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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. Mormonism is a CULT

    Romney and other Mormons believe in baptizing dead Christians as a means of secretly converting them to Mormonism without their families knowledge or permission.

    Google "mormon posthumous baptism"

    May 13, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Really-O?

      Even if that is true...does it really trouble you?

      May 13, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Danman

      I really don't care what kind of borrowed masonic witchcraft you perform in your own house. "The dead sleep in the earth and know nothing". So baptising them is really just a misguided act of futility. Pretty much like the whole book of Mormon.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  2. “We preach Christ crucified.” — 1 Corinthians 1:23

    Mormonism is still a cult no matter who believes. It is false – based upon lies. ONLY jesus christ.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • MikeB

      By definition. Every congregation that follows a preacher because of his charisma or validation of their ill will; is a cult. Why do you feel that your ill will being posted here should be validated?

      May 13, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  3. Fladabosco

    If this article was called 'DC a surprising Jewish Stronghold' or 'a surprising Catholic stronghold' people will be insulted and there would be huge outrage.

    And to those who insult Mormons because of their beliefs, how many of you believe there is a heavenly afterlife given us by a man who performed magic, was born to a virgin and all you have do to get into heaven is say you believe in him.
    That's just as ridiculous as anything you say about any other religion.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • longtooth

      That's the first thing that sprang to mind when I read the headline. All politicians want to prove they're a member of one cult or another. If any religion is examined with an unbiased eye, they do seem a bit odd. BTW, I'm not an atheist.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      You make a mistake.

      Christianity was established by the civilized world around 300 after Christ, when the Roman emperor Constantine the Great drafted the Edict of Milano.

      Mormonism and also Islam just rushed into history without any preannouncement. This is a clear proof for their demonical nature. Nobody predicted the arrival of Muhammad or Joseph Smith. They both come out of the hell.

      Christianity is the successor of Judaism and in so far it is well rooted in the history of the mankind and God's Chosen People Israel. The arrival of Jesus was predicted in the Old Testament, which is the old holy scripture of the Jews.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Danman

      Not any more insulted than they already are.... We all know our government is not run by religion so why is it such a big deal? Because WE MAKE IT ONE>

      May 13, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Jay

      What about Isaiah 29:11-19 that prophesies, "And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

      So the Lord would bring forth a "sealed book" in the last days that the learned can not read but one who is not learned will proceed to translate it and bring forth a "marvellous work and a wonder". Sounds a lot like Joseph Smith being a farm boy with a 6th grade education bringing forth a book that changed the world. Looks like Joseph Smith was profisied of and didn`t just "come out of Hell" as you say. Wow, you really are a hard-core bigot!

      May 13, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  4. A Serpent's Thoughts

    I know little about other places but, here within the U.S.A., we have now, a "melting pot" of many religions that seemingly do not breech or upset the boudaries of other religions' Faiths! Our socialized religious freedoms are fast becoming secular in that the Fiath of individualisms are what truly matters as long as one's Faith is hampered when entering the political arena!

    Stupid political insomniacs of imbeciled religious gropings! Political perversionists are religious scoundrels!

    May 13, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Danman

      So in other words you are for the seperation of government and religion. Lol.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • longtooth

      You sound like spam.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • A Serpent's Thoughts

      @ Danman

      One cannot divide one's individual beliefs! To do so does create a rift in one's centrality of thoughts giving rise to one becoming unbalanced and perverted!

      May 13, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  5. mooseknuckle

    Joseph Smith was a Mason. He stole all of their ideas and created a new religion. End of story. Mormonism is a false religion.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Correction. ANY RELIGION IS FALSE.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Danman

      Yep, not a very bright kid who needed allot of attention. Stole Masonic ideas and symbols and penned a false testament in a biblical style, yet the bible actually mentions places that existed while the book of mor-on just mentions stuff the kid made up to sound important. Never fooled me, but I actually read it and prayed on it like they told me, and guess what?
      It came to me in a dream that your prophet is false and the only true testament was from Jesus Christ and his disciples. And oh yeah, the Sabbath is Saturday people, really. How can the pope change what God has declared for all time?
      Anyway, my Santa clause beats up your easter bunny so na na na.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  6. mooseknuckle

    The Mormons are beyond scary totalitarians that excommunicate family members for not believing what they do. That is NOT FREEDOM! That is not righteous. Its a disgusting use of power to control its people! Period. End of story. Mormonism has zero place in American values.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Thank you!

