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. Mirosal

    ok let's hear from Mormons AND everyone else .. what if an atheist were running for the Presidency? He or she would have no religious ties or affiliations. Would the great debate go on because of NO religious beliefs? Or would that person be immediately dis-trusted because of it?

    October 30, 2011 at 4:25 am |
    • Samsword

      I'd vote for an Atheist if I felt his political views represented what I was looking for.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:38 am |
  2. Bud Tarken

    Here drink the koolaid and eat the cookie my son. Who's that prophet again Mormons believe is speaking with god on thier behalf.....Don Monsoon or something? Can you get him to toss out the underwear requirements so I might think about sipping some of the koolaid?

    October 30, 2011 at 4:24 am |
  3. toph

    Since you have been in an LDS temple and know everything that happens inside, please tell me what I believe, an just state the facts.

    October 30, 2011 at 4:23 am |
    • Beck

      LDS, or LSD ?

      October 30, 2011 at 4:45 am |
  4. Thisisweird

    My god you could at least post a citation to a trustworthy source. It sounds like you are either making a lot up or just twisting "facts."

    October 30, 2011 at 4:17 am |
  5. Samsword

    @Sircuts Stop spamming the thread! You are getting incredibly annoying...

    October 30, 2011 at 4:10 am |
    • Sircuts

      annoying you I am sure...why you still here? You gonna tell me Im wrong? Im stating facts here

      October 30, 2011 at 4:13 am |
    • Samsword

      I've heard all these things before, from BOTH sides of the arguments. Your statements aren't proven facts in most cases. And most of them are taken out of context.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:18 am |
    • Thisisweird

      You are not stating facts. Fantastic claims require fantastic evidence. Where is your evidence? Anything? You are just being a spamming troll.

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

      Yes, yes you are wrong Sircuts. Absolutely wrong.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:20 am |
  6. Sircuts

    how come all my comments are facts yet they are being removed?

    October 30, 2011 at 4:07 am |
    • Samsword

      A) Half your comments are facts at best.

      B) You probably accidentally put black list words in your post. Such as "as-s" in "as-sume"

      October 30, 2011 at 4:09 am |
    • Samsword

      Sorry that should have read

      "half of your statements are *opinions* at best."

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

      For spending a lot of time on Mormons, as you obviously do, you'd think you would have a better grasp on facts. While some things have changed over time, never have Mormon Prophets been put above Jesus Christ. Look at the name of the Church. Find me one source that even hints at it.

      I am Mormon and will not be voting for Romney based on political disagreements, but he is a good man.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:22 am |
  7. Samsword

    @Sircuts... we get it. You're mad at Mormons. Give me a break, no modern Mormon believes this junk anymore. It's like saying modern Christians are still in favor of Crusades and Inquisitions... get out of the past.

    October 30, 2011 at 4:06 am |
    • Sircuts

      There is no Mormon who would ever denounce these guys they are prophets to them dont you see this is a cult?

      October 30, 2011 at 4:10 am |
    • Samsword

      No, I don't see them as a cult. Because most Mormons recognize that even their "prophets" have opinions and flaws. Unlike many mainstream Christians, who think that their Bible is perfect... never mind the fact that it was written by PEOPLE. ANd that the canonization of books and doctrines were voted upon, not "revealed."

      Is there truth in the Bible? Absolutely. Is it perfect? Probably not. Most Mormons will tell you that their prophets have faults, and you have to "test things by the Spirit." There are things they claim that I disagree with... but I don't doubt their good-will or sincerity. I don't think you should either.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:16 am |
    • Sircuts

      Im not mad at mormons..I'm am mad because anyone who believes this crap is to gullible to be president.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:16 am |
    • Thisisweird

      The Mormon faith actually supports a skeptical mind. Romney is more scientifically skeptical than you will ever be Sircuts. You have no idea what you are talking about.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:22 am |
    • Samsword

      Gullible perhaps enough to believe a man named Moses carried two rocks out of a mountain, claiming to have them written on by the "finger of God," all the while talking to a burning bush?

      Or gullible perhaps enough to believe that the entire universe exploded out of an infinite singularity?

