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. Georgio

    This is an excellent, unbiased, and balanced article that gives genuine insight into the life and events which have shaped Mitt Romney into the natural leader that he is.

    Author Jessica Ravitz deserves accolades for her fine work, and for bringing forward yet another facet of the character of Mitt Romney. Ms Ravitz has researched this article very well, and has taken a fresh approach to Romney's background.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • Alex!

      .........."Mitt Romney into the natural leader that he is". You, Georgio are as Delusional as Romney is!

      October 30, 2011 at 1:13 am |
    • Morrison

      There is absolutely no way you can say this article is "unbiased" - did you read it?

      October 30, 2011 at 2:36 am |
    • A_MUSING

      Now that you^ve read a fairy tale ... go to utlm.org and get the facts about mormonism.

      November 22, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  2. dave

    If someone is not going to vote for a muslim they are not going to vote for a mormon. Millions of americans will sit out this election if romney is the republican nom.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • A_MUSING

      Should the weasel get in, do what principled millions will do ... write in Ron Paul.

      November 22, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  3. David

    Not one mention of the racism, the anti-black racism, still in Mormon scriptures:

    And bear in mind, Official statements of Mormon LDS church says The Joseph Smith Translation has restored some of the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Bible. Although it is not the official Bible of the Church, this translation does offer many interesting insights and is very valuable in understanding the Bible. It is also a witness for the divine calling and ministry of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

    About Black Africans:
    The Moses 7:22
    " And Enoch beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them."

    About Native Americans:
    Alma 3: 6
    'And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.'

    There are many many more passages in the Mormon scriptures that condemn dark skinned people as cursed.

    Romney, passages like these are why you totally avoid talking about your religion.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Alex!

      The Whole of Mormon "scripture" is Racist and has No Place in a Decent American Society!

      October 30, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • AnAmerican

      David, you are unfortunately misinformed. The Book of Mormon is no different than the Bible in describing a curse set upon various individuals and their posterity as a means of setting said individuals and their posterity apart in some way. Cain was cursed with a marking so that no one would kill him - See Genesis 4:15. I'm sure that we would not say that because Baptists, or Catholics, or Protestants believe in this verse that they are racist. It is the same with Latter Day Saints. The Book of Mormon simply describes an event. It does not describe said individuals and their posterity, ancient or modern, as of less worth, or value as human beings than any other group. In fact, early church leaders spent a great deal of time and effort to welcome into the fold members of ethnic groups you mention in your unenlightened post including American Indians, and African Americans. Be informed before you speak, and look foolish.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:10 am |
    • AnAmerican

      I will add that these early church leaders of the Latter Day Saints, that I have mentioned, engaged in this brotherly goodwill long before it became in vogue and popularly accepted by the general population of the United States. At that time American Indians were being corralled and snuffed out by the Government, and African Americans were still in slavery.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:16 am |
    • AnAmerican

      Alex! My recommendation of being informed before you speak and look foolish applies equally to you.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:19 am |
    • Morrison

      AnAmerican is a liar. The Mormon church was racist against black people (and other minorities) until civil and governmental pressure in the late 70's forced their hand, and of course – a revelation! to change their ways. God has spoken! Pure sickness.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:40 am |
    • ldean50

      @An American. Abrahamic Christians believe Cain was marked by God as a punishment for murdering his brother. LDS church teaches that God cursed Cain by turning his skin black along with the skin of all his descendents;; therefore God has turned his back on anyone with black skin. "From this it is very clear that the mark which was set upon the descendants of Cain was a skin of blackness, and there can be no doubt that this was the mark that Cain himself received; in fact, it has been noticed in our day that men who have lost the spirit of the Lord, and from whom His blessings have been withdrawn, have turned dark to such an extent as to excite the comments of all who have known them.”
      – LDS Juvenile Instructor, vol. 26, page 635 . . . Now, in all fairness, their has been a Public Relations campaign recently to remove the 'cursed' references to Blacks in the ever changing Book of Mormon/ and Covenants and Doctrines – 'specially since they have a chance to rule the world through Mitt Romney (gggrandson of one of the LDS church founders, Parley Pratt arrested for murder and treason for attacking and killing members of an army battalion)... Don't look in up in Wikipedia – the Mormons have deleted that part of Pratt's history. A 52 billion dollar church has LOTS of power... wonder if they will trace my IP address... hey guys, if I'm not here tomorrow, will someone call the police?

