By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
Tampa, Florida (CNN) – The task of selling a Mormon presidential candidate to evangelical America has fallen to a public relations man who’s not even getting paid for what may be the toughest sales job of his career.
For six years, Mark DeMoss has served as Mitt Romney’s unofficial evangelical ambassador, making the case that born-again Christians should help elect the first Mormon to the White House.
It has often been a lonely job.
During this year’s primaries, DeMoss found himself addressing audiences of evangelical leaders in which nearly everyone was rooting for another candidate: Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry – anybody but Romney.
“It would have been tough for anyone other than Mark,” says Richard Land, the public policy chief for the Southern Baptist Convention, remembering how DeMoss performed in one hostile setting last January. “The audience was stacked for Santorum and Gingrich.
“But he has a lot of street cred with evangelicals,” Land says of DeMoss. “He understands us because he’s one of us. So he did great.”
CNN Explains: What’s Mormonism?
Now that Romney has outlasted the other candidates to become the Republican nominee for president, DeMoss is using that street cred to help the candidate close the deal with evangelical voters in the weeks before Election Day.
It’s unclear whether he will succeed.
Polls show that although most evangelicals have come around to Romney, there’s a sizable chunk who have not. With those voters making up a huge part of the GOP base in swing states like Ohio, Iowa and Virginia, whether DeMoss’ gambit works could mean the difference between an Obama or a Romney White House.
For DeMoss, who is officially a senior adviser to the Romney campaign, the stakes of his work go well beyond electoral politics. He’s trying to open the American evangelical mind.
“I took this on to tackle prejudicial attitudes,” DeMoss says, explaining how he approached Romney about running for president in 2006, convinced that the then-Massachusetts governor was the most qualified man for the presidency that he’d ever seen.
How Mormonism shaped Mitt Romney
“I discussed it with Romney the first time we met,” he continues, sitting in his room at the elegant Vinoy Resort and Golf Club in St. Petersburg, his home during the convention. “It bothered me that some evangelicals said they couldn’t support a Mormon for president. As a public relations guy, I wanted to change that mindset.”
Which is why DeMoss was in front of the North Carolina delegation at the convention Monday morning, arguing that it’s unfair for some Republicans to insist on a presidential nominee with whom they agree about everything.
“My advice to those folks is perhaps you should run yourself the next time,” DeMoss told the evangelical-heavy delegation in a Hilton Hotel ballroom, still abuzz about a powerhouse speech that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had delivered a few minutes earlier.
“My wife and I have been married for 24 years,” DeMoss said, “and I don’t agree with her on everything.”
Looking professorial in tortoiseshell glasses, a blue blazer and a white polo shirt tucked into khakis, DeMoss never mentioned religion or Romney’s Mormonism.
But you could tell it was a big part of what he was talking about.
It’s why he told the delegation that he has prayed with Mitt Romney and shared scripture with him and has even sought parenting advice from Romney and his wife, Ann.
After years of traveling and visiting with the Romney, DeMoss told the crowd, “I trust his values - for I’m fully convinced they mirror my own.”
It might not sound like much, but an evangelical Christian vouching for a Mormon’s values in front of ballroom full of fellow believers can be a powerful thing.
At least that’s the hope.
Lessons from the Moral Majority
DeMoss developed an appreciation for Mormons from a somewhat unlikely source: the evangelical giant Jerry Falwell.
He enrolled at Liberty University, Falwell’s school, in 1980, the year after his father died of a heart attack. Falwell, a fundamentalist preacher, would become like a second father.
DeMoss’s dad had been friends with Falwell – DeMoss says it’s unclear if the insurance marketing company his father founded, National Liberty Corp., helped give Liberty University its name – and Mark found work in Falwell’s office after graduation.
By the time he was 23, DeMoss was serving as Falwell’s chief of staff and spokesman, helping his boss run a growing evangelical empire that included the Lynchburg, Virginia, university and a new organization Falwell had helped found: the Moral Majority.
The organization aimed to bring evangelicals back into the political fold, after millions of them had spent decades sitting out elections, convinced that politics were a dirty, ungodly business.
“We traveled the country, challenging pastors to get involved. He outworked staff that were half his age” DeMoss says of Falwell, who died at 73 in 2007.
Mark DeMoss with Jerry Falwell at 1992 Republican Convention in San Diego, California.
Falwell taught him how political organizing works, from the grassroots to the very top. He took him to meetings with President Ronald Reagan, whom the Moral Majority had helped elect, and President George H.W. Bush.
