Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Is Mormonism a Cult? News selections

Excerpts of FAIR's Front Page,  Below are a sampling of news items regarding Rick Perry's introducer calling Mormons a cult and the ensuing fallout.

How do Mormons answer 'not Christian' claims? By Michael Otterson [a spokesperson for the LDS Church] Washington Post

I had been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter -day Saints for just a few days when I encountered my first experience of anti-Mormon prejudice.

...A couple of days after my baptism ... a young woman of my age who simply declared, with self-assurance indistinguishable from arrogance: "But you're not Christian and you don't believe in forgiveness." It was not a question, but a declaration, delivered with a finality reminiscent of a judge's gavel rendering verdict on a hapless miscreant.

She was a high-church Anglican, and the ensuing conversation wasn't pretty. I

[Otterson uses an example of anti-Mormonism as a clear example of unfounded bigotry that is demonstrably not true (that Mormons don't believe in forgiveness) .  This example also steers the conversation away from doctrinal differences between Mormons and evangelical Christians]


Mormonism, Democracy, and the Urgent Need for Evangelical Thinking,  Christian Post

The answer to that question is definitive. Mormonism does not claim to be just another denomination of Christianity. To the contrary, the central claim of Mormonism is that Christianity was corrupt and incomplete until the restoration of the faith with the advent of the Latter-Day Saints and their scripture, The Book of Mormon. Thus, it is just a matter of intellectual honesty to take Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, at his word when he claimed that true Christianity did not exist from the time of the Apostles until the reestablishment of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods on May 15, 1829.

From a Christian perspective, Mormonism is a new religion, complete with its own scripture, its own priesthood, its own rituals, and its own teachings. Most importantly, those teachings are a repudiation of historic Christian orthodoxy - and were claimed to be so from the moment of Mormonism's founding forward. Mormonism rejects orthodox Christianity as the very argument for its own existence, and it clearly identifies historic Christianity as a false faith.


Romney asks Perry to disavow pastor, Perry says no, Boston Globe

...  "I would call upon Gov. Perry to repudiate the sentiment and the remarks made by that pastor," Romney said at a news conference in Lebanon, N.H., hours before a GOP presidential debate.

Perry, through a spokesman, refused to disavow the pastor, Robert Jeffress, who heads a 10,000-strong Baptist congregation in Dallas.

Romney's challenge on a highly charged, emotional issue raises the specter of religious bigotry and brings into sharper focus the difficulty Romney faces in appealing to evangelical Christians, a bed rock of Republican support.


Perry's son weighs in on Mormon flap, CNN

The younger Perry was asked about the flap during a question and answer session with a group of Dartmouth College students ahead of Tuesday evening's GOP presidential debate.

"You can't control what people who endorse you say," Perry answered. "Mitt Romney has said that Jesus Christ is his savior. That makes him a Christian."


Sorry, pastor: Mormons are better Americans, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

On a purely doctrinal level, there's no denying that Mormonism and what many consider "historic Christianity" part ways on significant theological points.

Despite the fact that the continent-hopping Christ who appears in the book of Mormon is the very model of American exceptionalism, Protestants and Catholics aren't in the mood to grant legitimacy to a savior who somehow got to the Americas before Columbus did.

The irony is that as embodiments of America's civic religious ideal, Mormons put adherents of every other group to shame. They're patriotic, highly educated, entrepreneurial, conservative to a fault and obedient to authority.

Because of their reputation for "clean living," Mormons are disproportionately represented in our foreign and intelligence services, although not in the military. They're self-disciplined, multilingual and optimistic. Until the 1970s, they even had a problem with black people, which is also very American.

Unlike the Southern Baptists whose divorce rate is as high as the "unbelievers" they sneer at, Mormons have maintained strong families in defiance of American trends. The Amish could go toe-to-toe with them as the group that most consistently lives up to its own ideals, but they're not much help during this phase of the implosion of the American empire.


Goldberg: Mormon religion shares Judeo-Christian values, Houston Chronicle

Is Mormonism a cult? Yes, no, maybe, who cares? From a Jewish perspective, you could say that Mormonism is simply one of the more recent additions to a very long line of cults. From an atheist perspective, it's cults as far as the eye can see.

