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

    Several Mormon posts have called Mitt, "Bishop Romney". I wonder if they will call him "Bishop Romney" or "President Romney" after he is elected.

    I think that epitomizes the problem with voting for "Bishop Romney". Or, any Bishop for that matter. 😉

    October 30, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  2. Bill Dee

    Keep ALL religious fanatics out of the White House – otherwise you are nothing more than the flip side of the same coin as the religious fanatic hardliners in Muslim countries.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Thanks for an intelligent post BUT you know as well as I do that the dumb sh-its in this country won't vote for an atheist or agnostic or any other religion besides a Christian. That has always been the reason our presidents are always so stupid! That is what is funny about this article. It is clearly a campaign ad and no doubt paid for by Romney. It is not journalism. This country won't vote for anyone unless they at least SAY they are Christian, even if they are not.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  3. Chaminade

    I don't know if it is his Mormon background or not, but Mitt Romney is an arrogant man.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  4. Ty

    I found the article well researched and informative. It is interesting and helpful to know a candidates background. The best predictor of future success is past success. So far Romney seems like he had a impeccable personal life and background which will help influence his decisions as president. I'm not saying he's perfect and has it right on 100% (who is perfect?). I'm voting for Romney, he is by far the smartest and most business savvy person of all the candidates. If anyone can figure out a way to pull us out of the rut we are in Romney would be the one to do it. I'm glad he has deep religious convictions and actually turns those convictions into action.

    Unfortunately, many of the comments after the article were very poorly researched and stated nasty things about the LDS church, declaring they were facts. Time to do your homework again folks.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  5. jacoffalotte

    where's the golden tablets Mitt? You know, the ones you base your whole existence on, the ones from GAWD, well, show me.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • pastmorm

      Yep! And who showed him the golden tablets in the first place? An angel without wings (mormons have this thing about angels not having wings...). Where's the angel now? This angel would actually visit a man that breaks laws (look up his public records) but not someone truly good?

      October 30, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  6. Cdn. Observer

    Jeff from Utah wrote: "So did Bush start a war in the middle east because he's Methodist [?]" No, George Jr. mislead Americans to war in Iraq because doing so had been on the agenda of his neo-con cohorts, who should be breaking rocks in the yard of a federal penitentiary, for years. Bush The Son was the front man for the neo-con operation. He came to power – significantly – because tens of millions of religion-brainwashed Americans voted for the religious and psychologically dysfunctional man.

    In 2000, George W. Bush REPEATEDLY demonstrated to American voters his misfiring mind via what he said. His nonsensical statements were a clear WARNING to Americans that his thinking was badly flawed. Yet despite the evidence to stay away from him as a prez. candidate, more than 50 million voters, including, crucially, millions of evangelicals, voted for the dimwit. And how is the USA doing today as a result? It's a much-weakened, drowning-in-debt, quasi-superpower (militarily only now, and that has begun to shrink).

    If you want to comprehend the neo-con agenda for oil-rich Iraq dating back to the 1990s, read "Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War." If you want to understand American imperialism as it's evolved since the late 1800s – and particularly since the end of WWII – read "The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic" and "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance". All are available via Amazon and other major book retailers.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Jeff from Utah

      No but you're worried that Romney might start some war because had some "vision from god". Whatever dude it seems like every war that starts stems from some religious belief one way or another.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  7. mikala

    A weasel is a weasel no matter what faith they are. No one shifts their beliefs as far as Romney has simply because of new information. You may soften a position on an issue or 2 but not become polar opposite.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • RAD

      Homer: "Did you try to weasel out of it?
      Bart: ...?
      Homer: "It's human nature to try to weasel out of things. It's what separates us humans from animals....except for weasels!"

      October 30, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • pastmorm

      And all mormons are weasels in the hen house. Ironically old Joseph Smith was called that exact thing.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  8. Jeff from Utah

    Anybody that bashes another person for there beliefs is nothing but a loser. I can sit here and bash every single religion out there and guess where that would get me. Everyone has a right to worship how they want and shouldn't have to be persecuted for it. If Romney trashed anyone for there religious beliefs there isn't a chance in H@LL I would vote for him. And that goes for all of the candidates. I'm not a mormon. Grown up my whole life in Salt Lake and I'm not religious. But I have family members out there who are and the last I heard they're not in no cult. I love them very much and the love me and couldn't give a dam that I'm not mormon. There is a seperation between church and state and I won't vote for a candidate that don't believe that, including Romney!

    October 30, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • pastmorm

      And mister mormon, you just bashed everyone that's disagreeing with you and your beliefs so you must be a loser too. Get a real religion. Cults suck.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Jeff from Utah

      Well like I said in my post that obviously you didn't catch. I'm not a mormon or religious. And I WILL NEVER bash anyone for how the believe. So stick that in you PIE HOLE and smoke it!

      October 30, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • pastmorm

      LOL! Right, you live in Utah and you stand up for the mormons and you're not a mormon? I've met plenty of people like you...the way you manipulate and lie.
      Pie hole? I don't like pie. LOL!