Among the most important lessons Falwell taught, DeMoss says, is that politics is the art of the possible.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who was more politically conservative than Falwell, but he became increasingly pragmatic,” DeMoss says, eating blueberries from a plastic cup in his hotel room. “He was more practical and open-minded than a lot of people saw.”
As he waged crusades against abortion and for prayer in schools, Falwell proudly linked arms with non-evangelicals. While others in the burgeoning Christian Right wanted to organize only among their own flocks, the Moral Majority chief pushed an idea called co-belligerency: people of different religious backgrounds setting aside theological differences to pursue common political goals.
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“A lot of people forget this or didn’t know it to begin with, but the Moral Majority was a coalition of evangelicals, Catholics, Jews and Mormons,” DeMoss says. “It was not an evangelical organization.”
Mormons consider themselves to be Christians, but some evangelicals and other traditional Christians disagree. While Mormons treat the Bible as Scripture, they also consider the Book of Mormon to be a holy book
There are other big differences between Mormonism and traditional Christianity, including the Mormon belief that the modern prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can receive revelations from God. Traditional Christians believe that the period for such revelations is over.
But Falwell’s insistence on coalition building with Mormons and others stuck with DeMoss long after he left the Lynchburg in 1991 to start his own Christian PR firm in Atlanta.
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The firm, called the DeMoss Group, took Falwell as its first client and quickly added business from big Christian groups like Chuck Colson’s Prison Ministries, Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse and Christian Crusade for Christ.
More than 20 years later, those groups are still with DeMoss.
“What makes Mark different than a lot other guys in this business is that he’s independently wealthy,” says Graham, who notes that DeMoss’ wife, April, is also from a family that started an insurance company.
“I find him to shoot straight because he’s not trying to keep my business,” Graham says. “I think he’s more concerned with trying to be honest. He will bill you and then at the same time he’ll make a big contribution back to you.”
Mark DeMoss with the Rev. Franklin Graham, a client since 1991.
Though DeMoss has kept his work for Romney, which is unpaid, separate from the DeMoss Group, the relationships he built over decades through his PR work are key to selling Romney to evangelical leaders.
Graham had never met Romney before DeMoss arranged for 15 conservative Christian leaders to visit Romney’s Massachusetts home in 2007, when he was preparing to make his first run for president.
As the leaders took turns introducing themselves, many volunteered that they had traveled to Romney’s home mostly because DeMoss had asked them.
By the end of the meeting, Romney had made some new friends.
“Sometimes on TV someone can appear one way but when you meet them face to face you see the personal side of him,” says Graham, recalling the meeting. “After I met Governor Romney I liked him very much and even more l liked his wife and his marriage and his commitment to family.”
As for theological issues that interested some of the evangelicals, Graham says Romney “answered those questions extremely well.”
Since then, DeMoss has helped evangelical leaders not only become more comfortable with the idea of a Mormon in the White House but also with Romney’s evolving position on issues like gay marriage and abortion.
“He’s absolutely trusted as a pro-life person,” Land says of DeMoss. “When he says Governor Romney is pro-life, that means something. That helps.”
Land is among the many evangelical leaders who use DeMoss to relay concerns or advice to the governor.
“Mark’s a trusted negotiator,” says Land, who had dinner with Romney and DeMoss last year.
Though Romney’s 2008 campaign was unsuccessful, DeMoss counted it as a victory that no major evangelical figure came out against him over his faith, even if few publicly endorsed his campaign.
Four years later, there still aren’t many prominent evangelicals who’ve come out publicly for Romney.
And there are questions about where Romney stands with rank-and-file evangelicals. A recent Pew poll found that, while most white evangelicals support Romney, a quarter are uncomfortable with his religion. Just one in five in that group are strongly pro-Romney.
Ten weeks before Election Day, it’s not where a Republican nominee wants a key part of his base to be.
Visiting Salt Lake
DeMoss’ case for why evangelicals can enthusiastically support a Mormon candidate echo Falwell’s arguments about why evangelicals and Mormons should be political allies.
It goes like this: If evangelicals are OK with seeing a Mormon doctor or flying with a Mormon pilot, DeMoss reasons, shouldn’t they be OK with a Mormon president? We’re electing a commander-in-chief, not a pastor-in-chief, right?
Plus, fixing the national economy – the No.1 issue in this election – doesn’t really have anything to do with religion.
In fact, DeMoss was drawn to Romney because of the candidate’s unusual breadth of experience as a businessman, governor and Olympics Committee chief with dual degrees from Harvard.
