Mormonism isn’t Christianity, even if the president of Fuller Theological Seminary says otherwise.

Richard J. Mouw wrote an astounding article for CNN in which he used the subject of presidential candidate Mitt Romney in an attempt to legitimize Mormonism.

Mouw, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary who claims to “know cults” and has “studied them and taught about them for a long time,” for some reason seems utterly incapable of spotting one right in front of him.

God gave us a means by which to identify a false prophet, false teacher, or cult. Through the pen of Paul He told us in Galatians 1:6-9 to watch out for anyone (even an angel from Heaven) that preaches “another gospel.” If anyone (which includes religious organizations) preaches “another gospel,” they are anathema! Mr. Mouw, however, is actively directing us away from Scripture and toward human reasoning by advancing his own means of how to identify those that are accursed. From Mouw’s article:

[A cult’s] adherents are taught to think that they are the only ones who benefit from divine approval. They don’t like to engage in serious, respectful give-and-take dialogue with people with whom they disagree. Nor do they promote the kind of scholarship that works alongside others in pursuing the truth. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for instance, haven’t established a university. They don’t sponsor a law school or offer graduate-level courses in world religions. The same goes for Christian Science. If you want to call those groups cults I will not argue with you. But Brigham Young University is a world-class educational institution, with professors who’ve earned doctorates from some of the best universities in the world. Several of the top leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have PhDs from Ivy League schools.”

You read that right (I actually had to read it twice). The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Science are cults because they have not established a university, sponsored a law school, or offered graduate-level courses in world religions, but Mormonism is not a cult because they founded Brigham Young University and several of their top leaders have earned degrees from Ivy League schools.

Is the Watchtower organization taking notes?

So, according to Mr. Mouw, is there anything else that differentiates a cult from biblical Christianity besides whether or not they’ve established colleges? How about the person and work of Christ?


“Cults do not engage in . . .  self-examining conversations. If they do, they do not remain cults.”


Well, what about the presence of a works righteousness theology being the hallmark of a cult? Surely that is something Mr. Mouw would recognize as error, right?

“These [Mormon] folks talk admiringly of the evangelical Billy Graham and the Catholic Mother Teresa, and they enjoy reading the evangelical C.S. Lewis and Father Henri Nouwen, a Catholic. That is not the kind of thing you run into in anti-Christian cults.”

So, an apostate organization only needs to pay lip service to Graham, Lewis, Teresa, and Nouwen to no longer bear the status of a cult?

Mormons have been very successful at disguising their true beliefs by adopting Christian terminology with radically different definitions (it has obviously worked to pull the wool over Mouw’s eyes), but now they’re taking the deception a step further. By appealing to two prominent Protestant icons (both with arguably suspect theology) and two Romanist icons, they have now been able to convince Mouw that they are no longer a cult and that their false gospel is somehow no longer a threat to a man’s soul. (Whatever happened to discernment?) 

For those familiar with Mormon history, this recent pandering to Protestants and Romanists does not reflect authentic Mormonism; it’s certainly not the Mormonism of its founders. For some samples of Mormonism’s historical view of Christians check out: What do Mormons Really Believe About Christians?

Well, so far we’ve seen a lot of speculation and opinion from Mr. Mouw, but now we’re surely going to get around to such crucial matters as weighing Mormonism’s position on the nature of God, right?

“Those of us who have made the effort to engage Mormons in friendly and sustained give-and-take conversations have come to see them as good citizens whose life of faith often exhibits qualities that are worthy of the Christian label, even as we continue to engage in friendly arguments with them about crucial theological issues.”

That’s it? Mormons are worthy of the “Christian label” because of their “life of faith?”

But wait, Mouw’s not done:

“While I am not prepared to reclassify Mormonism as possessing undeniably Christian theology, I do accept many of my Mormon friends as genuine followers of the Jesus whom I worship as the divine Savior.”

This begs the question: Which Jesus is Mouw speaking of? The Jesus of Christianity or the “Jesus” of Mormonism? It can’t be both.

One is eternal, the other is not. One has always been God, the other had to earn godhood. One is the Creator, the other is part of the creation. One stepped into humanity by the power of the Holy Spirit, the other was conceived through incestual sexual intercourse between “God” the father and the Virgin Mary. One remained unmarried, the other was a polygamist. One bore the sins of man on the cross, the other in the Garden of Gethsemane. One’s shed blood was sufficient to save His people, the other only meets you half way requiring you to do the rest including requiring you to shed your own blood or suffer in Hell  to atone for your sins.

