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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. Christopher M

    "You criticize it but clearly have never tired it"

    Tried what? Believing in a obvious hoax like mormonism?

    October 30, 2011 at 7:34 am |
  2. Ang

    Mormonism must not be Christian – because CNN is speaking positively about it. CNN is notorious for hating on anything Christian, and they love to attempt at making Christianity look weak and stupid. CNN has supported and raved about Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, but never Christianity.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:31 am |
    • Casey

      Because CNN is an atheist site dude and only little foolish trolls come here to troll I laugh at all the little fools.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:39 am |
  3. Fred Goepfert

    The issue is not one of faith, but of the theocratic activities by the leaders of the Mormon organization. In Utah, 80% of the legislators are Mormon. Each year, for 15 years, they have met with the Mormon leaders to discuss pending legislation. In Mormonism, it is considered apostasy, subject to excommunication, to disobey a dictate of the leaders. That is the issue.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:24 am |
    • meep

      Not really.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:29 am |
    • Mirosal

      So what are you saying? That if elected, Romney MUST consult, or at least let the Quorum "advise" him about national policies? And if he doesn't consult with them, he'll be guilty of apostasy and face punishment? Is that the crux of what you said?

      October 30, 2011 at 7:36 am |
    • Matt in Texas

      I don't know about your sourcing regarding the politics in Utah, but regarding your other assertions, you don't know what you are talking about. You aren't excommunicated or even formally punished in any form within the church for disagreeing with a leader. You could formally receive punishment if you formed a group or went way out of your way to rant and rave against church leadership, but then again, why would you want to be a practicing Mormon if you didn't have faith in divinely inspired leaders? I disagree with my Bishop quite often on various topics, but support him in his role as Bishop. There's a big difference.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  4. clarke

    So what if he is a man of faith, he is not looking to covert us all, he is looking to lead our country I jiust don't understand why this should be such a big deal..

    October 30, 2011 at 7:24 am |
    • Steve

      It may not be a big deal to agnostics and atheist, nor perhaps to buddhist and hindus. Perhaps it is a big deal to those holding that the US is a Christian Nation, and to those who are familiar with the anti-Christian beliefs of Mormonism, and how that might affect a president's judgment. The 51% who say Mormonism is a Christian religion are ignorant of the core beief in Christ's Divine nature, not a created spirit brother of Satan. Nevertheless, Mr. Romney is a brillian, gifted, accomplished person whom we can all respect.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:05 am |
  5. meep

    I can't believe the posts from people who are surprised that a republican is a liar and a hypocrite. That is the motto of every corporate owned politician. Wake up!

    October 30, 2011 at 7:20 am |
    • Jute

      Thank you for your expert insight all knowing progressive. Are you a little troll like those you said posting here on CNN? Are you laughing at yourself?

      October 30, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • Matt in Texas

      Obama received more donations from Wall Street than any other candidate. What were you saying about 'corporate owned'?

      Stop drinking the kool-aid. You'll be better for it.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  6. Mirosal

    In this article, it says "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." PLease, tell me how this is done. Fax? Tweet? Facebook message? MySpace? A simple text message? Phone call? Telepathy? Magically appearing at the foot of the bed at 3AM?? How is this "truth" revealed?

    October 30, 2011 at 7:15 am |
    • meep

      You criticize it but clearly have never tired it. I used to do the same then decided I would be a hypocrite unless I gave it an honest try. There is something to what they say. But ironically, you can't get there through logic and reasoning. Put it aside for a couple of months and really try to understand it spiritually and then add logic/reason back into the equation. Then it makes more sense.

      Yes I know, abandoning the two things atheists believe in so strongly is nigh impossible to do. They don't call it a "leap of faith" for no reason.

