Rick Santorum-backing pastor plays the 'Mormon cult' card

Published: Friday, Jan. 20 2012 6:33 p.m. MST

Republican presidential candidates, from left, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich pose for a photo at the start of the South Carolina Republican presidential candidate debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Monday, Jan. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Charles Dharapak, AP

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An evangelical pastor supporting a rival Republican presidential candidate is attacking Mitt Romney by calling The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a "cult."

And this time neither Robert Jeffress nor Rick Perry are involved.

"I know there have been many people who said they'd hold their nose and vote for Romney if he gets the nomination, but I'm not [one of them], I won't vote for him," Rev. Huey Mills, head of the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools, told The Hill blog site.

Mills added that Mormonism "is a cult, most definitely."

"My attitude is first 'anybody but Romney,' and second, 'let's get [Rick] Santorum elected," said Mills, who also told The Hill that he could never vote for Romney partly because he is a Mormon.

Mills' language is reminiscent of the statement made by Jeffress in support of Perry last October, when his politically motivated reference to "the cult of Mormonism" launched a firestorm of controversy and, according to some pundits, ultimately hurt Perry's campaign.

But Mills takes his concerns about Romney further, complaining that the front-running candidate isn't homophobic enough.

"In obedience to the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, most South Carolinans and I have a sane and healthy homophobia, while Mitt Romney has a very bad case of homophilia," said Mills in a joint statement with fellow pastor, Rev. Ray Moore, according to The Hill. "Romney's liberal support for homosexuality is not only at doctrinal odds with traditional Judaism and Christianity, it's even at odds with latter-day cults like Islam and Mormonism."

The Hill indicates that the Santorum campaign has not commented on the Mills endorsement.

The return of the C-word to the presidential campaign indicates that Daniel Burke of Religion News service is probably right when he writes: "Are Mormons Christian? It's complicated."

Burke notes that according to "The Atlas of Global Christianity," The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is listed as a "marginal" Christian group, along with Jehovah's Witnesses and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. Todd Johnson, editor of the atlas and director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, acknowledges that the "marginal" listing "is not a perfect fit and rings a pejorative tone."

"It's not a category that helps you understand what these groups believe," he told Burke. "It's just saying that they have something besides the Bible that is quite significant."

Burke accurately outlines some of the critical differences between LDS beliefs and creedal Christianity, including belief in the Book of Mormon and in living prophets, particularly Joseph Smith. He cites the opinions and scholarly evaluations of people on both sides of the Christian-non-Christian debate, including Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who said arguing that Mormons are not Christians because they do not recite the Nicene Creed would leave Jesus and his disciples outside the Christian fold as well.

Burke doesn't draw any final conclusions in his story, but he left the last word to Dr. Robert Millet, former dean of Religious Education at BYU. "When people call Mormons non-Christian, they might believe that we do not accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, or believe in the New Testament," Millet said. "We don't want to fight about this. We just wish people would get it right."

EMAIL: jwalker@desnews.com

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