      October 30, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Lance in TX

      Morrison: That is not really true. Before the Civil War, the LDS Church was VERY anti-slavery and got into a lot of trouble because of that. As for being racist.. Not really. I know.. Blacks were not allowed to hold the Priesthood.. Nope. Not true. Check out http://www.blacklds.org/priesthood:
      1836: In March, Elijah Abel, a black man, is ordained to the office of Elder.
      1836: In December, Elijah Abel, is ordained to the office of Seventy.
      1844: Walker Lewis, a black man, is ordained to the office of Elder.
      1846: William McCary, a black man, is ordained to the office of Elder.
      1900: Enoch Abel, the son of Elijah Abel, is ordained to the office of Elder.
      1935: Elijah Abel, grandson of Elijah Abel, is ordained to the office of Elder.
      1958: All black Melanesians (Fijians) are given the priesthood (blacks in the Philippines even earlier)
      1978: Revelation on Priesthood gives the priesthood to all worthy men regardless of color.
      1990: Helvecio Martins becomes first black General Authority Seventy.
      Additional blacks were ordained in the early years of the church.

      There were others. BTW: If you want to see a REAL racist Church.. Check out the Southern Baptist Church. That broke away from the Baptist Church because they did not want Blacks at all in the Church. Just a fact. Look at the history.

      November 6, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • A_MUSING

      @AnAmerican ... joseph smith plagarized the Bible and other books to write the book of mormon, he never had gold plates nor translated an Egyptian funeral papyrus to be written by Abraham, he fabricated polygamy to hide his perversions with young girls. Mormonism is racist and their fundamental doctrines are still in place. Mormonism is a SMITHIAN cult, it is not nor ever will be Christian. You've been beguiled, get your facts straight by going to utlm.org

      November 22, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • A_MUSING

      @LanceinTX, Morrison is correct. The only reason mormonism accepted blacks in the 70s was simply because of a temple being built in Brazil, before discovering that many Brazilians were mixed with blacks which meant according to their doctrine they were unworthy to enter the temple. Since they had no way to tell which were from those who were not, they conveniently fabricated another revelation to ensure they didn't waste $$$ to build a temple where no one could enter and later collect $$$ from beguiled victims.

      November 22, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  4. gustav

    No one cares. I'm a Democrat and I really don't care if he's a Mormon or not, it's sa non issue that the media just can't seem to leave alone, kinda like the Kardashians, steve jobs and lindsay lohan.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • Scott

      They don't leave it along because they know it keeps stirring up the pot and all of the evangelicals and Mormon haters will get whipped into a frenzy on why he shouldn't be elected.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:12 am |
    • Mike

      If what Idean said was true then I would be concerned. But what Idean said is totally false and misleading. I don't mind you stating an opinion but when you misconstrue something good as evil I object. Get your facts straight Idean

      October 31, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  5. Mark In ATL

    Wow, the guy had a broken arm and the first responder thinks he is dead? I wonder if they know how to check a pulse? LOL, Euro healthcare. What's up with the CNN hit piece on Repubs' faith? I don't remember this with the Dems. BTW, I am agnostic FWIW.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • Alex!

      Well, Look How the French Responded to Princess Diana.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Barry O'Bama

      Well it's not like Obama had any controvertial mainstream religious ties. Reverend Wright, whose church Obama and family attended for 20 years, was of course perfectly mainstream. He had your normal hatred of America and Caucasians that is standard in the church these days. No need for any media investigation for the Democrat frontrunner candidate.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:25 am |
  6. P

    "God exists"
    "God doesn't exist"

    These two statements require the same exactly level of faith, so get a grip and quit attacking each other!!

    October 30, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • Ron

      No they don't. It's much easier for any rational, thinking, human being to dismiss something that there is zero actual proof of then to believe in something there is zero actual proof of.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • P

      You can use that argument for both statements

      get a clue

      October 30, 2011 at 12:44 am |
    • P

      Ask yourself this: is there *proof* that there is a God? I would argue no. Is there *proof* that there is no God? clearly no

      October 30, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • nondescript

      Bible is the proof.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:10 am |
  7. P

    who cares what he believes! Can the man run the damn country any better than the last two knuckleheads?

    October 30, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • Ron

      Because what he believes determines how he thinks and acts. I won't vote for him

      October 30, 2011 at 12:42 am |
    • Sheik Yerbouti

      When you say the last two knuckleheads I assume you mean Reagan and Dubya.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • Morrison

      How in the world can it "not matter" if a leader believes in fairy tales? Come back to earth man. Our problems aren't a joke, and the last thing we need is someone who looks to the supernatural for answers.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:43 am |
    • ReligionIsInsanity

      Uh, as evidenced by his plans to do pretty much nothing different, no, he probably can't run the country any better. In fact, the only people who have displayed any ability to run the country better are Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich – neither of whom have a snowball's chance of even being the candidate, much less winning a rigged election.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  8. chrisg

    I dont care what his religion is. I want someone who can get this country back on its feet.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:28 am |
  9. tallulah13

    I don't give a rat's azz about the religion any of the candidates follow. All I want to know is A) Can they put the welfare of this nation ahead of that religion, and B) how exactly do they plan on reviving the economy and bring back living-wage jobs.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Sheik Yerbouti

      @No Romney..No Obama..

