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. Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

    I wish I could own 5 wives like Mitt's polygamous grand pappy. I wonder why Mitt has been quiet about the pedophile LDS bishop, Warren Jeffs?

    October 30, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Anne

      Seriously? This is something a 2nd grader would say.

      Warren Jeffs is a leader of the FLDS (not a part of the Mormon church).

      As far as Mormon garments, they are simply a way to remember one's commitment to God ... similar to a Jewish tallit katan, or a Catholic's clerical clothing. Non-issue.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • Bibliovore

      I'm no fan of Romney, but to be fair, he's no more responsible for a Mormon bishop who's a pedophile than any random Catholic is responsible for a Catholic bishop who's a pedophile.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Fluffy Butternut

      Probably because Jeffs is RFLDS and not a member of the mainstream Mormon Church. That would be like the pope commenting on some Baptist preacher.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

      Sorry, many of us know the secrets in your Polyg book. The FLDS was an offshoot in just the past century, a very short time frame in religious history terms. The BOM still rewards polygamy and promises celestial polygamy.

      Have YOU done YOUR research?

      October 30, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • etdpratt

      Unbelievable. Warren Jeffs was never a member of the LDS Church. Just like most other churches were formed after separating from the Catholic Church, the church that Warren Jeffs led had completely different leaders and different beliefs than the LDS church. Jeffs could never have been a member of the LDS Church and practiced the things he did.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • etdpratt

      Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad: Where does it talk about polygamy in the Book of Mormon? It doesn't. Do some research. You are talking about things you haven't even researched and you are telling others to research the facts.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Sunshinestategirl

      Are you a real person or just trying to bait us? If you study history you will find that LDS women in the 1800's fared better than women of other Christian denominations during that time. Men did not "own" wives as I'm sure you already know. And those apostate groups that practice polygamy today have nothing to do with the LDS church. In the 1800' women outnumbered men and the laws of the country – not the church – kept women from education and careers that are available today.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  2. Mary Tracy

    There is evidence that Romney was secretly born to a polygamist family. The public should demand that Romney produce his birth certificate.

    October 30, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Bill

      I heard he was the seventh son of the seventh son of a guy with seven wives.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  3. Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

    Mitt's polygamous grand-pappy owned 5 wives.


    October 30, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  4. JJ

    GIven a choice I would prefer an atheist in the WH, rather than yet another fool who believes in imaginary friends.

    October 30, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • AGuest9

      Unfortunately, so few voters agree. We need to cast off this nonsense.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  5. mcsandman

    He's a mormon. Enough said.

    October 30, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  6. LizM

    "Mitt Romney is a good man and the LDS are good people."

    I wholeheartedly agree - HOWEVER, I disagree with how they make major decisions. When push comes to shove, *if* they are indeed devout and obedient temple-recommend holding members, they will ALWAYS obey their living Prophet in Salt Lake City. It will still come down to: Thomas S. Monson is in fact the President of the United States, and Romney is his puppet. I spent way too much of my life hearkening to the Prophet myself. Mormon children are taught from the cradle to "Follow the prophet, he knows the way!" (I can still hear the music in my head as I type...) When you are a card-carrying Mormon, there is no separation of church and the rest of your life. The church IS your life. Faced with a major decision, Romney will always heavily consider Thomas S. Monson's admonitions, and then follow them. THAT is scary.

    October 30, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • Lana

      The same can be said for any religion. What is your point?

      October 30, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  7. XIE XIE

    Its so simple. Get rid of interest rates, consumer credit ratings, and bank fees.Then, if you set a price for a home at "say" $100,000 and charge $1000 a month for 100 months, made no credit check rating prejudice, added no interest charges, and offered an allowance of 24 months of missed payments that the bank could just tack on to the end of the loan incase of hard times, then we would have more home owners than ever; a rise in jobs, rise in home values. We could do this across the board with cars, business loans, college loans, small appliance, We'd see an increase in wages, jobs, economic growth. We'd also see a 45% drop in taxes across the board. Why does everyone make it so complicated?

    October 30, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Bill

      Not sure how all this came up in posts about Ronmeys religion, but it's a good plan. Ever wonder why a back can lend 300K for twenty years and get back about 500K, but if I loaned you 50K and asked for 55K in return it's called loan sharking?

