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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. Dabinut

    Mormons give 10% of their income to the church. So they are temple worthy. They also baptize the dead. The LDS church also funded proposition 8 in California. They control the liquor stores in Utah. You are unable to buy any hard liquor unless you go to the state stores, even wine!!! I've lived in Utah for 28 years now >_<

    May 13, 2012 at 5:28 am |
    • Auto101

      Many states have blue type laws in Maryland you cant find liquer in a grosery store but In LA you can get a drive throu Daiquiri

      May 13, 2012 at 5:49 am |
    • sg78504@yahoo.com

      How is that hate feeling? Pretty good? I

      May 13, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Objective

      Actually the church doesn't control the liquor stores, the State of Utah controls them. Get your facts straight.

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

      Amazing, you lived in UT for 28 years yet so miss-informed..

      May 13, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • CW

      @Objective, anyone who thinks the Church has no influence on Utah's government is living in a fantasy land.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Writer24

      @CW Yeah, it's called a representative democracy..... Therefore the state represents the majority of people living in it.. hence Mormons! Isn't that how government works??? Don't act like the Mormon church has some secret control over the Utah government. I find your comments funny and very uninformed.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Lois

      But Mormons believe in "Free Agency" :) See the irony there.

      May 14, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Mel

      Actually, the LDS Church does NOT baptize the dead. Get your facts straight.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • jonesy243

      Not one dime of "church" money went to Prop 8. Yes, a lot of Mormons contributed, but the Church didn't.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  2. separatechurchandstate

    Whether you personally believe in God or not, for those who do we should base our faith solely upon the Word of God. Namely, the Bible and the Bible only. My conflict comes in among my Mormon friends in that their faith deemed that the Bible was incomplete and in need of dramatic change. Thus, the Book of Mormon. How can anyone scribble a book, claim an angel gave him the words, and base an entire world religion upon it, is dangerous and is a faith built upon sand, not rock. From that old sweet hymn "My Hope Is Built" comes the words, "On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand." Christ is the Word of God. All others (the Book of Mormon) is sinking sand.

    May 13, 2012 at 5:28 am |
    • evensteven

      The Old Testament is a history and cosmology of but one tribe of people—Judah or the Jews. But there have been many tens of thousands of tribes throughout the history of this planet. They each had their wise men, their prophets, their visionaries who were the guardians of their teachings and cosmology—their dealings with God.

      Betting your life on the Bible is like playing Roulette with a board that has thousands of numbers. You've bet your life all on one number and yet there are so many other ideas and worthy considerations throughout all religions and belief systems . . . one only has to begin searching to see the many possibilities . . .

      May 13, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Dustin C

      But why do you believe in the Bible? I'm not saying you shouldn't (I do), but in order to complete your faith, you have to ask yourself WHY the Bible is the word of God. In order to get any sort of credence with people who don't automatically share your belief, you have to point to something other than "I believe in the Bible because the Bible says it is true."

      May 13, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • wYo8

      The Gospel (church) has become stronger and bigger through the years and as a Prophet of God once said it Shall cover the earth and as Jesus once said that by their fruits ye shall know them. The Book of Mormon supports the Bible in declaring that Jesus is the Christ, son of a Living and Loving Father in Heaven. Only if you are unafraid of the truth will you find it.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • will

      really have no idea what mormoons believe you are so blinded by the thickness and your arrogance its disgusting how you would even call yourself a christian

      May 13, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • AJ Johnson

      gosh, i really hate when religious people try to make an intelligent statement then at the end add some bull about how "jesus is the way" & "read ur bible and it will show you the truth" . its 2012 you would think by now religion would be an embarrassing time in human history, but yet it keeps managing to poke its ugly head in the present. thats please make 2013 the age of reason.

