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Keeping the faith, daring to be different
February 5th, 2012
05:33 PM ET

Crossing the plains and kicking up dirt, a new Mormon pioneer

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

San Diego (CNN) – At a 1950s-style house nestled in a peaceful neighborhood nicknamed “Hanukkah Hill,” a smiling Buddha on the porch greets visitors – his arms raised as if to say all are welcome.

Affixed to the doorpost is a mezuzah, a decorative case holding blessings for a Jewish home. Inside, on the family’s refrigerator, hangs a magnet from the Feminist Mormon Housewives blog that says, “Jesus loves us. Who cares what you think?”

In the kitchen stands Joanna Brooks, an accidental, unofficial and admittedly unauthorized source for all things Mormon. She’s making “funeral potatoes,” a classic Mormon casserole, and heaped on the counter are the ingredients: a not-so-healthy dose of cheese, butter, sour cream, hash browns and chicken soup. Her Jewish husband strolls by, takes a look at what’s cooking, and grimaces. Bespectacled and freckled 6-year-old Rosa, standing atop a chair, proudly announces, “I’m Jewish and Mormon!”

The home and life Brooks has created is the product of a complicated journey.

She cannot separate The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from her identity any more than she can leave cheese out of funeral potatoes. But like her persecuted ancestors who braved the unforgiving plains to reach the promised land of what is now Utah, Brooks, 40, fights for her faith.

The battle has, at times, left her feeling beaten.

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

As a young feminist activist, she saw her beloved church excommunicate her intellectual heroes. She’s felt outrage and soul-crushing grief while watching her church mobilize against same-sex marriages. For about 10 years, she walked away.

But today a vintage postcard of a Mormon missionary boarding a plane sits on her desk to inspire. It reads, in part, “Dare to be different.”

She believes there’s room in the LDS Church for loving criticism and candid talk, that Latter-day Saints like her can not just belong but also serve – without fear of being cast out into the wilderness.

She’s staking her claim to Mormonism, writing about it for Religion Dispatches, debunking myths in national papers, speaking up on podcasts, radio shows and from stages, and offering advice in her column and blog, Ask Mormon Girl. She recently self-published her memoir, “The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith” and writes regularly for Feminist Mormon Housewives. Politico has named her, or specifically her Twitter account, one of the “50 Politicos to Watch.” All this while being an award-winning scholar, a published poet and, oh yeah, a department chair and professor of English and comparative literature at San Diego State University.

Click the audio player for a Q&A with Joanna Brooks from CNN Radio's John Lisk
Amid Mitt Romney’s presidential bid, the “I’m a Mormon” ad campaign and the smash-hit Broadway musical “Book of Mormon,”  this Obama supporter has emerged as a refreshing voice for media, hungry for frank discussion about her faith.

Her goal? To be her authentic self and humanize a tradition and people she couldn't love more.

“I just refuse to be ashamed of being Mormon,” she says. “Don’t talk about us like we’re not in the room.”

Embracing her difference

Growing up in California's Orange County, she often was the only Mormon in a room.  She was, she likes to say, “a root beer among the Cokes,” a reference to the caffeine-free drink that her faith permits.

She fantasized about her ancestors on the other side of the veil. Her father, a longtime LDS Church bishop – a volunteer pastor – said they knew her name and that her spirit would join them when she died.

She sang pioneer hymns in church on Sundays with other root beers. She kneeled and prayed to God each night before bed. By the time she was baptized at 8, she’d read cover-to-cover the Book of Mormon, the sacred text Latter-day Saints view as “another testament of Jesus Christ” and study in addition to the Bible.

Brooks, center, and her sisters learned early to be proud of and show off their Mormon pioneer heritage.

She learned to relish being different, even when born-again classmates, taught by their pastors to believe she was in a cult, scrawled warnings in her yearbook. When Marie Osmond, a visible Mormon to the non-Mormon world, winked into the TV camera on Friday nights, Brooks was sure the gesture was meant for her.

Along the way, there were glimpses of the woman she would become. Asked one year in grade school to write two term papers, she chose as her subjects the Equal Rights Amendment and Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS Church.

“I’m not making this up,” she says, laughing at what some may see as irony. “This is who I am.”

But in her traditional - what she calls “orthodox” - Mormon home, she was only exposed to pamphlets on women’s rights penned by Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative stalwart who railed against the ERA push.

At LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, the only college she ever considered attending, Brooks imagined the warm embrace of being among her people. Looking at those around her, at first she worried she was too different. But during orientation, an English professor quoted a verse from the Book of Mormon that she'd carry with her.

He denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

“I felt the knot of panic in my belly loosen and disappear,” she writes in her memoir. “Deep inside my chest, a door opened. Light and oxygen flooded the room.”

She gravitated to professors who shined the light on possibilities, devouring the words of Mormon poets and feminist historians.

All are alike unto God.

In the Student Review, an alternative and unofficial school paper, Brooks poked fun at university policies, interviewed polygamists, wrote about gay issues and simply didn’t shy away from matters most people were afraid to talk about.

While getting ready for church on Sundays, she blared Public Enemy.

Outside her circle of like-minded friends were people like John Dehlin, a staunchly conservative Mormon student who watched her from afar. Whether it was hot-button issues in the paper, pro-choice demonstrations at the state Capitol or night vigils and marches for rape victims, he says, Brooks was always involved.

“She didn't know me, but I knew her. I was torn between being uncomfortable and seeing her as dangerous, and respecting her for her courage and convictions.”

Brooks was riding an optimistic wave of change at BYU, when the tide suddenly shifted.

The early 1990s brought a LDS Church crackdown on intellectuals, feminists and activists who were perceived as being threats.

Professors at BYU lost their jobs. Others walked away in solidarity. In September 1993, six prominent Mormon scholars were excommunicated or disfellowshipped – stripped of certain religious rights, including access to LDS Church temples.

