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. Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

    Ha ha... just being casual about Joseph Smith.... I will tell you and many others who read this... people think we worship Joey Smith... not so... we respect him as our prophet who helped reestablished the church in the latter days. We do not worship him at all, we give credit yes! We worship God the Heavenly Father and his beloved Son Jesus Christ, which is the basis of our faith. Joey is the man! 🙂

    October 31, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • Jeff from Utah

      That's all good (I guess). I just know a lot of church members that would knock you're head clean off is you referred to him as "Joey". That's what I like about mormons outside of Utah. You're more "laid back". Enjoy the waves bra!!

      October 31, 2011 at 1:04 am |
    • Sircuts

      No offense Surfer but it just seems to me you got the really condensed version of this whole Joey thing akin to the comic book version of a Novel.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  2. jeff the christian

    While I don't like the word "Cult" being used so much for any religion that differs from scrict interpertation of the bible, Mormans are not Christians, the same way Jewish people would not consider Christians Jews. They had the Torah, we added the new testimate There by making us Christians. Mormans added the Book of Morman, so they are no longer christian, besides that they believe; 1.) On some other realm or planet God started out as a human, had two Children, Jesus and Satan, And lived a perfect life, as human and was rewarded by becoming God of our world. 2.) They also believe that each of us can rise to perfection and some day emulate God to the level that in the spirtual world (after life) when we are God's we can have our own spirtual children born into this world. People can believe what ever they want, what Mormans believe will not be a huge consideration in whether or not I vote for Romney if he is the nominee. But for many reasons Mormans are thier own religion and not Christian because thier view of the trinity, the holy spirit, and who God was is not consitent with what any other Christian really believes.

    October 31, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • Jason

      Jesus' definition of a Christian: "By this shall all men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."

      October 31, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Postino

      You said "[Jews] had the Torah, we added the new testimate There by making us Christians." In fact the new testament wasn't collected until at least 96 after the death of Christ, which means being a Christian had nothing to do with the New Testament, since it wasn't written yet. However, now that we have the New Testament it is widely believed that one must ascribe to its teachings in order to be considered Christians. Mormons do believe in the New Testament.

      As for your other comment, Jews believe in certain books of the Old Testament (Gen – Deut). Unfortunately they don't accept the New Testament. Traditional Christians believe in the Old and New Testaments, but unfortunately they don't accept that God brought forth Another Testament to help resolve all this conflict about the bible's teachings. If you think the bible is enough, just look at the hundreds of traditional-Christian churches that read from one bible, yet teach hundreds of different doctrines, which confuses us as to which interpretation is the truth. There cannot be two religions teaching different doctrines, for that would mean God is saying two different things. And, as it says in the bible "God is not the author of confusion, as in all churches of the saints."

      Today's Latter-Day saints (Mormons) believe in both the Old and New testaments, and in Another Testament, and they believe in continued revelation from God through a prophet 12 apostles, and 70 men, just as in the times of the Old and New Testaments (see Joshua 4:4, Numbers 11:16, Luke 6:13, Luke 10:1). We have the same structure as both Old/New testaments and we are still learning since God is still teaching. It's sad to see other stop and say no more, and it is simply not true.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Kevin

      Jeff... It's "MormOn" not "MormAn."

      November 13, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
  3. Jeff from Utah

    So you're telling me I should believe in plates that nobody has ever seen? The plates are a figment of Joseph Smith's and Martin Harris' imagination.

    October 31, 2011 at 12:55 am |
    • Jason

      You don't have to believe that there were golden plates, though there were at least 11 other witnesses who claim to have seen them. I am not aware of anyone that has seen the tablets from the 10 commandments either.... yet many around the world believe.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • Sircuts

      Easy there Jeff you were supposed to keep that bottled remember? According to that Link Surfer Joey Smith returned the plates to Moroni

      October 31, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • Sircuts

      When Smith finished the translation, he said that he returned the plates to the angel Moroni, and therefore they are unavailable for study

      October 31, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • Jeff from Utah

      Oh no sircuts...according to surfer they're hidden. You know they might get melted down you know...lol

      October 31, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • TR6

      @Jason: “You don't have to believe that there were golden plates, though there were at least 11 other witnesses who claim to have seen them. I am not aware of anyone that has seen the tablets from the 10 commandments either...”

