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October 29th, 2011
10:00 PM ET

The shaping of a candidate: A look at Mitt Romney's faith journey

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series of stories looking at the faith of the leading 2012 presidential candidates, including Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. We also profiled the faith journey of Herman Cain before he suspended his campaign.

(CNN) – A cop arrived at the roadside wreckage of a June 1968 head-on collision in southern France, took one quick look at the Citroën’s unresponsive driver and, according to one of the driver’s friends, scrawled into the young man’s American passport, “Il est mort” - “He is dead.”

The man at the Citroën’s wheel was Mitt Romney, who may have appeared dead but was very much alive – as is his bid today for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Romney was serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the LDS Church, when tragedy struck. It was a time of turmoil both in France and in the United States. Protests against the Vietnam War raged on, as did French disdain for Americans. Robert Kennedy had recently been assassinated, as had Martin Luther King Jr. a couple months earlier. France was still reeling from a May marked by riots, student demonstrations and crippling worker strikes.

There were six people in the car Romney was driving when friends say an oncoming speeding Mercedes, driven by a Catholic priest, veered into his lane. Among the passengers was mission president Duane Anderson – Romney was serving as his assistant – and Anderson’s wife. Anderson was injured, and Leola Anderson, 57, was killed. Like her husband, she’d been a parent figure to the approximate 180 Mormon missionaries in the field - their surrogate mother away from home. Now, she was gone.

“I don’t think [Romney] went around blaming himself, but in talking about it he’d shed some tears,” remembered Dane McBride, a fellow missionary and Romney friend ever since. “It was a very heavy experience for a 21-year-old.”

The mission president left France for six weeks to bury his wife and heal. A gloom spread over the mission field. Conversions dropped along with Latter-day Saint spirits.

These young men and women, who were already deep in a trying spiritual rite of passage, had to grow up and prove themselves in new ways.

In spite of his grief and a broken arm, Romney and a missionary companion – they always work in pairs – took charge. They traveled around the country visiting the others. Romney lifted up deflated missionaries with silly made-up songs. He taught them to visualize all they could accomplish and challenged them to raise their expectations, McBride said.

Romney increased the conversion goal for the year by 40%, believing they could and would recharge. In the end they surpassed Romney’s goal of baptizing 200 new members into the church.

It wasn’t such a stretch, though, for Romney to distinguish himself. Throughout his life, he’s been rooted in a faith that – whether he talks about it or not – helped shape the man and GOP presidential frontrunner he is today.

‘An American running for president’

Romney hopes to get the nod that eluded him four years ago.

Back then, during his first bid for president, he faced opposition from candidates including Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister and favorite of evangelical voters who billed himself as the “Christian leader.”

Romney has faced questions about his faith since first getting into politics in 1994, when he ran for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts against Democratic stalwart Ted Kennedy, whose attack on Romney’s Mormonism failed to gain traction.

Since then Romney, who was later elected Massachusetts governor, has played down his faith on the campaign trail. But he addressed it in a December 2007 speech, hoping to stem voter concerns about his faith and how it might influence him as a president. It was a speech he likened to John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 speech, when Kennedy was in the running to be America’s first Catholic president.

“Almost 50 years ago another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for president, not a Catholic running for president,” Romney said. “Like him, I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.”

He said, “No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith,” and that if he were to be elected president, he would “serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest.”

“A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States,” he said. “I believe in my Mormon faith, and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers. I will be true to them and to my beliefs. Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it.”

Whether Romney’s confession of faith did sink him was a subject of debate. He hoped to deflect the focus on his religion while not speaking to doctrine or specific beliefs. In the whole speech, he only mentioned the word Mormon once.

Just days later, Huckabee would stir the pot.

“Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” Huckabee said to a New York Times reporter. Huckabee later apologized for the remark.

This time around, Romney remains strong in the polls and counts among his backers New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who endorsed Romney shortly after saying he wouldn’t join the race.

But Romney also has been distracted by pesky background noise. After introducing Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the recent Values Voter Summit, Pastor Robert Jeffress said Republicans shouldn’t vote for Romney because Mormonism is a “cult.” 

Despite such efforts to instill doubt in voters, a recent CNN/ORC International poll showed that a candidate’s Mormon faith made no difference to 80% of Americans, and that 51% believed Mormonism was a Christian religion.

Beyond condemning Jeffress’s comments and Perry’s association with the pastor, Romney’s campaign has made it adamantly clear that it doesn’t want to discuss his faith. Repeated attempts to speak with the candidate, his wife, his children, his siblings - and, really, just anyone – about Romney’s faith journey were denied by campaign headquarters. Even the reins it has on those outside the inner circle appear tight. A local LDS Church leader in Michigan, contacted in hopes of finding childhood friends, forwarded CNN’s inquiry to campaign headquarters - prompting yet another slap down.

