Evangelical leaders LOVE Glenn Beck, at least partly because they don’t really believe he is a Mormon

Is Glenn Beck helping the cause of outreach to the evangelical community? Well, read this article, and you may be convinced he is. Some of the key evangelical leaders LOVE Glenn Beck. Now, it is true they love him because they don’t really believe he is a Mormon. They seem to imply he joined the Church because the Church was the vehicle he used to overcome his alcoholism and that he doesn’t really believe all that golden plates and Joseph Smith stuff.

Regardless, is Glenn Beck helping close the divide between evangelicals and Mormons? Read the attached and decide. Here are the key excerpts:

I have interviewed persons who have talked specifically with Glenn about his personal salvation – persons extremely well known in Christianity – and they have affirmed (using language evangelicals understand), “Glenn is saved.” He understands receiving Christ as savior. (Note: I have never discussed with Glenn this topic.)

On one occasion three of us were walking near the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. The person to my right asked the man to my left – who is with Glenn Beck a great deal – “I heard Glenn Beck is a Mormon. What is he?” The man to my left, without missing a beat, without even turning his head to look at the questioner said, “A Christian.” That answer comes from a man who has been with Glenn often. At the risk of throwing a verbal grenade, there is no ambiguity about Glenn’s faith, such as what we see in the “is he a Muslim / is he a Christian” discussion regarding our President.

But what about Glenn’s Mormonism, many ask? That is a legitimate question. Glenn was raised, as I understand it, as a Catholic. He became a heavy drinker, destroying everything in his life. It was the Mormons that got him into the equivalent of a 12-step program. His life was turned around. His wife, as I understand it, is a strong Mormon. My personal read-out would be that Glenn’s Mormon ties are not profoundly deep rooted. I am not saying that to denigrate his theological understanding. I simply do not see evidence that he has deep Mormon theological motifs.

Here’s a key quotation (note the number of evangelical leaders involved):

I have listened and watched very carefully regarding clues to Glenn’s spiritual condition. I have interviewed several people who have been with him and have talked very specifically with him regarding his own personal salvation. Glenn has said unequivocally that that he relies on the atonement of Jesus on the cross for forgiveness for his sins, and those are almost the exact words. Few people use the term atonement. Glenn did.

On one of his TV shows about a month ago, he laid out the gospel, using his well known blackboard, in the clearest explanation of the crucifixion and the resurrection that I have ever heard on national TV. I called James Robison, and asked, “Did you hear that?” James said, “Richard Land (Southern Baptist) just called me and said he never expected to hear the Gospel so clear on secular television.” It was quite remarkable. A few days ago, Glenn laid out America’s problems and then concluded, “We need God!”

As Mormons, we often talk about our need to decrease the antagonism mainstream Christianity feels towards us. For good or bad, Glenn Beck appears to be doing that with key evangelical leaders. We also bristle when evangelicals insist we are not Christians, but here we have key evangelical leaders beginning to understand that we ARE Christians — even though in their minds our understanding of the gospel is not perfect.

We are living in very interesting and surprising times. A blowhard, often extremely uncivil circus clown is nevertheless doing some good work in unexpected ways. Who would have predicted it?

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

24 thoughts on “Evangelical leaders LOVE Glenn Beck, at least partly because they don’t really believe he is a Mormon

  1. arJ, you’re certainly correct that SOME evangelical leaders hate us. But then don’t evangelicals disagree on just about everything? Isn’t it also true, and isn’t it emphasized in that article, that a very large number of the most important ones support Beck?

  2. Geoff, it sounds like Glenn Beck is saying standard Mormon stuff but in his case Evangelical Christian leaders belive that he is saved based on his belief in Jesus Christ. What makes the difference? Every single Mormon I know uses the word Atonement and uses it often. The Evangelical Christians that I know, by contrast, almost never use the word Atonement.

    I’d be interested in seeing the segment where Beck explained the Gospel on national TV. How different was it, if at all, from a standard Mormon explanation of it through drawing stuff on a white board?

