Members, non-members speak out about the Church, cults, Christianity

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After introducing presidential candidate Rick Perry at a recent Values Voters Summit, Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, attacked Mitt Romney and his religion, calling The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a cult and labeling Romney non-Christian.

Following the accusation, the media exploded with people eager to say their part — and not all of them are Mormon.

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Mitt Romney and the LDS Church were recently attacked by Baptist Pastor Robert Jeffress.
In response to Jeffress’ accusation, Dean Obeidallah, a Muslim, comedian and special contributor to CNN, wrote an article titled, “Who says Mormons aren’t Christians?”

At the time of Jeffress’ comments, Obeidallah was in Salt Lake performing with an American-Muslim comedian troupe. Obeidallah wrote although he disagrees with the Church’s stance on gay marriage, he found excellent examples of Christian values in the Latter-day Saints he met while in Utah.

“I can now say without hesitation that the LDS Church members we met represented the best of Christianity,” he wrote. “They were truly caring and compassionate people.”

Obeidallah said while it probably doesn’t matter to Jeffress, Latter-day Saints proudly consider themselves Christians.

“After all, the full name of their religion is ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,'” he wrote. “If your religion has the words ‘Jesus Christ’ in its name, it’s kind of a tipoff that Christ’s teachings are important to you.”

Obeidallah wrote, when it comes to religion, actions speak louder than words.

“In comparing the hate-filled language of Jeffress with the words and good deeds of the Mormons we met, it is clear to me who is best following the teachings of Jesus Christ and truly deserves to be called a Christian,” he said.

Another issue Jeffress raised in his rant against Romney and the Church is his accusation that Mormonism is a cult.

Richard J. Mouw, president of an evangelical school in California and special contributor to CNN, begs to differ. In his article, “This Evangelical says Mormonism isn’t a cult,” Mouw spells out his view of the Church and its sponsored school, BYU.

“Brigham Young University is a world-class educational institution, with professors who’ve earned doctorates from some of the best universities in the world,” he said. “Several of the top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have Ph.D.s from Ivy League schools. These 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.”

Mouw wrote although he isn’t prepared to reclassify Mormonism as possessing undeniably Christian theology, he does view many Latter-day Saints as disciples of Christ.

“I do accept many of my Mormon friends as genuine followers of the Jesus whom I worship as the divine Savior,” he said.

Reverend Daniel Haas, of the Provo Community United Church of Christ, agrees with Pastor Jeffress on one part of the issue.

“It’s true,” he said. “Mormonism is a cult. It is a particular form of worship. Joseph Smith did not find what he was looking for and that is how this new religious practice got started.”

Although Haas believes Mormonism is a cult, he says Christianity is too.

“Christianity is a cult,” he said. “Christianity is nothing but a Jewish sect.”

Cult or no cult, Christian or non-Christian, Haas said it really doesn’t make a difference.

“Jesus strongly suggests everybody be allowed to include themselves into his ministry,” he said. “This includes persons of every age, gender, race, national origin, faith background, marital status, family structure, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, mental and physical ability, economic and social status, and educational background. Yes, Mormons too.”

Danielle Messina, a senior from Henderson, Nev., majoring in piano performance, said she and other Latter-day Saints are Christian because of the Church’s emphasis on Jesus Christ.

“Our whole church is centered on Christ, ” she said. “We are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is the head of the Church. Everything we do is centered on him. We are Christians because we believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the Savior of the world.”

Messina said she believes the controversial cult and Christianity confusion can be a missionary opportunity.

“I think it’s good that people are talking about it and that people all across America are hearing about it,” she said. “It gives members of the Church a chance to share what we believe.”

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