This letter made it onto my desk today. I found it very interesting. I hope you will read it, even though it is “long-ish”. It is really quite good.
Some background: Pastor Robert Jeffress is a Dallas (TX) based Baptist Pastor that likes to say the word “cult” over and over, and attribute it to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (a.k.a Mormons.) He seems to be upset about something. Maybe he thinks he needs to attack others by knocking them down to build himself up. I think it might have something to do with the fact that — by Jeffress’ own words — the Southern Baptists have around 15 million members. He might be having a problem with the realization that if current LDS growth rate continues, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will have more members than that by the end of 2012. (Cool video showing growth.)
I think he might be having a hard time with that. But people were warned. (Daniel 2:44-45)
The letter is worth a read. It is written by a regular member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from (you guessed it!) Utah.
Dear Pastor Jeffress,
I’m just one of the millions of people who saw and heard on TV news shows your statements that “Mormonism is a cult” and “not a part of orthodox Christianity”. As a faithful lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I felt a strong reaction to those statements, as you might imagine. My remarks here are only my personal thoughts, but I assure you they are heartfelt.
My reaction was twofold. First, I saw your remarks as an unfortunate “below-the-belt” swipe at Mitt Romney in the hopes of advancing your own favorite political candidate. While you certainly have the right to do that, I think many Americans join me in feeling that such a move was beneath a prominent religious leader such as yourself.
Second, as a devoted believer and follower of Jesus Christ I was saddened that you felt the need to speak out against my faith and beliefs. I’m sure there are those who think it was done with malice, but I’ll try to do the Christ-like thing and give you the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps you’ve just been misinformed about “Mormonism” as many others have been.
But it might surprise you to learn that I actually agree with part of what you said, although perhaps for different reasons than you might imagine.
You said that Mitt Romney is “not a Christian” (and by association myself and the other fourteen million-plus Americans who are Latter-day Saints). But I believe you need to be more specific. There are many different kinds or “flavors” of Christians. I agree that the LDS people are not Baptist Christians or Evangelical Christians or Catholic Christians, etc. I will even agree that we’re not part of “orthodox” or “traditional” flavor of Christianity, if by that you mean the post-Nicene church that became the “universal” or “catholic” version of Christendom.
I believe my faith to be the original church of the Corinthians, the Ephesians, and yes, those who were first called Christians in Antioch, - that same church now restored in these latter days. So I call myself a “latter-day Christian”, with theological roots that precede the “historical” or “orthodox” version that was the product of the various councils and creeds. That “orthodoxy” eventually became so corrupt and so apostate that the Reformers broke away from it in protest of its having “fallen away” from Biblical truths (2 Thess. 2) and “changed the ordinances” (Isa. 24:5) so that the “faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) was no longer recognizable as the church that Jesus organized.
There were many enlightened Christian thinkers and theologians in history who, like Joseph Smith, believed that Christianity had become apostate and that a restoration of the New Testament church of Christ was necessary. John Wesley the founder of Methodism wrote:
It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the Church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian; . . . From this time they almost totally ceased; . . . The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other Heathens . . . . This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church; because the Christians were turned Heathens again, and had only a dead form left.
The Works of John Wesley, vol. 7, pp.26-27
As I’m sure you well know, John Smythe the founder of the Baptists first left his position as a Church of England minister and joined the Separatists, but then dissolved his congregation to re-form it as the first General Baptist church among English expatriates in Amsterdam in 1609. He felt that the “historic” or “orthodox” Christianity of his time had wandered astray, especially with regard to the apostate doctrine of infant baptism. Those first Baptists were considered a “cult” by many Protestants in the “traditional” Christian denominations that persecuted them unmercifully.
Around 1640, Roger Williams of Providence, Rhode Island, founder of the first Baptist church in America refused to continue as pastor on the grounds that there was:
… no regularly‑constituted church on earth, nor any person authorized to administer any Church ordinance: nor could there be until new apostles are sent by the great Head of the Church, for whose coming, I am seeking.
(Picturesque America, or the Land We Live In, ed. William Cullen Bryant, New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1872, vol. 1, p. 502.)
If I understand your words correctly your definition of a Christian (and that of most Evangelicals) is a pretty narrow one, far different from the standard meaning found in most dictionaries. Personally I think anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as the Only Begotten Son of God and as his/her personal Savior who died for our sins and was bodily resurrected on the third day is a Christian. C.S. Lewis described such people as “mere” Christians.
