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.
So Billy, what celestial planet are you going to rule now when you die?
Bought and paid for.
If a "cult" is no longer a cult and NOTHING about it has changed except for your opinion, then the cult has influenced you into its cult.
Two words: How Convenient.
The so-called conservative movement has no conservatives.. they are upright till they are caught.. remove their non-profit status this bunch of chameleons.. they will do anything that earns them money... and they promote so much of political divide that they suck.
what a bunch of hypocrites. as a republican i am ashamed of the Grahams and this backtracking for political purposes. How convenient at this time to remove this from their website. Mormonism was always seen as a cult by us evangelicals and to do this now is a farce
Mormonism is no more a cult that being Baptist.
And no less...
Actually I would put Mormonism between Islam and Scientology.
Chronologically and strange origins by a single self proclaimed leader who crafted the followers for years.
Is it possible one could be wronger than the other? Let's just call them all ridiculous.
You want to know what the worst thing about religion is? Hypocrites like no-values Graham. Do you think we're stupid, Billy?
I kind of wish they left the Mormon cult reference on their website. But, let every man and woman on God's green earth not place their eyes on a man, but fix their eyes on Jesus.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Get the point?
christian – there was a point to that? i thought you were just mumbling incantations.
I got your point, you get mine?......what I'm seeing is a lot of "so called CHRISTIANS" saying that they are voting for Romney because of his strong belief in God. But hey you guys if you truly believed in what you claim so righteously to follow what you think, Then I believe it says not to listen to the people that say I know the way an
d was told he was was over here. I remind you that Mitt follows somebody that says he saw an ang
el with gold tablets in a corn field in New York, that claimed that he knew the way as a result of his encounter in that cornfield....... REMEMBER the BOOK says not to follow or listen to them!!!!!!! Just because they use a name that you associate with what you have come to believe as the way back to god doesn't make it so. Look deep into what you believe and then look deep into what Mitt believes.....not quite the same, just a few words thats all
God or a creator exists but religion is a lie. Don't spend your life praying to a man! They said the world has only existed for ten thousand years...science disproved it. They said Jesus didn't have a wife...new evidence disproved it. They said evolution is not true....science disproved it.
S.R., if you recognize science is proving religion wrong, why do you cling to a god / creator myth, when there is no evidence?
You need to be justified?
Good news fellow Latter Day Saints, our church is no longer considered a cult. This new revision and the possibility of a Mormon U. S. President will popularize the church especially in the bible belt region of the country. Prepare for more fruitfull missionary work.
Let's not lose sign of the fact that Mormons are a whack-job cult, Dave. They definitely are. Joseph Smith was a blatant con man and you are all fools.
Go for the trifecta. See if you can buy in from the pope and the Copts.
Pope could use some living apostles to share the load.
I know the Mormon church seams to be a little wacky, but Jesus was a little out of step with his people (the Jews). He was turned over to the Romans for execution. It took centuries for the Romans to make Christianity the state religion. It will take time before ya'll believe our version of the truth.
dave – education will eventually be the demise of your religion also.
"Our version of the truth." I just about fell out of my chair laughing when I read that. Your version of the truth is a known con man found some golden plates (in a three ring binder, insert Romney joke here) only he could read, and he "translated" them into the Book of Mormon. After this, the plates vanished and have never been seen again. Convenient, Dave, very convenient. As in it's an incredibly obvious lie, and anyone who believes it is a credulous fool.
Joseph Smith was a blatant con man and you are all fools.
Speaking of con men, let me tell you a story about a man named Jesus...
@ Mike D – Let's not lose sight of the fact that ALL religions, sects, denominations, etc., are wack-job cults.
How can there be so many claiming their religion is the real "truth"? Could it be that you were told all your life to believe that??
Dave, wasn't that the point. Wasn't he supposed to be turned over so he could die for our sins?
No way snowboarder. I am talking about people in the bible belt. They are immune to EDUCATION. They believe that the world is only 6000 years old. They believe man has not created global warming. They believe Obama is a Muslim. They believe we can lower the taxes on everyone and spend more tax dollars without raising the National debt or having to cut spending on programs which help the middle class.
@ Mike D – So you find what Mormon's believe to be laughable. Yet you have no problem with talking snakes and donkeys, women being made from a rib of a man, a guy living 3 days in the belly of a big fish, and a ghost raping a young girl to impregnate her with himself.
@Dave, I was a bible belt child, but I am educated and I was able to break away from the dogma of religion. Of course NOT all Bible Belt people are trash or ignorant.
dave, you don't sound like an actual member of the LDS church. You sound a whole lot more like a troll who pretends to be something he is not just to stir up more hate.
