Focus on the Family and Glenn Beck

The tempest in a teapot seems to have settled down. But for a week or so at the end of December (2008) the media went a bit wild with the Focus on the Family/Glenn Beck story. If you were distracted by Christmas and missed it, here’s what happened.

On December 19th the evangelical Christian ministry Focus on the Family posted an interview with LDS conservative cultural commentator Glenn Beck on Focus’ web site The interview centered on Mr. Beck’s new book, The Christmas Sweater. According to the author, the book is a metaphor of the atonement of Christ.

A few days later the Christian apologetics ministry, Underground Apologetics, issued a press release through Christian Newswire (which you can read at Christian Research Network)
explaining why it was a disappointment to find an evangelical Christian ministry promoting—without qualification—the faith of a Latter-day Saint. The release noted Mr. Beck’s Christian-compatible social views and praised the work of Focus on the Family, then said,

“However, to promote a Mormon as a Christian is not helpful to the cause of Jesus Christ. For Christians to influence society, Christians should be promoting the central issues of the faith properly without opening the door to false religions…Christians are to stand up against the social ills of society, however, we are to put Christ first and His essential biblical truths.”

 Becoming aware of the Glenn Beck interview at CitizenLink, supporters of Focus on the Family contacted the ministry to express their concern that Focus’ inclusion of the article might be understood to imply “theological compromise.” Focus on the Family removed the article from the web site and prepared a statement that was then read to all concerned callers:

“You are correct to note that Mr. Beck is a member of the Mormon church, and that we did not make mention of this fact in our interview with him. We do recognize the deep theological difference between evangelical theology and Mormon theology, and it would have been prudent for us at least to have pointed out these differences. Because of the confusion, we have removed the interview from CitizenLink.”

Focus on the Family’s vice president of media and public relations, Gary Schneeberger, further clarified,

“differences in the Mormon faith and the historical evangelical faith are not inconsequential. We can, and do, gladly cooperate with friends outside of the evangelical heritage on common causes; but in no case do we intend to alter our clear distinction as unwaveringly grounded in evangelical theology.”

Focus on the Family’s decision to pull the Glenn Beck article was welcomed by the evangelical community, but it let loose a tempest among Mormons. Glenn Beck responded,

“Whatever your beliefs about my religion, the concept of religious tolerance is too important to be sacrificed in response to pressure from special interest groups, especially when it means bowing to censorship.”

Others have accused Focus on the Family of all sorts of nefarious things. A small sampling from the comments left at Deseret News:

“Boy I just lost any respect I had for ‘Focus on the Family’. I thought they were first and foremost a conservative voice for family values and how to foster families… Now I find out they are first and foremost a religiousity based publication that can’t tolerate any opinions, points of view or people who are not identical to them.”

“To my Mormon friends and family — the right wing conservative Christian Churches despise you.”

“Surprise, now that Prop 8 is over the evangelicals happily throw the Mormons right back under the bus.”

“Either Dobson and Company feel the Christmas Sweater is a book with a good message or they don’t. But when they say we liked it until we found out the author was a Mormon–well that’s just bigotry, plain and simple.”

“I am not going to support [someone] as BIGOT as Dobson and his evangelical preachers. We Mormons should not even listen to his shows or buy his books. He doesn’t deserve our business!”

“Dobson is a bigot, and anti-mormon, period!”

Here’s the thing. Focus on the Family’s Mission Statement is:

“To cooperate with the Holy Spirit in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible by nurturing and defending the God-ordained institution of the family and promoting biblical truths worldwide.”

Please note that the stated primary mission of the organization is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Focus on the Family has always been clear on its position that Mormon theology is significantly different from the historical evangelical faith. But because the ministry had the audacity to make sure that people did not become confused on that point, the ministry and its founder are being vilified.

Focus on the Family did not censor Glenn Beck’s book. It did not call Mormonism a cult. It did not even state that Mormonism is not Christian. It merely clarified that Mormonism and evangelical Christianity have significant doctrinal differences, and that Focus on the Family would not compromise its commitment to evangelical theology.

Interestingly, there are no articles (that I know of) on the official LDS web site that promote the faith of evangelical Christians. (Censorship!) contains articles and statements suggesting that there are important differences between Mormonism and historic Christianity. (Intolerance!) In one article entitled “Core Beliefs,” the religious views of people of non-LDS faiths are called “divergent.” (Anti-others!)