“On a personal level and a spiritual level, I might care a great deal about what somebody believes doctrinally,” he tells NPR during a phone interview from his room at the Vinroy. “In the case of presidential election, I don’t care.”
After hanging up, DeMoss stays on that point: “I hope I’ve shifted a conversation about the religion of a candidate to one about the values of a candidate.”
DeMoss says that voting on the basis of a candidate’s faith is dangerous and inane. He notes that three of the most successful politicians from his own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, are all Democrats whom many evangelical loathe: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
Since January, DeMoss has spent about half his time making such arguments, stressing to clients that the work is not official firm business. Still, he suspects that some potential clients have skipped signing up with the DeMoss Group because its founder and president is pushing a Mormon candidate.
April, his wife, who’s checking her iPhone on the bed of DeMoss’ hotel room, says they’ve lost a few friends over Romney, too. But they’ve also made new Mormons friends, and have developed a deep appreciation for the Mormon faith.
On the van to the hotel to address the North Carolina delegation, Mark and April trade stories with their Mormon driver, a convention staffer, about their respective visits to Salt Lake City, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is headquartered.
Later, DeMoss talks about being turned off by the evangelical street preachers he’d seen on the street corners there, preaching to Mormons in town for the church’s annual general assembly. How could such evangelizers hope to convert anybody in the 30 or so seconds it takes to wait for the light to change?
For DeMoss, the episode represents a civility deficit when it comes to the evangelical treatment of Mormons. He sees his work with Romney partly as a corrective.
Whether DeMoss can help soften the evangelical line toward Mormons is an open question. So is whether he can get enough of his brethren to go a giant step further and vote for a Mormon for president.
Were the Dems half as ruthless as GOP operatives, they'd be using Mitt's Mormonism against him. Right wingers are the ones who still like to continue the lie Obama is a Muslim, not to mention the old Birther thing. The whole thing is just ripe with irony and hypocrisy. The so called Moral Majority is more like do whatever it takes to win-hardly moral IMO. I am glad the Dems are not using Mitt's religion against him, but I do know if the Dems had a Mormon candidate, the right would not hesitate to use it. So yeah, "moral" my a**.....
This election has everything to do with race. It's been all about race since the 2008 election.
What's with the obsession with race? I personally don't care about race but for the best man for the job of POUS. Too bad that person does not exist today so we will flounder for another 4 years. Until religion is no longer a factor we are doomed.
By the way, Mitt is on track to become a god after he dies. According to his religion good mormons will reach the highest level of heaven, become gods and be given their own planets.
Not if they are Liars.
Obama is 50% white, its the other 50% black that seems to offend a lot of people.
Or maybe it's the 50% of the country who are not Democrat (or left-wing or whatever). Why does it have to be racial, in your opinion? Regardless, what does this article have to do with race?
What's the deal with all this God hate talk? People have no morals!
God-makers (those who made up and believe in "god") are the ones who started the fight!
No one ever said, "There is no god" until someone first said "There is a god"!
What does God hate talk and morals have in common?
how do you purport to know other people's morals?
Are white people so offended by Obama that they would give presidential power to a cult leader whose religious views were once viewed as heresy by true Christians?
Not defending this Moron, Romney, but Obama is 50% white, you know?
so (more or less).are a large number of the people that self-identify as black.
Maybe it's just me that thinks this way but Mitt Romney's candidacy bears an eerie resemblance to the biblical description of the antichrist. He holds high office in a cult/religion that by it's own description, and that of outsiders, clearly anti Christ. His election as the most powerful man in the world would give his religion, which he has sworn to die to uphold, unprecedented power over world affairs.
We'll get to know the numbers who agree with you in November.
You have to wonder why the most rich and powerful men, who can and do afford so many servants for themselves, so desperately want to be the primary public's servant.
It's really sad to see how suckers fall victim to such va-gue predictions! Now if your bible had predicted actual names or years or political parties.....ANYTHING more specific......that would have been something! Antichrist?! HA HA HA HA!
uh, Obama fits the description of the anti Christ 10x more than Romney... wake up.
I find it so comical to watch Christians throw stones at their fellow delusional brethren. Whose myths are the real deal?
Flying Spaghetti Monster, for sure!
Lol. So true. Hard to tell which is more dangerous and bizarre: Mormons, Catholics, Evangelicals, Southern Baptists, or any of the non-Christian religions for that matter.
May you all be touched by his noodly appendage.
Anyone noticed that Jesus was seen to die by a large audience, but only seen risen by a very few?