      Point is I understand the argument from both the christian side, and the atheist side. I can see where both sides come from. Then I decide where I want to go after. But you can't get there unless you honestly try both sides before making a call.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:26 am |
    • Mirosal

      You didn't even attempt to answer the question I posed. And as far as giving it a try, I spent over a decade "locked away" insde the confines of a religious education. Trust me, I KNOW what that book says. I have heard that reason is the enemy of faith, and I understand why that may be true. When you ask a religious person "Why?" about a religious matter, all they do is throw an unverified book in your face and tell you "That's why!" They say their answer is true because that book says that the book is true. The ultimate circular argument.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:32 am |
    • Steve

      No need to be facetious. Televangelist daily claim that God spoke to them, and we understand that this is a bit of a metaphor. It gets a little weird in the case of the Pope and Mormon Church leaders, who apparently claim more authority and are able to impose it. A bit disconcerting that both religions have these most authoritive communications coming only to white men. Better to look to the other claims of Mormonism and how these may affect a president's decisions, and how election of a Mormon validates a religion that many suspect.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  7. jon

    Voted for Mitt Romney in Massachusetts and regretted that for the whole time he was governor. Mitt is a turn coat, and will change his position if he thinks it will benefit him. He is a hypocrite, liar and has his eyes only on higher office and advancing his own agenda. I WILL NOT BE MISLEAD AGAIN.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:14 am |
    • Robert

      And THAT is why he shouldn't be in office. I don't think anyone doubts his faith. And regardless of ones faith (or lack thereof) I don't see how people don't believe that he is Christan. That dioesn't mean he wouldn't be a terrible president.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:31 am |
    • Steve

      He is not considered a Christian because Mormonism holds Christ to be a created brother of Satan, not having a Divine nature. If being a Christian means believing Christ to be a good model of behavior, then just about everyone is Christian. It doesn't hurt to make meaningful distinctions. If Christ is not Divine, then what is his role in atonement for our sins, the sacrificial death of just one good man?

      October 30, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • Steve

      He is not considered a Christian because Mormonism holds Christ to be a created brother of Satan, not having a Divine nature. If being a Christian means believing Christ to be a good model of behavior, then just about everyone is Christian. It doesn't hurt to make meaningful distinctions. If Christ is not Divine, then what is his role in atonement for our sins, the sacrificial death of just one good man? Mormons believe in a partial atonement, and work off the rest through their own efforts.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • braden

      Steve: Christians like yourself cannot get over these stumbling blocks. Satan's name is Lucifer, Morning Son. He is a fallen angel. At one time Satan was described as this "You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you."(Ezekiel 28:15) And we know that God created all things. And we know we are all brothers and sisters. Why do you find it hard to believe that Satan is considered a brother to us too no more than Adolf Hitler or Cain?
      You are either Christian or you are non-Christian. Being Christian is a broad term "You believe and follow the teachings of Christ". Claiming Romney and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are non-Christians is an insult and it should not be encouraged by other Christian clergy as is so often is.
      There is one Bible but hundreds of translations. There is one God but hundred of different churches.
      You claim Mormons believe in a partial atonement which has to do with the old debate of we are saved by grace alone. We know as described in the book of James by the Apostle Paul that faith without works is dead. Why else then did Christ live a perfect life? Why have commandments? Why is just “believing” the only requirement to gain entrance into heaven? I know plenty of people that simply “believe” in Christ and frankly don’t try too hard to follow his teachings yet they honestly and sincerely belief that they are saved merely by their faith yet they go about acting in contrary to the will of God. How is that belief productive for Christians? And yet Mormons are ridiculed by other practicing Christians that their strict adherence to Christian principles is not part of the plan. The Mormons also get ridiculed for believe if other scriptures outside of the bible when John himself wrote “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” You don’t have to believe in the Book of Mormon, but to believe that everything is contained in the Bible is not what the Bible itself even says.
      For me, I am glad I am a member of a church that believes God still has the power to call prophets even in these days. That there are more of God’s words than that contained in the Bible. You don’t have to believe in any particular modern day prophet of these other words of God. But you should not deny that these things are unlike what God has taught all through-out time either for “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Heb 13:8

      October 30, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  8. Langkard

    Find an old copy of the Book of Mormon from the beginning of the 20th century. Now compare it to the current Book of Mormon. Find a Book of Mormon from the 1950's and compare it to the other two. Interesting. For a book supposedly given to Smith by an angel, divinely inspired and holy, it certainly has a strange tendency to CHANGE.

