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."
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
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."
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
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.
The Mormons I have met in real life have been SUPER nice people that seemed much more generous and "christ like" than many of the "Christians" I know. They also seem to keep their faith to themselves, and dont put it in your face by writing bible verses on their faces, bodies, and cars like some Christians I know.
FWIW I consider myself agnostic, voted for Obama in 2008, and will definitely be voting for him again in 2012.
I will agree with you there - many of the Mormon faith I have met have been very kind, humble individuals and have not tried to proselytize those around them. It still doesn't make me comfortable with someone as President whose beliefs could potentially override common sense.
That's a shame, really. Mitt Romney is a member and leader of a cult that believes: "After the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints was organized, there were only two churches upon the earth. They were known respectively as the Church of the Lamb of God and Babylon. The various organizations which are called churches throughout Christiandom (sic), though differing in their creeds and organizations, have one common origin. They belong to Babylon." This from LDS ‘apostle’ George Q. Cannon.
Brother Graham, where does that put you in Romney's theology? A leader of the Church of the Devil; funny, they didn't change that after your meeting.
How convenient. Grahams 15 minutes were up a long time ago. Why does the media care about them?
So much for religious conviction.
I often wonder if there's any such thing.
Graham is already dead, they propped him up for this pic.
It's amazing how fast your values and morals will change when you publicly state that your number one objective is to get that ni**er out of your white house.
Happy to get in bed with (almost) anybody: the religious right.
All conservatives, regardless of your race, should remove, as Newsweek puts it, "the Gay President" out of the white house. This is your times to show your disapproval of this president from handling of moral issues to the handling of the economy.
George, who said that? Was it Franklin or Billy, himself? I am curious because I hadn't heard this.
I am very disappointed, as Billy Graham led me to become a Christian. Seems like all our heroes eventually disappoint us at one time or another.
wilman...shove your moral issues.
Grahams are among the most hateful "Christians" I've seen. If that's what Jesus thinks are good folks, Christians are in trouble.
How convenient is that? All I want to know is how much did it cost?
What about the magical underwears, is that ordained by God too? Give me a break, religion these days are run by a bunch of phonies and clowns who think we should have a religious based government like the Taliban. If we think that is good, then it is good for the Taliban. You can't have it both ways.
Billy the American Pontiff – Who would have known? Why do the the leaders of the parties have to acknowledge this man and why does it make a difference? It's so pompous!
All religions are crazy... one is no more ridiculous than the next.
I use to respect Billy Graham greatly growing up until I educated myself on different faiths, and religions.
I have never respected anyone who has said that LDS are a cult, they are not, BUT some of the extreme LDS are very cult like...as are the born again christian extreme (my brother), not thinking for themselves, accepting without question the religion or church, very, very dangerous.
Remember Jim Jones, he was a christian in name only when he led thousands to kill themselves.
I'am far from impressed who the Grahams want to be president,
I'AM NOT VOTING FOR MITT-ROB-ME !
Independent, white, single, woman voter, in the swing state of Nevada, still swinging towards OBAMA!
All religions are a cult. But that doesn't mean people that are part of cults are inherently bad.
"An Open Letter to Billy Graham Regarding Mitt Romney and Mormonism" address my thoughts on how some Christians have allowed their patriotism to become an idol worshiped in Jesus’ name. It sends a message that Christians must focus on perceived threats to their earthly kingdom more so than on threats to the Kingdom of God. Billy Graham removed language from its website calling Mormonism a cult to AVOID controversy? By doing this, they jumped right into it.
Let God be the Judge when the ends of false religion comes. Meanwhile, everybody should read and practice the Bible and call on God's name to be sincere christian. A piece of dust cannot judge another piece of dust, human judging hunan is comparable to that.
Exactly - the Book of Morman is _not_ the Bible. Enough said.
No thank you. I have more important things to do. Like attend college, and work my job. But hey, if you like studying the Bible and want to grow up to be... a Bible studier, then hey, good for you.
Why read and practice a 2000-year-old collection of fables? Common sense tells you how to live.
Well...they're all false, really, so God is going to be really busy.
Yep. Everyone stay home on election day. Let "God" be the only one to cast a ballot and choose the president.
Very interesting how Republicans will change their story just so their person can get elected. Mormons are a cult and you can read all about it if you do a search. How can mormonism not be a cult when they are using a book for divine authority that is not the Holy Bible? Mormons believe in three heavens, black people are black because they are being punished. Is this what you want for a President? Romney says he is pro-life but has a business interest in a company that is called Stericycle that disposes of aborted fetuses. I guess that is okay because he makes money doing that!!!!!!!!! Do a search on if Grover Norquist is a free mason. If you dig deep you will see that the Moslem brotherhood , which is the Hamas and the Al Queada, basically all the funding has come from Saudi oil money. When Bush was in office Grover Norquist got this Saudi born man into the inner circle in the White House. Check this all out. It gives names and when this happened. Norquist is involved with getting republicans elected. These are very scarey things and this is how Bush got into the White House. Do we need another one like him? Romney and Ryan have already signed Grover Norquist's pledge. Wake up people!!!!!! These are dangerous people. Obama/Biden 2012
Because, as everyone knows, democrats are above such things. Right? Right?