“What makes no sense to me is how you continue to push forward in writing about Gov. Romney’s faith journey when we’ve made it clear in every way possible that this is not a story we want to participate in,” campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul wrote in an email.

Mitt Romney -- with wife Ann to his left -- hopes to become the first Mormon U.S. president.

Without talking to him, it’s impossible to say exactly what Romney believes. But what Mormons generally believe is this:

They count themselves as Christian because they accept Jesus Christ as the son of God and believe people are saved through his atonement. They believe the Bible is the word of God, and that the Book of Mormon (subtitled “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”) is, too.

Opinion: Who says Mormons aren't Christian?

They believe The Church of Jesus Christ, which existed long ago, was restored by a prophet named Joseph Smith, who founded the LDS Church in 1830. Central to their belief system is that God still reveals truth to modern-day LDS Church prophets, as well as to individuals – Mormon or otherwise.

Explain it to me: Mormonism | Video: Mormonism defined

They attend weekly services in chapels, also referred to as “wards” or meetinghouses, while their large temples (accessible only to those deemed sufficiently faithful) are utilized for the most important and sacred ceremonies, including baptisms for the dead and celestial marriages - during which couples are “sealed” for eternity. Mormons with temple privileges wear special undergarments as a reminder of their faith, and those who are devoted abstain from alcohol, tea and coffee.

Through faith, prayer and service to others, they strive to be more like Jesus and get closer to God. Latter-day Saints place great emphasis on families, believing that through them – and not alone – people can find a place in the highest level of heavenly society.

Families, Mormons say, can be united forever.

Growing up while abroad

The 19-year-old Mitt Romney who showed up for missionary training was different than the rest.

“Mitt stood out from everyone else,” said Byron Hansen, who flew with Romney to France in July 1966. “He already spoke French pretty darn good, while the rest of us knew ‘bonjour’ and ‘au revoir.’ He immediately jumped out as a leader.”

Romney, like many of the other young men called by church leaders to serve, had finished a year of college before he got his missionary calling. But he’d gone to prestigious Stanford University and came from a privileged and powerful background.

He was worldly, not intimidated, and he was eager to interact with people of different backgrounds, said Hansen, now a car dealer in Brigham City, Utah. “All the rest of us from no-name Utah had never been more than 500 miles away from home.”

Despite the comforts he’d known growing up, Romney wasn’t spoiled. Some apartments that housed missionaries around France lacked heat and water, but had plenty of fleas. Those sorts of conditions likely made Romney appreciate all the more the luxuries of the mission home, located in the ritziest part of Paris, where he worked and lived during the latter part of his two-and-a-half year mission. He and the others there were fed by a Spanish cook and enjoyed the benefits of maids.

What’s more, said fellow missionary and friend Dane McBride, the young men learned what time of day to peer through windows to watch Brigitte Bardot walk her poodles.

The scenery aside, “it was the nicest office I ever worked in,” said McBride, now an allergist and immunologist in Roanoke, Virginia.

Throughout his mission, Romney was the first to get out of bed each morning, forever focused on his goals and the lessons he’d teach, and he stayed gung-ho even when others faltered, Hansen said.

Romney didn’t shy away from approaching anyone. On Saturdays, a free day for missionaries, he’d be done with his laundry by 9 a.m. and coaxing everyone else out the door for bike rides in the mountains, tours in new places or football games.

“He was never one to sit around,” Hansen said. “You had to run to keep up with Mitt.”

He was both pragmatic and creative when it came to sharing Mormon teachings, McBride said.

“Neither of us cared for knocking on doors much,” said McBride, referring to the typical tact for Mormon proselytizing. “But we did it. We did it a lot.”

However, Romney was a big proponent of what McBride called “creative contacting.” In lieu of going door-to-door, he preferred to encourage conversations by building sidewalk kiosks or inviting French locals to play baseball or attend evening parties with American themes – complete with Western wear and guitar strumming.

Being a missionary in largely secular France deepened Romney’s faith because it forced him to wrestle with challenges, steep himself in study and prayer and face plenty of rejection, McBride said. Like others, Romney was no stranger to doors being slammed in his face or getting his behind kicked while heading down apartment stairwells. These sorts of encounters, his friend said, help a person mature and grow.

Establishing a connection with others in the face of adversity is central to the missionary experience, and it’s a skill Romney carries with him today, McBride said.

“Mitt knows how to find common ground with people,” he said. “You learn that being a missionary. … And it’s how you get things done in politics.”

Religious roots that run deep and strong

The groundwork for Romney’s faith journey was laid long before he put on a suit and, armed with his Book of Mormon, boarded a flight for France.

