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. Victor

    Great Read! Too bad others are afraid to read and finf out for themselves the TRUTH about Mormonism but climb on the backs of idiots to decry anything they don't like. These are the mental idiots that voted for Obama.

    October 31, 2011 at 2:55 am |
    • Mirosal

      I think a lot of people voted for Obama becaue of McCain's age, and his VP candidate. A lot of them didn't think that he would live through his term and there's NO way anyone really wanted Palin to as-sume the office. I wouldn't vote for her if she were running for county canine po-oper scooper

      October 31, 2011 at 2:59 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Wow, another Obama basher...how not surprising! Do we forget that Obama is not fully responsible for all that has happened? He walked in to a mess left by Bush and is trying to clean it up. He at least got the man that Bush couldn't get but yet Bush takes credit for wasting vast amounts of money on a war that should not have gone on as long as it did. Obama says one thing, the tea baggers say another...this man can't win for losing. He needs to put his foot down and veto the tea baggers.

      October 31, 2011 at 7:29 am |
    • Mirosal

      I'm not bashing Obama .. I know the whole mess started well before his election even took place. I do agree that the tea-baggers need to be thrown into Boston Harbor, without life jackets, and after we stock the harbor with Great Whites lol

      October 31, 2011 at 7:41 am |
    • AtheistSteve


      Truths comment was obviously aimed at Victor. Obama's reign began with him having to deal with one costly disaster after another, SARS, the Gulf Oil Spill, Mortgage collapse, banks and huge car companies nearly going bankrupt and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Steps taken by the Obama administration prevented the loss of millions of jobs and averted a Depression.

      October 31, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Mirosal: I would not attack you...you are of a rational mind. I was attacking the idiot who we are all responding to...sorry for the misunderstanding.

      October 31, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  2. Magic Underwear Creeps Me Out

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

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

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

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

    Ask Mitt if he will support Mosques and Synagogues on those same public campuses. 😉

    October 31, 2011 at 2:40 am |
    • JSperry

      I don't have anything original to say, so I am going to shout louder and repeat it over and over and maybe somebody will notice me... PLEASE

      October 31, 2011 at 5:11 am |
    • anonymous

      Students do not receive credit for taking seminary. I took seminary all 4 years of high school, and I had to take "release time" to take seminary. No credit was received. Please get your facts straight before posting.

      October 31, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Sione T

      If you believe in government, run by the people...then you would understand that in those highly dense LDS populations voted to allow tax money to go to these buildings. So unless you are saying we should not allow majority vote win at the local government level, then your statement is false.

      October 31, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Mirosal

      @ SioneT ... ok, you said "If you believe in government, run by the people...then you would understand that in those highly dense LDS populations voted to allow tax money to go to these buildings. So unless you are saying we should not allow majority vote win at the local government level, then your statement is false." .. By federal law, NO public tax money of ANY kind is to be used for ANY .. ANY religious purpose. Gov't cannot contribute to any church, and no church can contribute to any political campaign, organization or party. Read the law. Federal law trumps local law.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  3. tallulah13

    I can't help but giggle that the guy is named after a car-washing implement.

    October 31, 2011 at 2:39 am |
    • JSperry

      I guess that's better than being a feminine hygiene product like you buddy.

      October 31, 2011 at 5:17 am |
    • tallulah13

      Gosh, lady, there are so many ways I can answer your piquant response.

      1) I could ask you what the product is, since I've never heard of it, and what exactly does it do?

      2) I could point out that your name calling was a complete over-reaction, because I only spoke the truth. I wash my car with a mitt. But whatever floats your boat, lady.

      3) I could take a great deal of offense, but honestly, you aren't worth it.

      I think I choose 4) Just laugh at you.

      October 31, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
  4. Magic Underwear Creeps Me Out

    Bishop Romney believes in celestial polygamy and he will be coming to take your late wife to Mormon heaven as his own. 😉

    They've already done it to millions of holocaust victims. Google "posthumous Mormon sealing" or "posthumous baptism".

    Mitt needs 72 polygamous wives to enter the highest Mormon celestial heaven and become a planet ruler (Google "Planet Kolob").

    They're coming after our wives!! Don't vote for Mitt Romney – the posthumous wife stealer!!

