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With 'I'm a Mormon' campaign, church counters lily-white image
Ruth Williams passes out bulletins at the Third Ward in Washington, D.C., a diverse Mormon church.
November 2nd, 2011
11:32 AM ET

With 'I'm a Mormon' campaign, church counters lily-white image

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) - The scene at a Mormon congregation here on a recent Sunday would surprise Americans who think of Mormons as young white missionaries in stiff white shirts, black ties and name tags.

Yes, there are white missionaries handing out bulletins at Washington’s Third Ward - what Mormons call their congregations - but there's also Ruth Williams, an elderly African-American woman, decked out in her Sunday best, doing the same.

White, black, Asian and Hispanic Mormons mingle before the service begins. As it gets under way, an African-American tween plays a video game on his smartphone in one pew as a 30-something white woman across the aisle taps away on her iPad.

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On this Sunday, the Sacrament - what Mormons call the remembrance of the Last Supper and what other Christians call Communion - is said in French, a nod to the area's burgeoning West African population.

It is not a special multicultural celebration Sunday. For this growing Mormon congregation in northeast Washington, it's just another weekend.

“It’s 30% Caucasian, 30% African-American, and the rest is a combination of first-generation immigrants from around the world,” says Bishop Robert Nelson, the lay leader of this congregation.

A diverse group of congregants from the Third Ward listens to a sermon.

Washington's Third Ward is a near mirror image of the diverse neighborhood it serves, jarring with the Mormon Church's image as a faith-based club for upper-class whites.

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And the Mormon Church, officially called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, says the ward represents the diverse face of modern Mormonism, a message it has been trying to spread as part of a yearlong nationwide push to counter its lily-white image.

Since January, the LDS Church has spent millions on an "I'm a Mormon" advertising campaign that features television commercials, billboards and bus signs with Mormons from African-American, Asian, Latino and other ethnic backgrounds. Just last month, the campaign entered 11 new major media markets in Texas, Indiana, Nebraska, Washington, Georgia and Arizona, hitting cities like Atlanta, Denver and Phoenix.

(You won't be seeing the ads in Iowa, South Carolina or Florida. With Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, both Mormon, competing in the Republican presidential primaries, the church says it wants to steer clear of politics.)

The Mormon Church even used the ad campaign to launch a shot across the bow of the hit Broadway musical "The Book of Mormon," buying a digital "I'm a Mormon" billboard just down the street from the theater where the show is playing.

The musical satire, co-produced by the creators of the television show "South Park," shows earnest white American Mormon missionaries and their misadventures in proselytization in Africa.

But the billboard shows a very different face of Mormons. There is an African-American couple playing Frisbee on the beach, a Latino grandfather and granddaughter, a goateed motorcycle sculptor.

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An official church website, Mormon.org, lets those interested in the church search for Mormons from diverse ethnic backgrounds and features videos from the likes of black soul singer Gladys Knight and Brandon Flowers, frontman for the rock band The Killers.

"It's to say, 'We're like you,' " said Kathleen Flake, a religious scholar from Vanderbilt Divinity School. "It's an attempt to combat stereotypes so that absolutely people are more open to see the normalcy of Mormonism."

The LDS Church says its attempt at an image makeover is as much a reflection of demographic reality as it is a PR effort. While young white missionaries may still be Mormonism's public face in the United States, they are no longer fully representative of the Salt Lake City-based church.

“Our doctrine is we’re all sons and daughters of God," says Stephen Allen, managing director of the LDS Church's missionary department. "Skin color or anything else is not a significant issue to us.”

Video: Defining Mormonism

As head of global missions, Allen supervises the 52,000 19- to 25-year-old missionaries knocking on doors around the world.

He's also executive director of the “I’m a Mormon” campaign, which began in nine markets this year.

“In terms of targeting, we’re not specifically targeting or avoiding any particular group," Allen says. "We send our missionaries all over the world to anywhere people will listen.”

As the church’s efforts to win converts has expanded internationally, “following the American flag around the world,” as Flake puts it, the LDS Church has grown more diverse.

