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. Sarah B

    An almost unbiased story by CNN, I'm shocked. They did fail to mention however in one slip of their color however, that the baby of the woman Romney "pressured" into not aborting, is now a successful and happy adult woman with a family of her own.

    October 30, 2011 at 1:46 am |
    • J.

      I was wondering the outcome. Thank you. I am happy to hear that it was a great outcome. I would like to hear the story of the women who was actually involved in the event rather than a third party not entirely involved in the situation.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:52 am |
  2. Mad Cow

    When asked what his five sons were doing to help their country, this during the Iraq war, Mitt answered, "My five sons are serving their country by helping me to get elected."
    Mitt received a Mormon missionary draft deferment to avoid being drafted during the Viet Nam War. Sure, he registered for the draft after he returned from France, but by that time he was already out of the window of draft vulnerability, which is the year one is age nineteen.

    October 30, 2011 at 1:46 am |
    • Patrick

      I am a veteran, US Army, and have no issues with Mitt not serving. I feel he as served mankind well with his charitable work and that's good enough for me.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:50 am |
    • ContryMan

      Is there a requirement that our next president have served in the Vietnam War? What do you think of the great majority of the population that has not served in the military?

      October 30, 2011 at 1:58 am |
    • rhett

      Like most active mormon families, mitts decision to serve this christian mission was most likely decided when he was a young boy,, so your statement that he did it to avoid the war is invalid.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:55 am |
  3. Jane

    I worked for Mitt. I liked that religion (his or mine) was not an issue at work. He knows how to hire a good team and drive toward a goal. Whether that comes from talent or religion, I don't particularly care. What we need is someone with a vision to get us back on track. Like it or not, we need Moses to deliver us from our state of national foreclosure. Even if he brings home teachers and koolaid to the White House, we need his turnaround talent.

    October 30, 2011 at 1:46 am |
  4. iann

    It doesn't matter to me what Romney's religion is, and I'm an atheist. What does matter to me is that he changes his positions on the issues like you and I change clothes. As far as I'm concerned, he has no integrity and no ongoing ethical values. One of his positions is trying to kill any form of mandate for universal healthcare. The U.S. is the only westernized democracy that doesn't offer some form of universal healthcare. So where is he and all these so-called Christian presidential nominees when it comes to following Christ's mandate to provide for the least among us? As a non-Christian, I feel I'm more compassionate than these charlatans, Romney included. Go ahead, raise my taxes for universal healthcare,and taking care of the homeless, 74,000 if whom are veterans. That's right, those men and women who served all of us by their joining the ranks to defend us and thus put their lives on the line are often in the streets without shelter. I don't hear any of these Christian candidates speaking out to solve that problem, or any other social problem either. I love to hear them hem and haw when asked what they would do to help any of the 50 million Americans who have no access to health care. They're a bunch of uncaring phonies, working to maintain the corporate oligarchy and the status quo among the wealthiest. Romney's no different from the rest of them. Makes me ill.

    October 30, 2011 at 1:45 am |
    • John

      In coming to know Mitt I have learned that he knows the situation, the data and the required task at hand. He is willing to lead NOW with what is needed NOW. Has he ever changed to better suit the data, yes. And that is why I am going to elect him because he will take this country in the direction it needs to go with the here and NOW data and necessary actions. CHANGE is not a bad thing considering the way the country is currently going.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:04 am |
    • John

      Romney understands that you teach a man to fish he has abundant life, you give him a fish only, the one meal soon comes to an end. You mentioned several social concerns and financial disparity. Yes some are rich while some are poor. In reading it though and following Romney’s comments I see the vision that he has for strengthening and making programs successful that lift this country starting with the most deprived individuals.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:14 am |
    • lovley

      I wonder if you have never changed your opinion on something...? People are people, whether they are your neighbor next door or your president. They change and adapt as they learn more information. The thing is, his core values don't change and that is the most important in a leader. We shouldn't expect our political figures to be God. They learn and grow just like everybody else. But again, it is the core value-structure that leads us to greener pastures, not through living perfectly consistent, completely politically correct, and perfect in everything.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:33 am |
  5. RAD

    Try this out: All posts on this subject always produce one of five messages, regardless of the article:

    1. I'm Christian and Mormons are not.
    2. I'm an athiest and all believers are idiots.
    3. I'm a Mormon and Athiests and Evangelicals are often intolerant.
    4. I don't care what religion a person is as long as he can help the country.
    5. Ron Paul...Ron Paul...Ron Paul...

    Guess which number I am? (Hint: I have a Ph.D., have lived in 8 states and spent 5 years abroad, voted Obama, make less than 60K, was born in Utah but left it 21 years ago, have never divorced, and raise three awesome children who you'd want your children to be friends with.)

    October 30, 2011 at 1:45 am |
    • Alberto

      Yes.... I am seeing the trends. Mmmmm, what is next, number 1 or number 3? Didn't I see these same comments months ago?

      October 30, 2011 at 2:32 am |
  6. Jerry

    Well it seems that CNN censors their comments too! enough said since no more will get through the censors!

    October 30, 2011 at 1:45 am |
  7. Corey

    I belong to the same church as Mitt Romney but choose to vote for Ron Paul. This article was decent though from my perspective.

    October 30, 2011 at 1:41 am |
  8. mandydugan

    Ron Paul 2012

    October 30, 2011 at 1:41 am |
  9. Jim Green

    Wow. A very good article by CNN. I am really surprised and stunned. My only complaint would be the inclusion of comments by Judy Dushku, a leftist feminist, angry at God and often supported by gay and lesbian organizations. She is an unworthy mention in my opinion. Other than that, bravo.

