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October 8, 2011

Pastor Robert Jeffers of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, created a little bit of a dust-up by saying that Mormonism is a cult, not genuine Christianity.

When compared to groups like People’s Temple and Children of God, Mormonism certaintly isn’t a cult. Yes, they have secret, members-only rituals. Yes, they have claims to special, Mormon-only knowledge of God. Yes, they disallow disagreement with Church authority. The Mormons have a long, well-documented history of exclusive spirituality (they’re the only ones, the only true Church, etc.). But in the more imflammatory context of the extreme groups, I’d say “cults” is perhaps the wrong term.

I agree with Pastor Jeffers’ meaning, however. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is only Christian by their self-defining use of the term. Even a group as broad and liberal as the National Council of Churches doesn’t allow the LDS/Mormon Church to belong because their views are so far out of the norm. For Catholics and Orthodox and magisterial Protestants, the LDS reject the Creeds, the Church Fathers, the Canon of Scripture, the Sacraments, and so much more. For evangelical and charismatic Christians, the LDS add to the Bible, reject the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, salvation by grace, and other definitively Christian teachings.

There is another cult at work, however. In watching news reports on Pastor Jeffer’s remarks – and their close connection to Gov. Perry – I was struck by the lack of disagreement allowed in American speech.

It is still a free country and Pastor Jeffers have the right to say what they want, as they want to, especially on religious matters.

“Journalists” not only question Pastor Jeffers’ expressed opinion, but their attitude expresses disdain for his theology. The likes of Anderson Cooper appear to be a members-only attitude about themselves. Though they broadcast dissenting opinions, it is clear when someone like Pastor Jeffers appears that they do not like disagreement with the accepted norm. (This is also seen when it comes to Christian people disagreeing with Islam… the mainstream media outlets feature extremists like the guy who wanted to burn Korans, not sensible Christians who intelligently disagree with Mohammedanism.)

Journalists are cult-like in their long, well-documented history of exclusive spirituality. When was the last time NBC or CBS used a scholar from Wheaton or Malone, Anderson or Dallas? If ever, I’d be surprised. They are easily drawn to the liberal schools – Princeton, Chicago, Harvard, etc. – when it comes to theological opinion.

The fact that Huntsman and Romney are both Mormons makes Pastor Jeffers’ statements seem more imflammatory, but they are no less true. Huntsman and Romney may be good men, good Republicans, good elected officials, but they are also Mormons and as such, they are far out of the Christian mainstream.

And Pastor Jeffers (and I) have a right to say it in a free country.



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