By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
Should Mitt Romney win the presidency next Tuesday, it will mark an historic first: a Mormon couple moving into the White House.
What would this mean and look like?
Would there be “dry” state dinners, since faithful Mormons don’t do alcohol? Would Secret Service tag along to sacred ceremonies only open to worthy church members? What book would a President Mitt Romney use to take his oath of office?
We can’t be absolutely sure about all the answers. But if the practices and homes of devout Mormons like the Romneys – not to mention his history as governor of Massachusetts – are any indication, we can begin to paint a picture of what a Romney-inhabited White House might look like.
First things first: About that oath
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe the Bible is the word of God. But they also believe this about the Book of Mormon, which is subtitled “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”
Given the importance of the Book of Mormon, this question seemed worth asking: Any chance Romney would place his hand on a Book of Mormon at his swearing-in ceremony?
“No, no way Romney would do that,” Jana Riess, a religion scholar, co-author of “Mormonism for Dummies,” and blogger for Religion News Service, wrote in an e-mail message. “I’m not aware of any Mormon who has sworn on the Book of Mormon instead of the Bible for national office. (I’m not aware of any local officials who have done this either.)”
Most likely, Romney would go back to the Bible he used in 2003 when he was sworn in as governor of Massachusetts – the same one his father, George Romney, reportedly used when he was sworn in as Michigan’s governor in the 1960s.
Beyond paint and fabric swatches
Having never been invited over for a meal, we can’t pretend to know anything about the Romney aesthetic when it comes to home decoration. But we wondered and asked about specific items that tend to hang in Mormon households.
Randall Balmer, an award-winning historian, author and chair of the Department of Religion at Dartmouth College, speculated that the Romneys – like plenty of Mormons – might display artwork featuring a depiction of Jesus and a photograph of LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, considered a “prophet, seer and revelator” by members of the church.
Another possibility, said Riess, would be a photo of the Salt Lake Temple where Mitt and Ann Romney were married and “sealed” for eternity in a sacred ceremony in 1969.
Then there’s something commonly known as the “Proclamation on the Family,” which is often framed and displayed in homes – though rarely in upper-class households, said Joanna Brooks, author of “The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith.”
The proclamation features words set forth by LDS Church leadership in 1995, highlighting family and gender responsibilities. Among the points made: Marriage is between a man and woman; the primary responsibility of fathers is to oversee and provide for families; and mothers must first and foremost care for the children.
All of these items could show up in the White House, said Grant Bennett, an old Romney friend who spoke at the Republican National Convention and has known the Romney family since they met through church in 1978.
But he said, “the most quintessential Mormon item would be pictures of their family,” including those of ancestors, because “families are forever” and bound for eternity in the Mormon view.
Ann and Mitt Romney are surrounded by family before the October 22 presidential debate at Lynn University.
Bennett also suggested that a verse or two of Scripture that is particularly meaningful to the Romneys might be framed and on display.
If any of these things would hang in the White House, they would likely appear in the private quarters where first families are free to do what they please.
That doesn’t mean Romney wouldn’t be allowed to honor his faith in some way in the Oval Office, but decorative decisions in public rooms – the spaces visited on tours – are subject to committee discussions and advisers on historic preservation, explained Melissa Naulin, assistant curator in the Curator's Office of the White House Museum.
Can I get a cup of coffee? How about something stronger?
In accordance with a revelation received in 1833 by LDS Church founder Joseph Smith, something known as the “Word of Wisdom,” faithful Latter-day Saints abstain from coffee, tea and alcohol.
Does this mean a return to the days of “Lemonade Lucy,” the posthumous nickname given to the wife of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th U.S. president, who banned alcohol from the White House?
No, said Cabinet members from Romney’s gubernatorial era and a current top aide. They said this health-related observance is not one the Romneys would impose on or expect of others.
“As governor, when Mitt Romney entertained at official functions in the evening, alcohol was served along with soft beverages,” said a senior aide who asked not to be identified in stories about religion.
“There was always a healthy cup of coffee for anyone who wanted it,” said Renee Fry, a former Cabinet member.
“Cabinet dinner gatherings were not dry,” wrote Douglas Foy, who also served in Governor Romney’s Cabinet. “Although the governor and his wife did not partake – which the governor often joked about, since he sponsored the gatherings and paid for the wine!”
Storing – and refraining from – food
The LDS Church advises its members to store enough food to feed a family for a year.
Food storage is viewed as a practical measure, one that can come in handy during, say, a crippling superstorm, massive power outages or unforeseen financial hardships.