“We’re in most of the free world right now,” Allen says. "We have a presence in Russia and Ukraine and the Baltic countries. We have a growing presence in Africa ... Nigeria, Kenya … then we have, Japan, Korea, Taiwan. There are small congregations in India, and the church is growing in those places.”

The church's membership has doubled since 1988, to 14.1 million Mormons worldwide.  Six million Mormons live in the United States. Many of the church's members live in the American West and Northwest, in some of the whitest states in the country.

But like many other churches, there has been explosive growth in the LDS Church in Latin America. There are more than a million Mormons in both Mexico and Brazil. There are nearly a million Mormons in Asia and 300,000 in Africa, according to church statistics.

“This attempt to emphasize diversity and to emphasize a wide range of people who are Mormon does reflect, in a lot of ways, what’s been going on in reality for a while,” says Matthew Bowman, an editor at a Mormon studies journal called Dialogue.

Even in the United States, the perception of who Mormons are has changed.

“We’ve done a lot of research to see what people think of us and what their perception is,” Allen says. “Twenty-five or 30 years ago, if you said, ‘When you think of the word Mormon, what comes to mind?’ the answer would have been Mormon Tabernacle choir, polygamists, racists, the Osmonds [singers Donny and Marie].”

While that's less the case today, Allen says many people still don't know what a Mormon looks like - or don't know that there are Mormons from minority backgrounds.

A spokesman for the church said it doesn't keep statistics on members' race or ethnicity.

But “it’s no longer just a predominantly white church,” Allen says. “In our early history, you know, it was founded in upstate New York in the United States and was very much a white congregation, but today it’s very diverse.”

The complexion of the average Mormon ward reflects the neighborhood where the building resides. “Mormon wards are not self-selecting,” says Richard Bushman, a visiting professor at the School of Religion of Claremont Graduate University. “In Mormon congregations, they are just geographical boundaries, and wherever you live, you go to church.”

There is no church shopping. Congregants can’t go to another ward if they don’t like the music or the doughnuts at the social hour, as in many other faith traditions.

In Washington's Third Ward, two new converts who had recently been baptized were welcomed into the church on a recent Sunday. Both women were young African-Americans. The men who formed a circle around them and prayed over them were all white.

Unlike the ward, the church's global leadership in Salt Lake City is mostly white.

It was not until 1978 that African-Americans could serve in priesthood positions in the church, a prohibition that extended back to Mormon leader Brigham Young in the 1850s.

"When you see in that ad campaign Mormons, including African-Americans, they are trying to  communicate against that stereotype that Mormons are racist, there's no question about this," says Vanderbilt's Flake. "They are trying to say, 'That's not fair. That is not who we are. Even if we were, we are not now.' "

Allen says the "I'm a Mormon" campaign was designed to assist the small army of young Mormon missionaries out knocking on doors.

"Our feeling was anything we could do to help them was really important," he says. "And helping them means softening people’s hearts.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Jon Huntsman • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Politics • United States

soundoff (2,530 Responses)
  1. Phil

    This is how religion works.

    I believe in a one eyed, one horned, giant purple people eater. If I can convince enough people that this being exists and can teach the young children that if they don't believe in said creature - they'll be eaten while they sleep at night. I can't prove to you that this being exists...you'll just have to believe me and have faith.

    This scares the children into submission and they'll believe for the rest of their life as long as you keep feeding them the bull.

    All religion works based on this method...fear and abusing your position as an authority figure.

    So basically, folks...religion was an invention by man. If you want to continue believing in god - great...waste your time worrying instead of just enjoying life.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • unabashed Mormon

      My faith is what makes my life enjoyable. Sounds like you have found your own. Good for you.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Phil

      Thank you, unabashed Mormon. I do enjoy a life without god.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Lead-Eeyah

      It's interesting to me that atheists believe they have a monopoly on happiness and "enjoying life."

