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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 the Historian

    Apologize all mormons for your ancestors and many secret "True" mormons who do practice polygamy ? Talk about family values !!!!

    May 14, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  2. John the Historian

    Jesus Christ did not preach to any American Indians period and there are no golden tablets for Joseph Smith.

    May 14, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  3. Maff

    Dont mormons also believe they will one day be a "god" of their own world? And that God of this world is only one of many?

    May 14, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Ex

      Here is what Mormons believe about being gods & goddesses:

      Speaking in the Tabernacle on August 8, 1852, Brigham Young stated,

      "The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like Himself; when we have been proved in our present capacity, and been faithful with all things He puts into our possession. We are created, we are born for the express purpose of growing up from the low estate of manhood, to become Gods like unto our Father in heaven. That is the truth about it, just as it is" (Journal of Discourses 3:93).

      ---------

      There is little doubt that the goal of every faithful male Latter-day Saint is to one day be elevated to the level of an infinite God and rule and reign over his own personal kingdom. Mormon Apostle James Talmage wrote:

      "We believe in a God who is Himself progressive, whose majesty is intelligence; whose perfection consists in eternal advancement - a Being who has attained His exalted state by a path which now His children are permitted to follow, whose glory it is their heritage to share" (The Articles of Faith, p. 430).

      ---------

      Mormon Apostle Orson Pratts explains:

      "Each God, through his wife or wives, raises up a numerous family of sons and daughters; indeed, there will be no end to the increase of his own children: for each father and mother will be in a condition to multiply forever and ever. As soon as each God has begotten many millions of male and female spirits, and his Heavenly inheritance becomes too small, to comfortably accommodate his great family, he, in connection with his sons, organizes a new world, after a similar order to the one which we now inhabit, where he sends both the male and female spirits to inhabit tabernacles of flesh and bones. Thus each God forms a world for the accommodation of his own sons and daughters who are sent forth in their times and seasons, and generations to be born into the same. The inhabitants of each world are required to reverence, adore, and worship their own personal father who dwells in the Heaven which they formerly inhabited" (The Seer, p. 37).

      May 14, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  4. John the Historian

    Romney said he would do more for Gays and lesbians than Ted Kennedy what a flip flopper.

    May 14, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  5. Snow

    can any good mormon tell me something about your doctrine.. how did the doctrine change about polygamy and when girls are ready for marriage? did god change his mind? or did the prophet who originally preached it was proven wrong?

    In either case what kind of god/doctrine do you follow that changes its tone at every whim? and how true is the doctrine about every other thing mentioned in it?

    May 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  6. John the Historian

    Warren Jeffs are new pastor in chief.

    May 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  7. John the Historian

    Will Romney want to pardon his disciple Warren Jeffs and his pedophile mormon ideology ?

    May 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • DPCA

      Good heavens, don't you know that Jeff's (FLDS) so called church is a spin off of the real LDS church and is obviously a church that is not recognized nor accepted by the LDS. They still practice polygamy among other things and control Colorado City, AZ like they owned it. Most of Jeff's leaders including himself are certifiable nutjobs. That includes the local sheriff's department.

      Romney has nothing, nada, zilch, nil to do with that church and their people. Anyone who believes that Jeffs is a real leader or prophet is as delusional as he is.

      May 14, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  8. John the Historian

    Jesus Christ did not preach to the American Indians around 600 AD no historical facts to suppor that. The book of mormon is pure fiction. They only banned polygamy in Utah because they wanted to become a state in 1890 historical fact. Brigham Young was a pedophile as was Joseph Smith and his non-existent gold tablets.

    May 14, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Warren

      You're right Jesus Christ didn't preach in the Americas during 600 AD. The Book of Mormon doesn't say he did. Maybe you should read it before you try to comment on it. Just sayin'.

      May 14, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • DPCA

      Maybe you should change your name from John the Historian to John the know nothing.

      May 14, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Maff

      according to the book or mormon, the Lamanite people are said to have been converted by Jesus. Many of the mormon faith believe the Lamanite people to be the people indigenous to what we today call america.

      May 14, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  9. mormons god lives on kolob and gives free magic underwear

    The mormon cult are a sick bunch and as everyone can see Romneys mormons are out in force trying to spin it to make their cult look like angels lol,Go to back to kolob you sickos,quit distorting the christian religion.

    May 14, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • alien236

      If you're a Christian then I'm Harrison Ford.