The day Brooks received her diploma, she handed it back in protest.

Wrestling with God

The still-warm funeral potatoes take their place on a picnic table crowded with treats in a La Jolla  park. Milling about are those who've gathered for a monthly meeting, a support group of sorts, under the auspices of an organization called Mormon Stories.

Some, like Brooks, are faithful churchgoing members. Others no longer attend services but long for cultural connections. For at least two of these Californians (one says she is a distant relative of Mitt Romney's), the day church leaders called on Mormons to support Proposition 8 – a 2008 ballot measure to prevent same-sex marriages – was the last time they sat in the pews. One first-time visitor shows up, her crisis of faith new and raw.

“I believed everything until two weeks ago,” she says, her expression one-part grief, the other anger.

Brooks understands those in painful transition. God knows she's been there.

After graduating from BYU, Brooks headed to Los Angeles to get her doctorate in English at UCLA. For about five years, she says she regularly went to church but was still reeling from “the purge” of so many mentors.

She wrestled internally. Each time the LDS Church galvanized its members behind the Defense of Marriage Act or supported initiatives that predated Prop 8, she felt like a cinderblock had been dropped on her heart. If her bishop asked how she was doing, she burst into tears.

“Whenever I went to church, I'd just cry,” she says. “So I just stopped. It was my way of saying 'uncle.' It was too much. I clearly needed time.”

Brooks retreated not just from church, but also from her liberal Mormon peers. She guarded her tongue and emotions around family.

Meantime, her life moved forward in other beautiful ways. She'd fallen hard for David Kamper, then a doctoral student in anthropology, “a sweet and soulful Jewish man from my California hometown: a man who saw no enmity in me, a man who would never put me on trial, a man who would never audit my heart for heresy,” she says in her memoir.

They met at a union party for teaching assistants. About two months into their relationship, she turned to him and said, “You know we're going to get married.”

When they did, some years later, she couldn't have a temple marriage, which allows two Mormons to be sealed for eternity in a sacred ceremony – a rite considered necessary to reach the highest level in heaven. Instead, their unconventional wedding blended their religious backgrounds.

When Kamper stomped on a glass, which marks the end of a Jewish wedding ceremony, Brooks knew she was in some way breaking her parents' hearts.

The oldest of four siblings, all dedicated Mormons, she still attended family events in the LDS Church during those years in self-imposed exile. Each visit made her ache with longing. She tried other Christian denominations, but none felt like home.

It was the birth of her daughters Ella and Rosa, now 8 and 6, that would eventually help bring her back. When she rocked them to sleep, she mindlessly sang a Mormon pioneer hymn, a reminder of those who walked before her.

Her faith journey was shaped, in part, by the birth of daughters Ella -- walking ahead with the family dog -- and Rosa.

She realized she had to be true to her spiritual needs and her legacy, not just for herself, but for her little girls. She began writing the book that would become her memoir, to help her heal and so they would someday understand their mother.

“I am an unorthodox Mormon woman with a fierce and hungry faith,” she writes. “Sometimes even in my own tradition I feel a long way from home. But I will keep on crossing as many plains as this life puts in front of me. I drag along my Jewish husband, my two daughters, and a trunk of difficult questions.”

Finding her way home

Slowly, in 2008, she dipped her cold feet back in the LDS Church waters.

Three months later, like a tsunami, came the push for Proposition 8.

“So I took another few months off. To shake my fist at God,” she wrote in a recent Ask Mormon Girl column. “That's what I did until the vote was over. And then I went back. Again.”

That wasn’t all she did, though. Once, during this hiatus from church, she returned to her childhood congregation for a new nephew’s naming and blessing. She squirmed in her seat as each talk and prayer mentioned the need to protect marriage, she recalls in her memoir.

Using Rosa, then 2, as an excuse, she went for a walk. On a hallway table she spotted clipboards holding data for “Yes on 8” voters, canvassing materials culled through hours and hours of work.

“My heart pounds. I look around. The hallways are clear,” she writes. Brooks snatched those papers and shoved them in her flowered diaper bag. She rushed outside, her heels clicking on pavement. Shielded by cars and with Rosa on her hip, she forced the papers down a metal sidewalk grate. “Still, I feel the weight of the cinderblock on my heart.”

When she could guard her tongue no longer, she decided to speak publicly at a rally opposing Prop 8. She held her breath as she sent her speech to her parents.

The next morning, she opened her e-mail to see this from her father: “ ‘We want you to know we love you. You have wanted a more just and loving world since you were a little girl,’ ” she recounts in her memoir. She then describes her reaction: “Tears drop on my keyboard. My chest heaves.”

Now her father is dying of ALS, an experience that’s made their differences irrelevant.

“My parents are very devoted Mormons, and they didn’t always know what to do with me,” she says. “But there’s nothing like a terminal illness to put things in perspective.”

In late 2009, she began writing about her Mormonism for others. Her first published piece was about raising interfaith children.

Brooks hopes that through her writing and speaking out she can help humanize Mormons, who are often misunderstood.

Perhaps no one was more relieved to see her name than John Dehlin, the BYU student who'd once watched her from afar.

He'd gone through his own faith crisis years after they graduated, and searched online for Brooks. He couldn't find her anywhere. When he saw her byline, he reached out immediately.

“Where have you been?” he asked. “We need you. We've always needed you.”

Dehlin created Mormon Stories in 2005, first as a podcast offering open conversations for those grasping for reasons to stay in the LDS Church, which he has. Now the group also runs conferences and online communities, as well as support groups, which are sprouting up across the globe.

Brooks didn't need Mormon Stories to get back to church. She'd worked through her struggle in her own way and own time. But realizing there were others like her out there – even if they weren't sitting next to her in church – gave her comfort. There's a kinship among those who want and need to speak freely.

