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May 12th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

With or without Romney, D.C. a surprising Mormon stronghold

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Alexandria, Virginia (CNN) – A few hundred Mormons filed into a chapel just outside the Washington Beltway one recent Sunday to hear a somewhat unusual presentation: an Obama administration official recounting his conversion to Mormonism.

“I have never in my life had a more powerful experience than that spiritual moment when the spirit of Christ testified to me that the Book of Mormon is true,” Larry Echo Hawk told the audience, which stretched back through the spacious sanctuary and into a gymnasium in the rear.

Echo Hawk’s tear-stained testimonial stands out for a couple of reasons: The White House normally doesn’t dispatch senior staff to bare their souls, and Mormons hew heavily Republican. It’s not every day a top Democrat speaks from a pulpit owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And yet the presentation by Echo Hawk, then head of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, is also a perfect symbol of a phenomenon that could culminate in Mitt Romney’s arrival at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue next year: The nation’s capital has become a Mormon stronghold, with Latter-day Saints playing a big and growing role in the Washington establishment.

The well-dressed crowd gathered for Echo Hawk’s speech was dotted with examples of inside-the-beltway Mormon power.

In one pew sits a Mormon stake president – a regional Mormon leader – who came to Washington to write speeches for Ronald Reagan and now runs a lobbying firm downtown.

Behind him in the elegant but plain sanctuary – Mormon chapels are designed with an eye toward functionality and economy – is a retired executive secretary of the U.S. Supreme Court.

A few pews further back, the special assistant to the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan sits next to a local Mormon bishop who came to Washington to work for Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and now leads a congressionally chartered foundation.

Mitt Romney, who would be the first Mormon president if elected, is the son of a Cabinet secretary under Richard Nixon.

“In a Republican administration, there will be even more Mormons here,” whispers the bishop, Lewis Larsen, pointing out prominent Washingtonians around the chapel. “Every Republican administration just loads up with them.”

Regardless of which party controls the White House, Mormonism in Washington has been growing for decades.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

When Larsen arrived in Washington in the early ’80s, there were a just handful of Mormon meetinghouses in northern Virginia, where he lives. Today, there are more than 25, each housing three separate congregations, or wards, as they’re known in the LDS Church.

“There’s been an absolute explosion in Mormon growth inside the beltway,” Larsen says before slipping out of the pew to crank the air conditioning for the swelling crowd.

The LDS Church says there are 13,000 active members within a 10-mile radius of Washington, though the area’s Mormon temple serves a much larger population – 148,000 Latter-day Saints, stretching from parts of South Carolina to New Jersey.

Signs of the local Mormon population boom transcend the walls of the temple and meetinghouses.

Crystal City, a Virginia neighborhood just across the Potomac River from Washington, has become so popular with young Mormons that it’s known as “Little Provo,” after the Utah city that’s home to church-owned Brigham Young University.

Congress now counts 15 Mormon members, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. That means the 2% of the country that’s Mormon is slightly overrepresented on Capitol Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, is the highest-placed elected Mormon in Washington.

Even many Latter-day Saints joke about Washington’s “Mormon mafia” – referring to the number of well-placed LDS Church members across town – though they cringe at the thought of being seen as part of some cabal. (Echo Hawk, for his part, left the Obama administration a few weeks after his chapel presentation for a job in the LDS Church hierarchy).

“No one talks about Washington being an Episcopalian stronghold or a Jewish stronghold,” says Richard Bushman, a Mormon scholar at Columbia University. Talk of “Mormon Washington,” he says, “represents a kind of surprise that people who were thought of as provincial have turned up in sophisticated power positions.”

Bushman and other experts note that, despite Mormons’ growing political power, the official church mostly steers clear of politics. It’s hard to point to federal legislation or a White House initiative that bears distinctly Mormon fingerprints, while it’s easy to do the same for other faiths.

For example, the White House’s recent “compromise” on a rule that would have required religious groups to fund contraception for employees was mostly a reaction to pressure from Roman Catholic bishops.

Nonetheless, Mormon success in Washington is a testament to distinctly Mormon values, shedding light into the heart of one of America’s fastest-growing religions.

And though the official church is mostly apolitical, most rank-and-file Mormons have linked arms with the GOP. Romney’s own political evolution mirrors that trend.

