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. Sircuts

    It is painfully obvious Mormons have their paws (money) in this. They spread their religion like a disease...Why are most Mormons not in the USA? because they can practice polygomy and believe me Romney will work to change it. All mormons believe in the cult first no political decisions can be made without church approval to preserve their cause of taking money, property, and polygomy.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:30 am |
    • MikeTheMormon

      @Sircuts, your hatred for the LDS faith is acknowledged, but so that everyone else can know; you have said nothing in your many posts that is not entirely inconsistent with my experience with the LDS church.
      If you notice, multiple people are rallying against you to delete your hateful and ignorant posts. Despite all your venomous statements, people recognize your lies and deceit. Give it a rest, you must have something better to do with yourself.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:17 am |
    • ronbry55

      Wrong!!! Get your facts straight.. Mormons, who are true members (not the fundamentalist offshoots) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints do not live in polygamous lifestyles, nor do they want to. If a Mormon is elected President, he will make decisions based on the factors involved and those government officials who will be in place to advise him. He will not be calling the Church headquarters for counsel and they will not be calling him. Church affairs will be run by the Church and government by the government, no matter who is in charge.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:19 am |
    • rhett

      Wow.... I have attended Mormon wards all over the world and guess what! I have not ran into a single polygamist... I did find one lady in Cambodia who could not join the Mormon church because her husband had 3 wives though.... Check out Mormon.org... It will help you to understand the mormon religion as it really is...

      October 30, 2011 at 7:08 am |
  2. Marie

    Thanks for a great article Jessica – well-written and unusually fair and accurate.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:29 am |
    • Sircuts

      Fair? What about the secret rituals in the Temple claiming Satan gave freedom? what about the crimes of the church "Prophets" what about the book of mormon? A fictional blasphemous fantasy. This is disturbing you people fall for this crap.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:33 am |
    • Sircuts

      Hmmm ask Mitt Romney how many grandmothers he has...His father was born in a polygamy camp, they still worship Joseph Smith And Bringum Young and put them above Jesus...Why do you think they have sacred ritual? This is a sick cult wrapped around filthy amounts of money and perversion just look it up for yourself dont believe a Morman CNN columnist

      October 30, 2011 at 3:39 am |
    • Bill

      I agree. Thanks Jessica–this one of the better researched article on the subject I've seen over the past few years.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:03 am |
    • ronbry55

      I'm sorry to tell you, but you've been badly and I mean BADLY informed by some pastors full of ill will. There are no "secret rituals in the Temple claiming Satan gave freedom." Where do they get this junk? And then you throw it out on the internet as if it is "fact". Learn from a good source before you speak such idiocy.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:27 am |
    • ronbry55

      Sircuts again: Where do you get this stuff? You said, "they worship Joseph Smith And Bringum Young and put them above Jesus." Believe me, there is no and I mean NO worshiping of Joseph Smith or Brigham Young. Where do you get this junk? And they certainly do NOT place them or anyother man above our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
      Please people, when Sircuts opens his mouth about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) Sircuts is very misinformed.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:36 am |
    • JoeS

      Jessica was telling the truth about Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney got nothing to hide on Jessica's independent inquiry. It's all for the whole world to see.

      October 31, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  3. jeremy

    haha religion has NO place in politics. has no place anywhere really, since it is all lies.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:26 am |
    • Mirosal

      Like I said earlier, if Romney gets into office, you watch as the Quorum of 12 descend upon him, and start making policies and directives based on what this council wants. Not to mention that he'll be REQUIRED to ti.the at least 10% of his salary to the church. Giving should be voluntary, not mandatory. I'm sure a devout follower would gladly give support to his/her church without being asked, but by making it policy that you HAVE to? hmmmm ... makes you think what is it they are really wanting from you doesn't it?