As a Mormon, I am dissapointed in the divisiveness and anger some "Christians" seem to have over this positive gesture. I suppose it's more important to hate and mock one group that also claims Christ is the savior than it is to love your neighbor. I try to resist the urge to post a response, but so much of what I've read about Mormons and our beliefs in these responses and others like it are very common half-truths or outright lies. I wonder whether those who spread this false, misleading, and hateful information do so ignorantly or knowingly.
If this is how all Christians behaved, then I wouldn't mind so much being excluded from their supposed Christianity. I don't believe most Christians behave or belief this way, however. I hope not. Regardless, I will continue to consider myself a Christian and a Mormon. I believe in Jesus Christ and that he is my savior and the only way to personal salvation. I'm sorry if I also believe the Christian teachings found in one additional book. Teachings other Christians can likely identify with: faith, charity, repentance, the atonement of Christ, kindness, being humble, etc. In a book that states: "And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins." 2 Nephi 25:26
Whether this action was politically motivated or not, it's a positive step toward understanding. I hope the derisive posters found here reach that point as well. If you want to know what Mormons actually believe, look at lds.org.
Better yet, look at mormon.org.
LOL Dude – it has nothing to do with understanding, there are no steps being taken. Congrats on your remaining faith in humanity, but this is grossly political. You should be insulted.
The book of Nephi??????? The book of Mormon came from a flim flam man. He so called got the tablets and then they just disappeared? You have three heavens? Where did that come from? We are not stupid and can find out just what you believe.
As an EX mormon, I can say Billy Graham has made a mistake!
A devout Mormon is incapable of considering the wide range of diversity a President should be able to consider when making decisions that affect us all. Devout Mormons are, as a function of their beliefs, isolationists and exclusionists.
I know it. I lived it. I left it!
ALL religions are ridiculous fairy tales! but Mormons take the cake when it come to outrageous beliefs! stop beign a child!
Could you just tell me – do the Mormon Church approve of its members and its bishops lying in an effort to mislead?...and, Do you believe Mitt Romneys behavior is reflective of the teachings of the Mormon Church?
I agree and think that the recent focus on Mormonism will foster a greater acceptance of it among evangelicals.
I'm catholic and was once an evangelical. My former church was very anti-mormon (and in Utah no less) and I even read a coupld of anti-mormon books. Today I realize those beliefs and books were unfair and accused mormonism of the very things that could also be attributed to any church. Actually some evangelical congregations fit the description of a cult more so than mormonism, since the former often have very charismatic and dogmatic leadership than you will find in the mormon (LDS) church.
I bear no ill will toward Mormons. But ask yourself this question. Do you think for even one short minute that if Barack Obama were a Mormon, Billy Graham would have modified his website? Do you think that if Barack Obama were a Mormon, the Tea Party would be doing anything other than villifying Mormonism? Think hard before you answer.
Who really knows if Billy Graham even understands what was asked of him or if this decision was even made by him. Personally, I think this is coming from his republican son....
As a fellow Mormon, I think it is absolutely hilarious that these people think I don't believe in Christ! So, you are telling me that when I pray, God does not listen? You have the authority to tell God that I do not believe in his son? How utterly ridiculous! Who made you the authority? Sooooooo silly. I mock you with my Mormonism! HA!
Mitt Romney is a member and leader of a cult that believes this: "What does the Christian world know about God? Nothing...Why so far as the things of God are concerned, they are the veriest fools; they know neither God nor the things of God." This from their third 'prophet' John Taylor. He also said, "What! Are Christians ignorant? Yes, as ignorant of the things of God as the brute beast."
Do we want a president who believes this about Christians?
Jack...isolationist and exclusionist = segragationist and racist = not fit for the office of president.
2 Nephi 5:21 and Mormon priesthood instruction manual prohibiting marrying out of you race, economic or social background tells me all I need to know.
Just because Billy says so, doesn't make it so. This is clearly a last ditched-effort to placate those who are concerned about Romney's faith. Alas, the uninformed masses will swallow any pablum the press sets before them, especially with popular figures behind it. If Romney is elected, watch many of the freedoms that we currently have get flushed down the toilet, more wars started, and devastation to our already fragile economy (excepting the upper 1%, of course).
It's "last-ditch effort", not "last ditched-effort".
My humble apologies, yes, "last-ditch" is correct. I guess that's enough to damn me for eternity now. :-(
All religions are cults!
Dr. Graham is 94 years. I suspect that his organization has taken on a life of its own and he is merely a symbolic figurehead. Many of the people that have latched onto the Christian Coalition and the Moral Majority are more in love with being the power behind the power than ministry.
Not sure if you are "the" Ralph Reed formerly of the Christian Coalition. If so, I think you are the best! Let me add here that Evangelicals are definitely called to love our neighbors, but we believe that the most loving thing we can do is introduce people to the Lord Jesus Christ based on the truth of the Bible. Billy Graham is neither a Mormon-lover, nor a Mormon-basher, but rather a preacher of the Gospel that comes from the Bible. Billy understands that right now is a time to be friendly toward a man who could replace Barak Obama. Romney may not be the world's greatest choice, but he's better than who we have in office.
they should remain on the cult list.... If EVER there was a prime example of a cult, the mormon religion would be it!
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.