Friday a Rick Perry endorser, Robert Jeffress, who is the Pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX said that Mitt Romney’s church – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was a “cult.”:
It was no ordinary opener from the prominent Southern Baptist Convention leader, Pastor Robert Jeffress, who endorsed Perry on Friday. Jeffress praised Perry for defunding Planned Parenthood in Texas, calling the provider of women’s health and abortion services, “that slaughterhouse for the unborn.”
He also lauded Perry’s “strong commitment to biblical values.”
“Do we want a candidate who is skilled in rhetoric or one who is skilled in leadership? Do we want a candidate who is a conservative out of convenience or one who is a conservative out of deep conviction?” Jeffress said. “Do we want a candidate who is a good, moral person — or one who is a born-again follower of the lord Jesus Christ?”
Jeffress called Perry a “genuine follower of Jesus Christ.” The pastor did not mention Perry’s rival Mitt Romney by name, but he told reporters after his remarks on Friday that Mormonism was a “cult.”
Reporters *naturally* had to ask Governor Perry whether or not he agreed with Pastor Jeffress because that is *such* a controversial statement. He said that he didn’t believe that it is a cult.
So what is the definition of a cult? Many people will automatically think of Heaven’s Gate, David Koresh, animal sacrifice, and Satan worship when they think of the world cult. Most cults are much more innocuous than that. Every religion of the world has sects within that would be considered cults – groups that grow out of and deviate from the parent religion. In the Christian context, a good definition of what a cult is would be this: A group or movement that identifies itself as being Christian, but that embraces a doctrinal system which denies one or more of the central tenants of the Christian faith taught in the Bible.
Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM) provides a succinct list of beliefs expressed by Mormon writers. If you read through it and see what they believe about God, Jesus Christ, salvation, and pre-existence you would come to the realization that hey “that isn’t what the Bible teaches.” For example In Articles of Faith James Talmage, (he was an Apostle of the LDS Church from 1911-1933) that good works are necessary for salvation, (pg. 92). Also Spencer W. Kimball, former President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints wrote in his book, Miracle of Forgiveness, that “”One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation,” (pg. 206).
What does the Bible teach? Ephesians 2:8-9 lay it out pretty clearly, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast,” (ESV). Jesus Himself would disagree with Kimball. He said to Martha after the death of her brother Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die,’ (John 11:25-26, ESV). There are numerous verses that affirm that salvation come from Jesus’ death and resurrection and is by grace alone through faith alone – our works mean nothing.
Does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints meet the definition of a cult of Christianity? Yes, they do not not teach or believe in the basic tenants of the Christian faith. This shouldn’t be controversial, it’s simply a fact. I understand they use similar language, but when I say, for instance, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God I mean the eternal 2nd Person of the Trinity who in the Incarnation was born of a virgin and was both fully God and fully man. That is what the Bible teaches. That isn’t what a Mormon missionary standing on my front step would mean however.
So when Governor Perry said that the LDS Church is not a cult he was either ignorant of their teachings, trying to pander to those who belong to the Mormon faith, or trying to dodge another controversy. If the it is the first then he demonstrates a lack of maturity in his understanding of the Christian faith. I would be concerned if I were his pastor. If it is the second, well, there’s a typical politician for you and Mormons should be offended. If he thinks he’s just avoiding a controversy, how well does he think that statement will play with Iowa’s evangelicals? Oops.
He would have been better off saying that this question isn’t relevant to how he would govern and that he would be President of both Mormons and Christians, Catholics and Jews, Muslims and Buddhists, etc. He is to be the Commander-in-Chief, not the Theologian-in-Chief. He could have chided reporters for trying to promote identity politics and stir up dissension.
But he didn’t instead he stepped in it.