      May 13, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Fladabosco

      Hmm, do they handle snakes? Do they touch people on the forehead and exclaim 'the power and the glory' and the people get out of wheelchairs? I have seen this garbage with my own eyes.

      There are 18 years in Jesus' life the gospels don't cover. Plenty of time for him to hear about the religions of the Indian subcontinent, which preach very, very similar ideas to what Jesus preached.

      Christianity is then an offshoot of ancient Indian religions and it's adherents be using the bhagavad gita as their bible.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • mormonlover

      mormons rock! you suck. that is all.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  7. intel

    Do a wiki search on the White Horse Prophecy. This is a prediction made by Joseph Smith that said the Mormon church would establish a ruling theocracy to save America. Sound crazy? Mormons believe the words of Joseph Smith carry the same weight as those of Jesus Christ. If you're a true Christian, that is blasphemy. Mitt Romney is a cult member. And this article points out their prevalence in Washington DC. Wake up, America. The enemy is inside the fort.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Danman

      Mormons need to just drop an M.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Fladabosco

      There is no larger cult in the world than the Christian ones. I like the one where the ancient rich guy wears pointy bejeweled hats and tells billions of people what god wants. He lives in a palace so large it is it's own country.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  8. Cult of Mormon

    Joseph Smith taught that a man who took ten wives with him to heaven had ten times as much chance of becoming God of his own planet than a man who took only one wife.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Danman

      Joseph Smith was a false prophet. Besides who wants to follow a guy named Joe Smith anyway? I would rather follow Bob Villa.
      Since Carroll Shelby is dead now can we baptise him as a mormon? I think the mormons need a guy like shelby to design cars for all their planets....

      May 13, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • I believe in Bob Joe

      I personally believe in the great Bob Joe of the sky dimension. Joe Smith must have just been his prophet.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  9. Mormon Cult

    In states with a high concentration of Mormon Churches, non-Mormon boys who want to participate in Boy Scout activities often must join the Mormon Church sponsored group. In these areas the Boy Scout troops become important recruiting prospects for the church. Because the Boy Scouts have a “God and Country” award for those performing their duties well, it connects Scouts with a religion, and thus Scout programs become also an important proselytizing and indoctrination tool for the church.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Danman

      Boy scouts, Mormon boys, Conservative senators, Religion and Priests, sounds like a recipe for being GAY.
      Maybe they should have mormon pages and airport bathroom attendants...

      May 13, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • MikeB

      How is that different than any other concentrations of a Faith?

      May 13, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  10. Former Wasatcher

    Got stuck living in Utah for almost 20 years - beautiful place, but you wouldn't believe what these Mormon people are really like, especially when they are a "majority." They are intolerant and divisive and their intent is to take over the world (read the church's history) - that's why they have missionaries all over the world speaking every language imaginable! If the American people vote this delusionary into the office of the President of the United States, the Mormon Church and its "living prophet" WILL BE running America from Salt Lake City, Utah!

    May 13, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Jackie

      Yeah, just like Kennedy was running the government from Vatican City, eh?

      May 13, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Jay

      You`ve got us all figured out – world domination is our secret motive ("preaching the gospel" is just a cover). We`re coming to get you! Muhahaha!! *as lightning crackles in the background*

      May 13, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Former Wasatcher

      Jackie, you don't know what they're like or you wouldn't be saying that! Big difference between Catholics and Mormons and you, the Mormon, shut up, I don't care to hear your view of my opinion of you!

      May 13, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Jay

      You fear other people`s views and yet you think of them as weird and closed-minded.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • ReliefSociety

      @Former Wasatcher. It's not so fun when people say things about your religion, is it.

      May 14, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  11. Bob Lewis

    They're all dangerous cults. The only difference between a cult and a "religion" is the number of people who buy into the BS.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • MikeB

      Doesn't that make Politicians a Cult?
      They follow rituals that gain then Pensions and Perks at the sacrifice of others.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  12. Bob

    My ancesters up to my father were all Mormons but my father quit. In doing my family history I contacted several mormon relatives and even had dinner with some. Newsflash – as soon as they and I mean all of them found out I was not a member of the church they never talked to me again. Voting for Romney is a stupid idea.....Mormons are ONLY for other mormons or is that morons.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Former Wasatcher

      Sad, but true! This is exactly the kind of division "the church" encourages, then they lie about it to their graves - disown your own family members if they choose not to believe the fairytale! I admire you, Bob, for having the courage of your own convictions and for using your brain to do your own thinking! The Mormon church is a disgrace to America and the idea of "God" in general!

