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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. smk

    In Quran God speaks to the whole humanity....

    “Proclaim, He is the One and only GOD. The Absolute GOD. Never did He beget. Nor was He begotten. None equals Him." [112:1]

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    “No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]

    It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is. [19:35]

    God will say, "O Jesus, son of Mary did you say to the people, `Make me and my mother idols beside God?' " He will say, "Be You glorified. I could not utter what was not right. Had I said it, You already would have known it. You know my thoughts, and I do not know Your thoughts. You know all the secrets.[5:116]

    The Messiah, son of Mary is no more than a messenger like the messengers before him, and his mother was a saint. Both of them used to eat the food. Note how we explain the revelations for them, and note how they still deviate! [5:75]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to clear your misconception by going to whyIslam org website.

    May 15, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
  2. Exfl

    Mormonism overtly discriminated against African-Americans until 1978. It is still a religious culture dominated by white males. Therefore it should come as no surprise that relatively few Democrats are drawn to it, but that is is a good fit for the republicans whose policies elevate the white male at the expense of women and minorities.

    May 15, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • gop usa

      Mormons are wacko cultists,they believe in magical underwear,believe their god lives on planet kolob,they believe in the book of mormon and distort the real teachings of god.They worship the con man Joesoph Smith who was a rapist,molester,murderer,polyigimist.These are people making a mockery of what christianity is all about.

      May 16, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  3. ReasonSeason

    I'm an active LDS church member (truly active) and work hard and try to be better in my community, family, work, etc. I'm not perfect by and means, and I know that there are LDS members who don't treat others well, but I'm always surprised when people have so much hatred. I certainly hope that the works of the church and its members show the real religion believed.

    May 15, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • peter

      reasonseason–it does not matter what you do nor how moral you are. The fact is the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ is not the word of God. You worship a false god and a false christ –cursed is your prophet

      May 15, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • .

      Peter is a liar, a cheat, and a thief!

      May 15, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • peter

      lets say i am a liar,a cheat and a thief-doesn't change the truth–the truth is that the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ is not the word of God–the truth speaks for itself

      May 15, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • What???

      If we sing a song, what song can we sing to please God? If we build, what building can we build that could please God? If paint, what portrait can we paint that would please God? If we kill how many can we kill to please God? What can we do to please a God that is Omni present, Omni potant and Omniciant? Faith in Christ is the key and God raised Him from the dead.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
  4. Coolage

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ng-cn6cK6GA&w=640&h=390]

    May 15, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • peter

      coolage–Godbless the guy and his testimony–However, i just don't understand why he had to learn "what the church was really all about" or what he says he found out about joeseph smith that he didn't know. The truth is in the pudding–the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ-That is the lie in of itself

      May 15, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
  5. peter

    abini–since you mentioned scientology–watch the full interview of jason beghe on youtube–if he can snap out of the cult of scientology you can snap out of the cult of mormonism

    May 15, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Thank you Peter, I will watch it. Thank you for your help with all of my humble thanks!

      May 15, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  6. peter

    Abin it's not hard nor is there any pressure– all you have to do is think,"'you know that book fo mormon is not the word of God and is just the claims of a raving lunatic who lived in the mid 1800s" It takes less than a snap of the finger

    May 15, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  7. Jesus

    Actually "notsurprised" you seem scared by all of the information provided by your old prophet. It seems that anyone can dig up a lot of stuff on what your prophets have said and also point out that you mormons have to believe in your prophet's EVERY word without question...so that says a lot about you doesn't it? :o)

    May 15, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • Ryan

      Does anyone know if the snsuire accepted his offering? I knew Todd, but not very well. We saw each other socially about once a week for our FHE. Looking back, we actually had a lot in common ie interests, history, religion(although my family was never LDS), similar degrees (i majored in mechanical engineering, him biomechanical engineering), odd behavior I wonder how many people actually understand the reference in his suicide letter. It's not the ramblings of a maniac. I had no idea that Todd and I had similar taste in literature as well.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:29 am |
  8. John the Historian

    Will Warren Jeffs be released from prison and become our pastor-in-chief. Will Romney legalize polygamy ? Do his polygamists ancestors become saints ? Will the capital be moved to Nauvoo, Illinois ? Will the Supreme Court receive golden tablets from Joseph Smith and the archangel Gabriel ? Will Americans Indians be told they are automatically mormon because the fiction of the book of mormon said Jesus Christ preached to the American Indians ? Will the US be declared to be one of the tribes of Israel ? Will Statuary Hall be filled with statues of Brigham Young's wifes ??? Which bible will Romney in the unlikeley event of getting elected want to swear on King James or the fixtion of the book of mormon ? I wonder if any mormon cult follower has ever read Mark Twain's account of Brigham Young ?