      October 30, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Jeff from Utah

      I take it by your handle that your a former mormon. Pastmorm right. Sounds like you have more issues the LDS faithful than me. And anytime you want to call me "mister mormon" to my face let me know when and where to meet.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

      Jeff's Mormon boss is probably standing over his shoulder as he types like a Mormon tool.

      That's how it works. You tow the Mormon line...or you don't have a job.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • pastmorm

      Jeffy, you're killing me! Now get off of here, take your meds and shut up! LOL!

      October 30, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Jeff from Utah

      Actually I was drinking beers with my boss last night. Good time. I'm Just not going to knock someones religion. Only loser do that! And that's a lot of the problem with the world today.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Jeff from Utah

      Hey LOSER! I have every right to talk crap like you so UP YOURS!!!

      October 30, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • jacoffalotte

      I'll shut up just as soon as you show the magic golden tablets "found" by the con man and grifter Joseph Smith, you know the ones from GAWD, the ones you base your "religion" on.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • pastmorm

      Jeffy...you have a fixation with this loser thing. Put that mirror away now! LMAO!

      October 30, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      @ Jeff from Outer Space

      The people in this country won't vote for an atheist or agnostic or any other religion besides a Christian (and please not a Mormon). That has always been the reason our presidents are always so stupid! Why don't you religious folks let us elect someone smart for a change? This is YOUR fault.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Americano

      Good points Jeff from Utah...

      October 30, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Ned Nickerson and Nancy play golf with Mortimer

      Don't they teach English in Utah ? pssst....it's "their".

      October 30, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Jeff from Utah

      Like I said fellas I'm not mormon and I'm not religious. And if you think I am because I live in Utah only shows your ignorance. I don't believe in mormonism or any religion at all. So say want you want you're still losers. You've got to love froodom of speech. And and by the way...This is all fun for me...

      October 30, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • pastmorm

      Oh man Jeffy, we can tell by your writing (froodom of speech???) that your meds are finally kicking in. Whew! You do realize that people have a hard time respecting the view point of a person that can't spell don't you?

      October 30, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Jeff from Utah

      Oh don't get so personal pal. I'm enjoying myself as much as you are. Your not one of those former mormons that are really bitter about life because of the way the church treated you are you? Don't let it eat you up buddy. It's not healthy.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  9. Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

    My dad just passed away recently. He was a hardworking blue collar man who loved the his God and the Bible dearly. So please forgive me for re-posting this. 🙂

    When my father retired in Idaho he became a school bus driver. Each day he drove the Mormon kids to their seminary building – during school hours on a PUBLIC bus. (One high school in town didn't have the Mormon seminary building on campus.)

    One day he and another driver asked if it would be okay to bus some of the Catholic and Lutheran kids to their catechism classes. My dad was looking forward to helping other kids find God too.

    Within two weeks the Mormon director fired both of them. I wonder why... 😉

    October 30, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Jeff from Utah

      At least come up with something original my "magic underwear' wearing buddy. Originality!!! Ever heard of it???

      October 30, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

      Thank you. Even after death Mormons find it amusing to disrespect my Christian father.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Justsayin'

      Magic...you're one to talk about disrespect.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • pastmorm

      Magic, just ignore little Jeff...he's obviously stationed on here to defend the mormons when pro-mormon articles come out. I feel bad for you and the loss of your father and I totally understand where you're coming from. Mormons really are cruel.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

      Thanks for the kind words. I've been pretty nasty on this board too. Perhaps my Mormon experiences have tainted my vision.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • pastmorm

      Magic, I agree, anyone that's had a bad experience with a mormon (and it always happens sooner or later, once they show their true colors) always remembers it. People like you and I (and hopefully many others) need to get the word out there that mormons are not a good choice for any type of political office. Your heartfelt experience proves it.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  10. opm

    few of my co-workers are mormons. they don't like to socialize with people outside their religion. they think of themselves as 'superior' individuals. always find them at chick-fil-a.

    October 30, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • pastmorm

      Mormons do believe they are above everyone else. They think that they are the chosen people of god...even above the Jews. Once you get past their happy faces and hand shaking and they find out they can't convert you, they do something called, "dusting their feet of you" which means that they condemn you to outer-darkness, away from their god and Jesus because you refused them. Look it up if you don't believe me.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Ocss

      People don't associate with you because you are a pervert.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Ben

      Pastmorm just lost all credibility with that statement which is absolutely false.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  11. SCAtheist

    I'm not buying his sincerity. He's been running for pres. since he was born.

    October 30, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  12. SavedbyGrace

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Horse_Prophecy ...

    October 30, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  13. Kay

    It's ironic how some don't make fun of Muslim garments, but yet make fun of another religions traditional garments. You are a very selective group of people when it serves your purpose.

    October 30, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • pastmorm

      That would be because Islam has been around for 2000 years. Mormonism was a cult that was started by a paedophile (look it up people...when he was already married, he told his wife he was going to marry a 14 year old girl) that has legal records on him over his illegal boot-legging and thievery.
      People with a mind will research the mormons – outside of their propaganda site – and find out the whole truth.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • The Dude

      Also, Muslims do not believe their garments will protect them from Bullets, Knives, Fire and what not.