Just like Mitt's TAX returns?
As a Christian I am offended by Mark DeMoss as Romney’s unofficial evangelical ambassador. As an evangelical he is not promoting the Gospel but a man. It is quite clear that evangelicals believe the Bible has no error. If so then how can DeMoss promote a man who does not believe what Scripture says? Scripture is clear about Father, Son, Holy Spirit are one not three separate persons. Scripture is clear there is no male, female, marriage etc in heaven but Mormons believe in forever marriage in heaven. Scripture is clear we are to take care of the poor, widows, aged, those who have less than ourselves. I think Mr. Romney has the right to run for President regardless of his religion but that does not mean I have to buy into the falsehoods of Latter Day Saints. Mormons seem to me to be very nice people but I do not believe they are Christians and as a Christian I don't appreciate DeMoss promoting stances that are against Evangelicals.
Dead Presidents trump your "Holy Trinity" any day. Liberty U must be getting paid out the @$$ for this political stunt and Falwell must be rolling in his grave! Awwwww, for shame!!!!
Good comments, but I don't thinks it perfectly clear that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one, When Jesus was Baptized they heard a voice saying "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" and then the Holy Spirit descended as a dove. I believe the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one in purpose. Hebrews say "God is a consuming Fire" but do we believe it literally? Also the Savior told Peter "whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven"..So if Peter were to perform a marriage here on earth it would be bound in Heaven. I know that Mormons do care for the poor, widow, aged and anyone in need. They provide aid in every disaster throughout the world. And I do know that they believe in Christ and that there is only one way to Heaven and that would be through Jesus Christ, there is no other way.
As a Christian you should shut the fuck up and tow the line as all True Christians® must. Just hold your nose as you pull the lever for the mormon cult. Anything to defeat the moooslim darkie.
Good point, SK. Christ also prayed to his father. Also, he told Mary not to touch him because he had not yet ascended to his father. I don't think the scripture is clear at all that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one person. Jesus does say that 'the Father and I are one" but he also told his disciples to "become one". Clearly "being one" didn't mean being the same person.
It's really best for all people including children to have an agnostic approach to god, and an atheistic approach to all religion. It keeps things simple for kids, and let's them be all that they can be. They just need to be taught that some things, like all religions, are just junk that was made up by salesmen and politicians long ago; and that other things, like god, we really don't know a damn thing about.
Atheists have strong minds, and don't run and hide their misdeeds within their religion (and by doing so, disserving society).
So instead of praying to make-believe people, get a good cup of tea and go on and sit down and collect your damn thoughts.
Amway must be popular with Mor(m)ons since they're so accustomed to door-to-door sales!
Speak no word to them! Flee their presence! They are exceedingly EVIL and cannot be trusted in any way shape or form!
Prayer changes things . .
Zuzu's teacher says: "Every time you feed a troll, God kills a puppy."
I'm sorry "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but you assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:
I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to... by the Alzheimer's Disease Society
Other than hal and gop there are no trolls here just wonderful Truth. God bless
Anyone who is not Christian will burn and suffer in hellfire
DISGRUNTLED EX EVANGELICAL FORTUNE COOKIE CO WRITER ALERT!
People saying Mormons aren't Christian is a bit like an apple saying the banana can't call itself a fruit because it's not an apple. Of course, many would say all religious people are certainly "fruits". The umbrella of Christian has plenty of room for many denominations with a variety of specific doctrines but have the commonality of believing Christ is the Savior.
Time flies like an arrow.
Fruit flies like a banana.
Mormons don't believe Christ is their savior. Read the book of mormon. They believe Bringam Young will ride back on his 13 years old daughters and their children, with Jesus hand and hand, and carry you to one of the 3 worlds they end up when they die, unfortunately their is no hell, so non-repentent rapists get to go to heaven anyway...
Just a small correction...anyone who is not a True Christian® will roast for eternity in the glorious red-hot flames of firey red-hot HELL! Praise Baby Jeeeesus!!!!
Evangelical Christian: Your god is an impotent little punk
It's really strange to read what some people say about Mormons, knowing that it's completely false and only said in hatred or anger as a way to sway others to their 'opinion'. Want to know what Mormons believe? Mormon.com is where you should go for your information. Believing what some of these tools are saying about Mormons is like you believing me when I tell you that you can fly with the fairy dust that I keep in my pocket.
Mormons should investigate Joseph Smith from sources outside the Mormon church and discover what a treasure-digging con man he was. They should investigate the criticisms of the totally false and archaeology in the Book Of Mormon.
