For two hundred years, Christians in the United States have viewed the Mormons (LDS) as a cult.
The reasons for this are many, including the suspect life and practices of the its founder, Joseph Smith, the acceptance of extra-biblical revelation (the Book of Moromon), many questionable doctrines and edicts of the LDS Church, and especially a “works” orientation toward salvation.
I agree that the church’s origins and some practices are cultish.
However, after seeing the results of the Republican caucuses in Utah, it may be time to re-evaluate whether the Mormons are more Christian than Christians.
In their voting, Mormons are showing evangelicals the way.
First a few thoughts on the Mormon Church and religion in general.
I met my first Latter Day Saints when I was a teenager. They seemed like normal people who shared my values but didn’t demonstrate a personal relationship with Christ. They had “religion”–but it didn’t appear to go deep.
They were easy to understand because I was also raised in a religious home–without the power, conviction, and intimate knowledge of Christ. When I became born again in 1968, that experience changed my view of religion and what people need to do to get right with God.
The Bible was clear on the subject: We must be born again through repentance and faith by the work of the Holy Spirit. Salvation is a gift of God based on grace, not works.
In fact, during Jesus’ day there were two groups of religious folks who also failed the salvation test. One was the Saduccees. They were the religious liberals of the day, and didn’t believe in spirits, angels, or life after death. The other was the Pharisees. These were the religious work-a-holics that Jesus condemned at many points. They were the fundamentalists of the time.
Jesus told one prominent Pharisee named Nicodemus that people needed to “re-start” their spiritual lives by turning way from self (repentance) and put their faith in Him. The most famous Bible verse ever was given to this seeking Pharisee: “God so loved the loved that He gave his only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
I learned early on that religion–going through the right motions–is not enough. Salvation is about heart change that comes through our yieldedness and the work of God’s Spirit.
Which brings us back to the Mormons. Not only were they similar to my religious background and that of the Saduccees and Pharisees, but they also believed some pretty strange things that put them outside the bounds of mainstream biblical faith.
On the other hand, many Mormons displayed solid Christian virtues including strong and supportive families (with many children), a powerful sense of community, great work ethic and business principles, and a giving, generous spirit.
Thus, many Mormons may not be born again (heart), but they practiced many Christian principles they understood (mind).
I wrote my first book in 1976 on the reverse of that phenomenon–that a person can be Christian in heart but not in mind. The subject was former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter who was running for president. I know that in his heart he said and appeared to be born again. But in his policies, his “mind” didn’t line up with Scripture.
He was pro-abortion, pro-Big Government and weak on national defense.
Jimmy Carter was the opposite of the LDS Church–biblical in heart but weak in practice. The Mormons were weak in heart, but strong in principles.
Which brings us to 2016 and the Republican presidential race.
I personally believe that as goes the Church, so does the American nation. In the past few political cycles. we have elected a number of poor national leaders and allowed massive disintegration in our culture because many evangelical Christians–even though they have born again hearts–do not have born again minds.
It’s a failure of discipleship. The Evangelical Church has led millions to Christ (heart faith) but have not taught and discipled them into a Christian worldview about government, economics, and the issues of the day.
Evangelicals either don’t vote, or they don’t vote for biblically principled people.
In this presidential election cycle, I am grieved by the ignorance of many evangelical leaders. I don’t need to mention their names. You know who they are. They have bought into the power and charisma of Donald Trump and have provided him the cover to attain victory in a number of states.
Donald Trump is extremely questionable of both heart and mind. He is essentially a billionaire opportunist who is riding the ignorance of Christians to victories in numerous states where the evangelical vote should have gone to the principled Christian conservatives in the race like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or others.
Instead, a mind-less Church has put Donald Trump in the driver’s seat toward becoming the Republican nominee.
It’s such a wasted opportunity that one is almost led to weep.
Gary Randall reports that The Christian Post says that while 78% of evangelicals characterize the outcome of this year’s presidential election as “extremely important to the future of the United States,” only 20% of evangelicals are paying close attention to the election process.
Among non-Christian faiths—including Islam, Buddhism and Judaism— 41% are closely following the election campaigns.
Even religious skeptics, which includes atheists and agnostics are more engaged, with 38% paying attention to the elections. Also 38% of Catholics are engaged compared to 26% of Protestants. This is a reversal of the last four presidential elections.
Shame, shame, shame on us.
George Barna shares this concern about unengaged and ignorant evangelicals. About 38% of Americans are self-declared evangelicals, but Barna used the term only to identify persons who are evangelical in their fundamental biblical beliefs–what I call being Christian “in mind.”
By his criteria, only 8% of Americans are truly evangelical.
Not surprisingly, self-declared evangelicals are all over the map politically, some Democrats, some Republicans, but how many are voting biblically? Very few. The sad news is that just 8 percent of the people most capable of influencing America for righteousness are paying attention to the elections as compared to others. (Barna Report; Who Qualifies as an Evangelical?).
To sum up, God’s people in this nation are asleep and ignorant as the United States faces its greatest challenges.
But the Mormons seem to get it.
Glenn Beck (a prominent Mormon broadcaster and author) recently suggested that GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump is incompatible with Christians who take their faith seriously.
“No Christian, no real Christian – I don’t mean a judgmental Christian, I mean somebody who is living their faith – no real Christian says, ‘I want that guy, that guy is for me,’” he said during a broadcast of his radio show. “Nobody, nobody.”
Beck also argued America is moving away from its Christian underpinnings, causing myriads of moral and social problems nationwide.
“I honestly don’t know what else to do,” he said. “We have got to be a people of principles. We are a Christian nation.”
“Are we really?” Beck asked. “Then why are we in so much trouble? Why do we have the same kind of problems that non-Christian nations do with pornography and drugs and everything else?
“We should be setting an example if we’re actually living our Christian faith. The problem is we all say we’re living our Christian faith [and] we’re not living our Christian faith.”
Beck additionally vowed he would challenge any religion or denomination he believes is ignoring its own guiding principles.
“I’ll take on the Jews, and I’ll take on the Lutherans, and I’ll take on the Catholics, and I’ll take on the Mormons,” he said. “I’ll take them all on. You’re damn right. Where are you? You’re not living your principles.”
Where have you heard that prophetic call in the evangelical churches?
Meanwhile, the Republican presidential sweepstakes arrived in Utah–a Mormon bastion–on March 22 after giving Donald Trump ten-to-fifteen victories in the Bible heart-land of America. How did the Mormons vote? The way evangelicals should have:
- Ted Cruz, a principled Christian conservative – 69%
- John Kasich, an evangelical governor – 17%.
- Donald Trump – 14%.
If evangelicals had been as wise as Mormon voters in Utah, then right now Ted Cruz would be well on his way to wrapping up the Republican nomination and going against a weak Hillary Clinton or Socialist Bernie Sanders in November.
Many people believe that Ted Cruz is the closest thing to Ronald Reagan in a generation. Yet, an unengaged, mindless, unprincipled Church is not practicing its faith in the voting booth.
Mormons are showing evangelicals the way. Maybe we need to be born again more than they do.
And show our faith by our works.