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. Jonsie

    Why don't you do a story on how the Muslim faith shaped Barrack.

    October 31, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • HistoryGeej

      hmm... because Obama isn't a Muslim?

      October 31, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  2. Sircuts

    According to this dribble the only "good deeds" Romney ever performed were for other Mormons...Hundreds of Young girls went missing while he was Governor, why is it the only one he actually lifted a finger to help was the daughter of his Mormon Business partner? This just proves they are only out to serve themselves.

    October 31, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Jason

      How many runaways have you helped locate?

      October 31, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Sircuts

      Some patriot...He worships 2 known Traitors who were charged with taking arms against our country, has 5 sons none have served in the Military and was born to Nazi sympathizers...Adolf Hitler was baptized in 1993 by the LDS Church while Romney was a Bishop....I guess a Mormon heaven wouldn't be complete without good old Adolf. what about the thousands who were killed by Mormons for simply "Passing Through" Utah? Did you Baptize them?

      "Martial law is hereby declared to exist in this Territory...and no person shall be allowed to pass or repass into, through or from this territory without a permit from the proper officer." -Bringham Young ... Governor Of Utah before being forced to step down or be convicted of Treason.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • abinadi

      Recently our president declared a day of service where Mormons all over the world took a day to serve the public. My ward painted address numbers on everyone's curb on my street so the police and fire department could find us quickly. Only 6 on the street were Mormons. Everyone was very grateful.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Florian

      Mitt is a genuinely good person who would give his coat to anyone of any faith. I've known longer than anyone on this blog. Walk a mile with Mitt and you'll get a glimpse of who the man is. Keep the blinders on and you'll continue with your warped reality. His world is a world of serving other. Why else would anyone want the stress of being president... constantly harassed, insulted, lied about, and slandered. Mitt is Mitt.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • George B.

      Great article, and if everything written is true, he has my vote.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  3. Name*Norbert Herriott

    I'm a Obama Guy. It looks like Romney is a good person. Just not the best for president. He flip flops to much and has no grasp on domestic and foreign policies!

    October 31, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  4. Alise Edison

    Go to exmormon.org when you have hours to devour the stories of those who escaped the cult.

    October 31, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • abinadi

      Or, you can go to mormon.org.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • The Truth Shall Set You Free

      CNN skipped all of the good stuff. Google these:

      "Mormon celestial polygamy"
      "the planet Kolob"
      "Mormon underwear"
      "posthumous Mormon sealing" (posthumously marrying other men's wives)
      "Mormon blood atonement"
      "posthumous baptism"
      "Mountain Meadows Massacre"
      "Mormon insurrection" (at war with the US Government)
      "Mormon 1978 Black people"

      October 31, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • ldean50

      . . . beware . . . if you go to Mormon.org . . . you will reach the LDS propaganda machine. prepare yourself. Truths are not revealed to members until they are cleared to enter the temple and participate in their secret ceremonies.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  5. Ran

    His faith journey? He accepted the faith he was born into. The end.

    October 31, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • ldean50

      excellent point. This pro-Mormon author failed to mention that the Romneys are big whigs in the LDS church – his ggg grandfather was one of the founders, parley pratt.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  6. ldean50

    Mormon are Stepford Christians.

    October 31, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Dean

      There are no true Christians.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • ldean50

      .... dean? are we related? whaddayamean 'no true christians?" like we try, but no one is perfect? I agree.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  7. Thomas

    I cant vote for a leader who's five sons did no volunteer military service.

    Are Mormons exempt from the military ?

    October 31, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Jeffrey Root

      I'm exempt from the military and I'm not Mormon. Was I supposed to join the military?

      October 31, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Sircuts

      I am sure they did their missions though...Shows how brain washed they are. We see where his priorities are.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • The Truth Shall Set You Free

      During WW2 my father says the Mormon farmers in Idaho would claim religious exemption to keep their son's from fighting.

      You have to realize – the Mormon Church was at was with the United States government in the late 1800s. They hated the US government. I guess they don't anymore if Mitt Romney is running for president.

