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. BuckeyeJim

    The First Amendment bans Congress for enacting a law respecting the establishment of a religion, but if the President were to establish a religion by decree would not this amentment ban Congress from reversing the decree?

    Polygamy for the oligarchs!!!!!

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

      The Supreme Court would nullify the Executive Order. Not to mention the Senate would probably start impeachment hearings if ANY President even suggested attempting to do so. The President has NO say in whether an amendment is enacted or repealed. You need 38 states to amend the Const.itu.tion, after it passes the Senate and the House. Once an amendment is approved, even the Court's hands are tied. They cannot do anything about it either. Take a refresher in Civics, ok?

      October 30, 2011 at 1:21 am |
  2. DC

    It sounds like secularism has become its own religion on here.

    October 30, 2011 at 1:11 am |
  3. Docisakook


    Ignorance is bliss. As a mormon myself as well....you should do some research and have some knowledge before making ignorant comments. Garments as we call them are not magic underwear. They simply are cotton clothing that remind us of the covenants and promises we make in our religion. Every religion has certain promises you make and this is just a way that the LDS religion does it. We do not think of them as 'magic' underwear as someone such as your kooky self points out. As an ignorant person such as yourself points out...you are the kook. Before you post a bonehead comment, do some research.

    October 30, 2011 at 1:08 am |


    October 30, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • Steve

      Shouting won't make your delusions any more real.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:06 am |
    • Scott

      It is real simple. The media is getting a big payout and promises from Mitt, that is why they support him greatly. The only problem is, Americans don't support Romney. That is why candidates like Ron Paul and even Herman Cain are winning all of the straw polls and why the media is covering most of them up. It is a good thing that a majority of the American people are no longer buying the media favorites. We have been stung twice in a row, first with Bush, then again with Obama. This time it's up to America. By next summer the Occupy movement will be larger than the Civil Rights movement and the anti war movement of the 60's. This is going to be BIG and by then Romney will be a figment of the imagination.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  5. Mirosal

    I can see it now, he gets elected, and the Quorum of 12 in Salt Lake will be running the Executive branch ... yea just what we need isn't it? lol

    October 30, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • lovley

      You must not know much about the workings of the Mormon church. The leaders have a much more important work to do than trying to take over the country. They believe highly in freedom of choice and freedom of religion ...and they respect that fully. They would never think of pressuring the President in any way, for that is contrary to the way they work and the work they do. They are more concerned with God and the progression of their Church than the matters of the President.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:48 am |
    • Lesley

      @Lovley. If what you say regarding freedom of choice is true, then please explain your church's actions in California regarding Proposition 8.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • JoeS

      I have personal Testimony that The LDS Church is True. It is Jesus himself that founded LDS Church, not Jeseph Smith. Why work we about all these non sense idea about the Idea of having the Prophet control the the policy of the President. God's wisdom is a lot better than all people's wisdom combine, since He knows the future and He is almighty indeed.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  6. Spencer Burk

    As a Mormon myself I was curious as to how this journalist would treat the subject matter. Bravissima. I think you did an excellent job given the hesitancy on the campaigns part to not participate. America was founded on principles of respect, and tolerance. In response to the recent argument that Mormons aren't Christians, two points. When Jesus began preaching in occupied Israel, he was not exactly well received among his own people. As for the allegations of other denominations. It wasn't so very long ago where any religion other than a mainstream religion would have been harshly treated. My advice, keep an open mind, especially if you aren't well versed in another religions teachings. Once again, this article, from a Mormon's perpective, is extremely well written. Thanks for being fair.
    Spencer in Washington DC

    October 30, 2011 at 1:01 am |
  7. Carlos

    Actually RON PAUL is the REAL front runner, not Rommey nor Cain. Ron Paul represent the only and real change in America. Ron Paul keeps the American Dream Alive.

    October 30, 2011 at 1:00 am |
  8. yea

    The LDS is a disgusting group of people... they believe in arranged marriage, (underage in some parts)... its so secretive you can't fully understand what is going on.... yeah you can comment on about pedophilia the Catholic Faith. understand the difference is between one person knowing and an entire congregation knowing and consenting to it!

    October 30, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • Scott

      I'm not sure where you're learning about the Mormon religion but they don't believe in arranged marriages.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Ethan

      Yea, you're an idiot.
      Seriously. You know nothing about the LDS church, and you have nothing better to do with your life than troll a comment board and breed lies?
      "You can't change stupid"

      October 30, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • AnAmerican

      Dear Yea,

      Your sentiment is nothing more than unfortunate bigotry. An intellectually viable person engages in goodwill, tolerance, and careful consideration. If he disagrees with another's point of view he expresses it respectfully, and articulates it intelligently. If you would like to have more influence in this debate this course would be my recommendation. Best of luck, and best wishes to you and yours.

