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.”
Oddly, Romney never mentions how much taxpayer money will be used to re-model rooms for the Sister Wives. Must be include in his 5 point plan.
I have a friend that was ex-communicated from the Mormon church. Why? Because she actually questioned things in the faith, and the church leaders felt threatened by someone that would actually have their own opinions and ideas on things. They felt this ideology would spread, and so they kicked her out. Once she was "no longer Mormon," all of her supposed "friends" in the church turned their back on her and would completely ignore her existence in public. It is amazing that these people have seemingly no free-will, especially for an American-born religion.
Another thing is that my friend caught her husband cheating on her, and the church actually blamed this on her for "not pleasing her husband enough." It was never the man's fault in the church's eyes, even though the rest of society would say this is obvious. This shows the general subservience of women to men within the church, even though they will tell you otherwise to your face. Interesting how they flip-flop depending on what fits in with society.... hmmmm... just like someone else... *cough* Romney. You can't tell me that someone that has been brought up in this religion doesn't have this same underlying mentality.
I don't know how the LDS/Mormon religion is viewed by most of the country, but here in the heartland of Idaho and Utah, you get to see the actual effects of the faith on its members. The people are very nice, but they are also fake fake fake, and will tell you pretty much anything so that they "fit in."
I have mormons friends who lost their home and their jobs under the bush presidency, and if it wasn't for the Obama presidency the wife would have not gone to school to study and better herself. The husband is still on disability .. I would call them... "the 47% Romney can't stand".... however these mormons voted for Romney.... Proves how brainwashed they are for their religion.... they don't think for the future or present.
Jessica Ravitz CHANGE TO MUSLIM
Jessica Ravitz, you are a disgusting human being.
Nice hit piece 4 days before the elections. Just in case anyone had forgotten Mitt Romney is a Mormon, here comes CNN to remind them, and that how "different" Mormons are from others.
So next time we expect that with a Catholic candidate CNN will give us a list of things Catholics are supposed to do, including regarding the Pope as God's representative on earth.
where do I get a pair of magic underwear and a couple of wifes ?
Me too me too! I hope we'll send spaceships to the planet Kolob too!
yes fun times
fairy tail book,
I know that fairies have wings, but who knew that they have tails?
(I think you mean "tales")
YEAHHH DUDDDDEEE!!! Christianity is such a cult with those stupid rules of control like though shalt not kill, no not covet another man's wife, love your enemies. INDOCTRINATION I SAY DUDEEEEEEEE. Nobody has time for that! Especially that stupid loving everybody thing. Loving someone other than myself?...Total cult.
The CDC is such a cult too. Indoctrinating us with rules and regulations like sneezing in your elbow, using condoms, and telling us to bath regularly and wash our hands often. Now they want to control everything? I saw NO BATHS, NO HAND WASHING!!!! They threaten us with diseases and stuff. Say together sheep "WE ARE FREE!!!!"
Now that I'm on the CDC, education is a cult too. Forcing us to spell correctly and do math and stuff. *takes long drag from joint* Indoctrinating our minds with algebra and US History. BURN YOUR HOMEWORK DUDE!!! DON'T SUPPORT THE SYSTEM MANNNNNNN.
Do you know the difference between education and indoctrination? On is based on observable facts and trends and the other is unchanging dogma, shoved down the throats of the gullible and credulous.
Apparently he doesn't know the difference.
At least he won't have an ornament of Mao on his Christmas tree!
Beginning with Howard Hughes entry into the Las Vegas Casino and Hotel Business, Hughes surrounded himself with Mormons and placed them into key positions in his operations. Today Mormons staff the upper echelons of the Casino Industry thoughout Las Vegas...considered to be honest, hard working, people who can be relied upon.
If the business world trusts them enough to prefer them in environments ridden with vices and temptations with lots of easily misplaced cash, maybe the American people might benefit from having a Mormon in the White House, heck why not we've tried everything else, it's not like we've much left to lose at this point!
Hughes was used and abused. Its the Mormon way. Bang little girls, throw teenage boys on the street.
CNN the most corrupt POLITICAL TV STATION
And I wonder what reputable, considerate, professional news organization would look like.
So, in this whole article, nothing would actually change at the white house. Nice headline.
Muslims is ok ... why not mormon
Who is the muslim in your little brain
My favorite part (because it is so ridiculous): 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.'"
Has she done some official study to find this out?
There are so many official church authorities CNN could use for this story but for some reason they rely on her and others who don't want to be named. They could have had a hard time getting anyone official, though, because of how ridiculous this story is to begin with.
why a black president.....is ok ? .... just professional politician not businessman , no entrepreneur against spirit of america to be nr 1 ?... and why not a mormon president who is a very smart ... successful and not Communist ....