But your narrow definition would exclude anyone who:
1. Does not believe in a closed canon of the 66 books of the Protestant Bible.
2. Does not accept the Nicene Creed as an accurate description of the nature of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
3. Believes in living prophets and apostles as the “foundation” of Christ’s earthly church.
4. Believes in continuing revelation from God to man.
I could go on. I’m very familiar with the standard arguments against “Mormonism”.
But the Bible says that believers in Christ were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26). I would respectfully submit that those Christians:
1. Did not believe in a closed canon of scripture. (some of the New Testament had not yet been written.)
2. Did not accept the Nicene Creed as an accurate description of the nature of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. (it would not be written for 300 years)
3. Believed in living apostles and prophets as the “foundation” of Christ’s earthly church.
4. Believed in continuing revelation from God to man.
So if you’re going to say that Mitt and I are not Christians based on those reasons, you’ll have to say that the believers in Antioch were not Christians either according to your definition.
You said in your Hardball interview that “Mormonism” is a “cult” because:
1. “Mormonism came 1800 years after Jesus Christ”
2. “Mormonism has its own human leader, Joseph Smith”
3. “it has its own set of doctrines”
3. “it has its own religious book, The Book of Mormon, in addition to the Bible”
Your exact following words were: “and so by that definition it is a theological cult”. You made a weak distinction between a theological cult and a sociological one, but most people will not even notice that fine differentiation. It was obvious to any sophisticated viewer that your main goal was to keep repeating the word “cult”. It’s such an inflammatory buzz word that I’m sure your goal is to use it as often as you can to scare people away from “Mormonism” without seriously considering our theology and our beliefs. It’s a word used to end or avoid discussion, not to foster it. As a Latter-day Saint I welcome the opportunity to “stand ready to give a reason for the faith that is in me”, but those who sling around the word “cult” with respect to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seek to cut off debate rather than to encourage dialog. It’s as though they are afraid of an open and honest discussion.
But following your own definition of “cult” for a moment, I’d like to respectfully submit that:
1. Roman Catholicism came 300 years after Jesus Christ.
2. Roman Catholicism has its own human leader, the Pope (or Peter if you accept the Catholic claims that he was the first Pope)
3. Roman Catholicism has its own set of doctrines (Mariology, transubstantiation, priestly celibacy, veneration of “saints”, indulgences, etc.)
4. Roman Catholicism has its own religious books (9 deuterocanonical more than those found in the Protestant Bible – also used in Eastern Orthodox churches)
And even your own Baptist flavor of Christianity in some ways fits your definition of what makes a cult;
1. “Baptistism” came 1609 years after Jesus Christ
2. “Baptistism” had its own human leader John Smythe – a Church of England minister (see footnote below from the website of the Baptist History and Heritage Society)
3. “Baptistism” had its own unique doctrines, including the “believer’s baptism” of adults.
4. “Baptistism” was considered a cult by the “orthodox” or “traditional” or “historic” Christian denominations of the time. In fact Baptists suffered severe persecution from other Christians who believed in the “mainline” doctrine of infant baptism prevalent in that era. Thousands of Baptists were martyred for baptizing adults.
One of the dictionary definitions of a cult is that is a small isolated group that is out of the mainstream. That certainly does not apply to my church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the fourth largest religion in America, and the second largest Christian church in Washington, Oregon, and California (after Catholicism). You mentioned that there are 15 million Southern Baptists. By 2012 at the present rate of growth there will be more Latter-day Saints than that.
Pastor Jeffress, in order to be consistent and truthful you would have to admit that the same definition you’ve used to brand “Mormonism” a cult applies at least in part to Roman Catholicism and “Baptistism” as well. Are you willing to say that on national television? I would hope so. I would hope that you’d want to be totally consistent and truthful.
Thank you for your time. I’m attaching a summary I wrote of what I believe happened to “the faith once delivered to the saints”. There was a great apostacy that fundamentally changed the New Testament church of Jesus Christ into something so different that those Christians at Antioch or Peter or Paul would not have recognized it in the Dark Ages that came upon the earth. (Amos 8:12) That apostacy required the “restitution of all things” prophesied in Acts 3:21 to occur before Christ’s return. That restitution or restoration of original Biblical Christianity was what was looked forward to by Roger Williams.
I testify to you that that restoration has come, and the original Christianity is back on the earth in its fullness as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you would like to investigate these claims I’ll be happy to “bring forth my strong reasons” for “the faith that is in me.” I would welcome a thoughtful dialog.
A Latter-day Christian
Love it. One soldier holds off an attack from 30 taliban fighters, saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. And he comes through unscathed.
He has received Britain’s second-highest award for bravery, the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross. Wow. How would you like to have that hanging on your Class A’s or Sunday Best? Cool beans.