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

      Not entirely correct. The FLDS mormons, fundamentalist remnants of the original "faith" that practiced polygamy until the US government put a stop to it, do fit your description. The mainstream mormons don't practice arranged marriages or pedophilia as far as I know, but otherwise subscribe to pretty much the same utterly ridiculous religion. Jon Krakauer's "Under the banner of heaven" is a great book on the subject; the mormons don't want you to read it.

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

      The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints does not believe in, or practiced arranged or underaged marriage. I am an active member and would love for you to check out mormon.org and get some accurate information before you make false claims about my faith. Thanks!

      October 30, 2011 at 6:37 am |
    • Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

      @Yea, oh my gawd, you take the cake for the stupidest poster on here. Did your parents have any children that lived? Maybe you should leave those goats alone and get some professional help.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • ldean50

      Do they believe in arranged marriages? Yes. In a way. If you are a woman in the LDS church. Every little Mormon female knows her only path to Celestial heaven (the highest of the 3 mormon heavens) is via marriage to a man that holds a temple pass. In SLC there is a horrendous problem with counterfeiting "temple passes" . . . it's a money maker for all you unemployed Protestants if you have the money to relocate to SLCity.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • gsteiner

      As usual you have confused the LDS faith with the FLDS. I married the woman I chose. My four daughters married the men they chose, my son married the women he chose. Disgusting? Stupidity is Disgusting. You are Stupid in my opinion For that post.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • gsteiner

      OOPS. my son married a woman, only one. Caught up in the moment . must be careful . try demean another, and look STUPID yourself .

      October 31, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • JoeS

      Your message will be recorded in heaven and there would be a time for you to answers on this message. Ignorant like you will not be accepted in heaven, for there are no ignorant out there.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • SCFan

      Arranged marriage? Your post was just as stupid as the 'magic underwear' or naked temple comments. Whats funny is us Mormons read these things are laugh our heads off. These comments sound so stupid its almost funny. I am a Mormon and I met my wife at College during an opening social. Real arranged there durrrr. @yea please keep posting...your comments are making me laugh

      October 31, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • Lance in TX

      It sounds like you are talking about the FLDS (Fundamentalist LDS). They are NOT part of the LDS Church and anyone that wants to be like them is excommunicated. Get your facts straight before you post.

      November 6, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  9. Veritas

    I am so damned tired of hearing about all these people's "faith". Can we stay in reality and be a bit adult? Can we leave the nursery rhymes and fairy tales behind?

    October 30, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • Josh

      Hello and welcome to the "belief blog." I suggest if you don't want to read about someones faith you stir clear of any blogs on belief/faith.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:21 am |
    • Veritas

      @Josh: Well, it is also on CNN's front page so it is hard to avoid. Mixing politics with religion is always a bad idea.

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

      For many people, religon is the compass that guides their lives. Seperating politics and religion then becomes impossible.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:33 am |
    • Veritas

      @Josh: I guess that is the said truth. You'd think that people who, supposedly, as educated as e.g. Romney wouldn't be so prone to supernatural beliefs. In any case, it would be so great if our political leaders could leave their real or fake religious beliefs at home and instead focus on solving the real issues, such unemployment or the deficit. Maybe they could simply pray that "god" fix these problems?

      October 30, 2011 at 1:52 am |
    • Morrison

      It is utterly amazing to me that we live in a world where our leaders proclaim their lives are guided by the supernatural – their little fairies or holy ghosts or devils, demons, angels, gods or gremlins... It's just totally stunning. It reminds how innately stupid most humans are, and how desperate we are to find a narrative to help us believe we will "live forever"

      October 30, 2011 at 2:24 am |
    • Bill

      Morrison-I think you completely under value the meaning of faith. Yes, belief that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and that God really exist is something even of Faith struggle to understand. But, if you read Bible with the intent to understand, there is incredible wisdom. Wisdom in the good and dark side of people. It provides a format for our lives very contrfary to popular culture. Read the bible to understand the content. If Jesus Christ was not the Son of God (which is what we belevie in the Catholic Faith, he had in inherit wisdom far above the poeple 2000 years ago, and the people today!

      October 30, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  10. Fay Kimball

    Excellent! He just flip flopped twice more JUST THIS PAST WEEK!!!

    He's amazing in that he will SAY whatever he thinks the particular audience in front of him wants to hear at that moment. He is particularly dangerous, as he stands for nothing other than gaining power with no principles that can be discerned.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:53 am |
  11. Alex!

    Romney is as Delusional as Ole Joe Smith!

    October 30, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • rhett

      I am an active member of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints, I don't mock other faiths (or lack there of) and would appreciate it if you could share that respect!

