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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. LMB123

    Most Evangelicals are splinter groups from the Catholic Church. They are all very quick to judge the Catholic religion as a religion gone astray. My question is – if you're a branch from a dead tree aren't you a dead branch?

    October 30, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • john swanson

      They sure are,but they will not admit it.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Saturn

      It's a little silly for one church to try to paint their sect as good and another sect as "having gone astray".

      It's still religion. You're all equally nuts.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  2. Kebos

    Any presidential candidate that makes it a point to highlight their belief in the make-believe guy in the sky in my opinion suffers from delusion and therefore would not get my vote. I want one of the most powerful persons in the world who leads one of the strongest nations in the world to be well-grounded in reality.

    October 30, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • tricia

      COMPLETELY AGREED!

      October 30, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • john swanson

      I agree with u completely.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Johnny 5

      Well said!

      October 30, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • pam k

      Ditto.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Eric

      Then I suppose you won't be voting next year because I don't know of any athiest presidential candidates.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • tricia

      It's not about finding an atheist......its about voting for the guy that is able to separate POLITICS from RELIGION....I could care less who believes in God......I just want to vote for the guy that can leave the Bible on the nightstand to go to work.........IDIOT

      October 30, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  3. Henri Charles Schmid

    oops. A typo in my own name. I stand corrected . :-)))

    October 30, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  4. Henri Charles Schmie

    What an incredibly pleasant surprise to find this very informing article about one of the 2012 Presidential Candidates among the news of CNN. I was stunned. I would never have imagined that one of the major sources of the "Mainstream Press" would think about, consider & even allow one of their correspondents, Jessica Ravitz, write such a comprehensive article. For starters, it has given me a very important inside & background story as to make up my mind as to who to vote for, if Mitt Romney will become a candidate, in the next general elections. Thanks Jessica Ravitz AND CNN. awesome !

    October 30, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • pam k

      Did the story give you any insight into how much influence the LDS would have on his decision making? Did it mention how much money the LDS has raised for him? Did it clarify which strongly held Mormon beliefs he would allow to shape his actions and which he would jettison for the good of the whole country? No? Maybe not such an informative article after all.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Eric

      I think Romney addressed his religion and politics in the speech he gave during his last presidential bid. Maybe you should read it.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • pammyk

      Maybe I don't buy what he said. It wouldn't be the first time the man flip-flopped.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • fred

      Agreed, finally someone who follows what God has been saying for years. If you want to end up like the Greeks just stick with unknown God. If you want to see America shine again let us have a leader that does not just carry a bible for show but shows how to carry the Bible in all walks of life. Mitt has shown his love for the poor and the love for family life instead of just poster material

      October 31, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  5. Sircuts

    If you don't believe in mixing religion and politics then you wouldn't vote for Mitt..Religion is his politics the LDS church has already made all his decisions and he wouldn't even deny that.

    October 30, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • Sircuts

      In fact every flip flop he has ever made was reflective of LDS belief ...in other words when they didnt like his position they made him change it and he always will obey that why it is a cult...full control of its members.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • friend

      sorry, that is simply not true. I am a Mormon and know many fellow Mormon's with differing political beliefs. Take a look at Mormons in politics and you'll actually see several with quite different stances. The church has always declared itself neutral in politics; and if you are speaking of moral issues or beliefs then yes, of course a candidates religion will influence his political stances, whether he is Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, or any other religion that involves moral instruction. If you accuse candidates of flip-flopping that's perfectly fine, but realize it has to do with them, not with their religion, especially Romney and his professed mormonism.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • sybaris

      You need to look up the definition of cult

      October 30, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  6. LMB123

    Thank you THE SOURCE – you sound like an intelligent being at last! Yes the best way to learn about Mormonism is from LDS.org or Mormon.org. Get the "real stuff" instead of regurgitated crap from ignorant people.

    October 30, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Sircuts

      i was just there they call Joseph Smith a martyr...wasn't he gunned down in a jail house faces charges for treason because he called to arms against his country?

      October 30, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Gosseyn

      Sircuts, he was gunned down in a jail facing charges in a country where one is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  7. fred babbel

    One of the most accurate reports on Moromonism I have ever read

    October 30, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Sircuts

      Why dont they call themselves Christians? Is it that whole false prophet thing?

      October 30, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • friend

      they do call themselves Christians. If you actually did do some research on mormon.org it surely doesn't show in your comments. I'm fine with anyone not liking candidates because of their politics; I'm fine with anyone even not liking religion or certain religions, such as Mormonism. just get your facts right and have an open mind to both sides instead of twisting and distorting or completely misrepresenting beliefs and teachings of the LDS church.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • sybaris

      For the same reason others call themselves Baptists, Methodists, Quakers, etc., etc..

