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. Johnny

    Barack Obama 2012!!! Is there anyone else? Seriously??

    October 30, 2011 at 2:29 am |
    • Ian

      There's Jon Huntsman. The only Republican in the field with his head screwed on straight.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:33 am |
    • omegarising

      Ummm yeah, how about ANYONE else! I'd vote for Elmer Fudd over this world banking elite puppet!!

      October 30, 2011 at 2:39 am |
    • Mirosal

      Actually, why don't we do the religious right (who are never right in the first place are they?) a favor and just make a massive write-in campaign for "god" ... let's actually elect "god" to office, and see who shows up come Inauguration Day if "god" wins the election?

      October 30, 2011 at 2:44 am |
  2. Johnny

    The less religious a candidate is the more credibility they have in my eyes.

    October 30, 2011 at 2:28 am |
    • Jacob

      How do you measure how religious a president is? I'm just curious seeing as George Washington referred to The Almighty constantly in his speeches. He also referred to the hand of Providence in establishing this nation. Lincoln referred to the Bible frequently. Most historians consider Washington and Lincoln to be among our best presidents. I have always considered them religious men at heart.

      It is not the truly religious man I fear. It is the man who has no personal code of conduct or standard to hold himself to. It is the man who will do whatever it takes to get ahead. It is the man who professes no religion to avoid holding himself to a standard in order to focus on self-aggrandizement. That is the man I fear becoming president because he will do what is right only as long as it is convenient. When his neck is on the line he will not hesitate to trample on justice, compassion, or decency.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:06 am |
  3. Johnny

    Wow!!! Was that headline bought and paid for or what!?!! Loser!

    October 30, 2011 at 2:22 am |
  4. Corey

    Ron Paul

    October 30, 2011 at 2:22 am |
  5. deecoastal

    I liked this article. Being "Mormon" means living a Christian life that is clean and healthy, emotionally, physically and spiritually.It doesn't mean that you are perfect & I'm sure Mitt isn't perfect. There are no secrets to his life. He has a history of being a good Christian and being there for others. He also has a history of reacting and changing to social issues, just as everyone else has over the past decades. He can be respected for that. Of all the candidates, he is the most pragmatic and realistic. He has forward looking plans, but has a strong proven track record. The other candidates have great ideas, and varied experience, but so did Obama. Cain's 9-9-9 plan is phenomenal. But what is his plan for an entire branch of government, the IRS, and it's employees and infrastructure? Ron Paul would shut down many branches, but where will those employees go? Who will hire them? We need jobs and our economy must be revitalized. And the reality is, there are a great many people out there who want quick solutions and will vote for whoever sounds the best. Remember, that's how we got Obama. I think Romney is a man of faith, which is a good thing (and refreshing about now) – grounded in his experience and has the capacity to lead us out of this mess. At any rate, no matter who wins the nomination, it is important that Obama is replaced.

    October 30, 2011 at 2:19 am |
    • Ian

      The 9-9-9 plan: Make most americans pay more, while actually decreasing revenue! Brilliant!

      October 30, 2011 at 2:33 am |
    • omegarising

      He also has a history of reacting and changing to social issues, just as everyone else has over the past decades. He can be respected for that.

      Funny, I don't recall Jesus "changing and reacting" to any of the social issues in his day, which were many. In fact, he never changed his message period, regardless of the social issues. Social issues are a man made problem, not a God problem.

      So I see Romney's reaction and change to social issues as a real weakness. He has no back bone to stick with what he believes.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:46 am |

      Omagarising, Wow! Do you really not know how Jesus Changed the World for ever? He is the God of the Old Testament that commanded all sorts of laws that were taken away when they were fulfilled. He is all about changing. Laws change according to the needs of the people, Truth is eternal.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:55 am |
    • Don

      It sounds like Omegarising never has read the New Testament. Jesus taught that he without sin should cast the first stone. Before you start attacking Romney, you should ask yourself, if you ever made a mistake as well before throwing stones and killing an innocent man.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:18 am |
    • Janie

      Well said.

