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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. Chickki

    Mormons are wacko weirdos that are not christians,they are a big cult that beat women and molest kids.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • Kurt

      Sorry, I think you mistakenly put Mormons where you meant to put Baptists.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • God created dumb ppl so we all can have a laugh

      Hmm, and where is it you get your information. Can't really say i've heard of them beating women or abusing kids. But what i really surprised that you were any to come up with them as non-Christians seeing that their church is really called the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints". I mean wow i think your right about the message you are really trying to say. And lil boys and girls the hidden message is....I am a complete idiot who like to eat paint chips so i become more brain dead then what my alcoholic mom has made me.... I am so sorry she dropped you that many time on your head, but best of luck in life.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
  2. P. O. Carl

    From some of the "comments", and I use the word loosely, you would believe that the earth will stop spinning if Romney happens to get elected. I hope the majority of people are not as bigoted as most of the posters here. If they are, the divisions in this country will continue to grow until civil war breaks out and that will be the end of the United States.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Chickki

      Christians are the majority there will be no civil war,we dont like cultists representing us.We want a christian candidate with christian values to represent the gop,not this cult con man.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • Orwell seen it before

      The planet will not stop turning if Bishop Mitt gets elected. Hopefully the majority will recognize voting for a Bishop as POTUS is a very bad idea, regardless of their religion.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  3. Jimbo21

    We dont want a cult bishop as a gop candidate

    May 13, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Shmee13

      look up the definition of a cult you silly lil man. Sometimes i wonder if any of you have half a brain in the lump 3ft above your a$$. Because if you call mormons a cult then you might as well call any other faith a cult. LOl gosh i sure love dumb people, they make me laugh, but i do feel sorry for their poor functioning mind.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  4. Watch

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uuc2aWJnmQ8&w=640&h=390]

    May 13, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  5. Jimbo21

    Say no to being possesed by the underwear cult!!!!

    May 13, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • Kurt

      You mean the baptists!! I will.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  6. F.UCK non-Christians !

    Everyone should convert or be kicked out from this nation. PERIOD!
    Zero tolerence.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • Smed Furam

      No worries, baptisms for the death will take care of that.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  7. Holly in CA

    Thanks for this article. There are a lot of Mormons working hard to serve their country as noted in this article.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
  8. Independant jack

    Mormons are cultists,They pray to Joesoph Smith,They have the book of mormon,They have magic underwear,they have sisterwives,they dont belong in the government. They are bigots they are religious cons. The countless crimes toward women and children have been herd all across this nation. You are not christians you are a cult and I feel sorry for anyone that has been brainwashed to believe this anti christian nonsence.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Holly in CA

      Mormons do indeed have The Book of Mormon. Everything else you said is completely false. For correct information please visit http://www.Mormon.org

      May 13, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Jim

      My friend, you are just wrong on every count and quite frankly, if you are the example of what a "true christian" should be, Mormons should be proud not to be in your company.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Smed Furam

      http://www.Mormon.org is a lie by omission. They do not say that they can become gods, they do not say that they can have multiple wives they they are in the celestiak kingdom, they do not say that god was once a man, they do not say that in their temple ceremony they portray a protestant preacher as the representative of s a t a n, they do not say that JS was married to underage women, they do not say that he destroyed the press and that is the reason he was killed, they do not talk about the Meadows Massacre, etc. That site is a lie and they are saying what you want to hear. For a better idea, go t youtuve and see the testimony of ex mormons, etc.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
  9. vladdrak

    al you mormon haters can suck my dick.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Smed Furam

      There are many. Probably by now you would not have one.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
  10. Shalom

    Those who deny Jesus Christ will go to hell

    May 13, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • ONAS

      deny him in what way? i don't deny him but i don't believe he was god either. read hebrews 5:7 jesus didn't die on cross he cried to some other God to be saved from death and he was heard because he was SUBMISSIVE

      May 13, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Smed Furam

      Jesus Christ is the name of my friend who lives next door; there also other Jesus Christs that other church preach. Which one are you talking about?

      May 13, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • F.UCK non-Christians !

