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.”
It wouldn't be a Mormon White House. It would be a corporate aristocrat's White House. I'd pay more attention the lobbyists who would be filling it than what is in the liquor cabinet.
Good grief, I've not seen so many religious articles on cnn since the pro-mu slim rave, except the tone toward Mormons seems to be less favorable. A Mormon in the White House will be no different than a Catholic, a Jew, or a Muslim as long as he is smart with good leadership skills and loves the USA. Oh, and actually appoints knowledgeable people with experience to cabinet positions. Romney is going to be a great President :)
I second that!!!
If this Mitt Romney wins the United States will go way down hill. We all know religions are all the problems in the world today. I want Obama to win because i like the guy and i believe he is doing the best anyone can do ,considering what he took on. On the other hand i want Mitt to win because i would love to see all the people who voted for him realize they made a big mistake and will suffer more . Canada loves Obama ,Mitt reminds us of this typical hard core right wing American that none of us likes.
Hey Andrew, since you are Canadian, and likely a Socialist, I can see how you buddy up with our current faux-president Obama...he is most certainly a Socialist, more likely Marxist or Communist. We AMERICANS do not want a Muslim terrorist-sympathizer in the White House one more day, let alone 4more years! I'll take a Morman any day, but most especially a man with proven skills to create jobs, who will bring this country back, and oh yeah, with our house in order, drastically lower the welfare rolls Obama has double. Here's something for foreign country folk to think about...a strong, prosperous USA means your country will likely be stronger also! Under Obame USA is moving forward to 3rd world. Here's a thought...Canada currently refines ocer 22 barrels of U.S. oil a day, making Canada a lot of money when you ship back about 150 barrels of gasoline...Obama wants to shut oil production down...what do you think that means to Canada, Andrew?
Yet another attempt to alienate voters from Romney so that Obama wins. Obama is, of course, a loving Christian who accidentally sat in Rev. Wright's racist church, perhaps at gunpoint, for 20 years before suddenly denouncing it after everyone found out. What a hypocrisy. It's a shame that people are so obsessed over religion, as if Romney is going to somehow ban Christianity. Were it not for that, Obama's record of failure would stand no chance against him.
Mormons are not Christian , Mormons are by definition anti – Christ. To vote Mormon is to vote anti – Christ
truth be told
Mormons are Christian. The official name of the Church:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
They believe in the Bible.
They believe in another book:
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ
They end prayers with:
"... in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen...."
The difference is the belief in the Trinity.
Many people believe in a traditional Trinity, three beings in one.
LDS people believe in three distinct beings:
God the Father
God the Son
God the Holy Ghost
LDS people are very much Christian.
I can recite these talking points too...learned them from Sean Hannity
You folks got to calm down. I've been Mormon my whole life. We believe in God and Jesus Christ, first and foremost. A Mitt Romney presidency would not change anything in the White House. But it would change a great deal in our country. We would not spend outrageously, we wouldn't side with unions continuously, we would keep our borders safer, we would support our military and we would certainly take care of America first. Anything you wouldn't be able to stand?
Separate church and state.
Separating church and state doesn't mean Mr. Romney has no religion. Instead, it means that there are no state sponsored religions, such as the Church of England or similar.
It means that Obama can spend 20 years listening to Black Liberation Theology, that Mitt can be a member of the LDS faith, and that others can worship as they please.
Vote Obama, help bring America down on her knees. Destroy the Dollar. Introduce Sharia Law. Let hatred loose on our people. Make sure we are so deep in debt it will be impossible to pay it all off. Ensure our children get a 3rd world education. Maintain the divisive effect he has done in his first term.
If you hate America, vote Obama.
Be advised if you vote Mormon you vote anti – Christ
you got that right, friend.
if you vote for Obama you vote for the most "anti-God" you can.
Citizen Jones you sound so paranoid and fearful...the same way I used to feel after listening to Beck, Limbaugh, Hanitty etc Do yourself a favor as my shrink told me take a deep breath, pop some xanax and pray.