      October 30, 2011 at 5:46 am |
  6. omegarising


    October 30, 2011 at 2:18 am |
    • Johnny


      October 30, 2011 at 2:25 am |
    • omegarising

      Johnny, you didn't use all caps so your comment doesn't count.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:40 am |
  7. Don

    This article is very accurate, except about the women part.

    The Mormons equate Priesthood to Service. Women already perform this required service by what Mormons deem to be the most important role in life which is the role of mother. The Mormon men need the priesthood in order to compensate for not being the child bearers. From their start, Mormons never thought women to be less than men but equals, "for the man is not without the wife and the wife is not without the man". This is why Utah was one of the first states to allow women to vote. Joseph Smith called his wife Emma to create one of the largest women organizations in the world, the Relief Society. Mormons believe when you get married to your eternal spouse you are no longer separate but one, and you have to spend the rest of your life trying to figure out how to accomplish that. Love is the component that combines. Would a sane person beat himself, never. Neither would a man who thought his wife as himself. Mormons don't think that having the priesthood means you rule over anyone, but rather, you have an obligation to serve all. Until you understand how Mormons believe and think, you will never understand how much a Mormon man loves his wife who is and has always been considered an equal.

    October 30, 2011 at 2:17 am |
    • deecoastal

      You are exactly correct. I am a Mormon woman. I even have a pioneer great grandmother. I know women are more respected in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints than maybe anywhere else. Thanks for your remarks.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:22 am |
    • raj

      only one issue there: within the teachings of the LDS church, it may not be completely accurate to link priesthood with motherhood. fatherhood and motherhood are linked more appropriately.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:05 am |
    • Don


      Thanks for your comment. Let me be more clear. I was not equating priesthood to motherhood but rather, priesthood to the service a mother gives to her children.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:20 am |
  8. Taylor

    As a practicing Mormon I've grown used to numerous "standard" inaccuracies when reading any report about my faith. This article, however, is exceptionally fair and those beliefs spelled out were done fairly and accurately. My thanks goes out to Jessica Ravitz, the author of the article, for her efforts to paint the real picture.

    October 30, 2011 at 2:15 am |
    • ldean50

      If you google CNN Jessica Ravitz you'll find that is all she writes – pro Mormon. Is she Mormon?

      October 30, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  9. Hooligan

    There are MANY reasons not to vote for this man.

    His faith is not one of them..... nor ever should be.

    October 30, 2011 at 2:10 am |
    • Colin

      Until one of his invisible friends tells him to bomb a neighboring country, like Bush and Iraq.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:12 am |
    • Alberto

      I beg to differ. There are many GREAT reasons to vote for Mitt Romney.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:27 am |
    • Hooligan



      October 30, 2011 at 2:30 am |
    • Alberto

      Hooligan, I chuckle myself. It is best to just say that we don't agree rather than insinuate the other individual is of an inferior intellect.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:40 am |
  10. thank you

    Finally a positive article. I am impressed, and really wish more Americans would focus on highlighting the positive aspects of all respectable men and women in this country and in the world, instead of trying to dig up every mistake, to slander and degrade as if we ourselves were perfect. Thank you for talking about the good. I know many good people from many religions, or no religion, and this article demonstrates that Mitt is one of them. Whether one agrees with his politics or thinks he'd be a competent president is a different matter–but thank you for writing a great article on religion and avoiding the attacking, degrading and slandering of other writers' approach, which-while probably provoking interest and getting many reads-is simply disappointing and quite frankly hypocritical when it comes to religion.

    October 30, 2011 at 2:09 am |
  11. Emilio Dumphuque

    Uh-oh! “Il est mort”??? And then he gets up??
    So, this is like that episode of the Twilight Zone called "The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank"?

    October 30, 2011 at 2:08 am |
  12. Thanos

    Take a good hard look at the Mormon religion and you tell me that you want to put faith in a man who believes in this?!