America wake up
No to Communism nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
before is to lateeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
Joe McCarthy called and admitted all the commie crap he started was BS. get a clue goober
Communism is no longer a threat. Wrong century and wrong millennium. America, Greece, UK and others have spent their "capitalist" teats off. They are in massive debt- 40% to 93% in relation to GDP. Russia and China, your scary commies of old, are under 10%. Communism is dead, but the ability to spend less than you take in is also dead.
Russia and China espouse state-sponsored capitalism, which is exactly the model Romney wants to emulate as Commander-in-Chief. Why else would a businessman want to be the highest ranking politician in the world if not to treat governance as another income-generating opportunity for self and your cronies?
This is the most ridiculous and discriminatory article I have ever had the displeasure of reading! Shame on you, CNN! Simply disgraceful! What do you care if he takes his oath on the Book of Mormon or the Holy Bible or a telephone book, for that matter? What if he were Muslim and swore his oath on the Koran? Would that be a problem for you? Of course not! And the fact that he does not drink alcohol or consume caffeine should be something to praise, not ridicule! We should all try to be more disciplined and faithful as the Romneys and all Mormons try to be. As a Roman Catholic, I admire their values of family, service to others, and faith in their religion. That is nothing to snicker at!
If a Koran were used or kept in the White House, it'd probably be the copy that was personally owned by Thomas Jefferson. That Koran has already been used in lieu of the Bible in the swearing-in ceremony of a Muslim congressman, I can't think of his name, some years ago.
no one said it was a 'problem' did they. keep scaring yourself. lol
Wow... so glad someone finally approached this very important subject. Thanks CNN for always prioritizing non issues above anything substantive.
Why dont you demand the President answer questions about 4 dead Americans in Bengazi?
Why dont you examine how Obama's policies have supressed a return to economic health for Americans?
Why dont you look at how another 4 years of the same policies will chang America in significant ways?
Why dont you look at how Romney's policies will contrast Obama's?
And if you think religion is worthy, why didnt you look at how Obama's Liberation Theology would drive his political decisions in the last election. It could have easily predicted his socialist agenda.
Mormon are a freedom loving, liberty defending, self responsibility promoting people. Why dont you talk about how the Mormon church is always first on the scene to aid world wide disasters and without fan fare? Why dont you talk about how Mitts religion has shaped him as a volunteer with his time and a generous giver of his personal wealth?
You guys are so transparent. Wy dont you just admit you are a wing of the Democrat Party?
Why dont you demand the President Bush answer questions about >3,000 dead Americans in the WTC?
Why dont you examine how Republican policies crashed the economic health for Americans in 2008?
Why dont you look at the 8 years of Bush/Republican policies changed America in significant ways?
Why dont you look at how Romney's policies will contrast Obama's? Yeah why don't you i d i o t
And if you think religion is worthy, why didnt you look at how Obama's Liberation Theology would drive his political decisions in the last election. It could have easily predicted his socialist agenda. You accuse of him of being a theologist and a socialist in the same sentence, isn't that contradictory!
Fox is still covering the Benghazi, no time for Sandy. No interest to ask the question what is Romney's stand for FEMA. Do you know Romney's position regarding FEMA? Even Romney does not know his position. Because he is about change his mind within next hour or so......
Cause it's a reiligious blog story. move along hickbillie
Scientology + Mormonism = Church of the Final Process. now Best Friends Animal Society, Kanab Utah
I grew up in the Mormon church. Sure, some of them are good people, but overall it is religion of distrust, hypocracy, judgement, and unforgiveness. Women are so secondary as to be invisible except for giving birth to more Mormons. The theme I was taught was "Every member a missionary." Organized religion is the greatest scam ever perpetrated. No, I am not an athiest!
@ truth to tell: I too was in the Mormon church, have sinced left, believe it to be untrue and that religion in general is scam. However, I believe your generalization that Mormonism is a religion of distrust, hypocrisy, judgement, and unforgiveness is unfounded. You should say, "I, myself, found that Mormonism is.....etc. etc.." Because I found something completely different. So would someone else in the same situation. To each his own perspective...don't generalize.
MagicPanties obviously has alot of free time. Keep on with your semi-intelligent comments.
I live in Salt Lake City (but I'm not a Mormon). The LDS church does seem to have some odd practices to those of us who aren't in the church, but I've got to say - the stuff about food storage, emphasis on family, etc. - all good things. In reality, Mormons aren't as odd as the media sometimes portrays. In fact, they're largely happy, hospitable, and polite folks (even more so than the general population I think). That being said, however, I'll be voting for Obama.
they are a hive of corruption, incest and murder. just the way they like it
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.