  3. (To my mind, if Evangelical Christian leaders are convinced that Beck is a saved Christian while at the same time being a Mormon, then what that shows — given that Beck is using standard Mormon terminology for all this stuff and is expressly a Mormon — is that these Evangelical Christian leaders have formulated their opinions and beliefs about Mormons without ever actually talking to Mormons about Mormons’ belief in Jesus Christ.)

  4. John F, good question, and I didn’t see that so I can’t answer. I have always contended that a large percentage of our differences with smart evangelicals is simply differences of language. They cannot get over their perception that we think we are saved by works, for example. Some of that has to do with your definition of the word “works,” which can mean different things to different people. It can also depend on your definition of the word “saved,” which means different things to us and evangelicals.

    You are right that evangelicals (in my experience) don’t use the word atonement as much as we do. Interesting that it resonated with this pastor.

  5. John F — your #5 — EXACTLY! This is my point. So much of the misunderstandings are related to lack of communication and understanding. I will relate one story. I had a friend who is a Baptist. We used to go out to lunch at work all the time. Very slowly I started talking to him about religion. We ended up praying together over the meal a few times. To make a long story short, he was scared to death of me religiously. He really thought I was going to drag him away into some weird cult ritual at my weird Mormon religion if he got to know me too well. But over the course of a couple years of going out to lunch together that changed. He still was suspicious but the suspicion level had gone way down. I think many evangelicals are like this — they have put up walls that prevent communication, and if you can break through you can have real conversations and understanding. At least that has been my experience.

    So, even if you hate Glenn Beck (and there are reasons to hate him, given his behavior), I hope Mormons will see he has done at least one good thing in helping to break down a few walls.

  6. I disagree with Beck on most issues, but I also really like him. I think his conversion, his being saved, are authentic.

    I think Mormons raised within the Church develop certain manners of speech and vocabulary and certain worldviews and other mannerisms that set us apart. There is a divide between those of us raised and inculcated thoroughly in Mormonism and Mormon culture and those outside our community.

    Converts, like Glenn Beck and Harry Reid, don’t have those speech vocabulary worldview mannerisms. They don’t seem like Mormons. They bridge the divide in ways that many or most of us imbued in the culture find it extremely difficult to do.

  7. Geoff B,

    This is a marriage of political convenience. You can bet that if Harry Reid held a similar religious rally that:

    1. Nobody would attend.
    2. Evangelicals that are supporting Beck would denounce Reid and the dangerous non-Christian cult he belongs to.

    They are holding their noses and partnering with Beck because they need him as he is hugely influential.

    Similarly big business doesn’t care much one way or the other about the values platform of the GOP, but is happy to go along with it because it gives them a large enough base to win elections. Tucker Carlson went so far one time as to state on the air that real Republicans think the religious right is nuts but they’ll never tell them that to their faces.

  8. DavidH, excellent point. As a convert, I know exactly what you mean. I still wince at some of the Mormonisms I encounter every once in a while (even though I love the people and the Church — it just is not the way I talk).

    arJ, I think the evangelicals love Beck’s conversion story from alcoholic to a man of faith. That is a very big part of the evangelical culture. Harry Reid doesn’t have a similar story, and, let’s face it, he just wouldn’t fit in with many evangelicals for a number of reasons including, yes, politics. And, yes, there are a lot of different types of Republicans in the “big tent,” just as there are in the Democratic party.

    I hope we can agree that the most dangerous kind of Republican is the Mike Huckabee type, what I like to call the pro-life, pro-guns fiscal liberal. Yuck!

  9. Geoff,

    I think you’re sidestepping my point, don’t you?

    Yes Evangelicals like Beck and many dislike Reid. But I don’t think they care for either man’s religion. They are just in the same “tent” as Beck, so they are being polite for now. Wait till they get another chance to vote for Romney.

  10. You can bet that if Harry Reid held a similar religious rally…

    I don’t know if Reid would be the best candidate to conduct such an event, but I am sure that if he did and if he focused on similar religious themes, he would get plenty of praise from the evangelical world, and plenty of criticism from other quarters.

