Yesterday a friend of mine posted a link to an article on the TIME website titillatingly titled “Billy Graham No Longer Thinks Mormonism Is a Cult.”
For those of you who don’t know, Billy Graham’s name has long been synonymous with “famous Christian guy.” To put that into more quantitative terms, he has been spiritual adviser to US presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, and as of 2008 has had an estimated lifetime audience of 2.2 billion. Christians the world over look to him to be a powerful representative of their faith.
Roughly two weeks ago US presidential candidate, and Mormon, Mitt Romney visited Graham at his home. At some point during their time together, the 93-year-old Evangelist told him, “I will do all I can to help you.”
Shortly after this the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association [BGEA] took down a reference to Mormonism as a cult on its website.
This has, as most any action in the political sphere, provoked all sorts of public outcry, some of it mild, some of it extreme to the point that Graham’s whole ministry has been dubbed “a sham.” Basically your typical response to an event that combines two of the conversation topics you’re not allowed to bring up at the dinner table.
The viewpoint of Mormonism by mainstream Christianity aside, what’s truly important is what the man himself believes. While on the BGEA website I found an actual answer by Billy Graham, undated, to the question “What is your definition of a cult, and how do cults differ from Christianity?” His answer is as follows:
Cults differ widely from each other, of course, but they often have several characteristics in common. (Your local Christian bookstore can suggest some books that describe cults in more detail.)
One characteristic is that cults reject the basic beliefs of the Christian faith—beliefs that Christians have held in common for almost 2,000 years. Instead, they say they alone have a full understanding of the truth about God, and the only way to know the truth is to be part of their group. Many cults have their own writings also, which they either substitute for the Bible or add to the Bible.
Cults also often have a strong leader—one who demands total obedience, and actually claims to speak for God. This is very dangerous, of course, because he or she may lead others into disaster. Remember: Only Christ is worthy of our allegiance, for only He is God’s Son. The Bible says, “Through him you believe in God … so your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:21).
Pray for your brother and ask God to help you share Christ’s love with him. Cult members are often very resistant to outsiders, but pray that in time he will see this group’s false claims. Most of all, may his experience challenge you and your family to a deeper commitment to Christ.
Let’s break down his definition in regards to the Mormon faith.
- Cults reject the basic beliefs of the Christian faith.
When it comes down to the bare basics, and concentrating on the personhood and divinity of Jesus Christ, they’re pretty spot on. “Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the Son of God. He is our Redeemer.” Judging by this singular belief I suppose Mormonism would not be considered a cult.
- Many cults have their own writings also, which they either substitute for the Bible or add to the Bible.
The Book of Mormon. People know about this because it is also the name of a popular Broadway musical. From their website it is apparently viewed as an addition, not a substitution, to the Bible. It is also a book which “contains the history and God’s dealings with the people who lived in the Americas between approximately 600 BC and 400 AD.”
- Cults also often have a strong leader—one who demands total obedience, and actually claims to speak for God.
The head of the Church of Latter-Day Saints is known as the President of the Church. According to their Doctrine and Covenants, this man is the only one empowered to receive revelation for the entire church and clarify doctrine. Presidents can also correct or change any previous teachings.
Judging by the qualities of cults that Billy Graham lists, Mormonism hits two out of three. Why is it then that his organization took down the reference to the Church of Latter-Day Saints as a cult?
Ken Barun, the organization’s chief of staff, is quoted as as saying: “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.”
Have politics, then, trumped religion in this case? A debate on faith is avoided in order to bypass a possible issue of contention with a presidential candidate, one that Graham directly endorses. Cults are described as groups that espouse “false claims,” but apparently that can be ignored in light of Romney’s campaign.
While it is unfair to cite the holy life Billy Graham has lived as invalid in light of his recent actions, his decision should nonetheless be viewed for what it is: a sign of weakness in prioritizing the politics of this world over a commitment to spiritual truth.