The practice is rooted in Mormon history. The church’s early pioneers, on their trek westward to what is now Utah, experienced great suffering and starvation. They also endured their share of persecution and couldn’t rely on the help of others. So having resources squirreled away became a collective comfort.
Any chance that the Romneys would institute White House food storage?
Not because they would need it for themselves or likely anyone else at the White House, but Riess said in these uncertain times, it could be a good lesson in preparedness to showcase to the nation.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see that,” she said.
Mitt Romney gathers donations in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
Even if a family storing it doesn’t need the food, by having it available that family is poised to help others. Serving those less fortunate or in crisis is big in the LDS Church, and it is a part of another practice that may find its way into the White House if the Romneys move in.
The first Sunday of every month is Fast Sunday, when committed Mormons who are able forgo food and drink for about 24 hours. Coupled with prayer, it has spiritual meaning. It also serves to instill compassion for those who are in need, and to that end Mormons are encouraged to minimally donate what they would have spent on food to the church’s welfare fund.
Fast Sunday, or calls to fast at other times, can also bind Mormons together when they pray and fast for a common cause.
A Utah woman created buzz earlier this fall when an e-mail she sent out to friends and family, suggesting they fast to help Romney before the debates, began making the rounds in Mormon circles across the country. A new website, romneyfast.org, also the brainchild of private citizens – and not a church-sanctioned effort – asks people to fast and pray for Romney and his wife Ann this Sunday before America goes to the polls.
When he was governor of Massachusetts, and in general, Mitt and Ann Romney observed Fast Sunday and “always contributed very generously to the fast offering fund,” said Bennett, who held church leadership roles with Romney in the Boston area.
What’s more, Bennett said that when Romney served as their congregation's bishop – the equivalent of an unpaid pastor – it wasn’t uncommon for the two friends to fast more than once a month. At the time, Bennett was one of Romney's two counselors, or advisers.
“Occasionally he would invite me and the other counselor to join him in fasting on a weekday for a specific purpose,” Bennett wrote in an e-mail. “For example, one purpose would be to seek inspiration regarding an important decision, another purpose would be to express love, support and solidarity to someone who was ill or going through very difficult times.”
Whether Romney would maintain this observance from the nation’s highest office, we can’t know. But it looks like the White House kitchen staff may be in for a little downtime each month, if they’re lucky.
Honoring the Sabbath, going to church and other Mormon observances
Sunday is a holy day for active LDS Church members. It’s a time when Mormons attend their local congregation - it's known as a ward, which in Catholic-speak would be comparable to a parish - and worship with their families and community.
The ward closest to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and likely the one the Romneys would be assigned to, is the Washington D.C. 3rd Ward, which gathers in what Mormons call a “meetinghouse” or chapel on 16th Street NW. The Washington Post described this ward as consisting of mostly Democrats, half who are nonwhite (including plenty of Spanish speakers), and having openly gay members in its leadership.
Riess said while ward assignments are almost always determined geographically, sometimes there are exceptions. And the truth is there just isn’t any precedent for how this would be handled for a U.S. president.
With or without Romney, D.C. a surprising Mormon stronghold
How much of his Sundays a President Romney could set aside for his faith is obviously uncertain. We already know he’s been hard at work on the campaign trail, Sundays included – though the senior aide we spoke to said he makes efforts to get to church when he can.
One need only look at President Jimmy Carter, who went so far as to teach Sunday school at his local Baptist church, to see how a sitting president can make room for faith, said Balmer of Dartmouth, who counts among his many books “God in the White House: How Faith Shaped the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush.”
Romney faithfully showed up at church on Sundays while he was governor, unless an official function got in the way, Bennett said. And when Romney ran for U.S. Senate in 1994 against Ted Kennedy, Bennett – then the ward’s bishop – assigned Romney to teach the weekly adult Sunday school class.
“He was in church virtually every Sunday teaching this class throughout the campaign, only occasionally arranging for a substitute teacher,” his friend said.
Beyond church, Riess speculated about other observances Romney would uphold.
Mormons reserve Monday evenings for “family home evening,” a time when families pray, study and sing together.
Someone serving in church leadership, who didn’t want to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject matter, said he doubted the Romneys would observe family home evening since their kids are grown and gone. But Riess suspected that Romney and his wife, especially given the size of their brood – five sons; 18 grandchildren – and the likelihood that family would be passing through, would honor the Monday tradition in some way, even if it was just the two of them.
There’s also a practice in LDS Church wards in which men who hold the priesthood – which means the authority, for example, to perform baptisms and offer sacramental blessings – are partnered up to visit other congregation members, ideally once a month, as home teachers.