Jesus: the same name but a completely different object of worship.

And the final excerpt from Mouw’s article reveals that this ecumenical  poison is also being spread to his seminary students: 

“I recently showed a video to my evangelical Fuller Seminary students of Mormon Elder Jeffrey Holland, one of the Twelve Apostles who help lead the LDS church. The video captures Holland speaking to thousands of Mormons about Christ’s death on the cross. Several of my students remarked that if they had not known that he was a Mormon leader they would have guessed that he was an evangelical preacher.”

And that, dear reader, should frighten us. When an organization that preaches a different god, a different savior, and a different gospel assimilates and counterfeits itself so well with Christianity that truth and anathema are almost indistinguishable, then the deception becomes that much more dangerous and requires the saints of God to be that much more discerning.

For those of you who will no doubt claim I’ve misunderstood Mouw or have taken his words out of context, I’ll not only direct you to the article where you can read it for yourself (here), but also to another article on his own blog (here) where he defends his stance on his endorsement of Mormonism.

Here’s an excerpt:

“I have felt that same kind of frustration recently with regard to my relation to Mormonism. Having published a couple of pieces lately arguing that Mormonism is not a ‘cult,’ I am getting two kinds of angry responses. Some folks insist that I simply do not understand Mormonism. Read Walter Martin, they say. Or watch the video The God-Makers, produced in the early 1980s by Ed Decker and Dave Hunt. Or they recommend books by ex-Mormons who have become evangelicals. Actually, I am very familiar with all of that. It was precisely my dissatisfaction with the basic approach in that kind of thing that motivated me actually to start talking to Mormons themselves—a sustained conversation that has now been going on for almost a dozen years. Other folks see that long-term dialogue itself as the real problem. You know them too well, these people tell me. Having spent all those hours with Mormon scholars and church leaders has dulled your ability to see things clearly. They have duped you. Now you are one of their apologists.”

Unfortunately, Mouw is not the only one blurring the lines between the gospel of Jesus Christ and the “another gospel” of Joseph Smith (as seen in this previous article). 

And finally, I would be remiss if I did not conclude by drawing your attention to a fantastic article in the Salt Lake Tribune by Bryan Hurlbutt, pastor of Lifeline Community Church in Utah. Pastor Hurlbutt does not bow to the god of ecumenicalism and he pulls no punches nor minces any words in his blunt response to Mr. Mouw.

Here is Pastor Hurlbutt’s article:

In reading Richard Mouw’s comments about Mitt Romney, Mormonism and evangelicals (“Mormonism: Neither a cult nor a problem,” Opinion, Nov. 25), I find myself at my usual point of frustration. I was told the other day by a Mormon that if anyone tells a Mormon that they are not Christian, the Mormon is likely to be bothered and alienated by it.

My initial response is “so what?” The English language is not infinitely malleable. Words mean something in both the abstract sense and in the concrete sense. The term “Christian” is no different.

The term originated in the first century as a mildly pejorative label for followers of what the Book of Acts described as “The Way.” It is believed that individuals who were part of The Way were first called “Christians” in Antioch. They held certain views about who Jesus was, who God the Father was and what salvation entailed, that were very clear. So clear that they endured periodic intense persecution as a result of both the content of their theology and the nomenclature that was foisted upon them.

So when I hear a Mormon want to claim a title that cost many before me their own blood it is both intellectually and personally offensive. What Mouw calls “historic Christianity” is Christianity plain and simple. There is not another version. Once a group redefines Jesus’ essence, the Father’s essence and the entire doctrine of salvation it is no longer allowed to co-opt a term with a rich, blood-stained heritage from my ideological ancestors. That, to me, is the height of hubris.

As for the term “cult,” we have to recognize its technical sociological use, its use in pop culture and its technical theological use. Of course The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a cult in the sense meant by pop culture, which typically views a cult as a group of crazies, one bad day away from calling for the end of the world.

I have Mormon friends just like Richard Mouw does, and they are great business people, rationally concerned citizens and fun-loving companions. Is it a cult in the sociological sense? No, not necessarily. I don’t think a lot of its contemporary flavor would fit the bill, although some of its earlier history clearly would have.