      October 30, 2011 at 3:31 am |
    • Sircuts

      That is right and every political decision Romney will ever make has already been decided by his "Prophets"that run the Mormon Cult...look it up ..You want religion out of politics? Dont vote for a mormon because their religion is their politics.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:42 am |
    • ronbry55

      Again you're totally wrong. You say "look it up." Well why don't you please look it up instead of parroting some bad information that was given you while sitting in some pew. I really don't blame you for being so badly informed, but rather it's the so called pastors who have been trying to scare their congregants about the "wicked mormoons in their "cult."" Well, the truth shall set you free.

      Political decisions will be made by the president and his advisers in Washington. Salt Lake City will not be involved, just like the Vatican was not involved with JFK's decisions. Stop the fear mngoring.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:47 am |
  4. demcrcynowww

    he can not beat obama at all. he doesnt even come up with solution...

    October 30, 2011 at 3:25 am |
  5. Robert

    I choose professionals based upon their ability, not their faith. My business partner is Born Again. My Dentist is Shinto. My lunches come from a Jewish Deli. My Mechanic is Catholic. And my Accountant is Morman.

    All these people adhere to their faith and are the best at what they do.

    I will vote for Mitt Romney because he is a successful businessman who knows how to repair failing organizations.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:23 am |
    • Sircuts

      I am just glad that every time CNN tries to make Mormons look normal more people look it up and realize how much of a perverted cult it is and it blows up in their face. Joesph Smith and Bringum Young commited treason and romney considers them prophets.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:54 am |
    • steve19

      Well said. There is a skill set that is needed for any job and that is what my primary focus is when I vote. Mitt Romney is one of the candidates that I could support for president because he has intelligence, good judgement, experience and I agree with him on most issues. I am a born again, evangelical Christian. I do not agree with many of the tenets of the LDS church. However, they are very patriotic, unlike the church that our current President attended for 20 years. Although I do give it consideration, I believe that it is a mistake to vote or not vote for someone simply on basis of their religious faith. Jimmy Carter's personal faith was probably pretty close to mine, but I felt that he had very poor judgement and did not see issues correctly.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:58 am |
    • ronbry55

      It's hard to keep up with you and all of your silly blathering. Do you have anything sincere to say or are you just going to keep blathering such untrue idiocy?

      October 30, 2011 at 4:51 am |
  6. Barry O'Bama

    tldr and... f off

    October 30, 2011 at 3:21 am |
  7. omegarising


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

    As a member of the LDS church, I believe this article was well written. I would never expect a nonmember of this church to understand enough about its doctrine to make an honest assessment of anything other than superficial, publicized topics. When I hear people disparaging symbolic undergarments, I realize that they would do the same to Jewish and Catholic ceremonial garb, as well as the outwardly dramatic group reactions displayed by Evangelicals including, speaking in tongues and the accepting of Jesus in their lives. Personally, regardless of my beliefs, I chose to leave such personalized, outward, religious manifestations of belief unfettered and respected. Anyone with a less juvenile mind and of serious contemplation would examine more substantial item of the Mormon faith. As for me, I find this faith inspiring, well organized and Heavenly led. I find its tenants to be that of Christ; promoting its members to strive to become more like Him. All other aspects of the church are simply icing on the cake. Lastly, there is no such thing as bad exposure. There will always be those who will criticize and mock the smallest distortions of this church. I welcome it as a first step for them. One day they might just search a little too much and gain interest. Keep it coming.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:17 am |
    • Sircuts

      Ok Steve Joseph Smith had 29 wives some young as 12...Bringum Young performed the ceremony and had 55 wives some as young as 11...do you denounce them a simple yes or no?

