October 29th, 2011
10:00 PM ET

The shaping of a candidate: A look at Mitt Romney's faith journey

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series of stories looking at the faith of the leading 2012 presidential candidates, including Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. We also profiled the faith journey of Herman Cain before he suspended his campaign.

(CNN) – A cop arrived at the roadside wreckage of a June 1968 head-on collision in southern France, took one quick look at the Citroën’s unresponsive driver and, according to one of the driver’s friends, scrawled into the young man’s American passport, “Il est mort” - “He is dead.”

The man at the Citroën’s wheel was Mitt Romney, who may have appeared dead but was very much alive – as is his bid today for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Romney was serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the LDS Church, when tragedy struck. It was a time of turmoil both in France and in the United States. Protests against the Vietnam War raged on, as did French disdain for Americans. Robert Kennedy had recently been assassinated, as had Martin Luther King Jr. a couple months earlier. France was still reeling from a May marked by riots, student demonstrations and crippling worker strikes.

There were six people in the car Romney was driving when friends say an oncoming speeding Mercedes, driven by a Catholic priest, veered into his lane. Among the passengers was mission president Duane Anderson – Romney was serving as his assistant – and Anderson’s wife. Anderson was injured, and Leola Anderson, 57, was killed. Like her husband, she’d been a parent figure to the approximate 180 Mormon missionaries in the field - their surrogate mother away from home. Now, she was gone.

“I don’t think [Romney] went around blaming himself, but in talking about it he’d shed some tears,” remembered Dane McBride, a fellow missionary and Romney friend ever since. “It was a very heavy experience for a 21-year-old.”

The mission president left France for six weeks to bury his wife and heal. A gloom spread over the mission field. Conversions dropped along with Latter-day Saint spirits.

These young men and women, who were already deep in a trying spiritual rite of passage, had to grow up and prove themselves in new ways.

In spite of his grief and a broken arm, Romney and a missionary companion – they always work in pairs – took charge. They traveled around the country visiting the others. Romney lifted up deflated missionaries with silly made-up songs. He taught them to visualize all they could accomplish and challenged them to raise their expectations, McBride said.

Romney increased the conversion goal for the year by 40%, believing they could and would recharge. In the end they surpassed Romney’s goal of baptizing 200 new members into the church.

It wasn’t such a stretch, though, for Romney to distinguish himself. Throughout his life, he’s been rooted in a faith that – whether he talks about it or not – helped shape the man and GOP presidential frontrunner he is today.

‘An American running for president’

Romney hopes to get the nod that eluded him four years ago.

Back then, during his first bid for president, he faced opposition from candidates including Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister and favorite of evangelical voters who billed himself as the “Christian leader.”

Romney has faced questions about his faith since first getting into politics in 1994, when he ran for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts against Democratic stalwart Ted Kennedy, whose attack on Romney’s Mormonism failed to gain traction.

Since then Romney, who was later elected Massachusetts governor, has played down his faith on the campaign trail. But he addressed it in a December 2007 speech, hoping to stem voter concerns about his faith and how it might influence him as a president. It was a speech he likened to John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 speech, when Kennedy was in the running to be America’s first Catholic president.

“Almost 50 years ago another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for president, not a Catholic running for president,” Romney said. “Like him, I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.”

He said, “No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith,” and that if he were to be elected president, he would “serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest.”

“A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States,” he said. “I believe in my Mormon faith, and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers. I will be true to them and to my beliefs. Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it.”

Whether Romney’s confession of faith did sink him was a subject of debate. He hoped to deflect the focus on his religion while not speaking to doctrine or specific beliefs. In the whole speech, he only mentioned the word Mormon once.

Just days later, Huckabee would stir the pot.

“Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” Huckabee said to a New York Times reporter. Huckabee later apologized for the remark.

This time around, Romney remains strong in the polls and counts among his backers New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who endorsed Romney shortly after saying he wouldn’t join the race.

But Romney also has been distracted by pesky background noise. After introducing Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the recent Values Voter Summit, Pastor Robert Jeffress said Republicans shouldn’t vote for Romney because Mormonism is a “cult.” 

Despite such efforts to instill doubt in voters, a recent CNN/ORC International poll showed that a candidate’s Mormon faith made no difference to 80% of Americans, and that 51% believed Mormonism was a Christian religion.

Beyond condemning Jeffress’s comments and Perry’s association with the pastor, Romney’s campaign has made it adamantly clear that it doesn’t want to discuss his faith. Repeated attempts to speak with the candidate, his wife, his children, his siblings - and, really, just anyone – about Romney’s faith journey were denied by campaign headquarters. Even the reins it has on those outside the inner circle appear tight. A local LDS Church leader in Michigan, contacted in hopes of finding childhood friends, forwarded CNN’s inquiry to campaign headquarters - prompting yet another slap down.