      November 2, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Mack

      Sir,

      Please, no disrespect or judgment, but I will be praying for you each day. There IS a God...but only 1 true God and if you put your faith in Him, you will see Him in so many things. Read the Bible, search for a truly biblical church and I promise you that you will come to find the Lord and you will have peace.

      Again, I'm not passing judgment because I was in your shoes at one time. In HIS Name, Mack

      November 2, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Patrick

      I believe in God, and am Mormon, not because I am scared into doing so, but because it is true. Simple concept.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • anothersmith

      "....a sucker is born every minute". Boy did the moron church fill it's quota!

      November 2, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Porter

      Phil- Stop hating on people having a faith.

      November 2, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  2. StillTranscendingtheBS

    My name is Dan, and I'M STILL NOT A MORMON! HAHAHAHAHA. It's true though.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • XenuRulerOfTheUniverse

      You need more Xenu in your life.

      Mormans = old and busted
      Scientology = the new hotness

      November 2, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Steve-in-MA

      @XenuRulerOfTheUniverse – One day you will experience the one, true religion – belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster! RAMEN!

      November 2, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • XenuRulerOfTheUniverse

      @Steve-in-MA – bah, I ate their entire armada for lunch awhile back. I'll be back in a million years to destroy them again after they repopulate. Mark my words!

      November 2, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  3. Carrie

    Thank you for a fair and accurate depiction of the way Mormons worship and think.

    I suppose there will be a lot of bigoted ugliness spewed out accross the web during this election year, and most Mormons are bracing themselves for it. Thank you, thank you, for taking the time and doing the research that reflects the reality of my life and faith.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Sammy

      dont forget to thank them mostly for not including much info on the actual mormon teachings which is really the biggest problem LDS faces

      November 2, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • max

      I dont think mormonism is any more/less accurate than christianity as a whole.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Steve-in-MA

      Yes, Carrie, but had they given any in-depth information as to the teachings of the Mormon Church their readers would be rolling on the floor laughing. Mormons may be pleasant people, but the teachings of the Mormon Church are absurd.

      November 2, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Porter

      @Steve-Who the freak are you to call someone's beliefs absurd. Keep your hate to yourself man.

      November 2, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  4. BossHoss

    I just can't get past the fact that they believe a criminal who told them he found gold tablets that only he could read. If they are stupid enough to believe that, what else will they believe if told by another criminal.

    I know many Mormons, and for the most part, they are good people, trying to live a life with love, ala Jesus.

    However, it falls apart with me, when I think of the lies their founder told, the crimes he committed beforehand, and the abuses and crimes of Brigham Young.

    If they wholesale denounce these charlatans, they would gain credit with me. They can live under the Golden Rule, in Jesus name without the sullied dirt of lies and deceit of their criminal famous members.

    No one who believes an American criminal found golden tablets or whatever that only he could read, and to blindly believe what he says were on them, enriching himself, can ever or should be President of the United States. period. amen.

    It just is laughable and it is what makes people snicker at Mormons, no matter how they live...as good as some of them are.

    I believe I am in majority with this opinion.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Mitsy

      I agree w/you. The RLDS (now called Community of Christ) has distanced themselves from a lot of the mainstream Mormon ideas (Joseph Smith stuff). They seem to be more "Jesus" centered and more willing to shun the more bizarre rituals that are practiced in the temples. I would be willing to attend an RLDS church but would not go back to an LDS church again. The people who are apologists for the faith (not IN the faith) likely do not know the roots of the organization. Joseph Smith wasn't even a nice guy, let alone a prophet.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Chris W

      It's laughable that people are so ignorant about our faith but claim to know so much. You're incorrect on your perception of the LDS church.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Sam

      Criminal? Are you from Carthage Illinois? Where Joseph was in prison and those terrible people broke in and murdered him? Joseph had burdens you hope you will never carry. He was one of the most loving, kind, hard working men that ever lived. He is a prophet of God, just like Moses, Abraham, and John the Baptist. Which I'm sure they had worse things said about them. History tells about the man Joseph smith – Find out the truth – mormon.org

      November 2, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Caliban

      They believed so easily because they were scared sheep who needed to be lead. When people are desperate you have no idea how far humans will go. In a world were some people believe scam e-mails and send money to strangers on the promise of even more money, is it that hard to wonder why people believe in religions so easily. Why grandfather once told me to always ask questions, and religion is not about asking questions, because if you ask the tough questions the answer always is, "have faith".