    October 31, 2011 at 2:33 am |
    • Truefax

      I thought you were joking.... it's too bad you weren't.
      My side hurts, this can't be a real religion. I mean there are fairy tales then there is the LDS, the pastafarian/pink unicorn crowd have a more beleivable thing going on.

      October 31, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  5. Mirosal

    Yeah yeah yeah, everyone's saying "oh no not a Mormon!!" .. I understand that. I'm an atheist, and I think anyone who believes the premise of the bible, or the book of mormon, or the koran, et. al. are all caught up in the modern myth. But ask yourself this .... what will you do when/if the day comes when a Scientologist wants to run?? I'd bet a Mormon would look pretty good then wouldn't he? lol

    October 31, 2011 at 2:31 am |
    • cnn is a bias news organization

      what i don't understand is how everyone screams about racism, but they feel it is o.k. to discriminate against Romney because he is mormon. We have laws that seperate church and state for a reason, and people are acting foolish to disciminate because of his religious choice. He would help our economy out of this record breaking downturn that we are facing, but because of his religion, which doesn't even matter we are discriminating against him.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:49 am |
  6. Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

    This is the mormon group you should be aware of. This is NOT Mitt Romney's religion. Read below...

    Mormon fundamentalism (also called fundamentalist Mormonism) is a belief in the validity of selected fundamental aspects of Mormonism as taught and practiced in the nineteenth century, particularly during the administration of Brigham Young, an early president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Mormon fundamentalists seek to uphold tenets and practices no longer held by mainstream Mormons (members of the LDS Church). The principle most often associated with Mormon fundamentalism is plural marriage, a form of polygyny first taught by Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement. A second and closely associated principle is that of the United Order, a form of egalitarian communalism. Mormon fundamentalists believe that these and other principles were wrongly abandoned or changed by the LDS Church in its efforts to become reconciled with mainstream American society. Today, the LDS Church will excommunicate any of its members who practice plural marriage or who otherwise closely associate themselves with Mormon fundamentalist practices.

    There is no central authority for all Mormon fundamentalists and the viewpoints and practices of individual groups vary. Fundamentalists have formed numerous small sects, often within cohesive and isolated communities in the Western United States, Western Canada, and northern Mexico. At times, sources have claimed there are as many as 60,000 Mormon fundamentalists in the United States,[2][3] with fewer than half of them living in polygamous households.[4] However, others have suggested that there may be as few as 20,000 Mormon fundamentalists[5][6] with only 8,000 to 15,000 practicing polygamy.[7] The largest Mormon fundamentalist groups are the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church) and the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB).

    October 31, 2011 at 2:26 am |
  7. Texas Savior

    Find out more about Mitt and the Mormon religion, Google: 🙂

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

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

    October 31, 2011 at 2:16 am |
    • Jason

      lol... or you could go to http://www.mormon.org

      October 31, 2011 at 2:19 am |
    • Father O'blivion

      Welll they are little rascals arn"t they then! Bles them!

      October 31, 2011 at 2:20 am |
    • Sheik Yerbouti

      lol....or you could go to myfluffykitty.com

      October 31, 2011 at 2:27 am |
    • Jason

      In all seriousness though, I think that if you attended a few Mormon meetings you would find the people to be loving and kind... even if you don't agree with them. Perhaps the best way to judge an individual is by the walk they walk... rather than obscure doctrines that many laymen aren't even aware of.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:33 am |
    • tallulah13

      I am so sad. I went to myfluffykitty.com and it didn't exist. Too bad, because I think it would be more reality-based than anything put out by the mormons. There are a horrifying amount of pro-mormon websites on google, and I'm sure they pay dearly for the placement at the top of the list.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:34 am |
    • Sheik Yerbouti

      Sorry I know you love kitties. Post a pic of yours and I will make you a web site!!

      October 31, 2011 at 7:35 am |
  8. WW_Dagger

    Mitt Romney = Smartest republican candidate with the most potential. Who cares that hes' a successful God fearing good do-er with significant multiple Ivy League degrees that gives tons of money to charities, has incredible business and political experience and loves his country... oh wait... but then there is that Mormon thing... VOTE THE ISSUES IDIOTS, NOT THE RELIGION! (not that there is anything at all wrong with Mormons except a little pride here and there)

    October 31, 2011 at 2:08 am |
    • Sheik Yerbouti

      He is a creepy Mormon and does not represent me as an American.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:17 am |
    • Jason

      Dagger: We all know that a person's qualifications, abilities and accomplishments are not what is important in selecting a president. What is important is the passing of specific religious litmus tests. Jefferson never should have been elected. He clearly was not qualified.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:17 am |
    • Who Wants 72 wives anyway?

