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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. Darla

    It is really nice to see a balanced factual story on Mormons written by a journalist from main stream media who is a non latter-day Saint. I don't understand why there are so many people responding to the story by knocking on the Mormon faith. The story doesn't promote the tenets of Mormonism. It makes the case that there are a lot of public servants in Washington, DC, who are in prominent, influential positions. They didn't get hired because of their faith, so why debate it. That said, they serve us well, and I can't help but believe that their faith contributes to the good that they do. Thanks, Dan Gilgoff, for balanced portrayal of truth.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Jonathan

      Public servants? More like crazy right wing nutjob lobbyists.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  2. Stevo

    Mormon cultist bishops do not belong in any power,ESPECIALLY NOT PRESIDENT! ROMNEY CAN TAKE HIS MAGICAL SKIDMARKED UNDERWEAR BACK TO HIS CULT CHURCH AND NEVER COME BACK. For the love of god cant we get an honest christian to represent the gop, please.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Orwell seen it before

      It could be worse for the Republican Party of God.

      Romney could have been a Scientologist.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  3. Michael

    I am appalled by the blatant ignorance of the majority of these comments. I strongly feel that if you would like to know what someone believes so you should probably ask them and maybe, i don't know believe them, when they tell you honestly what they believe! I know novel concept. I don't know Mitt Romney personally but I do know that character of the vast majority of LDS people. Maybe that is because I am one of them. Surprise we are not crazy and our church is NOT A CULT we don't worship anyone other than JESUS CHRIST the same one that every other christian religion worships, the one written of in the bible. The Book of Mormon for those of you who have not or will not take the time to actually inform yourself is a record of a group of people that also worshiped Jesus Christ, who had records which we now call the old testament and read and studied them just as Jews, early Christians and modern Christians do as well. I am a young married college student and I love my wife dearly and do everything I can to treat her with respect and love since she is pretty much the most amazing woman in the world!!! If someone who believes these horrible things about us would actually take 5 minutes to talk to and try to get to know a Mormon they might actually to their surprise find out that they are just plain good people who love their families and do their best to live as upstanding citizens in their communities as honest hard working individuals who simply ask to be treated with common decency and respect the same that we show them regardless of how much to may hate, distrust, or thing that we are part of a cult. I testify of Jesus Christ that he lives that he love me and everyone in this world. I testify that love will triumph over hate! I love each of you as my fellow brothers and sisters and ask that you would try to do the same.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Stevo

      Mormans are a cult,keep trying to whitwash the public but we all know,we have seen the stories,we have watched the news,we have herd the cries of the women and children that have escaped the morman religion and they have told their stories.of course you will defend your cult,we do not believe you,YOU ARE A BRAINWASHED CULTIST!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • MadJack

      Yea I always hope people will take the time to get to know the truth about our church, but unfortunately most people would rather continue spreading rumor and hate than learn the facts and find out that they were possibly mistaken. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. emphasis on JESUS CHRIST, not sure how people can think we are not christian and that we don't believe in Jesus Christ when our church's name includes his name.... I for one try to live like the savior Jesus Christ did, I am not perfect but try to be a good addition to the world and our amazing country. I don't necessarily enjoy it when so much hate is spread about something that I love and strongly believe in. I invite anyone that is sincerely wondering what the facts about the LDS (Mormon) church are to look to an OFFICIAL source here: http://www.mormon.org

      May 13, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • MadJack

      Stevo, obviously you do not know what you are talking about. The things you are talking about are associated with the F LDS church. (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints) This is a group that broke away from the original LDS church when the church banned the practice of polygamy. Read up on the facts before you spread hate against our church that is NOT the same church you are referring too. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalist_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-Day_Saints

      May 13, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • kerfluffle

      Golden plates under a rock in upstate NY that conveniently disappear. A lifelong flim-flam man selling yet another variety of snake oil.

      I am embarrassed by anyone that has benn swindled by this idicoy.