Such forces help explain why Mormons’ beltway power is poised to grow even stronger in coming years, whether or not Romney wins the White House.

‘A ton of Mormon contacts’

For many Washington Mormons, religion plays a key role in explaining why they’re here.

Larsen, who sports a brown comb-over and tortoise shell glasses, arrived in Washington in the early 1980s as an intern for Hatch, also a Mormon.

He landed the internship courtesy of Brigham Young University, his alma mater. The Mormon school owns a four-story dorm on Pennsylvania Avenue, not too far from the White House, which houses 120 student interns each year. It’s the school’s largest such program in the nation.

“Part of our church’s tradition is to be connected with civic life, to make our communities better,” says BYU’s Scott Dunaway, who helps place students on Capitol Hill, at the Smithsonian and other Washington institutions. “We don’t believe in being reclusive.”

It’s a perfect characterization of Larsen. He grew up in Provo, in the shadow of BYU, and wanted to prove he could make it outside of Utah.

“Kids growing up in the LDS Church have been told, ‘Go ye out in the world and preach the gospel of Christ - don’t be afraid to be an example,’ ” Larsen said, sitting in the glass-doored conference room of the foundation he runs on K Street.

“So we are on our missions, converting people to Christianity,” he continued. “And coming to Washington, for me and probably for a lot of people, came out of that interest. We see it as our career, but also we’re going out to preach the word of Christ.”

For Larsen, that usually means correcting misinformation about Mormonism or explaining Mormon beliefs and practices – you really don’t drink coffee, ever? – over lunch with co-workers or at business functions, rather than on-the-job proselytizing.

He learned about integrating work and faith from Hatch. He was initially shocked to discover that the senator prays in his office each morning. Larsen and Hatch developed what the bishop calls a “father-son” relationship, with the intern rising up through the ranks to become Hatch’s chief Washington fundraiser.

“We would go on trips, and I’d quiz him on the plane: Why did the church do this? Why didn’t the church do this?” Larsen said. “He was like a tutor to me.”

Now, as the head of a foundation that educates teachers about the U.S. Constitution, the bishop helps other young Mormons with job leads and introductions. Larsen was appointed to the role by Hatch and the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Much of Washington’s Mormon professional network is still anchored by BYU, which operates a handful of big, well-connected alumni groups with major Washington chapters. The most prominent is BYU’s Management Society, a global organization whose biggest chapter is in Washington.

At the chapter’s recent alumni dinner, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was the guest of honor. She has strong ties to the Mormon community and has hired Mormons as top aides. Says Larsen: “Condi’s got a ton of Mormon contacts.”

Patrice Pederson also knows how to work a Rolodex. A lifelong political activist, she moved from Utah to Washington last year and soon tapped into BYU’s local network.

Pederson served as the U.S.-based campaign manager for Yeah Samake, a Mormon running for president in the West African nation of Mali.

Samake traveled frequently to the U.S. to raise money and build political support, so Pederson enlisted the help of BYU’s Management Society and other groups to host events for the candidate.

Both in Washington and across the U.S., many Mormons are watching his candidacy.

“Members of the church on Capital Hill were anxious to introduce the candidate to other members of Congress,” says Pederson, sipping an herbal tea (Mormons eschew black leaf teas) in a strip mall Starbucks near her apartment in Alexandria, Virginia.

“It’s cool to have a member of the church running for president in Africa.”

Beyond making connections, many Washington Mormons say the LDS Church provides an ideal proving ground for careers here.

Unlike most churches, it has no professional clergy; from the bishop to the organist, each role is filled by everyday Mormons, most of whom have other day jobs. As a result, Mormons take church leadership roles at an early age, speaking publicly at Sunday services almost as soon they learn to talk.

“My kids grew up in the church, and we get together for three hours on Sundays, and each member needs to get up and speak,” says U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. “By the time they graduate, they have all these speaking assignments that other teenagers just don’t have.

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, says Mormonism provides ideal training for aspiring politicians.

“For those who grow up in the Mormon church, they are taught skills that allow them to be successful in a tough city like Washington,” says Chaffetz, who converted to Mormonism shortly after college.

Young Mormons also hone leadership skills by serving missions away from home. The missions last from one and half to two years and happen when Mormons are in their late teens and early 20s and often include intensive foreign language training.