The way Mormons show up for one another, she says, is part of what she loves most about her faith tradition. And while her “calling” may not be conventional or church-sanctioned, she's fulfilling a mandate to serve.

By being there for folks who are lost and looking to be found or are desperate to say things they don't feel safe uttering at church or to their families, she attends to those in need.

“Is there space for difference? People are feeling it out,” she says. “No one wants to start a new church. No one wants a schism.”

Some of her friends, especially those not in the LDS Church, have wondered why she didn't just walk away.

That might have been easier, and it's what most of her BYU friends did do. But she's shed tears and worked so hard to maintain her identity, faith and community because, like those who came before her, that's what Mormon pioneers do.

“I know who I am”

Scampering out of the garage, Mosi leads the way. The family dog - her name means "cat" in Navajo - tugs Brooks through the neighborhood on a walk that doubles as thinking time for this busy mother, professor and author.

On this afternoon, she talks about how carefully she must toe a line - one that allows her to be faithful, respectful and gently critical. She's emboldened knowing she doesn't walk alone. There are dozens and dozens like her who - thanks to blogs and social media - are also weighing in.

Brooks speaks on stages and radio programs. She also has been interviewed for documentaries, including one about Mormons in politics.

Not afraid to discuss touchy issues of race, polygamy, or same-sex marriages, Brooks says she's gotten plenty of mail from LDS Church members begging her to stop. They say she's not a spokesperson for the church, and she agrees – she isn't. She's not trying to be.

She believes this cautiousness of fellow Latter-day Saints, this fear of individually speaking up, isn't serving Mormons well. Instead of relying on church officials to read from scripts that sound likes scripts, she says, “People need to see us as human beings.”

The sacrifices of Mormons who’ve spoken out before her also help prod Brooks along. She has to trust that times are changing – that what happened to women like feminist Margaret Toscano won’t happen to her.

Toscano, 62, was excommunicated in 2000 – seven years after her husband. She recalls how the late 1970s Mormon supporters of the ERA were driven underground. She was among those who re-emerged in the late 1980s, only to face a slapdown. She says she personally knows hundreds who’ve walked away from the church over women’s issues.

She watches Brooks and others like her with hope, but not complete optimism. The ability of activists to do what they do while in the church, Toscano says, comes and goes at the whim of whoever is in charge.

Others who watch Brooks may be concerned about the company she keeps.

She knows there are those who fear her association with “apostates,” but she shrugs this off. “It’s not a concern for me. I know who I am.”

Who she is and what she believes rankles Ralph Hancock, a political science professor at BYU who’s taken her on in an LDS blog review called The Bulwark. Simply put, he says in an e-mail, “Joanna thinks or assumes that Mormonism is compatible with (or intrinsically drawn toward?) a contemporary liberal-progressive agenda – and I think not.”

But not all conservatives are bothered by her work.

At the helm of the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR), an organization that defends the LDS Church from detractors, is president Scott Gordon. He may not agree with many of her positions, but he’s glad she’s out there.

She shows the “plurality of thought within Mormonism,” he says, and has taken on characterizations of Mormons in the press in a way that’s made him want to cheer.

LDS Church officials have never contacted Brooks directly, she says. And they wouldn’t comment directly on her or her work for this story.

While Brooks will speak openly about the church she loves, warts and all, she has limits. She refuses to feed the uninformed, broad-brush sensationalism so many use to paint her often misunderstood faith. That's why she graciously turned down a recent request from a History Channel producer who, among other things, hoped Brooks could show how she uses a “seer stone” – a prophetic tool used by LDS Church founder Joseph Smith.

“Are you kidding me!” Brooks says, remembering what went through her head but never came out of her mouth. “That's like asking David [her Jewish husband] if he knows how to sacrifice animals.”

Back from the walk, she rounds up the family to head out to dinner.

Over pizzas at a long table in the Blind Lady Ale House, her husband joins friends in sharing tastes of microbrews. Brooks didn't always follow the Mormon rules to abstain from coffee, tea and alcohol. But with her renewed commitment to the church, she does now.

Among her friends here are two women with whom she leads a Girl Scout troop. Giggling at the far end of the table are their daughters, members of what they like to call “the rogue Brownie troop.”

More important to them than competitive cookie peddling are missions these moms can get behind: a tour of an organic farm, an environmental cleanup activity and a food drive for AIDS patients.

Leaving the other adults to their beers, Brooks heads outside with the four girls. Soon the little ones are marching up and down the sidewalk, arms linked, shouting something that leaves passersby smiling.

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight! Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!”

Brooks has spontaneously taught them the intro to the television classic “Laverne & Shirley.”

She hooks her arms with them as they scream, “Again! Again!” She coaches their footwork and matches their youthful enthusiasm. She wonders, as an afterthought, if she’s got that “hasenpfeffer” word right.

Reaching into a pocket, Brooks pulls out her smartphone and says with a sheepish grin, “Let me check my seer stone.”

On white people, lipstick and the sacrament

It's a Sunday morning, and the family is getting ready for church. Kamper serves up pancakes before racing off to change. Ella and Rosa look over their visitor to make sure she's dressed appropriately. Modest skirt and sleeves? Check.

“Church is a good place,” Rosa says. She bounds past a globe of the world and a child-sized drum set to grab a book from the playroom shelf.

“Read this,” she orders, handing over “How Does the Holy Ghost Make Me Feel?” “This'll teach you about church.”

Rosa shows off their food storage, recommended by the LDS Church in case of disasters.

In the kitchen, Brooks holds up the New York Times Sunday Review and rails against Lee Siegel's Mitt Romney-related opinion piece, “What's Race Got to Do With It?