      October 30, 2011 at 6:38 am |
    • The commenter

      I too NEVER mock other religions. I believe it is better to be in a religion then to not. My personal faith IS that we are the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and hold the priesthood, and I also believe that we can receive personal revelation by praying.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • JoeS

      Even if Romney is delusional, still He is following the right principle, helping and give a good example to the people, believing in God and do all righteousness. I wonder if our President is a delusional person like Hitler, we cannot even make a bad remark in this website.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  12. kd

    I'm with Ron.

    And, after living in Utah as a non-Mormon, I would never vote for a Mormon, seeing how religion is first and country is second to the politicians there. And their religion is so patriarchal and misogynistic that it's repugnant. That in addition to all the crazy-ash stuff they buy into (which every religion is guilty of – but the Mormons out-crazy the rest of the crazies).

    October 30, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • Sorry for you.

      So how long were you incarcerated in Utah?

      October 30, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  13. Author

    So when will someone talk about the covenants Mitt has made in the temple to serve only the church and follow its prophet? I know. I've been there and know the vows he's made. If the prophet of the LDS church tells him to do something, he will see it as coming directly from the Lord. Whether he says he'll put America first or not, he's made deeply held sacred covenants to the contrary. It will be the prophet first and American second. America needs to know this before they get duped.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • Alex!

      What you Say is Very True! I Left the Moron Church after 40 years! It is a Brainwashing Mind-controlling Cult! And Now I'm Free at Last, Free at Last Thank God Almighty, I'm Ree at Last!

      October 30, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • Ha ha ha!

      Yes, Alex! Ree at last! So in other words you weren't strong enough to live your beliefs. That's cool.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • JP0

      @Ha Ha Ha! Dumb comment. It is a tremendous step to throw off the brainwashing of religion and free your mind so that you can better understand the world.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • The commenter

      I he doubts or questions what the prophet has told him or whatever then he can always pray to see if it is true. Because then again LDS believe they can receive PERSONAL revelation. The prophet isn't the pope.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  14. matt houston

    "And [God] had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people, the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. And thus saith the Lord God; I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities." (2 Nephi 5:21)

    Yeah...that's in their scripture about darker skinned folks. Mormonism... moronism.

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

      How did that Mormon book happen to be written in the English of the King James translation? Dost thou know?

      October 30, 2011 at 3:20 am |
    • Kevin

      Yet Cain was "marked" with a curse and God only allowed the Levites to carry the Ark of the Covenant. Funny huh?

      October 30, 2011 at 4:01 am |
  15. Jon

    Not a Christian-you can't add or take away from the Bible if you are a Christian. If you vote for him you are not a faithful Christian. Last page of the Bible. Not my vote.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • Scott

      It actually says not to add to the Bible many times and yet more prophets kept writing. Not a very strong argument.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • Mike

      Jon, please know what you're talking about before posting.
      It says that multiple times in the bible.
      If that is the basis of your faith or your doubt about Mormonism, then I think you're in store for a big shock in your life.

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

      Clueless! Your are refering to Revelation 22:18 and 19 "....If any man shall add unto these things....And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy...." "These things" and "book of this prophecy" are refering to the same thing. And that is not the Holy Bilbe it is the revelations of John or in other words the Book of Revelations. The belief that God spoke to the ancient inhabitants of America and called prophets among them does not weaken our belief in the Bible but strengthens our belief in the Saviour Jesus Christ. "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:18 am |
    • Mark

      Does the fact that it says the same thing in Deuteronomy mean anything? The fact that it says "no additions" means no additions to that particular book in this case Revelations. The Bible itself is a compilation of many books. In fact Bible means "many books."

      October 30, 2011 at 2:06 am |
    • AnAmerican

      John, you might like to do some research about how the Bible was compiled. The last page of the Bible was not the last one written. If that interpretation is correct then parts of the Bible written after that verse would be invalid. Check it out! You might be surprised.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:22 am |
    • AnAmerican

      Jon, Christian is as Christian does. That disqualifies a whole lot of folks out there who call themselves such. Even Christ himself was accused on not being Christ-ian. I advise caution in your passage of judgement on the Latter Day Saints. You may find yourself in the the company of the Pharisees and Scribes whom Jesus pronounced hypocrites.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:35 am |
    • JoeS

      Why don't try reading the last Chapter of the Gospel of John and see what John said about words of Christ. You will be surprise. Come on open up your Bible and read it.............

      October 31, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  16. Alex!

    This Romney is a Delusional Moron!

    October 30, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • AnAmerican

      The old addage, "never give an idiot a microphone," applies here Alex! One of the unfortunate truths of the digital age. Every idiot can be heard.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:26 am |
    • Alex!

