In the early 1900s one of my Dad’s relatives was the governor of Utah, so our family has deep roots in the Mormon Church. One Sunday, I asked our congregation if they knew what a cult was. Only a few raised their hands. In the last few years, an evangelical pastor publicly proclaimed that Mormons were not Christians and that the LDS (Later Day Saints) is a cult.
Well, when you throw a stick into a chicken coop – the chicken that cackles the loudest is the one that got hit by the stick. (Yes – feel free to repeat that) We all saw the generally anti-Christian media throw a fit. When asked, Governor Perry of TX and (former) Sen. Rick Santorum of PA said that they didn’t think Mormonism is a cult. Ignorance, cowardice, or pandering? When Romney ran against Ted Kennedy in 1994 for his Senate seat the same issue was raised by the Left and the media gave Kennedy a pass.
As you no doubt know, Joseph Smith – the founder of the LDS, claimed that an angel appeared to him and gave him the information that later became the book of Mormon. Paul addresses this in Galatians 1:8. “But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”
Every President since Washington has claimed to be a Christian. It’s probably clear to most of us who know what a real Christian is that many – if not most – of the Commanders in Chief were cultural Christians, not born again, blood-washed children of God.
Perhaps it is true that politicians who are now affirming that Mormonism is truly Christian are simply ignorant of the LDS facts. If you are a pastor or Christian worker you do not have the option of not knowing. The best synopsis I have read is from the late Walter Martin in his bestselling book, Kingdom of the Cults. For a shorter but very helpful understanding of Smith and the origins of the LDS, Wikipedia does a pretty good job. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith,_Jr. Now, our main job is not to educate our people as to the intricacies of all the cults. However this issue is front and center today and a cult member is running for President.
As church planters we are going to be quickly “branded” in our community as to who/what we are. So, what to say then? My suggestion: speak of things like this only after a relationship with the listener has been established and you have earned the right to be heard privately. NEVER put controversial opinions in writing. And remember, most energy you spend not propelling your new church to critical mass is energy wasted. Passion is a precious but limited commodity. Save yours for your new church. I planted my first church when Jimmy Carter was running for President. Today most people under forty don’t know anything about Carter, but that church is still packed to the walls every Sunday and is still changing lives in that community. So, while being vigilant of the battle that rages in the heavenlies, let’s keep our eyes on the prize!