      October 30, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  8. NaysayerHater

    I'm glad that every single person commenting on this blog feels that they are an expert in another person's religion. It's sad to see so many people attacking something they clearly don't understand. This country was founded on a belief in god, the whole premise of separation of church and state was apart of the formation of this nation so that we would never have the problem they encountered in England, that the head of the Church being able to make changes in the Nation.
    Attacking someone's religion is just sad. the claims of some of you on this post in saying Mormons are not Christian, I ask you to define or clarify what makes a person a christian, if it is a belief in Jesus Christ that he is the only way people can be saved, then Mormons are Christians. If it is a belief in the Old or New testament, then Mormon's qualify. Please clarify your reasoning before making a biased statement, this directly shows your ignorance and belief in your religion and what has been told to you.

    To wrap things up, look at what a man can do and has done, not at what Church he attends on Sunday, at least he does something more than sit on his butt and watch football on Sunday. Obama was put in as president during a rough time, but he has had almost 3 years to work on things, even when his party had control of other offices and could pass more laws and acts, he still didn't get things done because his own party didn't like what he had proposed. Look at Obama's purposed Job Bill he has right now.. he is looking to throw money at the situation to see if it fixes it... that is what he did in his last attempt, he tried throwing money at it. He has failed at his job. I'm sorry if your going to be president you should not be learning on the job, you should have participated in state government to learn how to run a country. I'm sorry I will not be voting for Obama, he has failed and its because no one has liked what he has had to offer, I will be voting for whoever is running against him, be it Mitt Romney or another member of the GOP.

    NOBAMA!!!

    October 30, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Sircuts

      If they were Christian they would call themselves Christian. The worship sick people.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • sybaris

      "Attacking someone's religion is just sad."

      No, no it's not. It's time that religion was not off limits to scrutiny. People attain political positions and make decisions based on telepathic messages and private whispers from their invisible divine leader. These decisions affect the lives of millions of people. The reality is that there's no more credibility in their divine direction than me saying Pippi Longstocking told me to raise the debt ceiling.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Saturn

      Funny how you say that this country was founded on a belief in god, and then in the same sentence refer to the separation of church and state. Don't you think that's a bit contradictory?

      How can a nation be founded on a belief in god if separation of church and state is one of its fundamental principles? The principle was meant to keep ALL religion out of government, not just the religions that you don't agree with.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  9. Jenna

    I'm going to vote for him. He's so good looking. What other qualifications does he need?

    October 30, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  10. bobcat2u

    Look, a persons choice or non-choice of religious affiliation has no bearing on their ability to run for office. One thing I can say for Romney is he doesn't wear his religion like some badge, like a lot of these other candidates do. I don't understand why they feel their stated relationship with the lord makes them feel they are a better choice.

    October 30, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • pam k

      He doesn't need to wear his religion on his sleeve. It's in his underwear. Whatever. The point is that Romney may or may not be a good guy. But we cannot trust that he would be able to govern for the good of the whole country, nor can we trust that he would be able to distance himself from the influence of the LDS church. The LDS church has a long history of influence peddling and jumping into politics. No way should it have access to the White House.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • bobcat2u

      @pam k
      So you're trying to tell me the other christian religions have in no way tried to influence the government. Is that correct ? Where in the world have you been hiding ?

      October 30, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  11. The Source

    It's fun to watch things from the outside...in other words, to not have a stake in either side of the argument. While it seems that there are some peculiarities about the LDS people, I have to admit that what I know comes from sources that are not trust worthy like Google, Heresay, etc.
    I know the Bible very well, though, having attended a Christian college...and realize that people are often confusing blind faith with not trying to understand things.

    As far as the LDS people....I have never seen a group of people that are so attacked outside of the Jewish people. Not physically necessarily, but I mean how often you see people try to attack Mormons for what they believe. I just think it's nuts that a group of people that seem to do more charity and humanitarian work than any other group I see are called so many names and torn down for their beliefs.
    The other interesting thing I see as I read these message boards is that those people attacking keep saying things like "google it" or "ask a pastor if that is true". Then you have the mormon people that keep saying "read for yourself, and ask God if it's true". That's like the whole "put your faith in God and not in the flesh" argument. Those people attacking the mormons/LDS are making themselves look silly.

