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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. John

    I'm always amazed at the ignorance that is still found among the general population. "Mormons" (Latter-Day Saints) are not even close to those break-off groups that still call themselves "Mormons." Do people nowadays honestly still believe that LDS members support any form of child or women abuse? Really? Women and children are held in the highest regard in the LDS religion. The absolute highest. Please re-educate yourselves. There is no tolerated abuse. There is no polygamy.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • nikki21

      Of course you will say that,like you will admit to things that will get you or your church arrested lol.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Use your brain

      Yes, the ignorance on this board is crazy. All people need to do is A) read the article, B) visit the official Mormon site to see what they believe and C) meet a Mormon and talk with them. Unfortunately, any call for civility is usually shot down by the ignorant and intolerant.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Not sure what the issue is with this poor woman, Nikky is but must have been traumatized in her youth or something. Reading the ignorant posts on here is amazing.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Freedom From Religion

      More lies . . . .

      May 28, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  2. Marie Paul

    got mixed up with these people for a while. can tell you that it is all made up and used for control.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  3. Jay

    This is incredible- every time I think we are making progress in this country, I make the mistake of visiting a CNN comment board. Unbelievable how stupid these comments are. I think every Redneck in America makes a comment whenever the Mormon topic makes it into a CNN piece. Well done, America!

    May 14, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      It's not incredible – it's AMAZING the ignorance and hatred that CNN espouses on their website. They support bigotry at CNN or this type of discussion would be nixed. I'm not surprised at all by this.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  4. obsthetimes

    utterly irresponsible!
    What about running a story on Lansing Michigan being an Arab stronghold and NYC being a Jewish stronghold?
    Secondly as an Atheist, I can say that Mormonism like Scientology at least makes an attempt to incorporate and account for the vast cosmos and makes much more sense then the traditional judeo christian fare. God made the earth in 6 days, rested on the 7th, pfffff.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Use your brain

      Atheism is a religion. If you don't believe in a superior power or being, why not just say you don't know and claim agnostic?

      Note: You seem to know very little about what more Christians believe and/or are taught. You grab an extreme and use that as your basis for non-belief. And do you even have the guts to express what you believe ("big planet blew up, life started, we evolved from fish and then monkeys...")

      May 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  5. Independant jack

    Mormons are not christians period.They are a bunch of cons that brainwash their people,Its funny seeing all the mormons trying to spin their phoney religion,im sure they will say and do anything to try and get christians to accept them even though they are a cult. They wil deny claims of how they use and brainwash their members ,and want to put bishop Romney in charge so they can brainwash the rest of us. Say no to the cult! Dont believe their lies! Always remember they are a cult and will lie and say anything to get you on their side.

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

      Hey Independent Jack, Aren't Islam and Christianity cults too. On revering the god head of Jesus and the other the prophet hood of Mohammed, pbuh ? Do you even understand the meaning of the word: 'Cult' ?

      May 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Davis

      Pfffffft.....man, you are pretty funny....lol!!!!!

      May 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • obsthetimes

      Slightly overrepresented?
      How about counting just the 13 israeli senators out of 100 ? That 13 %, much more than the 2.5% of the population.
      And that's not counting people in the house of representatives. These guys have kidnapped US foreign policy.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Use your brain

      Crazy boy has posted his ramblings.

      Mormons are people–just like anyone else. They live their lives and try to be good citizens/fathers/mothers/children. They aren't perfect and never claim to be.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Diana

      The mormon church creates good parents, children, citizens, workers etc etc etc the church its open for everybody all the time.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Joe Brit

      Sadly you believe such silliness. I for one believe in the ideals found in John 3. Meaning a belief that by and through Christ alone we are saved. If this makes me a member of a cult then I guess according to you I am a member of a cult. Oh and I am a Mormon.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Hey, Indy –

      What a funny little post you just wrote for us. Nice to read some humor in the morning – just wondering what happened in your youth – were you abused? Did something major happen to become such a hate-filled boy? Wow – amazing to read your ignorant statements and the "would" be funny but they are so off – it's just sad to see someone post such ignorance. Poor Indy!

      May 14, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  6. dmj874

    Words are funny things aren't they. It's always amusing to me how people who throw inflammatory words around become completely stupefied when asked to define what a word actually means. There's so much discussion about whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a cult. Well, here you go:

    cult/kəlt/
    Noun:
    1- A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.
    2- A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.

    Well number one describes pretty much every Christian faith. Number two doesn't fit well, unless you consider 14 million a small number.

