What Mormons Want Evangelicals to Learn in College

College is about fulfilling God’s mission.

That’s what Glenn Beck told the crowd at Liberty University the other day.  As Jonathan Merritt notes in Religious News Service, it is remarkable historically that Beck, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—the Mormons—was invited to preach to the evangelical community of Liberty University.  Traditionally, as we saw in the presidential candidacy of LDS member Mitt Romney, evangelicals have looked askance at Mormonism.

As Merritt reports, Beck did not hide his LDS beliefs.  Rather, he flouted them, displaying Mormon relics such as Joseph Smith’s watch.

But that was not the only remarkable part of Beck’s talk.  Beck offered Liberty students a vision of the purpose of higher education.  You may have come here to help you get a job, Beck told the college crowd, but that’s not really what your education is for.  “You are at this university for a reason,” Beck reported.  What is God’s reason for higher education?  God did not say, Beck insisted, “I’m gonna send you down because you need to be . . . an accountant.”  [26:56]

The purpose of a university education, Beck told the audience, was not merely professional.  “You came to this university thinking, maybe,

I have to have an education to get a job.  You need this education from Liberty University because of your only true job.  The purpose that you were sent here for.  To magnify Him.  To bring Him to others.  To do what it is that you’re supposed to do.  To preserve liberty, the liberty of all mankind.

According to Beck, that sort of education is the true aim of education, whether students are LDS, Baptists, Mennonites, or whatever.  Life is a mission from God.  Higher education is simply further training for that mission.

Of course, Liberty University itself has a more ecumenical attitude toward the true purpose of education.  On Liberty’s website this morning, for instance, the casual reader is quickly reassured that Liberty certainly wants to train “Champions for Christ.”  But another of the four circulating mottos declares that Liberty “helps students and alumni find the right job or internship.”

Glenn Beck may be confident about the real purpose of Christian higher education.  But evangelical college students seem to want their college to walk both sides of the line.


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  1. Janelle

     /  May 2, 2014

    It has been fascinating to me to watch the evolution of Mormonism and the acceptance of it in evangelicalism. I can remember, when growing up in Christian Evangelicalism, there was staunch agreement that Mormanism was a cult and was to be treated as such. The rule has been changing, and I see many of my Christian friends and family making exceptions to the rule. As you mentioned, Mitt Romney is a prime example. From the people I know, there is still a sense of discomfort with Mormonism; but overall I hear things such as, “Well, we can’t judge the heart. Maybe God will choose to save ‘them’ too.” And of course, ‘everybody’ likes Glenn Beck.

    It seems to me that Mormonism is on the verge of being as accepted as a mainstream religion. Do you think so?

    • It is difficult for the historically inclined not to see striking parallels with the history between evangelical Protestants and Catholicism. As Daniel Williams argues in God’s Own Party, issues such as abortion helped mitigate some of the vicious hostility among evangelicals toward Catholics. And these days, evangelicals are sometimes the loudest cheerleaders for conservative Catholic leaders and intellectuals.
      I don’t see why conservative evangelical Protestants (and other types of conservatives, too) won’t embrace LDS folks as fellow religious conservatives.

      • Janelle

         /  May 2, 2014

        I had not thought about the parallels between Protestants and Catholicism. Thank you.

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