      Moreso, I am vigilant against said fools and their power grab.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • DavidUtah

      Explain Calif. Prop. 8.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:28 am |
  4. Orwell seen it before

    I will not vote for any kind of bishop of any kind of religion for President of the United States.
    Giving a religious leader control of thermo nuclear weapons is a bad idea.
    Some idiots in these blogs claim this is racist; I claim they are idiots for not knowing the meaning of their own words.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • souptwins

      Your assumption is that Romney was, is, and always will be a Mormon "leader". The LDS church has lay leadership of local congregations which means (as the article explained) they are ordinary people with a family and a separate career. They are not paid for their church service and only serve in the position for about 5 yrs. With over 28,000 local congregations, that makes for a huge number of "former Bishops" and they are just ordinary people with no particular authority anymore. The fact that Romney was once a Bishop really carries little to no weight as far as his authority as a Mormon. He's just another member now.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • Orwell seen it before

      As for Bishop Mitt the bully, last I heard he is a bishop, a very rich bishop of LDS.

      If that does not make him a leader in your religious organization, it does mine. I will not budge on this, whether it be Pat Robertson or Jesse Jackson, nada. Pray on, baptize me after I am dead.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Bishop Willard is "just ordinary people with no particular authority anymore"

      Souptwins, if you actually believe this then I know you are a fool with no critical thinking capacity, otherwise you are paid shill for Bishop Bully, et al.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  5. Stevo

    Mormans have no place in gov.Their twisted views on religion may influence laws of the land and we dont need cultists calling the shots.Mormans can defend all they want,do they think we dont know they will deny these horrid claims made toward their cult.The mormans will lie and distort the truth because they are afraid they will get arrested for their crimes against women and children.They brainwash their people then spread their distorted views of religion opon us hoping to get more power and more victims.Stay as far away as you can from the mormon church before you become one with th e cult!!!

    May 13, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • kyledurfee

      That's a lot of strong words without any evidence. Thanks for spreading hatred.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • MadJack

      I hope you realize that no one cares for what you have to say when it is 100% opinion and 0% is backed by facts. all i can say to your comment is LAWL.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Shocked sad

      So here's a question: other than "mormons are evil incarnate," can you tell us what YOU believe? How would YOU fix the economy? What would YOU do to ensure America's leading role in the future? Why do YOU think that Obama will make a better president than Mitt Romney? Remember, the one single rule here is that all of your answers have to be OUTSIDE of your "mormons this mormons that" answer. Can you do it? Are you up to the challenge?

      May 13, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • souptwins

      I'm trying to give the benefit of the doubt here and thinking maybe you are confusing the LDS church headquartered in Salt Lake with some splinter groups such as the FLDS or other polygamy, child molesting groups. You should know there are several break off groups who are in NO way assoc. with the main LDS church and they have completely different practices. If you ask around, you probably know several Mormons who are very good people and you just don't realize it. Look up the local congregation and attend a Sunday service (respectfully, please) and you can see what's taught for yourself.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
  6. david

    DIANE TAYLOR suggests that I'm ignorant.

    Please tell me if Mormons believe that the Father, Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit are ONE – give an honest answer.
    Next – it is very scary to Mormons that genetic DNA technology has nullified any connection of Jews to Native Americans – THAT AFTERALL IS THE THESIS OF MORMONISM

    I COULD GO ON AND ADD A LOT MORE NUMBERS TO 1, 2, 3, 4 AND 5....

    May 13, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • someone

      Joseph Smith was a FreeMason who betrayed and left the cult to create his own cult based on similar masonic satanic rituals. Masons took revenge and killed him, Mormon temples are filled with masonic symbols just make a small internet research is all it takes.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Dave

      Yes mormons believe that God, Christ and the Holy Ghost are one...in just the way Christ illustrates in John 17.