      May 13, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  13. Voice of Reason

    How can anyone with a rational and reasonable mindset vote for a person that believes in the supernatural?

    May 13, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • PlagueDoc

      Because its usually the only option, unfortunately.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • tony

      We'll find out come November. Since Reagan got elected President immediately after he screwed up governing California, nothing has surprised me about the incredible naivete and ignorance of the majority of US voters.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Former Wasatcher

      As far as the Mormon religion is concerned, you will be cast out if you disown the church so, for many, they have no choice because they could lose their jobs and/or have their entire families turn on them - that's how much of a hold this church has on its "members."

      May 13, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  14. tony

    All religious hierarchies are always the opposite of democracy. Therefore religion is a constant threat to democracy, and should always be treated as such.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Bob

      Agree and 90 percent of all wars in history were religious based.....Sounds like our forefathers were pretty smart with the separation of Church and State. If only people would keep their religion to themselves and leave the rest of us alone.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Danman

      Washington is a think tank full of backward thinking puritanical religious "conservatives" who want anything but to conserve your rights. Just look how conservative they are with women's rights. I guess conserve means deny. So conservative healthcare means drop dead. Tickle down means what it sounds like and the puritans are the reason people came to this country, to escape the inquisition and torture at the hands of "the faithfull". I don't care what fairy tale you believe in, Santa Clause will not save our butts or our country so wake the F up America!

      May 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      You have got some wisdom. Yet, the Christian Church knows no hierarchy, but is ruled democratically. Evidence is the first council of the Christian Church, which took place in Jerusalem and which is depicted in the book of Acts. All participants were allowed to discuss freely and Peter did not dare to predetermine the decision of the council.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Jay

      Christian beliefs are democratic, huh? So if the majority decide that the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS does indeed believe in Christ, it will be so? Something tells me that a bigot such as yourself wouldn`t be so democratic in such a case.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  15. Rainer Braendlein

    Billions of people get lost, because they are seduced by false churches, cults and sects and we sit on the couch and operate the remote. Don't let us watch inactively, how the Mormons kill precious souls, loved by God. Every German bricklayer knows that the LDS are a dangerous cult. How can even educated Americans honor them so much? Have the Mormons yet bought the media?

    Gradually we should say goodbye to the long-held view that politics would be absolutely secular. This was never possible, because the human being by itself is a religious being and administrations are built by (religious) human beings and therefore most be religious as a whole.

    I don't dare to decide, if any member of a sect or cult should be allowed to become president of a country of the Western World, which has Christian roots.

    Basically I think that all people of a Western country should have the same rights and duties independent from their belief.

    However, it becomes dangerous, if a single sect or cult infiltrates the administration of a country. It would be naive not to assume that such people would not try to promote the interests of their own sect or cult, even if they had sworn to seek the benefit of the whole nation.

    Frederic the Great, the King of Prussia, promoted freedom of religion, but one should consider that at his time in the 18th century there was a great consensus in Europe that Christianity was the true religion, whereby there was a conflict between Protestants and Catholics. Although Frederic the Great supported religious freedom, he finished the rule of the pope in Europe by fighting the Catholic Habsburgians. Frederic the Great promoted the Englightenment (he was a friend of Voltaire), which was among others the end of the rule of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe. Frederic the Great was not anti-Christian (he was a Protestant), but aware that wolves in sheep's clothing always tend to use "their" churches, to gain worldly honor, power and riches.

    The problem is that sects, cults and false churches always seek worldly honor, power and riches in contrast to Jesus, who was a meek and humble carpenter, who simply lived a righteous life, which pleases God.

    Our basic problem today is that we have lost the ability to discriminate between cults, sects, false churches and the Christian Church.

    The Christian Church was founded by Jesus himself and has a history, which is meanwhile 2000 years old. True Christian teachers always try to keep the connection to the Early Church. It is a calamity that today any pizza baker takes the Bible and interpretes it according to the thoughts of his own foolish heart. It is clear that such people have to fail and this is the reason for the many Free Churches, cults and sects, we have got today.

