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.”
Will the Mormon Church sit Romney down, and examine in detail, the truthfulness of each of his ads?
so much ignorance on this article. So what if he's mormon, I know many mormon families that are amazing people, hold strong family principles, and accept others for who they are. It's not that he's mormon that people want him as president, it's because he is an upstanding man who will become a better president than Obama. We need to get off the route we're going and, as much as you hate to think about it, he is a much better choice than Obama.
This is unbelievable. If a comparable article were written in 2008 questioning what it would be like to have an African American in the whitehouse, speculating whether sweet potato pie and gritz would be served at state dinners, everyone would cry racisim. But somehow it is o.k. to poke fun at mormons. The double standard is embarassing. I expect better – even from CNN!
Do you not see the difference between a religion and a race? Between doctrines that are supposed to be followed and speculation on what racial stereotypes a person falls into? Are you this politically polarized?
I don't think they're poking fun at Mormons. Everything they said was true. It's just a "what if" article.
Lets look at this from this perspective....First religion is one's personal thing...I do not think anyone should push his/her religion on anyone...if the ask me if I am interested I can say either yes or no..simple..If I am interested I can do research on it or ask someone who is knowledgeable about it..simple...but what I find funny is that a lot of people automatically bring it up. Why? The same thing happened when JFK was running for Pres.,..people were scared to death that the Pope would be running the show..never happened...so why worry about Romney's beliefs...Judge anyone on what they do or what they say...leave religion out of it....
What a nightmare.
Hopefully America won't find out. I'm a republican but voting for obama this year as I believe we need a christian in the white house.
That is a dumb remark...base your vote not on religion but on the politics of the individual...
Really?? A "Christian" who is for gay marriage, and supports abortion???? Please. Obama is about as Christian as Jeremiah Wright.
DID WE ALL FORGET ABOUT THAT GUY WHO WAS A MEMBER OF A CULT IN WACO,TX?? DAVID C... TAKE A HARD LOOK AT THE MORMANS
Why don't you go first? You clearly don't have a clue. To even stoop to compare Mormons to David Koresh is preposterous.
Romney was a BISHOP in the Mormon church – we have a right to know about his faith as he says time after time it defines him as a man. As such, he believes native american indians are jews who discovered america in 500BC.
So? Now lets go back to Obama...is he really Christian? does he believe in Islam? he said Islam has been in America since it was founded...really? wake up and get off the religion judge the person based on his politics...
"In Greed We Trust"
In 1994, Bain invested $27 million as part of a deal with other firms to acquire Dade International, a medical-diagnostics-equipment firm, from its parent company, Baxter International. Bain ultimately made nearly 10 times its money, getting back $230 million. But Dade wound up laying off more than 1,600 people and filed for bankruptcy protection in 2002, amid crushing debt and rising interest rates. The company, with Bain in charge, had borrowed heavily to do acquisitions, accumulating $1.6 billion in debt by 2000. The company cut benefits for some workers at the acquired firms and laid off others. When it merged with Behring Diagnostics, a German company, Dade shut down three U.S. plants. At the same time, Dade paid out $421 million to Bain Capital’s investors and investing partners.
For 15 years, Romney had been in the business of creative destruction and wealth creation. But what about his claims of job creation? Though Bain Capital surely helped expand some companies that had created jobs, the layoffs and closures at other firms would lead Romney’s political opponents to say that he had amassed a fortune in part by putting people out of work. The lucrative deals that made Romney wealthy could exact a cost. Maximizing financial return to investors could mean slashing jobs, closing plants, and moving production overseas. It could also mean clashing with union workers, serving on the board of a company that ran afoul of federal laws, and loading up already struggling companies with debt.
Marc Wolpow, a former Bain partner who worked with Romney on many deals, said the discussion at buyout companies typically does not focus on whether jobs will be created. “It’s the opposite—what jobs we can cut,” Wolpow said. “Because you had to document how you were going to create value. Eliminating redundancy, or the elimination of people, is a very valid way."
A couple of examples (it's pretty easy to find more):
Bain closed GST Steel plant in 2001 laying off 750 workers.
Controlling share owner Bain Capital closes BRP plant (Southern Illinois) so the 340 jobs there could be outsourced to Mexico.
Also, this is disconcerting:
BAIN'S INVESTOR "SUCCESSES" WERE PRIMARILY CONTINGENT ON MASS LAY-OFFS OF WORKERS
We arrive in rusty 1964 motorhomes.
We bring our bibles and loaded assault weapons.
We wear ridiculous clothing and have teabags dangling from our earlobes.
We carry misspelled racist signs as we stomp all over the White House lawn.
We are Sarah Palin's "real Americans".
We love the baby jesus but we love to boink our cousins even more.
We believe that the Flintstones is an accurate depiction of early man.