He comes from a long line of Latter-day Saints. Those who like to highlight what makes him different might point to how one of his great-grandfathers fled to Mexico, about 125 years ago, amid U.S. government crackdowns on what Mormons refer to as “plural marriage.” But many multigenerational Mormon families have polygamists in their family tree.

Plural marriage was introduced by church founder Joseph Smith but was officially banned by the church in 1890. Some 38,000 people aligned with fundamentalist offshoots of the LDS Church still practice polygamy, but they are a far cry and completely separate from the 14 million worldwide members in Romney’s church.

Romney’s late father, George Romney, was from modest means. He was born in Mexico to monogamous U.S.-born parents and left during the Mexican Revolution when he was 5. He went on to be CEO and chairman of the now-defunct American Motors Corporation, governor of Michigan and a presidential candidate himself in 1968.

Mitt Romney with his father, George Romney, who made his own mark as a leader in business, the LDS Church and politics.

Growing up Mormon in Michigan made Mitt Romney a member of a distinct minority. There were fewer than 8,000 Mormons in the state in 1945, two years before he was born, according to the LDS Church. It’s been reported that he was the only Mormon in his high school. While Mormon students in Utah could simply stroll across the street from school to attend early morning seminary before the first bell, longtime friend McBride said Romney didn’t have that easy, built-in outlet to strengthen his faith amid peers.

“Neither of us had benefited from that,” said McBride, who also grew up as a Mormon minority in Iowa and North Carolina. “We had been called on in school to defend our faith many times. … I remember from fifth grade on needing to defend my religion.”

Romney’s family, though, was active in the church. In 1952, his father was named Michigan’s first stake president. A stake is comparable to a diocese and has under its umbrella multiple “wards” or congregations, much as a diocese consists of parishes.

The LDS Church does not rely on professional clergy. Instead, church members are called to serve as volunteer leaders while holding down paid jobs. Church leaders rely on other volunteers as advisers. For instance, a ward bishop has two counselors, while a stake president confers with a high council of 12.

Being Michigan’s sole stake president meant Romney’s father – in addition to his full-time corporate work – oversaw ward operations, was the spiritual guide for the Latter-day Saint community and relayed messages from church headquarters in Salt Lake City.

Like many practicing Mormons, the Romneys enjoyed “family home evening” every Monday, a time reserved to pray, study and sing together, McBride said.

Romney has spoken publicly about how his parents took him and his three siblings on mobile American history lessons, McBride said, loading up the family Rambler for cross-country tours to national parks, with stops at places like Mount Rushmore, Valley Forge and Williamsburg.

But McBride said the family also likely visited LDS historical sites, including points along the path westward traveled by Mormon pioneers who followed the call of Joseph Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, and trekked through treacherous conditions to arrive in 1847 in what is now Utah.

While Romney’s parents made sure their children were deeply connected to their country and their faith, Romney didn’t reside in a Mormon bubble. He was part of a bigger and more diverse world.

Ann Davies, the woman he fell for and now calls his wife, was Episcopalian when he met her during high school, and he knew she was the one for him.

After he left for college and then his mission, she began studying Mormonism, attended church with Romney’s parents and converted. He returned from France and proposed to her immediately. After a civil ceremony in Michigan, the two were married and “sealed” for eternity in 1969 during a sacred ceremony in the Salt Lake Temple.

The couple returned to college and began a family at church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, before moving to Boston, where Romney earned law and business degrees at Harvard.

Serving his LDS community

Romney rose in local church leadership while making his corporate mark. Along the way he applied many of the skills he’d displayed earlier, including his knack as a young missionary for turning challenges into possibilities.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, he served as a ward bishop – or part-time pastor – and stake president for the Boston area.

Romney delivered sermons, counseled couples, and made middle-of-the-night hospital runs. He monitored budgets, weighed welfare needs of immigrants and others, and drove outreach to different faith communities. He showed up at the homes of Latter-day Saints in need of help, taking on tasks such as removing bees’ nests.

Philip Barlow, now the chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, served as a one of two counselors to Bishop Romney in the early 1980s.

Each Saturday, the counselors would meet with Romney in his home in Belmont, a suburb northwest of Boston. And while the work was serious, it didn’t mean Romney always was. Barlow recalled the time Romney busted out with a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and did a formidable moonwalk across the floor.

“The media is always reporting that he can come across as too polished,” Barlow said. “But there’s a real person there.”

Romney also was the kind of leader who built bridges with those suspicious of Mormons. When a chapel under construction in Belmont burned to the ground amid ongoing anti-Mormon sentiment, he turned the perceived arson attack into opportunity.

