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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. shamgar50

    toughcrowd, Tell us about the magic glasses, seer stones, Kolob, etc! Your founding story is so ridiculous,that anything after is not credible. Epic fail.

    May 14, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • toughcrowd

      So how many minutes are YOU going to graciously allow me to respond before the standard "I thought so" reply?

      I'd really rather have you tell the stories as you appear to consider yourself to be a solid authority on the facts and an unwavering champion of truth. Please don't forget to include how invigorating it feels to partake in the very same bigotry that you most likely wag your VERY important finger at others for.

      So go ahead with your petty, snarky comments. I'm sure you will do yourself justice. In the mean time, I'm just going to run along for now and find something else to do as I've already been on here a while. Besides, I have found that my tendency to feel embarrassed for others as they reveal their true colors can make for an awkward situation, so I will spare you the discomfort.

      Happy Monday, though!

      May 14, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  2. Joseph Smith

    Book of Mormon proven false and NOT TRUE. Zero non-LDS scholars have validated Lamanites and Nephites or anything close ever existed in North America.

    May 14, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Orwell seen it before

      It ain't true?

      May 14, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • Gayle

      Similarly atheist scientist have found no proof of the existence of God. What's your point?

      May 14, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  3. shamgar50

    Allen, Yes and it's based on the "rule of reciprocity", something Atheists practice all the time. It's a notion as old as the human race. Much older than religion.

    May 14, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  4. 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.

    (prob•a•bly

    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.

    )

    • 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 14, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  5. 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 14, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  6. Moroni

    Here is some information on what Mormons teach on "The Mark of Cain" in relation to African Americans. From Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes. Not a cartoon.

    May 14, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • toughcrowd

      Yes, thank you. I can see that it's not a cartoon.

      I can also see that out of 10 minutes worth of material, you have chosen to cherry-pick 40 some seconds out of it and continue to harp on something that is no longer an issue.

      I'm curious whether or not you relentlessly harass Jews about the death of Jesus, Catholics about the massacre of Protestants, and/or the Italians (Romans) for persecution of early Christians? If so, at least you are consistent. If not, you have no credibility.

      Forgive, make amends, forget, whatever...just move forward and find something constructive and positive to do besides nit-picking about the past. People like you are exhausting. Good day...

      May 14, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • anonoy

      Dark skin does not for certain mean Black people. Lots of people in the world have dark skin and are not African American. You should read more about it if you are interested. Be sure to understand your sources as well. Have a good day

      May 14, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  7. cashmeremafia

    Chapel?? That bldg is HUGE!! You can see it several miles away from the beltway over the treeline...It's not that surprising considering how big that church is; you need a a big bldg if you have a lot of congregants.

    May 14, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • Brady

      You are referring to the temple. A temple is different than a chapel. A chapel is where members meet sundays and for activities during the week.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  8. Kebos

    This article, if for no other reason, clearly shows how the USA is doomed. To have people of influence and power in the government who actually believe a work of fiction is true (Book of Mormon), well, that's astounding. Brainwashed sums it up.

    May 14, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • peter

      I wouldn't worry about it they are a weak and cursed people–This republican will be sitting out the gen election and i doubt that he will be elected im already excited about santorum or bush in 2016-But even if the mormon is elected doesn't prove his cursed mormon god or anything–big deal-Romney is a miserable man he can't even drink coffee and no one cares

      May 14, 2012 at 7:02 am |
    • Orwell seen it before

      44 Christian presidents and counting.

      With the 30 year Republican theocracy plan for America, none of them is Christian born again pure enough for their Christian nation ruled by their God. The irony is that they are about to pick a Mormon as their candidate for POTUS. NOT VP or Supreme court Judge or secretary of defense or state, POTUS! It is going to test their party loyalty. Can they get their religious fringe base to believe Mormon is just like baptist Pentecostal mainstream?

      May 14, 2012 at 7:11 am |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Doomed? We survived Nixon. Tricky Dick was pretty partial to Mormons, like the head of NASA who screwed up Spiro Agnews space plan, or secretary of treasury.

      Could be worse, Romney might have been a Scientology Bishop. Adding a whole new importance to NASA beating out DOD for funding.

      May 14, 2012 at 7:18 am |
    • Watcher_in_the_Woods

      Just wondering how much of The Book of Mormon you have actually read? Any? As a student of The Book of Mormon and the Bible for more than forty years, and having read both–cover to cover–many times, I can tell you without any fear whatever that The Book of Mormon is a volume of scriptures that testifies throughout of the divinity and mission of Jesus Christ. If you really want to know about it, read it for yourself.