“What makes no sense to me is how you continue to push forward in writing about Gov. Romney’s faith journey when we’ve made it clear in every way possible that this is not a story we want to participate in,” campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul wrote in an email.

Mitt Romney -- with wife Ann to his left -- hopes to become the first Mormon U.S. president.

Without talking to him, it’s impossible to say exactly what Romney believes. But what Mormons generally believe is this:

They count themselves as Christian because they accept Jesus Christ as the son of God and believe people are saved through his atonement. They believe the Bible is the word of God, and that the Book of Mormon (subtitled “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”) is, too.

Opinion: Who says Mormons aren't Christian?

They believe The Church of Jesus Christ, which existed long ago, was restored by a prophet named Joseph Smith, who founded the LDS Church in 1830. Central to their belief system is that God still reveals truth to modern-day LDS Church prophets, as well as to individuals – Mormon or otherwise.

Explain it to me: Mormonism | Video: Mormonism defined

They attend weekly services in chapels, also referred to as “wards” or meetinghouses, while their large temples (accessible only to those deemed sufficiently faithful) are utilized for the most important and sacred ceremonies, including baptisms for the dead and celestial marriages - during which couples are “sealed” for eternity. Mormons with temple privileges wear special undergarments as a reminder of their faith, and those who are devoted abstain from alcohol, tea and coffee.

Through faith, prayer and service to others, they strive to be more like Jesus and get closer to God. Latter-day Saints place great emphasis on families, believing that through them – and not alone – people can find a place in the highest level of heavenly society.

Families, Mormons say, can be united forever.

Growing up while abroad

The 19-year-old Mitt Romney who showed up for missionary training was different than the rest.

“Mitt stood out from everyone else,” said Byron Hansen, who flew with Romney to France in July 1966. “He already spoke French pretty darn good, while the rest of us knew ‘bonjour’ and ‘au revoir.’ He immediately jumped out as a leader.”

Romney, like many of the other young men called by church leaders to serve, had finished a year of college before he got his missionary calling. But he’d gone to prestigious Stanford University and came from a privileged and powerful background.

He was worldly, not intimidated, and he was eager to interact with people of different backgrounds, said Hansen, now a car dealer in Brigham City, Utah. “All the rest of us from no-name Utah had never been more than 500 miles away from home.”

Despite the comforts he’d known growing up, Romney wasn’t spoiled. Some apartments that housed missionaries around France lacked heat and water, but had plenty of fleas. Those sorts of conditions likely made Romney appreciate all the more the luxuries of the mission home, located in the ritziest part of Paris, where he worked and lived during the latter part of his two-and-a-half year mission. He and the others there were fed by a Spanish cook and enjoyed the benefits of maids.

What’s more, said fellow missionary and friend Dane McBride, the young men learned what time of day to peer through windows to watch Brigitte Bardot walk her poodles.

The scenery aside, “it was the nicest office I ever worked in,” said McBride, now an allergist and immunologist in Roanoke, Virginia.

Throughout his mission, Romney was the first to get out of bed each morning, forever focused on his goals and the lessons he’d teach, and he stayed gung-ho even when others faltered, Hansen said.

Romney didn’t shy away from approaching anyone. On Saturdays, a free day for missionaries, he’d be done with his laundry by 9 a.m. and coaxing everyone else out the door for bike rides in the mountains, tours in new places or football games.

“He was never one to sit around,” Hansen said. “You had to run to keep up with Mitt.”

He was both pragmatic and creative when it came to sharing Mormon teachings, McBride said.

“Neither of us cared for knocking on doors much,” said McBride, referring to the typical tact for Mormon proselytizing. “But we did it. We did it a lot.”

However, Romney was a big proponent of what McBride called “creative contacting.” In lieu of going door-to-door, he preferred to encourage conversations by building sidewalk kiosks or inviting French locals to play baseball or attend evening parties with American themes – complete with Western wear and guitar strumming.

Being a missionary in largely secular France deepened Romney’s faith because it forced him to wrestle with challenges, steep himself in study and prayer and face plenty of rejection, McBride said. Like others, Romney was no stranger to doors being slammed in his face or getting his behind kicked while heading down apartment stairwells. These sorts of encounters, his friend said, help a person mature and grow.

Establishing a connection with others in the face of adversity is central to the missionary experience, and it’s a skill Romney carries with him today, McBride said.

“Mitt knows how to find common ground with people,” he said. “You learn that being a missionary. … And it’s how you get things done in politics.”

