THE BLOG
10/18/2012 11:24 am ET | Updated Dec 17, 2012

Billy Graham Prays With Romney but Website Still Indicates Mormonism Is 'Cult'

After Billy Graham prayed with, and effectively endorsed, Mitt Romney, it was pointed out that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website had an article which openly called Mormonism a "cult." So, the BGEA scrubbed the offending article -- but it missed another that identified Mormons as non-Christians. And that wasn't the end of the anti-Mormon animosity, which appears to be built right into the coding of the BGEA website (I'll get to that in a moment).

As I wrote in my first installment:

On October 11, 2012 superstar evangelist Billy Graham emerged from semi-retirement to pray with, and in effect endorse, presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Then, on October 12, the LGBT rights group The New Civil Rights Movement broke the news that even as Graham was meeting with Romney, a page on the website of Graham's nonprofit the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association identified Mormonism as a "cult".

...the offending page pointed out by the New Civil Rights Movement story was almost immediately scrubbed from the BGEA website (a cached version of the page can still be viewed at the Internet Archive.)

Picking up where the New Civil Rights Movement had left off, I discovered more anti-Mormon material on the BGEA website: A May 1, 2008 story published in Decision magazine, by author Thom S. Ranier, with the title "The Unexpected Journey," featured a subheading which clearly identified Mormonism as non-Christian:

"A few years ago, my wife, Nellie Jo, and I traveled across America listening to Christians who formerly held other beliefs. We heard from Christians who were once Mormons, Hindus, Jehovah's Witnesses, agnostics, witches, Buddhists, Unitarians, New Agers, Muslims, Satanists and non-Messianic Jews."

Adding to the punch of this, Thom S. Ranier is CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, the publishing wing of the Southern Baptist Convention, which claims 16 million members. As I go into in my article, LifeWay prints a number of books that attack Mormonism.

But wait! There's more.

While the BGEA scrubbed the article that the New Civil Rights Movement pointed out, the idea that Mormonism is a cult appears to be coded right into the BGEA website!

I'm not joking. A search on the term "Mormon" on the BGEA website returns six hits. One is the article mentioned above, by Thom S. Ranier. Then, there are another three articles that discuss cults, but these three pages don't contain the word "Mormon," nor are the words "Mormon," "Mormons" or "Mormonism" in the page metadata.

What does this mean? Well, in order for the website search engine to return these three pages, that discuss cults, in response to a search for the term "Mormon," the people who coded the website would have to had programmed the result into the search engine: in other words, told the search algorithm to associate the word "Mormon" with "cult."

This is more insidious even than it sounds. The first search result for the search on "Mormon" is a page with the heading:

"This couple keeps coming to our house and inviting us to come to their assembly hall to study the Bible. I'd like to know something about the Bible, but a friend of mine says this group is a cult. What exactly is a cult? They seem like nice people."

In the first two paragraphs, Billy Graham himself (the page is from Graham's My Answer column) explains:

"A cult is a group that claims that it, and it alone, has the truth about God and offers the only way to salvation. Members reject what Christians have believed for almost 2,000 years, and substitute instead their own beliefs for the clear teachings of the Bible.

Often, they add to the Bible by claiming that the books their founder wrote or "discovered" are from God, and have equal authority to the Bible. In reality, however, those books deny what the Bible says about God or Jesus, or about the way of salvation."

Nowhere does Graham suggest that said "cult" might be any particular belief, such as Mormonism, but that's unnecessary. It is well known that the Church of Mormon recognizes the new books of the Bible discovered in the early 19th century by founder Joseph Smith; it's even been the subject of a recent Broadway play smash hit.

Billy Graham's own website is automated so that Christians who search for the term "Mormon" will get this page result and be informed, straight from Graham himself, that the Mormon Church is in reality a cult. It's that simple.