    October 30, 2011 at 2:07 am |
    • Colin

      Agreed Thanos – it would be as silly as the nonsense that Christians or Jews, or Muslims believe. Sky fairies, life after death and mind reading. It is all supernatural garbage.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:10 am |
    • Jim Brown

      Well I know several and at least I can say they practice what they preach. Family values, loyalty to country, and charitable giving. More than I can say for a lot of others.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:16 am |
    • Emilio Dumphuque

      Take a good hard look at the rest of Christianity. What the Mormons believe is no weirder than drinking Jesus's proxy blood, or chowing down on his flesh, not to mention that you're praying to a zombie.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:18 am |
    • Thanos

      It's also called BRAIN WASHING Jim.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:19 am |
    • Tom

      Thanos I heard that you believe in dust fairies that give you magical powers. At least that is what my friends tell me. Get real, stand up and go to one of their churches yourself if it bothers you that much.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:25 am |
    • thank you

      wow, if that kind of selfless service and dedication to following Christ's example of helping others and being a good person is "brainwashing" lets get some more of it in America.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:31 am |
    • Let me see...

      Morals, take good care of their bodies, take responsibility for their own well-being, live the laws of the land, love their families, send huge amounts of money and service all of the world, build communities. So far, I don't see a lot wrong with their religion.

      October 30, 2011 at 5:29 am |
  13. samvadi

    Is a politicians faith such a key factor in US politics? i can understand economic persuasions can matter, but isn't faith/religion something deeply personal and divorced from the due responsibilities of Govt. offices?

    October 30, 2011 at 2:04 am |
    • thank you

      good point. and while examining a candidate's religion is perfectly reasonable from the plane of the individual, the media overblowing controversial religious doctrine, often misinterpreting or misrepresenting, and attacking individuals solely because of their proclaimed religion, is simply negative, unproductive news.

      while i agree that personal religious views shouldn't be an issue in public media coverage of a presidential candidacy, its unfortunately impossible, and at least this article points out the good. If we have to talk about religion, why can't we focus more on how it has positively impacted candidates and brought out their personal strengths and qualities. If we wish to attack, let it be attacks and criticisms on political perspectives, plans and propositions.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:25 am |
    • son of god

      sadly faith has too much of an impact on american politics. GWB got us in to 2 wars because of his foolish faith. we could have taken out terrorists just like Israel does, quietly and covertly but no we gotta make a big stink and try to nation build which ends in complete failure. our actions have created soooo many terrorists in muslim nations and even our own we will eventually be destroyed by them and it will be traced to how we reacted to 9/11 and in future history books GWB will be identified as the president that caused the end of america... because of his ridiculous faith ... of course all faith is ridiculous but making decisions based on it is the crime...

      October 30, 2011 at 2:30 am |
  14. Carl

    The article, while somewhat enlightening, is a fairly dim view of bright performance in service towards Jesus Christ – without pay, and without clamor for recognition of decades of devoted service to men, women and children (another reason Mormons don't use their good works for personal gain or office – hence another strong reason for not wanting to discuss his service – but sadly critics tend to see the worldly side of it). I believe the candidate (Mitt Romney) is right is suggesting that if you want to know more about the Mormon Church, see the Church itself – at http://www.mormon.org.

    October 30, 2011 at 2:01 am |
  15. s767

    Ditto to Corey. This Mormon is voting for Ron Paul.

    October 30, 2011 at 2:00 am |
  16. Colin

    “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."

    Don't they? I could be wrong, but I thought they did.

    October 30, 2011 at 1:55 am |
    • M. Henson

      I don't know exactly about what they think, but I know Christians believe the Bible and it clearly states that Satan is one of the sons of God in several places including, Ezekiel 28:12-18, so I suppose you could argue he was Christ's brother, technically.

