Mormonism, Christianity, and Me – Part 1
I said to my wife about two weeks ago that it was just a matter of time before Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith became a BIG issue nationally. Robert Jeffress, pastor of FBC Dallas, became the ignition for this explosion over the weekend when he called Mormonism a cult in his introductory remarks of Rick Perry. Jeffress has since been under direct attack and any friends he has in politics, Rick Perry included, have begun to distance themselves from him.
Now all things Mormon are at the forefront. I’ve even had folks from my own congregation emailing me, asking me what I think about this whole business of Mormonism and Christianity. What exactly makes a religious group a cult? Are Mormons Christians? Should a Christian vote for a Mormon? Should one’s faith (or lack thereof) even play a role in politics and the casting of one’s vote?
To be sure Dr. Jeffress broke the “politically correct” code by calling out Romney’s faith as a cult. But lost in the discussion is the answer to the burning question: Is he right? Is Mormonism a cult?
The word “cult” in and of itself is a distasteful word that conjures up images of people in black sweats eating poisoned applesauce, or a military type strike on a compound in Waco, Texas, leaving everyone burned to death. Cults are for crazies. Or at least that is what we think when we hear the word. And that is exactly the problem with applying the word to Mormons. They aren’t crazy. They eat perfectly safe applesauce. And they don’t live in compounds defying the government. The word just doesn’t “feel” right when talking about Mormons.
So what makes a group a cult? It depends on what you are comparing it to. From a Christian perspective (which is the perspective of Dr. Jeffress) a group is considered a cult if it meets certain criteria:
1. They distort the person and work of Jesus Christ.
2. They distort the Bible by changing it, adding to it, or deleting from it.
3. They have a central figure that is, or almost is, a deity.
So let’s put Mormonism up against these three criteria: 1) Mormons claim that Jesus is NOT God. They thus deny the Trinity. They also claim that Jesus and Lucifer are spirit brothers. 2) Mormons insist only on the King James Version of the Bible with a few minor “revisions” on their part. They do not claim that the Bible is inerrant and they have added to the canon of Scripture with the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. 3) Joseph Smith is their first prophet. He was told by an angel that all churches are apostate and that he alone was called to restore the true church. He thus becomes the voice of God/Deity to his followers.
Applying these three criteria to Mormonism it would appear that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormon church’s formal name) is indeed a cult. Robert Jeffress is right. But it is just unacceptable to say so in public because we don’t do that sort of thing in the United States anymore. Truth is relative, and telling the truth regarding faith issues is completely off-limits. We want nothing but a “touchy, feely” everybody is right, everybody goes to heaven Common Faith in our country. ANYTHING other than this is considered, rude, intolerant, closed-minded, bigoted, etc….even if you are correct in your comments.
My wife asked me if I would have done what Robert Jeffress did – call Mormonism a cult in public.
I think I just did….
Coming next: Should a Christian vote for a Mormon?