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.”
Mormons are people pleasers when they get out in public, but believe me, when they get behind closed doors with fellow Mormons they bash other Christian beliefs all the time. Believe me, I used to be a Mormon.
Why not post an article about fried chicken and watermelon dinners at the white house? This is just designed to scare off the religious right from voting for Romney, transparent and shameful.
People cannot choose the amount of melanin with which they are born, but they can choose their religion.
See the difference?
I pray Romney is not elected--he is an out of touch elitist-flipped on all issues!
Is there a limit on the amount of wives that can live in the white house? Ha
Do they each get their own kitchen?
This is the first lady, this is the second lady, this is the third lady.....
@ The Jackdaw. That gave me a good laugh. Thanks.
I am a Mormon, and I went to another church with my friend on Sunday. The people seemed sincere, but I was struck by the complete lack of the same Spirit that I feel when I attend my church each Sunday. It was further confirmation to me that I am on the right path and that I belong to the one true church. Go to mormon.org to learn more about what makes me happy!
emm ehh NO.
The intensity of fervour at a religious gathering is not related to the veracity of the religion itself.
Or was that just being a stranger in a strange place?
Yeah you keep following the teachings from a con artist and criminal. The origins of the Mormon Book is flawed.
Utah is not even voting for Romney, so the scenario is highly unlikely. But if it were, Mitt would be wearing his magic underwear in the White House.
Would Mitt wear funny underwear on the job?
Does Mitt follow the Mormon belief that he can become a god?
Does Mitt follow the Mormon belief that their god comes from another planet, called Kolob?
Religious Bigots much? How about questioning what the White House would look like with a president who is a child of the Black Separatist Movement. Oh yea, we have that right now!
Racial bigotry trumps religious bigotry. Bigot!
I know with all my heart that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's one and only true church! Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and Thomas S. Monson is a living prophet. The gospel has blessed my life in so many ways. I don't know where I'd be without it!
Your heart needs an education.
well yippee for you but keep your religion to yourself.
Your religious beliefs are entirely reliant on your demographics. Move a little to your right and you will find a different “truth”.
This long article is a waste of people's time which is typical when you're referring to a CNN article.
Romney (if elected) can do things the way he wants to just any other president did when they were elected to that position. I am sure that many people will continue to bash Romney over his religion which is unfortunate in a country such as ours and keep doing so as long as he is in the spotlight.
If Romney chooses to go to any of the church temples, he will not need the secret service while he is in there. Of course they may disagree and hire additional secret service agents who are LDS just to make sure he is protected but I can guarantee that the temple is very sacred and the secret service will have to make adjustments to accommodate him and Mrs. Romney.
Either way, a man of his accomplishments and his faith would serve this country very well. Mormons are very dedicated to their employers and their country so I would bet every dollar I have that Romney will work tirelessly to get this country back on track. Religion or no religion, he has what it takes and voters need to look past his religion and the silly articles. It is about the man and his passion for his country.
As a Mormon, Romney is faithful to his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Its at least a Christian Church. Or should we re-elect a president who attacked the Sermon on the Mound given by Jesus himself when he was a senator? So, who lacks faith here? President Obama may proclaim himself to be Christian, but in my opinion, he hasn't shown it. Going to a church does not make you a Christian, but the change that takes place within when you give your life to Christ. If its not the 'Name' he used when in school in Kenya ( other then Obama ), or the elusive birth certificate that appears to be a forgery, or the attack of the words of Jesus in His sermon on the mound, I personally find president Obama lacking. My personal opinion, of course.
I see you excelled in bible studies. Sermon on the Mound. That would be so funny if you weren't so ridiculous.
The birth certificate is not elusive and it is not a fake. You should get your information from more reliable sources than Doanld "I hate government except when I need finance" Trump.
Branding your cult with the name of Jesus, does not make you Christian.
Obama never went to school in Kenya. He was at school in Indonesia from age 6 to 10 and then moved to Hawaii. I'd get you're facts straight before posting on a public forum.
Tell me fred what makes you a Christian?
We could start with not believing that Jesus and Satan were brothers.
LOL If you're going to define Christianity by what it's not, then you're just trying to specifically eliminate people who believe certain things, not to mention you're going to need a lot of space, and don't forget to add in "don't want people to think for themsleves".
You're correct. Going to church doesn't make you a good Christian. Following the teachings of Jesus Christ does. Jesus believed in helping the poor, to not ignore those less fortunate than yourself, to not enrich the already-wealthy. Jesus wanted to cure the sick and educate others. He thought amassing wealth was not the path to heaven. So what is it about his public policies that would make Mitt Romney a good Christian? Enhance and extend educational opportunities? no. Universal healthcare? No. Reducing the wealth gap in America? no. Showing compassion for the most poor among us (which are mostly children by the way)? no.
"Obama never went to school in Kenya. He was at school in Indonesia from age 6 to 10"
Correct... and quite of a bit of that was at the Catholic school:
"Obama attended the Indonesian-language Santo Fransiskus Asisi (St. Francis of Assisi) Catholic School around the corner from their house for 1st, 2nd, and part of 3rd grade."
ironhorse - get your facts straight, please.