      May 13, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Bonnie

      You're ignorance is showing. Do you know the history of the King James bible and why it was written, Do you know the the history of the bible? Do you know how many of the parts of the bible are left out? Have you even read the Book of Morom? Before you beginning to saying the Book of Mormon is dangerous. Maybe before you voice an opinion you should learn the hsitory of these things.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • Grant

      The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or the Mormon church as it is commonly known, is a Christian religion, it blatantly states that fact in the name. As far as the Bible goes, Article of Faith number eight (the Articles of Faith are kind of like a summary or synopsis of what Mormons believe http://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/a-of-f/1?lang=eng ) states, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God." The connection between the Book of Mormon can be put like this. Say the Bible is represented as a dot or point. One can draw an infinite amount of lines through that point. The lines represent interpretations of the Bible. If you add a second point, which represents the Book of Mormon, then only one line can be drawn that connects the two points, which represents only one interpretation. The Book of Mormon supports the Bible and the Bible supports the Book of Mormon. If you were to study both you would find that. The Book of Mormon testifies of Christ just the same as the Bible does. The Bible chronicles the story of the Jews. The Book of Mormon chronicles the stories of the Ancient Americans. You can read the Book of Mormon and the Bible at http://www.lds.org/scriptures/?lang=eng and you can learn more about Mormons at http://www.lds.org/?lang=eng and at http://mormon.org/ . Also, if you would read the Book of Mormon you would know that it would be impossible for a boy, Joseph Smith, in his early twenties with only about a half of an elementary education to have written it. He translated it with divine help.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  3. Obama

    Obama got Osama, Bush kissed the Saudi King and refused to go after his nephew and Willard ran away to France.....Yep that about seals it (pun intended). TY SEALS.

    May 13, 2012 at 5:19 am |
    • Dustin C

      "Bush kissed the Saudi king..." And Obama has bowed to foreign leaders, including Saudi leaders. Don't see how that's relevant to the political debate and ESPECIALLY this article.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • DPCA

      Romney going ona mission when he did has absolutely no bearing on Mormons not serving in our military. Many members grow up planning their missions and saving for them for many years. Planning a mission and completeing one takes an extreme level of dedication and sacrifice.

      Anyone who believes that Mormons do not serve in the military are sadly misinformed as usual. My father served before me and my son proudly serves now so save you draft dodging crap for somebody else.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  4. n8263

    You do not believe in religion because you honestly think it is true, you believe in it because you fear mortality or are seeking meaning in your life. It does not take a genius to figure out all religion is man made, so for humanity's sake, please stop lying to yourself.

    Deluding yourself in religion does not change reality. Lying to yourself is probably the worst possible way to try to find meaning.

    May 13, 2012 at 5:16 am |
  5. Doug

    I don't mind his religion, I think all religion is for the uneducated who can actually believe in an invisible man in the sky, how weird is that... But his years at Bain disturbs me, that company came in and robbed every penney out of companies including the pension and left , they did not care who they put out of work, how those they hurt along the way... This man made millions on the backs of hard working people, therefore, think twice before you ever put this man in charge..... This is a monster with a sweet talking tone.. Buyer BEWARE !

    May 13, 2012 at 5:13 am |
    • LODT

      I agree with your reasoning as to why we should be wary of voting for Romney, but to claim that religion is for the uneducated would be to infer that you are more educated than every person who belongs to an organized religion (correct me please if my logic is wrong.) I'm just saying to make a statement like that makes all us "uneducated" doctors, lawyers, professors, who belong to an organized religion, assume you live in hole.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:55 am |
    • theclubb

      Your blatant ignorance on both subjects doesn't warrant a response.

      May 14, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  6. TahitiSucks

    It's a little terrifying for the rest of the world to see that the two main sources of conflict on the Earth, the USA and the Middle East, being ruled by irrational religions rather than reason. As the Mormon Tabernacle is staffed by old men and attractive young women, I think there's something "extra" going on with that religion, but I also think it would be better for everyone if religion was removed from politics all together. America may have been founded by people who fled Europe in order to practice religious persecution, but it doesn't have to stay that way.

    May 13, 2012 at 5:11 am |
  7. allenwoll

    Get them OUT of DC NOW ! ! !

