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.
How convenient! Gee, I wonder who ol' Billy-boy is voting for? Certainly not the skinny black guy with the jug ears! I'm guessing there was a substantial donation made to get Mormons off his cult list.
Quick Franklin, hand me that Etch-A-Sketch pad... Bless you Mitt and Paul, that should help you both a bit!
You don't trust these half politicians and half religious hypocrites; if Romney looses election, Graham is going to restore the status quo.
2 Cor. 11:2-4
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
emma – if i was going to try to deceive someone, i would say exactly those words.
"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. It is I the great and powerful Oz!"
Billy and Franklin Graham are teamed up for their latest "Flip-Flop" act in the 2012 election and pander for GOP votes.
Well, well, well, Americultians, you are in a valley of decision.
Thank you SPK for the truth and a part of your statement the the whole of it. I could less as to what church Romney goes to but this showes Graham to be less that what he says he is. What a joke you are Billy.
Wow, never thought I'd see the day where even Billy Graham would contradict what he believes for political expediency.
jeff – seriously? call me jaded, but you can be certain this is not the first time.
That's some principled Christianity there. They are a cult unless we need one to attack Obama.If Romney was a Scientologist or a Hare Chrisna Graham and company would be:¨Those are fantastic religions¨
they are all cults..
Because, unfortunately, Graham seems to be afflicted with the same hatred for POTUS Obama that I've witnessed time and again from the right wing of America, many of whom call themselves Christians. IMHO, Obama seems to be more of a Christian than many of these haters.
What am I supposed to do with that "Mormons are the devil" bumper sticker I bought from your website last week?
Shame on you Billy Graham for selling out. I ask you is there marriage in Heaven? Look at what Jesus answered in the Bible. Now look at what the Mormons teach. This is only one of many deviations from the Bible and what Jesus taught that that the Mormon church teaches. But, Mitt, being a Republican, is running for president now.... if that means you should give up your life-long stand of preaching Biblical Christian doctrines, then so be it. I am not saying you should condemn him or the Mormon church. I am just saying you should have hung onto your integrity, which everyone in the past has trusted you for. Sorry to see you have sold out to the world.
Does it really matter what the Mad Hatter has to say on anything? All religions are a matter of mass delusion....read the bible and you would understand why!
I find this hilarious – how can this possibly help Mitt's cause? Now it is a huge story that Billy thinks he belongs to a cult. Thanks for the spotlight on that interesting fact. My take away – you are both dangerous to the American public!
There is no way you can define a 'cult' without that definition applying to EVERY religion out there. OH WAIT... check that, there is ONE definition–"a religion I don't like". That's the only definition that identifies Mormonism as a cult. Haters just hate. Deal with it.
Time to start taxing churches again, they are more intertwined with politics then most Super Pacs.
agreed.. make them pay property tax and end ALL grants, tax dollars, given to them.
Politics and power before principal...how it has always been and how it will always be when it comes to religion Only sheep need a Shepard.
A cult you say? From what I know about Mormons they are family oriented, God loving, charity giving (actually one of the biggest charity donation churches in the world), hard working, honest, read the bible and modest dressing group of individuals. They choose to not drink alcohol or smoke because they believe that anything that leads to addiction should be avoided. If that defines a cult, then I guess I should be drinking their Kool-Aid.
You can be all those things without believing in the tripe of religion.
This is why the separation of church and state is important. The church not only can have a bad influence on governance (and yes, I am a Pastor, and I still say this, whenever the church has had political power it has been a bad thing), but government can taint and twist the beliefs of the faith system. As in this case where a decision to take that off the site was probably based on political expediency... since the theology of the Mormon church is no different than it was when that statement was put on the site. Nothing has changed, except Graham is for Romney (even though Romney's fiscal priorities and his budget are not Christian and are immoral because of what they do for the rich and to the poor).
Not that I care, really, how people frame Mormonism. I know many who believe it is not Christian, and I will say it is certainly not my brand of Christianity, and there are things I don't agree with that are part of Mormon theology. For the most part people know the "face" of the Mormon church, but don't know much about a lot of what it believes and how it function. I know enough to know it isn't for me.... but I think Mormons for the most part are sincere, and are good people.
My comment had to do with the interface of government and religion, was not a shot at the Mormon faith (just to clarify)
Maybe preach, YOU ought to take these words to heart, 'Mar 10:18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? [there is] none good but one, [that is], God.' You ought to lay off on who you are calling good.
Hmm personally I feel Billy Graham and his son where persuaded with money to get them to remove Mormons from the list. I'm sorry but any hokey religion that gets their teaching form a guy reading it out from a hat, and go out of their way to harass people who speak out against Mormonism isn't apart of the christian faith.
Oh Mark, you make me laugh. I myself am not a Mormon, but know many in my community who are. "Harass" you say. Hmm, when my husband was out of work, it was the Mormons who brought food to our house, took care of our yard and paid for our utility bills. When my friend was sick with cancer, it was the Mormons who came to her hospital bed side and brought her flowers, drove her kids to school and stocked her pantry with food for dinner. If you are truly that uneducated about a faith, you should really keep your negative comments to yourself. They read the bible, they worship our Heavenly Father and offer charity to all those less fortunate. If you have ever had the privledge of meeting a missionary, you would know their "harassment" is out of love and their testimony of God.
Call it a cult...a club... a church... or whatever.
The word "religion" has no absolute meaning in the first place. If it does, tell me how many people have to believe something before it is considered a "religion". What are the requirements? Do you have to have a building? Or how about some books or pamphlets, do you need those? Does the IRS decide? Do you get a certificate when you have one? and on and on...
LBJ and his Great Society decided.
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.