Non-Mormon churches offered their buildings to accommodate the needs of the displaced Latter-day Saints during the chapel’s reconstruction. While it would have been easier to pick one place to call a temporary home for services, classes and meetings, Romney accepted every viable offer he received – thereby forcing a rotation of interaction with different faith communities.

“It was an inspired move,” said Grant Bennett, who at one time served as a counselor to Romney when he was a bishop and later served on the Boston stake’s high council under Romney when he was president.

Experiencing the kindness of strangers offered relief to Mormons who had been feeling “a little under siege,” said Bennett, who first got to know Romney through church in 1978 and worked with him for five years at Bain & Company, a global consulting firm that Romney eventually led as CEO.

“In a religious context, Mormons are very good at serving each other and are often hesitant to accept help,” he said. “I think Mitt had the fundamental insight … that we’d be better off and [the other churches would] be blessed by helping us.”

It was the sort of decision perhaps born of being in the minority in Michigan and learning early to honor religious pluralism, said Bennett, now president of CPS Technologies, a high-tech manufacturing firm in the Boston area.

On the campaign trail and with media, Romney hopes to focus on matters other than faith.

In his religious roles, Romney had to delegate and call others to serve. Sometimes he believed in people more than they believed in themselves.

Andy Anderson, a retired researcher and writer in Kaysville, Utah, first got to know Romney amid tragedy. It was Anderson’s mother who was killed in the 1968 car wreck in France, and when his father returned to Paris, Anderson, his wife and children went along.

When Romney later moved to Anderson’s neighborhood in Massachusetts, Anderson said he helped Romney and his family settle in.

In 1989, Anderson said he was minding his own research business when Romney, then the Boston stake president, called him for a meeting. A group of new converts Anderson described as “Cambodian boat people” – united formally as a “branch,” which is smaller and less developed than a ward - had suddenly lost its president without warning.

In shock, he listened as Romney said, “Guess who’s the next branch president?”

Anderson said he’d been raised to accept church callings. But between the language barrier, the cultural differences, the poverty and the responsibility, this one seemed too much. He begged and pleaded with Romney. He told him he was unqualified, that he’d “never been president of anything.” He said, “It sounds like a really bad fit, Mitt.” But Romney wasn’t swayed.

“Andy, you know where this comes from,” Romney answered, referring to the Mormon belief that God can reveal truths to individuals. “It’s not me. You go talk to Him and tell me when you’re ready.”

For the next three years Anderson said he oversaw the poorest people in the Boston stake. The overwhelming task “nearly killed me,” he said. But along the way he not only fell in love with the community, he learned to believe in himself and see that he could be a leader.

“I count Mitt as a friend, and it has been a real pleasure to work under him,” he said. “If he was a real pain to work for, I’d know it. I’ve worked for people in the church I couldn’t stand.”

Women’s view of Romney

The Romney reviews from Latter-day Saint women in the Boston area were more mixed.

In the early 1970s, as the feminist movement gained steam, a group of Mormon women began gathering in Cambridge to explore the history of women in their church. They were looking for role models, stories that would inspire them.

With the help of LDS Church historians, they learned about their female ancestors and wrote a book, “Mormon Sisters: Women in Early Utah.” They discovered that a women’s newspaper, Women’s Exponent, was published in the late-19th and early-20th centuries and featured women’s writings that Judy Dushku described as “very feminist in their views.”

“We were reading about women we’d never heard of before,” said Dushku, a Suffolk University professor of government with an interest in gender. She and other “founding mothers” were moved to start a new publication, now a quarterly magazine: Exponent II.

That decision, however, was not received well by the LDS Church, Dushku said. She said the fact that it was independent and had no stamp of approval from church higher-ups, all of them men, rubbed some - including Romney - the wrong way.

Dushku said Romney encouraged friends to tell their wives not to participate. He made it clear he didn’t want the women behind the publication holding meetings on church property. Dushku and the others suspected it was under his direction that copies of the magazine displayed in congregations got dumped in wastebaskets.

The LDS Church is patriarchal in nature. Only men can serve as bishops, stake presidents and in higher leadership roles, including the combined post of church president and prophet. Only men are welcome in the priesthood, which in Mormon circles means having the authority, for example, to perform baptisms and offer sacramental blessings.

Dushku decided she could live with this and remains a faithful Mormon.  She said she and the others simply wanted an outlet for women to discuss issues unique to them. And while what they created may have seemed “radical” back then, she says there are Mormon women bloggers today who push boundaries much more than Exponent II ever did.

What got to Dushku about Romney was less his reaction to the magazine and more how she saw him treat women he was in a position to comfort and support as a local church leader.

Dushku has told the story of a woman, a mother of four, who was pressured by then-Bishop Romney to go forward with a pregnancy despite advice from doctors that a medical complication made it too dangerous.