      I can see how it would be easier to lose the stone tablets given all the conquests and destruction the Jewish people have been through along with 4000 years to do it. As compared to the Mormons shorter and more peaceful history (not that they didn’t have any problems at all)

      October 31, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  4. Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

    Jeff, so many people were trying to steal it from ole Joey Smith... i guess its gotta be hidden away to keep those people from stealing them and melting it for profit. The Gold Plates are sacred word of God, and do you honestly think God, who is trying to reestablish his own church on earth, would allow thieves to steal the sacred plates, the prophets of old wrote to preserve the history of the gospel? That's my honest answer there.

    October 31, 2011 at 12:55 am |
    • Jeff from Utah

      So your saying that with the security force that the LDS church has the can't keep them safe?

      October 31, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • Jeff from Utah

      And isn't it a little disrespectful to call your "prophet" Joey?

      October 31, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • TR6

      @Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality: “ Jeff, so many people were trying to steal it from ole Joey Smith... i guess its gotta be hidden away to keep those people from stealing them “

      You mean that your omnipotent god doesn’t even have enough power to protect his divine word from thieves? Sounds a lot more like impotent than omnipotent.

      October 31, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  5. James Gronau

    The fact that American"s continue to endorse the religious freaks is beyond understanding. You truly are considering someone to run and represent your country with believes which are astounding and nothing short of stupid. I blame you the citizen for gathering your information from mainstream media. Learn to question, learn to gather facts and make informed choices.

    October 31, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • Jason

      America was founded on the idea that individuals had unalienable God-given rights (see Declaration of Independance). None of the presidents or founding fathers were athiests, though a fair number of them did not attend any specific denomination. Not sure what exactly you mean by "religious freaks." I guess "stupid" is often in the eyes of the beholder.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:55 am |
    • James Gronau

      Quite simply Mormonism is Christianity with even more ridiculous beliefs. Yes, there have been no Presidents which have been atheist. Do you truly want someone like Romney making decisions for you, keeping in mind he is waiting for god to return and will not publicly share his beliefs?

      October 31, 2011 at 1:17 am |
    • Postino

      Romney is a politician, not a theologian. Once he starts answering one question, he has to spend his time explaining all the questions that follow; spending time answering religious questions takes away from talking about issues that matter to Americans. If you want to know what Romney believes go talk to the missionaries. Remember, Romney was a missionary when he was 19-21 and we all teach the same thing.

      And to answer your question: do I really want someone running the country who "is waiting for god to return"? Sure, but I'm curious what presidential candidate do you think is the best to run this country, since they all believe that god is coming back?

      Almost every presidential candidate before him has ascribed to such Christian beliefs, and this country has been the greatest free nation on earth since its inception. As for Romney being qualified: he was educated at Harvard with law and business degrees, he has managed hundreds of people in his church callings, he fixed a bankrupt Olympics, he started business that were very successful, he turned around businesses and later helped turn his state around while governor. He does awesome in the debates because he is smart and he learns from his mistakes and the only thing his enemies can attack are his past position changes on social issues. Like I said, he learns from his mistakes, which is why he is now pro-life. I like a president who isn't afraid to learn as he gets older, and I like a president who believes in the bible and the "return of god," for that's my belief as well, along with all Christians, which is the majority of this country, and the reason why this country is great.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  6. Postino

    Good article.

    I read it kinda fast, did the article talk about Romney serving the people of MA for $1 or fixing the Olympics for $1? I did notice the mention about Romney serving in the church at his own expense, but didn't see any mention of his public service. Since much of Romney's public & private sector service was provided at his own expense, I think it deserves some credit. Anyway, kudos to CNN for going against the grain on this article. I'm impressed.

    October 31, 2011 at 12:46 am |
  7. Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

    Awww shucks, that's a compliment to me... I don't even look like a cardboard cut lol... Ive got sunbleached hair, tanned, and tribal tats.... I don't look like a dorky Utah LDS. That would be a halloween costume to me. LOL Too funny... you gotta stop stereotyping Sircuts.

