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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. Bill Fitzgerald

    Joseph Smith was told his name would be spoken of both good and evil. How telling. I am so thankful for my testimony and can disregard all of the lies and misunderstanding and antimormon comments.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • GOPTrollsAreLameAndNasty

      Yes, just like God, that Joseph Smith, isn't he? In fact, isn't he exalted to the same level as Jesus?

      Is that why you'll never see a cross on a Mormon steeple?

      May 13, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • NO WAY!

      you can ignore them because you are a stupid idiot moron!

      May 13, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Doobie Doobie Doo

      That's not much of a telling statement. Anyone could say that. Check this out.

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ac_fLUHiBw&w=640&h=390]

      May 13, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • toughcrowd

      GOPTrollsAreLameAndNasty: No, no, and no.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  2. Mormon magical underwear

    haha you are in denial,they believe their underwear protects them from evil,and only the most devout shall never take them off.If you co to the mormon websight or as a mormon they will not talk about it,but if you talk to an honest ex mormon they will tell you horror stories of the cult church involvim women and children. Mormons didnt get their reputation by being sweet as pie,they got the rap from being weirdo cultists that do believe theoir undies posess powers rofll.Sorry but your mormon secret is out.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • toughcrowd

      There is no mention of it because what you are saying is not correct.

      Do you think Mormons go swimming ever? Let's start there.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • souptwins

      So secret even the practicing Mormons don't know it. If garments protect you from evil it's in its ability to remind the wearer to stay clear of evil keep their covenants to live as a disciple of Christ. I've heard all sorts of crazy supposed things about what happens in the Temple yet after 26 yrs of attending have never seen anything even remotely similar. Maybe the crazies are the Mormons after all.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  3. kerfluffle

    Hold your breath and vote for the guy that believes in the Angel Moroni fairy tale.

    Awesome.

    not.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • NO WAY!

      I will never vote for a momo....unless it is to vote them away from everyone I know. I hate them!

      May 13, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • toughcrowd

      ...as NO WAY! holds their breath and stomps out of the room...

      "I HATE them, I tell you!"

      Sheesh...

      May 13, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
  4. Mormon magical underwear

    Mormons are a religion that a con made up to control women and children,mormons are a cult and are not christian,The cut and paste the bible and then use the book of mormon,They have Joesoph Smith as their messiah who was a con,crook,phoney,and made sick rules for the church to fuel his perverted desires.Mormons are cultists and should be treated as such.They of course will defend they are as sweet as pie but dont listen to their lies! They are cultists period!

    May 13, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • souptwins

      Too bad everything you post is false including your screen name. Mormons don't believe their underwear is "magic", don't "worship" J. Smith anymore than other religions worship Moses or Abraham. Are you paid by the post for this nonsense?

      May 13, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  5. Jonathan

    I object to any religious strongholds in the government or the economy – and not just religious – any group that seeks to elevate itself above others

    May 13, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  6. Jonathan

    Most Mormons think they are better than everybody. They also have no ability to reason if they think the truth may possibly go against something they believe. A truly good human being should have the ability to accept the fact that they may be wrong sometimes

    May 13, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • toughcrowd

      ...and then you lost me. I'm wrong all the time, and I'm the first to admit it; Mormon or not.

      Maybe expand?

      May 13, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  7. kerfluffle

    Hey 'Bosco', how do magnets work?

    Toolbox.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • kerfluffle

      Where'd you go, mouthpiece?

      May 13, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  8. Name*Roger

    If Romney should become president, we don't need the Secret Service. His Mormon underwear will protect him. Is that a cult or what?

    May 13, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • HopeResonates

      Ummmm... Haven't you ever heard of phylacteries? How about vestments? Those who are devoutly religious have been wearing and displaying all sorts of symbolic garments since religion's earliest moments. Maybe you should study up on it. The Pope, a Rabbi, or a pastor would be very grateful for your not ridiculing what they hold sacred...

      May 13, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
  9. SpeakTheTruth

    Sorry gals – male genitalia is a requirement for entering the highest Mormon celestial heavens. Your only hope is to be subjugated chattel.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • souptwins

      Actually a man can't get there without a woman either - as in a husband and wife. It's a ying-yang thing.

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

      SpeakTheTruth, seriously...where do you get this stuff from?

