By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - Shortly after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney enjoyed cookies and soft drinks with the Rev. Billy Graham and his son Franklin Graham on Thursday at the elder Graham's mountaintop retreat, a reference to Mormonism as a cult was scrubbed from the website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
In a section of the website called Billy Graham's My Answer there had been the question "What is a cult?"
Answer: "A cult is any group which teaches doctrines or beliefs that deviate from the biblical message of the Christian faith."
"Some of these groups are Jehovah's Witnesess, Mormons, the Unification Church, Unitarians, Spritualists, Scientologists, and others," the site continued.
No longer. On Tuesday, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association confirmed that page has recently been removed from the site.
“Our primary focus at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Ken Barun, chief of staff for the association, told CNN in a statement. "We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign."
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Romney is a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, members of which are known as Mormons.
The information about cults can be found on cached sections of the website on Archive.org from June 5, 2010.
The theological question of where Mormons fit on the religious spectrum has drawn more attention because of Romney's candidacy. Mormons consider themselves to be strong Christians. Many traditional Christian denominations disagree, though rank-and-file members have their own views on the matter.
The removal of the post from the Graham group's website was first noted by the New Civil Rights Movement website and then later by the Asheville Citizen-Times, which reported that the information on cults was accessed as recently as Thursday afternoon.
Last week's meeting between Romney and Graham was their first.
After the 30 minute sit-down in Montreat, North Carolina, just outside Asheville, Romney campaign spokesman Rick Gorka told reporters that Billy Graham led a prayer for the Romneys, saying "I'll do all I can to help you. And you can quote me on that."
The evangelist who has been called America's pastor and has prayed with every American president since Harry Truman said in a statement following the meeting that "It was a privilege to pray with Gov. Romney — for his family and our country."
Graham met with President Barack Obama in 2010 and with Sen. John McCain when he was the presumptive Republican presidential nominee in 2008.
"I will turn 94 the day after the upcoming election, and I believe America is at a crossroads," Graham's statement continued. "I hope millions of Americans will join me in praying for our nation and to vote for candidates who will support the biblical definition of marriage, protect the sanctity of life and defend our religious freedoms."
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When asked about Graham's beliefs about Mormonism, Graham spokesman A. Larry Ross said in a statement that "Through an inclusive evangelistic ministry spanning more than 60 years, Mr. Graham was called to preach the transformative message of the Gospel to the whole world, regardless of one’s religious background, affiliation or none. As such, he never proselytized, targeted or labeled specific people, groups, faiths or denominations.
"Neither did Mr. Graham attempt to divide his audience before he had opportunity to preach to them. He has a genuine love for all people, and faithfully proclaimed the love of God to everyone, providing opportunity for them to respond by making a faith commitment.
"Mr. Graham’s calling is not to pass judgment, but to proclaim the biblical truth that Jesus is the only way to heaven, allowing every individual and group to fall along that plumb line," the statement went on.
"He further stressed that salvation is the work of Almighty God, and that only He knows what is in each human heart," the statement said.
The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, lists the LDS Church as a theological cult. The Catholic Church also does not recognize Mormon baptisms as being theologically compatible with its own.
The LDS Church has long bristled at being called a cult. Mormons note the many similarities and overlap between their teachings and that of other churches but point to their belief in other scriptures like the Book of Mormon as the reason they split with other churches.
In the 2012 campaign Romney has been generally quiet about his church, though his role as a lay church leader was prominently featured in the Republican National Convention, and his campaign has allowed members of the press pool accompanying Romney to film him attending services.
No, it is not ridiculous. The only reason he took off the reference is because he wants Romney and not Obama. Otherwise, it would still be there. Nice try though.
So, it's OK with Billy Graham if God is a 6' 2" blond man who lives on the planet Golob? Boy, I guess partisan politics and race trumps faith.
The church has now been swallowed up by the Republican party. THE TRUE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST IS BUILT UPON THE WORD OF THE LIVING GOD.
Which living god?
Politics trumps religion
Religion is nothing more than a political position now.