She also recalled the story of a meeting between Romney and a woman whose ex-husband had been excommunicated from the church because of numerous affairs he’d had while serving as a bishop.

The woman asked Dushku to accompany her to the meeting, where Romney encouraged the woman to forgive her philandering ex so he could be re-baptized into the church and marry another woman.

The problem, Dushku said, is that the husband had never bothered to apologize to the wife he’d hurt, a fact she said Romney didn’t seem to care much about.

Since speaking out to media recently, Dushku said she’s been flooded with responses from Facebook friends. Most of the reactions are positive, thanking her for her courage.

But some friends have suggested she back off.

“How can you blame someone who has so many responsibilities?” one friend wrote. “He was young,” said another. “People change.”

Dushku said she affords Romney the possibility he may have changed, that he might handle such situations differently today.

“But compassion is a character quality,” she said. “I doubt he’s much different now.”

Her take on Romney, though, doesn’t jibe with that of Helen Claire Sievers, executive director of Harvard’s WorldTeach program, which brings volunteer teachers to developing countries.

Sievers, who’s been involved with Exponent II on and off since its inception, was the Boston stake activity director when Romney was stake president. She recalled being at a meeting in Dushku’s house in Watertown, outside of Boston, when women began wondering aloud about how their local church might better empower women.

“Often leadership in the Mormon church tends to pull far to the right, to out-orthodox the orthodox,” said Sievers, who later proposed to Romney that he should meet with the Boston LDS women to hear their frustrations and suggestions. Romney was willing to have such a meeting, even though it bucked the comfort level of church headquarters.

“I was really impressed that Mitt felt strongly that even if he could get in trouble with the hierarchy, he really wanted to hear what the women that were under his stewardship had to say so that they would feel as comfortable as possible in church,” Sievers said.

As a result of the meeting, which drew more than 150 participants, Sievers said adjustments were made, including allowing women to say opening prayers at church meetings. Romney didn’t have the power to change church doctrine, but Sievers said he could and did bend the norm to make women feel heard and more respected.

“Many Mormon men wouldn’t make that choice,” she said.

Serving outside the stake and ward

In his fulltime work life, Romney showed that his commitment to serving others extended beyond those in his ward or stake. His religious values came through in business decisions – sometimes trumping opportunities for financial gain.

Robert Gay, who was once a managing partner at Bain Capital, the venture capital firm Romney founded, recalled how Romney refused to put investment dollars into a deal with Artisan Entertainment because he didn’t want to profit from R-rated films.

But of greater note to Gay - who once served on the Boston stake’s high council with Romney - was something Romney did for him in 1996.

After Gay’s 14-year-old daughter went missing for three days in New York, Romney shut down Bain Capital in Boston and flew about 50 employees to New York to help find her.

The girl, who lived with her family in Connecticut, disappeared after going to a concert in Manhattan. Romney and the other Bain Capital executives put their “$1 billion investment firm” on hold, created a “war room” at a hotel, paid to print 200,000 fliers, set up a toll free hotline number and enlisted the help of a private investigator, the Boston Globe reported at the time.

They canvassed streets and talked to runaways. The girl was found in a New Jersey home, “dazed from a disorienting dose of a drug,” the Globe reported.

It’s not a story Gay likes to retell, though he did record a video testimonial about it during Romney’s 2008 presidential bid. Today, Gay would rather offer other insights, including the time another Bain Capital partner suddenly fell very ill and was hospitalized. Romney was the first person to show up for a visit at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Gay now lives in West Palm Beach, Florida, and manages an equity fund with Jon Huntsman Sr., father of another GOP Mormon presidential hopeful. Gay called Romney “a devout Christian,” someone who has always been committed to “leading a good and purposeful life.”

What faith means for future

Romney, like the other prospective candidates for president, will remain under the microscope in the months ahead.

His past will be combed, his policies scrutinized, his record examined.

How much his Mormon faith plays into his political journey remains to be seen. But whether he likes it, whether his campaign can control it, the fact that he may be on track to become the first Mormon president in U.S. history will garner attention.

It’s a reality that Romney friends like McBride acknowledge, even if it disappoints them.

“The issues of his church are not the issues of this country. Those are personal issues,” he said. “I hate to see further articles [about his faith], but, on the other hand, what do you do?”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Politics

soundoff (2,731 Responses)
  1. catherine forster

    What I find very amused is the fact that everybody makes comments about Mitt Romney being a mormon, the repercution that his faith will cause in case he becames President.

    What everybody forget (or don't know) is that Harry Read, the Majority Leader in the Senate and Obama biggest defender is a mormon as well and has the same previleges and responsibilities in the mormon church as Romney has.