Mormons should be the ones applying some critical thought, instead of just saying and doing and thinling what they are told. If they did, they would recognize that Joseph Smith and Mormonism are as phony and fraudulent as L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology.
I have investigated Mormonism from many different sources. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. The Book of Mormon is what it says it is. It is the word of God delivered to his children here on earth. Mormon.org has more if you are unafraid of the truth.
Fact is the mormon religions was made up 200 or so years ago, by a man who wanted to sleep with his own children and have multiple wives; I'm guessing, but I imagine the leader was part of a Nazi sect.
Please google White horse prophecy. Bishop Romney believes in this mormon doctrine. Oh, also google "Lying for the Lord"
its a mormon thing
You could also look at Mormon.org...It's also a Mormon thing.
Mormons are not Christians. I'm not, either. But Mormons, be honest: you are not Christians.
US presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he considers the White Horse Prophecy to be a matter of "speculation and discussion by [LDS] church members" and "not official [LDS] church doctrine." -Wikipedia
Seems you're just another angry Mormon hater.
Mormons most certainly are Christians. Go to Mormon.org and see for yourself.
The phony just sayin definitely is not a Christian and for the most part an unrepentant liar and thief, but it is correct on Mormons. Mormonism was founded as a protest alternative to Christianity and parallels Islam more closely than anything else. God bless
It depends on how you define "Christian". If you define a Christian as someone who believes Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten son of God who atoned for sin and rose on the 3rd day that all man may also be resurrected, then yes, Mormons are Christian. If you believe being a Christian means a person believes the Nicene Creed which was a political compromise disregarding many teachings from Christ and the original 12 apostles, then no, Mormons are not Christian. Maybe it's the Nicene Creed that not "Christian".
I think it's funny that every mormon will try to declare they are Christians, but every Christian will say they are not. bhahahahah
I have been a Mormon my entire life, raised in a Mormon family, and do my best to live Mormon values. I have never heard of the White Horse prophesy. I didn't google lying for the Lord so I don't know what that's about and have never heard of it either. but I can tell you Mormons are taught that the Lord expects honesty in all situations, with no exceptions. Honesty is one of the very basic principles of Mormonism.
Have you ever found a Mormon that believes the things you think they do?
To correct the definition of Christianity (though I am atheist) a Christian believes Christ died for their sins, and they can not go to heaven without accepting him as their personal lord and savior. All else, go to hell. Mormons do not believe in this. In fact, they do not believe in a hell.
Bcnnv, Mormons, like Christians, believe that Christ died for their sins and they must accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior to return to live with Him. They believe in a hell but only very evil people will go there. They (we) are taught that those who do not accept Jesus will also go to a very beautiful and happy place, but one without God and Jesus there. It truly is a plan of Happiness, where everyone is rewarded with what will bring them the most happiness, and the choices they make are what determine the place the go after this life. (Mormons typically refer to them as the three degrees of glory).
The other fornicators who have stolen my name will suffer for eternity as 99.9% of all humans. For those of you who do not know...I am the one who posts under "Atheism is not healthy..." name. God bless, and may all non-True Christians® descend into the bowles of HELL.
Church & State forever.
"Hokey religions are no match for a good blaster at your side"- Han Solo. See, even fictional characters realize that science trumps religion (and other fairy tales).
Outstanding quote! And we know that Greedo didn't shoot first!
First amendment needs to be abolished.
Look everyone a surrogate of David Barton is here.
How's the big book of lies going? Has he found a publisher who doesn't mind publishing blatent untruths yet?
ʇ ok – you get back to us once it's abolished ʇ
Some wonderful golden scrolls appeared in my living room that say I am the one chosen to be gods current representative on Earth and that he has re-assigned Mitt Romney's entire wealth to me to fund my mission and ministry. Then they flew into the fireplace and vanished in a puff of smoke, so I know they were real.
Anyone got Mitt's phone and bank account numbers so I can follow up?
Funny stuff! Love it
Politics is politics, doesn't matter if a politician worships a rock, never did, never will.
My small rock is now a small, sad rock. I will travel through time some more and find a happy rock to travel with.
Word up, yo.
Breaking news: Romney's goal is to sell America to China, the highest bidder, get his and all his friends estates, and treat us like slaves. Gods angel appeared and left 3 golden scrolls for me, just like in the Book of Mormon, and he has to believe that if he believes in the book of mormon (the remake of the bible mormons believe in). Unfortunately they were only there for a second, and disappeared, so no one can ever see them again.
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.