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.”
As a member of the LDS Church, this is a dang good article. For those of you looking for a little information on how we live, this article relays that perfectly. Thank you CNN for giving a factual and accurate representation of the Church, and its practices, that I hold so dear.
leave all critical thinking skills behind, this whole thing is nuts
But a lot was left out.....a lot.
I don't think you're really a Mormon, because a Mormon would recognize that this article serves no purpose but to remind people that Romney's religion is 'different', and thereby avoid the election of a Mormon.
Mr. Izz is pleased with this article because it's so generic and pleases the average believer. I'm sure every Mormon sweats bullets everytime they hear someone wanting to "expose" publicly their beliefs, which they hold so private and sacred and will defend and deny til the end.
If Mitt Romney's father was born in Mexico in a polygamist community, why was he eligible to run for President? Religion should be personal, but if Muslims are going to be castigated for their faith; then every other faith needs to be questioned as well regarding the separation of church and state. We will truly be a nation that believes in separation of church and state when an agnostic is elected President and no one cares. It is definitely possible to be compassionate and moral without being a part of an organized religion.
I agree 100 percent.
Very poor form for CNN to put something like this out just days before the election.
All religious authorities are conmen. Do you really think they are in it for God once they get to the top?
Watching the discussions from the outside (Germany), I do not really understand:
Why don't you simply judge candidates by how they succeeded in their past fields of responsibilities:
Obama: how did he do as a president?
Romney: how did he do in his business, as a governor, in the Olympics?
Seems easy to me!
Well thats why German aren't allowed to vote here, because it is not that simple. And if Germans did vote, along with the entire rest of the free world, do you know what the result would be? A recent worldwide poll showed a 90% Obama landslide. No one in the world wants another right wing neocon conservative US president. They may be on to something.
Claus, History is certainly an important factor in judging a candidate, but it cannot be the only one. In order to become governor of a relatively liberal state like Massachusetts a very conservative politician would be forced to lie to get the votes. Same for a liberal running in a conservative state. So now we have a politician in a state role, who has already lied to get where they are (just the way it is). If this person's dream is to become president, they will further have to compromise on their real beliefs, both to maintain office, and no to appeal to the country as a whole. So you really have to do some guesswork as to a politician's real beliefs...religion is one piece of evidence in that mystery. They could of course be lying about their religion, and that's another thing you have to guess. There are many other factors in play, including knowing who is funding the campaign. The president will owe these people, and since you can be elected twice you will still have to play the game in the first term. The second term offers somewhat more flexibility, and that's when we might get a glimpse of some of a politician's real beliefs. I hate to tell you, but the game is pretty similar in most democracies, each with its own little twists.
The world likes Obama because he's limp and nonthreatening.
Obviously 1, if you hadn't ignored Claus' point, you'd have to compare Obama's four years of disaster with Romney's lifetime of success. So you pull out smears and insults instead.
Of course you're talking about the steady growth of our economy over the last 36 months under President Obama, right? And how, when Romeny became governor, Massachusetts fell from 36th to 47th out of 50 states in job creation, while the overall U.S. economy grew. Or the fact that by the end of Governor Romney’s term, Massachusetts had lost more than 40,000 manufacturing jobs—a rate twice the national average. And how under Mitt Romney, Massachusetts’ debt burden grew to the highest per person in the nation. Or about how Governor Romney failed to protect good jobs in Massachusetts, and actually outsourced state jobs to India. And I'm sure you know that when Romney took over the Olympics he received millions and millions from the federal government, and that most all records of that time have either disappeared or been destroyed, But you knew all of this, right?
Kim, when you opened with reference to the "steady growth" of the economy under Obama, I was unable to read the rest because I laughed so hard my eyes filled with tears.
Steady as a glacier...
Oh, I get it, Guy. Your ignorance is okay because you *choose* to be ignorant. Sticking your fingers in your ears and singing to yourself is a *real* mature way to process presented facts. Way to go, champ.
Nice job CNN! Did you ever question if Obama might display a "Black Jesus" picture, or if "watermelons" would be the fruit of choice in Obama whitehouse? Wait, that would be wrong and insulting wouldn't it?