    I don't see anyone attacking Harry Read for his faith and he has much more power in our government than anybody else in the Senate

    October 30, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Jeb

      The reason it's an issue is that is running for the nomination of a party that doesn't like anyone who isn't a bible thumpin' Christian hypocrite.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • bigdoglv

      Jeb, your post just shows your ignorance to facts. Keep name calling and letting others think for you. What little credibility you may have will slip away.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  2. Sid J.

    Don't really care if he's a Catholic, Prot., Born again Christian whatever. As long as he meets the requirements,doesn't blow smoke,loves his country and wants to fix it. Why shouldn't that be enough. Stop the bickering. Does his being a Mormon make him any better qualified to run for President.????

    October 30, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Thayer

      Following a cult that pushes the teachings of perverted old men is definitely a problem. A cult the degraded women (polygamy) and allowed incest until the US government stepped in. Not to mention a cult that is still very racist today. Yeah, those FACTS disqualify Romney.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  3. VOTER543

    All this talk of his religion yet where is this man's moral compass? He backtracks or flips on all his beliefs. He's a snake oil salesman who will say anything you want to hear to get you to buy. I'm not buying.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Jeb

      Exactly!

      October 30, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  4. Jeb

    Romney's faith is the least of his problems.

    His record is a total contradictions of what he claims to stand for now.

    There is no principle that he won't flip flop on to become President.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  5. TOM

    I have to say something about this ... The CNN "Quick Vote" on their website is asking this question: "Would a presidential candidate being Mormon affect your vote?" Well, the undertone of such a question might imply that a "yes" would be negative. I'm not a Mormon, but my "yes" on this question reflects a positive. I've known a lot of Mormons in my life, and they have been the most decent and trustworthy people I've ever met. That's not to say bad apples don't exist in the basket – they exist in every basket of every kind – but from what I've seen among Mormons, negatives are rare indeed.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

      Evidently you've never attended public school in Idaho, Utah, or parts of Arizona (Mesa).

      It's almost like the Taliban with the religious intimidation and presence in the public schools. I know. I was there.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

      1) The Mormon seminary is on or adjacent to the public school campus.
      2) Taxpayers pay for parking lots, cross walks, crossing lights, etc for the Mormon students.
      3) Mormon students are given credit for seminary courses. In the old days they were allowed to skip American History (so they wouldn't learn the truth about Mormon insurrections – ha ha)

      Mitt Romney supports this kind of blurring of church and state – at least for his own religion.

      Ask him if he will support Mosques on those campuses too.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  6. Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

    Mormons believe in violating the separation of church and state – when it suites them.

    In Idaho and Utah there is a Mormon seminary building on virtually every PUBLIC high school campus. If not, they utilize PUBLIC school buses to bus the Mormon kids to-and-from the seminary.

    This is what Mitt Romney believes in. Would you want your kids feeling that kind of religious pressure and invasion at a PUBLIC school??

    I wonder what they would say about building a Mosque on the PUBLIC school grounds?

    October 30, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  7. Blackman

    This article just like most articles about Mitt ignores the big elephant in the room. The racist ideology of the Mormons. I do not care if brainwashed blacks have joined this religious cult. I will not vote for a racist!!! I do not care how many marches his father participated or hungry black people he has fed. Hitler could have done community service to help Jews but he still believed them to be inferior and committed genocide against them.

    BLACK PEOPLE DO NOT TRUST THIS MAN!!!!

    October 30, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Reality Check

      Virtually every American religion has a deep and strong racist path - Southern Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians. Why are so many churches overwhelmingly white? It is not always simply because they choose a certain neighborhood.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  8. Patrick Williams

    I am an independent and the only GOP candidate I like is Mitt Romney. He is a moderate and seems to be well-balanced. The rest of the GOP has been hi-jacked by extreme, far-right, fundamentalist, hard-line ideology; no cause is well-served when people become entrenched in their narrow ideological corners (so to speak). Although I have not been crazy about President Obama's first term, if Mitt does not get the GOP's nomination, I would have to support Obama; not because I think he has done a great job but because I believe the narrow-mindedness of the current GOP is not healthy for our country or the world (so it would not be a vote "for" someone but a vote "against" a narrow-minded and divisive ideology).

    October 30, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  9. Dan

    Which fairy tale a candidate believes in should not be grounds to qualify or disqualify him as presidential material. Not sure why people care so much, but then, I can't see why people give a rat's tail about religion to begin with. A complete waste of time.