      Bishop Romney believes in celestial polygamy and he will be coming to take your late wife to Mormon heaven as his own. 😉

      They've already done it to millions of holocaust victims. Google "posthumous Mormon sealing" or "posthumous baptism".

      Creepy enough for Halloween?

      October 31, 2011 at 2:19 am |
    • Jason

      Yes 72... we better all lock up our wives because those creepy mormons are coming to steal them away!!! Give me a break... and the irony that you would mention holocaust victims in the same breath that you throw away the same spirit of bigotry and prejudice that sent so many of them to their deaths....

      October 31, 2011 at 2:21 am |
  9. tallulah13

    The picture that goes with this story reminds me a bit of the album cover of "Johnny Cash at San Quentin".

    However, Johnny Cash is/was much, much cooler.

    October 31, 2011 at 2:08 am |
    • Mike-Bell

      I like Johnny Cash.
      He closed out his career and life with the song 'Hurt'.
      I believe it says a lot about faith and how age cures the vanity of youth.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:20 am |
    • Jason


      October 31, 2011 at 2:25 am |
    • tallulah13

      I don't know a lot about his belief, but he totally reshaped that Nine-Inch Nails song and knocked it out of the park. I think he was a wise man, and ready to go when he finally passed.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:36 am |
  10. Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

    Tim, youre being silly and melodramatic.... of course you wouldnt be forced to wear those magic underwear! That's your choice right?

    October 31, 2011 at 2:04 am |
  11. Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality


    Mitt knows that! I am just saying that once presidents earn their 400,000 bucks per year salary, they are free to do and spend on whatever they want, including donations to anyone. Im not saying Mitt will do thatm but what I am saying is, that is the kind of man he is. Very compassionate toward the poor, and the starving, and the desitute. He is a incredible man!

    October 31, 2011 at 2:01 am |
  12. Brian

    Federal Courts determined that the Mormon Church is not the original Church led by Joseph Smith as the decision over ownership of the only surviving Church from Joseph Smith's life, Kirkland Temple in Ohio; the Federal Court rejected the Mormon Church's claim of ownership. Neither Joseph Smith or Emma Smith, his only wife, are buried on land possessed by the Mormon Church. And considering the number of supposed wives of Joseph Smith and children, not a single direct decendent of Joseph Smith was ever a member of the Mormon Church.

    October 31, 2011 at 2:01 am |

    I am not a Mormon. However, thanks to Mormons of my acquaintance and my own intellectual curiousity
    that propelled me to read the Pearl of Great Price and the Book of Mormon, I can tell you authoritatively
    that Mormons ARE Christians. They believe that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Saviour. Their theology
    may not be my theology or your theology but that's beside the point when you consider that much of
    it deals with life after death. My father one said "Who really knows since no one (except Jesus) has
    ever come back to tell us exactly what it is like." As far as the teachings of Jesus. Mormons teach
    what Jesus taught. So where's the rub? There isn't any.

    October 31, 2011 at 1:53 am |
    • tallulah13

      "Who really knows since no one (except Jesus) has
      ever come back to tell us exactly what it is like."

      And not even Jesus has done that!

      A lot of problems with mormonism stem from the fact that it was the invention of a known con man.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:55 am |
    • Jason

      Tallulah, several centuries ago (and even still today) there are Jews that would say the same thing about Jesus. This line of reasoning is not very convincing.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:04 am |
    • Sheik Yerbouti

      Tally, I like you a lot but...

      in general on this post, I have to say there is no proof of Jesus and you are all nuts. Amen.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:24 am |
    • tallulah13

      Well, I don't know about Jesus, but before he founded the mormon church, Joseph Smith was arrested for fraud. It seems he was using a "seer stone" to show people where they could dig up money or gold. Although he made all sorts of promises and certainly took their money, he didn't find anything. There seems to be some dispute about whether or not he was convicted, but there is certainly enough evidence to indicate that he was.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:28 am |
    • tallulah13

      Hey sheik, I don't know what your saying, but as far as I can tell, a rabbi named Jesus may have existed, but there is no proof of that. And as I stated, he certainly didn't come back from the dead.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:30 am |
    • Sheik Yerbouti


      October 31, 2011 at 7:34 am |
  14. Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

    There seems to be a big misconception that people think that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints worship the prophets... i.e. Joseph Smith. We do not worship the prophets or the apostles. The reason being is they are simply mouthpiece for our Heavenly Father and his only Begotten Son Jesus Christ for the people here on earth.