“ 'Mormonism is still imagined by its adherents as a religion founded by whites, for whites, rooted in a millenarian vision of an America destined to fulfill a white God's plan for earth,' ” she reads aloud. And then, swatting the paper with the back of her hand, she asks, “Is there fact checking involved?”

She knows of the millions of LDS Church members dotting the globe in Africa, Asia and Latin America. And the Japanese-American, Filipino-American, black and Hispanic members in her own ward, or congregation. Later that night, she'll write her response. In this moment, Ella turns her attention to the diversity of American Girl dolls.

Scattered across a sofa are Rebecca, a Russian-Jewish girl from New York; Kaya, a Native American from the Nez Perce tribe; and Kirsten, who wears a bonnet.

“Mommy,” Ella screams, racing out of the room, “Did you know Kirsten's a pioneer girl?”

With her daughters loaded in the Prius, Brooks takes the wheel and tunes in Bob Marley. The girls start rifling through her purse in the backseat. They gob on her lipstick.

“Great,” she says, peering in the rearview mirror. “They're getting tarted up for church.”

Lipstick wiped off, they stroll inside. Brooks takes a seat in the back, and the girls dart up the aisle to sit with friends.

Who Brooks is outside of church is of no consequence. If anyone does follow her work, she says, “No one is up in my grill.” When she's here, she's here for spiritual sustenance – to pray, take the sacrament, and connect with and serve her community.

Bags crowding her feet hold the coffee cake she'll take to the Sunday school class she'll teach later, the Jeopardy-style game she's devised for today's lesson, and reading materials and toys to keep kids occupied.

The LDS Church's children's magazine features a story about Mormons in Tonga. Brooks spots her visitor reading it and whispers, “See how focused we are on white people?”

A little boy scoots a toy car along the floor. Stacked on a chair above him, next to hymnals, are “Curious George” books in Spanish.

Her husband sits down beside her, his arm around her shoulder. Kamper shows up because who she is, what she needs for herself and their kids, matters to him. Her acceptance of his Judaism, the fact that she's never suggested he convert, has helped him get over what the couple jokingly refer to as his “Jesus allergy.” He doesn't take the sacrament when it's offered and admits he sometimes passes on saying “amen” to church prayers.

“They don't know what the hell to make of me,” he says. But ever since he fell in love with Brooks, this trained ethnographer has been a close observer of Mormons. He feels embraced by her parents now, but that took time. Her father once challenged Kamper to read the Book of Mormon and accept the missionary lessons, visits from LDS teachers. Kamper figured it was the least he could do, but it didn't lead him into a baptismal font.

Unable to play an official role during Mormon family ceremonies, like baby namings, he accepts his job as the designated microphone holder. Someday he'll tell his nephews, “If you get busted and go to jail, call Uncle David.”

Here in church, his role is supportive husband. Kamper strokes Brooks' back when she weeps. Tears fall when her eyes close in prayer.

In a small classroom afterward, she meets with four high school students, three of whom are heading to BYU in the fall. When she meets with them, she says she sees herself at their age.

The Book of Mormon, the introduction of an additional scripture, “was a bold claim,” she tells them. “I think that's why Mormons are bold. We're OK being different.”

Trusting God’s plan

The girls plop down at the kitchen table, feasting on leftover funeral potatoes. They start humming the “Muppet Show” theme song and then, after rattling off some of their favorite Simon and Garfunkel titles, bust into the chorus of “Mrs. Robinson.”

And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson,
Jesus loves you more than you will know,
Wo, wo, wo.
God bless you, please, Mrs. Robinson,
Heaven holds a place for those who pray,
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey.

Each night at dinner, the girls lead the family in prayer. Sometimes their words are inspired by their Mormonism; other times they honor the Jewish side of themselves.

They're being raised to be part of both religious traditions. They celebrate Christmas, Easter and Pioneer Day, which marks the day in 1847 when Mormon pioneers first entered now-Utah. The family also observes Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover. Because Kamper likes to host a big Passover seder each year, Brooks decided the family would also host a Mormon seder on Pioneer Day, featuring her favorite recipes, including her “Green Goddess” Jell-o salad.

One month the girls attend Sunday school at church; the next they can be found in Hebrew school.

“It can be challenging because I have to learn one thing and then another thing,” Ella says. “But it can be fun, too, because I know I'm special.”

Brooks doesn't worry about their kids. All she can do is be responsible for her own choices and give them a rich spiritual life, she says. They'll be free to decide what path they want to travel. “God has a plan for everyone, and everything is going to work out,” she says. “I'm not afraid for them.”

Nor is Kamper, though he admits he's starting to realize some rabbis might balk if the girls want bat mitzvahs.

Ella describes how she feels in church.

“I feel comfortable because I'm in God's house. And I also feel comfortable because I know lots of people love me,” she says.

Her parents smile at each other. They want to know if she feels like she's in God's house at synagogue.

“No, but I feel like God's watching over me,” she answers.

Ella then offers to share a typical prayer she and Rosa might recite.

“We fold our arms and close our eyes,” she instructs. “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this food and this family. Please bless those who are sick... And if I was going to sleep,” she decides to add, “Please help me so I won't have nightmares. And if I do, send the Holy Ghost down to comfort me. I say these things in Jesus' name. Amen.”

Seconds later, she and her younger sister switch gears.

“Shema, Yisrael. Adonai Eloheinu. Adonai echad,” they sing, the translation being, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.”

Across the kitchen, their mother’s voice rises in perfect Hebrew, too.

It's a Jewish prayer sung by a faithful Mormon who believes “all are alike unto God.” And she sings it with every bit of her pioneer spirit.