Isn’t it time to stop name-calling and think?

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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19 Responses to Focus on the Family and Glenn Beck

  1. mrgermit says:

    Here’s a line from Glenn that ends his response:

    it is my hope that all of those who believe in a loving and peaceful God would stand together on the universal message of hope and forgiveness.

    kind of begs the question: and what is that “universal message” ?? I’m not going to answer what Glenn’s “message” is because I haven’t read enough of his stuff, I have no great amount of confidence that what (or WHOM) I have my hope pinned on is the same as Mr. Beck.

    I like Mr. Beck’s comments and style, but he may be playing the “tolerance card” way too generously.

    As for Focus on the Family, this may be an instance when their involvment, some would say primarily, with the political right, has muddied the water. I mean, are they, Focus, primarily an institution that promotes the gospel of Jesus Christ, OR are they primarily an institutipm that promotes “family values”, “conservative values”, “values good for the country…..” etc.. Some of this confusion, I’m thinking Focus draws to itself just by the nature of what they are trying to be. The real gospel of Jesus Christ stands firmly ABOVE and occaisionally (hold your ears Dobson lovers) AGAINST conservative politics. has that consistently been FocusOnFamily’s position ??

    I’m asking the question as a long time admirer, generally, of the work Dr.Dobson does, and I hope my questions bring more light than heat. GERMIT

  2. Arthur Sido says:

    Germit that is right on. Dobson has often blurred the lines between the Gospel and politics, making some strange bedfellows under the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic. FotF forgets that if someone is an enemy of the Gospel of Christ, they cannot be your friend. By giving tacit approval to Beck, they were welcoming a wolf in among the sheep….

    Once again this highlights the hypocrisy of the cry for “tolerance” among mormons at the same time they are sending missionaries out to tell people that they are members of apostate churches, abominations in the eyes of God.

  3. MDavis says:

    Sounds to me that this organization contacted Mr. Beck for an interview and decided for themselves to post this story. Apparently, at the time, they thought it fit into their mission to have an interview with the man. Then, because special interest groups had a cow, they pull the story.

    Sounds like Focus of the Family should do a better job at following their own policies.

  4. mrgermit says:

    Thank you Arthur (like your web sites, by the way) for the post(s)

    I dont’ want to make TOO much of this but as Arthur said:

    Dobson has often blurred the lines between the Gospel and politics, making some strange bedfellows under the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic.

    As much as I appreciate much of what they do, I think blending LARGE amounts of ANY kind of politics into the gospel ends up producing (bank on this, just a matter of time and opportunity) some kind of weird mongrel: not quite gospel, not quite politics.
    I think SOME of the confusion here is exactly that, and again, I am NOT giving Glenn a free pass on the “tolerance” issue, but to me, that is actually secondary.

    As a sideline: what I see is more and more ev. christians waking up to the reality of this sort of weird admixture and starting to re-assess. I think I’d be more comfortable with Focus changing their mission statement to say something about primarily helping families, or vallues, or something, and dont’ mention “the gospel”; I know how that sounds, but it seems to me to be more what they are really all about, and I don’t have a problem with that.

    GOD help us ALL re-assess. GERMIT
    PS: starting with my wife………….just kidding

    PPS: anyone know any REALLY GOOD hiding places where FOCUS won’t find me??

  5. mobaby says:


    How many books by evangelical Christian authors does the Mormon Church promote? Focus on the Family is a specific evangelical Christian organization – shouldn’t they remain true to their statement of faith? – or should they start promoting every religion – “get the latest on the Dalai Lama and his support of psychological neural research here at Focus on the Family. He provides valuable insights into your children and the psychology behind their behavior.” The Dalai Lama supports some good things in this world and is part of a extremely persecuted group in China. However, promoting him or his beliefs on Focus on the Family would be entirely inappropriate. The same holds true for any religion which undermines or contradicts the major tenets of the Christian faith. It only makes sense, otherwise why even exist, if you’re not going to hold true to your convictions?

  6. GB says:


    Let’s see!

    D&C 109:7 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, SEEK YE OUT OF THE BEST BOOKS words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith;
    • • •
    14 And do thou grant, Holy Father, that all those who shall worship in this house may be taught WORDS OF WISDOM OUT OF THE BEST BOOKS, and that they may seek learning even by study, and also by faith, as thou hast said;

    D&C 88:118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, SEEK YE OUT OF THE BEST BOOKS words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.