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

      I'm LDS and in Utah and we don't look dorky at all thank you very much. Also, quit acting like you are LDS, when LDS people don't broadcast that they go to the temple to impress others, and certainly aren't proud of having tattoos (tribal or otherwise). If you'd like to become LDS however, you can repent, say 20 hail Mary's and go to http://www.lds.org to get info on becoming a real Mormon-surfer.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Postino

      ...oh, for what it's worth, I'm a Mormon snow-boarder, skier, rock-climber, chess-player, who's into politics, racquetball, and traveling the world. I really love these new Mormon ads that show how LDS members love to pray and play ... for that's how we truly are. The lead-singer of The Killers just posted his "I'm a Mormon" ad, and I'm thinking I might have to do one of my own soon. BTW, I've only been surfing once, but I agree that Mormon-surfers are pretty dang cool, especially if they are also worthy to enter the temple (both of which are extremely difficult, surfing obviously being the more challenging of the two).

      October 31, 2011 at 2:38 am |
  8. Mormon4ever

    Greetings brother (Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality) from Texas!!!
    Atheism is a religion. They BELIEVE in nothing!!! Due to the fact that they cannot prove anything... Therefore is also a faith (wrong kind)
    No matter what internet has on it (bad, good or else) my testimony of the only true church won't change. I love this church, and I will never leave it. People are wrong about our church,it is not a religion, it is OUR LIFE!!!
    Thanks CNN for all your help. The site is extremely busy!!!

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

      Atheists can "prove" exactly as much as YOU can. But, here's the thing, you kep telling us about "god" and "tablets" and "angels" .. and we say "show me" ... you made the claim, not us, and you haven't proven your claim. By the way, just saying a "holy" book is evidence because that book itself SAYS it's evidence won't cut it. Bring us something verifiable. Your claim, you need to back it up. Burden of proof is NOT with the atheists, it is with you. After all, you made the claim.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:28 am |
    • Postino

      @ Mirosal. What's proof to you is justified by someone else. If an angel came to you would you believe? Maybe for a while, but in time you would likely justify it away as something explained by science, like a hallucination or whatever. To illustrate my point I'll give you an example: While serving as a Missionary in Italy, one day I prayed for a miracle; a few hours later my companion and I were stopped by some business guy standing behind his car. He told us that we had something for him. We didn't understand so he clarified: "I was driving and I heard a voice that said 'stop, those boys have something for you.'" We gave him a Book of Mormon (since that's all we had) and thanked us and drove off. He didn't know who we were or why, he just stopped us. Anyone who knocks on doors in Catholic Italy knows that stuff just doesn't happen. You will probably mock this post because you weren't there next to me, and you have probably never had an experience like that. And if you have no faith that God will show you proof, then you will probably never get the "proof" that you demand before you'll believe. And you'll probably live your entire life missing out on experiences that confirm to you that God exists. I can also tell you that if your faith is strong enough you can ask to see things as proof. I once asked to see God as it said in the bible "blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." Well, let's just say I have my proof, and claims like must upset you, like a guy with a ferrari telling you that it's within your reach, but you'll probably never get one, because you don't really believe it's possible. In this case I'll give you free guides on how to get the "ferrari," they're called scriptures (bible and book of mormon). They'll teach you how to get the proof you claim to want.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:04 am |
    • Tyson

      One of my favorite scripts is from the book of Mormon that speaks of this and has been fitting for me in every aspect of my life. Because change always takes a leap of faith to leap forward towards to the unknown and accept things as they may happen.

      Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

      November 1, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  9. Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

    Here's the gold plates... you gotta scroll down and youll see photos of them.

    October 31, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality


      October 31, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • Jeff from Utah

      Are you serious surfer. The only pics on that page is an artist rendition and a model based on what Joseph Smith descibed. Your credibility is starting to lag bud.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • Postino

      HAA!! The gold plates on wikipedia? HA HA HA. Maybe I can find pictures of the Ark of the Covenant on there as well. I think this guy posing as a Mormon surfer in Hawaii, is really a couch surfer in Jersey. Are you still upset that Utah Mormons got three all-star players and a 1st round draft pick in exchange for one pouty all-star? According to wikipedia Utah's going to wipe the floor with you if the season ever starts.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:13 am |
    • Mirosal

      Anyone who cites Wikipedia for "evidence" needs help ... you DO relaize that kids can edit that site too, right?

      October 31, 2011 at 1:29 am |
  10. Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

    They are hidden because they are worth millions of dollars in today's market.... I have no idea where it is hidden... You can ask God about them in the next life. When you find out, please let me know so I can cash it in and be set for life.... lol

    October 31, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • tallulah13

      Or perhaps they're hidden because they were the invention of a known con artist.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:53 am |
  11. Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

    Lol Sircuts, I am not a mormon, I dont practice polygamy! I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints... when are you gonna take that foot out of your mouth and stand on your two feet?