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Judaism • Mormonism • Politics • Same-sex marriage • Women

soundoff (1,778 Responses)
  1. The One

    Hello my children. I think Jesus said it best when he said: "in order to be truly free, you must first free yourself of all religion. Man's most diabolical mind control device ever invented." Then he got busy with Mary Magdalene and had a bunch of kids.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  2. Abinadi

    The Protestants are changing the Bible to agree with their distorted views. An example is John 3:16, "16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only BEGOTTEN Son,". The Protestants have taken out "Begotten" and replaced it with "his one and only son", which totally distorts and changes the original meaning of the scripture. They do this because they realize many years later that their teachings are not in harmony with the Bible. How embarrassing!

    Amos 3 says, " 7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." The Bible is consistent. Jesus Christ is the "chief cornerstone" of his church. That means that he, himself, is the leader of his church and reveals his will through his prophet. There has always been a prophet on the earth when he has had a covenant people.
    Ephesians 2 says, "19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;" 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;"
    Jesus never intended that his saints (Christ's covenant people) be left without his personal direction, "14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;" (Ephesians 14).
    We don't denegrate in any way the great reformers. They prepared the way for the true gospel to be restored, just like John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus Christ,and we honor them. But, they have done their work and their followers must give way to the higher truth. There is a living prophet on the earth today and twelve apostles! You can read their words on lds.org or mormon.org. The gospel is restored!

    February 6, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  3. Bill Fitzgerald

    I like LAGRYHONS comment. We may be normal and wonderful but it has nothing to do with our beliefs. Really? Do you really believe that? How is that possible? If our doctrine is evil How can the people be wonderful? You are decieved my friend. The Savior himself had something to say about that.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • grinder

      the mormon cults doctrine isn't evil it's just stupid garbage written by a con artist to deliberately fool stupid people into following it

      and it worked

      look how many idiots are part of this cult that the rest of us know is completely made up bs

      sucks to be you

      February 6, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • LaGryphon

      That's like saying a Republican cannot like a Democrat.....maybe you don't agree with the beliefs of the other party but they can still be good people. Find another way to debate what I wrote because all of it is the truth about your religious cult.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • LaGryphon

      For the record I never said what you believe is evil so why would you make a statement like that? Could it be in your repressed mind you think you are involved in something evil? Joseph Smith the pathological liar money diggin fool duped peopled in his day and duping continues. Except more and more members of your cult are beginning to realize just what they are involved in....members are leaving in droves.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  4. Korry

    I am sick of people saying that the Church won't let us drink Coke. No coffee. No tea. No alcohol. No tobacco. The rest is personal revelation!

    February 6, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • The One

      Thanks for clarifying that because of all things being said about mormons on this site, and all the things they are accused of believing, that was the BIGGIE. Now that I know that, I'm pretty sure I'm going to convert. BTW, lets mention that it used to be forbidden to drink Coke until the church wanted to invest in the coca Cola Company, kind of like polygamy was encouraged until they wanted Utah to become a state, then it was totally yucky and forbidden, and kind of like black people were a scourge, until they realized that the whole world would hate them for being racist, then its all, Yeah, we like the darkies, matter of fact lets go to Africa and convert them all. Africans are to uneducated there to know how full of cr@p this church of convenience is. As soon as something falls out of favor with the crazy doctrine, just change the doctrine. Presto. Also, the fact that Brigham Young authorized the killing of scores of fellow Americans at the Mountain Meadow massacre, just underscores the brainwashing power of this religion. The members of this church are nice people but they don't question this stuff or the 1000 other examples of illogical doctrine and history which pretty much proves this church is false and which shows how dangerous this church is. Just sayin'

      February 6, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  5. Abinadi

    Why I am a mormon. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is based on the teachings of Christ and the New Testament. Christ founded his church on apostles and prophets. Ephesians 2 states: "19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
    20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;"
    Apostles and prophets are absolutely essential because they hold the keys to the priesthood. If the apostles all die, the authority is lost along with revelation; we no longer know the mind and will of God and Christ is no longer the "chief cornerstone". False teachers and priests arise and we are "carried about with every wind of doctrine". Paul taught in Ephesians 4: "11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
    12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
    13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
    14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;"
    Without apostles and prophets we cannot come to a "unity of the faith" nor be perfected in Christ. Without a prophet who speaks authoritatively the will of God, only confusion can reign as people argue what God meant and uninspired men tamper with the holy scriptures!

    February 6, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Christ taught in John 15: "16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you." Christ intended that he, himself, would be at the head of his church through revelation. That is why a man must be chosen of God through revelation to represent him and to preach his holy word – a thing that protestant churches totally lack because they apostatized from the Catholic church and which the catholic church cannot claim either because the first pope was a bishop, not an apostle, and to this day can claim no authority from living apostles.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • An inconvenient truth

      Mormonism is based on the false teachings of Joseph Smith.There is nothing compatible with Christianity or the New Testament in Mormon beliefs. Anyone who follows Mormonism is deceived and will be unacceptable to God. To be a Mormon is to waste a life thinking you are following God. You are more lost than the so called atheist, because you think you are found. You are lying to yourself.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • grinder

      why you are mormon

      the mormon cult was built by a scam artist whos target audience were the dumbest of the dumb

      im talking about people stupid enough to believe in any other religion but even dumber than that

      because it is so obvious how retarded the religion is from the point of reality

      mormons are the most retarded of all cults

      seriously dumb and full of pedos

      February 6, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  6. hfdiver

    cool article, not hating anybody. Must be a democrat which is unusual for a mormon

    February 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  7. Moi

    Christianity is based in ignorance, fear, and imagination. Most Christians agree that Mormons are not only not Christian, but cult members. This speaks volumes.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • MJT4

      No, it really doesn't.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • An inconvenient truth

      No true Christian would ever accept Mormons as Christians. To consider a Mormon a Christian you would have to be ignorant of the Truth.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  8. Kenny Fichts

    We should stop trying to appease the Gods and instead appease the ALIENS. I've got good grounds to believe that they are definitely going to come back and bring us salvation! They made us afterall. Now, I know no one can -witness- creation, but they made us in their image so that we would be able to empathize with them but THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING AT AL!! In fact, they're shapeshifters! They're amongst us, protecting us! But there are a few bad ones and they are pretty much behind ALL the bad stuff but don't worry! If you believe -everything- I say, you'll be safe and they can't harm you! And remember, everytime you see a twinkle in the sky, it's not an angel, it's a flying saucer sent here to make sure you're safe!