      Or, does that make you nervous now? 😉

      October 31, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • ldean50

      Some, like Romney, were exempted from the draft for serving two years as a "minister" in France. It got him a two year deferment. Somebody go look up if all Mormon missionaries were exempted from the draft. I have to go get some cereal.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • The Truth Shall Set You Free

      oops - "at war"

      October 31, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • abinadi

      No we are not. I have heard that we comprise a disproportionately high percentage of the troops for our population. We have served in all the major wars.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • gah

      my husband's grandfather and my grandfather both fought in WWII and we were both raised mormon. we no longer practice, but when his grandfather died he received a military farewell. and if you google things like "haun's mill" and understand how joseph smith died you'll understand why the mormons back then hated the us government. there is no way on earth they could have ever fought back in some kind of revolt, so don't be silly. lots of people mormon or not didn't want to serve in the military and still don't. my brother-in-law still practices is on active duty so please don't say all mormons don't serve their country.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • TSB8C

      Mormons do not claim 'conscienteous objection' to military service and many have and do serve in the military. My father volunteered in WW II and served in the pacific and my two sons are in the Marines today. I don't know the details of why Romney's sons may not have volunteered, but Mormons have a long history of military service. Mormons believe very strongly in supporting and defending the US as a special nation created under devine inspiration.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Jason

      Mormons are not exempt from military service. I, along with many others, have served and are serving in our country's military. I would also like to say that I understand that from the outside our faith is very difficult to understand, let alone accept. What I find difficult to comprehend is how venomous some of these comments are from those who claim to be Christian.

      I will not make excuses for the ignorance and atrocities that my church has committed in the past. I do not believe that my current church leaders or past church leaders are perfect. There is a tendency in my church to paint past and current leaders as more than what they are. We know, however, that there has been and only will be one perfect individual in the history of the world: Jesus Christ. It is through Him and His sacrifice that we can qualify for his grace and be saved as individuals and as families. I take great comfort in knowing that I can spend eternity with my family and that I can become clean because of what Christ did for me.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • ldean50

      We talking about the draft . . . military service is a choice . . .until there is a draft. The Mormon church got Romney (a descendent of one of the founders of the LDS church) a deferment in 1968 while he served as a "minister" in France. Then, maybe because of his magic underwear, he draft number was never picked. Don't negate the power of the underwear – they tell you it is too spiritual to discuss or the Osmonds will tell you it is a reminder of their faith (like wearing a cross), but they wear it because it protects them from Satan – the brother of Jesus. They are not allowed to discuss secret ceremonies – receiving the undergarment ceremony is one of them. You'll never get a straight answer from a Mormon on that subject.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Henrie

      There are many Mormons serving in Uniform. I have one friend that has served 3 tours and almost served a fourth this summer.

      Why do we judge a group of people by just a few. There are people of many beliefs in the LDS religion. There are Democrats and Republicans and many like myself that are independent since we do not agree with either party.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • ldean50

      @Gah . . . Haun's Mill was a treasonous uprising by the Mormons. Joseph Smith called up his "Mormon Militia" (minor detail – Smith was a civilian – the only person in authority to organize a militia is the Governor of the state) and when they attacked and murdered members of a U.S. military battalion they were guilty of treason and murder. That is why smith went to Jail, along with Mitt Romney's ggg grandfather, Parley Pratt who was also a participant. Mormons teach/preach and believe that they were a persecuted group – Joseph Smith was charged with fraud after opening a bank, stealing everybody's money and letting the bank fail. Mormons were polygamists – it was a marketing tool to get European men to join the church with the promise of as many, subservient wives as they wanted + the church paid their passage in most cases. Mormons voted in blocks in order to take over the political authority of a town. So yes, the Gentiles were perturbed and tried to run them out of town – But here's one for you if you care to debate history. I will take your Hauns MIll massacre and raise you one MOUNTAIN MEADOW MASSACRE when the Mormon-once-again-proclaimed-illegal-MIlitia literally slaughtered more than 120 men, women, children and infants in order to rob them of their approximate 100K value of their emmigrant train. The temple in Salt Lake City was built on the money from stolen from the massacres on emmigrant trains – Mormons dressed up as Indians, blamed the Indians for the Massacre as they did at Mountain Meadow and still do TODAY. President Hinckley stated at Mountain Meadow as late as 1999, "That which we have done here [participating in the reburial of the dead victims they mistakenly excavated with a bulldozer] must never be construed as an acknowledgement on the part of the church of any complicity in the occurrences of that fateful and tragic day." I think my Mountain Meadow trumps your Hauns Mill. Hand over the cash.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • ngh

      I am a mormon and served a two year mission just like Romney. I also am in the Air Force ROTC and plan to make a career out of military service. My Dad is also a Mormon and served a two year mission as well. He retired with honor from the United States Navy. One of my Grandpa's served in the Navy in WWII and my other Grandpa served in the Korean War as a United States Marine. We are all Mormons and we are all willing to die for this country. God Bless America.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  8. Ran

    The Mormons will destroy us all.