    So the answer is yes and no. Since the first definition given is typically the most important one, then I guess the answer is yes; along with the Catholics, the Evangelicals, the Presbyterians....... Guess what? Christianity is a cult.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  7. dufreyne

    This wasn't a piece about "mormons", it was PURE PROPAGANDA. You simply showcased anything and everything that can be viewed as positive about the LDS church without mentioning the bad–and there is plenty of bad about the LDS church...

    May 14, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • TSB8C

      'Plenty of bad' – such as?

      May 14, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • joe schmo

      Name some. Please be accurate and back up your statements with precise facts.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  8. NorCalMojo

    Give me magic underwear over race baiting preachers any day of the week.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  9. Paul

    Mormons believe priesthood authority has been restored again in our day. Priesthood is defined as the authority given to man to act in the name of God. They believe God has called apostles and a prophet to lead them. Scary Scary thought. I wish Mormons would actually read about the historical Jesus, and history of the Catholic Church. Jesus was a Jew who had visions of Israel returning to glory- and the end of times during his apostles lifetime. He was most likely a delusional rabbi. Christians and Mormons both took an ancient Bronze aged religion and twisted and turned it into something else. Mormons should learn a little more about Jewish history, and the old Hebrew religion which this nonsense is all based on.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  10. Mormon magical underwear

    YeAH LETS ALL SUPPORT A WACKJOB THAT BELIEVES HIS UNDERWEAR PROTECTS HIM FROM EVIL LOLS.They also believe that only the most devout shall never take them off lol.I will never support anybody that is crazy enough to believe this crap lol,SORRY CAPTAIN SKIDMARK BUT I WILL NOT VOTE FOR MAGICAL UNDERWEAR MAN LOL..THE MORMONS ARE OUT TRYING TO HIDE AND DENY CLAIMS OF HOW MESSED UP THEIR CHURCH IS<DONT BELIEVE THEM WHAT DO YA EXPECT THE MORMANS TO SAY<THEY WILL NEVR ADMIT THEY ARE A CULT THAT MOLESTS WOMEN AND CHILDREN AND COMMITS BIGEMY,THEY ENSLAVE WOMEN THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT CHRISTIAN THEY ARE WEIRDOS,WAKE UP AMERICA DONT BELIEVE THE MORMAN CULT,THEY ARE OUT IN FORCE TODAY PROTECTING THEIR CASH COW ROMNEY.

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

      I'd rather have magical underwear than your caps lock key any day of the week...

      May 14, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Davis

      Man, you are a yahoo.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • matt

      CLEARLY you have NO CLUE what you are talking about. Nothing you said in your ridiculous little comment makes any sense what-so-ever. They do not believe their underwear is "Magic" and they most definately DO NOT molest their women and children!!!! YOU ARE INSANE! How can you honestly believe that garbage! YOU MAKE ME SICK!!!!!!!! Do youself a favor and EDUCATE YOURSELF instead of believing ridiculous garbage like that!

      May 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • brett

      It is apparent that you are not very educated. If you want people to believe what you say, you need to educate yourself in order to present a valid argument to them. There is a "problem" with becoming educated though...you lose ignorance. When ignorance is lost, you will realize everything you said above is false.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      I love these comments – taken from some sort of "anti-Mormon" comic book or something. If ignorance if bliss – you must be the most relaxed human on the planet. Some of the funniest comments I have ever read – thanks for the stupidity to lighten up my morning read. Now – go back to the asylum for a wee bit more medication!!!

      May 14, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • nairb247

      Seriously Magical, this was about the dumbest post ever made in the history of posts. Never in your rambling did you make a rational thought or comment. Everyone who read this post is now dumber for having read it.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  11. Herbie

    I always thought that the temple in DC was the land of "OZ"....

    May 14, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  12. Mormon magical underwear

    YeAH LETS ALL SUPPORT A WACKJOB THAT BELIEVES HIS UNDERWEAR PROTECTS HIM FROM EVIL LOLS.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  13. Conservative Christian

    Mormons are a twisted religious cult that turns women and children into victims of molestation and assault,they control and brainwash their followers and turn to violence toward the women and children if they do not fall in line with their the teachings.These cultists are twisted manipulating the bible to fit their opwn perverted needs,and they worship the book of mormon and worship the PHONEY JOESOEPH SMITH as their messiah.These cultists are not christians and sthey turn christianity into a joke. I will not sell out my faith to support or vote for a man who believes in this garbage,I can only hope the gop learns its lession and comes fourth with an honest cristian not a cultist for our gop candidate,until then they will not have my support or my churches supoport,we will not vote for molesting ,women beating cultists.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Dave

