Mormons off Graham's 'cult' list

Oct. 18, 2012 at 12:48 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Oct. 18 (UPI) -- The group run by U.S. evangelist Billy Graham and his family says it no longer considers Mormonism a cult, a move seen as approval of Mitt Romney's campaign.

The action of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association earlier this week, in an article on the Association website, removed Mormonism from a list it regards as religious cults but still includes Jehovah's Witnesses, the Unification Church, Unitarians and Scientologists. Observers said it can be interpreted as a signal the association recommends not disqualifying Romney's candidacy because of his Mormon faith, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reported Thursday.

Mormons consider themselves Christians and say their faith observes the teachings of Jesus, but give the Book of Mormon equal stature with the Bible and have other differences with mainstream Christian teaching.

The reconsideration of Mormonism came after Romney visited the Rev. Billy Graham's North Carolina home last week, a meeting that included the 94-year-old Graham's son Franklin, who runs the association, the newspaper said.

Although the information about cultism was removed from the website because, association chief of staff Ken Barun said, "we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has been politicized during this [presidential] campaign," Franklin Graham, in an article in the Association's "Decision" magazine, offered a resoundingly positive response to the self-posed question, "Can an Evangelical Christian Vote for a Mormon?"

Although the elder Graham has been a spiritual adviser to several presidents, he has never endorsed a presidential candidate, CBS News said, but a in a full-page advertisement in Thursday's Wall Street Journal, paid for by the Association, Graham appealed for support for socially conservative candidates.

"I realize this election may be my last," Graham writes. "I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman."

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