The LDS Church does not have paid clergy, and this is one way that volunteer ward pastors, or the bishops, can make sure members get personal attention and lessons as needed.
So could home teachers come knocking on the White House doors?
It’s possible, said Riess, though obviously there’d be background checks and no unannounced knockings.
But a U.S. president couldn’t possibly be expected to regularly home teach others, right?
Probably not. But Romney did step up as governor, Bennett said.
“He both had home teachers, and he was assigned as a home teacher, when he was governor,” Bennett said. “He and Ann would ensure they were available for their home teachers to visit, and he was faithful in doing his home teaching.”
And then there’s the big question: What about the temple?
Many non-Mormons falsely assume the large and often magnificent white LDS temples they see in their cities are where Latter-day Saints go for church. But Mormons gather for Sunday services in meetinghouses or chapels, which are usually plain, unimpressive structures.
The Washington D.C. Temple, not too far from the White House, is considered by Mormons to be a house of the Lord.
The 140 temples currently in operation across the globe are actually closed on Sundays. Mormons view their temples as houses of the Lord, as Riess explained in her book, and they are not places for run-of-the-mill worship. Temples, instead, are reserved for the most sacred rituals – the details of which are not to be discussed outside temple walls.
The temples are so sacred that the doors are not even open for all Mormons; only those deemed sufficiently worthy by local church leadership are granted a “temple recommend” or an entry card.
While sacred ceremonies or “ordinances” for the living – such as weddings, during which couples are “sealed” for eternity – happen inside, there are also rituals performed by living substitutes or proxies for those who have died. These rituals include baptisms, which have been at times a subject of controversy for the LDS Church.
Romney, who long served in church leadership, surely has a temple recommend. But does that mean he’d actually go to the Washington D.C. Temple, which sits about 10 miles north of the White House in Kensington, Maryland?
“If I were him, I’d probably just not go while I was president, if only out of courtesy to other patrons,” said our source in church leadership who didn’t want to be named. “It’s not like it’s some kind of ‘go often or you’ll go to hell’ thing. It’s just a standard part of being a committed Mormon, which you do if you can find the time.”
And a President Romney couldn’t go there, let alone anywhere else, without Secret Service. So if he wanted to go, would he be able to? Even Secret Service agents would be turned away from the temple without the right access card.
Not a problem, speculated Balmer of Dartmouth. He said finding qualified agents, if Romney hasn’t found them already, would be easy.
It’s well-known that the CIA, FBI and, by extension, he said he assumes, the Secret Service recruit at LDS Church-run Brigham Young University. All these agencies, Balmer said, are “looking for people who are good, loyal, patriotic Americans,” and many Latter-day Saints, who believe in the divinity of the U.S. Constitution, fit that bill.
So if it would be important for Romney and the first lady to go to the temple, it should be possible.
And Riess said, given Romney's level of faith and church involvement over the years, she can’t imagine that he wouldn’t want to go. Minimally, she pointed out, there’s bound to be a family member’s wedding or “temple sealing” he’d want to attend.
“It would be a logistical problem,” she said. “But I’m pretty sure they’d find a way.”
CNN has stooped to a new low. You won't report on Obama's Benghazi-gate, real issues so you write some National Enquirer type trash in an attempt to discredit Romney. Romney is a descent man who will serve his country well. Obama suffers from a messiah syndrome and continues to throw this country under the bus. The only God he worships is the one he sees in the mirror.
Mormons believe that they become gods when they die.
To my fellow christians, wake up. Mormons are NOT Christians.
Like Romney doesn't look into the mirror of his life? A vote for Romney is a vote for rolling back moralism and socialism to the stone ages so to speak of.
Benghazi-gate, Muslim-gate, birth certificate-gate, death panel-gate. Give it a rest. Sorry reality is too good for you to accept that you need to create fiction.
Even a 'blind squirrel' digs up a few nuts occasionally.
How in the world does this article trash Willard Mitt Romney? It seems like a pretty neutral, matter-of-fact piece to me. Promotional, even! I support President Obama and I think it's far too premature to speculate on what Williard would do if elected president, which I, an atheist, pray does not happen. Still, I used to be a Mormon and I don't see anything in this article that isn't true. It doesn't condemn Willard or Mormonism, the articule just explains it.
You're paranoide, Catfish.
poor catfish has been taught that shouting lie after lie after lie will eventually get her way. Sorry, election is over, Obama re-elected and you have 4 more years with a black man as your leader. Me so sorry, G.I. Me love you long time.
Romney means a destruction of civilized moralism that this nation has become. His dictates will declare our current socialism to become null and void.