      May 14, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • toughcrowd

      Orwell seen it before, I dutifully responded to your questions, even covering the Spanish Inquisition.

      Hopefully, that's all you have for me at this time as I need to move on and get other things done.

      Over and out...

      May 14, 2012 at 7:32 am |
    • Allen

      Fortunately for the rest of us we live in a nation where people are free to worship whatever god they waish according to the dictates of their own conscience. Just because you worship yourself doesn't make you more ethically correct than somebody that is so stupid as to believe that people treat others as they would themselves wish to be treated.

      May 14, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • setnommarih

      It is no more or less fiction than the bible, the Quran, the Tibetan Book of The Dead, the writings of Confucius, etc.

      May 14, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • anonoy

      its funny when one practices his/her religion and makes a choice to do so how it is tured into Mitt CANT drink Coffee. He can but he chooses not too. This is what a majority of People who are unsuccessful in their lives will find. We have to make choices every day what we do. We may not always like the choices in front of us but everythign is a choice. The harder one works the better the choices one has. Everyone who has posted here today had a choice to voice their opions. You also have to make the choice to think deeply about what was said. Not to change your views but to udnerstand the differences in poeple. Right, is that not what we want? have a great day

      May 14, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  9. jthomasin

    Pederson said "I’ll be president of the Romney-Is-the-Best-We-Can-Come-Up-With-for-President Club."

    I will agree with her that this is a good slogan for the GOP. They best they can hope for is that Romney doesn't make huge, dumb mistakes in the media or in debates. That will be a debate I will love to see, ol Romney might whip out his 'bet you $10,000' line. All the fourth graders watching will say Romney stole their catchphrase.

    May 14, 2012 at 6:54 am |
  10. clarke

    I am not sure why this is important. There are people of many different religions all over the world and the the United
    states. If mitt wasn't a Mormon you would not be show casing this.

    May 14, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Could it be that this is a religion blog?

      Too bad Romney is not Hindu, then we could cover that on this thread.
      Could it be that there has only been mainstream Protestants and one Catholic POTUS?

      May 14, 2012 at 6:59 am |
  11. W.G.

    Mormons are gettiung ready to serve the anti -christ

    May 14, 2012 at 6:15 am |
    • Kebos

      There is no anti-Christ because there is no Christ.

      May 14, 2012 at 6:56 am |
  12. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Mitt McCain and the unhinged GOBP fell into President Obama's trap. Obama/Biden 2012!

    May 14, 2012 at 6:13 am |
    • setnommarih

      The only trap is Biden's big mouth and Moochelle's big butt.

      May 14, 2012 at 8:31 am |
  13. jon

    Not an issue...just a ploy to keep anything but the failed economy in the minds of voters

    May 14, 2012 at 6:12 am |
    • peter

      It is a failed economy and a failed presidency–i voted for mccain–I will not vote for a mormon and will sit out the gen election

      May 14, 2012 at 6:17 am |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Considering the economic deregulation of the Republicans, it is amazing there is an economy.
      Throw in tax breaks and a couple wars,...
      Bush43 did an amazing flip flop, pushing a trillion dollar bailout thru in a week.
      How often do bills get thru congress like that?

      No oversight and no regulation resulted in no trust and no liquidity in the financial markets.
      Bush had enough sense to staunch it before it got worse.
      Considering how close we dodged the bullet, things are not as bad as they could be.

      Hats off to Obama! In spite of Republican obstruction, particularly their attempt to block the new start treaty which proves how suicidal this mindset is.

      For the end-of-the-world whiners, take your gold and move to Republistan. America has moved on and is getting better.

      May 14, 2012 at 6:46 am |
  14. Moroni

    If Mormons have nothing to hide, then let's show people what they actually believe. They teach that black people are cursed with "The Mark of Cain" and they did not allow African Americans full membership until 1978. They also teach that Jesus is one of multiple Gods. Even Jeremiah Wright's church teaches that Jesus alone is the source of Salvation.

    May 14, 2012 at 6:02 am |
    • Orwell seen it before

      So? Hindus believe in polytheism. Catholic church has archangels, which are not gods, but can kick butt if they choose to; as long as they don't go off the reservation like Satan and his party pals did. Is not Moroni a Mormon angel? or is he shared by other religions? New testament? Must be old? Ok I give up. How many angels on the tip of a needle?