      Also, jewish DNA in the americas is not the thesis of mormonism. There are countless reasons why jewish dna would not appear in the dna of ancient american descendants but that does not refute the book of mormon. There have been plenty of attempts to discredit the book and all these theories have been debunked. I feel sorry for those who hold tight to some theory that gets proven wrong after the person has died with their misguided beliefs.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • souptwins

      Mormons believe Christ, God and the Holy Ghost are one in purpose and will but are separate beings. This is illustrated when John baptized Christ in the River Jordan. Christ stood in the water with John, God the Father spoke saying "this is my beloved son in whom I'm well pleased", and the Holy Ghost descended in the form of a dove. All 3 function as one in purpose but do not transform from one to the other. I never quite understood the whole 3 in 1 doctrine of the Trinity or how it may work with the scriptural situation sited above. Perhaps you could explain that to me.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • DavidUtah

      The Three-in-One concept of the Trinity is an artifact of Neoplatonist rationalization and Hebrew monotheism. Learn a bit about your own religion before you trash the beliefs of other people.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:18 am |
  7. Orwell seen it before

    Deep throat hit it on the nail during watergate-- follow the money.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  8. Shocked sad

    So much ignorance...so much blind hate spew. Discussion is great, and we need it. What we don't need is this bigotry that TOTALLY misses the point of what's at stake during this presidential election. What is at stake?

    1) The USA's slow economic recovery that's jeopardizing it's leadership position on the world stage.
    2) An increasingly hostile, mobile, and well-equipped terrorist network (thank heavens we've got the CIA and the other intel folks working against it) that wants nothing more than to see the whole of America burn to the ground.
    3) A mind-bendingly large national deficit that will swallow us if we don't do something about it (which , I might add, does NOT include spending hundreds of billions more that we don't have).
    4) An increasingly strident, vitriolic political rhetoric that's literally crippling our ability to get anything of consequence done.

    And so on. Mitt's a Mormon? Good for him folks. Mitt's a businessman, a family man, a figure who has real potential to identify with both sides of the isle and finally help to tone down the rhetoric. That's what matters here. People who are blindly railing on mormonism are utterly and completely missing the whole point.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  9. barney

    Is the magic underwear available
    at Kmart?

    May 13, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Stevo

      Lol google morman magical underwear,the best is on you tube the reporter tells the truth about it ,be carefull mormans set up websights to try and make the underwear a good thing when its a sham.The mormons can hide the truth all they want but we all know about them and their sacred all powerfull underwear rofll.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • souptwins

      Do you also say Jews wear "magic beanies" or Nuns wear "magic robes"? All serve as physical reminders of sacred covenants made to live a righteous life just as LDS garments do. There were never claims of "magic" just an old fashioned personal reminder to the wearer that they are to live as disciples of Christ at all times.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  10. kyledurfee

    Try going to http://www.mormon.org or http://www.lds.org to find out the truth about Mormons. I don't think CNN is the best place to find out about any religion.

    And for the record, it IS every day that a democrat will get behind a Mormon pulpit. That's not a problem at all.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  11. kyledurfee

    For the record, it IS every day that a democrat stands behind a Mormon pulpit. That isn't a problem at all.

    And if you want to find the truth about mormons, try going to http://www.mormon.org or http://www.lds.org. I don't think CNN is a great place to lean about any religion. Google "God" and see what comes up–you'll find a lot of junk and garbage.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  12. DavidUtah

    Mormonism is not a cult. Mormons exhibit many cult-like behaviors, especially here in Utah.
    Mormon temples are sacred. . . because they want to make sure that no one will freak out at the Freemason-style rituals performed there. At least they have dropped some the most objectionable parts like the slit-your-throat gestures and the depiction of a non-Mormon “Preacher” as an agent of Satan.

    Do some research. The internet is a wonderful source of information. . . and some of it might actually be accurate.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • kyledurfee

      Some of it might not be accurate too. Why do people keep going to people with an incentive to slander Mormons to find out information about them?

      May 13, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  13. david

    Bt the way, Mitt's campaign is to "Restore" America and Joseph Smith claimed to be picked by Jesus Christ and God the Father to "restore" the only true church.

    Watch for the word RESTORE to emerge – it is ALL MORMON AND MITT's use of the word is NOT BY ACCIDENT.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
  14. barney

    They believe men can necole gods.
    Until Romney was in his 30s the church discriminated against black Americans. Thus he was part of that.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  15. seedenbetter

    It's so funny watching talking snake believers making fun of magic underware wearers.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  16. evangelicals+jews=bad fruit

    leave mormons alone

    May 13, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  17. IslandAtheist

    Romney, will seer stone ya when you're tryin' to make a buck.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  18. Stevo

    I am a republican and i say I cant stand the idea of a morman as president.These people are sick in the head and I will not sell out my religion to help a sicko like Romney.Out of all the candidates we get stuck with the cult member,this is complete b.s. People can try to sugarcoat a turd but it still is a turd and thats what Romney is with his cult beliefs. I will in no way vote for the cultist,thanks gop for giving us such a shallow candidate,my gosh anyone would have been better anyone lol

    May 13, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • Rocinante

      Try reading mormon com or talk to a neighbor or coworker who is Mormon to see what you have in common.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • toughcrowd

      Wow, you sound pretty angry. Not sure why...