      May 13, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  10. steve429

    CNN – Why is this story necessary? Would you do a story on Jews in influential positions in Washington DC? Of course not, because it would be considered inappropriate. So is this one.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • kerfluffle

      No, it is not inappropriate. The public needs to be aware of the threat against the republic by mormonsim.

      spin, spin, spin away you cultist...

      May 13, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • kerfluffle

      Romney is going to make Palin look electable.

      Is there enough lipstick in the country for these swine?

      May 13, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  11. truefax

    It's time to cut down the tall trees.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  12. Mormonism

    It is obviously wrong if you research it.
    Check out this website, although Mormons will tell you that it is "anti-mormon" and it cannot be trusted. They say that about anything that casts a negative light on Mormonism to detract from its authority.
    mrm.org <<<<

    May 13, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • souptwins

      Here's a novel idea-- allow a religion to speak for itself and define themselves. If you want to know what they believe, attend a Sunday service (respectfully) and see for yourself. Talk to your neighbors, co-workers or others who are members. Seems only fair.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • toughcrowd

      Mormonism, first off: thanks for spelling it correctly.

      However, there are many, MANY Mormons that will tell you that website is "anti-mormon" and it cannot be trusted while acknowledging they don't agree with every little detail.

      Sorry you haven't met any.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • HopeResonates

      My dear sir, you seem to overlook one thing: Why the focus of attacks on Mormonism? Where are the attacks on Catholocism? Where on Baptists; on Lutherans; on Episcopalians? How come nobody attacks other religions so vehemently? This should provide a striking contrast. And it should provide a clue.

      Who is the father of all lies? Who is the author of contention? Is it the Savior, Jesus Christ? Do you honestly think these attacks come from the spirit of Christ or the spirit of the adversary, that old devil.

      If you are attacking, or if you know someone (or some website that is), that cannot by definition be Christian. It's author is the same one as he who tears all good things down. It was the same author of the crusades and the inquisitions. By definition, righteousness cannot justify evil.

      Ultimately the answer is that no other religions (besides the Mormons) are attacked so vehemently and viciously for going about doing good precisely because it IS such a moral, Christ-centered church. Otherwise, there'd be no need for others to tear it down so ruthlessly.

      Those who seek to ridicule and tear down good people only prove that they do not do the work of the Master. It reminds me so much of how He and His disciples were treated by the relgionists of their times...

      May 14, 2012 at 12:08 am |
  13. What's good for the goose is good for the gander

    Stop trying to justify Romney. You media types are a joke and are a disgrace to the profession of true journalism. Romney is a weasel and a sleaze bag, a phony and a coward. Romney just want to be the president with nothing to offer in return. Middle class America, don't do this disconnect from the collective. Move beyond and out of the shadows of deceit and lies.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  14. What's good for the goose is good for the gander

    Stop trying to justify Romney. You media types are a joke and are a disgrace to the profession of true journalism. Romney is a weasel and a sleaze bag, a phony and a coward. Romney just want to be the president with nothing to offer in return. Middle class America, don't do this disconnect from the collective.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • toughcrowd

      No, but really...how do you feel about Romney?

      Thank you for at least stating your opinion on Romney the CANDIDATE without dragging Romney the MORMON into the mix.

      Snaps for being fair.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
  15. Reality

    NEWS ALERT !!!--------->>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Putting the kibosh to all religions:

    ONLY FOR NEWCOMERS

    • There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    (PROBABLY- ADVERB- AS CERTAIN AS ONE KNOWS)

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    May 13, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • SpeakTheTruth

      ...but Santa is real

      May 13, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • toughcrowd

      "(PROBABLY- ADVERB- AS CERTAIN AS ONE KNOWS)"

      When YOU use "probably", – adverb – , that translates to: "as certain as YOU know".

      You are the authority on what you think, not what you admittedly can't prove; those things in which others might believe.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Doobie Doobie Doo

      Wow. none of what you said applies to my belief.
      Have you ever spoken with an eastern Orthodox priest? if you want to know what they believe, you need to go to the source.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • Reality

      I went to an Eastern Orthodox priest and this is what he "said":

      The Orthodox Church traces its development back through the Byzantine or Roman empire, to the earliest church established by St. Paul and the Apostles. It practices what it understands to be the original ancient traditions, believing in growth without change. In non-doctrinal matters the church had occasionally shared from local Greek, Slavic and Middle Eastern traditions, among others, in turn shaping the cultural development of these nations.