      There is Earthly God (Jesus Christ) and heavenly God........ get educated your moron

      May 13, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • ONAS

      lol "earthly God"

      Jesus saying:“...the Father is greater than I.”(John 14:28)

      By myself I can do nothing...”(John 5:30)

      jesus is no God, he says it himself

      May 13, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Watch

      Jesus is son of God. If you don´t believe it, you are no Christian and may go to hell

      May 13, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • ONAS

      jesus is not son of anybody. read Job 1:6 satan is called son of God too. go figure

      May 13, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  11. Former Atheist

    Few 100% true Reasons why Atheism is TERRIBLE and unhealthy for our children and living things:.......

    † Atheism is a religion that makes you angry, stupid, brainwashed, ignorant & blind.
    † Atheism is a disease that needs to be treated.
    † Atheism makes you post stupid things (90% of silly comments here on CNN blogs are posted by closet Atheists)
    † Atheist are satanic and have gothic lifestyle.
    † Atheists are misguided and causes problem in our religious & public society.
    † Atheists are mentally ill, that's why they have no faith.
    † Atheism won't take you to kingdom of heaven and paradise.
    † Atheism making you agree with Stalin, Hitler (Denied his faith later), Mao, Pol Pot & other terrible mass murder leaders.
    † No traditional family lifestyle, no holidays, no culture, boring and feeling 'outsider'
    † Atheists are angry, drug additcted and committ the most crime.
    † Atheist try to convert people over internet because they feel "safer" behind closet.
    † Atheists do not really exist, they just pretend that they don't believe in God and argue with religious people.
    † Atheists have had terrible life experience, bad childhood and not being loved.
    † Most Atheists are uneducated... No Atheists could run for presidency.
    † Atheism brought upon the French Revolution, one of the most evil events of all of history.
    † Atheism cannot explain the origins of the universe, therefore God exists.
    † All atheists believe in evolution, which means they don't believe in morality and think we should all act like animals.
    † The Bible says atheism is wrong, and the Bible is always right (see: Genesis 1:1, Psalms 14:1, Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:19-20)
    † Countries where Atheism is prevalent has the highest Suicide rate & Communist countries = Atheism!
    **Only 2-3% of the U.S. are Atheists/Agnostics VS. over 90% who believe in God (80% Christians) in the U.S.**

    † † Our Prayers goes to Atheists to be mentally healthy and seek their creator † †.

    PS! the USA is a Christian nation and will always be.
    http://rightremedy.org/tracts/7

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

      GFY.

      Atheist Republican here, proud as heck at having transcended the ignorance and hatred that veils itself as religion.

      PS–You lie–you were never intelligent enough to be an atheist.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Doobie Doobie Doo

      That's the funniest thing I've read in a long time.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • WillH85

      Yeah, sure you're a former Atheist. I think the only way that's possible is if you suffered some brain damage between then and now.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  12. Jesse Bardsley

    Thanks for a very thorough, interesting piece. I'm a Mormon, and this is one of the only news articles on Mormons where I actually learned many things I didn't already know.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  13. vhalen

    If the biggest problem in America is the Economy and 15 trillion in debt...then doctrine and beliefs aside, gotta go with a Mormon president. They are great with money.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Smed Furam

      You hit the nail. Mormons are great with money. They are a good investors, etc. If money is the only issue, then go for Romney. But we all know that we are quantifying something that we do not have (on this earth). Money is an illusion. What circulates in the US can not be backed with physical things.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • P. O. Carl

      I believe "frugal" is the preferred word.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  14. Mom

    Everyone should convert to Christianity please.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  15. toughcrowd

    Stevo, seeing as "morman magical underwear" 1) includes a misspelling of "Mormon" and 2) is an incorrect description, I'm not sure how anyone could possibly obtain reliable information by searching Google or YouTube...

    May 13, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • TJeff1776

      LOL.....those of us in the church NEVER heard of magic underwear......ONLY non-Mormons heard of that.....worth a second LOL.
      I suppose our enemies THINK "magic underwear" and/or "cult" hurt our feelings......rolls off like water on a ducks back.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • TJeff1776

      LOL.....those of us in the church NEVER heard of magic underwear......ONLY non-Mormons heard of that.....worth a second LOL.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  16. Moroni

    Mormonism is Freemasonry. It has 33 degrees. At the 33rd degree they tell you Yahweh is the Devil and Lucifer is God. it is exactly the same thing they do in Freemasonry. They also teach that black people are cursed with the "Mark of Cain."