“Young Mormons are more formidable in public settings and international settings than others,” says Terryl Givens, a Mormon scholar at the University of Richmond. “Normally you would have to acquire more age and work experience before you feel comfortable and useful at NGOs and think tanks.”

Chaffetz, whose son is serving a mission in Ghana, says the experience is the perfect preparation for political careers.

“They learn rejection early on,” he says. “If you’re going to be in politics, that’s a pretty good attribute.”

Christina Tomlinson served her mission in nonexotic Fresno, California. But working with the Laotian community there, she acquired the foreign language skills that landed her first internship at the U.S. State Department.

“I look back at that and it’s nothing but divine providence,” Tomlinson says one night at an office building-turned-chapel in Crystal City, after a weekly discussion about Mormon teachings. “I would have never made those choices.”

When she arrived at her foreign service orientation in the late 1990s, Tomlinson was surprised to find that a half-dozen of her State Department colleagues were also Mormon. The thriving LDS community at State even runs its own e-mail list server so Latter-day Saints can find each other wherever in the world they’re stationed.

Like former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who used the Mandarin language skills acquired through a Mormon mission to Taiwan to help secure his job as President Barack Obama’s previous ambassador to China, Tomlinson leveraged her mission to get ahead at State, where she now serves as special assistant to the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“I’m basically the chief of staff for the president’s representative charged with implementing U.S. foreign policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan,” she e-mailed on a recent plane ride back from the region.

Language skills acquired on a Mormon mission helped Christina Tomlinson get her start at the State Department.

At the point of a bayonet

Like many Mormons, Tomlinson says her professional life is driven by a faith-based patriotism that sounds old-fashioned to modern ears: “I just really wanted to serve my country.”

But that distinctly Mormon patriotism was hard-won. From their very beginning, Mormons had tried to forge a special relationship with Washington. And for decades, they failed.

Joseph Smith, who founded Mormonism in the 1830s, petitioned the U.S. government to protect his fledgling religious community from the violent persecution it was experiencing, even meeting repeatedly with President Martin Van Buren.

But Washington refused, provoking Smith – who Mormons consider their founding prophet – to run for president himself in 1844. He was assassinated by an anti-Mormon mob in Illinois well before Election Day.

In the face of such attacks, Mormons fled west, to the territory that’s now Utah. But they continued to seek ties with Washington, dispatching representatives to the capital to lobby for statehood.

Congress refused to grant it. Instead, Uncle Sam disincorporated the LDS Church and sent the U.S. Army to police Mormon territory.

In the eyes of Washington, Latter-day Saints were flouting federal law by practicing polygamy. The feds saw the LDS Church as an undemocratic rival government that threatened Washington’s power.

Joseph Smith, Mormonism’s founding prophet, ran for president in 1844 but was killed before Election Day.

Mormons would eventually ban polygamy, paving the way for Utah statehood in 1896. But Congress nonetheless refused to seat the new state’s Mormon senator, who also served as a top church official.

For four years, the U.S. Senate held hearings to grill U.S. Sen. Reed Smoot and other church leaders, alleging that Mormons continued to practice polygamy despite promises to the contrary.

“The political trial was as much a galvanizing cultural moment as was Watergate,” says Kathleen Flake, a scholar of Mormonism at Vanderbilt University in Tenneessee.

When Smoot was eventually seated – after the LDS Church took further steps to stamp out polygamy – he managed to become a Washington powerbroker. He would chair the Senate Finance Committee and act as a presidential adviser.

“He was Mr. Republican,” says Flake. “For a while there, he was the Republican Party.”

Smoot’s unflagging pursuit of legitimacy in Washington, despite the city’s bias against him and his faith, symbolizes what many call a uniquely Mormon appreciation for American civic life. It helps explain the Mormon fascination with Washington to this day.

It may seen counterintuitive, but Mormons’ early exposure to persecution at the hands of other Americans – aided, Mormons say, by the U.S. government – wound up strengthening their patriotic streak.

In the face of attacks, Mormons clung to the U.S. Constitution and its unprecedented guarantee of religious freedom. They distinguished between the document and those charged with implementing it.

Mormon scripture goes so far as to describe the U.S. Constitution as divinely inspired, establishing a unique environment in which Mormonism could emerge.