      May 14, 2012 at 6:19 am |
    • Moroni

      I understand what you are saying, but Hindus and other religions do not lie about their religion. Mormon's will say Jesus is their savior when it is convenient, yet they teach Pantheism. Duplicity and dishonesty is never a good sign.

      May 14, 2012 at 6:28 am |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Other religions do not lie about their religion? What planet did you come from?

      How is this possible? Do these religions you talk about involve human beings?

      May 14, 2012 at 6:50 am |
    • Moroni

      Other religions are not running for President and calling themselves Christian while teaching pantheism to their followers.

      May 14, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • Orwell seen it before

      The religious nut cases in India are working day and night to make that happen.

      May 14, 2012 at 7:22 am |
    • Moroni

      In the end, the Truth will win out. It always does. Blessed be the One True God.

      May 14, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • toughcrowd

      Good Lord, are we back to this cartoon again?!? If you can re-post, then I can too...

      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 14, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • Moroni

      Since you are an expert, why don't you tell us what Mormons teach about black people and "The Mark of Cain?"

      May 14, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • Moroni

      I didn't think so, see the link to the 60 minutes interview above, it explains what Mormons believe about African Americans. Not a cartoon.

      May 14, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • Allen

      Yeah wright's teachings are pretty amazing "God D4MN America!" I can see where the obamessiah gets his patriotism from.

      May 14, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Allen

      As a practicing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints I find this video laughable. I gues it would qualify as comedy for anybody that is "mormon".

      May 14, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • toughcrowd

      Moroni, from your comments and their timestamps above, it appears that you believe the world revolves around you and that other people's views and/or opportunities to respond expire precisely 20 minutes after you first pose a question to them.

      I really enjoyed the entire 6 minutes plus worth of this gibberish, and how you zeroed in on that one question while blatantly ignoring every other lie and misconception either erroneously or deceitfully presented as "facts". I'm not sure why you can't seem to accept that those teachings are a thing of the past. Do you truly believe that Jesus would carry on this way with people who have disavowed flawed teachings while trying to make amends and be good, decent people? If not, than maybe you should follow His example. People as angry as you at those of us who had nothing to do with what went on are not very helpful. Frankly, I have nothing further to say about this subject or that ridiculous cartoon. Good luck in life.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • LinSea

      @Moroni, I say Jesus Christ is my Savior because he IS my Savior. It is not a part-time or occasional thing.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  15. William

    I do not believe that the world is a testing ground to "prove that we are worthy" as she states. I believe that none of us are worthy to enter God's kingdom. I have heard this sort of discussion from Mormons visiting my house and this is the primary reason that I choose to turn them away quickly and keep them away from my children. Mormons have indicated to me their stances on works in relation to faith. It is very contrary to my beliefs. I have witnessed references to the varying splendor's of celestial bodies as quoted from the New Testament and how this is a representation of our "rank" in Heaven according to our works here on Earth. We enter God's kingdom by grace alone – by accepting his free gift of of Jesus Christ our Savior. Paul himself stated "I claim to know nothing save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." Nothing else matters. Get as heady and righteous and you feel you need to be and it will not matter. It is our nature (and a good thing) as Christians to strive to be perfect for God's glory. We will fall short. I do not believe that there is anything you can do to become worthy. Nor do I believe that there is any act(s) you can do that will improve your status with God. Reach out, take the free gift and it is finished.

    May 14, 2012 at 6:02 am |
    • Kebos

      There is no kingdom of god to enter. But be a good human being anyway. That is your reward. That is all our reward.

      May 14, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • mormonsarechristian

      One Evangelical Christian author wrote of his sudden discovery that his previous beliefs about salvation were very different from those held by the early Christians:

      “If there's any single doctrine that we would expect to find the faithful associates of the apostles teaching, it's the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. After all, that is the cornerstone doctrine of the Reformation. In fact, we frequently say that persons who don't hold to this doctrine aren't really Christians…
      Our problem is that Augustine, Luther, and other Western theologians have convinced us that there's an irreconcilable conflict between salvation based on grace and salvation conditioned on works or obedience. They have used a fallacious form of argumentation known as the "false dilemma," by asserting that there are only two possibilities regarding salvation: it's either (1) a gift from God or (2) it's something we earn by our works.
      The early Christians [and Latter-day Saints!] would have replied that a gift is no less a gift simply because it's conditioned on obedience....
      The early Christians believed that salvation is a gift from God but that God gives His gift to whomever He chooses. And He chooses to give it to those who love and obey him.”
      —David W. Bercot, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today's Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity, 3rd edition, (Tyler, Texas: Scroll Publishing Company, 1999[1989]), 57, 61–62.