    God has never left us nor has he forgotten us in this latter days. He is very actively supporting his own gospel, the very same gospel that the Jews forced the Romans to capture Jesus Christ and cruicified him on the cross. He still loves us very much, that he gave up his own begotten Son who died to save us from our spiritual death (sin) so that we can live with Him someday. The gospel beauty of Jesus Christ and his parables of what men ought ye be, really makes a big difference in my own life, and as well as yours also.

    Now having said all this stuff, I want to tell you, I don't care if Mitt Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or not... because there are many incompetent members of the Church who wants to run for the Presidency, and I wouldnt vote for them because of the religion. Now what I do care is, Mitt Romney can get us out of this fiinancial quagmire, and get this country up and going strong once more. Mitt Romney wouldn't even accept the yearly presidental salary.... he might accept one dollar per year of his 4 year presidency. Heck he would donate his presidential earnings to some charity across USA that serves the american people. That's the kind of man he is... I beleive he would kick start his debt reduction with his own money... thats the kind of man he is. I have heard he would help out many different churches, not of his faith. I think I want that man running this beautiful Country!

    October 31, 2011 at 1:51 am |
    • Mirosal

      You cannot subsidize any church with ANY federal funds. Period. No matter what faith or denomination. If Romney wants to use his OWN money or salary and send it to churches, temples, synogogues, mosques, etc. that's his business. But, he cannot use a penny of federal funds to do it. The government cannot contribute to any church or religion, and religion cannot actively support or oppose anyone running for office.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:58 am |
    • Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

      I don't care if Mitt Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or not... because there are many incompetent members of the Church who wants to run for the Presidency, and I wouldnt vote for them because of the religion. Now what I do care is, Mitt Romney can get us out of this fiinancial quagmire, and get this country up and going strong once more. Mitt Romney wouldn't even accept the yearly presidental salary.... he might accept one dollar per year of his 4 year presidency. Heck he would donate his presidential earnings to some charity across USA that serves the american people. That's the kind of man he is... I beleive he would kick start his debt reduction with his own money... thats the kind of man he is. I have heard he would help out many different churches, not of his faith. I think I want that man running this beautiful Country!

      October 31, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  15. Jay

    If he is that open about his faith, he's not fit for the presidency. His relationship with god is HIS business, not the nation's. It's called "separation of church and state." It is going to cause others to be uncomfortable voting for a man who is that "out of the closet" with is beliefs. If he believes in god, fine, but let him keep it to himself.

    October 31, 2011 at 1:48 am |
    • Kevin

      Were you uncomfortable with Jimmy Carter? John Kennedy? Why Mitt?
      One has to believe in something – even if it's nothing.

      November 13, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  16. Eddy

    It amazes me that Americans would rather elect a drunk, a philanderer, and a pot-smoking revolutionary rather than a guy that actually is faithful to his wife, has done no drugs, doesn't drink alcohol, and has actually had a job that created tens of thousands of jobs. And to top it off, he's truly a caring and honest man. I hear all the talk about him being a flip-flopper and then I realize that's exactly what Obama has done throughout the last 3 years, soooo, who's the flip-flopper, really? But what I don't quite get is how ignorant Americans can be when it comes to religion, Mormons aren't fanatical idiots, and yes, they believe in Christ, he's the head of heir Church. Evangelicals who know nothing about Mormons, should read it a bit and they'll find that what Mormons preach actually makes sense, whether you agree with them or not, it actually makes sense. They don't believe you're saved by grace only. They believe you have to exercise your faith, and work to make Jesus Christ's grace effective in your life. Talk is cheap, but when you walk the talk, then you realize there's really something worth working for at the end of the day. I may not agree 100% with Romney, but out of the GOP candidates and between Obama and Romney, I'll take Romney next year. I hope most Latinos, like myself do the same. Dems have ruined this country in such a short time, it's disgusting.