“Mormons are superpatriots,” says Columbia University’s Bushman. “Joseph Smith said that if the government was doing its job as laid out in the Constitution, it would protect Mormons from their enemies.”

Mormons began to shed their Utah-only siege mentality and fanned out in the early part of the 20th century. Their patriotic streak, which translated into military enlistments and applications for government jobs, led many to Washington.

That wave included J. Willard Marriott, the hotel chain founder, who launched his business career by opening an A&W root beer stand here. He would go on to forge the kind of deep political connections that would help make Willard “Mitt” Romney his namesake.

Washington’s Mormon community got another boost in the 1950s when President Dwight Eisenhower appointed a top church official, Ezra Taft Benson, as his agriculture secretary.

“Mormons took it as a sign of maybe, just maybe, we’re being accepted,” says Flake. “It signified a cultural acceptance of Mormonism. People thought Mormons believed weird things, but also that they were self-reliant, moral and good neighbors.”

As Mormons became more accepted, they became more upwardly mobile, landing in parts of the country that could sustain careers in commerce, academia and government - another reason Washington was a big draw.

By the time there were enough Mormons in the eastern U.S. to justify the construction of the first Mormon temple east of the Mississippi River, the church chose a site just outside Washington.

The temple opened in 1974, shortly after another high-profile Mormon – George Romney, Mitt’s father – left his post as Richard Nixon’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

“The Washington temple served as a symbol of the triumphant return of Mormonism to the east,” says Givens, the University of Richmond professor. “Mormons left from the point of a bayonet in the 1800s and the temple is this gigantic symbol that says ‘We’re back – and we’re back in the nation’s capital.’ ”

The Mormon temple outside Washington was the first such temple built east of the Mississippi River.

Unlike Mormon meetinghouses, where members meet for Sunday worship, temples are grander buildings reserved for certain rites, such as proxy baptisms for the dead.

To this day, the first monument many Washington visitors see isn’t a federal landmark. It’s the massive Mormon temple, its Georgian marble towers and gold-leafed spires looming above the trees on the Washington Beltway like an otherworldly castle.

The temple houses a J. Willard Marriott-financed mural of Jesus Christ’s second coming, which features a picture of the Washington temple itself in the background.

“Are you implying that the millennium will begin in Washington?” a temple visitor once asked Marriott, referring to Jesus’ return.

Replied Marriott: “What better place is there?”

Good at organizing

These days, the Mormon impulse toward Washington is often as much political as patriotic.

Patrice Pederson - the campaign manager for the Mormon running for president in Mali - made her first foray into politics at 15, hopping the bus from her home in the suburbs of Salt Lake City into town to intern with a Republican candidate for the U.S. House.

“I remember that when Bill Clinton was elected, I wore all black to school that day,” says Pederson, who was in junior high at the time. “I was mourning the death of liberty.”

When then-Vice President Al Gore visited Utah, Pederson protested his speech with a homemade poster that said “Blood, Guts & Gore – Healthcare’94.” (She can’t recall the poster’s exact meaning).

Pederson’s activism as a “total hardcore right-winger” continued into her 20s. She put off college at BYU to start a “pro-family” advocacy group aimed at lobbying foreign governments and the United Nations. The work brought her to Washington so frequently that she decided to relocate last year: “I had more friends here than in Utah.”

Pederson’s path to D.C. speaks to the growing Mormon/Republican alliance since the 1960s, driven largely by the emergence of social issues such as abortion and gay marriage and the rise of the Christian Right.

“In the 1950s and ’60s, Utah became Republican,” says Bushman. “It’s partly about being anti-communist, but it’s also a response to the 1960s and the decay of old-fashioned moral virtues. It’s an anti-1960s movement, and the Republicans seemed to be the party of old-fashioned virtues.”

Pederson’s roommate, Kodie Ruzicka, grew up squarely in that movement, with her mom heading the Utah chapter of Eagle Forum, a conservative Christian group founded by rightwing icon Phyllis Schlafly.

In the 1970s, when the Catholic Schlafly led a successful grassroots campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have made gender-based discrimination unconstitutional, she enlisted the help of Mormons.

To its opponents, including the LDS Church, the ERA was the work of radical feminists who wanted to upend traditional gender roles.