I do have my doubts, however, when we talk about how much authority is vested in contemporary prophetic leadership. I think this is part of what makes evangelical voters a bit nervous.

Would Romney be under the authority of the prophet? Ezra Taft Benson, in a 1980 speech entitled “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” surely indicated so in his statements about the prophet’s authority extending to civic life.

The real rub for most evangelicals comes in talking about Mormonism as a theological “cult.” The struggle for many of us, honestly, is that we don’t know what else to accurately call it. Any term that is used that divides and places it outside the mainstream will be perceived as pejorative. I doubt any Latter-day Saint would feel good about substitute terms like “heretical” or “heterodox.”

The point is that we have a limited lexicon of terms, and minimizing central theological distinctions is not an option for us. We aren’t trying to be mean-spirited. We are just trying to be clear. However, when our terms (like “Christian”) get co-opted and misappropriated, the matter is not helped.

So my request to my LDS friends is to offer another term that shows eternally defining distinctions, and to please stop ignoring historical labels like they don’t matter because the sacrifices of many say they do.

Bryan Hurlbutt is lead pastor of Lifeline Community in West Jordan.

17 thoughts on “Mormonism isn’t Christianity, even if the president of Fuller Theological Seminary says otherwise.

  1. I just don’t get the Mormons. Really. I don’t get them. Having lived among them (in Utah) for several years, times without number I have been reminded, told, sold, insisted upon, and argued with by Mormons about Mormons being Christians.

    Honestly folks, it comes down to two main things: Mormons don’t worship the God of the Bible, and the rely upon doing good works to secure their salvation. Now…you tell me…is that a Christian?



  2. Firstly, this is just another example of how problematic Fuller is as a so-called “Seminary.”

    I think a major problem is the use of the term “cult,” because people like Mouw pretend to know only the definition of sociological cult rather than a theological cult. (Jehovah’s Witnesses are much closer to the former than are the Mormons, but both are certainly the latter.)

    The LDS certain does meet all the definitions of a theological cult. Some features of a theological cult are:
    1. An authoritarian founder and/or leader who is in direct contact with God.
    2. Claim to be the only true church
    3. Particular Bible version
    4. Additional holy writings
    5. Hermeneutics relying on eisegesis to support their teachings
    6. Salvation by works.

    It Mouw can’t see just these six items present in the LDS, it is because he refuses to see them.


  3. This discussion of Romney and his Mormonism is very interesting to me. Many out there are trying to blur the lines of Mormonism and Christianity in order to make a political candidate seem more palitable. There is no comparison, clearly Mormonism is NOT Christian as defined by the Holy inspired and inerrant Bible. However, with that said, when was the last time we DIDN’T have a hypocrite, God hater, unbelieving, other gospel believing, idolatrous, cult member President?

    I can’t see how a real Bible believing follower of Christ could ever make it to the level of being a Presidential candidate…it is counter Biblical. It will most likely never happen.

    Trying to call Romney a Christian is as weak as trying to call Obama a Christian…it is just a political title to try to entice those easily influenced.



  4. I think a lot of the issue is that, at least in America, many people see Christianity as a political statement. Romney is politically conservative (somewhat, anyway), attends a church, and talks about “God’s will” on a regular basis. On that criteria, Romney WOULD qualify as a Christian with a few different theological views.

    The same issue was covered here, a couple years ago or so, with Glenn Beck, and the problem was the same; since Christians tend to agree with him on political issues, many carry this over to the religious issues as well. Enemy of my enemy, etc. This is where discernment is key; to make clear that even if we agree politically, we cannot come to agreement spiritually.


  5. @072591 (and all others as well)….

    I agree with your assertion above. One little item which I would point out humbly though is that Mitt Romney does NOT attend a church. He, if he even goes to ‘church’ anywhere on Sundays, attends a “Ward House.” This is where Mormons have their Sunday meetings. Just a small clarification, but one which should be critical to all Christians. I’ll stop being picky now. Thanks for listening.



  6. Actually, this post was less about Mitt Romney and more about the president of a Christian seminary acting as a bridger between biblical Christianity and the false religious organization of Joseph Smith.

    The Romney factor was merely used by Mouw as a Springboard to further espouse his blurring of the lines between Christianity and Mormonism, the authetic and the counterfeit, the truth and an error.