Utah is disproportionately represented in the military???? I don't really have a dog in this fight as I don't believe being in the military has much to do with being CIC, although I'm sure it helps. However, please do not post "facts" without citing them, particularly ones that can so easily be disproven. What you wrote about Utah being disproportionately represented in the military is a lie as they are about last in every list I have found so far:
Oh lookie here, CNN the obama hack crew, spewing a particular religion into the mix. Show me the article where CNN spoke about the white house when a non-relgious person took office or when obama took office (of his religion). obama has given yuo the luke warm approach to religion, which there is no in-between, you shoul be either hot or cold, not in the middle. Trust me coexist cannot be the way, it does not fit into hot or cold, on one side of the fence or the other. Romney is a mormon, he has not swayed or lied to you about that, obama has. obama tries to fit into his muslim and christian religion which a person just cannot do, the both will war against each other and cause confusion, which is what we have now in obama, CONFUSION.
The White House will bear some personal meaningful pictures, etc. that make it homey to the Romneys. They will continue to live their religion daily in and around the necessary duties and functions and challenges of Presidency because that is who they are. I do not see what all the fuss is. Pres. & Michelle O'Bama do the same. As for religion in general – its' purpose is to help a person want to be better than they were yesterday. What in the world is wrong with that?
New Traditions? What? Magical underwear? Not inviting gays to Christmas? Having ALL of your wives come to dinner? Brigham Young and Brigham On!
I agree with you. I wonder if his extended family from Mexico, the polygamist sect that his father was raised in, will be invited? As a real American Christian, I think Christmas should include foreigners like the Romneys in Mexico.
Mr. Romney accomplished more in a short period of time than what most of us will accomplish in a lifetime.
What is with the Magic Underwear comment. Do you really care what kind of underwear Mr. Romney wears?
Does he really have multiple wives?
Do you really care that as a Christian he shut down the business he was in charge of to look for a lost little girl? Or does this not make him a "real Christian"? I bet to the young girl he found, he is a real Christian.
Mr. Romney has had gay staffers.
Do you just prefer to write convenient untruths so you don't have to think?
I was once a Mormon, and I can tell you that this country should be so lucky as to have a Mormon who was once the leader of a Ward or Branch in the White House. He personally took responsibility for the physical, financial and spiritual well being of ALL the members, and devoted more time than you or I are willing to give out of our personal lives to help.
Mit Rommey Style!
Six months ago there were articles that said this would happen. Using fear of the Mormon's to try to sway the election.
If the Book of Mormon was correct in 1830, and given under the power of God, why has the LDS church has found 4000 places it was in error and made changes? This guy and I don't share the same God, nor do we have the same beliefs about this Country. I pray to my God he loses next week!
So, you do believe in religious bigotry.
Jessica, golden idles do not count as gods. Mitt Romney believes in ONE God and He is all our God.
I don't have a golden Idol My God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings, the creator of heaven and earth and the father of Jesus Christ. He is Holy, Righteous and a consuming fire. He isn't found in anything a man can make like statues or buildings and He doesn't reside in temples made of hands, He lives in the heart of His people. My God is One and this is why I made my statement. He is not the God of confusion but of Peace and the doctrine of Mormon is in direct conflict with his Holy Word. Study it out and you will discover the truth.
Trust me, I feel the same, because I am surrounded by them all day and the only word that comes to mind is "hypocrisy". I hate the fact it's talked about in almost every conversation and some of the things they believe in really floors me. I for one do not believe that I will be married to one man with many wifes when I'm in Heaven???? They say they don't believe in polygamy but they do when they get to Heaven...I don't get it??
This article is ridiculous. If this were written about a black family in the white house, CNN would have been hammered by the other media. Sure, Mitt's a Mormon, but this article is written solely for the purpose of putting fear of the unknown into the American populace before the election in Tuesday.
We may have overcome racism by voting in a black president, but bigotry is still alive and well when we allow this kind of trash to be written about a person's faith.
Why is it bigotry to condemn someone for what they believe? Should we be concerned if a President believes in magic underwear of that God is on Kolob? Those things could influence his decision-making and the fate of our country.