    Unlike some, who fear reading the Book of Mormon, we are not afraid of books authored by non Mormons.

  7. Arthur Sido says:

    GB, how does that refute mobaby? I don’t think we can count The Work & the Glory series as “the best books”. How many books by evangelical writers have you read? I have read a number by mormon writers.

  8. mobaby says:


    So – can I purchase books by John MacArthur from the local Mormon bookseller? Perhaps he is too theology focused. How about Charles Colson’s “Loving God” – he is a great Christian author who founded a ministry for prisoners called Prison Fellowship – plus he has a great story of redemption – how He came to trust in Christ through the crucible of the Watergate scandal. He’s a celebrity of sorts (kinda like Glenn Beck), he has a story of a changed life (superficially much like Glenn Beck), he is reaching out to the downtrodden, and he writes books. Check out your Mormon book library – see if it’s in there.

    I have no fear of Glenn Beck. I have spent hours listening to him on the radio. He’s funny, he’s smart. Should an evangelical ministry promote his book apparently dealing with his take on Christianity (I have not read the book, so I am not sure of the exact topic of the book)? – no, they shouldn’t, because he does not share the same faith. Would I have a problem with someone reading his books? Absolutely not.

  9. Brian says:

    I am familiar with the ministry of Focus on the Family, having listened to many of its broadcasts. I’m also acquainted with its publications. I believe it is a wonderful ministry.

    It is a ministry that, in addition to the great commission, sees a mandate to be salt and light to the culture. As such, it has been involved in the large moral questions of the day, such as the sanctity of human life and the sanctity of marriage (one man, one woman).

    It has long drawn charges of being “hateful.” This is often said of those who stand on Biblical truth, rather than going along with the changing social morals of the day.

    I think Focus’s statement affirming the historic Christian faith should not come as a surprise. It has upset some LDS people because it contrasts the teachings of the Bible with the teachings of the LDS church.

    The founder of the LDS church, Joseph Smith, stated:

    “There are many things in the Bible which do not, as they now stand, accord with the revelations of the Holy Ghost to me” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 310).

    In this way, Focus on the Family is agreeing with Joseph Smith on this point. To believe that another’s teachings about the person and work of Christ are not in harmony with the Bible is not to hate another; rather, it is recognizing the teachings cannot be reconciled. (In the same way, maintaining that the pattern of marriage established way back in Genesis is not reconcilable with gay “marriage” is not hateful, it is just an acknowledgment the two cannot be reconciled.)

    I know many LDS people, and love them very much. They are sincere, kind, and often quite conscientious. They want approval from others. Perhaps one reason this is so important is they are unsure if they have the approval of their God. I often pray that they will one day be made righteous in God’s sight, by the God of the Bible, through the blood of Jesus Christ. To be holy and without fault before God is something God does by crediting the righteousness of Christ to the believer. That is the kind of approval the LDS people need.

  10. Ralph says:

    I know nothing about this group (ie Focus on the Family) so I have a few questions about this before I can say anything.

    1) Do they have any ‘interviews’ or promote family books from athiest authors?

    2) If so, what is the reception to these by the main followers of the group?

    If the answer to the first question is “Yes” and the answer to the second is that they are tolerated because they are good books that promote family values, then this begs the question why bother about an interview promoting a book by an LDS member?

    If the answer to the first is “Yes” and the second is the same response as what happened to the book mentioned, then its fair – they treat everyone the same that is outside of their ‘clique’. If this is so then I don’t give a damn.

    If the answer to the first is “No” then who the hell cares about how they treated this episode.

    But reading the comment that the detractors made, maybe the only thing needed by Focus to do was to just mention that the interviewee/author was a member of the LDS and that he believes differently to Evangelicals but the book promotes some good family values which we can all learn from. This would then let everyone know what the purpose of the interview and book promotion was all about plus warn that it might contain some things ‘contradictory’ to someone’s own beliefs. This would then let people have their own choice on the matter whether to listen and read or not.