  7. No surprise. Fuller Seminary was founded with a “bridge” philosophy, bridging between apostate modernists and fundamentalists. Ockenga (their first president) and his “neo-evangelicalism” wanted a middle ground to avoid fundamentalist militancy. Biblical inerrancy was one of the casualties. Fuller has blurred lines for years. Mouw is “squishy” on Catholicism as well.

    When he undermines the true evangel (Gospel), why call him “Evangelical”? When will Christians say “enough,” reject his teachings, and stop supporting his school, inviting him to speak, etc.?

    It seems as if much of Evangelicalism will let just about anyone use the names “Evangelical” and/or “Christian,” will accept just about anyone bearing one of those labels, and doesn’t feel the least hesitation about implicit endorsements of whoever, all in the name of Christian charity and Christian unity. Paul said to “lay hands suddenly on no man,” but today’s Christians endorse men and ministries so casually, especially if they are “leading Evangelicals” (whatever that means).


  8. I don’t know why people believe that a false god of their imagination can bridge the gap to a Holy God. They are powerless to do so. There’s only One Way and that is through Jesus at the cross. Without the shedding of BLOOD there is no forgiveness. There’s only ONE true historical Jesus and SAVIOR and God would NEVER EVER use a counterfeit belief to reveal Himself through. That would be saying that God uses deception and lies to come to know him. The God of the Bible is Holy and can ONLY be approached HIS WAY.

    Mormons have believed in lies and cannot ever know God through their false beliefs. God would never disclose himself through such a sham. They have never met Jesus when he spoke to the waves “BE STILL” and the disciples FEARED JESUS more than the waves and storm. They’ve never feared God for who he really is.

    The most loving thing to do is to let someone know that they are hopeless and bound for an eternity in hell if they don’t place their faith the the ONLY TRUE Jesus of History who shed his blood the only one who has the power to wash away ALL our sins and save us. False God’s of our imaginations are powerless to save anyone because they don’t EXIST! they are only in our minds–

    What Mormons don’t understand as well as all false religions that claim to be “Christian” is that they have placed their faith in a god of their own imagination- their own making such that Mormonism have and they are lost and bound for hell. False Christs cannot save anyone.

    They choose to believe in extra-biblical revelations and writings OVER Scripture which Paul clearly warned us about BEFORE Mormonism even existed-Gal 1:8 “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!”

    It is Jesus the (real historical Jesus as revealed in Scripture) who died on the cross and rose bodily from the grave 3 days later) who reveals the Father (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22)-and since it is THIS Jesus and this Jesus ONLY who reveals the Father, then it is essential -to having eternal life or not. Obviously if a person has a false counterfeit Jesus he cannot reveal to you/me the Father and thus he is not saved–because then our object of faith is false-counterfeit. We know that the Jesus of Mormonism is said to be the spirit brother of Lucifer. That’s not in the Bible. That’s made up from the sick mind of Joseph Smith.

    And when you think of ALL that Mormon’s have to DO and then their CLAIM is for a better life or they are free from alcohol-such as Beck was freed from or that advertisement where the Guy has fake legs and is successful and an overcome with his handicapped life,, as IF this is What God offers us? Gee, unbelievers can have all that without the treadmill of Mormon Religion–that’s certainly not Christianity. Who needs to overcome addictions when there are strong-willed unbelievers who live perfectly good lives apart from religionnnnnn~~~

    mormons don’t know that we are rotten to the core sinners DEAD in our sins and need to be SAVED-made alive by Jesus Christ. Saved from the wrath of God to come. not saved from this world’s problems but given eternal life and being truly born again by God from above.

    Jesus said “If you do not believe I am who I claim to be you will die in your sins”-

    Mormons don’t understand that it is essential to know who Jesus is and the only way wecan know the truth and the true Jesus is through Scripture. Extra biblical writings cannot do that such as the “book of Mormon”

    ~ the only true historical book that is accurate and true is the Bible when it comes to the ONLY true historical Jesus and God.

    And certainly, if Jesus lived his life in total submission to the word of God as Final Authority in his life which he did, I can rest assured to stake my life in total submission to the word of God as final Authority in my life as well. Jesus backed up his claims that all the bible says is true when he rose from the dead.