We believe that nascar is a real sport and that Dale Earnhardt was a great American athlete.
We are the birthers. We are the teabaggers.
We are morons and we are proud.
What in the world are you talking about? Your message doesn't make any sense whatsoever... I assume you mean to imply that LDS people believe those silly stereotypes you wrote. I live in Utah – headquarters of the LDS church -its an amazing and beautiful place – one of the most highly educated states in the Nation.
1)Almost everyone I know can speak or read a second language.
2)Almost everyone I know spends a reasonable amount of time in service to another, and this includes giving lots of money away every year for the poor and needy.
3)Tea Party is small here and silly.
4)Almost no one watches NASCAR.
5)I can't even think of anyone unable to spell properly.
6)I've haven't seen the Flinstones in at least 20 years.
7) Sarah Palin? She's from Alaska, last time I checked, and also not LDS
8) Yes, we do have assault rifles. And handguns. And food storage. Guess where idiots like you will come running when things get really bad? I might even help an idiot like you out, because that represents LDS values.
9) We also have bibles. Might help you to read it (or anything) once in a while and stop watching so much Jersey Shore.
Why did ccn not have an article before Obama got elected like this? What would a black white house look like? just saying.........
Amen to that!
For over 4 years we had the media all over Obama's religion, and not a single word about Romney's. Was Obama a muslim, is he a christian – his ties with the Rev whatshisname dragged on for a year – then is he a muslim popped up year after year. The media did not touch on the Mormon stuff and that is a fallacy, especially when that church invaded California's ballot system for Proposition 8 to deny certain individuals rights.
Good Question...possible answer he paid them not to.....
Black is a race, not a religion. If you can't tell the difference, and realize why it didn't happen, then you may be more stupid than the Pat Robertsons of the world.
Nothing. He is never there. His whole term he has been campaigner / blamer-in-chief gallavanting around the country and the world.
This Dem didn't vote for him and turn didn't turn stupid the past 4 years to want to vote for him now. He is putting this country in the crapper with his redistribution wealth to the lazy asses with the "give me, give me" mentality.
Why did he and Michelle lose their law licenses – they can no longer practice law? Both of them!!
Ignorance is bliss isn’t it?
Re: The Obama's law licenses
See here - IF you care about facts:
Not sure who's more annoying: all the trolls on here or the other Mormons trying to convert people through comments on a political article...
I mean seriously, just accept the fact that half the people on here know nothing about our church, deal with it and move on and quit arguing, it's all they want..........
I take that back. I am the most annoying thing going. sorry
IMHO, a Mormon House would be not much different than, say, a Black House.
What would be nice would be for CNN to do some actual research before posting such an article. White House state dinners would still serve alcohol to those guest who wanted it. Just because Romney is a Mormon who abstains doesn't mean that he would impose his beliefs or practices on anyone else. And since Mormons use the Bible all the time in addition to the Book of Mormon, I would expect Romney would take his oath on the Bible. Mormons, contrary to those who have never bothered to do the tiniest bit of research, love and revere the Bible as sacred and as the word of God. And as for those telling you to Google Mormonism and then you would not vote for Romney, maybe they need to learn that Romney is running for president, not preacher in chief. People freaked out about Kennedy for being Catholic. No where did I read about him forcing anyone to convert.
Um, did you, like, actually READ the article??
Yet he is imposing his beliefs on others in his statements and what he wants to pass and do. cleaver.
Question for Mormons.
Can you get busy with all your wives at the same time, or is it just vanilla one on one?
@fred – Question for Mormons. – Can you get busy with all your wives at the same time, or is it just vanilla one on one?
You are soooooo funny. That practice is long gone. But I'm sure you know this and were just trying to be funny in a below the belt kinda way. Nice job bigot.
Bigot??? How do you get that from what I said. Moron!
What’s with all the Mormon drive-bys today? They’re worse than Christians when it comes to that.
Do a Google search on " 20 Truths about Mormonism" You will not vote for Romney. Tell all your friends
You can also go to Mormon.org if you care to look at both sides of the coin.
Book of Abraham. Fact or fiction?
Really, CNN? REALLY?
Agreed. CNN = rhetoric machine.
CNN is just trying to stir up all kinds of mean spirited rhetoric. It's their spin.
If the Romney family gets the opportunity to move into the White House, they will honor the office of Presidency with class and dignity.
Just like the Romney cronies at prolapsed.net. The Romney clan and their followers are everything that Americans should be against.
Nothing dignified about strapping a dog to the roof of the car for miles and miles of a journey. He'll do the same to the poor.
Personally, I don't think a Romney White House would be very much at all like a Mormon house 'cause he sure hasn't acted much like a mormon in this campaign.
And how, Tom, did he not act much like a Mormon in his campaign. Please be specific. The only way you would know is if you happen to be a Mormon yourself.
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.