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  12. A friend pointed me to the official Facebook page for Beck’s even. I was amazed at how many threads either proclaimed Beck wasn’t really Mormon, and thus ok, or “let’s hold our nose and support what this guy says even though we think his religion is creepy”.

    I don’t think we’re growing on them, I don’t think our message resonates with them when it doesn’t sound “Mormon”, I just think he’s a powerhouse right now and they feel like using him just like they will gladly use the church to achieve any political position.

  13. Jjohnsen, I gotta say that it seems to me there is nothing any evangelical leader could say on this issue that would dispel your cynicism. We have been saying for years that we want evangelicals to stop saying we are not Christian and to “leave us in peace,” meaning we agree to disagree on doctrine but we can co-exist peacefully. And here we have the top evangelical leaders doing this because of Glenn Beck, and yet it is not enough.

    I am not saying there will not be difference. I am not saying there will not be complete wackos like Bill Keller (who is still spewing anti-Mormon garbage) out there saying hateful things. But what do we really want from them? We want them to treat us pretty much like they treat the Catholic church, ie, we are rivals in winning converts but respectful rivals. And you have to admit that Glenn Beck is bringing them closer to that position. And yes I realize evangelicals have a long history of hating the Catholic church also, but the point is that today if you talk to your mainstream evangelical leader he will say, “well, we disagree on doctrine, but they are doing some good.” That is really all we want, right?

  14. For what it’s worth, I’m something of a radio buff and I listen to a lot of southern radio stations. Mormonism has always been a hot topic in religious and news/talk programming there, but Beck gets mentioned a lot these days. My observations:

    1. Haven’t heard anything to the effect of “he’s ok because he’s not really Mormon.” Nor have I heard much talk about his conversion, or any kind of distinction between raised LDS and converted LDS.

    2. While the church has been a punching bag as long as I’ve been listening, outright Mormon bashing has been significantly muted in the last few years. I’m not applying causality to Beck (and some of this may be due to our alliance on CA Prop8), but it is an observation.

    3. Initial attraction to Beck was for humor and political reasons, not religious. The God theme Beck has espoused of late has just been the icing on the cake. They dig what he’s saying, and they seem appreciate the fact that he’s holding out an olive branch.

    4. Conversations about Beck are almost always begun with the caveat that “we may disagree on some theological points, but…”

    Also, for those who don’t listen to Beck regularly, he’s pretty candid about his beliefs and the conflict that exists between evangelical and LDS. Yes, he tries to focus on the similarities, but he’s no milquetoast Mormon (at least not on the air). He brings up the extermination order frequently and, during the run-up to his rally, often talked about how hard it was to get in the door with some evangelical leaders because of his Mormonism. A week or so ago, he dedicated a whole TV segment on the Hebrew/native American connection, and he constantly quotes Brigham Young and other Prophets.

    I don’t think he’s fooling anybody (intentionally or otherwise) to believe he’s not “like the rest of them.”

  15. I don’t think he’s fooling anybody (intentionally or otherwise) to believe he’s not “like the rest of them.”

    Exactly. When it comes to speaking of his belief in Jesus Christ, he speaks just like any standard Latter-day Saint, whether raised in the Church or not. I hope everyone listened during testimony meeting yesterday to see how many Mormons referred to the Atonement of Jesus Christ when testifying about their belief in Jesus Christ. From my perspective it was at about 85% in yesterday’s meeting.

    This reinforces that if Evangelical leaders are saying “Huh, I guess Beck is actually saved/has accepted Jesus Christ despite his Mormonism” because they are surprised to hear Mormons talk about believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior and the Son of God, and that we are saved by the Atonement of Jesus Christ, then all it reveals is that Evangelical leaders have been judging us and criticizing without having actually listened to us explain what we really believe. I guess they are still learning all about Mormons from scary books written 50 years ago (that were distortions or outright lies at that time as well).