      The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) agrees with the earliest Christians that grace is conditioned upon obedience to Jesus Christ’s commandments.

      May 14, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • peter

      mormons are not christians–Mormons believe the cursed man joeseph smith who wrote the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ-The book of mormon is not the word of God-The christ that joeseph smith wrote about and preached is false and not true--The book of mormon was published in 1830–Mormons are cursed even to the 8th generation of misery and slavery–But there is a way out for mormons-reject the christ of joeseph smith

      May 14, 2012 at 7:16 am |
    • setnommarih

      I'm sorry, but all of this mumbo jumbo is just that, mythology, all of it, christian, jew, muslim, hindu, shinto, creator myths all. No of them have any more validity than Thor or Zeus. So if you are arguing one way or another it does not matter. You will not know how cold the ground is or how hot the crematorium.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • LinSea

      It is only because of Jesus Christ that we can be forgiven of our sins and saved, William. I think you have not understood that we believe doing good works are important because that is how we increase and confirm our faith in Christ and follow His commandment to love and serve others. Mormons most certainly do NOT believe that we can erase our sins or achieve salvation without Jesus Christ.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  16. Bill Fitzgerald

    Well too bad for you Peter. The Holy Ghost is my witness that it is the word of God. Joseph had a third grade education and knew nothing of all of the places and names in the Book of Mormon and all of the civilizations in central and South America until he translated the plates. And what a way to honor your mother on Mothers Day-talking about peoples underwear! Pathetic.

    May 14, 2012 at 5:46 am |
    • peter

      bill– the holy spirit and the jesus christ that joseph smith wrote about in the book of mormon as well as his christ is cursed and not true–Your false god is cursed as is your founder joeseph smith

      Reject the christ of joeseph smith

      May 14, 2012 at 5:52 am |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Bill I want to cross examine your witness.

      My guess is Peter is going to claim the same witness. So this could be a two-fer in the deposition.

      Your witness has my address and knows the questions to be asked. Just need to get it official, like St Thomas.

      May 14, 2012 at 5:55 am |
    • toughcrowd

      peter, I'm trying to help you out here...the "Christ of Joseph Smith", whether YOU believe it or not, is the same one every other Christian denomination believes in. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is...

      May 14, 2012 at 5:57 am |
    • peter

      toughcrowd–the truth is that the only ones who believes the christ that joeseph smith wrote about in the book of mormon and preached about are mormons-I say again cursed is the christ and the spirit from which joeseph smith spoke of and wrote about in the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ

      May 14, 2012 at 6:03 am |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Toughcrowd, considering what you and Peter have traded in posts, it is disingenuous to say you trying to help him out.

      But in your heart of hearts, do you think Peter would buy into that Trojan horse? He is a tough ole coot, I don't think so.

      May 14, 2012 at 7:28 am |
    • toughcrowd

      Whoa, Orwell seen it before! How is trying to get peter to be less hateful being disingenuous?!?

      If you don't see eradicating biases from one's life – ESPECIALLY when they are based on incorrect assumptions about what a group of people believes – as a helpful thing, then there really is nothing to discuss here.

      Are you kidding me? I don't know/care if he is an old coot or not...having a hate-fulled heart is not a positive thing!

      May 14, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • Orwell seen it before

      I hear you tough crowd, you can take Peter to water but he is still gonna hate Mormons. Good Luck dealing with religious nut cases, Democrats are having similar problems, getting them to be tolerant. He is still going to hate you.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  17. MormonMom