    May 13, 2012 at 5:10 am |
    • cantabman

      Bigot.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Widobberman

      The great thing about your comment, is you probably had nothing against a particular politician or administration official until they were 'outed' by the article as Mormon. Take a deep breath and decide if that is how you really want to decide who should participate in our governement or not.

      May 14, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  8. NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

    Hatred and Bigotry are so alive and well world. I'm amazed at the ignorance as well – I love going on these blogs and seeing Mormons trashed for????..... trying to be good people, doing good to others, believing in Christ (yeah, the exact same one as the other religions believe in – whether you care to admit it or not...) a midst a myriad of other good things. YET...... the hate-filled, professed "Christians" voice their disguised bigotry and intolerance – all because of their ignorance. It's amazing to read these posts – surprising?.... not in the least. It's what is to be expected of people that are narrow-minded.

    May 13, 2012 at 4:59 am |
    • TJeff1776

      Why so surprised ???? One hundred percent of Jesus' detractors were so-called religious denominations; indeed, the pious Pharacees and Saducees were up-front instigators and mainly at fault.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:22 am |
    • jackvigdor

      Yes, being good people and baptizing the dead relatives of non Mormons. I guess you can rationalize any action and justifying it as being good whether it is baptizing other people's ancestors, forcing native American children to go o boarding schools to impose Christianity on them or proselytize to people who have their own customs.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Eric

      Jeff, she said she wasn't surprised, if you read that post again.

      May 13, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  9. Nitrogen

    Wow. That is enough mumbo jumbo to last a lifetime. I think the neurons I use to study science just died a little.

    May 13, 2012 at 4:57 am |
  10. ansrc

    Don't know a lot of details about the Mormon religion. .....but I can say from all my experience in business that if i had a room of ten people applying for a job, And I could only know their religious beliefs/non-beliefs...hands down I'd choose the Mormon. The ones we've hired have always been by far the most hard working, kind, honest, and loyal employees we've had.

    May 13, 2012 at 4:52 am |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      Yeah, I hear that they're good worker bees. The problem is that if you actually took the time to learn what is in their crazy belief system, you'd realize that they're all completely full of bat guano. They're purposefully secretive, partly because they know that most people would realize that Mormon doctrine is pure lunacy. But, good workers, indeed.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:02 am |
    • ansrc

      Well, you kinda helped prove my point. All the ones ive met are kind and honest, and I've never heard them speak and judge others like you just did.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:12 am |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Poor Nate – he doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. Just loves to spread ignorance, which makes you look rather dumb. I guess that might be the goal here – and you are succeeding. Congrats!

      May 13, 2012 at 5:12 am |
    • TJeff1776

      NATE...reflects the bigot past. I can't think of any church that hasn't undergone their baptism of fire. Baptist in Wisconsin, Jews in New York, and Catholics and Mormons at the hands of the infamous Southern Baptist Convention.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:31 am |
    • DPCA

      Nate nice try with the Ace Ventura movie reference but you're still an idiot. I guess it makes no sense to hire loyal and hard working people. Boy was I wrong thinking it was.

      Thanks for clarifying that Nate.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  11. James

    Let me be honest with everyone, I think all religion is stupid. BUT Mormonism is especially scary, and I don't think I can handle someone putting their mormon faith into government.

    May 13, 2012 at 4:41 am |
    • Objective

      Why do you think it's scary? What do you really know about it?

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

      Why do you believe that a mormon would interject his/her belief into the government.. Romney is all business no baggage.. If you take the time to understand the mormon faith or its members – your fears would vanish...

      May 13, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  12. Gavin Ford

    It's shocking how many people believe in this already debunked nonsense.

    May 13, 2012 at 4:32 am |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      .... and your belief system is?...... can you tell us?.....what do you base your life on?..... IPADS and ANDROIDS? Tell me something that is better.... better yet, time to tell all of us on the CNN blog what ideas and thoughts are so much better. Don't skirt the issue – give us all 5 good sentences on with your belief system is based. Can't wait to read it! I just wonder if it will just be a bunch of "debunked nonsense" ?