  16. D. Sirmize, it is always good to hear from somebody who actually listens to Beck instead of getting his information on Beck from Media Matters and Huff Post. That is pretty rare on Mormon blogs. Disclosure: I listen to him probably a half-hour a week and catch perhaps 15 minutes per week of his TV show, so I can’t claim I watch him that much.

  17. One big point that ya’ll seem to have overlooked is this: Beck’s “evangelical fervor” and his “fire in the belly.” He’s like a revivalist in a tent meeting. And I think we need more of those in the church. We need more of that fire in our preaching and public discourse, like Gladys Knight added to LDS music.

    As one investigator allegedly told the missionaries who were tateaching him: “If what you’re saying is true, shouldn’t you be a little more excited?”

    Evangelicals, Pentecostals and Fundamentalists respect that.

    I forget where I mentioned it recently, either here or on Mormonmentality.org, Evangelicals generally look down their noses on most of the mainstream white-bread (namby-pamby) protestants. There is a place and a need for meekness, but not the wishy-washy feel-goodism everybody’s-opinion-is-equally-valid watered-down sissified miracles-don’t-happen-any-more kind of pablum that many mainstream protestants have been espousing for the past 50 years.

    Beck is not ashamed of his beliefs! He’s not afraid to talk religion in a non-religious venue, ie, his political talk show. And his delivery method is pretty close to Evangelicalism!

    Just about every other political commentator except Pat Robertson is afraid to mix religion and politics. And, just about everyone who does mix religion and politics does it in a _religious_ venue, not a political one.

    Beck doesn’t need to maintain a 501c-3 status for his talk show. He doesn’t ask for tax-deductible contributions, so he’s not under that restriction of keeping politics and religion separate.

    Just for the record, I _do_ agree with Beck on probably 95 to 98% of what he says.

    I imagine most of the Brethren of the church watching him, and quietly saying: “Amen, brother!”

    The church is continuing to come out of obscurity, and Glenn Beck is one the avenues of that happening. And, there will be more. The Lord is raising them up and bringing them forth.

  18. Book, good points. I would probably say that many of the Brethren watch him (if they do) and wonder about some of his over-the-top and uncivil rhetoric, which is not something they emulate. But I will add that if you actually watch him at length, the over-the-top stuff doesn’t happen all the time, it’s more the occasional riffs of crazy ADHD behavior.

  19. It amazes me that so many LDS on the bloggernacle are so anti-Beck. A better view, as Geoff delivers, is a nuanced one that sees pros and cons of it all.

    I think Beck reaches out to evangelicals because he knows how to speak their language. I’m a convert of 35 years, and remember the concept way back then of salvation. If you were to ask for a show of hands among Mormons who was “saved” most would probably not raise their hands. Why? Because they had been trained up in the Mormonology and terminology of JFSmith/BRMcConkie. I was convinced as a young missionary that salvation = exaltation, and any other kingdom was = hell and damnation. At least that’s what my Mormon Doctrine taught me. Thankfully, the dozens of readings of the Book of Mormon and D&C have dispelled that incorrect teaching.

    When Mormons get to the point when they can emphatically say “Yes! I’m Saved!” THEN will the evangelicals begin to believe it of us.

    Because we don’t speak in their language, we confuse them so they really don’t know what we believe. We have to stop that, and begin using their terminology in talking with them. Though works are important, we are not saved by them. We are saved solely by Christ’s atonement and our accepting him into our lives.

    The details of exaltation and ordinances are excess information that do not belong in a 101 course on Mormonism.

  20. Geoff, I let the guys that work for me take turns picking what we listen to, so I hear Beck’s radio program almost every Wednesday. And while some of the Brethern might agree with Becks message, I seriously doubt they agree with the way it is delivered (at least I would hope so).

    “We have been saying for years that we want evangelicals to stop saying we are not Christian and to “leave us in peace,” meaning we agree to disagree on doctrine but we can co-exist peacefully. And here we have the top evangelical leaders doing this because of Glenn Beck, and yet it is not enough.”
    Because I don’t believe they are doing it for any reason other than politics.

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