    May 15, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  9. Abinadi

    I admit I am a megalomaniac paid by the Mormon church to spread it's propaganda. I also admit that I'm a pathological liar and my 12 step program hasn't been working as well as I need it too. I finally have to confess that I don't believe in the mormon church and they can't force me to spread it's propaganda any longer!!!! I'm taking back my power and even if I switch back and forth and say different things, I really, really need to deny my faith in the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints! Please help me by reminding me when I slip!

    May 15, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • peter

      abin you are not being paid nor are you lying–you trying believe the cursed prophet joeseph smith and his excrement–the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ

      May 15, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Abinadi it sounds like you need some ethical help. Being paid by Mormons, and not believing your religion sounds like they are not getting their monies worth.

      You could be close to a mental breakdown. Get professional help.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Abinadi

      So, this is your new tactic? You can't stand up to my words man to man so you steal my name. You are a thief and a low down coward!

      May 15, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • Mary

      Mormons don't' get paid for spreading the gospel. Are being truthful?

      May 15, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Abinadi

      See! I did it! I keep switching back and forth and I can't control it. Did you know the mormon church uses elecro-brainwashing???? I was a gay man that was forced through a program that the mormons have called EVERGREEN. They use electro-shock to program me to "make" me straight, but it screwed up my mind so much that I can't decide where or who I am!!! Please look up EVERGREEN through the mormon church so you can understand and help me!!!

      May 16, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  10. Abinadi

    Paul would be absolutely disgusted by the Mega Churches who sell the word of God and rake in millions. Ron Hubbard was heard to say that if he wanted to make a million dollars, he would start a church, and that is exactly what he did. Christianity has apostatized from the truth! Jeremiah said, " 11 Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. " 13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water."
    People no longer worship idols but they have replaced the idols with false churches – churches who preach watered down Christianity, churches which have no power to save them from their sins; churches that have no priesthood authority to perform the sacred ordinances, churches led by uninspired usurpers who pardon sinners in exchange for their money! Well did Christ say of them, "1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." (John 10) Of these he will say, " 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." A man or woman who is too proud to admit they are wrong and accept the truth will never see the Kingdom of God!
    “22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
    23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

    May 15, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • peter

      ron hubard and joeseph smith started their own false religions–But it is better for ron hubard than it is for the cursed prophet joeseph smith

      May 15, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  11. David Nelson

    This fluff piece does not even mention why the con-artist Joe Smith died. He was arrested for ordering the destruction of a printing press. The Nauvoo Expositor was going to expose his polygamy before his goons destroyed their equipment. In Joe Smith we saw a fledgling tyrant in the making. Smith shot three men, two of whom died in the battle at the jail where his life ended. And they have the nerve to declare him a christian martyr and act ike the Mormon's were a persecuted people. If you want christian martyrs, look to the Protestant trying to secure the right for all people to read the bible in their own languages. Rome killed millions and millions of them. They were truly christian martyrs.

    May 15, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • Tracy

      Thanks for telling the truth.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • Dylan

      So where did you get your information about Joseph Smith? You are mistaken.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
  12. Abinadi

    As man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become. We are eternal beings who lived before we were born in an heavenly family. Marriage performed by priesthood authority is eternal as are families. Little children who die before the age of eight are innocent and go directly to the Kingdom of God!  Think about it! Are you REALLY satisfied with your minister's or priest's explanations to your questions? Mormon.org

    May 15, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Sounds like circular reasoning.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • peter

      notsupirsed–christendom rejects you,your cursed prophet and your cursed christ and the cursed spirit that had you believe the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ-doesn't matter what you think i am,who i am or whatever–the truth speaks for itself–the truth is the book of mormon is not the word of God

      May 15, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • Tracy

      Sound like self serving nonsense. That is the whole idea of the Mormon church. Serve yourself, not others. About as anti-christian as you can be. Trying to subvert the teachings of Jesus while pretending to be a follower.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Wow, I can't believe that I am actually telling people that I will become a GOD when I die! I know that's what my church teaches me, but I just can't believe it anymore! It's blasphemy to put any other God before the ONE AND ONLY true god. There is not god that was once a man and I know deep inside that no matter how much I want it, I can't become a god myself!!!

      May 15, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Peter, you should listen to your self. You are a blasphemer! Well did Paul speak of you:

      1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
      2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
      3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
      4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
      5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
      6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
      7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (New Testament, 2 Timothy, Chapter 3)

      May 15, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Jesus

      Abinadi...it looks like that you can list out the faults of others with your condemnation and judgements and yet why are you throwing the first stone????

      May 15, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • peter

      abin–thats right I blasphem your cursed prophet and his cursed christ in hell forever and ever–Mormons are cursed even to the 7th generation

      May 15, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
  13. David Nelson

    Oh good grief. More pro-Mormon propaganda. I thought the College of Propaganda was in Rome.