    I am a lifelong Mormon. What a lot of people don't realize is that there is a lot of diversity in the church. It's easy to pick a few doctrines that sound weird, or some of the unflattering history of Joseph Smith, and slap the label "cult." And I do understand how people could label it as such. But .... there are many Mormons that don't necessarily believe that being a member of the LDS church is the end all be all for getting into heaven. I believe as do most others i think that God loves all his children and is equally available and accessible regardless of the particular religious organization someone chooses to attend. I do get all the criticism of Joseph Smith – kinda always had a problem with him even as a child, and never could come up with an legitimate explanation for polygamy. But, as far as churches go, it's a pretty good one to belong to. Without a doubt it teaches self-reliance, personal responsibility, thrift, service, a strong work ethic, honesty, love of Country. It has a remarkable self-sustaining welfare system, job-training and employment specialists. It teaches children to appreciate this beautiful Earth, treat others with respect, and above all else the importance of family. It is run by its own members, and most of the talks from the pulpit (by 2 or 3 different members of the congregation each week) are about the atonement, humility, charity, service, Christ's life, free agency etc. There are Repubs anjd Dems in the church, and I have zero fear that the Church leaders will have any influence over Mitt Romney as a President. Prop 8 has been recognized by the Church as a mistake, and a big deviation from the apolitical stance it adheres to. While the Church's official position is still against gay marriage, as most other religions are, there is no question they realize that their participation was not a decision they would make again and are actively trying to preach tolerance and love towards the LGBT community. So, if you want to honestly debate the issue of a Mormon president, stop pulling up texts and statements made in the early days fo the church. We know some of it is crap and the Church has even admitted that these were not doctrines being taught. Personally, I don't believe in a planet called Kolob and that has never been taught to me at church. I am a professional women, and no church leader has ever tried to suggest that my life choices are wrong (ie, not barefoot, pregnant and stay at home mom - even though I actually wish I could be) or that I am unwelcome with my questions and doubts.

    May 14, 2012 at 5:28 am |
    • toughcrowd

      I've been trying to relay a very similar message for a while on this thread. Unfortunately, there are some who don't care. They hate Mormons because they are Mormons, period.

      May 14, 2012 at 5:35 am |
    • peter

      The ossie isn't this so called planet kolob or magic underwear The issue is that the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ written by the cursed man joeseph smith is not the word of God. Cursed is the jesus christ, joeseph smith wrote about and preached about–you mam are not a christian though you are correct by calling yourself a mormon mom

      I voted for santorum in the primary and will be sitting out the gen election because i don't vote for mormons. mormon mother–the book of mormon is either the word of God or it is not–I submit to you that it is not

      May 14, 2012 at 5:35 am |
    • Kebos

      Pick and choose, like a Chinese menu. Mormonism is an act of fiction. Of that, there is no doubt. Ok, if it mills out good people who support mankind, great. But all these things can be achieved without self-delusion in a doctrine that is fictional.

      May 14, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • setnommarih

      Although I think all religions are just mythology, I believe someone who faithfully follows the tenets of their religion and questions dogma when needed is doing the best for their beliefs.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • MormonMom

      Peter
      You can label me anything you want–doesn't change my life one bit. And whether the Book of Mormon is the word of God or not is really not relevant to the topic. There are plenty of people that think your beliefs are as wacky and absurd as you may think mine are. Believe all you want about the ultimate consequence of believing in our respective religions –you can be in heaven, me in hell–but the question to ask yourself is why would your hatred of a religion be so all-consuming that you would actually choose not to exercise the profound privilege to vote? If you supported Santorum, what kind of logic are you using to vote for Obama, because that is exactly what you will be doing by default. I guess civic responsibility is not part of your "Christianity." Romney's policies are much closer to your first-choice candidate than are Obama's.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  18. Locksmith

    I wonder if there is some sort of ... statement somewhere, that clearly devides religious activities from state run activities.
    Something that maybe "seperates" them somehow.
    They write that into law!! "God" forbid some crazy whack job with a cooky religion comes to run the country, and pushes their whacked up theology into politics! Wow, would that be something crazy huh?

    May 14, 2012 at 4:54 am |
    • toughcrowd

      I agree.

      "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."

      May 14, 2012 at 5:30 am |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Toughcrowd –

      Where does that citation come from? Who are these Mormon experts? Are they Mormons?

      "the Spanish inquisition never happened and no one died or was tortured" I am looking for this citation also, if you find it let me know bro.

      May 14, 2012 at 6:04 am |
    • toughcrowd

      Orwell seen it before, it came from the article, too bad you didn't read it.

      I'm willing to go along with that statement because it jives with what I've witnessed and experienced.

      As I was not alive during the Spanish inquisition, I cannot speak to that.

      P.S. Why do you assume I am a "bro"?

      May 14, 2012 at 7:25 am |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    America needs prayer
    The world needs prayer
    Prayer changes things

    May 14, 2012 at 4:47 am |
    • kerfluffle

      Proof?

      May 14, 2012 at 7:04 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!.*!~

      May 14, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  20. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things-

    May 14, 2012 at 4:24 am |
    • setnommarih

      Yes, it makes the pray-er feel better.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!.*!~~

      May 14, 2012 at 10:48 am |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.