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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 • Faith Now • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Politics

soundoff (2,731 Responses)
  1. PJ

    Anyone who seriously reads the Book of Mormon would come away thinking it a dangerous cult. It is certainly weird and scary to think one of them may become the most powerful man on earth.

    November 20, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Robert

      I beg to differ.

      Anyone who reads the Book of Mormon with a sincere desire to find out if it is true or not will most certainly recognize its truth.

      November 20, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Agha Ata (USA)

      PJ You said: "Anyone who reads the Book of Mormon with a sincere desire to find out if it is true or not will most certainly recognize its truth" I have heard exactly the same words, let me repeat it, EXACTLY the same words from Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs Buddhists and many others ... many many times in my life.

      November 20, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  2. alicia

    How could his father have been born in Mexico, but be a presidential candidate in 1968? I thought you had to be a natural born American citizen?

    November 20, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Gast

      And yet no one will ask for his birth certificate because he's white and GOP.

      November 20, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Tom789

      Mitt's dad was born in Mexico. The Romney’s originally moved to Mexico to avoid U.S.’s anti polygamy laws.

      November 20, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Hawkeye75

      Maybe I can offer some clarification. I believe, but cannot guarantee accuracy, that if one is born of "citizens" of this country and they have a child in some other country; that child is a "natural born citizen." Personally my elder brother had four children while working in a South American country and all of them are eleigible for public office including the presidency. Check it out by going just asking the question of "Wiki" encyclopedia. Good luck.

      November 20, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  3. LMB123

    don – what is it that we "do" that screams idiot? Might it be that we believe in "being honest, chaste, benevolent and doing good to all men" (a direct quote from our Articles of Faith). Did you know that the Mormon Church is involved in hundreds if not thousands of humanitarian projects through out the world and that per capita Mormons give more money to the poor than any other group? I think you have been missinformed my friend. Go to LDS.org and learn from the source instead of repeating regurgitated lies from envious ministers of other faiths.

    November 20, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  4. don

    truth is mormonism is cult and is built on lies. to believe in what they do screams idiot.

    November 20, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Robert

      And comments like that make you sound so smart!

      November 20, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • IMABELIEVER

      And how do you know that the beliefs are a bunch of lies? Because you were told they were by somebody else? When are you going to go to the source to find out the truth? And since when does the belief that God, our Heavenly Father, would speak to all of his children on earth through revelation, that He still loves us enough to speak to us today, that we should dress modestly, that the family unit is, and should be, unbroken by death, and that every person should have the chance to hear and accept His truths scream idiot. Truth is, when taken in the correct context, the beliefs are fundamental, solid, and founded in the Bible. You'd be crazy NOT to take an honest look at them.

      Are some Mormon beliefs different than "mainstream" beliefs? Yes. A cult? No way. Christians? In every sense of the word. Remember, Christ's teachings were not "mainstream" at that time either, and how did that turn out?

      November 20, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  5. LMB123

    SCAtheist – where has your head been, up your – - -? Is there any other people that want to talk about their religion more? They send out 50,000 missionaries each and every year to tell people about their religion. You should get out more. Mom's basement is dulling your intellect.

    November 20, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  6. SCAtheist

    No wonder this guy along with anyone that knows him won't talk about his religion. I'ts figgin crazy.

    I wouldn't mind having one of those gold plates though. Problem is Joseph Smith sold them a 100 times.

    November 20, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Robert

      That's not true.

      We want everyone to hear as much as possible about our religion. We have nothing to hide, because we believe it is true.

      November 20, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  7. LMB123

    Magic Underwear – Your disrespectful posts scream "I'm an idiot with a capital I D I O T. Enough said.

    November 20, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • don

      why is it disrespectful? the truth is it is a part of their doctrine and practices?

      November 20, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • PJ

      Their doctrinesm beliefs and origins are crazy. Magic hats, golden plates and magic underwear. Spirits marrying spirits and creating little spirits. A spirit God who was once a man before becoming God.

      November 20, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  8. Bill

    I wish someone would ask him about his magic underwear.

    November 20, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • kevin

      i know, crazy Jews.