      November 2, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Sammy

      i also invite people to find out the truth for themselves at mormon.org.....if you arent laughing out loud after reading about Joe Smith for about 3mins you should check your pulse....you might be dead 🙂

      November 2, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Mo

      A criminal? You're aware that Joseph Smith was 14 when he first talked to God about those gold plates? LOL Perhaps you should check your facts, Boss.

      November 2, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Steven Hopkins

      Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were great men and they were prophets of God. God trusted Joseph Smith to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth after it had been lost and changed over the 2000 years after Christ and His apostles died. If Joseph Smith was a hoax, then the entire LDS religion is a hoax. But he wasn't. The reason the Mormons you meet are good people is because they understand who God and Jesus Christ are and their relationship to them, and their own purpose on this earth through the works of Joseph Smith. We would not be good people if we based our entire ideas of life, the universe, and everything on the lies of some "criminal." The church is still around and growing because it the truth the God restored through Joseph Smith. It is bigger than Joseph Smith and Brigham Young because it come direct from the source of all Truth, God.

      November 2, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Joseph Smith was a con man - read about the Kirtland Bank failure

      No, the church is still growing because of its army of white shirted, fresh-faced little kids who go tell about all the wonderful stuff. They get people to convert, and THEN the converts find out all of the BS that they weren't told before. Then, when they try to leave the church, they're shunned by other MORONS and can't even go into the temple to see their children get married.

      November 2, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  5. Mitsy

    It's astounding that people would want to join a group like this (I wouldn't call it a church) given its history & background. They did discriminate against Blacks getting the priesthood until 1978 and then a "revelation" was given to the current "prophet" to abolish that rule. Me thinks that they were worried about a law suit. The organization is based on Joseph Smith's rantings & delusions. Do your research on it. It's not just another church group. There is so much the general public does not know about them. I have friends who are Mormon but we do not discuss our religious differences.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Carrie

      Why don't you include talking to your friends as part of your "research"? Is it really fair only to listen to one side of a story?

      November 2, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Chris W

      You should read the book of mormon, that will give you a better idea that Joseph Smith wasn't a con man. That book is too good for it to come from a con!!

      November 2, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Sammy

      Carrie there is no need for sides when dealing with the facts surrounding LDS teachings and Joe Smith. sides help when facts are against you

      November 2, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • jc

      When Jesus Christ set the true religion he set it up with 12 apostles. There is only one religion that has 12 apostles. Something for you to think about when saying mormonism isn't a true religion

      November 2, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Steve-in-MA

      Two wonderful excerpts from Sam Clemens on the Book Of Mormon –

      “The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so “slow,” so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print.”

      and

      Whenever he found his speech growing too modern—which was about every sentence or two—he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as “exceeding sore,” “and it came to pass,” etc., and made things satisfactory again. ‘And it came to pass’ was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet. “

      November 2, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  6. Dan Combs

    When all is said and done more is said than done.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  7. higgins

    The billboard should read "I'm lost". Mormons try to do good....but they're beliefs are false. A few guys wrote the book of mormon, and they only read the new testament??? Wierd. They believe in only helping their own kind (fellow mormons) and are an elitist group. In my eyes, they are a cult. Just my opinion. But the fact that they believe that there are 'levels of heaven" based on what they do down here is just self-righteous and self serving. Check it out...they rarely help fellow Christians, but instead only help those who are mormon. What kind of religion only helps their own kind???

