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.”
Yes, Mitt Romney is LDS. But a person's religion shouldn't disqualify him or her from holding higher office. Pick the candidate you like and go out and vote on November 6th!
Persons intentions by his faith are no different than his actions as a governor, no need to hind, deceive, he is a hindu, denier of truth absolute and will govern in hinduism deception, not worthy of trust.
Nor should membership in a particular religion be a litmus test... the most important issue. This is the bigger problem, in reality.
I don't believe in the Mormon religion at all, nor do I think it is Christian given the basics of the Faith (which is entirely foreign compared to Protestants or Catholics). BUT voting Obama in will certainly have "more blood on the hands" of America given his extreme support for abortion (remember Planned Parenthood which he has continually supported makes 90% of its profit from abortion), not to mention his disregard for the importance of traditional marriage and the family in general. No, I will be voting for Romney despite my disagreement with his religion because I think religious liberty, life and marriage need to remain respected.
Very scary if so happens!
Funny...no one did a piece like this on Obama. I'd say that a first lady with an aide that's the daughter of a Hezbollah leader is a tad more frightening than a guy with magic underwear.
But I suppose that makes me racist, while none of this makes you a bigot.
Nala, shut the flock up.
Wow, nala, you'll judge an entire organization because a relative of one person in the organization has an employee who is a relative of someone else who has a relative in another part of the world where there's another organization in the government. Everyone's guilty by those standards. Good luck with your overly-judgmental life.
"...the details of which are not to be discussed outside temple walls."
That about says it all.
VOTE WITH YOUR MIND, NOT WITH YOUR hindu BLINDED HEART.
hindu's blinded leading hindu, blinded, game of hindu Magi's, criminal tricksters to stay in business of hinduism, denial of truth absolute, let it be hindu's, ignorant preachers, speaking not of truth absolute GOD, nor hindu atheist, ignorant self centered, secular s. rode with a hindu blinded driver, BET ON A WRACK, YOU WILL NEVER LOOSE.
Expect nothing better but mayhem among humanity by following of hinduism, denial of truth absolute, Allah, and following of hindu pagan Mithra ism, savior ism, neither commanded, nor allowed in Islam as a religion, but Theen Allah, consti tution of truth absolute. Foundation of American consti tution.
hindu Mithra ism, savior ism invented little over 100 years after Sydana Mohammad pbh by tribes of Kujar of north Africa and imposition as Fatmid Khalaphit by force by denial of Hidth and Quran, justified by hindu Judaism, pagan secularism to impose hinduism, racism by hindu, fabricated relationship with Family of Syadana Mohammad pbh to justify existence of hindu criminal Kings, a violation of fundamental commandment, human equality under the LA. truth absolute Allah. Cause of conflict among Muslim's and cause of down fall of Muslim's and Islam in Spain.
Sunisim, invented by Turk's by corruption of Quran and hidth to justify existence of hindu King's as Khalipha, after death of Ruler Mohammad, but later renamed, Mehmmat, wisdom of spirit of truth by siblings from his Armenian wife, follower of hindu pagan Mithra ism, savior ism in 13th century.
Christianity, invented by hinduism,. corruption of truth absolute by hindu Pharisees, pagan self centered, follower of hindu filthy pig ism by corrupted Torah, known as Greek Torah, translated and commented by Ben Asheer in 250 AD in Yiddish, secularist, self centered language, also known as Old Testament, part of book of Mithra ism labeled as Bible. A way to justify hindu criminal Kings and self proclaimed Prophets, fortune tellers as god's to rule over humanity.
JUDAISM, Self center ism, pig ism, or Atheism, invented by hindu's pagan's of Egypt by corruption of truth absolute in Torah to Justify hindu pagan Pharaoh's and their hindu pagan Santans, goons as god's to rule over humanity with impunity.
HAVE hINDUISM, CORRUPTION OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE, RELIGIONS AND LIVE WITH MAYHEM, AS HAS BEEN THE CASE FROM hIND, DARK AGES TILL TODAY. FOLLOW THEEN ALLAH, CONSTI TUTION OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE, ALLAH , GOD AND THE LORD, FOUNDATION OF CONSTI TUTION OF AMERICA TO HAVE PEACE AMONG HUMANITY. To learn more please visit truthisthelimit.com
word hindu is based on Latin word hindered, negative, Hun, great, Han, to be in greatness, hin, to be negative to both of them, hindu, a noun in negativity, hinduism, way of negativity.
Visit limitisthetruth.com to learn about hinduism, criminality of hindu's, criminals to impose hinduism, racism on humanity by hinduism, corruption of truth absolute by force.
What would a CNN bigoted reporter look like reporting about politics this election?
Nobody whined this loud when a Quaker was in the White House. Nobody ever mentioned the fact that the actions of this Quaker didn't meet with the standards of his church. We still put the word -gate after every scandal, most people don't even know why. We call him a criminal, but his religion is never mentioned, a religion that makes Mormons look like pagans.
NIXON! ....Good Comment
Who knows what it would look like. It will never happen.
I cannot start to think what the impact will be if a mormon leads the USA?? Please go check out http://www.sacredgrovesonline.org
I'll take a Mormon over a muslim any day. Muslims are told to lie to non-believers in order to spread islam. It's considered a good thing. This is called taquiyya or kithmen. If you don't like Romney look at it this way, "When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I've never tried before".