Religious roots that run deep and strong

The groundwork for Romney’s faith journey was laid long before he put on a suit and, armed with his Book of Mormon, boarded a flight for France.

He comes from a long line of Latter-day Saints. Those who like to highlight what makes him different might point to how one of his great-grandfathers fled to Mexico, about 125 years ago, amid U.S. government crackdowns on what Mormons refer to as “plural marriage.” But many multigenerational Mormon families have polygamists in their family tree.

Plural marriage was introduced by church founder Joseph Smith but was officially banned by the church in 1890. Some 38,000 people aligned with fundamentalist offshoots of the LDS Church still practice polygamy, but they are a far cry and completely separate from the 14 million worldwide members in Romney’s church.

Romney’s late father, George Romney, was from modest means. He was born in Mexico to monogamous U.S.-born parents and left during the Mexican Revolution when he was 5. He went on to be CEO and chairman of the now-defunct American Motors Corporation, governor of Michigan and a presidential candidate himself in 1968.

Mitt Romney with his father, George Romney, who made his own mark as a leader in business, the LDS Church and politics.

Growing up Mormon in Michigan made Mitt Romney a member of a distinct minority. There were fewer than 8,000 Mormons in the state in 1945, two years before he was born, according to the LDS Church. It’s been reported that he was the only Mormon in his high school. While Mormon students in Utah could simply stroll across the street from school to attend early morning seminary before the first bell, longtime friend McBride said Romney didn’t have that easy, built-in outlet to strengthen his faith amid peers.

“Neither of us had benefited from that,” said McBride, who also grew up as a Mormon minority in Iowa and North Carolina. “We had been called on in school to defend our faith many times. … I remember from fifth grade on needing to defend my religion.”

Romney’s family, though, was active in the church. In 1952, his father was named Michigan’s first stake president. A stake is comparable to a diocese and has under its umbrella multiple “wards” or congregations, much as a diocese consists of parishes.

The LDS Church does not rely on professional clergy. Instead, church members are called to serve as volunteer leaders while holding down paid jobs. Church leaders rely on other volunteers as advisers. For instance, a ward bishop has two counselors, while a stake president confers with a high council of 12.

Being Michigan’s sole stake president meant Romney’s father – in addition to his full-time corporate work – oversaw ward operations, was the spiritual guide for the Latter-day Saint community and relayed messages from church headquarters in Salt Lake City.

Like many practicing Mormons, the Romneys enjoyed “family home evening” every Monday, a time reserved to pray, study and sing together, McBride said.

Romney has spoken publicly about how his parents took him and his three siblings on mobile American history lessons, McBride said, loading up the family Rambler for cross-country tours to national parks, with stops at places like Mount Rushmore, Valley Forge and Williamsburg.

But McBride said the family also likely visited LDS historical sites, including points along the path westward traveled by Mormon pioneers who followed the call of Joseph Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, and trekked through treacherous conditions to arrive in 1847 in what is now Utah.

While Romney’s parents made sure their children were deeply connected to their country and their faith, Romney didn’t reside in a Mormon bubble. He was part of a bigger and more diverse world.

Ann Davies, the woman he fell for and now calls his wife, was Episcopalian when he met her during high school, and he knew she was the one for him.

After he left for college and then his mission, she began studying Mormonism, attended church with Romney’s parents and converted. He returned from France and proposed to her immediately. After a civil ceremony in Michigan, the two were married and “sealed” for eternity in 1969 during a sacred ceremony in the Salt Lake Temple.

The couple returned to college and began a family at church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, before moving to Boston, where Romney earned law and business degrees at Harvard.

Serving his LDS community

Romney rose in local church leadership while making his corporate mark. Along the way he applied many of the skills he’d displayed earlier, including his knack as a young missionary for turning challenges into possibilities.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, he served as a ward bishop – or part-time pastor – and stake president for the Boston area.

Romney delivered sermons, counseled couples, and made middle-of-the-night hospital runs. He monitored budgets, weighed welfare needs of immigrants and others, and drove outreach to different faith communities. He showed up at the homes of Latter-day Saints in need of help, taking on tasks such as removing bees’ nests.

Philip Barlow, now the chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, served as a one of two counselors to Bishop Romney in the early 1980s.

Each Saturday, the counselors would meet with Romney in his home in Belmont, a suburb northwest of Boston. And while the work was serious, it didn’t mean Romney always was. Barlow recalled the time Romney busted out with a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and did a formidable moonwalk across the floor.

“The media is always reporting that he can come across as too polished,” Barlow said. “But there’s a real person there.”

Romney also was the kind of leader who built bridges with those suspicious of Mormons. When a chapel under construction in Belmont burned to the ground amid ongoing anti-Mormon sentiment, he turned the perceived arson attack into opportunity.