    February 6, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  9. Natalie (Helena, Montana)

    Mormonism is not a form of Christianity. Their prophet is Joseph Smith and they never open the bible in church. Their women are treated as slaves and can only teach the female children. Women cannot have leadership roles, period. Do the history on Joseph Smith, the guy was a flipping lunatic. I went to the church for several years thru my teen years and figured out at 17 that the church was one messed up CULT! They stand their kids up in church from the age of 3 and have them say out loud "I know this church is true" , no brainer that this is a form of brainwashing. When a church cannot openly share in public what it preaches, there must be something they are hiding. They also baptize for the dead. SAY WHAT??

    February 6, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Josh

      Natalie I didn't read your whole comment I stopped at the part where Mormons don't even open the Bible in their church. I am a Mormon, I have read the bible from cover to cover. I have never been to a meeting where we haven't opened the bible and I don't know what your pastors are telling you but you should go to an LDS church yourself before you start posting things your pastor has said. Fact Checking is always the best approach.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Heather

      Natalie,
      Your personal beliefs are yours and no one can take those from you, nor should they. However, stating falsities as facts is disrespectful and ignorant. As an active Latter-day Saint, I assure you that the King James version of the Holy Bible is used frequently in discussions, talks and lessons in church. Also, I currently hold a leadership position in my ward. And, I am absolutely certain that more than just the female children. I know that you don't want to know my personal beliefs and that's just fine, I won't push them on you. But you need to state opinions as what they are and not claim them to be factual.

      Respectfully,
      Heather

      February 6, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • Dustin

      Nonsense Natalie. You are probably writing this to get a rise out of people, knowing that you are publishing what you know to be wrong. Someone has likely offended you and now you are taking it out in the public media. If there is any church that is public about its teachings, it is the LDS church. Brainwashing is when you corrupt the minds of people to destroy others. Teaching principles to children that will help them give money to the poor, clothing to those who have none, helping communities that are struggling and so forth is hardly what a rational individual would call brainwashing. My hope is that people in this world turn away from the false venom that people like you are trying to inject into others.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • MJT4

      You, clearly, don't know what you are talking about. Nothing you said is true! I don't believe that you ever attended one our services, because you would know that we wholeheartedly believe in the Bible. EVERYTHING you said is false. Please, don't post anything if you don't know what you are talking about. You are statements are 100% inaccurate.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • ca3b

      you are free to disagree with the Mormon church in this forum. But that does not give you the right to lie.
      If you claim a Bible was never opened in Church, then you never went to a Mormon church.
      Both old and new testaments of the Bilble are taught and discussed in all church meetings. The King James
      version of the Bible is official scripture. But not taken as a literal translation (as neither do Methodists,
      Presbyterians, and many other Protestant religions). Your saying that women are "slaves" is a joke.
      By your same interpretation women are also slaves in the Catholic church and fundamentalist Christian churches
      where only men are allowed to run the Church.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • LaGryphon

      Which Bible ladies and gentlemen are you referring to? Mormons believe the 1st scripture to referance is the Book of Mormon and will preface the Bible with "in so far as it has been translated correctly". There are parts of the King James Bible the Mormons use that has been rewritten according to Joseph Smith's translations. He the pathological liar Joseph Smith used a hat like Abe Lincoln wore, put his face into the hat & used a "peep stone" to translate. Who you gonna believe now?

      February 6, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  10. bobby from slc

    That feeling, Joanna, that keeps you from leaving Mormonism, is something I struggled with for years. Then one day I tried to describe it to a friend who left the Mormon church. He said to me "I know what you're talking about; but, I also felt that exact same feeling while watching Braveheart."

    February 6, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  11. Apalled

    This is all a snowjob by the Mormons to distract us from the utterly idiotic basis of their religion. Talking salamanders in caves, Native Americans that are really lost Israelites. . . the list goes on and on, and was all a snowjob then to legitamize polygamy. T

    February 6, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • sam

      What kind of job is it, again?

      February 6, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  12. Bill Fitzgerald

    Nice Try Postmorm, IF you ever read the Book Of Mormon, you will read that the Nephites and Lamanites are desecendents of Joseph, son of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham. Would you like some more references? Go to the index in the book. THEY are not descendants of Judah, period. Just another lie among so many others. And the lady who wrote this article has no authority to speak for the church. The article has so many flaws. One of which, if my daughter never marries in this life she cannot have exhaltation? Wrong answer, check our doctrine. And postmorm says we can live with God but not be like him? FALSE. You cannot inherit all he has, ALL, without being like him. Do you think Christ gave his life so we could ALMOST live with him? HA, you mock the Atonement. Be ye therefore perfect means exactly that. And Christ gives no Commandment that cannot be realized. Now I will debunk the no God exists comment. How are you alive? how does a baby form, why does a tree grow from a seed, how do eyes see? How aor why does your heart beat or exist? You cannot answer any of these questions! or prove them. Then they must not exist right? God does exist or none of this is possible along with all the stars planets all in perfect order. Prove how that happened! You cant do it.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      Bill, you have to be a special breed of stupid to ask, "How are babies made?" with a straight face.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • LaGryphon

      Sorry to pop your Mormon bubble but the papyra that Joseph Smith translated as the Book of Abraham has now been correctly translated and it is an Egyptian funeral rite. A civilization the size quoted in the Book of Mormon show no archeological signs that it ever existed....NONE. All former civilizations show signs of their existence. The animals quoted in the BofM were not on the continent during the stated time. It's all manufactured by the pathological liar Joseph Smith, who was a well known money digger.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • The Phist

      How are you alive?
      how does a baby form,
      why does a tree grow from a seed,
      how do eyes see?
      How aor why does your heart beat or exist?