    October 31, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • Jeffrey Root

      religion will destroy us all.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • TSB8C

      There have been and currently are many Mormons serving in all levels of government. Mitt Romney was a governor. Harry Ried is a Mormon (not the greatest example perhaps). Ezra Benson served as Secretary of Agriculture under Dwight Eisenhower and later became president of the church. Lots of others can also be seen at http://famousmormons.net/ for more info on 'Mormons in society'. Just like any other religion, members serve in politics, head up industries, excel in sports, even two astonauts I am aware of.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  9. lynn

    When exactly will the media start to vet Romney's policies and past? He refuses to appear on major network shows for interviews and has done his best to avoid the media. So far, the media has been complicit and failed to call him out. I find it interesting that this story about Cain, whether true or not, has spread like wildifire through the press. I am a Dem and not defending Cain, but I think the media is pushing Romney.

    October 31, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Jeffrey Root

      That is because a Romney/Obama debate would be very interesting

      October 31, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  10. binary

    Interesting article; however, in reference to Judy Dushku, Honey, you missed the message regarding your friend forgiving her philandering ex. It was in here best interest to forgive tha man and let it go, not for his sake but for her's. I believe it was best stated in Tyler Perry's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" which was so beautifully given my Miss Cicely Tyson: "You got's to let go of the anger and hurt and forgive. Not for their sake but for your's. YOu sees, when you are angry with someone, they got power over you, they control you. YOu forgive, and they got no more power over you."

    October 31, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • ldean50

      What's wrong with forgiving WHILST in the process of getting the health outta Dodge. She stayed like the good subservient Mormon woman that she is. The sole goal of every Mormon woman is to
      1. be married to a Mormon man with a temple pass or she cannot get into the highest, 3rd level of heaven – Celestial,
      2. have as many children as she can so that the spirit children living on Kolob with God and his wife will have bodies to live in so they can experience life as a human (I swear to Elvis. I am not making this up).

      October 31, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Henrie

      The point of a Celestial Marriage is to be together forever. I have a great marriage so why would I not want to be with my wife forever. Why would God want me to have a happy marriage on earth for I hope 60+ years and then have it just end.

      The LDS policy on kids is it is between the couple and God. Some couples have no kids and others have more. Those that do not marry or have kids are still welcome in our meting houses and the temples.

      My wife has a Phd in Engineering and is by no means stupid or mindless.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • pammyk

      Henri: Your wife trusts you to call her from the grave by her secret name to get into heaven? Shouldn't a faithful, good woman be able to get into heaven on her own merit? If your marriage is so solid, why the need for so many celestial wives? Can't imagine why your wife of 60 years would be ok with that. I find it breathtaking that a woman smart enough to earn a doctoral degree in engineering would believe the misogynistic ramblings of a con man.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  11. The Truth Shall Set You Free

    My dad passed away recently. He was a hardworking man who loved God dearly. (Please forgive me for re-posting this)

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

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

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

    Will Mitt Romney support the separation of church and state?? 😉

    October 31, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Dean

      Will you approve the separation of supersti-tion from your brain?

      October 31, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • The Truth Shall Set You Free

      lol – I'm not the one wearing magic underwear. 😉

      October 31, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • ldean50

      Thank you for the "re-post." I think it is a profoundly relevant point that you make. It is a primary example of how LDS views who they call "gentiles" or what they see as "others."

      October 31, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  12. ldean50

    When Mitt Romney was asked why none of his five sons ever served in the military (campaign forum in Iowa) his response:

    "My sons are adults. They’ve chosen not to serve in the military in active duty and I respect their decision in that regard. … And one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I’d be a great president." does this mean if Ranger Kristoffer Demanij who was killed in Afghanistan last week on his FOURTEENTH tour, he would still be alive if he had been a Mormon and chose to serve a two-year mission converting people to LDS instead?

    October 31, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • ldean50

      . . . or would Ranger Demanij still be alive if he had chosen to "serve his country" by campaigning for MItt Romney instead?

      October 31, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • DaveG

      Mormons serve in the military at a significantly higher percentage that the general population. 1.1% of our millitary are Mormon. Mormons are highly recruited by the military because of their clean living and because of their exceptional language skills. They are especially desired in rolls of military intelligence. Hmmm intelligence, isn't that what this debate needs more than anything else.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  13. Iyare Andrew

    Its only those who would have acepted Jesus Christ if he was to come in our days that are lds members.