Non-Mormon churches offered their buildings to accommodate the needs of the displaced Latter-day Saints during the chapel’s reconstruction. While it would have been easier to pick one place to call a temporary home for services, classes and meetings, Romney accepted every viable offer he received – thereby forcing a rotation of interaction with different faith communities.

“It was an inspired move,” said Grant Bennett, who at one time served as a counselor to Romney when he was a bishop and later served on the Boston stake’s high council under Romney when he was president.

Experiencing the kindness of strangers offered relief to Mormons who had been feeling “a little under siege,” said Bennett, who first got to know Romney through church in 1978 and worked with him for five years at Bain & Company, a global consulting firm that Romney eventually led as CEO.

“In a religious context, Mormons are very good at serving each other and are often hesitant to accept help,” he said. “I think Mitt had the fundamental insight … that we’d be better off and [the other churches would] be blessed by helping us.”

It was the sort of decision perhaps born of being in the minority in Michigan and learning early to honor religious pluralism, said Bennett, now president of CPS Technologies, a high-tech manufacturing firm in the Boston area.

On the campaign trail and with media, Romney hopes to focus on matters other than faith.

In his religious roles, Romney had to delegate and call others to serve. Sometimes he believed in people more than they believed in themselves.

Andy Anderson, a retired researcher and writer in Kaysville, Utah, first got to know Romney amid tragedy. It was Anderson’s mother who was killed in the 1968 car wreck in France, and when his father returned to Paris, Anderson, his wife and children went along.

When Romney later moved to Anderson’s neighborhood in Massachusetts, Anderson said he helped Romney and his family settle in.

In 1989, Anderson said he was minding his own research business when Romney, then the Boston stake president, called him for a meeting. A group of new converts Anderson described as “Cambodian boat people” – united formally as a “branch,” which is smaller and less developed than a ward - had suddenly lost its president without warning.

In shock, he listened as Romney said, “Guess who’s the next branch president?”

Anderson said he’d been raised to accept church callings. But between the language barrier, the cultural differences, the poverty and the responsibility, this one seemed too much. He begged and pleaded with Romney. He told him he was unqualified, that he’d “never been president of anything.” He said, “It sounds like a really bad fit, Mitt.” But Romney wasn’t swayed.

“Andy, you know where this comes from,” Romney answered, referring to the Mormon belief that God can reveal truths to individuals. “It’s not me. You go talk to Him and tell me when you’re ready.”

For the next three years Anderson said he oversaw the poorest people in the Boston stake. The overwhelming task “nearly killed me,” he said. But along the way he not only fell in love with the community, he learned to believe in himself and see that he could be a leader.

“I count Mitt as a friend, and it has been a real pleasure to work under him,” he said. “If he was a real pain to work for, I’d know it. I’ve worked for people in the church I couldn’t stand.”

Women’s view of Romney

The Romney reviews from Latter-day Saint women in the Boston area were more mixed.

In the early 1970s, as the feminist movement gained steam, a group of Mormon women began gathering in Cambridge to explore the history of women in their church. They were looking for role models, stories that would inspire them.

With the help of LDS Church historians, they learned about their female ancestors and wrote a book, “Mormon Sisters: Women in Early Utah.” They discovered that a women’s newspaper, Women’s Exponent, was published in the late-19th and early-20th centuries and featured women’s writings that Judy Dushku described as “very feminist in their views.”

“We were reading about women we’d never heard of before,” said Dushku, a Suffolk University professor of government with an interest in gender. She and other “founding mothers” were moved to start a new publication, now a quarterly magazine: Exponent II.

That decision, however, was not received well by the LDS Church, Dushku said. She said the fact that it was independent and had no stamp of approval from church higher-ups, all of them men, rubbed some - including Romney - the wrong way.

Dushku said Romney encouraged friends to tell their wives not to participate. He made it clear he didn’t want the women behind the publication holding meetings on church property. Dushku and the others suspected it was under his direction that copies of the magazine displayed in congregations got dumped in wastebaskets.

The LDS Church is patriarchal in nature. Only men can serve as bishops, stake presidents and in higher leadership roles, including the combined post of church president and prophet. Only men are welcome in the priesthood, which in Mormon circles means having the authority, for example, to perform baptisms and offer sacramental blessings.

Dushku decided she could live with this and remains a faithful Mormon.  She said she and the others simply wanted an outlet for women to discuss issues unique to them. And while what they created may have seemed “radical” back then, she says there are Mormon women bloggers today who push boundaries much more than Exponent II ever did.

What got to Dushku about Romney was less his reaction to the magazine and more how she saw him treat women he was in a position to comfort and support as a local church leader.