      The goal of Orthodox Christians from baptism is to continually draw themselves nearer to God throughout their lives. This process is called theosis, or deification, and is a spiritual pilgrimage in which each person strives to both become more holy through the imitation of Christ and cultivation of the inner life through unceasing prayer (most famously, the Jesus Prayer) or hesychasm, until united at death with the fire of God's love.[7]

      The Biblical text used by the Orthodox includes the Greek Septuagint and the New Testament. It includes the seven Deuterocanonical Books which are generally rejected by Protestants and a small number of other books that are in neither Western canon. Orthodox Christians use the term "Anagignoskomena" (a Greek word that means "readable", "worthy of reading") for the ten books that they accept but that are not in the Protestant 39-book Old Testament canon. They regard them as venerable, but on a lesser level than the 39 books of the Hebrew canon.[8] They do, however, use them in the Divine Liturgy.[9] Orthodox Christians believe scripture was revealed by the Holy Spirit to its inspired human authors. The scriptures are not, however, the source of the traditions associated with the Church but rather the opposite; the biblical text came out of that tradition. It is also not the only important book of the Church. There are literally hundreds of early patristic writings that form part of Church tradition."

      And this is how I answered him:

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
      Jerusalem.

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
      ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      Amen
      (References used are available upon request.)

      May 14, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  16. SpeakTheTruth

    Both women and minorities have been marginalized by the Mormon religion since it's creation.

    Women still aren't allowed to enter the priesthood or become ordained family "leaders".

    May 13, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • kerfluffle

      They share a special place, laundering the mystical undies!

      May 13, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • HopeResonates

      No, but they head one of the world's oldest and largest women's organization on the planet–the Relief Society. And their stated goals and intent? To prepare "women for the blessings of eternal life by helping them increase their faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and help those in need. Relief Society accomplishes these purposes through Sunday gospel instruction, other Relief Society meetings, visiting teaching, and welfare and compassionate service."

      You see, they value their role and look to lift others up and nurture and bless their families and others. Please don't tell me you would think that demeaning. Mother Theresa had a similar aims. These women do it out of love and compassion for others.

      And you want to ridicule such women? Truly, they live the lives of "saints" in our "latter days..."

      May 14, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  17. Bosco431

    Seriously, that's all you've got? Go troll somewhere else.

    May 13, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • kerfluffle

      You are a tool. You don't even know how to discern the obviousness of standard comment boards, and have the weak gall to call another a troll?

      The Osmonds suck, and so do you.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  18. snaporaz

    Among older DC natives, the Mormon temple is best known as the inspiration for the most hilarious bit of graffiti ever spray-painted. Respond if you know what I'm talking about.

    May 13, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • souptwins

      Mormons - let Dorothy go! Hiarious! And I'm Mormon.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • kerfluffle

      Who doesn't love that little bugle boy, facing deseret like a jihadist faces mecca?

      May 13, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  19. souptwins

    To me these are the only 2 Mormon principles that have any pertinence to electing a POTUS. If a Pres. respects people's right to worship as they see fit and honor the separation of Church and State, that's all that should matter. Romney seems far more committed to doing that than the others.
    From LDS Articles of Faith:
    "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
    We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law."
    Romney showed while Gov. of MA that he's not interested in pushing his religion through political office. These two principles alone should help us all feel comfortable with having a Mormon Pres.

    May 13, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • SpeakTheTruth

      Well, people of color weren't "equal" in the Mormon church as recently as 1978 – quite a few years after the civil rights movement – and more than a century after the civil war.

      How telling.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • souptwins

      Until the civil rights movement, blacks weren't allowed to even worship in many churches. At least blacks were allowed to be members of the LDS Church since its inception. J. Smith was even reported to have given the priesthood to a black man. It was after that the practice stopped and no one really knows why. So who all can be ordained to priesthood in the church you attend and what are the requirements? Do they have to attend college, get a degree, pay lots of money? Hmmm none of those things are required for Mormon clergy. Isn't that discrimination?

      May 13, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
  20. Jackman

    Mormons are definately a cult and we dont need a Bishop cult leader as president.

    May 13, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • Bosco431

      You, sir, are an ignorant bigot.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • kerfluffle

      And yousir, Bosco, are an ignorant sycophant.

      Cast a few more stones, you bigot.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Bosco431

      kerfluffle, did you get your parent's permission to use the computer?

      May 13, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • kerfluffle

      You'll have to do better than that, lapdog.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • ignorance not bliss

      Hey Jack, it's past your bedtime. You need to study your third grade history more carefully.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:20 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.