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. John

    Hey Jon, you worship a man who had many slaves & many wives. Im sure Jesus is very proud of you! How many black elders are there? 0, Yes 0, I am sure you are ok with that. What do you think MLK would think of you racist cult?

    October 31, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Holly

      Just wondering who you are talking about that John is worshiping. I am a member of the LDS faith and I know that no LDS leader had slaves. We also don't worship our leaders, though we do respect their words as leaders. The LDS church did not grant the priesthood to blacks in the early days of the church, mainly because they were already under so much persecution, having to flee from state to state and finally into Utah territory that the additional trouble granting this authority to blacks would have caused might have sunk the early church. Keep in mind that the general public was racist and did not like to see authority of any kind granted to those they deemed ought to be slaves. Joseph Smith did grant land and home ownership to black members of the church who followed him to Nauvoo and made sure that they were given the same rights and privileges of other members (other than the priesthood). However, this issue troubled all of the early prophets, who sought the guidance of God on it. It was not until 1980 that, after much fasting and prayer, President Spencer W. Kimball received a revelation granting the priesthood to all worthy male members of the Church, which included blacks. Today, there are many black elders. I, for one do not think for a minute that not granting the priesthood to blacks had anything to do with their worthiness, but had everything to do with the prejudice of society at large at the time.

      October 31, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • LMA

      You ask how many black elders are there, and then answer "0"? You're not just wrong, you're stupid wrong! There are large numbers of black men holding the priesthood in the U.S. and around the world. The LDS Church is growing in Africa as well as in other countries throughout the world. There are probably more non-white members now than white. Get your head out of ... sorry, I mean, wake up and pay attention to reality.

      October 31, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  2. John Stefanyszyn

    "...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.”
    (Ref.:The shaping of a candidate: A look at Mitt Romney's faith journey,By Jessica Ravitz, CNN, Oct 29,2011)

    These words express blind hypocracy by a man who professes to be a Christian.

    He clearly states that he does not stand for Christ as a man desiring to become and work as president. He states, that as president, that he would "serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest", and yet, in the next breath, he states that he would serve only the common cause of the people..."

    Therefore, he is contradicting himself and in so doing declares his true belief. He clearly states that he will serve only the one cause, one belief, one way of life....this is his true "faith"....the faith is self interest,self-will, self-rights.

    He clearly places his "religious faith" in second place to his primary core belief in the will and interest of the self, of the people.

    He speaks of Christ as a religion amongst religions, a faith among other faiths. He does not stand for the One True God and His Christ as a reality of life and truth, as a reality which will return to earth to rule as King according to the One True Way of Life.

    This hypocritical belief applies to all lovers of the self, lovers of self-will, lovers of self-interest, lovers of self-rights...
    ...lovers of the belief in freedom of rights and religion...making Christ into a "faith" of the same validity as any other man-made "religion".

    It is no wonder that Christ said that many will come to Him saying "Lord, Lord", and that He will say to them that He does know them, workers of lawlessness.

    October 31, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • LMA

      I'm not sure what you're saying. No one is going to run for President of the United States saying that they will serve their religion only. Even Perry doesn't say that. Mitt is saying what Americans would want their candidate to say: they hold their beliefs but respect those of others, and will use public office to serve public good. If you have a problem with that, it isn't clear what that problem is or could be. (And by the way, I suspect that YOU are one of the people who say "Lord Lord" but because of your hatred you will not be recognized by Him at the judgment day. Just sayin'. Plenty of time to repent, brother.)

      October 31, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • The commenter

      The twelthe article of faith in our religion reads: "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law." So he would still follow that LDS article of faith in office, the only time we wouldn't, is if it were to go against the ten commandments.

      November 1, 2011 at 12:32 am |
  3. John

    Hey Jon, show me proof that black men are elders in this cult, Oh I didnt think so!!!! Racist!

    October 31, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Holly

      What kind of proof would you like? I can point you to several articles. Would you believe those? Or are you just determined to demean the faith of others?

      October 31, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • LMA

      Stop by and I'll introduce you to a black elder. Or visit http://www.mormon.org and look up hundreds of bios of black church members.

      October 31, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Deb Franklin

      John, not only are there black Elders but there are also black Bishops. Please know what you are talking about BEFORE you speak. Before you attack the Mormon religion, please read about it and not from anti Mormon sites. Go to lds.org or to mormon.org and see and read and study for yourself. You may be surprised.