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGFAph3lWqw&w=640&h=390]

    May 13, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Shmee13

      LOl, really. I mean come on really you can't be serious with this video. I know plenty about the mormon faith, and i'm sorry to report that what this video is saying is chalk full of half truths and twisted stories. Please get your stories straight before you open your bigot mouth.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Shmee13

      also, the bible teaches that dark skin was the mark of Cain, so it isn't just the mormons. 2nd just because that was the mark does not mean what so ever they anyone who now-a-days has dark skin is a cursed people.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • toughcrowd

      In an attempt to give you the benefit of the doubt, I just wasted 6 minutes and 11 seconds of my life and countless brain cells on this clip. If you want to believe what others THINK they know about Mormonism instead of going to the source, that's your choice. Ridiculousness doesn't even begin to describe it, because blatant lies are swirled throughout that hot mess like tie dye on a t-shirt. Period.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  17. Jonathan

    I want the 10% of my income back that I paid for a decade for this church to try to advance its political ideals. I feel sorry for Harry Reid that he's still a Mormon

    May 13, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Shmee13

      the 10% given is used for charities, welfare, and services. It is very sad that if you were one of them, that you now have become so offended and bitter that you spread lies.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • TJeff1776

      Harry Reid is on the left with me. Mormons are diverse. One time I caught some Christian Coalition members sticking "right" propaganda on one of our bulletin-boards. Stop'em. No political views allowed whatever.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  18. Jonathan

    I was a mormon, but I'm not anymore. It took away many of the best years of my life, but luckily I feel enlightened now. The political views of most Mormons (and christians) disgust me. If Jesus were alive, he wouldn't want to have anything to do with the Christian right in this country.

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

      @jonathan.....being mormon took away the best years of your life? You mean not drinking, smoking, doing drugs, being honest & charitable, doing good to your fellow men was bad for you? But now you are enlightened....I'm curious as to what you think is so disgusting about mormons and christians

      May 13, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Smed Furam

      @Dave, you talk asthough Mormons have the copyright on those principles of not drinking coffee, etc. Know that others do the same as a way of life and as to exerciese their humanity rather than satisfy some commandments and expect temporal blessings. If you talk about lies, mormons are the people that lie the most. They will go in front of their pulpit and say that they know their church is the only true church on the face of the earth but they know that is not true. They are good at living double lives. Look ar romeny, how many times has been caught lying. Also look at the Larry King interview with the Mormon president that said "that he does not know if they teach that men become gods" Everyone know that such is a lie. Lies come in various forms and Mormons know how to do it in such a way that it does not seem they are lying. Another example are the thousands of missionaries that go for two years to preach the mormon church; most of these do not know their church is the only true church on the face of the earth but they say it when they preach. That is a LIE. Thinks about it.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Shmee13

      I think you have greatly misunderstand Christian faith. It is true that it has its bad people who think they are doing what is right, but it's like saying you hate Muslims cause a few nut jobs of their faith bomb the US.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • TJeff1776

      I would think that Jesus would embrace the right and left. All His children.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • toughcrowd

      Jonathan, I am truly sorry you feel that way. It sounds as if someone in your life let you down by not following through on what they claimed to be their beliefs and committments. I wish you a future of happiness and healing.

      Smed Furam, I would suggest that if you don't like Romney, don't vote for him. To call millions of people liars and accuse them of living double lives simply because they share his faith is sad. Also, your "true church" references are out of context...take care.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
  19. mcdanel

    I find this very disturbing. Out of state Mormons were brought in as scabs at a business I was guarding in 1978. I spent hours chatting with them, being proselytized, and receiving a copy of the Book of Mormon. America is the Mormon Israel, their holy land, their promised land. I'm reminded most of Scientology. All wealth flows to the Beehive in Utah. By breeding prodigiously, through time they expect to numerically overwhelm non believers, regardless.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  20. jimmy

    Joseph Smith was a Freemason, that's a fact

    May 13, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • iqueue120

      Like George Washington and Ben Franklin! Amazing! Tell me more!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Holly in CA

      as were these US Presidents: Roosevelt, Taft, Harding, Truman, Ford, and others....

      May 13, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • TJeff1776

      True....he was. Unfortunately there were a lot of Masons in the very mob that murdered him.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:52 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.