    October 30, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • sybaris

      But not nearly as silly as people who subscribe to a polygamists version of judaism or anyone who subscribes to a religion at all.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Sircuts

      Maybe you dont have a stake is it but the LDS church does, Romney would never make a political decision they are already made by his church leaders. It is their religion he must obey them...Religion is a mormans politics and he would never deny that.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • steama

      Simply put people resent Mormonism because it is an obvious grand lie. Mormon has been proven false by the scientific community. Mormons believe Jews sailed across the Atlantic and populated the Americas. The thing is that Joseph Smith, the Mormon Churches' founder could not foresee the coming of DNA. The Indians of the Americas do not have Jewish DNA proving the anchor story of the Book of Mormon is a fabricated lie.

      Ask your Mormon friend to explain this to you.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  12. LMB123

    If you just read the Book of Mormon, then your comments would have some credibility. Without do so you're just a bunch of bigots. You belong to the same group of people who crucified the original true Christians 2000 years ago and blamed them for it.

    October 30, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • sybaris

      Umm no, not bigots. Just people who know that the book of mormon has as much credibility as the bible which has as much credibility as Green Eggs and Ham

      October 30, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Ken

      Except that Green Eggs and Ham is more entertaining and the artwork is way better. But I hear you.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  13. Kaye

    Every one of our founding fathers were religious men.

    October 30, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • Saturn

      Oh, it's that age old religious tactic of stating something which is blatantly false as if it were a fact.

      I want to play too! Let me try:
      The pledge of allegiance contains the words "under God", therefore the founding fathers intended for America to be a Christian nation.

      How did I do? Could I pass for a religious nut?

      October 30, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Ken

      Kaye, that's a big stretch. Several of the founding fathers definitely weren't Christian (actually, they were quite anti-Christian), and they sure weren't very religious. Have a read here http://www.skeptically.org/thinkersonreligion/id9.html

      e.g. James Madison, fourth president and father of the Const-itution, was not religious in any conventional sense. "Religious bond-age shackles and debil-itates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise
      During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, supersti-tion, bigotry and persecution.."
      and so on, from The Madisons by V. Moore, P. 43... "

      October 30, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  14. Saturn

    I will vote for Bishop Romney only if he promises to only move diagonally from this day forward.

    October 30, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  15. sybaris

    No New Nutters

    October 30, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  16. steama

    When a person believes and commits their life to something such as Mormonism it is important to do ones homework. One of the central stories of the book of Mormon claims that the Americas were populated by Jews from Jerusalem that sailed across the Atlantic ocean to america. The characters Lehi, Nephi, Laman, and Lemule were the founding Jews from which all inhabitants of the Americas descended.

    This central story has been scientifically debunked because the DNA of American Indians is not Jewish. Mormon followers scoff at this fact or would rather simply ignore that they are willingly following something that has been proven a lie.

    At what point is this religion considered a cult?

    October 30, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • Danl

      Taking a DNA sample of a few hundred people shouldn't discount an entire religion. To my knowledge, Mormons don't believe in Native Americans being completely Jewish. Maybe someone more knowledgeable can correct me... but I think their religion allows for other origins (the Jewish part being a splinter group)

      October 30, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • Qwerty

      Not true. Mormons believe they were AMONG their ancestors, NOT the original source. Bigot.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • golderhawk

      Mormons BELIEVE that Jews from Jerusalem settled the Americas. PERIOD! This is the backbone of the Book of Mormon. Read the Book of Mormon for yourself — Do not take my word for it. DNA testing PROVES scientifically Mormonism was founded a lie or fable if you prefer. The LDS scientist that did the tests was eventually excommunicated from the Mormon church because he refused to deny or alter his findings to suit the church.

      Mitt believes this tripe! Still even after knowing the above information. Mitt is not suited to be president. He believes crap.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • friend

      no. in fact Mormons believe that a family from Jerusalem arrived in the Americas and became ONE of the peoples populating the Americas. In fact the Book of Mormon talks about a separate civilization who arrived centuries before those of Jewish heritage; and not one verse of the Book of Mormon declares that there were NO other civilizations or peoples of other parts of the world also inhabiting the Americas. I am a Mormon who has actually read the Book of Mormon, and I encourage anyone with doubts or questions to actually read it for themselves and study the churches teachings from primary sources–the scriptures, words of the prophets, the church itself–rather than trusting 3rd party interpretations or claims of understanding Mormonism.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Gosseyn

      Even if Mormons believed that "The characters Lehi, Nephi, Laman, and Lemule were the founding Jews from which all inhabitants of the Americas descended," which they don't, the DNA test of the American Indians wouldn't refute that because the book says that all the descendants of Nephi perished, and the descendants of Laman and Lemuel were changed from white to dark, i.e., their race was changed, so of necessity, their DNA was changed, too, unless all races have the same DNA, which I doubt.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  17. Saturn

    Fun fact for religious people:
    Scientists have spent more time trying to understand your religious book than you have spent trying to understand their scientific theories.