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

      Depend by what you mean by "brothers". In a sense, everybody is a "brother" to Jesus. Here is the official LDS church response:

      "Like other Christians, we believe Jesus is the divine Son of God. Satan is a fallen angel.
      As the Apostle Paul wrote, God is the Father of all. That means that all beings were created by God and are His spirit children. Christ, however, was the only begotten in the flesh, and we worship Him as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind."

      October 30, 2011 at 2:18 am |
    • lovley

      Huckabee's statement made their belief sound strange.
      Ultimately they believe that all of us are brothers and sisters, all children of God.
      They believe we lived in heaven before this life and while there Lucifer (Satan) fell from his angel status and became the devil and pulled many souls with him. They believe Jesus stepped forward and offered to do the will of the Lord.

      They believe both Jesus and Satan were our brothers, but from Satan's fall, he is no longer considered a child of God, nor a true brother.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:08 am |
    • Focus

      Does it matter?

      October 30, 2011 at 5:31 am |
  17. Ben N

    As a faithful member of the LDS church, I must say that this is the first article on my faith that I have seen that is accurate in almost every way (except that women are inferior in our church which simply isn't true). Well done CNN!!!!

    October 30, 2011 at 1:50 am |
    • Al Benson

      I agree with you. Good article but I saw that inclusion as well. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The author is obviously not Mormon or would have understood the focal point of women, mothers, daughters, within the church and their importance. Without them, the wheel would have no axle.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:53 am |
    • Caryn B

      Agree, well done CNN! I kept reading to the end expecting to find inaccuracies and half truths usually found in the media regarding my faith, but this was great!

      October 30, 2011 at 2:30 am |
  18. AnAmerican

    It's unfortunate that most of this discussion is focused on narrow minded, inflamed, and defensive irrationality. I believe we would all do well to focus on the issues that are truly important: the candidates' capabilities, political views, experience, moral turpitude, and likelihood of producing strong results for America's future prosperity and success.

    October 30, 2011 at 1:49 am |
    • s767

      Well.... this is a "belief" blog, not intended to be a mainstream political article?

      October 30, 2011 at 2:05 am |
  19. Colin

    Does it really matter what magical, mystical "after death" kingdoms he believes in?

    Let's face it, the belief that an infitely old, all-knowing sky-god, powerful enough to create the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, will cause people to survive their own phsical deaths and live happily ever after in heaven, if they follow some random laws laid down in Bronze Age Palestine = Judaism.

    Judaism + a belief that the same god impregnated a virgin with himself to give birth to himself, so he could sacrifice himself to himself to negate a rule he himself made = Christianity.

    Christianity + a belief that aliens from other planets mated with humans who will one day be gods, that Jesus and Satan were brothers, that the Israelis colonized America and that magic underwear will protect you = mormonism.

    Pick the layer you slot in at and explain to the other layers how clearly they got it wrong.

    October 30, 2011 at 1:47 am |
    • lovley

      There is so much wrong in what you have said, it is almost laughable. You live blindly and there is much you fail to comprehend. I hope you find it someday.

      Don't feel like you have to attack peculiar things which you have no understanding of and is of no significance to you.
      What is it that you fear so much?

      October 30, 2011 at 3:21 am |
  20. John

    Mitt Romney is a great man and a great leader. I served under him during the 2002 winter Olympics. Mitt Romney stands head and shoulders above the crowd in leadership ability. Our country is in dire need of his intellect, experience, motivational leadership and personal zeal.

    October 30, 2011 at 1:47 am |
    • FlippinNFloppin

      HaHaHa. I hope that was a joke anyway. Besides...His religion really doesn't matter... If he finds out that people are saying that they don't want to vote for a Mormon, he will say that he has converted to be a Baptist or better yet, born again. Romney is a joke of a candidate because he has no backbone or conviction and not because he is a Mormon.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:13 am |
    • John

      It was no joke. I have seen him in active leadership and find his talents and abilities what this country needs. Yes, I am voting for the man.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:18 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.