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.”
A mormon president and first lady would be no different than their predecessors. I'm curious, however, about the roles of the second, third, and fourth ladies.
You will never see it, as they stopped practicing polygamy back in 1891
Pretty Clever, I am curious about the future a male presidents future first husband. Take your pick because thats what you stand for.
Please provide your irrefutable sources that 1. Mitt Romney is married to anyone other than Ann Romney, and 2. That the current Mormon Church supports polygamy.
If not, keep your ridiculous sarcasm to yourself.
As Mitt Romney is personally very attractive,the aim of the article is to frighten the voters with his conservative religiousness.This dish is poured with the syrope.
Personally, I think he's physically unremarkable and pretty flabby, but it's his bizarre flipflopping and his opposition to women's rights that are the reasons that I won't vote for him.
Jen – I couldn't disagree with you more. I am a relatively attractive, middle-aged woman, and besided thinking that he is VERY attractive, he is INCREDIBLY successful and intelligent.
I think this was a terrible article and fed into sterotypes. CNN should be ashamed.
As a former Mormon, I would say that this article was dead on and very respectable.
I totally agree. Stereotypes played up. The article sounds bigoted and naive.
I'd much rather a God-fearing White House, than the alternative. Mitt and Ann are good and respectible people. This article is an attempt to smear goodness. Didn't work for me! Deep down, you're just jealous of them.
What would a Mormon White House look like? Mighty white.
What?!?! You don't like white people?! Racist!
I personally have no problem with Mormonism, that being said I wonder what the Christian conservative reaction to Mormonism would be if Harry Reid was the nominee for president.
Would Franklin Graham have scrubbed to reference to the religion being a cult off their website?
It is sad to see Franklin Graham manipulate the legacy of his father. I doubt seriously that Rev. Billy Gramham would be so quick to pass judgement against Obama and almost endorse Romney. I wonder if he knows about it?
Who else but CNN!
seriously........the guy is so squeaky clean, they are grasping at anything. losers.
Fact: Billy Graham only last month removed Mormonism from its list of cult like religions.
Fact: Billy Graham's religion is also a cult.
BILLY IS SENILE ..and it wouldn;t be the first time for gain he denied Jesus ...
While it's amusing to observe the Obama-worshipers at CNN try to use this page as "news", they're unwittingly exposing Obama's (half) Muslim roots while talking about religion, period.
America has a choice next week... keep the Muslim president that we've had since 2008 or elect a Mormon.
Wow. You still believe Obama is a Muslim. You are a moron.
...a muslim and socialist, that's republican battle cry right? Accusing Obama if being a muslim and socialist is like accusing somebody of being a jewish nazi.
Important note for Hopenetized and brain-dead Ozombies like Jeffrey Root: read Obama's BOOKS. In his own words he talks about attending Muslim schools in Indonesia as a boy. And his dad was Muslim, which automatically makes him half-Muslim... whether the "tolerant" libs like it or not.
@Hopey Changey, Religion is not a genetic condition passed from father too son, nor is it (at least in the US) a legal or immutable state. And for the record, Obama attended state schools where the majority were Muslim (same as attending a public school in the US where the majority are Christian) and then attended Christian schools. Whether he was registered as Muslim on his ID card we don't know, because no one has seen it, but it would not have been up to him what to right there, and only one of 4 choices is allowed in Indonesia.
@MCR – many cultures recognize the father's religion as the same for all offspring. One can certainly make a distinction about Obama because he spent over 20 years sitting in the pews of that hate-filled Chicago church where Rev Jeremiah Wright spewed his toxic racist sermons from the pulpit each week. Not that it's a tolerable defense for him, but at least it can be used to legitimately deny any claims of Muslim heritage by Obama.
@Hopey Changey, Yes, and that would be a better and more relevant point than the one you were trying to make about Islam. I personally believe it ignores the difference in how many blacks and whites experience the United States, but you would at least have the beginning of an argument.
Really, CNN? This is a non-issue and you know it. This is bias at it's worst and you should be ashamed.
The patriotic American dogma of the Mormons usually does not include military service. That is left for non (latter-day) saints.
Where ever you got your information, it's not true.
You may be confusing the Mormons with the Mennonites, which is a pacifist religion.
Many Mormons serve in the armed forces and have served since 1846 when the Mormon Battalion was recruited to serve in the Mexican-American War. Mormons have fought in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.
I am an officer in the United States Air Force and I am a Mormon. I am also deployed right now. Many of us serve in the armed forces, at a much higher percent than the general population. BYU has a huge ROTC program. Please don't state as fact thing you don't know about.
Christians are monotheists so therefore Christians are atheist for not believing in Thor, Zeus, Shiba, Budha, and others.
Sorry buddy. Atheist means you don't believe in any deity. The fact that Christians believe in God by definition means that they automatically cannot be an atheist. It was a nice try though.
Mormons are Christians because they believe in Jesus Christ, and Catholics are Christians too, just as are Baptist, Penecostals, Presbretarians and the others. All religion are cults. There's a Catholic bible, a Protestant/Baptist Bible, and a Mormon Bible, and they all read similarly.
Therefore a Mormon in the Whitehouse would look like J.F. Kennedy's Catholic in the White House, and any other Christian in the White House.
Sorry, but Mormonism is not Christianity. There are many different arguments that can be used for this, but the most basic is that it takes more than faith in Christ to be saved within the Mormon Church. Mormons used to try and closely align themselves with Christian denominations to be more socially acceptable, but this has changed as the Mormon Church has grown in the public eye. WSJ had a good editorial recently called "I am a Mormon, not a Christian" while I don't agree with everything said in it, it does a good job of showing the debate between Mormons and Christians, as well as demonstrate Mormons separatist thinking.