Dushku has told the story of a woman, a mother of four, who was pressured by then-Bishop Romney to go forward with a pregnancy despite advice from doctors that a medical complication made it too dangerous.

She also recalled the story of a meeting between Romney and a woman whose ex-husband had been excommunicated from the church because of numerous affairs he’d had while serving as a bishop.

The woman asked Dushku to accompany her to the meeting, where Romney encouraged the woman to forgive her philandering ex so he could be re-baptized into the church and marry another woman.

The problem, Dushku said, is that the husband had never bothered to apologize to the wife he’d hurt, a fact she said Romney didn’t seem to care much about.

Since speaking out to media recently, Dushku said she’s been flooded with responses from Facebook friends. Most of the reactions are positive, thanking her for her courage.

But some friends have suggested she back off.

“How can you blame someone who has so many responsibilities?” one friend wrote. “He was young,” said another. “People change.”

Dushku said she affords Romney the possibility he may have changed, that he might handle such situations differently today.

“But compassion is a character quality,” she said. “I doubt he’s much different now.”

Her take on Romney, though, doesn’t jibe with that of Helen Claire Sievers, executive director of Harvard’s WorldTeach program, which brings volunteer teachers to developing countries.

Sievers, who’s been involved with Exponent II on and off since its inception, was the Boston stake activity director when Romney was stake president. She recalled being at a meeting in Dushku’s house in Watertown, outside of Boston, when women began wondering aloud about how their local church might better empower women.

“Often leadership in the Mormon church tends to pull far to the right, to out-orthodox the orthodox,” said Sievers, who later proposed to Romney that he should meet with the Boston LDS women to hear their frustrations and suggestions. Romney was willing to have such a meeting, even though it bucked the comfort level of church headquarters.

“I was really impressed that Mitt felt strongly that even if he could get in trouble with the hierarchy, he really wanted to hear what the women that were under his stewardship had to say so that they would feel as comfortable as possible in church,” Sievers said.

As a result of the meeting, which drew more than 150 participants, Sievers said adjustments were made, including allowing women to say opening prayers at church meetings. Romney didn’t have the power to change church doctrine, but Sievers said he could and did bend the norm to make women feel heard and more respected.

“Many Mormon men wouldn’t make that choice,” she said.

Serving outside the stake and ward

In his fulltime work life, Romney showed that his commitment to serving others extended beyond those in his ward or stake. His religious values came through in business decisions – sometimes trumping opportunities for financial gain.

Robert Gay, who was once a managing partner at Bain Capital, the venture capital firm Romney founded, recalled how Romney refused to put investment dollars into a deal with Artisan Entertainment because he didn’t want to profit from R-rated films.

But of greater note to Gay - who once served on the Boston stake’s high council with Romney - was something Romney did for him in 1996.

After Gay’s 14-year-old daughter went missing for three days in New York, Romney shut down Bain Capital in Boston and flew about 50 employees to New York to help find her.

The girl, who lived with her family in Connecticut, disappeared after going to a concert in Manhattan. Romney and the other Bain Capital executives put their “$1 billion investment firm” on hold, created a “war room” at a hotel, paid to print 200,000 fliers, set up a toll free hotline number and enlisted the help of a private investigator, the Boston Globe reported at the time.

They canvassed streets and talked to runaways. The girl was found in a New Jersey home, “dazed from a disorienting dose of a drug,” the Globe reported.

It’s not a story Gay likes to retell, though he did record a video testimonial about it during Romney’s 2008 presidential bid. Today, Gay would rather offer other insights, including the time another Bain Capital partner suddenly fell very ill and was hospitalized. Romney was the first person to show up for a visit at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Gay now lives in West Palm Beach, Florida, and manages an equity fund with Jon Huntsman Sr., father of another GOP Mormon presidential hopeful. Gay called Romney “a devout Christian,” someone who has always been committed to “leading a good and purposeful life.”

What faith means for future

Romney, like the other prospective candidates for president, will remain under the microscope in the months ahead.

His past will be combed, his policies scrutinized, his record examined.

How much his Mormon faith plays into his political journey remains to be seen. But whether he likes it, whether his campaign can control it, the fact that he may be on track to become the first Mormon president in U.S. history will garner attention.

It’s a reality that Romney friends like McBride acknowledge, even if it disappoints them.

“The issues of his church are not the issues of this country. Those are personal issues,” he said. “I hate to see further articles [about his faith], but, on the other hand, what do you do?”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Politics

soundoff (2,731 Responses)
  1. HW

    I was LDS for 15 years. I don't believe in the church but I do believe in Mitt. There is nothing in his religious beliefs that would prevent him from being a good president. I feel he is the person we need at this point in our country's situation.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • Matt in Texas

      I'm of a similar mindset. I've watched all of the debates thus far and read all of the personal bios. I don't think I need to know anymore who out of the current field, I'd prefer.