    May 15, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  14. .

    Methinks the people who run CNN hate Mormons.

    I guess everybody has to hate someone.

    Might as well be someone who disagrees with your looney liberal politics.

    May 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Jesus

      Are you that self centered of an idiot? Did you read this CNN article? It's so PRO-mormon that it's basically being used as a conversion tool by anyone that can even get far enough to read it!!!

      May 15, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  15. nikki21

    SAY NO TO THE MORMON MAGICAL SKIDMARKED UNDERWEAR! SAY NO TO GOD LIVING ON PLANET KOLOB! SAY NO TO THE MOLESTER JOESOPH SMITH,SAY NO TO THE MOLESTERS BOOK OF MORMON!!!RPFLLL I BET YOU ARE ALL PRAYING IN YOUR SKIDMARKED UNDIES HOPING THEY WILL PROTECT YOU FROM BAD PRESS ROFLLL!!! SORRY CULTISTS YOU CAN SPIN IT OR LIE BECAUSE YOU ARE ASHAMED<I WOULD BE IF I THIS CRAP<BUT WE KNOW BETTER ROFLLL UNDERWEAR CULTISTS !!!!

    May 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Oh Cool – little nicki is back again..... such an angry soul. I hope you find something that perhaps can give you peace someday – you need to find something fun to do instead of spewing bigotry here. So sorry, Nicki.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  16. Jesus

    Troubling Quotes from the Second Prophet (leader) of the Mormon Church

    Brigham Young said your own blood must atone for some sins.

    "There is not a man or woman, who violates the covenants made with their God, that will not be required to pay the debt. The blood of Christ will never wipe that out, your own blood must atone for it . . . " (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 247; see also, vol. 4, p. 53-54, 219-220).

    Brigham Young said you must confess Joseph Smith as a prophet of God in order to be saved.

    "...and he that confesseth not that Jesus has come in the flesh and sent Joseph Smith with the fullness of the Gospel to this generation, is not of God, but is Antichrist," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 9, p. 312).

    Brigham Young said his discourses are as good as Scripture.

    "I say now, when they [his discourses] are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible . . . " (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 264; see also p. 95).

    Brigham Young said he had never given any counsel that was wrong.

    "I am here to answer. I shall be on hand to answer when I am called upon, for all the counsel and for all the instruction that I have given to this people. If there is an Elder here, or any member of this Church, called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who can bring up the first idea, the first sentence that I have delivered to the people as counsel that is wrong, I really wish they would do it; but they cannot do it, for the simple reason that I have never given counsel that is wrong; this is the reason." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 16, p. 161).

    Brigham Young compared his sermons with scripture.

    "I know just as well what to teach this people and just what to say to them and what to do in order to bring them into the celestial kingdom...I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture. Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve. The people have the oracles of God continually." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 95).

    Brigham Young said you are damned if you deny polygamy.

    "Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 266). Also, "The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 269).

    Brigham Young said you can't get to the highest heaven without Joseph Smith's consent.

    "...no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 289).

    Brigham Young boasted.

    "What man or woman on earth, what spirit in the spirit-world can say truthfully that I ever gave a wrong word of counsel, or a word of advice that could not be sanctioned by the heavens? The success which has attended me in my presidency is owing to the blessings and mercy of the Almighty . . . " (Journal of Discourses, vol. 12, p. 127).

    Brigham Young said Jesus' birth was as natural as ours.

    "The birth of the Savior was as natural as the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood–was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, p. 115).

    Brigham Young said that God the Father and Mary 'do it.'

    "When the time came that His first-born, the Saviour, should come into the world and take a tabernacle, the Father came Himself and favoured that spirit with a tabernacle instead of letting any other man do it," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, p. 218). "The birth of the Savior was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood - was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, p. 115). Note: the late Bruce McConkie who was a member of the First Council of the Seventy stated "There is nothing figurative about his paternity; he was begotten, conceived and born in the normal and natural course of events..." (Mormon Doctrine, by Bruce McConkie, p. 742).

    Brigham Young said that Jesus was not begotten by the Holy Spirit.

    "I have given you a few leading items upon this subject, but a great deal more remains to be told. Now, remember from this time forth, and for ever, that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 51).

    Brigham Young taught that Adam was God.

    "Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days! about whom holy men have written and spoken - He is our Father, and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do. Every man upon the earth, professing Christians or non professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 50).

    Brigham Young made a false prophecy?

    "In the days of Joseph [Smith] it was considered a great privilege to be permitted to speak to a member of Congress, but twenty-six years will not pass away before the Elders of this Church will be as much thought of as the kings on their thrones," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, p. 40).

    Brigham Young comments about blacks

    "You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind....Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 290).