In response to Bobhope, every Christian denomination, in fact, every person claiming to be Christian, interprets what they consider to be important to being a Christian. Of course they don't agree. No two human beings will agree. No two people are identical. Either everybody is correct or everybody is in err. Let's allow for differences as long as the main message of peace and love are followed. Christians don't hold the monopoly on peace and love either. Many non-Christians are more peaceful and more loving towards others than those claiming their Christian faith. Let's live in peace and love.
No, Mormons are NOT christian. Mormons do not believe that Jesus Christ is God Almighty. Mormons believe Jesus is a little god but not the Almighty God.
It's the Socialist rhetoric in the White House and the current Administration that concerns many folks these days. I am voting for love of Country...just like in 2010.
The Mormons I know are very different that the Catholics I know.....ever been invited to their services – I am guessing not! Par of the cult behavior is the secrecy.
I cannot believe the comments on this article. Yes Mormons ARE Christian. That is so ridiculous. We believe in Christ. We have faith in him which compels us to follow what he taught. Christ is my Redeemer and Creator. I believe there is good in all religions and it is wonderful that we can all meet together to learn and strengthen each other in our faith. Kathy, on every LDS meetinghouse it says, "visitors welcome". I have invited many people to our services. They are not secret. If you are so curious go sit in on a service. For all of those who hate mormons so much I bet you know and respect a few (there are over 14 million of us and counting). Show a little tolerance, love, and respect for God's children (as Jesus taught).
i have to think that cnn is using its power here for the benefit of one party. shame on cnn and the author. i miss journalists.
What party would that be? I would say that this article was very accurate so you must think that they are pushing for the Republicans?
Sorry there's a national forum to remind us that Romney belongs to a cult. A cult whose inner workings only the highest members of the cult are privy to.
It's highest members and apparently you.
This article is wonderfully positioned to detract voters from the real issues JUST BEFORE THE ELECTION. I remember when CNN used to be a reliable source of unbiased news. Those days are long gone. In addition to a change in leadership, we need a change in news sources that actually and honestly help American citizens.
I think electing a fringe-religion president is very much on point, considering that our deadliest enemies in the Middle East credit their religion for their actions.
One can only pray....
People make assumptions all the time and that will be true enough when Romney takes office. It will likely be a form of test for commentators to blogs and news articles to not appear ignorant of Mormonism, as I suppose many more articles will appear about the Momons when Romney takes office.
Mormonism is a cult. Period.
Yep, just like christianity is a cult.
No doubt, they're all cults. Christianity is one of the worst, too.
People who live in glass houses ........
So was the deeply tanned preacher at obamas inauguration who said all people who weren’t deeply tanned are going tohell a cult member also ? All organized for profit religions are cults whether that profit resides in power or money.
HOW'D IT END UP LOOKING AFTER THE BLACK COUPLE MOVED IN?
A lot of Beyonce concerts and visits! That sure helped Americans!
rumprangerrider, your caps are stuck.
CAPS LOCK MAKES MY POINT MORE VALID
To answer your question, it looked just as it did with the previous white president–a lot of talk, a lot of empty promises, and a lot of middle class suffering.
Mormonism is living proof that the nicest, most caring people in the World are capable of believing the most absurd, childish nonsense.
A mormon White house would be just that...WHITE
Colin has issues....
Colin has a very good point. Mormonism is based on the writings of a convicted con-man named Joseph Smith, who claimed that an angel rather amusingly named Moroni gave him golden tablets written in an 'ancient' Egyptian language which incidentally has never existed anywhere in Egypt. Being a 19th century man, he promptly translated them into 17th century English. Then the angel took them back, conveniently removing any proof of their existence in the first place. He taught that American Indians were descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, and that Jesus Christ visited them in Missouri.
Yep, I think 'absurd nonsense' is an accurate description.
As a Mormon, I'm glad you think we're nice and caring, Colin. And Dave, you've accurately recounted a critic's version of what we believe. But please don't keep calling us absurd, childish or nonsensical. I admit it might sound absurd to most, but why in the world should that mean it's not true? Can you prove those things DIDN'T happen?
The Apostle Paul wrote, "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor 2:12-14)
Well said, Paul. God's truth has always been a matter of faith, not proof, and I believe He wanted it that way. To whomever reads this, if you believe in God at all, you have to concede that He is at least capable of doing what we claim He's done, even if you doubt that He did. I happen to know that He did because the Holy Ghost taught me, so please respect my faith as I respect yours. If you don't believe in God, then our way of believing in Him shouldn't matter to you in the slightest, but still, please keep your prejudices to yourself.
Prayer changes things
Education & Preparedness change things more
Kindly name one.
I wonder how prayer helped the Native Americans when the white Christians moved into their territory.
If this Blog is any indication, the fundies are going to give another term to Obama, because they hate Mormons even more.
I just want a prez in the hizzy who will keep the mooninites off my lawn ya'll.
There's nothing indicating hatred of Mormons in the article.
The sicko spin doctors disguised as bloggers posting your garbage. Get a job. A real job. You're a disgrace to the human race.
sam43231: You are right. It wasn't intended for that. The intention of the article was to raise questions and fears so those who want Obama replaced might just not vote. CNN has become a political organization and lost it's credibility for honest and objective news reporting.
this a very nondescript article, only those who let religion dominate their lives will find it uncomfortabl,. ala southern christian baptists who finally come to believe obama is not a muslim.
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.