    November 2, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Sam

      Mormons help people all over the world, they strive to be first in the world to help with disasters. Find out the truth – mormon.org

      November 2, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Melissa

      Higgins – check your facts dude. The Mormons ship millions of $$$ in aid to countries around the world. I personally took dozens of hygiene kits to Guatemala for the poor people there (none of which were Mormon). The misinformation makes me feel like I am living in the dark ages.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  8. Feris

    Try this out: I saw it on CNN.com last week. All posts on this blog fall into one of five catagories:

    1. Mormons are not Christians
    2. All religious people are idiots
    3. I'm Mormon and your comment shows you know are intolerant
    4. Who cares what religion a candidate is if they can fix the economy
    5. Ron Paul....Ron Paul...Ron Paul...

    November 2, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • AddySadie

      Well-said.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Caliban

      I agree with #2 (so many reasons I couldn't write them all), and I don't care for #4 either, because it bothers me that a leader of many could potentially base their decisions using their faith. We need politcians that deal in reality not fantasy.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • 7thSon

      I AM NOT A MORON!

      November 2, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  9. John

    Joesph Smith Lied you dumb freakin mormons.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Chris W

      No he didn't...

      November 2, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Leroy McMath

      Yeah... get you facts straight.

      Magic panties are real. My unicorn delivered them.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • TJohnson

      Jesus Loves You.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Chris W

      My point exactly, horns... you lost all validity to your opinion

      November 2, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Porter

      @John. How do you know? Get a life man.

      November 2, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  10. Perdy

    The problem is that when people think Mormon, they think "Utah Mormon." And I don't mean "polygamist" (though that stereotype is present, too) - I mean the white, suburbanite family with a bunch of kids all dressed up handsome-like, going about their lives being "blessed" and very Leave it to Beaverish. Because that's exactly how a lot of Utah Mormons lead their lives. Depending on who you ask, they're also a little *too* perfect - their wards are very closely knit, mostly everyone knows everyone else's business, things like coffee and tea are frowned upon, some bizarre things are even more scandalous, etc, etc. In the global scene, more average people are members of the LDS Church, and they're not so "we're perfect" about it... so yeah, maybe this ad campaign is a good thing.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  11. Caliban

    They are mostly white because they were racist, but as times change from the 50s they too want their numbers to grow (the point of all religions, domination), so they want people to know they will accept anyone. Having money to donate helps too but once again they are obviously being less picky then they used to be. There can be many reasons for this if it is true. As some of the really old racist dinosaurs within the group die out there may be younger people who put pressure on the group to accept others. It's a guess really when it comes to religious motivations since much like governments it is very hard to believe everything they say.

    All I know is when I see how many people are now against religions it makes me happy. We are making our own decisions and not being forced to follow our parents' beliefs. One day we will cast off these shackles and move forward together without super-being overlords.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Sam

      No, theyre mostly white beacuse the church was restored in NEW YORK in 1830. What kind of people lived there in 1830? Then due to persecution (Whadda ya know?) they moved to Utah. Lots of white people all together makes even more...white people...When the church grows in areas where there isnt white people...whadda ya know...the church doesnt have white people!

      November 2, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  12. susan

    I have been highly skeptical for a long time who is behind these ads. Who exactly pays for them?? It would be highly possible that these ads were funded by a very rich politician. He started very early to run it into people's minds that these are regular people. Really?
    I know of no other religion who is doing this, and my question is 'why" are Mormon's doing this? I think we know.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Steven Hopkins

      The church of scientology has a very similar ad campaign. I'm pretty sure the purpose is to generate understanding. Maybe they are meant to appeal to people who care about other people because they are other people and because they deal with the same things in life that everyone deals with. Understanding is a powerful thing, and we need more of it.

      http://www.scientology.org/video/meet-a-scientologist.html

      November 2, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  13. StillTranscendingtheBS

    My name is Dan, and I'M NOT A MORMON!!! I say that ever time I see those commercials. Feels so Good.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  14. svatoid

    dosen't matter what race or color they are, all the Mormons will still burn in hell

    November 2, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Chris W

      See you there:)

      November 2, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  15. Common Sense

    "They believe black skin is a curse from God. So I don't care how many billboards they put up to trying to show the church diversity, it does not change that fact. Many minorities who are in the church are very confused and some overlook that part of their doctrine."