      October 31, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
  4. Suzanne

    Romney is the best man for the job. This article shows he's a man of good character, someone I wouldn't mind my children aspiring to be like!

    October 31, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  5. priscela


    October 31, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I think priscela has had too much "candy" already!!

      October 31, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • LMA

      Don't take the name of the Lord in vain, please.

      October 31, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • Grofucious

      ????? come again?

      November 1, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  6. John

    Hey Mitt, many of the 12 aposiles in the mormon cult are not white? 0 yes 0 & always will be 0. Why are they tax exempt????? Can you spell Bigotry, Racism, Mittens knows this, however he is to much of a coward to ever talk about it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 31, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Jon

      they are probably tax exempt because they don't get paid. the Mormon church is all volunteer so... no pay... no tax.

      October 31, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Holly


      I am sorry you are so sensitive on the race issue. Please be assured there is no malintent on the part of Church leaders. There are many good and faithful black members of the church who know this. Callings to the apostleship come from God, not to please a politically correct society. There may be a time when there will be an apostle of African heritage. Only recently were there even apostles called from outside the United States. This is not because there were not any who were worthy, it was because the church membership resided largely in the US and has only recently begun to be a worldwide church. Give it time.

      October 31, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • LMA

      Who are you saying is tax exempt? Churches are tax exempt in this country. Individuals pay taxes on their income. This is true for Mormon leaders as well as anyone else. In 2009, Elder Joseph W. Sitati of Nairobi, Kenya was called as a General Authority of the Church to the First Quorum of the Seventy. He had been serving as president of the Nigeria Calabar Mission when called. Since joining the Church in 1986, Elder Sitati has served in numerous callings, including branch president’s counselor, branch president, district president, mission president’s counselor, stake president, Area Seventy and mission president. This is just one example, not the first. Gladys Knight is LDS, did you know that? Hey, I have an idea: Know what you're talking about before you start sliming people in public.

      October 31, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • TR6

      @Jon: “they don't get paid. the Mormon church is all volunteer “
      Are you saying the top people in the Mormon church receive no economic benefit from the church and any of the companies it controls? Or are you just saying they don’t receive a pay check directly from the church?

      November 2, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  7. dr

    This reads like a Romney PR piece to me.

    October 31, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  8. lol

    I could care less if someone worshiped a shoe in a jar as long as they have the sense to keep their beliefs out of the law and when viewing how the law will apply to the US Citizens that they do not only look at it from their perspective as there are many out there that have dissimilar beliefs and do not always view the world from the same perspective.

    October 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • The commenter

      If there were a guy who worshipped a shoe, AND HAD GOOD IDEAS, I'd vote for em'.

      November 1, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  9. olga13

    I like Mitt Romney. Nothing more to say

    October 31, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  10. duck0770

    Mitt has the business, international and government savvy to lead this country. His detailed responses to complex questions on issues of economy, foreign policy, etc., reflect his excellent ability to make sound policy that can help get this country back on track and fix some of the flawed policies and spending sprees of "normal" politics in recent years and decades. The rest of the GOP options would be better than the current administration (and the former), but Mitt seems to me to have the best credentials this go-around.

    October 31, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  11. Mormon Hawaiian Surfer's mentality

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

    October 31, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "Mitt Romney wouldn't even accept the yearly presidental salary"

      yeah cuz he is getting his money tax free under the table.

      October 31, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Carlos

      clap, clap, clap (while I'm standing).

      October 31, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • Carlos

      I was applauding the Hawaiian...

      October 31, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  12. Brandon

    ROMNEY 2012. I will not vote for Perry, Cain, or any of the other knuckle heads.

    October 31, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  13. Drew

    Romney has my vote.

    October 31, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  14. Reality

    Dear M. Romney,

    A prayer just for you:

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.


    October 31, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • LMA

      So obviously that isn't even close to the Apostles Creed. But I get that you're an atheist. No problem; I was one once myself. It has nothing to do with who should be President, by the way. Did you attack Obama's religion? Just asking.

      October 31, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Reality


      Romney believes that the horn-blowing angel Moroni appeared to the con artist Joe Smith. Not good for someone who wants to be president of any group !!! Obama "mouths" that he is Christian i.e. believes in gay Gabriel and war-mongering Michael the Archangel and Satan. BO's support of abortion however vitiates his Christianity as he is the leader of the Immoral Majority who are now the largest voting block in the country. Immoral Majority you ask??