Much of Schlafly’s organizing was among evangelicals, and “given the sometimes hostile evangelical line on Mormons, [Schlafly’s] Mormon outreach was kind of revolutionary,” says Ruzicka, who now works at the Justice Department. “But we’re good at organizing, and we have a lot of useful structures for it, so that was useful to her.”

Today, Mormons head Eagle Forum chapters across the West, including California, Arizona and Nevada, as well as Utah.

Bridge-building between Mormons and the conservative movement helps explain the Reagan administration’s push to hire many Mormons into the White House - which further cemented the alliance. That bond continues to lure Mormons to D.C.

Ruzicka, for one, continued in the political footsteps of her mother, arriving in Washington in her mid-20s to lead a nonprofit that promotes safe haven laws, which allow young mothers to legally abandon young children at fire stations.

Beyond hot-button social issues, U.S. Rep. Chaffetz says the Mormon faith engenders support for limited government.

“The church is very adamant about personal responsibility, and for people to voluntarily participate in service,” the Utah Republican says. “There’s this feeling that service is not something that should be mandated by government.”

The LDS Church, for its part, insists it is politically neutral and that it avoids pressuring Mormon elected officials to tow a church line. “The church’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians,” the church’s website says.

Mormon experts say the church’s support for a relatively strict separation of church and state is born of the U.S. government’s refusal to help Mormons in the face of early persecution.

And after being accused of setting up a rival government around the turn of the last century, the church is loath to be seen giving marching orders to LDS politicians.

The church did, however, play a leading role in passing Prop 8, California’s gay marriage ban, in 2008. Church officials called it a moral cause, not a political one.

Plenty of critics disagree. But neither Mormon bishops nor church officials are known to lead the kind of church-based legislative lobbying efforts that Catholic bishops or evangelical leaders do.

Mitt Romney himself embodies the reluctance of Mormon politicians to connect their religion and their public policy positions, in contrast to politicians of other faiths.

That reluctance also appears to be born of anxiety over Americans’ lingering questions and doubts about Mormonism. When Pew asked Americans last year what word they associated with the Mormon faith, the most common response was “cult.”

In recent weeks, Romney’s newfound position as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has produced a mix of excitement and worry among Mormons. That’s especially true in Washington, where politically savvy Latter-day Saints send out frequent e-mail round-ups of Mormon media coverage to their LDS networks.

“A lot of us know it’s ultimately a good thing, but it’s hard to feel like it’s a good thing because so much of the publicity is about things you wouldn’t talk about in polite company, like my underwear,” says Pederson, referring to the enduring fascination with Mormon undergarments.

Like many conservatives, Pederson is suspicious of Romney.

“I don’t like his waffling, to put it gently, on life and family issues,” she says. “But if it comes down to Romney versus Obama, hand me the pom-poms. I’ll be president of the Romney-Is-the-Best-We-Can-Come-Up-With-for-President Club.”

For now, Pederson is working with the National Right to Life Committee’s political action committee to raise money for the Romney effort, even as she makes up her mind about how actively she wants to promote his candidacy.

Some of her calculus is about weighing political reality against her conservative idealism. And some of it is about her next professional move. It’s a very Washington place to be.

Video by CNN photojournalist Jeremy Moorhead

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • DC • Jon Huntsman • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Politics

soundoff (3,419 Responses)
  1. ardale

    CNN seems determined to validate Romney as a normal guy. Romney will benefit from Fox's right wing drum beating and CNN's blandly and robotically taking a "safe" approach in reporting on both Romney and his odd, silly and quirky "religion".

    May 13, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      "Quirky"? You've obviously never read about the Mormon founder, Joseph Smith and his "Golden Plates".

      May 13, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Chris

      Right. Obama's straightforward religion of "God Damn the United States", which flowed into Barry's heart and mind for 20 years, is no problem for you. But, you can't abide bad old Mitt – his religion of "love the LORD your God and love your neighbor as yourself" is clearly dangerous to your kind.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  2. Dan

    LOL now members of the Obama admin are coming out as mormons? Awesome. No, really...

    I knew there was something weird about the president and his sidekicks.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      Really? So what's your opinion on Romney then?

      May 13, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  3. erich2112x

    Prophets...presidency....patriarchs....priesthoods.....payees....prozac.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • ironage

      pull my finger.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • kerfluffle

      pederasty?