      Don't get me wrong... I actually am a proponent of religion. But you are misrepresenting these people, and your claims to "gullibility" are relative.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:23 am |
    • JAK

      Making mistakes does not mean other things you said and did were wrong. Nobody aside from Christ was or is perfect, so no we don't denounce people who did tons of good because of their errors. Life doesn't work like that, nor does Christianity or any other religion.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:24 am |
  8. gbc

    Excellent article! Read and understood by a Catholic, having some contact with people of the Mormon faith. I can honestly say that I have seen first hand in my suburb, the way they help others. I was impressed by their committment.
    Religion and race has no place in politics. I'm tired of the hateful comments. He's not my first choice in the Presidential race, but it's not based on his religion.

    October 30, 2011 at 4:02 am |
    • JAK

      Wow Sircuts, can't tell if you know nothing or if you're purposely lying. Mormons believe nearly everyone short of killers and knowledgeable betrayers of Christ are going to some degree of Heaven.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:30 am |
  9. omegarising

    Interesting how certain comments disappear here on the CNN comments board. Almost makes me think that they are State owned and run, and are told what can and cannot be allowed on their comment boards???

    October 30, 2011 at 4:02 am |
    • Mirosal

      Maybe when the Soviet Union fell, the people who were KGB got new jobs here in America at CNN?? lol

      October 30, 2011 at 4:15 am |
  10. Sircuts

    Brigham Young said you must confess Joseph Smith as a prophet of God in order to be saved.
    "...and he that confesseth not that Jesus has come in the flesh and sent Joseph Smith with the fullness of the Gospel to this generation, is not of God, but is Antichrist,"

    October 30, 2011 at 4:02 am |
    • James

      The Catholic Church says that you must confess The Pope as speaking with the Voice of God to be saved. What's the difference?

      October 30, 2011 at 4:20 am |
    • shartoo

      Jesus Christ as savior only. Who'd want to listen to old "Bringum Young and Bring em often."

      October 30, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  11. Sircuts

    Brigham Young said you are damned if you deny polygamy.
    "Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 266). Also, "The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy,

    October 30, 2011 at 4:01 am |
    • James

      Did you know the Bible supports polygamy too?

      October 30, 2011 at 4:17 am |
  12. Sircuts

    Bringum Young..Mormon "Prophet' said...
    "You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind....Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 290).
    "In our first settlement in Missouri, it was said by our enemies that we intended to tamper with the slaves, not that we had any idea of the kind, for such a thing never entered our minds. We knew that the children of Ham were to be the "servant of servants," and no power under heaven could hinder it, so long as the Lord would permit them to welter under the curse and those were known to be our religious views concerning them." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 172).
    "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so."

    October 30, 2011 at 4:00 am |
    • Samsword

      I repeat my comment below.

      "All of your references are to 19th century events/people?

      Those were drastically different times, with a different organizational structure. The Mormons have gotten out of their past, you should too."

      No modern Mormon I've talked to believes what you just wrote.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:03 am |
  13. Hunter

    Mormons are good people. The members of the LDS faith have a 20% chance of divorce and considering that in the east coast Divorce rate is up to 60% and on the west coast it's at around 60-70% I would say that even if the religion makes no sense in the end it will keep your family together and that should be whats most important.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:59 am |
    • James

      Could that be because women are still the property of their husbands, and thus divorce is forbidden except in specific cases, such as infidelity?

      October 30, 2011 at 4:18 am |
    • ronbry55

      NO. Wives are NOT considered property, but rather, they are co-equals in a relationship. Divorce is decided by the law, not the Church, although a couple who's marriage is in distress will be urged to get counseling and try to save the marriage.

      October 30, 2011 at 5:24 am |
    • rhett

      Forbidden? Because religions suddenly have that power??? Please think before you type. A judge grants a divorce not a religious leader....

      October 30, 2011 at 7:03 am |
  14. paperboy111

    Puff piece. Not sure what it is designed to do, other than sell Mitt Romney to the American Public.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:57 am |
    • James

      At that, it fails spectacularly.

      What we really need is a pagan President. One who understands the concept of keeping religion OUT of politics.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:18 am |
    • ronbry55

      The interesting thing here is that Romney is not bring up religion. He knows that the president should be elected based on his platform and vision for the country – not his religion. The only ones bringing up religion are the media and the evangelicals.