      May 14, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  10. Janet Mitchell

    WHY THE PUBLIC HONES IN ON OUR TEMPLE GARMENTS SHOWS ME THAT IT IS THE ONLY NEGATIVE THING IN THEIR THINKING. THEY CAN MAKE FUN OF. YES, WE GO TO THE TEMPLE, WHERE WE MAKE COVENANTS WHICH ARE INDIVIDUALLY SACRED TO US, TO TRY AND LIVE LIFE ON A HIGHER PLANE, AND WE ACCEPT THE WEARING OF THESE GARMENTS AS A DAILY REMINDER OF THOSE COVENANTS WE MAKE. WE TAKE THEM OFF TO DO SPORTS (RUNNING, BASKETBALL, SWIMMING, JOGGING,ETC), WE REMOVE THEM AT LEAST ONCE A DAY TO BATHE, AND WE TRY TO USE COMMON SENSE IN MAKING SURE THEY OFFEND NO ONE. WE DO BELIEVE THEY HELP US TO REMEMBER TO HAVE DAILY PRAYER, READ THE SCRIPTURES (BOTH TH BIBLE AND BOOK OF MORMON) HELP US TO TRY AND BE GOOD CITIZENS AND RESPECT OTHERS. THEY ARE NOT MAGICAL. THEY ARE SIMPLY A VERY PRESENT REMINDER OF OUR COVENANTS.
    COVENANTS AND OATHS WE TAKE SERIOUSLY, AND TRY TO LIVE, NONE OF THEM BEING HARMFUL IN ANY WAY. SHAPE OR FORM TO OURSELVVES OR OTHERS. JUST TO BE GOOD FAMILY PARTICIPANTS, AND GOOD CITIZENS, BE CHAIRITABLE AND FORGIVING. I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOUR DEFINITION OF A CULT IS, BUT I AM FREE TO ABIDE BY THE RULES OR NOT, I CAN LEAVE MY MEMBERSHIP WITHOUT FEAR OR HARM IF I WERE TO CHOOSE TO DO SO. MY GUILT WOULD BE NO MORE THAN THAT OF ANYONE ELSE RAISED IN A SPECIFIC BELIEF, AND MY FREEDOM TO CHOOSE HOW TO RUN MY LIFE IS MINE, NOT THAT OF THE CHURCH. I MAY ACCEPT THEIR BELIEFS IN SOME THINGS, BUT NOT ALL IF I I MAKE THAT CHOICE. THE GAMENTS PLAY AN IMPORTANT PART IN MY CHOICE, BUT THEY DO NOT OVER RIDE MY LIFE. PLEASE, STUDY THE CHURCH BEFORE YOU GIVE VIEWS THAT ARE HASTY AND IN-CORRECT. WE FORCE NO ONE TO ACCEPT OUR VIEWS, ONLY TO INVITE THEM TO LISTEN, AND WE TRY TO LIVE BY GOOD STANDARD AND EXAMPLES.

    May 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • joesoph was a con man

      Yeah your the magical underwear boy lol,you can try to make it appear different to try and trick us but we all know how twisted and perverted your beliefs are,you and your skidmarked underwear can go back to kolob where your so called god hangs out rofl,magical underwaer is a classic rofll.

      May 14, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • LostinSLC

      Janet ignore the trolls, they just feed off their own flesh. I am not LDS but have lived in SLC for 28 years and know it isn't a cult. I may not agree with the history of your church, but I do agree with the values your members try to live by. Remember to keep your head high for yourself and your faith.

      May 14, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  11. Craig

    Lookout, here comes the religious bigots and hatemongers.

    May 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  12. Oh Boy

    Wow how tolerant you dems are. Mormon's dont hurt any one but you scorn them. Radical islamists hurt people and you guys will be the first to declare for people to be tolerant. How hipocritical.

    May 14, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  13. messanger

    1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

    2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.

    3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

    4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

    6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

    7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

    8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

    9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

    10. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

    11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

    12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

    13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

    Joseph Smith

    May 14, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • John

      There you go. Finally something posted about Mormons that is true.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Maff

      Dont the mormons also believe they will one day be a "god" of their own world? And that God of this world is only one of many?

      May 14, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • ?!?!

      @Maff

      no, it is not like that... that would be taking a few things out of context.

      May 14, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Ex

      @Maff – Here is a better description of the godhood thing:

      Speaking in the Tabernacle on August 8, 1852, Brigham Young stated,

      "The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like Himself; when we have been proved in our present capacity, and been faithful with all things He puts into our possession. We are created, we are born for the express purpose of growing up from the low estate of manhood, to become Gods like unto our Father in heaven. That is the truth about it, just as it is" (Journal of Discourses 3:93).

      ---------

      There is little doubt that the goal of every faithful male Latter-day Saint is to one day be elevated to the level of an infinite God and rule and reign over his own personal kingdom. Mormon Apostle James Talmage wrote:

      "We believe in a God who is Himself progressive, whose majesty is intelligence; whose perfection consists in eternal advancement - a Being who has attained His exalted state by a path which now His children are permitted to follow, whose glory it is their heritage to share" (The Articles of Faith, p. 430).

      ---------

      Mormon Apostle Orson Pratts explains:

      "Each God, through his wife or wives, raises up a numerous family of sons and daughters; indeed, there will be no end to the increase of his own children: for each father and mother will be in a condition to multiply forever and ever. As soon as each God has begotten many millions of male and female spirits, and his Heavenly inheritance becomes too small, to comfortably accommodate his great family, he, in connection with his sons, organizes a new world, after a similar order to the one which we now inhabit, where he sends both the male and female spirits to inhabit tabernacles of flesh and bones. Thus each God forms a world for the accommodation of his own sons and daughters who are sent forth in their times and seasons, and generations to be born into the same. The inhabitants of each world are required to reverence, adore, and worship their own personal father who dwells in the Heaven which they formerly inhabited" (The Seer, p. 37).

