Robert Jeffress, pastor of the 13,000-member First Baptist Church of Dallas, described Mormonism as “cult like.” His comments created a storm in the media because of his endorsement of Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., and the fact that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. Actually, Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This is an important designation, as I’ll point out below because of its emphasis on the last days.
The “cult like” comment caught my attention as it did people like Sally Quinn of the Wasington Post:
It’s not enough that Perry’s spokesman said the governor didn’t share Jeffress’s view that Mormonism is a cult. After the way Jeffress unloaded, both in his introduction of Perry at the Values Voters Summit and afterword in remarks to the press, the public needs to hear from the candidate himself.
Quinn and other liberal pundits are missing something about Jeffress’s views that are equally “cult like” but for a different reason.
Ever since Joseph Smith pieced together the Book of Mormon and the church’s strange doctrines, this made-in-America religion has been described as a cult. Walter Martin’s The Maze of Mormonism, first published in 1962 and later incorporated in his larger work The Kingdom of the Cults, set the early standard of evaluation. But even before Martin’s work, evangelicals have been critical of Mormonism. Anthony Hoekema’s The Four Major Cults (1963) also designated Mormonism as a cult.
There is an aspect of Pastor Jeffress’s belief system that is also “cult like,” something that he shares with Romney and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, with an emphasis on “Latter-Day.” Jeffress and Romney believe that we are living in the last days. Not only does Jeffress share this belief with Mormons, he also shares it with Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fact, Jeffress has made the end times the center-piece to his ministry. Jeffress has written Twilight’s Last Gleaming which is about America’s “last days.” For all his posturing about how we can delay the inevitable, there is no way to delay it.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses follow an end-time scenario that is not much different from the one outlined by Jeffress. There are the obligatory references to nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, earthquakes, pestilence, and what they believe is a yet future preaching of the gospel into all the world of our day.
You will also find that the Jehovah’s Witnesses and dispensationalists like Jeffress share the belief that world wars, terrorism, homosexuality, the rise of Islam, tsunamis, diseases like malaria, influenza, and AIDs are empirical evidence that the end must be near. There is also the common belief that Armageddon is still in our future. Like Jeffress, Jehovah’s Witnesses “are convinced of the reality of these prophecies.”.
They both emphasize the “Messianic Kingdom” of Jesus on earth. Other than some differences in the Bible translations the Witnesses use, there is not much difference in the way they view the millennial kingdom. In fact, one of the publications of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is The Watchtower: Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom. Jeffress holds a similar belief.
As Ed Decker, a former Mormon writes, Mormons “are basically believers in premillennialism (that the Second Coming of Jesus will occur before the millennium)” and “believe in an essentially literalist interpretation of the events in Revelation, thus they are expecting famines, plagues, and earthquakes.” Jeffress shares a similar belief.
Jeffress preached a series of sermons with the title “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” in September that laid out his belief that Christians can only “delay America’s eventual demise” because “this world’s days are numbered.” He told his audience that America is headed for “inevitable collapse.”
How is Jeffress’s claim that “America’s collapse is inevitable” any different from the cults like LDS and the Jehovah’s Witnesses that teach something similar? Why bother working to change the political landscape to lessen the power of government if America’s end is inevitable, inevitably soon? Could America’s demise be just around the corner because tens of millions of Christians have been told that certain prophetic signs that the “rapture” is near? Why bother building Christian schools and developing curriculum with a solid biblical worldview if the end is near? Why bother studying law, starting a business, or developing alternative energy sources if the end is near? Pick any cultural endeavor and ask similar questions of Mr. Jeffress.
The prophetic views of Mr. Jeffress are more dangerous than those of Mitt Romney because tens of millions of Christians believe that we are living in the last days, read books on the last days, and, listen to big-name pastors and teachers on the last days. Their last days beliefs affect the way they view their world. Why polish brass on a sinking ship?
The worldview of Mr. Jeffress is schizophrenic and self-defeating.Notes:
- “When?,” Awake! (April 2008), 7 [↩]
- “Four Questions About the End Answered,” The Watchtower: Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom (August 1, 2010), 5–8. [↩]
- Ed Decker, Decker’s Complete Handbook on Mormonism (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1995), 186. [↩]