      The 78 million voting "mothers and fathers" of aborted womb babies !!! (2012 -1973 Rowe vs. Wade = 39 years.
      39 x 2 million = 78 million.

      Abortion rate in the USA as per the CDC is one million/yr.

      And the presidential popular vote in 2008? 69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM. The population of the Immoral Majority in 2008? ~ 70 million !!!!!!

      November 1, 2011 at 12:32 am |
  15. Sensei6

    Those curious about Romney's religion should be wary of those on this comment log that condemn it as a cult or some kind of mass conspiracy. They may have a grain of truth in what they say, but it is usually embellished with hate, fear, or bigotry. It's a little like asking what's good about a Ford from a Chevy dealer. Yes listen to them, but if you want to hear the other side of the story don't go to the Toyota, or KIA guy, go to the source, the Ford dealer. Then you can make an informed decision.

    I don't think that his religion should change the way people feel about (or vote for/against) Mr Romney. Whether his religion impresses you or appalls you, it should not matter. It seems un"American" to disqualify a candidate based on his private religious beliefs. (It's not like he is preaching that we should all convert to the LDS church.) On the other hand, it seems like tribalism to vote for someone just because they are from the same religion, or the same state, or even the same party. Let's elevate the criteria for being the "leader of the free world."

    A lot is riding on this election, the primary criteria should be, do we believe this candidate can do a better job than the next. If you want to try to persuade me that they can, I'll listen. But if you just want to vent bigotry, or your personal biases about their religion...no thanks.

    October 31, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • abinadi

      Yes, disqualifying a person from running is actually state sponsored religion, because it means that only people from a certain religion may run, ie a state sponsored religion.

      October 31, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • TR6

      @Sensei6: “It seems un"American" to disqualify a candidate based on his private religious beliefs.”

      Would you say the same thing if he were an Islamist … How about Satanist?

      November 2, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  16. rmax

    Romney is the man to lead America. If Romney is not the RNC nominee, I'll go back to Obama.

    October 31, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  17. chris

    I think it's clear that of all the other candidates on both sides of the aisle, Romney's faith plays a greater role in his day to day life and his life's history than any of them. So for that reason, I appreciate balanced articles like this. Good job CNN.

    For a dedicated Mormon, the goal really is to balance God, Family, Work, Church in that order. The difference between God and Church being your personal relationship with God, compared to your responsibilities in the church, etc.

    October 31, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  18. Mitt Romney

    I was very touched by this article. Mitt Romney is the man to get the economy back on track..... Go Romney you have my vote!!!!!!!!

    October 31, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • GobsOfJobs

      Mitt, people might get a bit put off if you keep touching yourself like that. Even with that special underwear on.

      October 31, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  19. Ty

    How happy I am to be a Mormon. Unfortunately my nice post never posted. It was full of uplifting things and my testimony that I wanted to share. But, you know, I am so sick and tired of all the hatred and poison coming out of the mouths of all of you Mormon haters. You are all so ignorant. It is actually really hard for me to comprehend the intelligence level of some people in this world. All I want to say now, instead of trying to be nice and peaceful, is this. We each choose how to live our lives. Some of us are smart enough to notice and understand a great blessing and opportunity when it is in front of us. Some of us arent and would rather do as the devil does and speak hatred and promote it from one to another. I have paved my life in the direction of heaven. It is sad to see many people paving their way to hell. And even worse, kicking those helpful people off of that road when they are only trying to help. I am a proud Mormon which also makes me a proud Christian! Nobody can tell me I am not a Christian. And anyone who tries, declares their own ignorance and stupidity. Come on and bash me all you ignorant idiots! Come on!

    October 31, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • TR6

      I haven’t noticed much Mormon bashing. On the other hand I seen a lot of interesting and difficult questions about some Mormon beliefs and behavior and most of the response from the Mormon community has been deflection, spin and recrimination of others instead of straight answers

      November 2, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  20. Jordon

    Romney is AWESOME!

    October 31, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • curious

      Any candiate who chooses to be president of the United States should be able to answer any questions asked concerning his or her true beliefs. Religious or otherwise. This person, if elected, will be resposible for over 300 million lives. That's pretty serious.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
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About this blog

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