That's incomprehensible. I've no idea what you said.
I think people should remember that mormons are NOT christians.
Is that you Marlene?? Still rolling around in the aisles and giving all your money to Pastor Hump?? What drivel from you Fundies!!
Well, if you're really THE Jesus Christ, I guess you would know!!!! LOL. For the record, Mormons believe everything other Christians believe about Jesus, and then some (like Jesus was in North America). Crazy, I know, but technically sill Christian. But then again, what religion ISN'T really crazy at its core? Walking on water? Raising the dead? What tripe! Jesus wasn't the first "god" in the ancient world to have done these things.
Mormons want to rule the country. Read about the white Horse prophecy. They want Mormon laws to govern the country.
"Lying for the Lord refers to the practice of lying to protect the image of and belief in the Mormon religion, a practice which Mormonism itself fosters in various ways. From Joseph Smith's denial of having more than one wife, to polygamous Mormon missionaries telling European investigators that reports about polygamy in Utah were lies put out by "anti-Mormons" and disgruntled ex-members, to Gordon B. Hinckley's dishonest equivocation on national television over Mormon doctrine, Mormonism's history seems replete with examples of lying. Common members see such examples as situations where lying is justified. For the Mormon, loyalty and the welfare of the church are more important than the principle of honesty, and plausible denials and deception by omission are warranted by an opportunity to have the Mormon organization seen in the best possible light."
That is a total myth no one in the churh believes the "prophecy", and if some do it isnt doctrine
Would that be akin to Muslims wanting Islamic law? Didn't happen, huh?
If you take away the "m" in the middle, it is spelled "morons."
Coincidence? I think not.
There is obviously nothing in your skull but bubblegum and horse *hit
The nickname for Richard is "Dick." Coincidence? I think not.
Let me guess.
And tell me if I'm wrong. You're an 8th grader.
I just about kicked the slats out of my cradle when I first heard that one - 60+ years ago.
Lame then... lame now (and I am not even a fan of Mormons!)
I can't wait until them white shirted bike riders pound on my door to preach their religion. I'm gonna "tear them a new one." I'll then reach for my bong, take a huge hit, and blow it in their faces.
Yeah, that's really mature. Good one (shaking my head)
Yep. You're an 8th grader.
New Tradition in the U S A : Being a Serf in an Oligarchy ! ! ! . The Talibormons ! ! !
Question : WHAT are people thinking ? ?
Answer : NOT ! ! !
Mormons are lame. 'Nuff said.
Or is it numb nuts??? Anyway, you should stop drinking so early in the day. And push away from the keyboard. It shows you upbringing. How are the backwoods, these days, anyway??
Coffee and tea are not allowed? Wow. We can't even say he's a teatotaler because that would just be too off-the-hook for Willard.
What about Obama.....he went to a "radical" church....oh yeah.....that was all right! Hmmm......
Members of the Mormon Church murdered 132 people at Mountain Meadows. Did Obama's church members murder anyone?
“The time has been in Israel under the law of God, the celestial law, or that which pertains to the celestial law, for it is one of the laws of that kingdom where our Father dwells, that if a man was found guilty of adultery, he must have his blood shed, and that is near at hand.”
"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."
– Prophet Brigham Young
Maybe an extreme christian church but note mornonism is NOT christianity.
Michael, you are a POOR student of Western US history.
We would rather have a Mormon in the White House than a Muslim!
Did your Mormon husband allow you to say that?
Whether you like him or not, he's not a Muslim you mouth-breathing, simpleton.
There really are ignorant conservatives who believe a beer drinking Obama follows Islam. I too, share in having a hard time trying the fathom people being this ignorant. It is, what, it is. Thank god, for giving you the intelligence to be a liberal. You could have had our nation laughing at you s you ran cowardly in random circles, red faced in fear, screaming" Obama will take our guns!"
Bacon eating, beef drinking Obama is a Muslim? Conservatives are so dumb :)
"Life" seems to be a convoluted trajectory declaring (in either one's cases) random essentialisms upon becoming the other's differing relativism. The swinging of the pit's pendulum needs only a leveraging undulation to be a mimicry.
I believe in the infinitesimally finite values and accords while others believe in the grandest of hugeness being the better of the two. We, as it now is, are caught between such an envisioning resoluteness of relational differences. I live for the smallest while others live for the huge. Inner-Space or Outer-Space can only maintain divisional accords thru gravimetric variations of quantum physicalities.