I’m doing no such thing. I’m simply pointing out one key component of the Mormon faith that is in serious conflict with Christian teachings.
Really? I thought all things that are created are children under your god? In a way, everything is related, and it does not say anything in your bible that excludes angels and fallen angels from this.
I agree with hawaiiguest on that one.
A Christian is one that follows Christ and is willing to give up his life and take on the image of God through a process of sanctification. If someone believes Jesus was Christ that belief begins to show itself through the life of the person. Hitler claimed to be a Christian yet his actions were not in keeping with the love Christ spoke. We are not to judge as we really do not know the true nature of anyones soul.
In short thinking Jesus had a brother named James or Lucifer is not a deal breaker or maker. I personally know many christians that are LDS and they have the important stuff down that Jesus presented.
I wonder, how does it feel to have someone pulling at any possible conceived straw to support an unsupported position?
I’m not pulling at straws you imbecile! You cannot change a core component of something and still call it the same thing. If I made a pizza using an apple pie for the base, I couldn’t call it a fucking pizza anymore could I?! I could say that looks like a pizza, or its pizza inspired, but it will never be a pizza.
Ok I have absolutely no idea which fred is which. One of you change your name a little so I can tell you apart.
It should be very clear who the real fred is as imposter fred has already lost his cool and started calling you names. Hint; I am still praying for your salvation.
You do not know God so how would you know Christ or what kind of a Pizza a real Christian would order?
If you really want to learn what Mormons believe go to mormon.org. Who knows? it could change your life!
Then research history to learn the origins and facts about the founder.
"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
At least it won't be a baby killer, gay party white house. a job killing white house, a can't get the facts streight white house, etx
Suggestion: get some education to improve you communication skills. Better communication effects better understanding. You'll most likely lose the bigotry in the process.
@Rose James; Right on with that comment. Not to mention his being the most lie teller ever to occupy the white house. I believe this is where the "OCCUPY" group got their name from since he graciously accepted their causes. How about doing a story on his professed Religeon he confessed to George Stephanopolis in 2009, Muslim Faith. That would be a bigger story but the MSM do not want to go there now do they. The Socialist Democrats are pulling out all the stops with their main propagandist CNN, MSNBC, and TaxPayer supported "National" communications devices! Vote for the American this time America, I will do that tomorrow.
What an idiotic article!! What difference does it make what religion a candidate is? Was there a similar article in 2008 on what the WH would be like if there was an African American in it? Or a Muslim? Did CNN wonder is greens and watermelon would be served at state dinners? Or if there were going to be nightly readings of the Koran?
Don't you remember the article about the purple wallpaper?
If you wanted parity to your comment with Mitt Romney, the article would have needed to accuse Mitt of being born in Mexico, followed the Wiccan faith and have never really gone to college. If it had done that, THEN you would have had a fair comparison.
If Barack Obama is African American, then that makes Mitt Romney Mexican American.
I always read moron when I see that word...i think it is a Freudian thought when it comes to this moron, Mormon or not.
I don't really care all that much about his religion, but there is something disconcerting about a Mormon President surrounded by hand-picked Mormon secret service.
I dont care about his religion, i just care about his religion. typical libbie garb
People, 2008, we have a first ever in history black USA president Barack Obama and we are proud of that. So, why not a first Mormon USA president.
Because he is a lying church leader...that is never a good combination.
the mormons even have a name for it. it's called Lying for the Lord.
because libbies always wanted a black president to ease their white guilt and blacks wanted one for revenge on the whites. they are scared of an honest man as president because the truth of the games of the last 4 years will expose their bs.
Black and Mormon are 2 completely different things, Tex.
Just how many presidents have campaigned with a moniker or "nickname" to run for president of the United States of America?... Could it be that earlier "Mitt" was gayer and more acceptable and Willard just didn't have the same ring as a schoolyard bully? I grew out of mine,"Percy" by the age of 16.
I can't help but wonder if it might really be all part of Heavenly Father's divine plan to have Willard avoid his baptized name? Although the LDS Church 's official name is not Mormon and the leadership has done its best to have the world refer to it by the current official name. It just sounds better to have Christ in your name.
I can't help but wonder if it is really all part of Heavenly Father's divine plan to have his Son's church and Mitt too be known by a telestial nickname? The LDS Church 's official name is not Mormon and the leadership has done its best to have the world refer to it by the current official name or the name ' Church of Christ', the vast majority of the world still only knows the LDS Church as the 'Mormon Church'.
Only later was Willard's childish surrogate essentially swapped. As Mitt he has failed to stick to principles, to supply previous tax returns, as customary by all other candidates including his biological father who also ran for the presidency, just to site a few. http://mormonthink.com/nameweb.htm (not to mention the a long awaited revelation to allow blacks and native americans into the priesthood). I smell a dirty diaper. Is it Bishop Willard or Bishop Mitt?
mormons = xtians = MYTHS
... good day
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.