      I copied the above from your moronic post and will address them.

      We are alive because we were born. Simple enough answer. You're implying something deeper though, as if life itself has some kind of profound meaning. It doesn't. The only reason you ask the question is because of your incorrect assumption that meaning has to be the purpose, that in order for anything to exist it has to have been created. No. Energy transfers from place to place. The Earth exists thanks to remnants of massive explosions, various matter and gravity. That's really about it. The Universe is massive. Please read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universe In a span of something that enormous, any number of things can happen by pure chance. There's no way around it, and it certainly doesn't mean god did it. Drugs are a crutch. Alcohol is a crutch. The believe in god, is just another crutch.

      How does a baby form? How is babby form? Thanks for the laugh. This is basic biology taught in high school. When a man and a woman grind their naughty parts together, projectile manchum is tossed and splattered. The wigglies run for the egg, and the first one in fertilizes the egg. You can read about it online. I believe Bang Bros. could help you figure out the process.

      Trees grow similarly in that fertilization needs to take place. They, like all living things, need nutrients to survive and grow. I don't know why you would ask this question either. It isn't relative to a goddam thing.

      I take it you've never done any reading about how eyes function. It's rather interesting, especially when you get into comparing our vision to that of other species.

      Heart. Biology. The heart is involuntary muscle. Did you not go to school? For christ's sake man, educate yourself before assuming that an imaginary fairy did everything.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  13. GodIsTheWay

    The fact of the matter is, the only true chuch of Christ is the Apostolic church. The Orthodox.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Brad

      Say on, please.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      You know it's funny. There are many other religions that say the same thing as you about your religion. It doesn't even really matter what your religion is, they all say the same thing about eachother. Any argument that you try to use to defend your religion, they will use it or already have.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • GodIsTheWay

      @Bob: It's very simple. The first place the apostle Peter (The Rock of the Church, according to Jesus) preached the gospel was in Antioch. That was the beginning of the orthodox church. I'm Antiochian Orthodox. My church is one of the 7 originals, including Rome, although the Bishop of Rome broke off to become the Pope. Peter never went to Rome, and he was never pope. As of this point, Roman Catholicism is technically an erroneous doctrine, even though the Church of Rome was one of the originals. Orthodox itself MEANS original. Every little bit of church doctrine is actually backed by scripture, and either the local priest or even the area bishop is happy to explain it.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  14. LaGryphon

    Makes me wonder how much LDS Inc paid to have CNN write this article to give the misguided perception of what they really believe. Fact is in their religion everyone's eternal salvation rests upon getting married/sealed in the temple or you will not be with your family for all the eternities! True story. The youth are encouraged to date only LDS people so as not to run the risk of putting in jeopardy their "eternal salvation" by marrying someone of another faith or god forbid no faith at all!

    February 6, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  15. The truth

    First of all, Feminism is evil. It exists at the expense of children and men. Its disguised as equality, but its true purpose is the subjugation of men and the murder of innocent children, so that a misandrist can live as she chooses.

    Feminism; responsible for the decline of the family unit, along with abortions need to be snuffed out of this society, if we are to move on as decent people.

    Secondly, Atheism is the most self absorbed religion known to man. Where the atheist is their own God, and they preach hate against anybody who opposes their own self absorbed religion. They believe as they think, and therefore do as they please.

    Now I'm not Mormon, but I have no use for a self righteous Atheist – they are what it is wrong with this world.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • umm

      wow so many lies you are not a christian with that stupid post.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Awww how cute, a cut and paste troll.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • sam

      Why are you reposting drivel from 'the one'?

      February 6, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @sam

      It's probably the same person.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  16. MrDifficult

    Jewish + Mormon = Easy Bake Idiot

    February 6, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  17. Jataka

    Buddhism will eventually win over all other religions when people understand it is essentially true. Stop living your lives out of a book and look within.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  18. repression

    Met a young Morman woman while she was on vacation. She was a sweet thing. Man! Was she se xually repressed and
    lucky for me she cut loose like no tomorrow-whew! Somethings wrong with that encampment. I wish her well, where ever
    she ended up.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • Bob

      No you didn't. You don't have to lie to make us think you are cool.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Josh

      There are people that make mistakes in all religions, it sounds too me that being with you would have been a big mistake bye the way you are writing. Please don't leave stupid and inappropriate comments on public domain websites.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  19. Abinadi

    MICROSOFT FOUNDER, NFL OWNER, PAUL ALLEN, SPEAKS OUT ON MORMONS

    Paul Allen is the owner of the Seattle Seahawks, the ones who played the

    Pittsburgh Steelers for the Super Bowl a few years ago. He is also the owner

    of the Portland Trail Blazers NBA basketball team and is co-partner with

    Bill Gates in Microsoft. He wrote this editorial in the Santa Clarita,

    California newspaper:

    I have heard and seen enough! I have lived in the West all my life. I have

    worked around them. They have worked for me and I for them. When I was young

    I dated their daughters. When I got married they came to my wedding. Now

    that I have daughters of my own, some of their boys have dated my daughters.

    I would be privileged if one of them were to be my son-in-law.

    I'm talking about the Mormons.