Ha, too funny. The notion of four more years of a black president is so scary to this hillbilly that he's perfectly willing to compromise his lifelong view that Mormonism is a cult. Racism uber alles, right Billy?
God is obviously a republican and in the 1%, so God told him to do it.
Oh, come on ... chrisitanity is a cult, no matter what you say. The mormons are a spin off cult taking the weirdest parts of human stupidity with them.
It's amazing how much so-called "Christians", especially the Protestant ones, are so quick to abandon the tenants of their religion, support a man who is not of their religion against a BLACK man of their religion, who's done nothing of significance to be against their religion. It's okay that Jesus was a brown-skinned Jew, but a black Christian in the White House ... oh that's just too much for them.
Romney – White Mormon
Ryan – White Catholic
Omama – Black Protestant
Biden – White Catholic
Faith, policies, character are out the window. If Billy Graham can change his position on mormonism, this election is ALL about Politics and Race.
What I think today might not be relevant tomorrow, until I change my mind, the light is green today.
Wow....Mitt's flip floppiness has rubbed off on the Graham's. Hey guys...turn around and show us your other face.
Years ago Franklin was a heavy user, that's part of his past. In the past mormonism was a cult, today they can share the same pulpit with the christians. Today I am a sinner, tomorrow I will be a saint.
pragmatism always trumps dogma for the religious elite, but woe unto the common man who follows their example.
SHAME ON THE GRAHAMS TO CHANGE POSITIONS DUE TO A POLITICAL MOMENT.
Don't worry. They'll put it back up there after Romney loses. In the meantime, it helps to relieve their cognitive dissonance.
That'll be funny to watch for. I suspect you'll be right.
PS Cue the mad Mormon denunciations from the teabaggers when Rmoney loses.
Yup Bean, I suspect you're right.
What's the difference between a religion and a cult? Business model.
What a Joke. No wonder people are losing faith in their religious leaders.
...and the reason is? .....lack of character!
Looks like the Grahams have ratted out to the Republicans.
One wonders at the timing of this – and one wonders, also, whether Graham would have reclassified Mormonism had not Romney been the GOP's standard bearer this year.
Romney has spent a lifetime reversing his positions on various issues. I'm sad to see that his spinelessness and lack of moral bedrock has corrupted Billy Graham. Even ten years ago, it would never have happened. Bill used to be tougher than that.
Where "tougher" equaled (and perhaps still does) anti-Semitic...
The results of lobbying.
From Merriam-Webster (the dictionary people)
Cult: formal religious veneration : worship
a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
Thus, by definition, Mormonism is a cult. Just like The Catholics are a cult. Just like the Baptists are a cult. Just like Islam is a cult. Just like Judism is a cult. Just like the Lutherans are a cult. Just like Methodists are a cult. Just like Hinduism is a cult. Just like Scientology is a cult.
Get the picture?
Yes, and the picture is the TV that you've been watching that brainwashed you. The TV and Media culture is a cult that you are part of. Legitimate Religions are not.
How to recognize a cult, according to Billy G's website:
"Concerning cults, Mr. Graham has said: "Cults can take many forms. Some cults are openly and clearly influenced by non-Christian religions (such as some that originate in the Far East). Others, however, claim to be Christian and may actually incorporate some of the teachings of Christianity, while they deny certain truths in the Bible. Cults subst!tute their own ideas for the truth which God has given us.
"Although cults differ, they share several characteristics. For example, cults often do not accept the Bible alone as God's Word, and may even say that other books (usually written by the group's founder) are also God's Word and of more value. Cults also commonly claim that they alone correctly interpret the truth and that Christian denominations and churches are wrong in their teaching.
Some cults have a strong leader and demand that members give their allegiance to him (even to the point of rejecting family members). If you have doubts about a group, ask several clergymen about it, or see if your local Christian bookstore has a volume that describes cults.
"Cults deny what the Bible says about Jesus: He was fully God as well as man, and He died on the cross so we could be saved from our sins by faith. Invite Jesus Christ to come into your heart by faith, then get involved with a church where Christ is preached so you can grow spiritually."
@Mr. Duckworth – I gave you the fucking definition of cult from the actual dictionary. Are you too stupid to read the actual definition? Did you see what it said?
Instead, you pull the prototypical fundiot nutter bulllshit, that my religion isn't a cult, but that guy's religion is line of crap.
Billy is saying it is more important to be republican than it is to be christian.
Well one is somewhat based on reality while the other is based on, well, nothing! So it is good to see the delusional move towards sanity...
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.