A few thoughts about the Liberty University and Glenn Beck story.
A few commentators have wondered about the fine for students who didn’t attend Beck’s sermon. As they correctly point out, students are fined $10 for missing any convocation event, not just this one. This, however, doesn’t make Liberty’s invitation to Beck look any better.
That all students are compelled to attend convocation should raise the stakes for the administration to ensure that they are honoring their students’ time and attention by bringing in speakers who can be profitably heard. Also, because Paul tells us to flee from false teachers like Beck, Liberty forces students to decide whether to obey university policy or follow Paul’s biblical instruction.
I was notified about Beck’s speech late last week by a resident assistant whose job it was to track his dormitory’s attendance at the event so that attendance violations could be recorded for students who were absent. In the case of a missed convocation, the penalty is a $10 fine.
This isn’t Beck’s first address to Liberty’s students; he was the commencement speaker for the school in 2010. Mark Lamprecht covered the speech well back then, and his account includes this quote from Beck:
I want you to know that I understand that the invitation to speak today is not meant as an endorsement of my faith. But I also want you to understand, that my agreeing to speak here today is an endorsement of your faith.
The idea that Beck would endorse Christianity grotesquely distorts the entire purpose of the Mormon church. (For one thing, back in 2010 at least Beck understood that Christianity and Mormonism were two different faiths, not just two different denomination, as he says now.) Joseph Smith founded the religion because he thought that Christianity had died soon after Jesus’ ascension. The church’s official title, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, gives us a clue that following the teachings of the early-day saints like Peter and John and Paul is insufficient.
Starting with Joseph Smith, Mormon leaders have clearly rejected Christianity as a true religion. The whole LDS church started after he said God told him that he would not find truth in the Christian church. (HT to Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry for the following quotes.)
My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right — and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong, and the personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in His sight: that those professors were all corrupt.
John Taylor, the third president of the church, also despised Christianity.
We talk about Christianity, but it is a perfect pack of nonsense…. Myself and hundreds of the Elders around me have seen its pomp, parade, and glory; and what is it? It is a sounding brass and a tinkling symbol; it is as corrupt as hell; and the Devil could not invent a better engine to spread his work than the Christianity of the nineteenth century.
Another example from Joseph Fielding Smith, who presided over the church in the 1970s:
Again, following the death of his apostles, apostasy once more set in, and again the saving principles and ordinances of the gospel were changed to suit the conveniences and notions of the people. Doctrines were corrupted, authority lost, and a false order of religion took the place of the gospel of Jesus Christ, just as it had been the case in former dispensations, and the people were left in spiritual darkness.
These aren’t just personal grievances against Christianity; it comes directly from the Book of Mormon, which clearly calls the Christian church an apostate whore that is headed for destruction.
Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth. (1 Nephi 14:10)
Beck knows the teachings of his church, and his ownership of Smith’s pocket watch is just further evidence that he is intensely devoted to Mormonism. If he were honest, he should have treated Liberty’s students as the unsaved apostates that his church teaches that Christians are and tried to evangelize them to the greater truth that was revealed to Joseph Smith.
I’ve criticized Falwell for being too polite to state the obvious truth that Mormonism is a cult, but the same criticism must be directed at Beck as well. Beck would rather not overtly evangelize a massive crowd of Christians because doing so would make it glaringly obvious that our differences are profound and irreconcilable. Beck didn’t declare the full truth of his Mormon faith because it was more important to work with Liberty University in maintaining the fiction that the two faiths are the same.
Several Liberty apologists have argued that it is a good thing for university students to be exposed to a diversity of political, cultural and religious beliefs. They say that it was proper to invite Mormons to speak so that Christian students can learn what false teaching looks and sounds like.
There are two problems with this theory. First, as mentioned above, Liberty compelled all students to attend, and did not preface or follow Beck’s sermon with a disclaimer or warning that they would be hearing from a speaker who is not a Christian, even though he might appear to be. Second, the evidence of the video shows that a large number of Liberty’s students were deceived by Beck’s false teaching and responded with repeated applause when he talked about his false Jesus.
In his 2012 CNN interview, Falwell also conceded that only “some” of Liberty’s faculty think that Mormonism is a cult, leaving, in Falwell’s mind, many who apparently think that Mormonism is just another Christian denomination. I think Falwell underestimates his faculty (some of whom I know as friends) on this issue, and the fact that he doesn’t know or respect their orthodox beliefs is telling.