This just goes to show — when it’s not your time, it’s not your time. I have read other stories about leaders in battle in times past that would walk through withering fire to inspire their men, and nothing hit them. The story says Pun was under constant fire throughout the battle, and even used his rifle tripod to keep the guys away from his position.
Wow, what a stud.
On Presidents Day I probably spent too long talking to my kids and telling great stories about 3 of my favorite presidents, George Washington, John Adams and Abraham Lincoln. (I also include Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan and maybe a few others on that list.) I told them stories about Washington leading a rag-tag group of men down the American coast, barely ahead of the British warships and Hessian Mercenaries, in the snow, shoe-less, hungry… and then crossing the Delaware River in the snow and ice and winning a battle on Christmas Eve in 1776.
I told them about John Adams and all of the selfless service he and his family provided to help create this great nation.
I told them about Abraham Lincoln, walking for miles to borrow a Bible to teach himself to read; walking for miles to return a penny or two that had been given him by mistake; and we read the Gettysburg Address. I was trying to be inspiring. Trying to tell them stories of normal, good men who stepped up to greatness in their lives.
I told them how all Presidents of America are not great, but the great ones have one thing in common: they have fought for the freedom and liberty of our country, our people, US. And there are many that have died in that fight, given their “last full measure.” We honor those fallen with this song. And then I played this video for them.
It was cool to watch them watch it. They were transfixed.
Who was your favorite US President?
A note about the video:
Taps as we know it is actually a variation of an earlier bugle call known as the “Scott Tattoo” which was used in the U.S. from 1835 until 1860, and was arranged in its present form by the Union Army Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield. Butterfield’s bugler, Oliver Wilcox Norton, was the first to sound the new call. Within months, “Taps” was used by both Union and Confederate forces. It was officially recognized by the United States Army in 1874.
Thanks to the commenters for the correction!
I can only imagine how bad it is in Egypt. I certainly don’t claim to understand the situation on the ground. Widespread unemployment and poverty. What jobs do come up are handed to family members of those in power. People are closed out of their economic society and their economic future. And they are sick of it. Enough that they protest, march, take to the streets, blog, and do everything that they can — risking being shut down, beaten up, tear-gassed, shot, raped, imprisoned, and killed.
I can’t say what I would do if I lived in a similar situation, but I bet I would be protesting too.
I just hope that with all the talk of forcing Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, there are concrete ideas of what will replace the outgoing regime. I have read about groups taking advantage of the unrest to go around to the prisons and break out militants that were imprisoned. Citizens are banding together to protect themselves in the wake of organized police or military control. The National Democratic Party needs to be removed, but is there a plan for what will take its place?
There are many in America that are urging President Obama to seize this chance and oust Mubarak but it’s not that simple. Sometimes the resultant regime is not much better than the one it is replacing. It may buy you a decade or so, but that is not a long term solution.
I would like the US to understand the concrete plans and proposed solutions from groups like the April 6th Youth Movement and Mohammed ElBaradei’s team before we just throw our weight behind Whoever-Is-Next.
Just because this is the “start of a new era that cannot be reversed”, where are the checks and balances that give this new era a greater chance of survival and greater chance of freedoms for the Egyptian people?
OK. I like Lance Armstrong as much as the next guy. Or at least as much as the next Non-French guy. What’s not to love? He went over to France and kicked all their butts in their bike race for 7 years in a row. How sweet is that? Sounds like a Great American Hero.
I hope he didn’t dope. I hope all the smoke that surrounds Lance Armstrong doesn’t mean that there is a fire. But that’s not the way it usually works out, does it?
Here’s the logic I have been using for years with my friends, my email groups, and anyone that will listen: OK — you mean to tell me that Lance’s biggest rivals and even some of his teammates have been busted for doping — and the only guy that was winning the Tour de France during those years was the ONLY ONE NOT doping?
Let’s look at the list. And this is all I can remember from the top of my mind, without doing internet research:
1998 tour winner Pantani is now dead cuz of his doping, couldn’t touch Lance during his 7 year stretch
1997 tour winner Ulrich out of the sport for doping, finished 2nd to Lance many times, but couldn’t beat him
former teammates Hamilton (banned for doping) and Landis (banned for doping)
I’m sure there are many more that a more educated cycling fan can tell me about Lance’s teammates, connections with blood-doping doctors, etc.
Here’s where the logic fails for me: Either doping doesn’t work, or Lance just figured out a better way around the system. How could one man — the only man to win during those hugely doping years — beat all of the rest of the field of blood dopers?
And now finally someone else is saying the same thing. And it’s in America. I imagine they have been saying this stuff in France for years.