      May 13, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Prophets...profits....presidency....patriarchs....priesthoods.....payees....prozac.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Justin

      Weird huh, biblical callings like it says Christs church would have in Ephesians chapter 2, and Acts Chapter 4. Whoah, that is weird. Its called the Bible, ever read it before? Maybe if your gonna talk about stuff you should pick it up and get educated on it. I am highly doubting you've ever read it front to cover in your life. If you did, I imagine you'd learn alot that your pastor wont mention to you. Good luck.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  4. John Paul Deuteronomy

    It is I. I am an expert on these things. Just look at my name. YAY, our politicians are very religious fellows and gals. Just look at the inspired legislation we are honored to receive. Deficit? Nay. Money shall fall from the sky shortly. War? Onward Christian, Catholic, Baptist, Mormon, etc soldiers.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Tony

      JPD: one may also include atheist, polytheist, monotheist and that would cover all who equally love, hate, harm and heal. The practice of bigotry never makes innacurate accurate.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  5. DeeCee1000

    Look at some of the Romney family photos and tell me two of Romney's sons aren't gay.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • kerfluffle

      100 internets to you!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  6. vidal808

    I wanted to write a long comment but – I decided to just say – AMEN so much for separation of church and state.....

    May 13, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  7. Mike

    Pretty fair article. Some of the responses are not so even keeled. Some of the insults hurled on this board are pure bigoted hate speech. If the article was about any other minority group such speech would be discouraged in the strongest terms. Why is it ok to say this kind of stuff about Mormons? How can the CNN moderators post the hate on their web site? I'm all for free speech, but shame on CNN for creating an environment where hate speech is tolerated.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • kerfluffle

      Why is it okay to stand idly by and watch a religious cult attempt to steal the oval office?

      May 13, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      @kerfluffle,

      Exactly right!

      May 13, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Chris

      One man's hate speech is another man's truth. There's no such thing as hate speech. That fiction was invented by the Nazis, to justify their silencing of mouths that didn't sing their song. Liberals, if left unrestrained, quickly evolve into Nazis.

      Destroy the argument, if you can. If you can't, join the other side. But, for the love of your children, stop libeling stuff as "hate speech' in order to justify a non-response to it.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Stephen

      I wouldn't worry too much about being singled out. CNN comment sections have taken a very dark turn. Go read some of the comments on the Trayvon Martin case and you'll think we're about a week away from a race riot. The comments on any religion article turn into a flame war between self-righteous believers and self-righteous non-believers.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  8. cherry

    regardless of religion,i am for Pres O,am not fascinated by Mitt because for me he cant do anything for this country,for one he is rich,he will only help or be with peopl like him,, he is a spoiled brat that he diddnt know how to be in a life full of sacrifices,he just want to be pres for his personal gain,he cant do anything for this country..Before Pres O arrived in washington,this country is already in catastropic situation,economically down ,already in recession, but slowly it became better though not in utmost of evrything, because Pres O cannot make magic to undo what had been done by previous repubs....just sayin.. Pres O 2012....

    May 13, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Chris

      Wow. Start with pure prejudice, use your imagination to invent all these bad things about one guy and good things about another guy. Then use those imaginings to justify your vote for the guy you were prejudiced in favor of, at the beginning.

      Thanks for the demonstration.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  9. U2

    Yes, I'm an active member of the Mormon church and I'll tell things how I've seen and experienced it. First, I used to go to the King Street chapel back in the early 90s out there in D.C.

    There are many wonderful things about the church and not so wonderful things they don't want to talk about:

    - There's too much pressure on young men to serve a mission
    - There's too much pressure on young men to get their Eagle Scout
    - There's too much pressure on young women to get their Young Women in Recognition Award
    - There's too much pressure on the youth to go to Seminary
    - There's too much pressure to be "straight." Don't believe me? Read past Ensign articles. It's not fire and brimstone articles, but very human stories about gays or lesbians who have, through the Gospel and help, managed to go straight.
    - There's too much pressure to believe the Book of Mormon is true
    - If you continue to publicly speak out or write things that are against the church, you will be disfellowshiped or excommunicated.
    - There's an Elitist group within the church. Yes, it exists. If you come from a good Mormon lineage and have a good Mormon education and good job contributing to society, you're gonna get some great callings and mingle with an upper tier. It happens in every ward I've attended my whole life. From Texas to Virginia to Norway to Minnesota. It...exists...everywhere.