Are you really too dumb to understand that there is a difference between race and religion?
First of all, the snarky, just bordering on mocking tone in this piece is noted...and not appreciated. Secondly, I was scouring your archives for articles about the religion of candidates and funny thing...I found nothing detailing the current president's "professed" religion and particularly, his 20 yr. affiliation with the church of Jeremiah Wright. Why is that? Oh...I forgot...CNN has been and remains in the tank for The One and further demonstrates that journalism and a free press is long gone. What a disgrace.
Fox news is just down the hall ma'am
You must be a devout Faux news listener. Out of curiosity I watched Hannity on the night Obama toured NJ with Christie. NOT A SINGLE WORD was mentioned about this event. All I heard was the blah blah blah about Benghazi. Bunch of hateful bigots.
is there a church that concentrates on prayer instead of preaching? you don't need a goober to tell you right from wrong,'the ten commandments are written in the heart of every man'.
Maybe there would be a statue of the angel Moroni placed on top of the White House or a saying of Brigham Young like "I don't care how you bring' em just bring'em young" placed in the Oval Office.
Or pehaps Obama has had the antique sofa in the Blue Room reupholstered in kinte cloth? You're a fool.
I would say that Catholics are the most mild. It's more of a tradition for them than a religion.
Very, very true. It's such an old religion - over 1,000 years - that it has become more of a tradition, with some rituals. Also, Catholics aren't evangelical - that is, they don't actively try to convert others. That actually makes them less dangerous than other sects of Christianity.
CNN, this is a truly disgusting, biased article. You won't feature the atrocity at Bengazi, but you worry about a "Mormon White House"? What was in the Obama African American White House "home" - zebra stripes, pictures of lip-pierced natives or monkeys swinging from trees? Do tell and shame on you!
Good comeback. LOL
Wow, forgot to take your anti-racist meds today?
This is the last minute smear effort. As I type, on the same page as this story is one encouraging Christian conservatives to boycott voting, because Romney's a Mormon. It's the final "don't forget, he's a Mormon!" attack. The idea is that any blowback from this will occur after Obama is re-elected.
If you look around the media, you'll see a sudden upsurge of openly biased reporting on this race. It's the media's last minute effort, paralleling Obama's last minute campaign push.
the only people who have a problem with someone's religion (or skin color, or language) are the right wingers -
longshot, have you been reading 1freethinker's posts?
Obviously, this article was written to try to help Obama get re-elected by trying to stir up religious prejudice. CNN joins the ranks of the liberal media that serves as propaganda machine for the democrat party. Shame on you CNN: you have no credibility.
You're right...they lost credibility years ago...which would be laughable given they tout themselves as a news organization but unfortunately, it really isn't laughable because what their bias makes them is dangerous. Hardly funny when a democracy depends on a free press.
Exactly. CNN is looking more and more like MSNBC every day. Pretty pathetic.
Forget about what pictures Romney would bring to the White house, this is what he believes in:
-The American Indians are descended from Jews who sailed to America in 600BC
-God is a flesh and blood man and had physical "relations" with Mary to create Jesus
-Jesus and Satan are brothers
-Mormon men can become gods and live on their own planet
-Joseph Smith met God and Jesus in person, and God told him all other Christian faiths were an "abomination"
-Joseph Smith used magic glasses and his magic treasure seeking hat to create the Book of Mormon
That is all true, believe it or not. You can google it, wiki it, whatever. Mitt Romney is a Bishop in the Mormon church and gave $4.1 million dollars to the Mormon church in 2010 alone according to his tax returns. Holding absurd beliefs like that should exclude you from being the oval office and leader of the free world.
Pick any religion and you can make a similar list.
You're not really opposed to Romney because he's a Mormon. You're just willing to foment religious bigotry to further your own political goals.
"So" is because if Romney truly believes he will become a god and live on his own planet when he dies, I want him nowhere near nuclear weapons or the White House. That is magical thinking and shows a lack of reason, big time.
At least he has Christian values. Much better than the Socialist Muslim we have in the WH now!
1freethinkr, you are so correct about the fake false Mormons; some thinking it was bad to have Obama as president if Mitt gets elected they ain't seen nothing yet and they will get to see just what having somebody in a cult in the White House will be like!!!!!!