Graham foundation is a political organization, period! They will favor a Mormon over a Christian to the extent that Mormonism is no longer a cult? Shame on you, all those who worked to remove Mormonism from the cult list! If it is a purely religious organization, why don't they stick with the Christian agenda? At least, that will make them credible. This only shows their organization is simply a Republican proxy. Answer, Rev. Graham, please!
I used to support Graham, when disavowed Evangelical extremism, but he decided to get on the money wagon about 20 years ago and showed his true colors.
He, in his senility, has made a mockery of what Christianity is all about.
I thought they were different, but ALL religion winds up being about money.
Hahahahahahaha – Billy Graham does NOT know enough theology to know that the Mormon god is Not the same as the Judea Christian god .
Toooo funny when the head of a big religious group is ignorant of basic theology !
I guess Graham's group prefer a white guy who subscribes to a different god over a black guy who believes in their god .
Harsh part is I spilled my coffee when I fell out of my chair laughing about these mental lite weights . . .
Graham is an old man., mentally debilitated. He is, and has been, horribly manipulated and used by GOP heartless and evil spin masters.
If you want to roll back the calendar 25 years, you will see him disavowing the evangelical movement. In fact, many of the fundamentalists clowns on TV were even questioning his salvation.
His organization caved in just for the money.
Romney/Ryan announced their partnership last August in front of a Navy battleship, even though neither of them served one day in the U.S. military. Draw your own your conclusion as to whether or not these fellows are the real deal or snake oil salesmen.
Yeah, but it was the USS Wisconsin, and since Ryan's a congressman from Wisconsin, that makes it legit.
I'm sorry, but for a 90+ man to betray his beliefs for Politics is just about the most sad think I've ever heard...and for Romney, a lying, failed candidate? That's pathetic!
do you even think that this 90+ year old man has any idea what is going on here?
Graham's only belief always was politics. And his fame. Two things. Graham's only to beliefs were always politics and fame . . . and wealth. Which is almost two things except it is one more. Okay, three things, Graham's three real beliefs have always been politics, fame, wealth, and a fanatical devotion to helmet-hair-inducing hair care products. Four. Many.
Oh never mind.
This was clearly a political move. Is anyone going to pretend that Mormonism was taken off of Graham's list of cults for any reason other than the fact that the GOP candidate for president is Mormon?
ALL religions are CULTS ! Nuff said !
"Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" (Matthew 7:22-23)
Lots of people call Jesus "Lord"...but it is only those who do the will of God who will enter his kingdom..
Oh, suuuure, because graham is such as standup guy and reeeeeally belieeeeeves everything he says, and weee can truuust hiiiim....
Ow, I think I broke my sarcaster.
Is anyone actually foolish enough to be taken in by the so-convenient timing from the irrelevant guy?
Mitt Romney is not the right candidate for the United States. Especially not when he can take time out of his day to visit extremists.
Mormonism is absolutely a cult. I have been a member for 25 years and recently exited. Here is a webpage that details the cult characteristics of Mormonism:
I am curious... did you leave organized religion too? or did you just switch fairy tales?
The Mormons are great at hiding their beliefs. Here's why:
Perhaps Mitt agreed to a few things. Maybe Mormons will stop waterboarding non-Mormons secretly and posthumously. And perhaps he renounced Mormon arahitogami and accepted the one true God of the Christian faith. I just know that Mitt is a revised new man and whatever it is we want in a President he can be it.
Revised indeed. Every time you turn around, he's revising something that he broke and of course the good Christians forgive him and hate Obama...the Christian. What's up with that?
Wow this is something who says $ can't buy anything... what could CULT leader Mitt say during 1 cup of Tea that could wipe out centuries of belief?????????????????????????????????????????
I bet there was a very large donation involved in this change.
It is amazing how such strong beliefs can change in an instant.
Romney makes me sick
CNN treating this as big news is ridiculous. Even for them.
Welcome to the discussion...this is a cult blog.... CNN created this section for atheists to come and laugh at the dupes!
Regardless of whether or not Billy Graham decides to label Mormonism is a cult is irrelevant. What defines a cult, particularly when discussing theology, is how far that group has diverged from the fundamental doctrines that Christians has lived and died for, for the past two thousand years, as outlined in the Bible. And in that respect, Mormonism is clearly a theological cult.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.