    October 30, 2011 at 1:37 am |
  10. Jerry

    Notice from CNN - (Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!) CNN has now endowed itself as the religious and morality and the political correct for all the US.....NOT I said it but you choose not to post....

    October 30, 2011 at 1:36 am |
  11. Sherm

    Sell it, sell it. You only have 60% more to go!

    October 30, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  12. Carlos

    Actually RON PAUL is the REAL front runner, not Rommey nor Cain. Ron Paul represent the only and real change in America, he is olso the only candidate who makes sense and say the truth to American people. Ron Paul keeps the American Dream Alive.
    Stop believing in those fake polls the CNN or Foxnews make up to manipulate the people. Everytime there is a debate and a poll after that (an online poll), RON PAUL always wins. What is disgusting is that CNN or Fox takes the poll out of its page when realize that RON PAUL wins.

    Ron Paul President of the blessed United States of America.

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

      Enjoy your ludicrous delusions while they last. It is absolutely certain that Ron Paul will never be POTUS. The game is rigged,

      October 30, 2011 at 2:02 am |
  13. Jerry

    CNN has now endowed itself as the religious and morality and the political correct for all the US.....NOT

    October 30, 2011 at 1:33 am |
  14. WilliG

    The way a person is brought up determines who they will be in the future. Obvious, but relevant. This country has been brought up on strong values, mainly tolerance. I applaud Romney's progress and hope he continues to grow. I am actually an Obama supporter for the most part, but I have also noticed the Mormon way as a good direction for young people to see their true worth and receive value of their tribulation. Religion should not be a problem for a presidential candidate... it should be their decisions behind it and what they claim to seek afterwards.

    October 30, 2011 at 1:33 am |
  15. Randy

    Follower of false teachings / cult member / flip-flopper on alleged core beliefs

    October 30, 2011 at 1:28 am |
    • T

      Evangelicals' bigotry = Obama 2012-2016.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:31 am |
    • Mirosal

      When will you realize that EVERY religion on this planet is a cult? "Religions" simply have more followers.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:33 am |
  16. black

    what troubles me greatly is the fact that Mormons still accept as divinely inspired the teaching that people of dark pigmentation are cursed. They do not believe that they still are but they still accept the teaching as being from God.

    October 30, 2011 at 1:26 am |
    • Sara

      No, that really, really is not LDS doctrine. If it was, I would not be able to be a Mormon, because it is patently obvious to anyone with an ounce of sense that God loves all of his children equally. A few people back in the 1890's or something made some dubious statements about race that frequently get thrown in our faces, and it is very hurtful to us because they are not representative of what nearly all Mormons believe–or teach in church. I'd challenge you to show me any religion or philosophy (including atheism) that does not have in its history some dubious statements made by individuals that nearly all adherents would condemn and condemn harshly. Personally, there are few things I abhor more than racism. But my LDS faith teaches me to regard all people as children of God, equally beloved of God, with race not being an issue at all.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:01 am |
    • Steve

      Sorry Sara, but you are deluded. I grew up a Mormon in the '60s and that was what was taught. It was never renounced. God merely saw fit to lift the curse, probably because all the blacks who had been inadequately faithful in the Pre-Existence had been punished enough.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:05 am |
    • lovley

      That is not mormon doctrine. Maybe there are some who believe that but it is not based in their doctrinal beliefs. It is only speculation.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:26 am |
  17. cnn is a bias news organization

    cnn is trying to smear Romney already...haha....Obama is really worried about his double digit unemployment, debt downgrades, sharia law spreading because of him in Libya, and not following through on promises like patriot act, gitmo ...

    October 30, 2011 at 1:25 am |
    • Steve

      There is nothing in this report that is a smear. If anything, it's a whitewash.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:38 am |
    • Bullet

      You are a typical Republican, right wing moron. CNN did not write or endorse what you read. All the things that are said about how true a believer and the other stuff may or may not be correct, but here is one thing you can take to the bank. The Republican Jesus freaks of the southern United States will never support a candidate that does not confess to be born again, and if they do not vote for Romney he is dead in the water. Just ask Jerry Falwell or Billy Graham or his son. Billy Graham said Mother Theresa could not go to heaven because she was not born again, but Charles Manson could because he had found Jesus to be his personal savior.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:44 am |
  18. black

    so is this a write by the Mormon Church or what!?! How much did they pay

    October 30, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • cnn is a bias news organization

      haha.. spoken by a welfare abuser from his couch hoping the welfare gravy train keeps coming...Obama is not going to win, you better start getting your resume together.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:31 am |
    • cnn is a bias news organization

      Sorry bullet, but I am not right wing, I just want to live in a nation where it is possible to get a job. Obama is crushing our economy, I know you are a liberal, because almost all independents have turned their backs on Obama already. He is still blaming bush for his failures...hhaha...that was lame 3 years ago, now it is truly sad.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:49 am |
    • lovley

      or it could just be someone writing an article to shed a better light on a person... and give them the kind of respect you are demanding yourself.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:31 am |
  19. Jim

    2007: Every Democratic candidate targeted Bush. They won.
    2011: Every Republican candidate targets... another Republican candidate.

    Face it, Romney is the only one that can beat Obama, and pull the independent vote.
    Stop the bigotry about his religion and focus on the real items that are important.
    Beat Obama.

    I've known many evangelicals that are great people, but they're being muffled by their crazy minority against Romney.

    Evangelicals' bigotry = Obama 2012-2016.

    October 30, 2011 at 1:21 am |
  20. Paul

    lets keep religion and politics separated for the sake of the world

    October 30, 2011 at 1:14 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.