      May 13, 2012 at 5:04 am |
  13. LizaMom

    I'd prefer a Presidential candidate who no longer believes in the Tooth Fairy.

    May 13, 2012 at 4:30 am |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      Believing in the tooth fairy is a requirement to run for President in this country.

      Or are you one of those silly people who believes that YOUR religion is actually the true one?

      May 13, 2012 at 4:59 am |
    • Brian

      I prefer a president who will defend the rights of those who choose to believe in the tooth fairy, and fight against bigots of all stripes.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:04 am |
    • cantabman

      I guess you're out of luck for this election then.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  14. Rev

    +1 Will never vote for a Mormon.

    May 13, 2012 at 4:27 am |
    • Doug

      Those words of yours are the words of a fool... All religion is odd and evil.. To believe in an invisible being is so uneducated I can't comprehend ... So no matter what religion they are from, they are totally weird to me..

      May 13, 2012 at 5:04 am |
    • Objective

      You certainly have that right as a citizen of this country.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • will

      what a stupid thing for you to say but not surprised coming form a reverend you wont for a presidential candidate because of the issues but of his 9religion you are bigot and you sir a tool!

      May 13, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Widobberman

      Seem like a well though out position. Sort of like my new rule to never vote for anyone who admits to using a screenname of 'rev'. Equally cogent ideas.

      May 14, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  15. LizaMom

    This is one big yawn for the agnostics. I'm more concerned with Mitt's bully behavior in high school and his tendency to characterize it as innocent hijinks. Not everyone behaves that way in high school, despite the current republican spin.

    May 13, 2012 at 4:23 am |
    • cantabman

      "'I'm not her boyfriend!' I shouted. I ran up to Coretta and gave her a slight shove; she staggered back and looked up at me, but still said nothing. 'Leave me alone!' I shouted again. And suddenly Coretta was running, faster and faster, until she disappeared from sight. Appreciative laughs rose around me. Then the bell rang, and the teachers appeared to round us back into class."

      - Obama the Bully (in his book, Dreams from My Father)

      May 13, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  16. Little One

    I remember moving to DC, flying into BWI and driving the Beltway. The first thing I saw looming out of the fog was the Mormon Chapel. It was strange but beautiful at the same time. I have nothing against them nor should anyone. They do great things.

    May 13, 2012 at 4:16 am |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      I'd say that gay people in California have a heck of a big reason to resent Mormons, as they dumped millions of dollars into hatemongering advertisements to change California law to discriminate against gay people. And, then there's the historic misogyny, and the discrimination against blacks, even after most of the rest of the country came out of the dark ages. Oh, and the fact that they posthumously convert dead people to their cult without the deceased's family's permission.

      But, yeah ... other than that, and the general nonsense associated with their entire belief system, there's just no reason to hold anything against Mormons.

      May 13, 2012 at 4:53 am |
    • Brian

      I'm a gay Californian, and Romney has my vote. Have you seen what Democrats have done to our state? 16B in the hole.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:07 am |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      C'mon Nate – tell us what YOU believe in and why it is SO much better. Can you do it on a blog or do you just know how to tare down other sets of beliefs instead of educating us on what YOU believe? Do it – I doubt you can on here. Pretty easy to rip on someone else. Put your ideas down and see how the public will SHRED your thoughts that you hold so dear. I dare you! Write it all down......!

      May 13, 2012 at 5:08 am |
    • Really-O?

      @Brian – " Have you seen what Democrats have done to our state?"

      That's either disingenuous or ignorant; have you forgotten that California had a Republican governor for eight years prior to the current administration? Seriously...California's current budget crisis is due to the recession, not any particular political party. Man-up and be honest (especially with yourself) or, if you really don't understand, spend some time educating yourself...focusing on economics might be especially helpful.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • cantabman

      @Nate (Seattle, WA): After reading your many bloviating remarks, I see that bigotry is your way of life.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Martin

      I had that same profound sense when I was four years of age, the first time I saw the castle of the Wizard of Oz.