    October 31, 2011 at 1:27 am |
    • Jason

      Mitt Romney is not a saint. Like all of us, he is imperfect. I don't think anybody can objectively say that he hasn't bent the truth at times (like other politicians as well). However, I would have to agree with you that on the whole, he does seems like a good person.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  17. Kyle

    Mitt Romney 2012!!! This article was well written. I'm content that the media wasn't on its usual biased rampage. I am a member of the church, and I will vote for Mitt Romney in the next election, but let me tell you guys.. I am not voting for him because of his religious preferences. The biggest and most frightening problem in this country right now is the economy and Mitt has the best economical record and experience of any candidate I have seen in a long time. If by chance a candidate arises that has more experience and talent at balancing budgets and cutting spending, I'll vote for him, but as there's not... GO MITT!!

    October 31, 2011 at 1:27 am |
    • Jason

      At times, I feel Romney has been less than forthcoming and sometimes, even dishonest. However, unfortunately, I think the same can be said of all of the politicians in the field. On the whole, I do feel he has the necessary skills for the job and does want what is best for the country. I also think he has been placed under more scrutiny in many regards than many of the other GOP contenders.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  18. tim

    my fear is that if ROmney becomes President we will all be required to wear the LDS secret underwear.

    October 31, 2011 at 1:10 am |
    • Sircuts

      You mean my new Halloween Costume? I can find the real thing I guess I have to improvise with some tightie whities and a wife beater....

      October 31, 2011 at 1:14 am |
    • MinJae

      Yeah, because everyone in Massachusetts was required to do that when he was Gov. there, right?
      What an idiot comment – really, get some new material that joke is worn out.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:19 am |
    • Sircuts

      Bring'em Youngderoos Limited edition underoos with fitted fig leaf LOL

      October 31, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • Sircuts

      Well yes the "Underoos For All" fizzled out with the healthcare plan.....

      October 31, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • Shooter Eastman

      educate yourself before saying stupid things. the clothing is called garments, NOT secret underwear you idiot.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:36 am |
    • Sheik Yerbouti

      MY undies are SECRET mister. I you should be more nice-er-er.

      October 31, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • Postino

      Hey Mormons, you know better than to get antagonized by these jokers. They tease you in hopes of getting entertained by your reactions. They don't mean any harm and if you ignore them they always get tired and go away looking for another blog that is more reactive and will accommodate their playful agenda. Eventually they will grow up and spend their free time supporting families and hopefully contributing to society. Unfortunately there will always be many more to take their place. That's life, so please take the higher road and stop engaging with these guys.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  19. Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

    Yep That is true... it was hidden up by the angel of our Heavenly Father (I say ours because Heavenly Father is also your father). Heavenly Father is pretty smart to do that, don't you think? Even the Smithsonian couldn't protect the Gold Plates from theives.

    October 31, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • Sircuts

      Ok there you go again with all that heavenly stuff...If you said they were aliens with a UFO that would make more sense to me...that Gold is heavy stuff

      October 31, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • Postino

      @ Mormon surfer. I'm not sure why you care what these guys think. They're just teasing you out of fun. After teaching hundreds of people in my life I have come to the conclusion that everyone believes in God when life gets really hard. That's who they cry out to at night when they're alone or they lost someone close to them. Of course they won't admit it in public and love to poke fun whenever possible, but deep down they believe, even if it's when they have their first child, or when they reach old age and start to hope that there is more than just this. My dad claimed to be atheist while I was growing up, but now his fear is starting to show the truth that he had been suppressing all those years. He poked fun, then he grew afraid, and now he is hoping for something more.

      So stop playing around with these guys who are mocking the plates and your beliefs. They haven't read the Book of Mormon for if they had they'd realize no un-educated 17 year old boy could have written them, for the wisdom that Book possesses is beyond even their learned comprehension.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  20. Brian

    People from that generation often used their "faith" to dodge the draft.

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

      I'm sure that may have been true in some instances. However, during the Vietnam war, LDS members were over-represented in the armed services compared with the general populace. At a time when other universities were expelling military recruiters, BYU was welcoming them.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:25 am |
    • Kevin

      Also, the federal government set a limit of just ONE person from each congregation getting a "missionary deferral." And, at that time, there wasn't as many young men willing to go and be missionaries.
      And yes, BYU's ROTC program started about 1964 if I remember correctly.

      November 13, 2011 at 10:03 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.