    There you have it.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • jdls

      As was pointed out earlier, the black skin curse originates from the Old Testament (mark of Cain).

      November 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Leroy McMath

      jdls-

      YOU ARE RACIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      November 2, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  16. TRH

    I don't care what silly religion you follow....just keep it out of MY face.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Leroy McMath

      No magic panties for you.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  17. Chris W

    @Ryan Shells- No your misinformed, Mormon's believe in a Hell and a loving, just God... the BOM came about because it is another record of people who knew, taught and believed Jesus Christ. It gives people more understanding about God.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Ryan Shells

      Yeah....right....whatever makes you sleep at night. God knows the truth. Keep that in mind.

      November 2, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  18. Common Sense

    Spitting facts does not equate to "trolling." Sorry if the truth hurts.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  19. Saywhat

    Question for my Mormon friends in this forum. Say, hypothetically, you were to leave your church, what will happen to you. Will you be disowned by your family ? Will you no longer to be able stay in close contact with friends in the church ?

    November 2, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Chris W

      No not at all, I am still connected to friends that have left the church. I still would be married to my dear wife and have a good realtionship with my family. We don't stay out of fear...

      November 2, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Norm

      This is a strange question.
      You must have gotten this impression from someone totally uninformed.
      The only thing is that if you aren't baptized in the Mormon faith, you won't see them in the afterlife.
      But I don't personally believe that.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Saywhat

      Glad to hear that. For example, I know some people who are Jehovah Witnesses and they have something known as disfellowship. From my understanding of it, if someone leaves their organization, the JWs encourages you to avoid contact with that person.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • matt

      About the same thing that would happen in any other faith, I suppose. There are different levels of faith in individuals and in family. Some people take their faith very seriously. Some Mormon families take their faith very seriously. I guess for those folks, it would be about the same as if they were strong Orthodox Jews or Catholic. Leaving ones faith, in a family setting, can put a strain on the family, but typically won't amount to one being banished. It's kind of a silly question. Paints people with a pretty broad brush, don't you think?

      November 2, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Carolyn

      No, you won't get disowned. But just like any other group of people, there will be a few who don't handle change well. I left the Church when I was about 17. There were a few instances when the missionaries would come around but when I told them I wasn't interested, they left me alone. My family never pressured me to come back. When I had my first child in my early 30s I decided to go back. Though it might be helpful if I gave you a little background... I was raised in a religiously diverse extended family, in a large city with an ethnically diverse population. I was used to a ward with people of differing ethnic backgrounds, and religious backgrounds for that matter. In an area where Mormonism is predominate and all your relatives are Mormon, it might be different. I have a friend who's atheist parents disowned her when her family were baptized... wouldn't have anything to do with them for 12 years. So people are people... everywhere. Some are more accepting and open, others are not regardless of faith or lack thereof.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • xxsevensxx

      Saywhat – the answer is no. The things you speak of are done by radicals and fundamentalists but not the mainstream Mormons.

      I am married to a Mormon but I am not Mormon myself. We see his family all the time and have a good relationship with them. The church has never tried to interfere in our lives or the lives of his brothers and sisters and a few of them have made more questionable decisions than we have. Sure, we have missionaries over for dinner every great now and then. I feed them, listen politely to their spiel and then wish them a good evening when they leave. I have no intention of joining the church and my husband supports my choice. His mother tries to push me in that direction occasionally, but hey, she's my mother-in-law.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Saywhat

      Why so defensive Matt ? I asked a honest question because I didn't know the answer. But, it's not exactly the say thing. Let's use your example. I know Catholics, for example, who no longer go to church, and yes, while their grandmother or mom might be upset that they no longer go. There will not be an official mandate from church officials stating that these people should be shunned by family and friends in the church. In the example in indicated earlier, with the Jehovah Witnesses, they ARE strongly encouraged to avoid contact with that person while they are outside of their organization. I was curious if it was like this in the Mormon church.