      Profoundly inspiring..... "because because because because because of the things He does."

      May 14, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  17. dkinabq

    They forgot to mention the lds church's practice of LYING FOR THE LORD. Maybe it's where Mittens honed his skills.

    May 13, 2012 at 4:07 am |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      One of my favorite quotes which apples to so many on this blog today.... "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and consciencious stupidity." -Martin Luther King, Jr So apropos here!

      May 13, 2012 at 5:11 am |
  18. Moorenlv

    CNN pitching for Romney again, the fix is in...

    May 13, 2012 at 4:04 am |
    • peter

      I voted for santorum in the primary and will be sitting out the gen election than vote for a mormon.

      May 13, 2012 at 4:06 am |
    • Moorenlv

      @Peter, I live and work with Mormons, they are great people. It's not the Mormon thing that bothers me about Romney, it's CNN being in Favor of Romney that bothers me. CNN will trash born again Christians but here they are normalizing mormons. Something doesn't add up.

      May 13, 2012 at 4:18 am |
    • peter

      Moor what doesn't add up is the obvious,the book of mormon is not the word of God nor another testament of jesus christ. I don't care how loyal,moral, or great people they are.
      Born again,lutheran,catholic,baptist, methodist ect ect THE HOLY BIBLE–christendom
      Mormons believe the claims of their prophet Joeseph smith who wrote the book of mormon in the 1800s-mormon religion

      May 13, 2012 at 4:31 am |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      Wait. I thought CNN was pitching for Obama. Can you tea-baggers please get your crazy media conspiracy nonsense straight?

      May 13, 2012 at 4:57 am |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      That's great Peter – so you are now supporting Obama? What an idiotic decision......

      May 13, 2012 at 5:01 am |
    • peter

      Notsuprsiedbigots-I said i will be sitting out the gen election–I never have nor will vote for obama and the same goes for the mormon-I have bigotry against people claiming that this book of mormon is the word of God,another testament of jesus christ–I reject the book of mormon as I reject the cursed one who wrote it.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:13 am |
    • LinSea

      Peter, have you ever met people who state they have never read the Bible but declare with all certainty that it is not the word of God or have read it solely to discount its teachings and prove to themselves that they don't believe it is the word of God? Before you declare that the Book of Mormon is not the word of God, have you read it? Why don't you try reading it for yourself and then ask God if it is His word or not before you make further judgments.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Dustin C

      Yes, because all of the CNN articles and editorials praising President Obama for standing up for "marriage equality" and chiding Romney for not taking that stance really demonstrates a "Mitt bias..."

      May 13, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Widobberman

      You must read CNN approximately once every 3 weeks. That is the rough proportion of Pro-Romney propaganda vs. Anti-Romney or pro-Obama.

      May 14, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  19. Macell Pier

    The article did not mention that Joseph Smith went to jail and was killed by a mob because he and his army destroyed the printing press.

    May 13, 2012 at 4:01 am |
    • evensteven

      Some say Masons killed Joseph Smith because they believe he stole their initiation rites, secret handshakes and symbols . . .

      May 13, 2012 at 4:16 am |
    • LinSea

      You mean the press that was printing anti-Mormon propaganda and calling for and inciting violent mob attacks against the Mormons? That press?

      May 13, 2012 at 8:39 am |
  20. fearmonger

    Well this just explained why our government is failing so hard... We have a bunch of people running it that beleive in imaginary people...

    May 13, 2012 at 3:58 am |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      Like all the rest of the Jewish, mainstream Christian, and even that token Muslim congressman don't belief in imaginary people?

      May 13, 2012 at 4:56 am |
    • Objective

      I love the arrogance of humankind, to believe that something exists simply because we can't see it. Why then do you follow the traditional calendar and not protest it?

      It's based on when Jesus walked the Earth.

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

      fearmonger - your nickname is apropos for your words. I will take a tolerant 'believer' over intolerant fools any day.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:44 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.