mormonism has been deculted.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Sorry, Art, but you’ll have to clarify what you mean when you use the term “validated.” Will Americans be required to make an annual pilgrimage to the planet Kolob? Will the federal government force traditional Christian denominations to read from and study the book of Mormon? More importantly, will it convince the creators of “South Park” to get off their butts and finally make a movie version of “The Book of Mormon,” so I don’t have to schlep all the way down to Chicago to see the stage musical?

      The deculting of Mormonism, however, is a real shame. I was looking forward to dragging a few of those Mormon missionary kids into a shallow stoning pit. Now we’ll have to recognize them as a valid faith tradition and respect their right to practice their own beliefs, along with those pesky Muslims (insert mock sad face here).

      • “Now we’ll have to recognize them as a valid faith tradition …” Yes, that’s what I meant by “validated.” However, having the right to practice their own beliefs has never been in question, as is the case with Muslims, Druids, Pantheists, and what have you.