It is best for mankind to simmer in their juvenile pottages never rationalizingly 'a.s.saying' one's diffuse detriments the very smallest of life's grains. As smitten breeds, our splendors reveal one's characters to be traitorous to one's analogous fold. Where then does Life end and living begin?
Can it be said and also inferred that all of Life here upon these celestial shorelines of life-forms resonate from a single celled life-form all the ways to massive cellularized life formations? Is it 'not' written within the Gospels that mankind is but buildings that are husbanded by the Godly? Do we not labour together with God in our tasks? Who among us can deny our psychic Being as being un/just and un/righteous God-Heads?
Nothing is a Foreverness and Matter, in its' infinitesimally established finiteness, is a materialized foreverness unobtainable by us, human-like megaliths called mankind. We are all giants too huge and too vast for us to ever re-enter in wholeness back into the Kingdoms of God which are inside or within our bodies. So many damningly dumb buildings of evolution's ascension into the spatial voids of outward motions sanctioned by the Godly! Too little are our intellectual abaters
1Corinthians 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.
Luke 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Ergo. does that mean dumbness is genetical or is it societal hierarchies being the dumbness about which socialisms are currently adorned and/or auspisciously bequeathed?
A Vote for one is not a vote for the other.
Let me get this straight... a Catholic or Protestant or Jewish or Unitarian Universalist or Baptist wouldn't be allowed to be on his Secret Service protection staff and go with him to whatever service he holds because non-believers in the Mormon cult can't come into the building?
So much for religious tolerance for us non-Mormons.
Folks – if you really want this non-Christian, lying tax cheat in the White House it's up to you.
I can't believe the Evangelicals and Baptists and Catholics and Christian denominations are pulling for him over the black guy but I guess that shows racism is alive and well in America.
The republicans could have probably nominated an admitted pedophile who also does abortions on the side and about half of America would vote for him so they could get the darky out of the White House.
So much for love of country huh!?!
That post is priceless. I love the whole broad brush thing you did there. Nice work.
Well said sir, well said. Mormonism is NOT christianity.
True. Only Mormons can enter a LDS Temple. Read the endowment ceremony. It's on the net. The old ceremony required you to take a build oath. Mormons during this ceremony take an "sacred oath to put the council of Mormon leaders first.
People are finally waking up to what is at stake in this election. I will not vote for the Book of Mormon to replace the Bible n the White House. Not for a job or all the money in the world will I vote for a cult leader
i don't care one bit about a candidates religion so long as he has the good sense to realize that his position is not a pulpit from which to foist his beliefs on the population.
What will you say after the majority of Mitt's appointments go to Mormons?
mike – i think romney is a more astute politician than that.
PolygamyCity, Secret Service men wouldn't have to fly to Columbia to get some extra hooch they could have 5 or more wives.
Magic bullet proof underwear.
And automatic conversions of every man women or child in the US to the Cult! Woo Hoo!
Mormonisn is a cult
all religions are cults.
You don't see crosses in Mormon Churches. You will see inverted pentagrams and other symbols used in esoteric mystici on Mormon temples. A cult? You decide.
I don't care what a Mormon White House would look like. I care what a Mitt Romney presidency would look like. We already know what it would look like: A return to the economic policies that helped put us into a recession; the continued violation of basic civil rights for minority citizens; the continued practice of forcing non-Christian Americans to abide by Christian dogma and doctrine; the removal of key healthcare provisions for millions of citizens who desperately need them; the removal of desperately-needed education funding for impoverished students...yeah. That is not the kind of country I'd care to call my own. Needless to say, this guy didn't get my vote.
Where then does Life end and living begin?
Some people are willing to trade those losses for the gain of a balanced budget.
Reblogged this on Tea and Trivia.
A Romney presidency would plainly illustrate the values our parents were raised with. That is a good thing my friends!
All the Best,
Lying and selfishness?
If you vote Romney you will not get your parents values you will get anti – Christ values.
My parents didn't teach me to flip flop on important issues.
If Romney and Ryan are so good, why aren't the states these guys call "home" voting for them? Rommey was governor of MA and they don't want him. Probably something to do with them being 47th in the nation in job creation under his rule (so if Romney says employment is bad, he's one of the guys who dragged the average down). He grew up in Illinois and Michigan but those states are voting for Obama. Even Paul Ryan's Wisconsin is voting for Obama. Just like Palin, the more people get to know these GOP candidates, the LESS likely they are to vote for them. That's why Romney has been so secretive about everything (his taxes, his plans, his business credentials).
Thanks Bill! Ill take Romney over The Liar any day!
What kind of parents raised you to believe lying to get what you want is moral. What corrupt abomination of Christian values.
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.