      October 30, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  8. Mary Tracy

    The reason that Mormons like Romney give lip service to religious freedom is because they are a distinct minority. If these proselytizers and power grabbers were ever close to becoming a majority, they would impose on America the kind of theocracy that they have imposed on the State of Utah.

    October 30, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  9. Mary Tracy

    Mormonism is a cult - nothing more. From multiple marriages to child abuse, the sick cult endures. Might as well elect Jim Jones as elect Romney. What a farce. Once again, the Republicans are scraping the bottom.

    October 30, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • Kevin

      It's quite apparent that no candidate, other than a left winger, would ever get your support. Why do you even bother to post? You are a true nihilist, exactly like your Democrat representatives in Congress, who block every non-Democrat originated idea. You have ruined this country, which needed help after the Bush years, not nihilism. Just remember: "If you are not part of the solution, then you are probably part of the problem".

      October 30, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  10. DDM

    I don't give a rat's sweet patootie what one's religion is, AS LONG AS they obey our secular laws and do not try to impose their beliefs on others. Guess that leaves out the tea party.

    October 30, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • DDM

      And also leaves out Islam. Just saying.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Saturn

      The unfortunate reality is that it's impossible for ANY religious person to rule, in the current day, without imposing his beliefs on others.

      It might've been possible when the United States was still in its formative stages and was still dealing with the issues of where its boundaries begin and end, and issues of how much power states have versus how much power the federal government has.

      But the issues we have now which are often core parts of a politician's platform are highly polarizing, ideological issues. Abortion and gay rights, for example. These are huge issues that can make or break a candidate's run, and people's stance on these issues is almost always decided along religious lines.

      So, by the very nature of religion and the issues we deal with today, it is impossible for ANY religious person to maintain separation of church and state. It just can't be done.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Kevin

      DDM has not yet learned that there are many countries with secular governments, which include Islam...including the U.S., Turkey, others.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  11. Lockerius

    I am from Canada, so I don't know all the dynamics involved, but I have to ask....Why does his religion matter? Separation of Church and State, a secular society....why should it matter? Why should his defining characteristic be his religion?
    I am not supporting him, I in fact know very little about the man. Probably because so much time is spent on his religion that there is so little time to talk about the man, his policies and his history. shrug....

    October 30, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • John

      His religion matters because the Republican party is overly religious. This includes Mormons, the vast majority of whom are Republicans. They are all obsessed with making sure gays can't get married, among other such nonsense. Personally, I like Romney. I just happen to like Obama more. That would be a fun election year, Romney vs. Obama.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  12. danny allen

    where is the article on Obama's faith? Lets go all the way back to his days in a madrasah in south east asia. And to were he declares his muslim faith only a couple of years ago. Youtube it. Lots of footage out there.

    October 30, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Scowl

      Just stop right there and try to use your feeble brain. There has not only been a myriad of articles on Obama's faith (who cares?) but the whole garbage about him allegedly not being born in this country. I'm surprised your caretaker allows you near a computer.

      October 30, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  13. American Citizen

    Um...he's not a Kennedy. And, he has made very deliberate statements against the poor in the United States. I do not believe this man has the compassion to become an American president. He has disparate wealth that most Americans will never see in their lifetime. We need someone in that office who is representative of most Americans. Romney is not it.

    October 30, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  14. Joseph and Mary

    One of the Mormon beliefs is that one of their gods has put them on earth to rescue the United States Government from the evils of a liberal society. So, someone please ask Mitt just how he intends to do that.

    October 30, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • Billy

      I don't know, but if he wins it'd be nice if he succeeded in doing that. Maybe he makes an exchange to China, we'll give them our socialists in exchange for their capitalists.

      Except really good Mormons are essentially optional theocratic socialists; read the "Law of Consecration".

      October 30, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Kevin

      Mormons don't have "gods"; they worship the same God as Christians, Jews and Muslims. People like you, who spread lies and rumors, have no place in an intelligent society.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:05 am |
  15. Bucky

    Reading through these comments a few things come to my mind.

    Mormons believe very stongly....

    "That there must needs be opposition in all things".

    Many of the posters here have fulfilled this statement. And are occupiers of what Mormons refer to as "The Great and Spacious Building".