    October 31, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  14. HiroAkita

    Who cares... what a waste of space.

    October 31, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  15. Byron Wade

    The piece helps one understand the man. Sounds like the kind of individual who has the personal traits to be a president. . . But then, so does Pres Obama.

    October 31, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  16. The Truth Shall Set You Free

    The Mormon church didn't allow black people until as late as 1978. They weren't allowed to enter the Temple and black men were not allowed to mission or hold the priesthood.

    However, they were allowed to function as servants, maids, and nannies (thus you will hear Mormons insist they were "allowed" in)

    In 1978 – more than 10 years after the civil rights act, the IRS finally threatened to take away their tax-free status.

    Man! Did the "prophet" ever have a quick "vision" to allow people of color (not only Blacks were excluded).

    It's simply amazing what the power of money can do. 😉

    October 31, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • ldean50

      . . . aaah the magical necessity of prophecy. Mormons supposedly gave up the practice of polygamy as a condition of statehood as well. Prophesy. God told them to change the rule. (insert magic dust) vwaaa-laaah STATEHOOD – still a theocratic STATEHOOD, but statehood none-the-less.
      which reminds me... that ugly polygamy thing... FLDS still practices it. Remember that guy Jeffries – prosecuted/convicted in Utah for marrying that 14 year old child, but the Mormon UT Supreme Court overturned his conviction and the Mormon attorney General refused to try (s?) him again, so he was free... "makes ya wanna go hmmmmmmmmmmmm?"

      October 31, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Dave

      You can say what you want – but in my opinion, the Mormon church is the most racially integrated church in existence today.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • DaveG

      You claim that the LDS church changed its policy regarding black people because the IRS threatened to take away its tax-free status. Do you have a citation for that? No, of course you don't. You are either lying or spreading a lie someone told you. This is the key, boy and girls, ask for proof, put things in context. If someone says something that is over-the-top (magic undies etc) they are not presenting a logical argument. Some throw dust in the air, some tell outright lies. They don't want to face facts. Why not judge a man on what HE has done and how HE has repesented himself.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  17. McJesus

    Mitt wears magical protective underwear and believes 'black people' are fallen angels. Who better is qualified to be president?

    October 31, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Mike


      October 31, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  18. Eagle Eye

    For a lot of liberal press who weren't around in 1960 when JFK was runing for President there was a big stink that he was "Roman Catholic people fell of there chairs and said how could this be and Irshman a Roman Catholic. Well JFK tolled everone and gave his reason why and didn't dicuss again and took now questions about his religion. Mitt Romeny should do the same thing. It's now ones business what religion Mitt Rimeny practices. That's one of the freddoms we and Mitt Romeny have in the country. Don't forget the founding fathers made this a "God Given Right". Mitt Romeny doesn't have to explain himself to anyboby about his religion case closed.

    October 31, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • Sircuts

      Yes well JFK didnt worship a Racist Child Molester Named Bringum Young who took arms against his country and is still called a Prophet and a great man on the Mormon.org web site.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Jeffrey Root

      nope. JFK supported child molesting Catholic Priests and a church that has committed hundreds of years of mass murders. Religion sucks.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • TR6

      “Mitt Romeny doesn't have to explain himself to anyboby about his religion case closed.”

      Fortunately we don’t have to vote for him either, case closed-er

      October 31, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • nvanative

      "Don't forget the founding fathers made this a "God Given Right" – more right wing fantasy.
      Just like not acknowledging that the Founding Fathers were the first LIBERALS of our country putting their middle finger up to the conservative & tradionalist Tories who supported their monarchy.

      October 31, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  19. dont ask

    This is the most longwinded article I have ever not finished reading. My guess is the rest of the article talks about how he feels god wanted him to run for president. Enough with the overly religious presidental candidates. Jesus did not run for "president". He led his people outside of govt law. These people need to do the same. I do not want the country I live in to be a religous spectacle. Government leaders should be intelligent, unbiased, and good decision makers...everything these candidates are not.

    October 31, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Sircuts

      Where is the pic of him in a galactic mormon under garmet washing all the males who enter the temple? If he was Bishop I sure he did his share right before his sermon on how Lucifer Freed the Minds of men in the garden of eden which makes him more important then Jesus

      October 31, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  20. Sircuts

    Thank you CNN for reminding us about Mitt Romney's Cult you will be given credit in his political demise.

    October 31, 2011 at 11:00 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.