This is something the secular world doesn't get. Scripture is written by prophets as they are inspired by God. The Book of Mormon was written by prophets under inspiration, was translated by a prophet, and can be interpreted and corrected by a prophet. The prophet is the only one on earth who can interpret the Bible and the doctrines in it. No one else has the authority or the inspiration.
You are exactly right. If CNN had done a article on what would a black white house look like, They would have been hammered by every lib out there, saying racist article. Since CNN is Lib, it's ok I guess to do it to anyone else, as long as CNN hasn't picked them for president. I know I know, we the people pick the president. Yes, but so many of the people read garbage like this, and lack critical thinking skills, and can't see it for what it is. Propaganda.
Yet it would put an end to the Obama administration's desire to put a special tax on Christmas trees, and maybe some mention of Jusus Christ and other Christian symbols would return to the White House Christmas tree.
Can't see what they do in the Temple? Sounds just like a cult to me. Why so dang secretive, just like HIS TAXES. What are they ALL hiding in there. If it's SO WONDERFUL, let us all see......OMG, Please don't vote for this man
Ask yourself, how come the cult in Texas ran by Jeffers wouldn't let people in either? Wasn't he Mormon also? Too much secrecy is involved with Romney and his Mormonism. AGAIN, if the "temples" are SO WONDERFUL, LET US SEE....PFFT
For real? Do you know how many uneducated statements are in what you said? Ha!
You can go and see. Everyone is invited to a temple open house before it is dedicated. After it is dedicated to God, only those deemed worthy to be in Gods house are allowed in. Just like your mother didn't let you in the house before taking your dirty shoes off.
How many Muslim traditions came to the White House lately??
As Dr. King pointed out it is proper to judge a man not by the colour of his skin, but by the content of his character. At his core Romney believes that he is guided by an omnipotent, omniscient being, the existence of which is not supported by evidence of any kind. He is nevertheless easily swayed (guided?) by his Republican handlers to mouth whatever words, lies included, that will gain him the office of President. Does he betray his non-existent God when he obeys these men rather than relying on his faith and steadfastly sticking to what he has been raised to believe is right? Does he actually have that kind of faith or does he have a sort of pretzel faith that will allow him contort himself in any way necessary to make himself acceptable to as many voters as possible?
I will never understand how anyone can vote for a man who uses his religion as an excuse to not serve his country through two wars.........and worse yet.......all his sons used the same excuse. " Well I serve my church so I don't need to serve in the armed forces.............let the 47% die for us". How pathetic.
I wonder just how many Mormons feel they are too high and mighty to serve?
Utah is disproportionately represented in the military and we have served with distinction in all the wars of the United states since becoming a church. We are the only major religion that is distinctly American with a core belief that the consti tution is an inspired docu ment.
Can't see what they do in the Temple.....sounds just like a cult to me. Why so dang secretive, just like HIS TAXES. What are they ALL hiding in there. If it's SO WONDERFUL, let us all see......OMG, Please don't vote for this man
This is not true about Romney or his sons. Romney was never drafted for Vietnam and none of his sons are old enough to have been subject to the draft. Mormonism doesn't prohibit military service and there are lots of mormons serving in the military. If you are criticizing the Romney sons for electing not to join the military, do you feel the same way about Chelsea Clinton? We should honor those that serve, but there is no grounds to criticize those who don't volunteer to serve in the military.
I have been in units where half the unit was Mormon. Mormon's don't have a military service problem, but there truly is more than one way to serve.
You are free to make yourself eligible to attend a temple. It is sacred to LDS people. It is no cult.
Will you post a copy of your taxes?
Remember POTUS is rich. He decries the same investments he personally has – not because he is against the investment, but because it is politically expedient.
NOBAMA is hiding massive amounts from the citizens. About his own past. Mr. Trump has offered $5,000,000 to his favorite charity if POTUS will release school records. Instead, he hides them.
NOBAMA hides, lies. He gets a pass.
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.