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Billy Graham Endorses Mitt Romney, But Graham Magazine Says Mormons Aren't Christians

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[update 10/15/2012: as I explain in a new story, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website itself appears hard-coded to identify Mormons as members of a cult]

"We heard from Christians who were once Mormons" -- from the subtitle of an article published May 2008, in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association magazine Decision

Are Mormons Christians? According to a 2008 article in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's Decision magazine, authored by the CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention's publishing wing LifeWay Resources, the answer would seem to be "no".

This new revelation of high-profile evangelical anti-Mormon bigotry comes immediately in the wake of an embarrassing discovery, by a gay rights group, that the website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has also branded Mormonism a "cult". On October 11, 2012 superstar evangelist Billy Graham emerged from semi-retirement to pray with, and in effect endorse, presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Then, on October 12, the LGBT rights group The New Civil Rights Movement broke the news that even as Graham was meeting with Romney, a page on the website of Graham's nonprofit the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association identified Mormonism as a "cult".

While the offending page pointed out by the New Civil Rights Movement story was almost immediately scrubbed from the BGEA website (a cached version of the page can still be viewed at the Internet Archive), it was not the only page on the Graham organization website that claims Mormonism, a religion which now encompasses millions of members around the world, is not Christian.

Attempts by Graham and his BGEA to walk back these anti-Mormon slurs will be complicated by the fact of widespread anti-Mormon bigotry within American Protestant evangelicalism, and because within the global evangelical Lausanne movement that Graham helped launch in 1974, the teaching that Mormonism is a cult has become accepted doctrine.

A May 1, 2008 story published in Decision magazine, by author Thom S. Ranier, with the title "The Unexpected Journey" featured a subheading which clearly identified  Mormonism as non-Christian:

"A few years ago, my wife, Nellie Jo, and I traveled across America listening to Christians who formerly held other beliefs. We heard from Christians who were once Mormons, Hindus, Jehovah's Witnesses, agnostics, witches, Buddhists, Unitarians, New Agers, Muslims, Satanists and non-Messianic Jews."

Thom S. Ranier is President and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, the main publishing wing of the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination which claims 16 million members, in 45,000 churches across the U.S.

LifeWay publishes several books explicitly attacking Mormonism and advising believers on how to evangelize Mormons, including Philip Roberts' 1998 Mormonism Unmasked. In an October 2011 Baptist press op-ed, Roberts wrote,

"Mormonism is clearly, absolutely, completely, and thoroughly a "religious cult." And while the word "cult" may be less than academic, it still carries popular meaning when used in a doctrinal sense as Dr. Jeffress has done. "

In 2011 at the high profile Voter Values Summit in Washington D.C., prominent Texan Southern Baptist Convention pastor Robert Jeffress, shortly before Mitt Romney took the stage for a speech, declared Mormonism to be a "cult". Jeffress subsequently endorsed Romney's presidential candidacy.

You can read the extended version of this story here

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