    For example, Luther did not simply take the Bible and interpreted it, but he agreed with the Fathers of the Church, whereby he saw the Bible as the most authoritative docu-ment. In fact, through the Fathers of the Church Luther found the right access to the Holy Bible.

    My humble self found the right access to the Bible by Bonhoeffer, who himself refered to Luther and the Early Church. Hence, when I tell a doctrine, it is not my lousy invention or interpretation, but the consensus of the whole Church, which is ruled by the Holy Spirit.

    Joseph Smith, the founder of LDS, once saw a demon (he regarded it as God), which told him that he was not allowed to cooperate with the currently existing churches. This fact alone is a clear proof that the Mormons must be a cult, because the true Church always keeps the tradition of the Early Church. The mainline churches of today have their roots in the Early Church, because they keep the one holy sacramental baptism, which is not allowed to be repeated. It is only that the mainline churches need a new reform, because they have forgotten that baptism is a divine call for discipleship. Baptism is the gateway to a Christian life, but not a free ticket for heaven. We will only enter heaven, if we live as Chrisitian day by day in the power of the divine call, which is the sacramental baptism, which refers to Christ's sacrifice.

    We need a free international council of the Protestant Churches and Orthodox Churches (the pope-rat should not be allowed to participate), in order to outline again the true, good old doctrine, which is teached for 2000 years. It is really possible to assess this doctrine by theological and historical means. Then this doctrine should be teached in the Anglican Church, the German Evangelical Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, Orthodox Churches, etc..

    This would be a great progress for the mankind, if people could certainly know, where they could find health for their soul. It is a calamity that billions of people today are entrapped by lousy cults, sects and false churches and will finally get lost. The soul's health can be found only in the true Church

    May 13, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • tony

      I didn't believe this the first dozen times either.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Objective

      You have the right to your opinion of course, however misguided it may be.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @Objective

      What is wrong concretely?

      May 13, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • JC

      You're the rat. Keep your vicious beliefs to yourself.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Jay

      Well calling the belief system of millions of people one that "kills souls" is bigoted at best. If you consider teaching people about the atonement of Christ and the salvation it brings when we abandon our sins and come unto Him as "killing people`s souls" I would hate to see what your belief system teaches!

      May 13, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
  16. Honesty

    Headlines you'll never see:

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

    With or without Romney, Wall St. a surprising Jewish stronghold.

    With or without Romney, Hollywood a surprising Jewish stronghold.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      Any evidence?

      May 13, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • tony

      Only a few are still surprised. The rest have learned to keep their underground.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • taz basin

      Ok. You should write an story about Jews and publish it. Otherwise this is one persons account of the LDS in DC

      May 13, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Honesty

      Evidence of what? Jews a stronghold on Wall St., in Hollywood or DC?

      Really?

      May 13, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  17. Hypatia

    No surprise at all. They conned Hughes fortune out of him and have used it assiduously over the past 30 years to politically aggrandize themselves and their cult.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  18. paganguy

    Mormons in position will hire other Mormons for well paying cushy jobs. I was once offered a nice job if I would have converted. The cost: 10% of gross salary donated to the Mormon church.
    I would not become the member of any church or organization that would accept me as a member.
    I rather talk to the trees and the animals.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • rightasRain

      Mormons are evil. They totally changed the Bible and added their prophet Joseph Smith into the Bible. Rewrote it. Added that Jews came to America and were the Native American Indians. They are not Christians. Don't be fooled by them or let them tell you how to live your life. You all need to go undercover and tape them praying with their Book of Mormon they read every day.
      They believe Satan and Jesus are brothers. They believe in God has a God. They believe they came from a Planet. They will take your name after you die and baptize you into their Mormon religion just so you go to their Mormon Heaven I mean Hell.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Jackie

      Would you say "Catholics are evil" or "Jews are evil"? No? But saying "Mormons are evil" sounds ok to you? Go back to the 1830s and join the mobs, why don't you?

      May 13, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  19. Pantheist

    We have the biggest and best liars in the world. Brigham Young

    May 13, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Toostupidtobesmart

      Too bad this isn't fb. This is the most honest comment here.

      May 13, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  20. Dr Neanderthal

    right.... because christianity is so much more believable than mormonism, right?

    May 13, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
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About this blog

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