      October 30, 2011 at 3:35 am |
    • James

      Sircuts, you do also realize that Mary, Mother of Jesus, could not have been more than 12 either, right? 13 at most.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:43 am |
    • Sircuts

      Mary was 12? LOL you must have read that in the book of mormon...Is that in the same chapter where god spoke to Joseph Smith? Or did you learn in in the "Sacred Ritual" at the Temple where you baptize the dead and claim Lucifer freed humanity.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:50 am |
    • Mirosal

      Sircuts, actually he's right. Mary wasn't past 15 at the latest. Just another teen mom lol Babies having babies, and she's glorified!!! How's that for sick? As far as the polygamy is concerned, any grown man who takes a 12 13 or 14 year old "bride" need not be praised, rather he should be strung up by his bal.ls with piano wire

      October 30, 2011 at 3:56 am |
    • James

      15 is really pushing it. At that time, women were married off at 10, and the marriage consummated after she had her first period. That's not the Mormons. That was everyone at that time. History: Read it.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:16 am |
  9. RC

    In response to Mr. Huckabee's inquiry, the entire human race are spirit children or brothers and sisters of our Father in Heaven created in his image in the pre-earth life and that includes Jesus, Adam and Satan and his followers as described in the pre-earth Council in Heaven in the book of Revelations 12:7-10.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:13 am |
    • Mirosal

      wait wait wait ... you're using the Babble ... I mean buy-bull - oops I mean bible as some kind of "evidence" as to our "past lives"??? I'll bet you're the kind pf person that thinks the TV shows about hunting ghosts are real docu-mentaries!! You'd make a great living dressing up as "Madam Zolda" at a booth in a county fair.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:21 am |
  10. Hotness


    October 30, 2011 at 3:13 am |
  11. Sircuts

    I can not believe this..I thought religion wasnt going to be an issue this election? Well CNN if you want to bring it up why dont you tell the truth/ Joseph Smith was no less of a child molester then That other LDS freak who married all them woman...Joseph Smith had 29 wives some as young as 12 ..Bringum Young had 55 wives and fled the united states to continue the practice. All Mormons consider them saints..Funny you wont mention the fact that Romney Father was born on a Mormon Polygamy camp in Mexico, or the FACT that Bringum Young was forced to step down as Governor of Utah because religious rule. Or how about the fact that Joseph Young was gunned down in a jailhouse after being arrested for Treason? romney would never dare denounce these monsters he calls his "Prophets"

    October 30, 2011 at 3:12 am |
  12. Jacob

    Surprisingly good article. Well done.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:09 am |
  13. Irene

    This is an impressive gathering of positive information on Mitt Romney. It makes me lean far more toward him than I have thus far. As an Independent who more often votes Republican, and who would love to see Obama ousted, I fear that CNN may be building Romney up only to knock him down later in favor of Obama.

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

      I agree, very informative, and it might be the case that CNN will knock him down against Obama. My problem is figuring out which is crazier, Mormonism or Christianity O_O

      October 30, 2011 at 3:27 am |
  14. DYWM

    The mainstream media, the democrat party, and the old-boys club in GOP is so determined to choose the nominee for America. CNN, you should be ashamed of yourselves. You're so terrified of Herman Cain the only thing that gets less coverage than him is the racism and violence happening at the Flea Party.

    Good job, mainstream media! You write what you're told! 🙁

    October 30, 2011 at 2:56 am |
  15. Jacob

    Very detailed article with a lot of research. The more I learn about Mitt the more I am surprised at how many little kindnesses he has shown to others. I did management consulting for a brief period and it took all my time day and night. I honestly don't know how someone can be a good management consultant, serve as a volunteer in their church, and still have time for visiting people in the hospital or putting your entire company on hold for several days while you look for someone's daughter.

    I get that he has offended some people, but honestly who hasn't. I have worked hard to be considerate of others most of my life, but I'm sure that if I ran for president the press would find dozens of people who could share things I've done that would make me look bad. If we're looking for someone who's never made a mistake to be our president we'll always be disappointed. If you want someone who has shown commitment to their friends, their community, and their personal standards while being successful in their profession it seems it will be hard to find someone better in that regard than Mitt.

    October 30, 2011 at 2:46 am |
  16. Lucifer

    The far right has a problem because they think Mormon's are cultists. The far left has a problem with Mormonism only because Romney can beat Obama. The rest of us think both the far right and the far left are clowns.

    October 30, 2011 at 2:34 am |
    • Don

      Impossible. How can Lucifer actually be speaking the truth when the rest of us on the far right and far left cannot?