      Welll that is lovely but who do you have in mind for president?

      October 30, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • tallulah13

      I'm thinking I'll go with the least of all evils. At least Obama has a brain.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • ReligionIsInsanity

      Romney's already stated that he firmly believes that corporations are people, so no, he's not going to bring back living-wage jobs. It is in corporate CEO interest to keep racing to the bottom for labor, so those jobs aren't coming back here until we're living a third-world lifestyle and will accept a dollar a day as a wage.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  10. Pepe

    I guess I'm one of the very few people living in the 21st century, where the religious belive of a person are their own personal issue.

    Funny, I'm an atheist who thinks that his "brand" of christian religion is dumb lies (just as dumb as the lies from any other), yet his believe is the very last thing on my list of questions. Who cares if he is a mormon? There are plenty of mormons in this planet that are decent people ... even if I don't agree with the dumb things they believe in.

    Instead of spreading religious hate, what about asking what can the man bring to the table? What are his ideas and proposals to get the country out of the financial crisis and stop the over-spending spree that we have today today? You know, the questions that actually have value ...... instead of just hate.

    Not liking his platform is one thing .... not liking him because of his religion is another. Don't you think that it is time to grow up past the bigotry, ignorance, intolerance and hate of the middle ages?

    October 30, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • Jennie

      Thank you so much for your wonderful post! I posted nice letter that said about the same thing. You state you are atheist, and I'm a strong Christian. The Bible tells us to love one another regardless, as well not to judge...and to forgive...and to study to show ourselves approved. Some say it's not his faith, but...what then? Are they jealous or intimidated that he's educated, refined, and has a $30M house in NH and a net worth $250M? God....gave him brains and he used them wisely. He should be judged for that? This is America...be happy for the man...let him be an inspiration...not a beam in your own eye.

      Pepe you see clearly...and so many judging, not wanting to take the time to research the facts, are blindly happy with a 3 number or a post card sized answer when we are talking about a problem the size of America. Rather baffling...don't you agree?

      P.S. Gov Romney would NOT have all those high-powered professional big-wigs endorsing him with he didn't have something GREAT to offer! Wake up to reality people before it's late!

      October 30, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • David

      holy crap it's not just "their personal issue" it has an impact on all areas of their life and decisions. Unless of course they don't really believe or follow their religion. If I believed in Zeus and worshiped him and the others you'd think I was a little crazy, yes? Would you elect me president or put me in charge of the company you work for? So a persons religious beliefs are important to know so you can understand the person.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  11. Norma Parker

    Reading of Romney's faith increases my respect and admiration for him. He will serve all citizens, religious or not, fairly and well. Although he absolutely understands and will practice separation of church and state, his faith is a source of courage and integrity.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • Scott

      This article doesn't tell you the whole story. Knowing his religion raises a red flag that make most cringe once they learn the truth about this church, they believe in overpowering others and controlling the community. Romney fully supports the government controlling the people. Besides Romney doesn't stand a chance, he wins all of the media headlines but most of the people do not support him. Just check out all of the straw polls. There is no way America will vote for another slick talkin' Wall Street lovin' politician. The next president will be one who is anti-bailout.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  12. allenwoll

    It is NOT possible to be a politician of the sort we have today AND actually be a moral or religious person.

    The two conflict from top to bottom.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  13. umad

    ahhh but does he know how magnets work?

    October 30, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  14. Str8whtguy

    Romney is the strongest candidate to oppose Obama in the general election. His religion has absolutely nothing to do with it.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • Morrison

      When a potential leader of our country receives guidance and direction from the supernatural, you bet it's our business.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:13 am |
    • Fluffy Butternut

      @Morrison – No it's not. You just think it is.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • Scott

      Who is he strong against? His numbers are plummeting faster than they were four years ago.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • JoeS

      If God is with you, who can able to stand against you?

      October 31, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  15. Tim

    "In the beginning, the head of the gods called a council of the gods. They came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it. When we begin to learn this way, that God exists in this council structure with other divine beings that he calls gods, we begin to learn the only true God and what kind of a being we have got to worship."

