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. sybaris

    Once again we really don't need someone in charge making decisions and affecting the lives of millions of people based on telepathic messages and private whispers from their invisible sky daddy.

    October 30, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  2. rr

    I wouldn't vote for Mitt for two reasons. 1. He flip flops on the issues too much and 2. He's too much like Obama. I am not going to vote one problem out just to put another problem into office. As for his faith I know tons of girls who are Mormons and one guy who is and no matter how much they say they don't practice marrying off children they still do it. When I was 13 a friend of mine moved all the way to the east coast to escape being a child bride. She was 12. They hide in Maryland until family members found her and force her into the marriage at the age of 14. So I do find problems with the news media calling them Christian cause no Christian would force a child into marriage. They are part of a cult. IMHO.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • twiddly

      Let's hear more about how Mitt will rule a planet after he dies.
      The privileged class, now and forever!
      Too funny.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • Matt in Texas

      Huh? I've known Mormons most of my life and there are zero 'arranged marriages'. You've been watching too much Big Love and are letting it influence your thinking.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • Matt in Texas

      This 'flip-flop' addage is old? Did Perry flip or flop when he stopped supporting Al Gore for President as the campaign's Texas chair and became a Republican? Did Perry flip or flop when he endorsed a mandatory HPV vaccination and then wished he hadn't? Did Cain flip or flop when he said within 24 hours that he would negotiate with terrorists and then said later that he wouldn't? Did Cain flip or flop when he was for family's to have choices regarding abortion and then said he's very much pro-life? The list can go on and on for EVERY politician.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  3. Kay

    Problem with him being Mormon and being president would be judgement. How can anyone believe in a hat trick. The religion was made-up by a charlatan who put tablets in a hat and only he could interpret them. The term Moron Is more like it and it also pretty close to being the so called angels name who gave him the tablets.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • Sarah

      It sounds about the same as every other "religion" doesn't it? Magic, interpretation, self proclaimed divinity.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • JoeS

      Since you are ignorant and never studied Mormon history, you categorized it as a cult since it implies to you and to some other people as weird and out of this world. If I show it to you the original Bible written by Moses himself, it would be weird and crazy for you since you don't understand the ancient Hebrew language. Does the word Mormon sounds weird to you? In Mormon history, the guy Mormon was the collector of the Books before He gave it to his son Moroni. Mormon means "more good" in his native language since his mother name him "Mormon". Jesus name in Hebrew is "Yeshua" Sounds weird?
      or maybe you are being ignorant.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  4. Cradle Catholic

    "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."

    Why was it necessary to drop in the line about the Catholic priest? Relevancy? Or just more Catholic-bashing?

    October 30, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • Ned Nickerson and Nancy play golf with Mortimer

      Get back in your cradle.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  5. Hari Seldon

    The truth is that Christianity is a late Hellenistic mystery cult with ancient roots in near-eastern mythology spread by the might of the Roman Empire two thousand years ago. At its center is a message of love and compassion which has changed the world mostly for the better. Mormonism is a 19th century mystical cult started by polygamists, pretty much made out of thin air.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:57 am |
  6. LolaS

    I'm sure his faith kept him strong as he put people out of jobs while he was making millions.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  7. Patricksday

    From the Mormon "Professional" people I have worked around, they only do business with other Mormons and shut out those who arent.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • sybaris

      Mormonism = Judaism Lite

      October 30, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • olcranky

      @sybaris – mormonism is nothing like judaism and calling it judaism lite shows a massive ignorance of both religions

      October 30, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • Colin

      Old cranky – but I thought they both believed in the same sky-fairy, no?

      October 30, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  8. Pat

    I really have not decided who I will be voting for come November 2012 just yet, but I really don't put too much stock in the religious beliefs of any candidate. As long as they have the knowledge and common sense to do the job at hand, faith usually does not steer a president too much. Go back and read your presidential history. While there have been many "religious" presidents, more than a fair share would make you think otherwise in decisions that were made. Mormons are definently different, but unlike other religions in this country/world, it does not scare me.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • Matt in Texas

      Well said.

      The way I look at some of this is 'who would put together the best team?'. One of the largest abject failures of the Obama Presidency has been his team is filled with arrogant amateurs. Even Hillary Clinton doesn't have a bio that necessarily supports her current role as Secretary of State. Amateurs remain amateurs despite their experiences because their arrogance shields their minds and hearts from learning and developing wisdom. We desperately need a President that is going to put a great team to get America back on track in a variety of ways.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  9. jon

    "Mitt Romney's Faith" is only a problem for liberals who won't be voting for him anyway...for conservatives and Independents we are leaning more for Cain anyway

    October 30, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • sybaris

      If Liberals won't be voting for him "anyway" then his faith is not a problem.

      Context is everything

      October 30, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • Matt in Texas

      Cain has very little organization in the key early states. I really like Herman Cain and think he's a terrific leader.

      His problem is his campaign is sending him to book signings in Texas and Arkansas while he should be spending time in South Carolina, New Hampshire, and especially, Iowa.

      I don't know if he's not taking it seriously or if those that are advising him, if he does have someone, doesn't know how the primary process truly works.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  10. 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 8:42 am |
    • Dave Treleaven

      How wonderful to read such a secular quote originally authored by a great secular president.

      Son of Man......... I wonder if you are one of the "very few" people of "reason" in the USA.