    October 30, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • JP0

      One reason is that it clouds their judgment and leads to faulty thinking. One prime example is ignoring scientific evidence for global warming because of religious beliefs.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  10. JonahFields

    All people who are alone with knowledge of Mormonism’s fraud, separated from their families, now have objective evidence—citation after citation—proof in the words of Mormon leaders contained in Church History (7volumes), The Journal of Discourses (26 volumes) and Comprehensive History (six volumes)]. http://lyneussfields.blogspot.com/2011/10/beyond-american-ethic-of-religious.html

    October 30, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  11. LMB123

    "By their fruits you shall know them" – for those who are so concerned about how much money the Mormon Church has, check out about their Humanitarian Aid all over the world in literally dozens and dozens of poor countries. In fact as an organization Mormons give more money per capita to the poor than any other organization religious or otherwise. Check it out for yourself at LDS.org and then click on Humanitarian Aid.

    October 30, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • JonahFields

      That doesn't mitigate Mormon crimes against humanity, committed by their leaders, throughout 19th and 20th century America. http://lyneussfields.blogspot.com/2011/08/white-horse-prophecy-incorporated.html

      October 30, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  12. ColbyAZ

    The only issue I potentially have with a Mormon candidate is the order of their loyalties. Having lived over 15 years in Utah, I have witnessed Mormons who put their faith first followed by citizenship. In Utah, we would say the residents were First Mormon, Second Utahns, and Third Americans. A US president MUST be AMERICAN FIRST AND ALWAYS.

    If you would have asked me 5 years ago if I would vote for a Mormon candidate, I would have responded NO, however, with the country in chaos, and the current president too busy grinning in the mirror at himself to do anything else, I would happily vote for either Gov. Romney or Gov. Huntsman. Gov. Romney single handidly rescued the Salt Lake Winter Olympics from bankruptcy and scandal, and Gov. Huntsman was the #1 governor in job creation during his tenure. Either man would be leaps and bounds above President Obama. Would this Democrat and former Utah resident vote for a Mormon in 2012? HELL YES!!!

    October 30, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Robert

      Anyone who believes this crap is to gullible to be president this is scary CNN is trying to mainstream a cult.

      October 30, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

      Do you support the use of PUBLIC high school campuses for religious indoctrination?

      You wouldn't have a problem with a Mosque on PUBLIC high school grounds?

      October 30, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Jeff

      Magic Underwear?? Ok then...The only problem with your argument is that LDS seminaries ARE NOT on school grounds. All the buildings and the ground that they are on are owned by the LDS Church. I'm not here defending the church but get your facts straight.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  13. Brent Charbonneau

    I will never understand the importance of faith in regards to voting for a candidate, other than finding something you have in common. Faith will not create jobs, fix healthcare, etc. In fact I would have you reflect what faith has done to your country when a born again gets into power. Faith has harmed the country just like Afghanistan's faith ruined their country. Fairy tales and invisible friends divide people, because it would appear people have different tales in which they believe and invisible friends in which they follow. The world needs to be woken from the nightmare dark ages of religion and false belief. Discuss.

    October 30, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • JP0

      If faith causes someone to ignore science in making decisions we are headed for trouble. It is also not a good idea to have someone who makes decisions based on voices in his head without thinking carefully about the issue. There are many reasons why an overly religious person would be bad for the country.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  14. Frank

    Why is Mitt Romney's religion a problem for the MSM when our current white house socialist leader went to a church for twenty years where he listened to a racist anti-american preacher? Can you say bought and paid for america.

    October 30, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

      Find out more about Mitt and the Mormon religion by Googling:

      "mormon celestial polygamy"
      "the planet kolob"
      "mormon underwear"
      "posthumous mormon sealing"
      "mormon blood atonement"
      "posthumous baptism"

      There's a reason Mormon males have that smug smile. They know they will own your terrestrial wife in heaven. ;)

      October 30, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Robert

      They Baptized Adolf Hitler in 1993 ..they always Baptize dead people they want to be members...

      October 30, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • stercorarius

      If you really want reliable information ask the missionaries. You don't need to believe everything that has dirt on mormons on the internet. Check out mormon.org or lds.org if you want reliable information. These are actually sights made and endorsed by the "mormon" church. About babtisms for the dead, we believe in babtising everyone we can who is dead by proxy. It is there choice whether or not to accept it; it is not forced upon them.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

      How cute, they teach the brainwashed missionaries to lie too. ;)

      October 30, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Scowl

      @stercorarius I want it known now, while I am alive that I do not accept your phony baptism or that of any other BS religion (which would be all of them). Keep on believing that your magic underwear can stop bullets and people were given darker pigmentation as punishments from your BS god, just leave me out of it.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  15. Darrin

    I grew up in that religion ( actually I agree that it is a cult ). They are obsessed with the end of the world and if a disaster happens they would say that it is because the victims were evil. If someone was sick or dying they would bless them and if they got better they would say it was because of the blessing. But if they got worse or died then it was God's will. They have very destructive ideas, but it would take a page to list them all. I think it would be harmful to the country to have a leader that believes that it is victims fault if something bad happens to them.