      You people are retarded or delusional or both.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Ben

      Pastmorm: You won't make fun of Islam's holy garments or polygamy because it's an older religion? I'm trying to understand your reasoning here, but it doesn't make sense.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Ben

      The Dude: You do not have an accurate appreciation or understanding of how garments are viewed by those who wear them.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  14. Former AZ resident

    RAD, Mormons have always been "fair game". How on earth do you think they ended up in Utah?

    October 30, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

      That's where they ended up after their militaristic insurrections against the American government?

      Google "Mormon insurrection" and "Mountain Meadows Massacre". They're a very loving people...or else!!

      October 30, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Jeff from Utah

      LMAO!!! That's a good one!

      October 30, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  15. The Dude

    Missouri Executive Order 44, also known as the "Mormon Extermination Order" in Latter Day Saint history, was an executive order issued on October 27, 1838, by Governor of Missouri Lilburn Boggs. The directive was issued in the aftermath of the Battle of Crooked River, a clash between Mormons and a unit of the Missouri State Guard in northern Ray County, Missouri during the so-called "Mormon War" of 1838. Insisting that the Mormons had committed "open and avowed defiance of the laws"

    October 30, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  16. JT

    It's amusing to watch Christians throwing around insults towards their fellow cultists as to whose invisible nonexistent sky daddy is the real deal.

    October 30, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  17. Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

    Would you object to a Mosque being built on your child's public school campus??

    If you grow up in Idaho, Utah, or areas of Arizona you will be subjected to Mormon influence right on your public high school campus: 😉

    1) The Mormon seminary is on or adjacent to the public school campus (in my case it was on, and I mean ON, campus).
    2) Taxpayers pay for parking lots, cross walks, crossing lights, etc for the Mormon seminaries.
    3) Mormon students are given credit for seminary courses. In the old days they were allowed to skip American History (So they wouldn't learn the truth about Mormon militia insurrections?)

    Mitt Romney supports this kind of blurring of church and state – at least for his own religion.

    Ask Mitt if he will support Mosques on those public campuses too. 😉

    October 30, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Ocss

      Yr an Idiot, get a clue.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  18. slant

    CNN-Didn't ya still find an obscure enough religious reason for Ron Paul to make it on the belief blog?

    October 30, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • ridiculist

      CNN sees more of a 'religious' connection to Romney's belief and Cain's tax plan on belief blog.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  19. Rmax

    Religion is a complex subject. All have a good purpose for mankind. LDS is the same thing, great people and great teachings.
    Romney's humble experiences is great great for America.

    October 30, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  20. Proud to be from Utah.

    I am sad to hear all of these harsh words, though I am grateful for the freedom of speech. I know that religion and politics are a hard topic for all of us to agree on but this is my take. I have been LDS all my life, though right now I am not the strongest in my faith. This being said I have been able to see and feel the difference of being on both sides. I miss the peace and spiritual closeness with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ when I was going to church every Sunday and reading the scriptures. People will be people, we all have our weaknesses and I am sorry to all of you that have had bad experences with other people from Utah or anywhere else in the world. If anybody is in need, anybody from the LDS church will be right by your side to help. (and not to only convert) For example I married a 'non' member of the church when he had a death in the family (before we were married) my student ward at the time didn't even know his family made dinner for his family every night for at least a week. All of these LDS people were poor students going out of their way to help. The church is all about serving and being Christ like. I wish that people could see this side of it. Here is a link that will show this. http://mormon.org/values/
    I know there is all these books and different resources out there written by people, please don't believe all of it. You have to realize that there are people trying to make a point about what they think about it, but it is not the direct source. This is a bold statement but for anyone to truly look into the church go right to the source read the Book of Mormon, Mormon is one of the prophets in the Book of Mormon hence the name. People think it is all just preaching but it is Christ coming to the Americas. I know a lot can be said about what you see me writting today but please have an open mind. For questions here is a good place to start. http://www.mormon.org 🙂
    I have seen the church change lives all over the world with in my family. God bless!

    October 30, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • pastmorm

      Seriously. Enough of the smiley faces. Enough of your mormon propaganda. I'm a return missionary and I know the cruelty and hatred that really run the mormon corporation. Instead of checking out the mormon propaganda site, why not read "Under the Banner of Heaven," or "The God Makers?"
      You do realize that most people will find out that you mormons believe you'll be gods of your own planets if you're good boys and girls...just a little crazy and cultish don't you think?

      October 30, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

      Find out more about Mitt and the Mormon religion by Googling the following:

      "Mormon celestial polygamy"
      "the planet kolob"
      "Mormon underwear"
      "posthumous Mormon sealing"
      "Mormon blood atonement"
      "posthumous baptism"
      "Mountain Meadows Massacre"
      "Mormon 1978 Black people"

      There's a reason Mormon males have that smug smile. They know they will own your terrestrial wife in heaven. 😉

      October 30, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • pastmorm

      You rule Magic! Thanks for posting that list of things to look up on google or bing. There's no way the mormons can deny their own beliefs!

      October 30, 2011 at 3:32 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.