    Joseph Smith is still dead in the grave and cannot back up what he wrote is true -he never will because it’s false

    Over and over Jesus cited from every major section of the O.T. Phrases like “Law or the Prophets” Mat. 5:17, and “Moses and ALL the Prophets” Luke 24:27 are used by Jesus to indicate the complete canon of Jewish Scripture.

    I implore all Mormons to discard the book of Mormon and pick up the word of God-bible and ask God to reveal the truth to them.

    “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, [it is] because [there is] no light in them.”-Isaiah 8:20

    “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.”-Psalm 18:30.


  9. Great point Jon Gleason!
    What’s the rush to “lay hands” upon men for the ministry and/or people who profess to be Christian? Seems like both in the church and in general society we have this potentially harmful proclivity to give people the “benefit of the doubt” when it comes to this.

    I’ve seen pulpit seach committees bring in a man, have him do a Sunday School lesson, preach the AM service, and then vote on him (whether to offer him the full-time Pastorate) that same Sunday evening! You’re kidding me, right? Another example: somebody makes a profession of faith in Christ, and within a couple weeks, they’re scheduled for the waters of baptism. You’re kidding me, right?

    I guess to my own discredit, the older I get the more cynical I (have) become about these matters. A profession of Christ as Lord and Savior does NOT a Christian make folks! Let a person’s profession be evaluated in light of one’s life, walk, conversation, obedience, mind, service, and alms-giving.



  10. Hi, Todd. I look at the examples in Acts, and baptism happens right after conversion. I’m thinking of people like Cornelius and his friends, and the Philippian jailor. I’m not prepared to say Philip, Peter, and Paul were all wrong for baptising quickly.

    When you endorse someone for ministry, you acquire a share in the harm they do (based on the last part of that verse). So you’d better be careful about endorsements. Baptism doesn’t really rise to the same level.

    I’m convinced our problem with unregenerate baptised people is not that they were baptised too quickly, but that they heard a watered-down Gospel in the first place. That’s what needs sorted out.


  11. I have just returned from the mission field so I have been out of the loop for a while.

    I am shocked at the state of believers here in the USA. I feel as if I am living out some terrible dream or a bad Christian fiction story. Mouw, Franklin Graham, Joel Osteen, Jerry Falwell Jr…they have all compromised the Gospel for a political cause. Pilgrim, I appreciate that your posting was not directly about Mr. Romney, but we all must admit that the dialogue that is occurring now is because of Romney and his prominence in the public. I did a google search to see if there were like minded believers frightened by the lack of conviction by our brothers. There is almost nothing to be found. I feel as if I am living out Romans 3.
    “There is no one righteous, not even one;
        there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God. 
    All have turned away,
  they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.”
    “Their throats are open graves;
 their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
        “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
    “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
        ruin and misery mark their ways,
    and the way of peace they do not know.”
        “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

    Even if Romney does not win, I fear the impact on believers will be cataclysmic!

    Where is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? Where is Daniel? Where is Samuel and Nathan? Where is Paul? Where is Martin Luther? If we accept this heresy we are condemning people to hell just because we don’t want to offend them by speaking the truth of who Christ is. If this current evangelical thought is accepted, and with it if Rob Bell’s writings are true…I am certainly out of a job as a missionary. Won’t that make our enemy so pleased?

    But oh my brothers, who will pray for the lost if the Church doesn’t believe they are lost? “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news”

    Who will go for God, who will He send to the lost? I will continue to say, “here am I Lord, send me!” I will not forsake the truth that redeemed me and set me free. Jesus IS God. He is not on a list of gods that I respect. “Hear Oh Israel the Lord thy God is ONE GOD!”

    I am profoundly sad my brothers. I weep.


  12. I belive that just as obama is the judgement of God on america, the same will be if romney becomes presedent,america will chose a king. and God will give them what they want, if you are a christian you shouldnt be worried , God is in control. just stay focused on jesus christ and him crusfied . youll be ok.


  13. Brian,
    Choosing Romney over Obama is no more choosing a “king” than any other presidential election is choosing a king. We have been given the opportunity to be citizens of a nation which allows its citizens participation in selecting their leaders. Abdicating that privilege certainly does nothing to make matters better. We pick the better of two evils every time we vote for a president because they are almost always unbelievers, if not nominal believers. You will have either Obama or Romney as the president this coming election. I guess it depends which “king” you want to serve under.


  14. Mormonism is a Satanic inspired cult! What is happening in the USA? Are there no Christian leaders?


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