      Romney's bio alone, from a leadership and pragmatic problem-solver perspective, is head and shoulders above the other candidates. Seeing his performances in the debates solidified my thinking about him.

      I want a President who can talk coherently, have a flexible mind that can navigate tough waters (domestically and internationally) and someone that I can look to as a strong leader. Is there anyone else that really fits that bill at this stage of the election? There just isn't. I could go candidate by candidate and poke a ton of holes in each of their campaigns. Are they all good people that would be better than Obama? No doubt about it; however, the best of this class is Mitt Romney.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  2. SK

    Who cares whether he is a Mormon, a Hindu, A christian, A muslim or whatever else is out there.
    Why are people even debating this subject? Do they expect that he leads this country religiously the Christian way if he were a Christian. Ask yourself, are you truly following the christian teachings in your daily life – Did all the earlier presidents follow the BIBLE when making decision on behalf of this great nation? Give the man a break, guys – constantly bringing up this religious belief, only makes him stronger as a candidate, so let it pass and move forward, after all don't we have better and important things to discuss and worry about than Mitt Romney's Religion? What is the State of this Union????

    October 30, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • JoeS

      Mahatma Gandhi was one of the greatest man that ever live and He was not even a Christian while He live on this earth.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  3. dusty

    I certainly will not be voting for Mr. Romney~ He is a member of a cult imho and find it hard to believe that any intelligent person would want someone from the Mormon faith in the White House. Read the 19th wife!!

    October 30, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  4. AvdBerg

    For a better understanding of Mitt Romney’s faith we invite you to read the article ‘Mormon Church ~ Cult and Spiritual Harlot’ listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    Also, to give people a better understanding of the issues that divide this world we also invite you to read the article ‘CNN Belief Blog ~ Sign of the Times’.

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how this whole world has been deceived as confirmed by the Word of God in Revelation 12:9. The Bible is true in all things and is the discerner of every thought and the intent of the heart (Hebrews 5:12).

    October 30, 2011 at 8:12 am |
    • Art

      Well, that sounds like a very balanced and fair resource. Congrats on your even-handed, objective approach to one of the most unchristian things imaginable – destroying the faith of others through lies and deceit.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • JT

      Who's "we"? The Evangelicals?

      October 30, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • Matt in Texas

      Very simple question, who would you like to be President in the current field?

      October 30, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • Dave Treleaven

      "The Bible is true in all things and is the discerner of every thought and the intent of the heart (Hebrews 5:12)."

      Only in the minds of the religious......for the rest of us reason and logic will tell the truth of all things.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • RB

      A world decieved is a fitting name for your site. The scriptures you quoted have nothing to do with the text you printed. You are out to decieve the world!

      October 30, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  5. Ryan

    Catholic here but LOVE Mitt Romney! He is decent and has more Morals than any Candidate out there!

    October 30, 2011 at 8:12 am |
    • Son Of Man

      Do you know him?

      October 30, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • JT

      Well...just about everyone has more morals than your priests.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  6. Saturn

    I'm still waiting for America to have its first atheist president.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • Mirosal

      Think of the furor THAT would cause!!! lol ... "Don't vote for him, he doesn't believe our book of fairy-tales!! Infidel, heathen "god" will surely smite him!!" lol I can picture THAT campaign, and it would be very funny to see the "religious" right (who are never right anyway) fall all over themselves to disgrace someone.. my my what a great X-tian att-i-tude that is huh?

      October 30, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • jim

      You're going to have a long wait. Christians can't understand how we could believe their god doesn't even exist, so they think we simply hate him.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • Son Of Man

      They would still worship money. None of this religion talk holds water, it's all about the campaign funding. We have the best democracy that money can buy.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • JT

      Since there's a religious test to hold office in this country an atheist president is impossible even if he/she were proven to be test best choice one hundred times over.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • TheDudeAbides

      That would have been Thomas Jefferson.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • Saturn

      Actually, you're right, we've already had atheist presidents, Jefferson being the first.

      But we haven't had one in over 100 years. We shouldn't be going backwards here.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Son Of Man

      Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear.
      -Thomas Jefferson

      October 30, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • dne

      So you are saying that you'd invite Chaos and Anarchy to somehow rule our country? In and of it self, that does not make sense for the state of our union. Furthermore, the last major government to attempt to remove God, proposing that he doesn't exist, was the USSR. How'd that work out for them and how would it work out here?