      You're right. I am a total dirt bag and I apologize. I shouldn't be mocking other peoples' beliefs, as this is a free country and one of our greatest rights is the freedom to believe as you choose, or not. I humbly ask your forgiveness.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  17. Not religious

    Romney's religion is not in itself an issue, but that fact that he the type of person who actively believes that the fairy tale of John Smith is true is a fair game when evaluating his fitness to be president. The issue is that while most presidents pay have paid lip service to religion, most have not been truly religious. This is a good thing, because presidents and countries, to be successful, need to be drive by reason. George W was perhaps the first recent president who actually believed in god. When a person like this starts believing that god meant for him to go to Iraq, etc., is when you start having issues. So, again the problem is not that Romney is Mormon, but that he is truly religious. Of course, Christianity as a whole is a fairy tale as well, but I guess even Christians are uncomfortable with Romney because the Mormon fairy tale is patently unbelievable even for people who believe in the older fairy tale. Again, the problem is not Mormonism, but religiosity. Everyone is laughing at Perry praying for rain just the same.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • Ron

      Who's John Smith?
      That ignorant to something you're bashing?
      (It's JOSEPH Smith...)

      October 30, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • Scott

      You realize that our founding fathers were very religious people and freedom of religion is the reason we're all here? I think those guys did a pretty good job founding our nation but I guess you don't think so.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • tallulah13

      Scott, have you actually done your homework about the founding fathers? Here is a website that will inform you, in our founding fathers' own words, about what they really christianity. Here's a hint: They don't say a lot that's good.


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

      Your non belief in religion is a "belief" you have come to accept in your life through your experiences. Mitt believes in God as his service to others indicates. When you are in service to others you are in service to your God.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • JoeS

      In my dollar bill, it says "In God we Trust" So I trust in God and the government of this country. I may not trust in some individual
      but collectively I trust in God. If Romney really trust in God, then I will vote for him.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  18. Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Some added references to "tink-erbells".

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

    Apparently hallu-cinations did not stop with Joe Smith.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    October 30, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • Unreality.

      And don't forget your god, the almighty Dollar.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  19. Sotzueme

    Mitt Romney is a total idiot..who cares about his faith..if this is the best the Republicans can offer, as the kids now say, OMFG.

    October 30, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • AnAmerican

      Hmmm. He's an idiot just because you say so eh? Your uncorroborated statement and choice of course language is a reflection of your paucity of intelligence. Please try engaging in convincing argument and not meaningless attacks.

      Ms. Ravitz, your piece is superb! Thank you for this refreshing insight into a candidate's life and internal workings! I'm impressed with your reporting, and with Mitt Romney as a human being, a man, a leader, and a Christian. Anyone with a similar appraisal would gain my respect. Thank you.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • Morrison

      @AnAmerican – Mitt is not a "Christian" – he's a Mormon. No reason to pretend he's something he's not. Secondly, any rational, reasoning person should and would never vote for someone like this – someone who looks to the supernatural for answers and guidance. We should all fear the day he should become elected. To imagine that someone who surrenders his soul to a cult could ever lead our country is frightening at best.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:33 am |
    • Whose the adult?

      Shows your intelligence and maturity.

      October 30, 2011 at 5:17 am |
    • Pancho Villa

      @Morrison, your comments just show your ignorance and bigotry. When the end comes you'll be shouting "God! Save me!" louder than all the others. Ha ha ha!! You guys always do.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

      How dare you take the Lord's name in vain (OMFG)! If you will read up on the ten commandments, it said thou shalt not take the lord thy god's name in vain. Then again I will not judge you lest ye be judged also... its your perogative to break the commandments... i will always defend to the death and always obey the ten commandments.

      October 30, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  20. Aaron

    Whoever wrote this is someone who is acquainted with the church or sympathetic to it, but that does not discredit the facts presented. Romney is not perfect and neither are the members of any christian, islamic, or other faith. I am a Latter-day Saint (or Mormon) and I'm not sold on Romney as the president, either. But if he is chosen to represent his party, I will carefully weigh his ideas against those of President Obama (for whom I voted the last go round). Romney views other Americans (and all human beings) as his eternal brothers and sisters, children of one God, who all have unimaginable potential for good. I believe that particular religious view will matter most in influencing his political decisions. What we do need and have always needed in a system that chooses to be represented by one executive officer to the rest of the world is some assurance that that one person will have integrity and compassion toward all people. No individual can be expected to have personal views or values that will agree with even most Americans nowadays. But I would hope that he will be true to what he believes is right.

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

      No one, who receives guidance and instruction from the supernatural, should EVER be in a position of leadership of this country. Period. Church leader? Sure! President of the United States of America? HELL no.

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

      And, by the way, I believe in praying to chicken entrails. They are real and help me though many trials and tribulations. Plus they taste real good!

      October 30, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • The commenter

      @morrison Oh I guess it's a good thing we went back in time to stop John Kennedy from being president! Because if Kennedy had ever happened to be president then I don't know where our country would be right know!!!

      October 30, 2011 at 9:54 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.