    They are some of the most honest, hardworking people I have ever known. They

    are spiritual, probably more than most other so-called religious people I

    have encountered. They study the Bible and teach from it as much as any

    Christian church ever has. They serve their religion without pay in every

    conceivable capacity. Not one of their leaders, teachers, counselors,

    Bishops or music directors receive one dime for the hours of labor they put

    in.

    The Mormons have a non-paid ministry – a fact that is not generally known. I

    have heard many times from the pulpits of others how evil and non-Christian

    they are and that they will not go to heaven. I decided recently to attend

    one of their services near my home to see for myself.

    What a surprise!

    What I heard and saw was just the opposite from what the religious ministers

    of the day were telling me. I found a very simple service with no fanfare. I

    found a people with a great sense of humor and a well-balanced spiritual

    side. There was no loud music. Just a simple service, with the members

    themselves giving the several short sermons.

    They urge their youth to be morally clean and live a good life. They teach

    the gospel of Christ, as they understand it. The name of their church is

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints. Does that sound like a

    non-Christian church to you? I asked them many questions about what they

    teach and why. I got answers that in most cases were from the New Testament.

    Their ideas and doctrines did not seem too far fetched for my understanding.

    When I read their "Book of Mormon" I was also very surprised to find just

    the opposite from what I had been told I would find.

    Then I went to another church's pastor to ask him some of the same questions

    about doctrine. To my surprise, when he found out that I was in some way

    investigating the Mormons, he became hostile. He referred to them as a

    non-Christian cult. I received what sounded to me like evil propaganda

    against those people. He stated bluntly that they were not Christian and

    that they did not fit into the Christian mold. He also told me that they don

    t really believe the Bible. He gave me a pile of anti-Mormon literature. He

    began to rant that the Mormons were not telling me the truth about what they

    stand for. He didn't want to hear anything good about them. At first I was

    surprised and then again, I wasn't. I began to wonder.

    I have never known of a cult that supports the Boy Scouts of America.

    According to the Boy Scouts, over a third of all the Boy Scout troops in the

    United States are Mormon.

    What cult do you know of that has a welfare system second to none in this

    country? They have farms, canneries and cattle ranches to help take care of

    the unfortunate ones who might be down and out and in need of a little help.

    The Mormon Church has donated millions to welfare causes around the world

    without a word of credit. They have donated thousands to help rebuild

    Baptist churches that were burned a few years ago. They have donated tons of

    medi cal supplies to countries rav aged by earthquakes.

    You never see them on TV begging for money.. What cult do you know that

    instills in its members to obey the law, pay their taxes, serve in the

    military if asked and be a good Christian by living high moral standards?

    Did you know that hundreds of thousands of Mormon youth get up before high

    school starts in the morning to attend a religious training class? They have

    basketball and softball leagues and supervised youth dances every month.

    They are recruited by the FBI, the State Department and every police

    department in the country, because they are Trustworthy. They are taught not

    to drink nor take drugs. They are in the Secret Service – those who protect

    the President. They serve in high leadership positions from both parties in

    Congress and in the US Senate, and have been governors of several states

    other than Utah. They serve with distinction and honor.

    If you have Mormons living near, you will probably find them to be your best

    friends and neighbors. They are Christians who try to live what they preach.

    They are not perfect and they are the first to admit this. I have known some

    of them who could not live their religion, just like many of us. The

    rhetoric which is spread around against them is nothing more than evil

    propaganda founded in untruths. (Others) had successfully demonized them to

    the point that the general public has no idea what they actually believe and

    teach. If you really want to know the truth, go see for yourself. You also

    will be surprised.

    When I first moved here some 25 years ago there were five Mormon wards in

    Santa Clarita, Calif. Now there are 15. They must be doing something right.

    "The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. ....

    They just make the best of everything."

    February 6, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Joseph Smith

      Christians don't think that God was once a man, Black people are cursed, and we will each have our own planet in the afterllfe. Look it up...all true.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • LaGryphon

      Trying to legitimize a cult through a famous person's quotes won't help the Mormon apologists gain any ground in how people perceive the LDS religion. The people may be normal and wonderful but their beliefs have all the hallmarks of a cult. Google "No Man Knows my History" by Fawn Brodie; Brigham Young and "Lying for the Lord"; Mountain Meadows Massacre; Joseph Smith and the peep stone; Brigham Young's Adam-God doctrine; blood oaths in the Mormon Temples before 1990.....those topics should keep you busy for awhile.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • zapatta

      All you have written about the Mormons is true. ...But there is no god! That's the point.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • berndog

      Cult, cult, cult.....People are so quick to call Mormonism a cult. If you look up the definition of cult, you will find that any and all religions are cults

      February 6, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  20. End Feminism

    mlichti,

    Atthiesm is self absorbed, where the athiest beelives in no one but themselves, therefore making themselves the God of their own life. In essence, Athiest beleive in themselves, therefore making themselves God.

    And yes, athiest do preach hate towards anybody who dosent follow their self abosrobed religion. just read any of the posts on here from agnostics and athiests. A lot of hate towards people who beleive in God, and you dont agree, then you are lying to yourself.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Haven't seen your amount of crazy in a while.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • PAT

      If you are such a good spiritual person, why do you lie. What do you know about any other belief but Mormonism. If you claim to be so good, you should accept every human being, be it Catholic, Mormon or Aethist. Who are you to judge anybody in this world. No wonder people question Mormonison. Try loving God and stop placing yourself into any orgainized religion and judging people and maybe you can preach what God is really about.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • zapatta

      Yes, but we can spell!

      February 6, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • sam

      'Bee lives'? We're all very concerned about bee lives! The bees are disappearing!

      February 6, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • Josh

      PAT Mormons don't judge other religions. Mormons just say what they believe and keep other religions out of (it they don't stoop down to that level). That is sadly not the case of several other religions. Your statement can't be farther from the truth.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
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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.