Graham association removes "cult" description after meeting with Romney

Posted October 15, 2012
Updated October 16, 2012

— Did the Rev. Billy Graham meet with a and praise someone he might describe as a "cult" leader last week? 

The Protestant pastor and spiritual adviser to several presidents, met with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Thursday. Following the meeting, Graham issued the following statement

"It was an honor to meet and host Gov. Romney in my home today, especially since I knew his late father former Michigan Gov. George Romney, whom I considered a friend. I have followed Mitt Romney's career in business, the Olympic Games, as governor of Massachusetts and, of course, as a candidate for president of the United States.

"What impresses me even more than Gov. Romney's successful career are his values and strong moral convictions. I appreciate his faithful commitment to his impressive family, particularly his wife Ann of 43 years and his five married sons.

"It was a privilege to pray with Gov. Romney—for his family and our country. I will turn 94 the day after the upcoming election, and I believe America is at a crossroads. 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."

According to the L.A. Times, Graham met with President Barack Obama in April but didn't issue a similar statement.

According to Melany Ethridge, who along with A. Larry Ross serves as a spokesman for Graham, the pastor's statement was not an endorsement.

"No, I don't think one can make that assumption," she said, reading from an answer that had been given to other reporters last week. Graham had known Romney's father and had asked his son to extend an invitation to meet should the candidate ever be in the area, Ethridge related.

"It was more of an offer of spiritual support than a campaign endorsement," Ethridge said. 

Graham's support, whether explicit or not, would be meaningful in the South, where he is a revered figure. That support is all the more meaningful given that many southern evangelicals are skeptical of the Mormon faith, of which Romney is a prominent member. He is one of thousands of LDS Church members who at one point held the title of "bishop." 

In fact, as the Asheville Citizen-Times noted this morning, the Billy Graham Evangelical Association once expressed that skepticism. In a article that has since been removed from the group's website but appears to have been first posted in 2010, the association offered the Mormon faith as an example of a cult:

A cult is any group which teaches doctrines or beliefs that deviate from the biblical message of the Christian faith. It is very important that we recognize cults and avoid any involvement with them. Cults often teach some Christian truth mixed with error, which may be difficult to detect.


Some of these groups are Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, the Unification Church, Unitarians, Spiritists, Scientologists, and others.

In a separate posting, the association still broadly defines a cult as, "The basic mark of any cult, however, is that it rejects the divinity of Jesus. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ was God in human flesh—that He alone was both fully man and fully God. Cults, however, deny this, and often confuse people who aren't familiar with the Bible by twisting its meaning." 

Asked why the association removed the piece defining the Mormon faith as a cult, Ethridge said she and Ross did not speak for the association, but only Mr. Graham personally. Asked if Mr. Graham personally believed the Mormon faith to be a cult, Ethridge said that Ross would have to speak to that and return the phone call later. 

A phone call and e-mail submitted to a spokesman at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Monday afternoon were not immediately returned.

Update: The association e-mailed this reply on behalf of Ken Barun, chief of staff for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association:

“Our primary focus at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 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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  • heisenberg Oct 26, 2012

    A mormon in the white house? What about the muslim that lives there now?

  • davidgnews Oct 19, 2012

    Maybe Romney made a donation to them via his 'blind trust.'

  • simplylynn Oct 19, 2012

    I say vote your conscious!!!! WHAT are you going to be able to live with... do you want to live in a country that is governed by the religious extremist or do you want to live in country that is governed by the ideas of the framers of the Constitution. Me and my conscious could never allow anyone to take away the rights of women and return our country back to a time when culture, class, gender and race were all major issues in EVERY decision. I want to live in a country that recognizes my RIGHT to take care of my own body and be allowed to make decisions based on informed decisions. Not by men (and women) who believe they know what is better for me. With all do respect to every religion, it is just that... a religion- the product of man's ideological thinking of what they thing God meant in the Bible or even worse, like the Mormon religion where they worship an idol... God talks about serving other gods or idol in the Ten commandments... if you want to get all religious about it.

  • CarolinianByChoice Oct 19, 2012

    Whether Mormonism can be considered a cult is not the issue here.

    The issue is do we need to give serious consideration to an endorsement from someone who previously insinuated the Mormon faith was a cult but after meeting with someone from that faith for a few hours basically rescinded the cult label and now appears to embrace it?

    So Mr Graham had an epiphany about religious tolerance? Or maybe just about how influential his endorsement can be? Why do we want to listen to someone who becomes tolerant [read wishy-washy] when it suits THEIR needs?

  • Phillip PJM Oct 19, 2012

    The mormon church is the largest and richest cult in the world. They deny it, but that doesn't change the facts. Look at the history of the cult, expecially the mormons murdering whole wagon trains of families as they passed through planet utah. I had the misfortune of living on planet utah for three years and I can tell you without fear of competent contridiction that they are the meanest, rudest, most evil people on Earth. No Christian who ever lived in utah would ever vote for a mormon, I can promise you that. They are pure evil.

  • Honesty first Oct 18, 2012

    So Franklin Graham now speaks for Billy. He says that all the years that the Grahams said that Mormonism was a cult, they were wrong in their interpretation of the Bible. What else were they wrong about? And to say that they do not want religion brought into teh political arena. What did you just do Franklin?

  • dwbenfield Oct 16, 2012

    "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a cult. The Church fully believes and teaches that Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior and Redeemer."
    They also teach that Jesus lives on another planet, God does too, and that people like Mitt Romney will get their own planet when they die. That is as Christianity as Satanism is.

  • lovelarvae Oct 16, 2012

    So has Graham actually changed his religious views? Or is it just politics?

  • driverkid3 Oct 16, 2012

    Many years back, some of my family members were Mormons. I also knew a lot of them when I lived in Arizona. They are NOT "cult members"! They do beleive in the Bible and Jesus Christ. In my area now, they do a LOT to help people, and are very accepting of ALL people unlike say the Scientology folks. I think Mr. Romney would be a great president.

    I remember when JFK ran. People were saying we were going to be forced into the Catholic religion, that he was going to change us all for the worse. That was a bunch of malarkey, just like what Mr. Romney is going through now.

  • DannyHaszard Oct 16, 2012

    Destructive cult or benign religion?

    The *Cult* word gets overused,but in some cases it is appropriate.
    The definition of a destructive religious cult is like alcoholism-if booze controls you instead of the other way around you are an alcoholic.

    I was in the Watchtower society Jehovah's Witnesses,they are not benevolent and won't let you leave their organization in peace.The Jehovahs are not without scandals-child abuse, sadistic mind control tactics, sex scandals, money scams, general bad behavior....
    Is it a cult?
    If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck....
    Danny Haszard
    FMI dannyhaszard(dot)com