    "In our first settlement in Missouri, it was said by our enemies that we intended to tamper with the slaves, not that we had any idea of the kind, for such a thing never entered our minds. We knew that the children of Ham were to be the "servant of servants," and no power under heaven could hinder it, so long as the Lord would permit them to welter under the curse and those were known to be our religious views concerning them." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 172).

    "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 110).

    Now if that last portion didn't strike you as unbelievably horrible, than imagine this....Mormons are taught to believe every word of their prophets as though they were the words of God: Unquestionable. And these are quotes from just one of their prophets.
    Now imagine the President of the USA being Mormon.....

    May 15, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      You sound worried, dude? It's nice you quote the Prophets but clearly don't have a clue what they are saying....

      May 15, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Orwell seen it before

      They seem to have a major conflict with science, seems to contradict with BOOK OF MORMON view that the World is 6000 years old. Details written by a Mormon official are located here.
      http://exmormon.org/d6/drupal/Letter-to-Elder-Holland-Book-of-Mormon

      NO to a Mormon POTUS that believes science is false because it contradicts with religious dogma.
      This person should not control the most powerful weapon devised by humanity, derived by science.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Abinadi

      @notsuprisedbymyself(bigots) I don't see how Jesus seems scared at all. He's quoting exactly, word for word what our prophet Brigham Young said. That is frightening, but not to just one person, but the whole race should a mormon tyrant actually take over the White House!

      May 15, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  17. Jesus

    WOW! What a HUGE article of propaganda written and forced upon CNN!!!!!! I have to say they have really gone out of their way with this one!

    May 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  18. loveroftruth

    While many of the "so called Christians" are on boards like this speaking evil unjustly of others, following Satan's example, here is an example of what the Mormon church actually does.

    http://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/content/english/pdf/welfare/2011-welfare-services-fact-sheet.pdf

    It talks about the over 200 major disaster relief efforts the Mormon church has been involved with donating over $1.4 billion, in aid all over the world to most not of their faith.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • peter

      cursed is your prophet and the christ he wrote and preached about–The spirit and hand that wrote the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ is the evil one

      May 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Peter, I really think you must have been abused as a child – or writing from a padded room – not sure which but your ramblings are that of an ignorant person that needs to be heard. Might want to turn off the light and go back to sleep.....

      May 15, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  19. Abinadi

    If Paul were here today, what church would he belong to? Paul actually answered that question in 1 Corinthians, " 10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
    11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
    12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
    13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
    14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, abut Crispus and Gaius;
    15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name."
    It is pretty obvious that Paul would not approve of the Lutheran church, or the Methodist, or the Baptist or any of the evangelical churches of the day. He said himself that he would only belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, and if he were alive today, he would belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Days. You can learn more at mormon.org.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Jesus

      Abinadi...your name sounds Muslim...why are you defending the mormons when you should be praying to Allah!

      May 15, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Jesus

      Also, I think you are very presumptuous to go so far as to say what religion "Paul" would belong to today when he obviously created the Catholic Church...he didn't create the Mormon church and he would have if there was a lick of sense to it....

      May 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Someday – these people will understand the words apostasy and Restoration. Oh yeah, they are actually taught in the BIBLE – surprised? probably.....

      May 15, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • MormonMom

      Ugg. As a Mormon, I apologize for the arrogance and complete speculation of the original post.

      May 15, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
  20. nikki21

    Sorry Mormons but you are a cult and have no respect from me,you folks are crazy and there is no way you guys are christian,if anything you guys slandered bibles teachings making a mockery out of them.Do yourselves a favor and leave the cult and go to a normal church that isnt based off of a can artist like Joesoph Smith who lies,cheated,stealed,murdered,molested.Its pretty simple really how can you be a part of a church founded by such an evil vile man and call it christian .

    May 15, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • peter

      They are not christians nor part of christendom

      May 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Let's see..... if you think the Catholic church is wrong and you are part of the other denominations that broke off FROM the church – then what does this make you? Hmmmm.............. think about your stupid accusations, dude.... oh yeah, I forget it's the Nickster that's writing this stuff – now it all makes sense. Reading your posts is worse than the blind leading the blind....

      May 15, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Tim

      I'm an active member of the LDS church in Australia. I find your comments offensive and completely removed from actual reality. I'm a regular guy with a family. I have never felt anything negative or evil in any church meetings I've attended. I'm sorry you have been so misinformed. I recommend finding an active member and spending some time with them so you can get your facts straight.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Believer

      Poor Nikki, may God have mercy on you

      May 15, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Tim, here is an active Mormon, I think his resignation is still pending before Elder Holland. Any explanations?

      http://exmormon.org/d6/drupal/Letter-to-Elder-Holland-Book-of-Mormon

      May 15, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Mary

      look up the word "cult" in the dictionary. I don't believe a true Christian would judge and speak so terrible as you do. Where do you fit in?

      May 15, 2012 at 11:35 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.