    Mobaby has made a point about our ‘local LDS book shop’. I do not know much about the authors of the book sold in these shops but I do know in the Distribution Centres only the scriptures, hymn books and the teaching manuals are sold – but that is for church material only, not general things. If I remember correctly there was a series of books about husband/wife/children relationships by a non-member author being sold in the Deseret Book Shop in Sydney about 15 or 16 years ago. But I think these days as there are more LDS authors, they only promote LDS books – but I could be wrong.

    But the Focus group should have reviewed their policies first before doing the interview, and thought about whether their promotion of the book fitted into it or not then made the choice and stuck with it by defending their case for doing the interview rather than giving in to pressure and removing it. I couldn’t give 2 hoots about what they did to an LDS member, or any other person in regards to what happened – but what they did does not give them a ‘professional’ look and undermines their position more than anything else.

  11. I especially appreciated your last paragraph, Brian.

  12. If Deseret Book stopped selling C.S. Lewis books on the grounds that he promotes the Trinity, would I cry “bigotry”?

    Absolutely not.

    This whole business of being trigger-happy with words like “hate” and “bigotry” is immature. Can we please grow up and talk about the big issues instead of whining? How will Mormons be taken more seriously if they can’t withstand the light of public scrutiny and the knocks that come from being on an ideological battle ground?

  13. I appreciate your no-nonsense comment, Ralph. One thing I would add is that I wouldn’t be surprised if you could find (however rare) an interview or promotion of a secular source that isn’t explicitly calling itself Christian. When someone explicitly identifies oneself as a Christian, that is when the appropriate “boundary maintenance” (as some mockingly call it) measures come in. I am disappointed in Focus on the Family for even putting up the article in the first place.

  14. GB says:

    This whole business of being trigger-happy with words like cultic, occultic, non-christian, duplicitous, defiant, and heretical is immature.

    It is too bad that Beck’s detractors didn’t read his book before attacking either it or him.

    Is that someting that Jesus would do?

  15. GB, whoever wrote the article certainly had an obligation to have read at least a good portion of the book. But other people the larger organization? I don’t think so.

    When the words “cultic, occultic, non-christian, duplicitous, defiant, and heretical” are used in a measured and thoughtful way, they warrant a place in our discussion. But to simply stamp someone as “bigoted” because they want to practice traditional religious boundary maintenance is uncalled for. I would think that, with the way Mormons have been treated by the homosexual marriage advocacy community, they would want to be more reflective with words like “hate”, “bigotry”, etc., having seen how the terms can be used in such irresponsible ways.

  16. SteveH says:


    The words “cultic, occultic etc.” when applied to Mormonism are never used in a measured and thoughtful way and by no means warrant a place in our discussion. Yet evangelicals are all too ready to apply these odious and vile descriptors to the LDS Church in the most spiteful way.

  17. GB says:


    You are espousing a double standard then. Unless you can honestly say that when the words “hate, bigotry, ignorance and the dreaded {MRM banned phrase}” can be used here in a measured and thoughtful way, and that they warrant a place in our discussion.

  18. The word “hate” could conceivably be used in a measured and qualified way, but I don’t see that done here yet (in my memory). And bigotry is too loaded of a word to work very well in this culture. As far as the beloved a-word that is banned here, no, the consistent pattern I have seen is that people are incapable of using it in constructive and thoughtful manner, especially given that it is “inappropriately tainted with genocidal implications”, as one Mormon put it.

  19. Steve, I would use the term “occult” to describe Joseph Smith’s early involvement in folk magic and popular occultic rituals. That is the term the historian Michael Quinn uses.

    As for cult, you can see this. Bottom-line is that Christians need a useful word that is strongly negative to speak of parasitical religious movements like Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses. I use “parasitical” in a meaningful and intentional way. As Francis Beckwith once put it,

    “[M]ost LDS converts come from nominal Protestant and Catholic backgrounds, which makes sense given the way in which Mormon missionaries present their message. They offer a Restored Gospel, a term that is easy to understand if one already has an idea of what “gospel” means. LDS missionar­ies offer instruction to their prospective apostles, churches, beliefs, angels, God, Jesus, and Scripture–none of which make any sense unless the listeners and their ecclesiastical predecessors are the result of traditional Christian evangelism, catechism, and Bible study. The Bible used by LDS missionaries in their quest for converts, the King James Version, is a translation produced by non-LDS Christian scholars. Consequently, LDS success, according to Mosser, is parasitical on Catholic and Protestant missionary work, education, and scholarship.”

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