      October 30, 2011 at 5:28 am |
  15. DC Johnny

    For those of us keeping score at home, let's examine the link to this story as it exists on CNN's main page right now:

    "From family home evenings and a fatal French car crash..."

    Leave it to CNN – representing the mainstream anti-change media – to paint a picture of an evil Romney, who probably committed some sort of manslaughter during his youth.

    That's exactly what they're trying to portray with this story.

    All you see anymore on this site is ugly pictures of GOP hopefuls, with misleading stories about their pasts.

    Sadly for the media, the Independent public has awoken, and the status quo will be changed, with or without the approval of CNN and MSNBC and the rest.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:55 am |
    • James

      Anyone who would inflict their religion upon the masses through his political seat is evil. We were founded on the concept of SEPARATION of Church and State, because our Founding Fathers saw the struggle between the Church of England and the Church of Rome as the terrorist state that it was.

      You want a good person to be President? Find someone who, when asked about his beliefs, responds "no comment."

      October 30, 2011 at 4:23 am |
    • ronbry55

      That's basically what Romney is doing – No Comment. You don't find him talking about his beliefs. They're sacred to him. On the other hand, the media and the evangelicals can't stop blathering on about things they are very misinformed about.

      October 30, 2011 at 6:03 am |
  16. Bryan Beus

    Thank you CNN and Jessica Ravitz for the fact that as a part of this article you have helped to bridge the gap between how Mormons perceive themselves and how everyone else sees them. It shows on your part great empathy and an ability to place yourself in another person's perspective; I admire that. I am a Mormon and this is perhaps the first article that presents a detailed description of our faith and leaves me feeling that I've been seen as a human being trying to do my best, and not someone to be detested. Thanks again for this great example of how as Americans we can all try to understand and support one another.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:53 am |
    • Sircuts

      Yes thanks for reminding us he belongs to a cult.

      October 30, 2011 at 3:55 am |
    • James

      Sircuts, aren't ALL organized religions, by definition, cults?

      October 30, 2011 at 4:29 am |
    • ronbry55


      Thanks for using the "cult" word again. Whose definition for cult are you using today? Are you using the evangelicals definition which is "anybody we hate and let's make them sound like devil worshipers."

      Merriam Webster defines a cult as,
      1: formal religious veneration : worship
      2: a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents

      With that definition in mind, I guess the evangelicals are also in a cult.

      Now I apologize for sounding so harsh, but it gets very frustrating when I read these boards and see my sincere beliefs being twisted and spoken about with such malice. I just feel that I must defend my faith. When are we going to get away from this and do unto others, as He (Jesus Christ) has done unto us?

      October 30, 2011 at 5:19 am |
  17. Jim

    Great article for the next President of the United States – he's the best businessman running during a period of economic turmoil

    October 30, 2011 at 3:51 am |
  18. lovley

    So a better source for information comes from someone who is outside of it all? Shall we go get answers on how to eat healthy from people who sit on their couch all day and play video games?

    This article was based solely on people's word who knew Mitt. Not from Mitt himself or anyone else related to the church.
    It wasn't glossed as you say, still offering opposing sides. Just because something puts Mormons in a good light doesn't mean it is wrong or full of lies.

    October 30, 2011 at 3:45 am |
  19. Sircuts

    You want religion out of politics? Dont vote for a mormon because their religion is their politics.


    Utah-Mormon War
    Bringum Young
    Joseph Smith
    The Book Of Mormon

    October 30, 2011 at 3:44 am |
    • Samsword

      All of your references are to 19th century events/people?

      Those were drastically different times, with a different organizational structure. The Mormons have gotten out of their past, you should too.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:00 am |
    • JAK

      Care to reference anything from Romney's actual lifetime?

      October 30, 2011 at 4:14 am |
    • Sircuts

      Yes Romney calls them Prophets

      October 30, 2011 at 4:18 am |
    • ronbry55

      So he calls them prophets. What does that mean to us here today? Please be coherent.

      October 30, 2011 at 5:05 am |
  20. John

    @Sheik Yerbouti

    It's 4 AM, have you nothing better to do?

    October 30, 2011 at 3:38 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51
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.