Are you sure they believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers? I never heard or read that....
Ben, definately it is what they believe....there is tons of info out there on it...even a Mormon will tell you this...of course, it may take a while, cause they want to get you in ever so gently offering you "milk" first, before they give you the "meat". Please research it and not take someones word for it...you would be shocked and saddened for these mis guided, lost self proclaiming Christians.
what does a Muslim White House look like now?
Whatever else your imagination comes up with.
I don't know what it "looks like" but bet it smells.
I think is a very even handed article. Not seeing a scathing attack on the LDS church. p.s. I voted Romney in early voting here in Ut. So I'm reading everything thru red goggles and I don't see any bias here.
Beats a Muslim in the White House!
Show me the article you wrote about what an African American White House would look like. Of course, there wasn't any – as it should be. And there should be no articles on what a Mormon White House looks like either. You're obviously a bigot.
My invisible pink unicorn thinks you are the bigot.
Magic, that makes no sense, and follows the much-discussed liberal tendency to call folks on the right bigots and racists without any basis.
CNN you are cowards-ted turner want a bees--you will not report on Libya, you write articles like this but when obama believes in killing babies you say he is a progressive Christian. God's judgment is coming to America with 55,000,000 babies murdered but for now-we have a president who did not even try to save our troops in Libya--we saw how he all by himself killed bin laden within minutes but 7 weeks after the murder of our troops he is still getting his response ready and CNN lets him get by with this. I am going to do all i can to have vets and or christians stay off CNN because of your cowardly reporting of Libya that is a worse scandal than watergate. I am in DC when watergate happened-have memories of Senator Goldwater calling me and telling me to go home that DC had bigger things to worry about than what i was trying to get done-Nixon was impeached for a cover up not for murdering 4 of our troops-obama did not try to save our people AND HE IS GUILTY OF A HUGE COVER UP. His foreign policy is we got bin laden so i am successful but we have the entire middle east at war with us and he is scared to step on his fellow mulsims toes. IMPEACH OBAMA NOW. He has gotten past the election by avoiding anything to do with Libya and CNN has helped-even fat albert helped at the debate which says it all-wolf should change his name to lap dog.
signed: bill pike, vets for romney
oh, mr. pike, you're going to be so sad on Nov 7th
Mitt believes he will become an actual god when he dies and rule his very own planet, populated by spirits "birthed' by Ann.
This is not the kind of person to be entrusted with nuclear codes.
I'm not voting for the guy, but in fairness I think you have to accept that most politicians will lie and pretend to be more religious than they really are, because that's what the public wants. And most on the east coast don't respect people who change religion, so you're often as not stuck with what you're born with.
Romney is not your average Mormon. He is a powerful bishop in the Mormon church. He gives sermons to congregations, he actually teared up when he said 'I know Joseph Smith is the prophet and that the church is true" during a sermon. Mormons come to him for religious guidance. He drinks the cool aid of the church big time.
Voters need to educate themselves on what the mormons really believe: That it's okay to "lie for the lord", and about what a whacko Joseph Smith was, and how the LDS church is salivating all over themselves at the thought of having a puppet in the White House.
As a former Mormon (now and agnostic) I will have to say that the Mormon Church is no more a cult than any other church on this Earth. If you can believe Moses received stone tablets from a burning bush, then you should be able to believe that Joseph Smith received golden plates from an angel. I personally think all religion is crazy, but keep on believing.
All organized religions are cults.
However, mormons and scientologists do seem quite a bit wackier.
considering what we actually know about Joe "the con man" smith and how recent the LDS was created i would say it is very different.
Mormon Ceremonies are probably the most reverent you will ever encounter. They are also very boring ceremonies. Ever been to a Pentecostal church. Yeah, scary. People are all over the place, exercising the demons. I think the Catholic church has the most mild and beautiful ceremonies.
That's like saying, "I can believe in Merlin because he existed hundreds of years ago, but I can't believe in Dumbledore because he was more recent.
All religious leaders are conmen. Do you think they are actually doing it for God once they get to the top and realize he doesn't exist?
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.