      October 30, 2011 at 2:45 am |
    • Don

      I thought Satan could only tell lies 🙂

      October 30, 2011 at 2:46 am |

      Romney cannot & will not "beat Obama." Romney is so artificial, it is incredible. Also, he is out of touch with regular people as evidenced when he told out-of-work folks in Florida "I'm also unemployed." Really? He left out the part that he's a millionaire several times over (he made lots of bucks while shipping jobs overseas). Pres. Obama will have fun displaying the photo of Romney & his homeys stuffing dollar bills in their pockets (from mid 90s) P.S. I am Mormon but prefer Jon Huntsman to the boring Mitt Romney. OBAMA 2012!

      October 30, 2011 at 2:48 am |
    • Don


      If you were really a Mormon, you would start seeing the inevitableness of Romney. Does God have to part the Red Sea before you see it? Well, He will figuratively and you will see it with your own eyes. As David slayed Goliath, Romney will make this century the American Century.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:57 am |
    • Don


      There is one thing Mormons should worry about with Romney taking the Presidency. It will push Mormonism to the global limelight.

      When Romney makes America great and this century the American Century, the world will blame you for it. The good of the earth will praise your names but the bad will seek to destroy you. It will be just like how the Philistines despised David for slaying Goliath and making Israel strong. I just wonder if you're ready.

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

      Let us examine the facts the founder of the Mormon cult was a failed "science fiction writer" who made up stories and lied all his life. He married more than 30 females, some under the age of 13. He supposedly was given magic glasses to read encrypted gold foils. Anyone who has even just perused the book of mormon can see the people followingthis cult, as nice as they may seem, are making a point to distance themselves from the real world. Until 1970 people of color (blacks and asians) were not allowed into the church because they were considered subhuman. This feeling still dominates the Mormon cult to this day.

      If mormon's believe and followed the angel Moroni, why aren't they called morons? The answer – they can't spell!

      October 30, 2011 at 3:15 am |
    • Don

      Where do you get your facts? I would ask for a refund.

      Joseph Smith believed in what he taught. As proof he willingly went to his death as a martyr instead of denying his Christ. He even told everyone he was going to go as a lamb to the slaughter, as a martyr to his death. He could have easily escaped but instead went willingly as Jesus did.
      How many liars do you know would do that?

      As of 2011, DNA testing had provided no evidence that Smith had fathered any children by women other than Emma.

      Can you even name one child Joseph had out of wedlock? You can't, because he hated polygamy and loved his Emma.

      Before you start making stuff up, remember the golden rule.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:36 am |
    • Don

      Oh and about blacks in the LDS Church. One of the reasons the Mormons were killed and their children died from cold was because the South wanted to get rid of Black loving Mormons. The Mormons baptized any man that was willing to join their fold from the very beginning and wanted to do away with slavery.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:41 am |
  17. 2tor

    We need to get off the whole religious non-news. All presidents have been religious, I'm pretty sure. Have been in my lifetime. I'm not Catholic, and we've had a few of them. I'm not Mormon, and I'm not bothered. It's the guys morals, who is is what I care about. Why waste all this space on something that really isn't that relevant.

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

      ok, you're not Catholic, not a problem. You said we've had a few of those. Problem. I'll personally hand you $1000 in cash if you can name 2 Presidents who were Catholic. Good luck naming that second one. You'll have the same chance in namimg me Pres. James Buchanan's wife.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:40 am |
  18. c

    Separation of church and State.

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

      I couldn't agree more.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:45 am |
  19. If I had a penny for every stupid Republican I'd be rich!

    Brigham Young once was attributed with the remark "I don't care how you Brigham, just Brigham Young".

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

      If I had a penny whenever people said lies like this against Mormons, I'd be rich too.

      October 30, 2011 at 2:40 am |
  20. trace

    Good article. Gave me much more insight into Romney than any other article I've read so far. Thanks!

    October 30, 2011 at 2:29 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.