But from a moral perspective, contemporary Mormonism is squarely within the Judeo-Christian tradition, promoting decency, self-restraint, family values, etc.

The old Moral Majority had its flaws, but its core mission was admirable: to promote moral unity under the banner of theological pluralism. However you worship, if you shared the same "traditional values" you could work together. Jeffress turns all that on its head.

He also plays into the worst stereotypes about the Republicans as a bigoted and theocratic party for evangelical Christians alone. And that's ironic, too, because anti-Mormon prejudice is not a particularly acute problem on the right. According to Gallup, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they'd never vote for a Mormon presidential candidate (27 percent compared with 18 percent). Meanwhile, a Quinnipiac poll of voters taken earlier this year says 68 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of independents are comfortable with a Mormon president, while only 49 percent of Democrats are.

It's good and right that Perry is distancing himself from Jeffress. Then again, maybe he put Jeffress up to this stunt in the first place so the idea would get out without him taking the heat for it.


Anti-Mormonism: 'the prejudice of our age', Deseret News

Referring to anti-Mormonism as "the prejudice of our age," columnist William Saletan of uses an impressive collection of research data to make his point that "the prejudices you need to work on aren't the ones you recognize in your grandparents' generation. They're the ones you don't recognize in your own generation, and in yourself."

Saletan, who writes about science, technology and religion for Slate, contrasted the response of Republican presidential candidates to last week's story about a rock with a racist word written on it at Gov. Rick Perry's family hunting camp to the response of those same candidates to last weekend's attacks on Mitt Romney's membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"The gap between these two episodes -- clear condemnations of racism, but silence and ambiguity about anti-Mormonism -- illustrates a fundamental weakness in our understanding of bigotry," Saletan writes. "We're always fighting the last war. We hammer a politician's connection to prejudice against blacks ... because nearly everyone recognizes this bigotry as bigotry. Denouncing it is easy.

"What's hard," he continues, "is speaking out against a bias that isn't so widely recognized. It's politically difficult because challenging a common prejudice could cost you votes. And it's morally difficult because the biases of your era are hard to see."


I'm a Mormon billboard campaign about ending myths, not Mitt Romney, spokesman says

October 11, 2011

Westword (CO)

"I'm a Mormon," announce billboards currently popping up in Denver -- and the timing of their appearance have suggested to some observers that they're intended to boost the presidential aspirations of Mitt Romney, the present frontrunner in the GOP presidential sweepstakes. But a local spokesman insists that's not so.


Unforced errors will kill 'ya, Washington Post

I asked Herman Cain's spokesman if Cain would repudiate Jeffress's bigotry, as the Anti-Defamation League had called for. His spokesman responded by e-mail: "Mr. Cain has already spoken several times on the record on this issue. Please refer to transcript of Sunday shows on CNN + CBS." But was he simply ignoring the ADL's request out of hand? No answer.


ADL Calls on Presidential Candidates to Reject Bigotry After Pastor Calls Mormonism a 'Cult', Anti-Defamation League

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called on each of the Republican presidential candidates and other political leaders to reject appeals based on religion and to condemn religious, racial or ethnic bigotry during the campaign.


Mormonism and the Presidency, Townhall

Does Mitt Romney, an elder and former missionary of the Mormon Church, believe he will one day be a god...equal to Jesus...ruling his own planet?   Does he agree with Mormon teaching that Jesus and Satan are brothers?  That America is the Promised Land where Jesus will return one day to rule from the Garden of Eden, which Mormons believe to be Jackson County, Missouri?  And do American voters have the right to know this?...

So now again come questions about Mormonism and Mitt Romney.   Dr. Robert Jeffress, Pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas declared in an interview after introducing Governor Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit that Mormonism is a cult.

To my knowledge there have been no follow-up questions to Dr. Jeffress to ask why he believes that.  But there has been a quick rush to discredit him for saying it and another one to demand other hapless Republicans declare or defend what he said.  No one seems to have asked Mitt Romney what he actually believes that might be of concern.


Another Racial Misstep for Perry?

October 11, 2011

The Nation

Speaking at Bob Jones could also be considered an endorsement of anti-Mormonism. In 2000, then-president Bob Jones III referred, on the university's webpage, to Mormons and Catholics as "cults which call themselves Christian."

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