    The church exists with superior control on it's members. If you follow the rules, you'll be just fine. If you're a male and don't go on a mission, you'll have a hard time finding a Mormon female companion someday. Besides, you'll have a lot of peer pressure to go on your mission. The girls have it drilled in their heads they need to marry a return missionary. Don't believe me? I go to church and my teen daughter tells me about some of her lessons during girls camp.

    I do need to go to church in a few hours and I truly mean that. The thing I need to tell member is CHILL OUT! YOU'RE SCARING NON-MEMBERS WHEN YOU SAY, "WITH A REPUBLICAN ADMINISTRATION, THEY'LL BE MORE MORMONS IN POSITIONS IN THE CABNET!"

    For this reason, I refuse to vote for Romney. The church needs another 100 years to grow up, get humbled at times, and realize they have too much peer pressure on their youth.

    Sincerely,

    An Anonymous Melchezedek Priesthood Holder

    May 13, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Justin

      Your an idiot. I'm not a mormon anymore, and I can tell that your an idiot. Its called you friggin choose what you want to do in your life and in any church and dont give in to peer pressure. Its called confidence, having a backbone, doing whatever the hell you want. And you can still have your faith and enjoy it too. Am I a memer, no... But do I enjoy going once in awhile and hearing the talks on Christ, or opening up my scriptures and reading sometimes, yeah why not. But do I make idiotic comments on a good article that is trying to remove hatred and prejudice and bigotry from many peoples minds about their relgiion, no. Your self righteous post, wow. Lol, You and me can go to hell together. Will be fun. :)

      May 13, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Chris

      Nice hatchet job on your own alleged faith.
      Woe is you. How horrible that your faith has human beings in it who do things human beings tend to do.
      You just did a bunch of public sniveling, seemingly in an attempt to use your crocodile tears as a weapon against your alleged church.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • ReliefSociety

      You are right about some of your assessments of the Church. My husband didn't serve a mission because he didn't want to, and he had a really hard time finding someone who wouldn't ask to be taken home the second the found out he wasn't a returned missionary. I married him because he is a fabulous person.

      Ultimately, there is a lot of pressure put on people in our Church, but I have a tendency to think it's the people in the church, not the Gospel itself. People all over the world are not perfect and have a tendency to get fanatical about things they believe in, whether it's religion or politics or whatever. You have to decide what you believe, and no one can tell you what is true or not, and you have to make your own decisions, which is what I really love about the Gospel. There are rules and consequences, both good and bad, and we're allowed to make our own decisions knowing full well the results. You have to find out for yourself. And I have, and guess what? I'm a Mormon, I'm a woman, and I am a Christian. And I made this decision on my own, not because the Prophet, Young Woman leader, or my parents told me to.

      Bottom line is that Romney believes what he believes, and he's not going to change that because a bunch of people who don't have anything better to do sit around and fight on their computers. I would much rather have a president that will stick to his beliefs than one who will change it just to be politically correct.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  10. DeeCee1000

    I'll bet you $10,000 that at least two of Romney's sons are closet cases.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:42 am |
  11. tyceson joules davis

    Why would somebody support Romney because they're Mormon? That's like voting for Obama because you're black. And CNN, what makes Romney your presumptive nominee? Have you not been paying attention to the Republican state caucuses? It seems that the new state republican leadership is anti-Romney...

    May 13, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  12. biologixco

    DOES MITT ROMNEY WEAR THE MAGIC UNDERWEAR?
    You know, the ones with the Masonic and demonic symbols?
    Google: Magic Underwear (No foolin'!)

    May 13, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  13. ironage

    Any religion that forbids coffee... is completely Satanic!