    The Book of Mormon used to claim that blacks were naturally Sons of Perdition, a phrase used by the Mormons to denote those who can't be saved and will not enter into the glory of God in the afterlife. Damned by the color of their skin. Makes it easier to enslave them, doesn't it? That notion disappeared from the Book of Mormon, mysteriously and without fanfare, sometime in the middle of the 20th Century. It was there and then it wasn't, and yet the earlier version was the one given to Smith by the angel too, wasn't it? Or was it? That's just one example of the Book of Mormon being pretty malleable for a supposed angel-inspired word of God. There are many.

    Mormons, if they follow the tenets of their own Book of Mormon, also believe that the native Americans are descended from the lost tribe of Israel. A silly belief, completely discredited by modern archaeology and genetics. But it is still in the Book of Mormon. Maybe one day this silly belief will disappear from the book of Mormon too.

    Such a changeable religion, which mutates whenever public opinion or modern knowledge make something it presents as facts blatantly ridiculous, seems to have had an obvious effect on poor ol' Mitt. He does the same thing.

    And we haven't even gotten into the strange belief in holey (pun intended) underwear.

    Granted, Mormonism is not much more silly than any other religion. This idea that faith somehow makes a person more qualified for office than someone else without it is demonstrably false. Faith makes a person more gullible. Faith makes a person prone to belief in obviously false ideas. Faith makes a person unable to distinguish between fact and fiction. Far from being a qualification for office, faith should be a disqualification. If someone believes the moon is made of green cheese, in spite of fact, wouldn't that tend to prove them unsuitable for office? And yet, because we call something similar "faith" we let it slide.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:12 am |
    • Put back into Perspective

      Thats an interesting claim. I have a Book of Mormon from the 1850s. I have never read such a change as that? Give me a referenced verse and I will fact check you.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  9. Mitt Romney

    Corporations are people.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:08 am |
  10. Steve

    What's the difference between believing the gold plate story or the ten commandment story? Just because one tale is older doesn't make it more believable. Ask Obama if he believes that a god named Jehovah carved stone tablets and gave them to Moses.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:06 am |
  11. Jason

    If you read the Editor's note you would have seen this – "Editor’s note: This is the first in an occasional series of stories looking at the faith of the leading 2012 presidential candidates."

    October 30, 2011 at 7:06 am |
  12. Kris in AL

    I didn't know that Anti-Semitism was a plank of Paul's supporters?

    October 30, 2011 at 7:04 am |
  13. Bob

    Ok CNN, you are going to run these stories about the GOP candidates.... where's your story about Obama's faith, Rev Wright, religious schools in Indonesia, and the twenty years he sat by complacently listening to hateful rhetoric? Oh wait, this is CNN nevermind.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:01 am |
  14. popseal

    Intensely patriotic and mostly conservative is the way I describe the Mormons I've known. Their creepy doctrinesa are another story as is their desire to be out from under the cloud of "cult" status that has existed since Joseph Smith started talking to angels and reading through special goggles to get his Book of Mormon.

    October 30, 2011 at 6:59 am |
  15. Rich

    Religion is willful self delusion.

    October 30, 2011 at 6:46 am |
  16. Bot

    Here are the characteristics of a cult:
    • Small? The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) has 14 million members in 132 countries. In America, there are more Mormons than there are Presbyterians or Jews.
    • Excessive devotion? Mormons are devoted to the Savior, but in appropriate measure He would approve of.
    • Unethical techniques? Ask the pie-throwers to name one.
    • Control by isolation? Even if Mormons wanted to, this would be impossible with 14 million members in 28,000 congregations throughout the world.
    • Control by threats? Again, evidence? Mormon missionaries may be exuberant, but do not threaten.
    • Dependency on the group? The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is just the opposite. Mormons want members to be self-reliant and independent so they in turn can help others.
    • Powerful group pressure? Only if that’s the way the critics prefer to define love.
    • Strange? Guilty as charged. Mormons plead guilty to all the strange things that were done by Christians in New Testament times that were lost during the great falling away in the aptly named Dark Ages, among them temple worship, theosis, vicarious baptism for the dead, definition of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit as separate but united in purpose, salvation requiring both grace and obedience to commandments, prophets and apostles, unpaid clergy, and continual revelation to guide His Church.