      You are seriously misinformed. Malicious women beating cultists? Seriously, you need to read from more sources than just 'ihatemormons.com'. A little credibility in your assaults goes a long way. Isn't it ironic though that the person claiming to be christian is the one slanderng the beliefs of others. You are fear mongering fool

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

      Aside from your grammatical and spelling errors, your ramblings above are completely off base. Please come out of your cave and join the rest of us…the real world and truth are beautiful things.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • souptwins

      In trying to give you the benefit of the doubt– Perhaps you are confused with Mormons, as in the main LDS church headquartered in SLC and the FLDS splinter groups located in Texas. They practice polygamy and force young girls into marriage & are lead by Warren Jeffs. These two are VERY different. Chances are you know and respect some Mormons without realize it. Maybe you should ask around your neighborhood or work place to see. You would be welcome to respectfully attend a Sunday service and see for yourself. I'm sure there a meeting house within driving distance of you home.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      You are one funny writer.... and profess to be a "christian"?? That's a good one as well. Your ignorance is amazing – yet you post some of the stupidest comments as "facts" – that's rich. The Bigots on this post are quite exposed now.... and you are one of them – What happened when you were a child? Were you hurt? molested? Abused? Something must have happened to you to have this much pent up hatred. Poor CC – we all feel quite sorry for you and your twisted ideas. Good luck with your therapist.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  14. Ex

    I love the well placed sunburst-halo behind the head of Harry Reid in that photo!

    May 14, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  15. big love

    You guys where almost there, you stopped polygamy (at least to the public eye, you did). You curtailed the child molestation and the wedding of you 14year old incest/inbreed daughters. Now decry James Smith and maybe, just Maybe Mormon can be considered a religion instead of a cult in20 years!

    May 14, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • brett

      You're not very educated. So go on in your ignorance...you will never amount to anything because people like you are a dime a dozen.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  16. kenny

    how in the efff can a normal person rationalize the bs that makes up the mormon religion? can someone tell me??? At least with other religions they were so long ago we have no real proof or evidence so we can't REALLY say they are complete bs... but with mormons it was a 150 yrs ago... maybe brain scans would tell us that their imaginary cortex bleeds into their reality dome or something... anything... seriously... religion IS delusion and we wonder why politics is screwed up.... the fukkers are DELUSIONAL BY DEFINITION!!!!!!!

    May 14, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  17. ShawnDH

    Mormonism is ridiculous...even more ridiculous than most religions which are all pretty stupid if you think about it.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Walter

      If the mormons have a strong hold in DC, the FBI better get busy quick and go in with guns blazing and bust them up. It's only a matter of time before those mormon wackos pull another stunt like they did in Waco Texas. You would think the FBI would have learned a lesson in Texas and not let those mormons set up in another state and dig there roots in. I say tear gas them all and bust em up.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Walter- Waco was Branch Davidians,offshoot of 7day adventist, not Mormons. You may be thinking of Jeffries, which was somewhere else in Texas, and is an offshoot of Mormons, get your facts straight. Mainstream Mormons are not part of Jeffries' organization. It is so hard to keep all these religions sorted out. Anybody know how many estimated religions humanity has created? A number please! Too many does not count.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  18. CULT

    Joseph Smith was a con-artist who invented the ultimate con to rob the gullible and molest the innocent.......the Mormon Cult.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Dave

      Name calling and slandering convinces nobody. It just exposes your lack of intellectual ammunition.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Another poor abused,. molested SOB on CNN trying to sound intelligent.... sorry, it's not working. Get some facts before you open your mouth again – your ignorance is so sad.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  19. SlaveWorld

    God isn't Real, Jesus didn't die for anyone, and the Jews are not chosen. See how easy that was?

    May 14, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      .... and what do you believe in? ha ha ha...

      May 15, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  20. kdf

    just as i thought... got through a small handful of comments and got very bored very quickly. Sadly, I think most of you would use the same comment if the article was about Jews or Catholics or Muslims or any other religion, so, I shall not waste any more of my time.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • intel

      Well aren't you the intellectual? No princess. Other religions have my respect. This is strictly about the Mormon cult. They have flown under the radar far too long. There members are brainwashed fools. What is scary is the agenda they have for America. Google the White Horse Prophecy. You won't believe it.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • LinSea

      @intel, that so-called prophecy is NOT LDS DOCTRINE. It never has been.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Poor little Intel – must have been abused as a child or something sad. Such an angry little man – what happened? Why the bee in your butt? You might want to get some facts correct before you look like more of a fool with your posts. Such an ignorant post – sad sad sad.....

      May 15, 2012 at 11:12 am |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.