      November 2, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Mo

      Nope... but my Mormon friends aren't just Mormons. We're also united by things other than our church going things. We like to sing karaoke at the bar (we drink soda) and we like to see movies and such. I mean, the LDS church isn't the only thing defining our friendship 😀

      November 2, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • 2 Cents

      I lost 90% of my friends, they felt they had nothing in common with me anymore, even though I still have morals and seek after good things (imagine that) my children were told on their bus rides to school that I was now bad, my mormon neighbors would spy on me and accuse me of doing things I was not doing, during Halloween they would skip over my house while trick or treating. I have mormon friends that are disgusted at this behavior by their fellow members. My eyes were even more opened and I also realize that no one owns the market on kindness and happiness.

      November 2, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • matt

      It's not defensive to point out that your question is silly. It's silly to ask such a question that infers that all Mormons are the same, or that the situation would be the same. I'm a Mormon, but no longer active. It's not a problem. I pointed out why I wasn't active and no longer believe everything I've been taught growing up. My family is pretty laid back, so whatever, no big deal. I have an uncle who has left the church. There was some drama in part of the family, but it all died down and he shows up to family functions and everything is fine. There is no church punishment that I know of for this. However, if you are a member, and you are active, and you are going to the Temple and saying you are doing everything you are supposed to be doing, and the church finds out that you have abused your children or cheated on your wife, then yes there is some form of punishment involved. It's like being in any other organization. Membership involves certain rules. If you don't keep em, then there are consequences.

      November 2, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Joseph Smith was a con man - read about the Kirtland Bank failure

      @ xxsevensxx – So, are you ok with your husband having other wives when he gets to heaven?

      November 2, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Joseph Smith was a con man - read about the Kirtland Bank failure

      @ Mo – Tsk, tsk, you bad little Mormon...isn't soda/caffeine against the word of wisdom?

      November 2, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  20. amanda98

    Wow. I am blown away by all the hate displayed here. Our great country was founded so that everyone could believe what they wanted, that they had the freedom to do so. It is the same today. We should all strive to understand one another's beliefs it would go a long way in helping us understand each other. If you fully understand what members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and you don't believe it, does that give you the right to call them degrading names and make fun of them? It makes me sad that Romney's religion is such an issue. If these kinds of things were said about any other minority group it would totally unacceptable. The things you write and say about your fellow men have an impact. Think about how it would make you feel if that kind of hate was directed towards you.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Lola

      Wow a little sensitive aren't we? Just because someone mentions magic underwear and bigotry..... Geeez

      November 2, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • XenuRulerOfTheUniverse

      Lola, would you like to see my operating thetan? It's kind of like magical underwear but only slightly less crazy.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Mark

      The difference is that I'm not trying to make laws telling Mormons they can't get married. They refuse to extend the same courtesy to my own religious and personal freedoms. Thus they are a blight on the freedom this land should treasure.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Leroy McMath

      You didn't know people laughed at you clowns?

      This must really suck for you.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Steve-in-MA

      It's not hatred, Amanda98, it's derision. Most of us believe that your religion is complete nonsense invented by a con artist and we're trying to get you to wise up and stop believing such silliness.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Sam

      Amanda, you are right. And as a fellow Mormon I understand, we dont attack other religions, or discuss how "wrong" they are in our church meetings. We focus on Christ and his atonement, or own spirituality and the strength we need to go forward in our lives following his commandments. Most of these comments are probably written by the same angry person. I'd challenge them to speak that way in front of their friends/family to their neighbor/cousin/coworker, etc who is a mormon and probably has done what they could to be a good person.

      November 2, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • JoeF

      Thank you Amanda. I agree. I'm always baffled about the intolerance displayed in these posts

      November 2, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • matt

      @Sam – Good point. I have never had someone make fun of my "magic underwear" to my face. Happens a lot on that there internets, though. 🙂

      November 2, 2011 at 4:15 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.