Something has been nagging at me for a couple of weeks now. After a visit to the North Carolina residence of Billy Graham by one of the presidential candidates, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association changed its web site to indicate that it no longer considered the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints (Mormons) a “cult.” This has been chronicled in Christianity Today and Time Magazine. Billy Graham, now 93 years old, was quoted as telling this candidate, ““I will do all I can to help you,” seemingly giving Evangelicals the green light to vote for a Mormon.
I am not sure how much of this change to attribute to Billy Graham himself. It seems much more likely that this was orchestrated by his son, Franklin Graham, who has been less politically neutral than his father. But this seems to me to be a betrayal of what the BGEA stands for.
I am not trying tell anyone how to vote here. I am also not saying that Christians should reject a candidate because he is a Mormon, a Sikh, a Jew, or a Muslim. I have voted for Mormons and Jews before, although not for a Muslim (don’t remember having that opportunity). I do think we should vote for the best candidate in our estimation, and not because someone else has directed us to do so. So if Franklin Graham had come out and said, “I know we have the Mormon faith on our cult list, but I personally am voting for Candidate X,” I would have no problem.
Here is the problem: How did Mormonism change from being a cult to a “different kind of Christian” at this time? Was the BGEA wrong for 40 years? Has Mormonism changed to embrace orthodox, trinitarian Christianity? Or, is this an example of political opportunism? I think it is the later, and frankly, it reeks.
I know there are some LDS folks who read this blog, and I am not trying to bash your church here. I do think we are in the midst of a cultural shift when it comes to the Mormon Church in America. I don’t think this is so much the “mainstreaming” of the Mormon faith as it is a little bit of the Mormonization of America. We now have conservative folks who believe our Constitution is an inspired document (i.e., Scripture). We have an HBO show about a polygamous household (“Big Love”). We have folks telling us to stockpile groceries in the basement for the coming crisis. For a person like me who grew up in a heavily Mormon community, these are all familiar things that have a home in the Mormon faith.
Possible irony for the future: we might have a Mormon President whose arch-nemesis is the Majority Leader of the Senate and also a Mormon.
Nebraska Christian College