    Or so said Joseph Smith. Do your research; it's published in official Mormon literature.

    I don't particularly care. But I would like to know how this accords with what many have deemed "Christianity." Have fun, all you Biblical scholarly types!

    October 30, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • Kris in AL

      Your point is well taken. There is no doubt that a lot of what Joseph Smith said (and other "primitive Mormon Church" leaders) could be called into question. It is clear that a lot of "thoughts" of JS may have only been thoughts not revelation. BUT, on the topic you raise, eternal progression, it's a fascinating concept of we lowly humans, growing up to be like our Heavenly Father.

      There is no dought that Jesus used paternal terms to describe His Father. Why? If you think of human fathers in relation to their newborn children, the difference in intelligence, experience, capabilities, etc are off-the-charts.....BUT....eventually, that human child can equal or even exceed the mental, physical etc status of their parent.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:56 am |
    • Logan

      If you want to know how that quote figures in with biblical Christianity, read the whole sermon you quote from. It's called the King Follett discourse and goes into great detail on the nature of God and our relationship to Him, using the original Hebrew from Genesis as a starting point. It's quite enlightening.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Tim2

      I can't imagine even for a second The United States having a Mormon president and don't believe it's possible. Mormonism is another cosmos in our world. LDS is the area of weird hierarchy ruled by their monarchs. The lower levels have no idea what's going on in the upper grade, they are not allowed there. I looked through the comments and most of them written by Mormons for sure. One shouldn't educate yourself reading web info about LDS church. There is no help in that reading. You need to get to know this world by some other ways. We would get back hundreds years back from civilization by giving our country and our liberties to these people. Don't they have enough billions of $$$ in their businesses? They occupied all media, insurance and financial, travel and hotel businesses, food and services. Aren't they happy spreading their "teachings" everywhere in the world? They make people in other countries laugh at us, especially in Europe. Missionaries unsuccessfully trying to convert Catholics and Orthodox Christians in to Mormons. How funny is that? Europeans think these little imbeciles knocking on their doors are the best youth of America. Please people stop even discuss this Mormon topic already. Don't make the world laugh at us. Mr Morney , ops, Romney, please be the president of Mormons

      October 30, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Scott

      Joseph Smith walked on water just like Jesus did.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • JoeS

      God never reveal everything to Joseph Smith. I am a convert to the Church and discovered that it is the only True Church on this planet. Say what ever you want to say about the LDS Church, and it still remain the only true Church since it was founded by Jesus Christ himself. Perhaps ask him personally through prayer and He will you the truth.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  16. No Romney..No Obama..

    Enough said ..read my name and get the message..

    October 30, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  17. 2EEs

    Wow people, let's be civil here. Just because you don't believe something doesn't mean you need to disrespect it.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  18. Deb

    I didn't know there were Mormons in Michigan.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • Pat Robertson's Ghost

      Yes there are, Deb. And you've shown there are idiots as well.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  19. rh

    I am sick and tired of someone's religious preference having any bearing on their ability to govern, or run a business, or teach our children, etc.

    I am an atheist and at least as moral if not more moral as these professed "religious" types. We believe in honesty, honor, and doing right by as many people as we can. I don't care if he worships the Devil as long as he is honest and honorable.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Morrison

      How can you say that? A world leader that claims to receive guidance from the supernatural world doesn't matter to you? That doesn't bother you at all? A-mazing. It ought to scare the living "hell" out of you. We need rational, reasoning people in the whitehouse.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:15 am |
    • JP0

      @Morrison Agreed!

      October 30, 2011 at 5:59 am |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Morrison, what scares me is people like you.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Lesley

      @Morrison: I couldn't agree more and such people wouldn't stand a chance of being elected in most other western countries.

      October 31, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Mike

      Most of the past presidents of the US have believed in the "supernatural" as you put it. They were
      Christians who believed in receiving direction from God through prayer just as all Christians do.

      October 31, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  20. RonaldW

    Christ said "by their fruit ye shall know them" Mitt Romney's 40 year marraige to Ann and his wonderful sons and family tell you all you REALLY need to know. Those of us who know his religion and his family know he is awesome.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Scott

      I know his religion which is why I will never vote for him. This article tells the good side of the mormon religion but leaves out the bad side. Ever wonder how they got control of so much land in Utah and what happened to the people who lived there? The truth makes Columbus look like a saint.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Zak

      You need to do some objective research on the Mormon-Native American relations. Brigham Young and the Mormons of Utah had very liberal policies with regard to the Native Americans in Utah.

      October 30, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
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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.