      May 14, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  14. Mark

    Look, Im not exactly a god-fearing neo christian, but like most of us I grew up with the basic tenants of Christianity as the building blocks of American society. That anyone would even consider trusting the reins of government to ANYONE who believies the Saint's line of hooey about Nabob or whoever the hell acted as prophet for the native populations here.. Really.. you think it's ok to let someone like that be the head guy? I'm a veteran, I fought for my country, as does my son. I think budhism has something to it. Live and let live are guiding words for me.. and I am more than happy to let whoever wants to be a Mormon be one.. it's just this thought.. their whole story is the most rediculous thing I ever heard of.. It sounds like Mark Twain wrote it as a satire. Hey.. that makes for great scoutleaders or whatever. But president.. you have to be freaking kidding.

    May 14, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • big bluff

      Vote for Obama then. Yea I didn't think so.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • MikeB

      Enduring principles of civility are adopted by most Faiths that have 'Service' to 'Others' as there core tenant of Faith.
      The founding Fathers had these enduring principle in mind and had the intent that they would serve 'all' faiths that shared them.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • MikeB

      big bluff – Obama doesn't even keep his Oath of Office, much less have any adherence to enduring principles of civility.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • big bluff

      Totally agree i was calling Marks bluff.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Mark

      Big Bluff.. well actually I am voting for Obama.. What? yep you heard me..

      May 14, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • big bluff

      @ Mark, Exactly, your nothing but a prideful liberal board troll, who was never going to vote GOP anyway. BOO HOO

      May 14, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Orwell seen it before

      MikeB be hating Mark. Make him obey MikeB!

      May 14, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • John

      No offense but it is pretty clear from your statement that you don't know "the story."

      May 14, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Dan

      I guess a burning bush, or a woman turned to salt, or a man surviving inside the belly of a fish, or all the animals of the earth entering an ark... etc. etc. doesn't sound ridiculous to you either?

      May 14, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  15. John

    Pity there is so much hatred from many of these people. They are so full of hate that they refuse to collect and analyze accurate information. I hope one day we can all be friends :) Have a good day people.

    May 14, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Todd Morgan

      I agree. most people have never studied mormonism from a believers perspective, and even if they have, there is no reason for hate. I have friends that are catholic, christian, non-practicing, jews, and agnostic. I do not doubt that they follow their beleifs and if they wanted to know more about mormons I'd be happy to tell them, but that in NO WAY dimishes their own beliefs and I believe people are free to believe what they feel like in their heart they should believe

      May 14, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  16. selena

    As a catholic I cannot support the slander the mormons have done to the bible.The mormons are a cult and i do not support their cult in any way shape or form,I am disgusted by their teachings and hope people can see how perverted they are.

    May 14, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • John

      As a Latter-Day Saint, I'm curious as to how we have slandered the Bible. I have the King James Version of the Bible. I believe it is the word of God and I read it regularly.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • messanger

      Right from LDS site.

      1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

      2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.

      3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

      4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

      5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

      6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

      7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

      8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

      9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

      10. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

      11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

      12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

      13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

      Joseph Smith

      May 14, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Orwell seen it before

      If you can vote Santorum, you can vote Bishop Mitt. Just do it.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Snow

      As a human I cannot support the slander the christians, especially catholics have done to the humanity.The christians, especially catholics are a cult and i do not support their cult in any way shape or form,I am disgusted by their teachings and hope people can see how perverted they are.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  17. catholic engineer

    The many anti-Mormon comments posted here don't tell us much about Mormonism, but a lot about the blogger.

    May 14, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Snow

      .. and notice how many of those derisive remarks are from "god fearing christians" of other denominations? that does say a lot about christians in general now, doesn't it?

      May 14, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  18. Mormon magical underwear

    Anyone who believes this mormon garbage needs to go see a shrink,sorry but underwear does not have power and god is not at planet kolob lol,plese do the public a favor and wash your mormon magical underwear,we know that the most devout never takes them off and they muct be pretty nasty on a man of Romneys age lol.Say not to Bishop Skidmark and his magical brainwasing undies!!!

    May 14, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Todd Morgan

      Mormons do not believe in magic underwear. that is a slanderous, bigoted comment which was propogated by anti-mormons. Read the truth here:
      http://ldswitness.com/mitt-romney-underwear-what-mormons-believe

      May 14, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • MikeB

      Juvenile and Uniformed. Perhaps even a bit ?

      May 14, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • DPCA

      Wow, I am continually amazed by the stupidity and hatred of some people. Almost laughing too hard to type this reply.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  19. browncreative

    There is a lot of mean spirited slander occurring in these comments. Check out this official website produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that answers many of the difficult questions brought up here.

    http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/mormonism-101

    May 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • joesoph was a con man

      of course your churches websight will make you all loke so wonderfull,a tool used to get more cult membes,sorry we know better.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  20. Mormon magical underwear

    Say no to the MORMON MAGICAL UNDERWEAR CULT,WE DO NOT WANT YOUR SKIDMARKED UNDERWEAR IN THE OVAL OFFICE,GO BACK TO PLANET KOLOB

    May 14, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.