      November 20, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • IMABELIEVER

      Totally. I agree with you. I wish someone WOULD stand up in front of a nationally televised event, with all cameras on them, with the entire country watching, and ask Mitt about his Magic Underwear. They should also ask him where to find the power source and how he activates them. Is it a force field that appears, or do they turn to iron like Iron Man. Maybe they vaporize his body when danger arises, or transport him to a safe location. Ask him what type of magic material they are made out of. Ask him what the magic words are, too. That would be important to know. Is there a magic button to push? A magic signal or movement he has to do to activate them? They should not forget to tell Mitt that they know for a fact that is what Mormon's believe in because they heard it from someone else, or read it from a source keen on discrediting the Mormon faith. I wish someone would have enough guts to do that...to publically demonstrate their ignorance in front of millions of Americans and people throughout the world. To volunteer to be laughed at by millions of viewers. To publically show that they have refused to do any homework regarding the topic through credible, intelligent sources. I would love to see that happen. It would make my day.

      By the way, I wear that "magic underwear" and have not been able to figure out how to activate them. Could someone help me with this? How about all you "magic underwear" bashing, "Not Christian" branding, cult calling, people that profess to know more about Mormon doctrine than Mormons do.

      Please get the doctrine straight before you start spouting off at the mouth. It makes you sound ridiculous and only shows your ignorance on the topic.

      November 20, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  9. Magic Mormon Underwear Man

    Bishop Romney wants you gals to stay at home, obey your man, and "Keep Sweet". ;)

    November 20, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • brian

      Being a catholic bishop and a Mormon bishop are sooo opposite its ridiculous. For morons, because its.volunteer, a member of the congregation is chosen from the crowd and made bishop for 4 to 6 years then he's done Nd someone else does it. It's not that big of deal. Stake president is the same setup, slightly bigger deal, but because they are chosen out of the crowd and rotated out every 4 to 6 years its not the status same thing as for Catholics.

      November 20, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  10. Magic Mormon Underwear Man

    Sorry Mitt. We know you're a powerful, anointed Bishop in the Mormon church. Any religious Bishop running for the office of president should be a concern to voters. Even if you're the most sane GOP candidate it's a major concern. And it's not just because you're Mormon. I'd vote for a Catholic; but not a Catholic Bishop or Priest. Too much conflict of interest and/or influence. ;)

    November 20, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • chrleo85

      Being a "Bishop" in the LDS Church is a temporary calling that is done on a volunteer basis. Being a "Bishop" in the Catholic church is a career goal in the Catholic church, a way of life that they work towards. Please do not confuse the two.

      November 20, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • Bishops Are Planet Rulers in the LDS

      Sorry, the Temple rituals are more permanent than some job you can just "quit". I guess the Mormon's assigned to this blog think we're too dumb to read Mormon history.

      Bishop Romney's Temple rituals are for all eternity. Or, is the Book of Mormon wrong?

      November 20, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Bishops Are Planet Rulers in the LDS

      Have you ever known of a Mormon stake president or Bishop who wasn't wealthy? Why is materialism rewarded in the Mormon religion?

      November 20, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Robert

      As a matter of fact, I have – he lived in a house made of mud and sticks.

      November 20, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Reed

      I also know many poor Mormon Bishops.

      You do not volunteer to be a Bishop or Stake President. You cannot make a career of it. It is not something you can make happen on your own. Someone in authority prays about it, feels "inspired" that you are the one, and calls you to the position. You then accept the call or not. Even with a 5 to 10 year commitment, I know of very few who do not accept. Most are overwhelmed by the responsibility and time commitment but go forward in faith believing that God will help things work out.

      November 20, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  11. GABoy

    Why does the media just nibble around what the Mormon faith really believe. One would have to be very foolish to believe in the Mormon faith. We have a foolish man in the white house today. I certainly don't want another one.

    November 20, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • Magic Mormon Underwear Man

      True, but my biggest concern is Mitt's exalted status as a church Bishop. It isn't something you just walk away from, or quit like a job. I don't think any religious priest/bishop/pontiff/shaman should be president of the United States.

      November 20, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • Interested

      Why do you feel you'd have to be foolish to believe in the Mormon faith? Is there a question i can answer?

      November 20, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • kevin

      exhaulted bishop status?! haha Even a stake president is an exhaulted status. its all volunteer and you serve your term and someone else has to do. Not the same thing as with Catholics ( no offense to catholics). They just don't compare.