I didn't know there was a Muslim running for president, but a person's religion shouldn't disqualify them from holding office anyway.
Salamander, you have it exactly backwards, as usual.
Google "lying for the Lord" to see Mormons' own words on deliberately deceiving outsiders.
Moot point since Mittens isn't going to live there, thank gawd!
Joseph Smith was a con artist that was arrested several times. He claims god talked to him and told him where to find golden plates with gods word written on them. He translated these plates with the use of magic stones with his head inside a hat. No one has ever seen these golden plates. Joseph Smith was also a womanizer who said god told him it was ok to have multiple wives. He took women as wives who were already married. WHAT A CROCK!
You think that's bad you should read about Muhammed.
Salamander, can the idiocy. You know perfectly well that Obama isn't Muslim and are just here to troll. How many names have you posted under?
Give me a break. This rhetoric was already tried with Kennedy as a "Catholic in the White House," b.s. Get a clue.
The LDS Church is not like the Catholics. Not even close. Catholics are liberals compared to the Mormons. All America gets to be born-again with Mitt in the White House. See you up there.
How come there was never an article about Obama Muslin beliefs and how it would affect the White House Traditions. CNN should stop showing the liberal side and be real news journalist. Maybe if one other network besides FOX would try to show both sides, there would not be so much discourse in our country. Whatcha think?
Because Obama isn't Muslim, you stupid git.
And honey? Figure out what the word "discourse" means. It isn't the same as "discord." Get an education.
If you don't believe Obama is a muslim you drank way too much of the kool aid.
Romney says he's a mormon. When there's a candidate for president who says he's a muslim, the news will be all over it. It's about what the candidate claims to be, not about what retarded dipsh!ts say the candidate is. Grow a brain, moron.
Salamander, if you believe he is, you're beyond stupid.
Well...Conan is obviously Irish...English is his second language.
I found this very interesting and informative!!!!! But! If he is all these things and believes in all these things...How can he lie and flip flop like he has been doing?????? I think he and his family are very nice people,very rich people and they don't have the slightest clue as to how we the average american live ,work or dream,.
They are the elite! Nothing wrong with that but as the upper crust,they know polo,Horse shows country club not where our next pay check is coming from.How were going to pay the mortgage...Our kids go to public school,He ,his wife and all his children and probably grandchildren went to private schools, Varsity and clubs etc..........!!!!!
One other thing! While Obama was in NY comforting & helping & promising help,,Mitt was on the campaign trail Where & why didn't he go and offer food,clothing and money (God Knows he has enough ) for these distressed people,I'm sure they would have appreciated knowing he really cared!!! but then,,we are not in his elite club are we??? Nice rich man but not one of us!!!!!!!!
UMM, Romney filled his campaign buses with supplies for those who needed it. While Obama was there for a photo op. ;)
Sorry, believing that God was flesh and blood and had "relations" with Mary to produce Jesus, and that Mormon men can become a god and live on their own planet is not Christian. Period.
In fact Joseph Smith claims he met God in person, and God told him "all other Christian faiths are an abomination". Sound Christian to you?
A person is a fool to believe anyone who ever claimed he spoke with gods.
President Obama's and Govenor Romney's belief systems are completely foreign to Biblical Christianity. That being said, Romney isn't running for ward-enforcer in chief, so I could care less what his personal belief system is. He wants to restore a decent economy, while President Obama wants to expand the power of the federal government. I am voting for Romney – which I would be doing even if he was an atheist.
If Romney's magic underwear is tax deductable, is my tinfoil hat also deductable?
Only if you keep in off shore
Mormons like to believe in things they way they want them to be rather than the way they are, or were. Mitt is a real example of that. The Mormon Jesus portrait shows Jesus as a big buff sandy blond man with blue eyes and huge arms and chest. He looks like a Viking, not a jew. But that's the way Mormons think, "don't bother me with facts, I don't want some fact checker messing with my beliefs".
Mormonism is a cult and proper Christians would never vote for an apostate.
Yeah, just like the Catholics. ALL RELIGION IS A CULT!!! Good thing that doesn't matter when electing someone into office.
It's not any more preposterous than people worshiping Moses or Jesus or mohammed. There are no prophets, just madmen and fictional characters.
Imagine if CNN ran an article about evangelical Christians in the White House. The same people who are trashing Romney and LDS would be losing their minds about "Christian persecution", "freedom of religion", and our "Christian nation."
If you're Christian and have strong feelings about having a Mormon in office who believes in "crazy ideas" about gods who live on different planets and such, you now know how the rest of us feel about you and your invisible god in the sky who created a 4B year-old planet 6000 years ago, then flooded it but fit two of every animal in it on one boat in one place. The Book of Mormon makes immeasurably more sense than the Book of Genesis.
Freedom of religion is such a nuisance when it isn't YOUR religion being protected, huh?
I contend that most of the people trashing Mitt Romney's Mormonism are not evangelical Christians, but rather, ardent supporters of Obama who are looking for something ... anything they can use to whittle away at the conservative voting bloc. They hope to raise doubt in the minds of Romney supporters who don't share his religious beliefs.
It's just that magic glasses are required to see Romney's tax returns for the past several years!!!!! Ha ha ha ha.
I hope they enforce to publish your tax returns before running for office as a Mandatory Law!!
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.