    So, if they criticize your religion, it isn't because they don't understand it. It's because your religion doesn't make any sense.

    October 30, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • TheDudeAbides

      Oh, sure, you're a PLANET, so you think you know more than the rest of us :)

      October 30, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • Saturn

      Not only am I a planet, but I also have rings.

      I bet you don't have rings! Well, not the celestial kind, anyway.

      Romney might, though.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  18. allison Holman

    Biggest 1 sided piece of crap I have ever read

    October 30, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Qwerty

      Bigot.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  19. LDS Witness

    Our nation is in terrible trouble because Satan has deceived non-Mormons, something Brother Romney has been taught by our church since he was young. We live in the latter days, the crucial period in Earth's history leading up to the return of Jesus Christ in glory and power.

    It is Jesus Christ who leads the LDS Church, the only true church on Earth, through the power of the priesthood. The Son of God will heal and purify the Earth through his priesthood power, which Brother Romney also possesses. It was through priesthood power that the universe and everything in it was made. America badly needs a Latter-day Saint in the White House and President Romney will be able to do much to save our nation from further degradation and eventual ruin.

    If President Romney will follow the words and instructions of LDS prophets and seek revelation and inspiration from the Lord through prayer and fasting, America can be restored to its former greatness. However, if he becomes president and does not allow the Holy Ghost to guide his decisions as our national leader, America will suffer the consequences.

    I encourage my fellow Americans to not only vote for Brother Romney, but investigate his religion, the only true religion in the world.

    October 30, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • West

      This is exactly what scares me the most.....

      October 30, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • Saturn

      This is why we can't have nice things.

      October 30, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • sybaris

      "America badly needs a Latter-day Saint in the White House"

      "If President Romney will follow the words and instructions of LDS prophets and seek revelation and inspiration from the Lord through prayer and fasting, America can be restored to its former greatness"

      One persons delusion is the religion of many

      October 30, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • G-D

      Luk 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is inside/within you.

      The above verse of scripture has not a damned thing to do with celestial glories as from what I heard the LDS are leaning towards,,,, Care to explain to us all this celestial rewarding?

      October 30, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • steama

      When a person believes and commits their life to something such as Mormonism it is important to do ones homework. One of the central stories of the book of Mormon claims that the Americas were populated by Jews from Jerusalem that sailed across the Atlantic ocean to america.

      This central story has been scientifically debunked because the DNA of American Indians is not Jewish. Mormon followers scoff at this fact or would rather simply ignore that they are willingly following something that has been proven a lie.

      When is this religion considered a cult?

      October 30, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • TheDudeAbides

      Dude... IT'S ALL MADE UP. All of it. Fake. Bogus. Ersatz. Phony Bologna. You've been bamboozled. Hoodwinked. Punk'd.

      And it ain't just LDS. It's ALL of it. All religion.

      You. Are. On. Your. Own.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • G-D

      @ LDS Wittless Witness,,,,

      This nation, the U.S.A. was born from religious folk in Europe wanting to be freed from the over taxations of both the Churches and their Governments. LDS was not even around when the U.S.A. was first birthed. Celestial perversionists are but frauds,,, IMHO! :-| :-( :-|

      October 30, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • pam k

      OMG! You just made me belly laugh for ten solid minutes! Are you serious? Is this some kind of Mormon Sunday school assignment? You just did your cause WAY more harm than good. If I could ever bring myself to vote for a Mormon, it would be in spite of his religion, not because of it. You just articulated EVERYTHING that is truly scary about a Mormon in the White House. Couldn't have done it better myself.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • bobcat2u

      It sounds to me like you describing the ant-christ.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Gosseyn

      If anyone believes that this was written by a Mormon, and not someone posing as a Mormon, they are being taken.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  20. pam k

    Oh, and Jennifer, if your point is that the LDS should be judged by it's actions, I will be glad to do just that. I know of thousands of gays and lesbians in California who think the LDS' actions are patently evil. I happen to agree. If the LDs was so willing to stomp right into politics in California, what would it do if the President was a Mormon Bishop? That's just terrifying.

    October 30, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • West

      Bingo. I think between "Jennifer" and "LDS Witness" there probably isn't much more to be said. I just hope all this nuttiness comes out before the election.

      October 30, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
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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.