      Ones faith should have nothing to do with being president.........just the same as once you are president your faith should have nothing to do with your decision making process when it comes to enacting the secular laws of a nation ......laws for "all" the people.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  11. Hari Seldon

    A truck pulled into my lane so I jumped on the brakes. I was saved by the miracle of reason. Grow up America.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  12. Matt in Texas

    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 8:42 am |
    • cregis

      Didn't he eliminate a lot of American jobs in his business career, but of course, now that he wants votes, he promises to create jobs. Just another Republican.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • Matt in Texas

      Ever heard of Staples, Sports Authority, Domino's, Brookstone? Those are companies that either got going, were fixed, or significantly assisted to grow by Bain, where Romney worked until 1999. When you invest in companies and try to help them get turned around, there are naturally going to be some where the business model just doesn't work. Bain invested in hundreds of companies and probably helped some stay around longer than they could have otherwise. If you don't understand how private equity or investing works, I'm probably wasting my time.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  13. JLM

    I don't care about his religious affiliation, as long as he is a moral and ethical candidate, which he's not. He will continue to cater to big business without any real regard for individuals. He simply proclaims to be a religious man. He does this to gain GOP support. No man becomes so wealthy and follows in Christianity or any other religion. It's not as if he's blessed and has gained so much power because God made it so. This man oozes of greed and a lust for power.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • Matt in Texas

      Did you even read the article? By the way, thanks for sharing specific examples of your assertions. It changes a lot of minds.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • Ned Nickerson and Nancy play golf with Mortimer

      So since you don't like him, god didn't give him success ? Bwahahahaha.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • JoeS

      So what choices you will have? Obama? who does not understand to run the country. I wonder if you can ever find a perfect man in this country to run and made this country back on its knees...... a perfect person. I know of only one, Jesus Christ but he is not running for President.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  14. TheDudeAbides

    Mitt will likely get the nomination. Tea Party and evangelicals will rebel, putting up Cain or Perry as third party candidate. GOP vote will split, Obama will get second term.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Matt in Texas

      I've thought similar things within the past month. The "purists" would rather have their way or no way, which is just stupid and shows naivete with respect to politics.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • Pat

      Let's hope not. Obama is a failure

      October 30, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  15. Thomas

    I don't have a problem with the faith of Romney and Huntsman. Let's move on.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Thomas

      ...and I'm pretty "lib."

      October 30, 2011 at 8:37 am |
  16. Above it ALL

    This country is a disgrace with the religious gig it is in love with. As much hatred seithes within its boundarieds, murder, theivery of funds for any useful purpose into pockets of thieves witin the organizations collecting those funds. Religon is the root of the whole world's problems. For Mitt Romney to be a Mormon is NOTHING...NOTHING! And for hypocrits to indulge in downsiding him for it, they should burn hin HELL! End of STORY!

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

      As you say, "Religon is the root of the whole world's problems."
      Religion is the result of teachings of "Prophets" sent by God to give laws to mankind so they might advance in the knowledge and service of God. What men choose to do with those Prophets or laws are a matter of choice by every individual person who comes to know them. But if WE choose to make them a point of wars and contention it is not the fault of "religion". It is the misguided interpretation given by people who use the teachings for their own gain and deceitful purpose. To confuse God's Prophet with the actions of men is a disservice to the Prophets.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  17. Son Of Man

    Don't worry, his convictions are only a week old. They'll change next week if his campaign or party needs them to. The only thing most of our representatives are committed to is money. This is just an excuse for CNN to play Kingmaker for the candidate that they perceive has the most campaign money to spend with them. Great way to help out with the (s)election CNN.

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

      If I understood you correctly, I kind of agree that his religion means little in the grand scheme of the issues. But because a bunch of rich old people in Utah will support him and expect him to fit into a box if he's elected, it becomes an issue. More enlightened voters realize that people can be multidimesional and subscribe to a faith without being absolute about its tennants.

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

      I believe in Fore-ordination of mankind. Fore ordained means that you are already fore-ordained by God to live on this earth to fulfill certain purpose or role, either being the future President or a great Scientist and more likely that role even thought you have the right to choose will happen. If Mitt Romney was fore ordained as the future Mormon President of this country, there is nothing we can do about it.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  18. Don

    This article is very accurate, except about the women part.
    The Mormons equate Priesthood to Service. Women already perform this required service by what Mormons deem to be the most important role in life which is the role of mother. The Mormon men need the priesthood in order to compensate for not being the child bearers. From their start, Mormons never thought women to be less than men but equals, "for the man is not without the wife and the wife is not without the man". This is why Utah was one of the first states to allow women to vote. Joseph Smith called his wife Emma to create one of the largest women organizations in the world, the Relief Society. Mormons believe when you get married to your eternal spouse you are no longer separate but one, and you have to spend the rest of your life trying to figure out how to accomplish that. Love is the component that combines. Would a sane person beat himself, never. Neither would a man who thought his wife as himself. Mormons don't think that having the priesthood means you rule over anyone, but rather, you have an obligation to serve all. Until you understand how Mormons believe and think, you will never understand how much a Mormon man loves his wife who is and has always been considered an equal.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:28 am |
  19. Joe

    He's definitely more man than Bachmann and Palin.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • Son Of Man

      The most truth I've seen in a while. Simply brilliant.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • Put back into Perspective

      Joe. I think your logic and powers of observation can be considered the norm of the average American who will be voting in the next President.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  20. cregis

    So Mitt "changed" his views about women's roles in the church, when he wanted their votes. Hypocrite, but his religion sounds a lot like Catholicism to me, very convenient for men. I do not want a Mormon for President or any evangelical.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:24 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.