      If Thomas Jefferson was an atheist, you are not. He was simply like most people, changing the Bible and God's word to better suit his own selfish pursuits.

      If I were you, I would spend less time reading from authors that want to continue to mislead you. Give "Rage Against God" a shot. Might help your overall position.

      In the meantime, stop making "denouncing the existence of my God" your religion.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • George Marshall

      Yes I would rejoice in voting for an atheist for president, no t because i am advocating atheism but because it might signal an end to these asinine brouhahas over religion.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • Dave Treleaven

      I think you will wait a very very long time if people like DNE have there way.....DNE wrote
      "In the meantime, stop making "denouncing the existence of my God" your religion."

      Was not America founded on a little item called .........."free speech"

      DNE should learn to keep religion where it belongs......in your house or in your church ......don't bring it out on the street ....it cannot stand the light of reason.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • Saturn

      My comment was only one line long, yet you somehow managed to misread it. I'm not even sure how that's possible.

      Nowhere did I say I'd like the country to be ruled by Chaos and Anarchy. What does that even mean anyway? All I said was that I'd like to see an Atheist become president. That's it. If you think that automatically implies the country descending into utter chaos, then I feel bad for you. The idea that a country or its leaders would be unable to make good decisions without some god looking over their shoulders is not only insulting and cynical, it's also dead wrong, historically speaking.

      And if you think the USSR was the last atheist country, you need to wake up and look at the world around you as it exists today. There are atheist nations all over the world, and they're doing just fine.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  7. clwyd

    so if Mitt keeps all his obligations to the Temple he could become a God in the after life?? Da! is this the kind of man we want in the WH? Not me!

    October 30, 2011 at 8:04 am |
    • Ryan


      October 30, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • Don

      Do you mean we get to elect God as President? Excellent, where do I sign up.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • Mirosal

      Like I said before, we need to start a national write-in campaign.. tell everyone to just write-in "god" on their ballot. Come election day, IF "god" wins, then we'll see who or what shows up, wouldn't we? lol

      October 30, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • Mirosal

      A couple years ago, one of my state Senators (now out of office due to term limits) actually sued "god" for all the woes in the world. The case was eventually dismissed, not because of the substance of the lawsuit, but merely because the subpoena was unable to be delivered lol .. let's see "god" get sw-orn in on Jan. 20th, 2013 lol

      October 30, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • braden

      Is that worse than Obama being treated as a god while in the White Hosue?

      October 30, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  8. Susan Neely

    Mormonism does not even have one shred of truth in it. Anyone who espouses it, rejects the truth. America is in a crisis. America needs someone who stands for belief in truth.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:04 am |
    • Britton

      Ron Paul is the only answer for speaking the truth on anything.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • Melanie

      You're being ugly. Ugh. And now I'm being ugly. Gah. I guess that means I must officially exit the discussion trail. (But that was still a super ignorant thing for you to say.)

      October 30, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • Son Of Man

      What religion does? I'm tolerant of your religion as long as it is tolerant of others.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:21 am |
    • JoeS

      God said that: "No ignorant people can able to live in the Kingdom of God" It seems like you are one of those.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  9. Son Of Man

    I would feel better if he were Ron Paul. Stop playing king maker CNN.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:01 am |
  10. Melanie

    As a Mormon, even I'm impressed with the level of commitment and integrity in living his faith that the article describes. I'm not going to vote for him based on that, though. Actually, I'm not going to vote for him at all. I'm one of those nutters who is ready to re-elect our current president. But I really think this is the first balanced reporting I've seen on the Mormon faith in mainstream media in FOREVER and I can't believe how good that feels. (Oh, and his kids are super nice. So extremely down to earth. They were obviously all taught to be kind and I think it speaks volumes about their parenting. Still voting for Obama, though.)

    October 30, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  11. Britton

    Mitt Romney can't be trusted. He licks the boots of Wall Street banksters and thats where the bulk of his donations come from. Don't elect this sell out. He'll drive the nail into the coffin of an already bad enough as it is economy. Its a destruction, not a recession.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  12. Reality

    From p. 3:

    Obama is a Christian in name only therefore he does not believe in all of its mumbo jumbo. Romney, unfortunately, does believe in the Joe Smith hype which is disturbing in the 21st century.

    Part 1 – the Infamous Angelic Cons (all involved religions noted)

    Joe Smith had his Moroni. (a huge Romney mental minus in that he somehow believes Moroni actually exists- not good for someone who wants to be president)

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

    Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

    Jesus and his family had Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day dem-on of the de-mented.

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

    Some added references to "tink-erbells".

    "Latter-day Saints also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah." (More problems for the mental status of Romney)

    Apparently hallu-cinations did not stop with Joe Smith.