      November 20, 2011 at 9:44 am |
  12. rs1201

    Have all of you forgotten that this is America...and we have separation of church and state. I don't care what religion any of the candidates are...except for Islam. Muslims have done way too much harm to our country and our people...and continue to do so. Let the best person for the difficult job of being President of the United States of America be elected and get our country back on track. Obama doesn't know what he's doing and is drowning in his own ignorance. Religion should be the last thing on our list of requirements for someone to be elected to the Oval office. You're all busy talking about Christianity and Atheism...you seem to have forgotten that there is a substantial American Jewish Community out there who votes. As a member of that community, let me clue you in on how we feel when we hear you be so concerned with a candidate's religion....it makes us nervous to the point of panicking! If you feel the way you feel about Mormons, I can imagine how you must feel about Jews...not that I care how you feel about us...but you are the majority and we saw what happened in Germany when religion became a focal point. What you succeed in doing when you ignore the existence of American Jews is making about 7-8 million law abiding American Jews feel as outsiders. Stop focusing on religion...focus on the candidate's abilities to get American back on track and on the road to success. What you're doing now is dooming this country to becoming a small minded third world country. No one should care what religion anyone is as long as they're decent, law abiding, ethical, and honest human beings....that is unless you geniuses have another definition for being a American.

    November 20, 2011 at 7:32 am |
    • guest

      rs1201, this is plain wrong again and again. Muslims did not do bad things to America. Fundamentalist religious, bigots did.
      You are already biased. You should have stopped when you wrote: "I don't care what religion any of the candidates are"
      Remember what freedom of religion means; An American citizen can believe in any religion or non religion so it should not matter if a candidate is Christian, Jew , Muslim, Atheist or .... . We Americans still strongly believe in this freedom.

      November 20, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Reed

      We no longer have a separation of church and state. The state is actively promoting Atheism over all other religions. It is fast becoming the only religion that can be "publicly" talked about, shared, or practiced.

      November 20, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  13. SCAtheist

    Anybody ever find Joe's stupid plates? There may be some people in western NY who are still waiting to get paid.

    November 20, 2011 at 7:20 am |
    • LA12012

      Wow.... I think that comment just lowered my IQ. In fact half of everything said on this comment section is lowering my IQ. Seriously people.... where are you getting your information? I live around many mormons and they are very good people. I think the best way to REALLY learn about this religion is not to google it, but ask them personally. I mean this mormon religion is the third largest in the United States. I think they deserve to be heard out and respected.

      November 20, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  14. rickdoc

    If you believe in the teachings of Jesus, then you will love and tolerate and forgive all. If you don't, then you are simply not a Christian. Pretty simple test, really. From what I have read, it is pretty much the same for Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Taoists, and every other world religion, based upon the teachings of their founders/prophets. And, not coincidentally, most enlightened philosophers have ultimately come to similar conclusions, for the good of society and mankind, as well as the individual.

    November 20, 2011 at 6:08 am |
  15. Dr.Tong

    A hit piece on Herman Cain followed by a PR promo for country club liberal republican Ken-doll Mormon cultist Mitt Romney. SO PREDICTABLE.

    November 20, 2011 at 3:27 am |
  16. leejtilson

    Another great piece of investigative journalism by Jessica Ravitz. This is very important work. Thank you Jessica.

    November 14, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  17. HotAirAce

    Why would those that believe (their) faith is the most important part of their life vote for someone who is willing to put their faith second (or third, etc.)?

    November 14, 2011 at 2:40 am |
  18. Skyler

    For those of you who wonder whether or not Mormons are Christians, please see the following video and decide for yourself. – The Only True God & Jesus Christ Whom He Has Sent by Jeffery R. Holland.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtEQ8Tjr2EI&feature=relmfu

    I testify that Jesus is the Christ, the Holy one of Israel and that through Him we can be redeemed from sin and death.

    November 6, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • printlight

      Sorry Skyler but Mormons are not considered Christian by any of the mainline churches. Whereas Christians believe in the Trinity as in 3 in 1, Mormons believe in the Trinity as in 3 separate gods. That is not the same. Their god the father is a physical being as is god Jesus. There is so much more but it does not take take much to know that they are not Christians in the traditional sense of the word. They are closer to Hinduism or to old Greek religions then to Christianity. Best thing is to use one's intelligence and not listen to nonsense and this applies to all religions. This way you are guaranteed to avoid membership in the Tea Party asylum.

      November 10, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  19. Linz

    We should just elect an athiest president, that would solve a lot of problems.

    November 6, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  20. if you want to know, ask God with real intent

    November 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Nicole

      So clear. So good. Nice to know more about Mormons.

      November 5, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      For those who can't view the link on their internet connection, here's a quick summary:

      Mormonism is a scam, originated by a known con artist of the 19th century, and perpetuated by the biggest lot of gullible clowns this country has ever seen.

      November 20, 2011 at 6:33 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.