    May 13, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  14. TPN51

    I find it unfathomable to think that a person running for the highest office in the free world does not represent all of it's people. Romney is selective, very selective. Does not support Americans freedom such as abortion and gay marriage but belongs to a faith (Mormons) that believes in polygamy. Joseph Smith is a fruit cake who had an Epiphany and sold it like a cheap bill of goods to whom ever would buy it, such is the way Romney is selling his cheap bill if goods. No I don't like Romney and not real happy with Obama but what's the options. If your going to run for President you MUST represent all Americans, not just the ones you think will get you votes. If you can't undertake this responsibility, you should not be in the race. The Presidency is not a religious position, please remove it from the equation come voting day. Vote for the man or women of stature, integrity, honesty, a statesmen who has open political views to benifit America, not his personal agenda.
    end of transmission

    May 13, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Justin

      Are you really that idiotic? Did you not read the article. No mormon today or for the last 130 years has practiced polygamy nor will they genius or they get expelled from teh religion, its called ex-communication. They believe in fidelity in your marriage. If you cheat on your spouse, you are done. So two wives, done... Get it? So many bigots in America. Have any of you actually picked up a book of mormon and read the thing? Other then your pastor, or neighbor spreading hate. Have any of you been to a mormon church? I have. I have been to over 12 different relgions and each one teaches some good things including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints. So get over yourselfves and your hate spewiing bias lies and grow up people. Get educated, read a book, and more importantly pray to whatever God you believe in for your own peace. Quit juding and picking on others.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  15. rochdoc

    Warning. Those people in this blogg seemingly belittling Mormon faith are all little teenage liberals who don't go to church. So sorry, this the "Turf of liberals'> Christians do not post here.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  16. DeeCee1000

    Mormon founder, Joseph Smith taught his followers that he was able to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics before the hieroglyphics were deciphered by scientists and told his followers that the hieroglyphics were really "The Book of Abraham". There is no "Book of Abraham"; he just made that up the way he made up the story of the "Golden Plates". He also believed that the Jesus in the Christian bible really had three wives and used this excuse as a way of justifying polygamy for himself.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  17. John M.

    So Mitt Romney believes, "Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman"? When does he believe that limitation started? Certainly not before 1890, when his church finally prohibited polygamy. So to a Mormon, the "one man, one woman" limitation is really a fairly recent thing. Evangelicals and others believe that this has always been God's law and is not just a recent definition.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Justin

      Recent as in 130 years ago. Were you alive back then? Their church wasn't even founded until the 1830's or so, so how far back do you want them to go? Inteliigent argument there... But if you want to get technical, ever heard of the bible? Ever read it before? Yeah, theres this thing throughout most of the old testament with the majority of the prophets and leaders in the bible having more then one partner. OMG, what, thats not in there? Read it. Isiah, Abrahman, Israel, many many of them had multiple wives genius, its not just the mormons. Its the book your following. They can call them midwives or whatever you want, but if you read their mistresses were having the prophets of olden times babies. Even Lot had kids with his daughters. Hmmmn, sound like something a biblical prophet would do? Educate yourself. If you are judging one faith for following example of Bible, then discredit the bible altogether, or learn more about it by reading whats in there.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  18. Polopoint

    So What??

    The media is spending far, far, far too much time on religion in the presidential campaign.
    So what? What's the point? It ultimately will have no effect on how any president will govern or how America is run.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • sybaris

      Really?

      I suppose the guy at the corner 7/11 put the phrase, "In God We Trust" on our money or approved legislation to recognize christmas as a federal holiday or recognizes a national day of prayer or authorized the invasion of another country because his god told him it was the right thing to do.

      No, this country does not need political leaders whose decisions are influenced by their religious fantasies.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • clc777

      Right . The media is spending too much time on it, besides have any one watched any of the Congress senators house Meeting in your state, at Washington DC. They never start out with prayer they never say the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag pick up the book of Mormon and read it, see what they changed to fit their way of life to make it look like they're very religious.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  19. Welled

    Religous people need to stop contacting outer space. Religon teaches you not to uses your sense but to only just believe. Thats the one thing you space rangers all have in common. IQ tests are based on sense of course. Its not the test I would give. Reading and comprehension might work well here for commentary on this presentation. To further add to this there should be a really hysterical collision here today bettween the "Christian right space people" and the "Mormon space people" yes its fun and amusement for the writer I am sure. Sometimes its fun to gawk at an acciedent between "space people"

    May 13, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  20. IslandAtheist

    It's sad in the 21st century, we still allow brainwashing.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • sybaris

      Correct.

      Any parent that sends their child to VBS or Sunday School should be paid a visit by CPS

      May 13, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      It's worse than what the word allow implies. Just try pointing out to any fundamentalist that they are brainwashing young children then sit back and watch the reaction you get.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:48 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.