    October 30, 2011 at 6:44 am |
  17. Bot

    Mormons’ theology is based on New Testament Christianity, not Fourth Century Creeds. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views on Baptism, Lay Ministry, the Trinity, Theosis, Grace vs. Works, the Divinity of Jesus Christ comport more closely with Early Christianity than any other denomination. And Mormons’ teenagers have been judged to “top the charts” in Christian Characteristics by a UNC-Chapel Hill study. Read about it here:

    http://MormonsAreChristian.blogspot.com

    Those who would denigrate the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS), usually are mis-informed because New Testament Christianity is closer to Jesus Christ’s teachings than Fourth Century Creeds. Mormons have a better understanding of Christianity than any other denomination, according to a 2010 Pew Forum poll:

    http://www.pewforum.org/Other-Beliefs-and-Practices/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Survey.aspx

    11 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence (including several presidents) were non-Trinitarian Christians. Those who now insist on their narrow Trinitarian and salvation only by grace definition of Christianity for candidates for public office are doing our Republic an injustice.

    October 30, 2011 at 6:43 am |
    • Mirosal

      I know about that poll you mentioned. And you're right, the Momrmons did out-score every other Christian denomination ... but guess who scored highest ... the Atheists ... the more we study it, the more we can't believe that people actually fall for the myths of the super-natural.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:50 am |
  18. unowhoitsme

    You can bet if Mitt becomes president, polygamy will become legalized. Another cultic religion destroying many lives. Religion has nothing to do with God. It's man's interpretation.

    October 30, 2011 at 6:32 am |
    • Mirosal

      It won't become law. The President does NOT make the law. The job of the Executive branch is to enforce the law. Making the law rests upon the Legislative branch. There is no way you are going to convince the majority of 435 Congressmen and 100 Senators to legalize polygamy. And if by SOME strange cosmic chance you did, I'm sure the Supreme Court would have their say in it as well. They DO have the power to strike down laws and invalidate them. Please, take a refresher Civics class.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:38 am |
    • Go Hoos

      Idiot.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:43 am |
    • rhett

      Check out Mormon.org it will clarify some things for you so you can save yourself from looking so uninformed again...

      October 30, 2011 at 6:48 am |
    • Mormon Wife

      lol Not that there is ANY truth to that stupid remark but as a Mormon wife I sure wouldn't mind a couple more gals around the house!!! I wouldn't have to go to work! I would make them go to work!!! lol Seniority!! People that don't have a clue about the L.D.S Beliefs, should just keep their mouth shut or LEARN THEM.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:03 am |
  19. SixDegrees

    I really don't care about Romney's religion. He has never let it spill over into his political life. His dad, also Mormon, was very popular while governor of Michigan, and remains so to this day; despite that, Michigan citizens aren't all wearing magic underpants. Focusing on religion is something the political theocrats like to do – Bachmann and Perry, for example – in order to whip up divisiveness and intolerance. I'd rather focus on a candidate's germane abilities, not on ephemera or bigotry.

    October 30, 2011 at 6:31 am |
  20. bigfoot

    I believe Mitt Romney is the MOST liberal Republican to come down the pike since Reagan. I could live wth him as president. I could not live with Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann or Rick Perry – all of whom are theocratic nightmare candidates that have our founding fathers SPINNING in their graves at the possibility of one of them being elected.

    October 30, 2011 at 6:20 am |
    • Mirosal

      I would sooner vote for Randy Bachman than Michelle Bachmann ... at least Randy tells you straight up that b b b baby you just ain't seen n n n nothin' yet lol

      October 30, 2011 at 6:43 am |
    • Put back into Perspective

      Ha thats a good one. And voting in Randy Bachman you would be voting in another Mormon. Yes Randy Bachman is a member of the LDS Church too. Look out there all around us.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:30 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.