    October 30, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

      For some reason that sounds exactly like the mass-pedophile Warren Jeffs...

      I wonder why?

      October 30, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Robert

      Warren Jeffs was no different then the "Prophets" Romney believes to be gods...Thats right gods.

      October 30, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

      Warren Jeffs is the purist extension of Joseph Smith's teachings and the Book of Mormon.

      He's a secret hero to the mainstream. Have you ever heard Mitt Romney mention him or denounce him?

      October 30, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Sylvia Fouty

      I find it interesting that while this piece touts the belief in Jesus as a stable of this cult; it does not address the fact that Mormons also believe that if they are righteous and faithful that after death they will become Gods and Goddesses and rule over other worlds. Nor do they point out that in their Doctrines and Covenants plural marriage is still quietly condoned by this supposed church. How do I know this? I was Mormon for quiet some time but not "in it" enough for this lunacy to be "taught" to me. It took the death of the child of my "home teacher" to bring this out. People began to ask me about the god and goddess business (which I thought was nuts) only to be assured by the child's mother that this "church" did indeed believe this. Thank God Rev. Moon wasn't American or we could have had a cult leader as president before now!

      October 30, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • stercorarius

      We do not believe our prophets to be god's. We believe that they have revelation given to them by the one and only god. They in guide us by their revelation. Please research your information first Robert.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  16. Robert

    There is not a single Mormon that would denounce Joseph Smith the child molestor or Bringum Young the Child Molester Racist Traitor...That is the foundation of their cult look it up...In fact if you removed racism, polygomy, blood ritual, religious rule, treason, secret rituals like praying to Lucifer...they would have no religion at all!

    October 30, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • politicallyoffcenter

      We wouldn't do it because they weren't what you say they were. Contrary to your belief, I'm quite aware of most of the usual anti-Mormon literature. I doubt you are as well versed as I am in the every day practice of the Church. Virtually all of the Anti-mormon sites and literature out there thrive on taking things out of context. Almost invariably a closer look at context or putting back in the statements hidden by the infamous "..." clears things right up. I urge you to do real homework, not repeat the stuff that other people have written designed to destroy the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

      October 30, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  17. ydraw

    Very well done article. I have had my doubts about cnn, but I have been waiting for some network to actually go out and get some facts about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. Great job and I look forward to future articles

    October 30, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Robert

      Facts what facts? If the were Christian they would call themselves Christian not Mormons There is no fact here you want fact? Look up Joseph Smith...If you are a Mormon do you denounce Joseph Smith?

      October 30, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • politicallyoffcenter

      Robert, actually, we don't call ourselves Mormon. That's what other people call us. We call ourselves Latter-day Saints, or members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

      The facts that you ask about are what we practice on a day to day basis in this century. Not the information almost 200 years ago that you want people to look up, which isn't accurate anyway. The facts are what we live now. What our beliefs are. These are the facts of how we live and what we believe.

      October 30, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  18. Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

    When my father retired in Idaho he became a school bus driver. Each day he drove the Mormon kids to their seminary building – during school hours on a PUBLIC bus. (Only one high school in town didn't have the Mormon seminary building on campus.)

    One day he and another driver asked if it would be okay to bus some of the Catholic and Lutheran kids to their catechism classes.

    Within two weeks they both lost their jobs.

    That's how the LDS rolls!!

    October 30, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Sylvia Fouty

      Why can't you reply to PolitcallyOffCenter? How would he know anything about anti-Mormon/Latter Day Saint books, articles, or publications since this "church" will tell its members that should they read ANYTHING negative about this sham religion they will lose the Holy Ghost and break their covenants with God. That doesn't sound cultist at all does it? Here is an idea...befriend a Mormon and go try to pick out a movie with them. Good luck!!!!

      October 30, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • stercorarius

      The seminary buildings aren't on public campus grounds they are on privately owned property near campus. "Mormons" do not believe in discriminating against any other religion, although some members think they should when they have been told not to.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  19. Robert

    Thanks CNN for reminding us Romney is a Cultist

    October 30, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  20. Gary Bronson

    I appreciated the insights in this article. I am also a Mormon. I don't know Mitt personally and I haven't decided who I will vote for. Mitt's position on focusing on his status as a true American rather than turning this into a religious debate is similar to my approach to determining who I will vote for. Just because he and I share the same faith doesn't mean he automatically gets my vote. I admire his sacrifice and the challenges he and all the candidates go thru in such an election.

    You did a nice job sharing some of his personal stories showing me he is normal person trying to do his best to serve others yet has frailties like us all.

    Thank you for the article.

    October 30, 2011 at 11:41 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.