    "The belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity; pagans, like Menander and Plutarch (cf. Euseb., "Praep. Evang.", xii), and Neo-Platonists, like Plotinus, held it. It was also the belief of the Babylonians and As-syrians, as their monuments testify, for a figure of a guardian angel now in the British Museum once decorated an As-syrian palace, and might well serve for a modern representation; while Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, says: "He (Marduk) sent a tutelary deity (cherub) of grace to go at my side; in everything that I did, he made my work to succeed."

    Catholic monks and Dark Age theologians also did their share of hallu-cinating:

    "TUBUAS-A member of the group of angels who were removed from the ranks of officially recognized celestial hierarchy in 745 by a council in Rome under Pope Zachary. He was joined by Uriel, Adimus, Sabaoth, Simiel, and Raguel."

    And tin-ker- bells go way, way back:

    "In Zoroastrianism there are different angel like creatures. For example each person has a guardian angel called Fravashi. They patronize human being and other creatures and also manifest god’s energy. Also, the Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels, but they don't convey messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they appear in an abstract fashion in the religious thought of Zarathustra and then later (during the Achaemenid period of Zoroastrianism) became personalized, associated with an aspect of the divine creation (fire, plants, water...)."

    "The beginnings of the biblical belief in angels must be sought in very early folklore. The gods of the Hitti-tes and Canaanites had their supernatural messengers, and parallels to the Old Testament stories of angels are found in Near Eastern literature. "

    "The 'Magic Papyri' contain many spells to secure just such help and protection of angels. From magic traditions arose the concept of the guardian angel. "

    October 30, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      This nonsense bs is a total waste of time and has nothing to do with the story presented.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  13. dave

    I distinctly remember the same discussion about JFK and his being a catholic. Folks questioned whether the country would elect a catholic as president. As I recall, there was a similar level of fervor about that as it seems to be with Romney. Interesting...

    Also interesting to see the comments on this CNN page ... certainly speaks volumes.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:49 am |
  14. Jute

    Hellooo Jessica/CNN, Romney is not the GOP frontrunner. Sorry but the media doesn't get to choose! Do your homework please Jess.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • Son Of Man

      I could not have said it better. Just another example of media playing Kingmaker for whomever seems to have the most advertising dollars.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  15. Thomas

    I guess I'm going to have to leave any sort of interesting conversations for the water cooler at work, the local coffee shop or at coffee hour at church. I'm certainly not going to find them at CNN online. Even in the Beliefblog, the people are mean and nasty. I just don't get it. Kinda ruins the morning.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:43 am |
  16. Sarah

    The fact Romney is Mormon has nothing to do with the Tea Party's dislike of him, in preference for Herman Cain. It's because Romney (and Perry) is a politician (and a sly one) before he is a leader. Religious or not, Romney is a flip-flopper and the libs love him. That's why I don't trust him. Herman Cain has qualities Romney doesn't have. He is a leader, before he is a politician.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:42 am |
    • Jute

      You should have written the story Sarah. You have it right!

      October 30, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  17. Stephanie

    Hallelujah! Finally an article about the Mormon Church and its membership that is forthright and honest! It's been a long time coming. Thank you, to its author.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:40 am |
  18. Michael

    Mormons think that Native Americans were a lost tribe of Jews, after said Jesus resurrected he, god-man, whatever you want to call him, came to North America to preach to these Jews, when they denied Jesus, God turned their skin red. This amount of stupidity should not be rewarded with Presidency.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:40 am |
    • Jute

      Very creative Michael. LOL

      October 30, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • Put back into Perspective

      Yes and thats why the Aztecs welcomed Cortez into their city so easily and he then destroyed them. Because they thought Cortez was the "Great white bearded God returning to them" from which their legends say this God visited them centuries before.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • JoeS

      Why not possible? Are we not all the children of God? If God knows that the Mormon is not True, He could have it destroy it many many years ago. When a leader of a certain Church like PTL Club whose leader Jim Baker committed adultery, God exposed it almost immediately and Jim's Church collapsed. Why not happening to Mormon Church? Answer: Because the Church is true. God knows his children and knows what inside in all the Churches, even inside human heart.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  19. Sarah

    Mitt Romney's getting positive press from CNN. Red flag #1

    October 30, 2011 at 7:38 am |
  20. mike

    I think it is great that he is mormon. Mormons believe that if you are a goof mormon for all 6 of your lives and are a male, you will be made a god of your own world and given 100 goddesses to populate it. Heck yeah! This is the religion for men. Although being a woman you can only look forward to being one of the 100 goddesses, which may not be appealing to many women.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:38 am |
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About this blog

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.