      May 13, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • souptwins

      Perhaps look up the local Mormon meeting chapel and attend Sunday service - respectfully that is. You can see for yourself what horrible people attend there and what horrible things they teach. Just think of the things you can post on comment boards then.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  19. kerfluffle

    Mormon apologism is a blight upon the efforts for honest discourse.

    Beware the spin.

    Intellectual dishonesty is everywhere.

    Political office is no place for a mormon elder.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • duckforcover

      Would it really be worse than the fundamentalist Christian hate mongers?

      May 13, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • david

      The dishonesty is so true. Even their testimonials are rigged. The use emotional stories to wrap weak people up into a tightly knit "pyramid". I see through Romney because I worked in Utah for 5 years and learned to deal with their "blank looks". Really scary stuff.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • toughcrowd

      Sorry you feel that way, david. I have not shared your experience and am unsure what the "blank looks" thing is...

      May 13, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  20. david

    1. How can they say they are converting people to "Christianity" when Mormons DO NOT BELIEVE IN THE TRINITY
    2. There is proof that Joseph Smith exploited Masonic rituals when he "invented" Mormonism.
    3. The Book of Mormon was founded on story that an air-tight sub filled with Jews landed in Central America and were greeted by Jesus.....hence, the Jews are genetic cousins to Native Americans.
    4. Finally, will somebody please show me where Planet Kolob is?
    5. If this stuff can be explained, then the Mormons really have something....called Magic.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • momoya

      All religion is bull sh!t.. The way you think of Mormonism, we think of your religion and all religion.. Santa and god aren't real.. Take responsibility for your decisions.. have a good day.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Stevo

      They have magical underwear i hear lol,Google it morman magical underwear,or watch the you tube vid ,the reporter explains how their underwear works rofll.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • diane taylor

      1,2,3,4,5, shows how ignorant you are

      May 13, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • kyledurfee

      I'd love to see the proof about the Masonic stuff.
      You obviously have not read the Book of Mormon judging by your number 3.
      Mormons do not believe in the Nicene Creed, but they believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Reasonable David

      @ David....you are all over this post spreading your misinformation and hatred and it begs whether you have anything better to do. FYI...tearing down others does not elevate you in any way. But let's take your points one at a time.

      1. How can they say they are converting people to "Christianity" when Mormons DO NOT BELIEVE IN THE TRINITY [please provide your reasoning that a christian must believe in the trinity...mormons believe in the father, son and holy ghost]
      2. There is proof that Joseph Smith exploited Masonic rituals when he "invented" Mormonism. [you claim there is proof but provide none...sorry, do you expect people to take your word for it?]
      3. The Book of Mormon was founded on story that an air-tight sub filled with Jews landed in Central America and were greeted by Jesus.....hence, the Jews are genetic cousins to Native Americans. [no mention of air tight submarines in the book of mormon...but plenty of evidence exists in mesomerica suggesting hebrew origins, you can google the connection between american civiliations and jews and get plenty of sites]
      4. Finally, will somebody please show me where Planet Kolob is? [unless you have the universe mapped and every planet accounted for then it doesn't really matter if you believe in a Kolob or not....prove there is no Kolob]
      5. If this stuff can be explained, then the Mormons really have something....called Magic. [plenty of explanations available for those who are willing to hear the truth and not gravitate toward misinformed hearsay...I suspect you are more interested in bolstering your bias and have no room for facts, reason etc...]

      A caution to those reading posts from David and others who always talk about silly things like magic underwear and Kolob etc...these people are hit/run specialists who have no desire to understand but are only in the business of slander and demonizing others while adding no value to society.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.