    Mormons 11th article of Faith reads...

    "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may".

    Apparently, many of you here do not subscibe to such beliefs. Our Founding Fathers certainly did, what's up with you?

    Mitt Romney is a good man and the LDS are good people. Those who attempt to smear him or his Faith is a reflection on you, not on him.

    Carry on, your game is not new nor are your tactics original.

    October 30, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • Billy

      I agree with you 100%.
      Mitt is a flip-flopper and will not get my vote for that reason.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  16. rand

    John F Kennedy was reviled because he was a CATHOLIC yet HE got elected..........................it's clear Romney will be the next President of the United States. Too many businessmen don't have faith in Obama to lead a parade..........

    October 30, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Joseph and Mary

      Do you mean the businessmen who have put this country on the verge of insolvency? That's not working out too well. Thank God President Obama is correcting the fraud of the last administration.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • danny allen

      obama is a much bigger criminal than bush. Solyndra is the tip of the iceburg. Obama is a joke

      October 30, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  17. braden

    They left out that he was a "drunk Catholic Priest". If you want to know the truth.

    October 30, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  18. Freethinksman

    This is the single longest piece I have ever seen on CNN.com. It's also a pretty transparent advocacy piece: "C'mon, y'all- Mormonism ain't all THAT bad!"

    I won't vote for any candidate who sticks his neck out for the religious factions. I don't care which religion they claim to hold true. Faith in make-believe does not inspire confidence in me.

    October 30, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • Bucky

      It's an accurate and fair piece.
      Demonstrate to us one portion which is not true.
      Heaven forbid a truthful article be written about Mitt Romney.
      Your agenda is obvious and disingenuous.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Kate

      I agree wholeheartedly, what I want is a candidate who will not state their religion, will say it's a separation of church and state and I am running free and clear and my religion will in no way, shape or form be used in trying to abridge the rights of non believers, and as I think all the time: Good luck with that.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  19. Scowl

    CNN you should be ashamed of yourselves. Romney's religion should be of no consequence to his Presidential campaign and you aren't helping matters with this article being plastered on the front page. That's right, keep making a big deal about what should be a non-issue and soon enough you'll get the Theocracy you seem to want.

    I trust the Press as much as I trust politicians: not one iota.

    October 30, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • rand

      You may not WANT it to be an issue but it's been an issue since the beginning of the founding of the US..........ex: Kennedy being Catholic was a HUGE issue at the time.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • Scowl

      @Rand You're right, I don't want it to be an issue, but it is of no consequence what I want. It SHOULD NOT be an issue. Read Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists in which he outlines how the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses build a "wall of separation" between Church and State. Just because Kennedy's being a Catholic being a "big deal" that doesn't make it right. Taft was a Unitarian and he still was elected. Politicians should be elected on their merits, but with people who want to mix their BS religion with politics and irresponsible journalism like this we get the Dumb leading the Dumb.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • AGuest9

      It should be no consequence, but when was the last time you saw a non-believer in the Oval Office?

      October 30, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  20. Billy

    I am just fine with Mormon being president. I am not fine with a weenie flip-flopper being president, especially on the issue of abortion. I bet Mitt has a limp handshake.

    October 30, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • Bucky

      A Flip-Flopper implies that he held a position, switched that position and then went back to his original position.

      Show us where he has done this. That's a flip flopper.

      Has Mitt flipped on positons? Indeed. Has he then retreated back to his original position? NO he has not.

      One mans "Flip", as you call it, is another man's "Evolution or Growth".

      Mitt has changed his positions on certain issues.

      What's wrong with that? Isn't that what "Growth" is all about.

      And since when do the Conservatives punish a man for evolving or growing toward a more conservative position?
      Do you clowns hear yourselves?

      Did Ronald Reagan not change his position on abortion, among many other issues? Was he not praised for doing so?

      I see Mitts "flops" as signs of a Man who is willing to look at issues more deeply as he confronts them and yes, even adopt a different viewpoint if need be. That's called leadership.

      Every Great Leader has to be willing to come off a rigid stance if evidence, knowledge or wisdom dictates they do so.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Billy

      Without even needing to elaborate, look at my original comment, abortion is where he has flip-flopped for starters.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:24 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.