    Every Member a missionary ya know... and yes I talk too much... theres a difference between that and BS... LOL

    October 31, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • Jeff from Utah

      Still waiting on them "gold plates". Do they have a pic of the on mormon.org?

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

      Dude you make no sense but its cool I am sure you have your questions and issues yo do not seem to be the cardboard cut out.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • Sircuts

      as far as the gold plates...again just a little to preposterous for me

      October 31, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • Postino

      Sircuts is obviously not a believer in the bible if he thinks writings on gold plates is "preposterous." Bible believers accept that God wrote on stone tablets with His finger, an Ark that was magically filled with animals, a sea that magically parted, a talking donkey, a woman turning into salt for looking at a city, a polygamous Abraham/David/Solomon, and some Jonah guy living in a whale. No, Sircuts must be one of those Atheists that mock the story's of others while believing a story that we all happened by accident out of a "big-bang." That's the story that's gotta make sense, because there's no way an ancient prophet in South America could have written on gold plates (even though the Mayans and Incas are known for all the gold they had when the Spaniards arrived). Missing Gold plates? Missing Ark of the Covenant? Big-Bang creating the universe? Believe what you want, but mocking others is unnecessary.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  12. Michael

    I think all Christians are suckers, but those of the Mormon sect ARE THE BIGGEST SUCKERS OF ALL, a religion founded by an illiterate...You have to be kidding me.

    October 31, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • Jeff from Utah

      wow i thought all religious founder were illiterate.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

      I gotta ask you this, if you have faith (knowledge of the power of God), God can help translate the Gold Plates into English... why? Because God is a very kind loving heavenly father who wants his children to know and understand the gospel principles, so he caused Joey Smith to have the inspiration to translate the Gold Plates.

      Like I said, God is omnipotent, all knowing, and loving God who can move mountians.... he certainly can cause a illiterate kid to read... Ever heard of miracles?

      October 31, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • Jeff from Utah

      Oh don't even go there with the "gold plates". Have you ever seen them? You know that really urks me. The imaginary gold plates. Where are these plates then surfer??

      October 31, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • Jeff from Utah

      I'm dead serious surfer. Where are they?

      October 31, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • Jeff from Utah

      I've lived in Utah the majority of my life and I would think I'd seen them "gold plates" by now.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  13. Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

    Sircuts... If Im a BS'er, the North Shore's Da Hui boys and the Pipeline Posse will have me down for a beatdown... fortunately for me, no beatdown for me. I keep my nose clean and so should you.

    October 31, 2011 at 12:21 am |
    • Sircuts

      Blah Blah you dont sound like a mormon to me you may have said to much

      October 31, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  14. Jim

    Thank you for an honest and factual article

    October 31, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  15. Maria S.

    Finally a well written and concise article about the LDS Church and it's beliefs. Other news organizations should use your article as a foundation for theirs because all the articles I have read in the last six months have been way off the mark.

    October 31, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  16. Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

    Oh I go to the Hawaii temple regularly... I actually work there. (Surprise surprise)... A surfer that attends temple regularly always surprises most people... lol

    October 31, 2011 at 12:13 am |
    • Sircuts

      Talk about bs'n the bs-ers LOL

      October 31, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  17. Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

    Nah I dont surf in them... You wouldnt even know if I am a LDS if you saw me surfing at the Pipeline. Im all muscular and chunky beef in my board shorts. If I got the looks, I'll flaunt it.... muscles rippling (chest to chest). LOL

    October 31, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • Sircuts

      I take it you still havn't got that invite to the Temple LOL

      October 31, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  18. JD

    What a candidate believes should affect a vote. It gives insight into his mindset and how he will lead. That's true of beliefs in all areas.

    Now, what "effect" a particular belief has differs from voter to voter, but of course they're not asking that question. They're asking a pointed question about Mormons to try to draw inaccurate conclusions. That's CNN for ya.

    October 31, 2011 at 12:08 am |
  19. Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

    hey yip yap chihuahua, Malaho for the da kine comment!

    October 31, 2011 at 12:07 am |
  20. Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

    Sircut, youre more than welcome to wear the "magic" underclothing for your halloween party. That's the beauty of your free agency (choices), and it doesnt bother me one whit bit. LOL

    October 31, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • Sircuts

      can you surf in them? LOL

      October 31, 2011 at 12:06 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.