February 5th, 2012
05:33 PM ET

Crossing the plains and kicking up dirt, a new Mormon pioneer

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

San Diego (CNN) – At a 1950s-style house nestled in a peaceful neighborhood nicknamed “Hanukkah Hill,” a smiling Buddha on the porch greets visitors – his arms raised as if to say all are welcome.

Affixed to the doorpost is a mezuzah, a decorative case holding blessings for a Jewish home. Inside, on the family’s refrigerator, hangs a magnet from the Feminist Mormon Housewives blog that says, “Jesus loves us. Who cares what you think?”

In the kitchen stands Joanna Brooks, an accidental, unofficial and admittedly unauthorized source for all things Mormon. She’s making “funeral potatoes,” a classic Mormon casserole, and heaped on the counter are the ingredients: a not-so-healthy dose of cheese, butter, sour cream, hash browns and chicken soup. Her Jewish husband strolls by, takes a look at what’s cooking, and grimaces. Bespectacled and freckled 6-year-old Rosa, standing atop a chair, proudly announces, “I’m Jewish and Mormon!”

The home and life Brooks has created is the product of a complicated journey.

She cannot separate The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from her identity any more than she can leave cheese out of funeral potatoes. But like her persecuted ancestors who braved the unforgiving plains to reach the promised land of what is now Utah, Brooks, 40, fights for her faith.

The battle has, at times, left her feeling beaten.

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

As a young feminist activist, she saw her beloved church excommunicate her intellectual heroes. She’s felt outrage and soul-crushing grief while watching her church mobilize against same-sex marriages. For about 10 years, she walked away.

But today a vintage postcard of a Mormon missionary boarding a plane sits on her desk to inspire. It reads, in part, “Dare to be different.”

She believes there’s room in the LDS Church for loving criticism and candid talk, that Latter-day Saints like her can not just belong but also serve – without fear of being cast out into the wilderness.

She’s staking her claim to Mormonism, writing about it for Religion Dispatches, debunking myths in national papers, speaking up on podcasts, radio shows and from stages, and offering advice in her column and blog, Ask Mormon Girl. She recently self-published her memoir, “The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith” and writes regularly for Feminist Mormon Housewives. Politico has named her, or specifically her Twitter account, one of the “50 Politicos to Watch.” All this while being an award-winning scholar, a published poet and, oh yeah, a department chair and professor of English and comparative literature at San Diego State University.

Click the audio player for a Q&A with Joanna Brooks from CNN Radio's John Lisk
Amid Mitt Romney’s presidential bid, the “I’m a Mormon” ad campaign and the smash-hit Broadway musical “Book of Mormon,”  this Obama supporter has emerged as a refreshing voice for media, hungry for frank discussion about her faith.

Her goal? To be her authentic self and humanize a tradition and people she couldn't love more.

“I just refuse to be ashamed of being Mormon,” she says. “Don’t talk about us like we’re not in the room.”

Embracing her difference

Growing up in California's Orange County, she often was the only Mormon in a room.  She was, she likes to say, “a root beer among the Cokes,” a reference to the caffeine-free drink that her faith permits.

She fantasized about her ancestors on the other side of the veil. Her father, a longtime LDS Church bishop – a volunteer pastor – said they knew her name and that her spirit would join them when she died.

She sang pioneer hymns in church on Sundays with other root beers. She kneeled and prayed to God each night before bed. By the time she was baptized at 8, she’d read cover-to-cover the Book of Mormon, the sacred text Latter-day Saints view as “another testament of Jesus Christ” and study in addition to the Bible.

Brooks, center, and her sisters learned early to be proud of and show off their Mormon pioneer heritage.

She learned to relish being different, even when born-again classmates, taught by their pastors to believe she was in a cult, scrawled warnings in her yearbook. When Marie Osmond, a visible Mormon to the non-Mormon world, winked into the TV camera on Friday nights, Brooks was sure the gesture was meant for her.

Along the way, there were glimpses of the woman she would become. Asked one year in grade school to write two term papers, she chose as her subjects the Equal Rights Amendment and Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS Church.

“I’m not making this up,” she says, laughing at what some may see as irony. “This is who I am.”

But in her traditional - what she calls “orthodox” - Mormon home, she was only exposed to pamphlets on women’s rights penned by Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative stalwart who railed against the ERA push.

At LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, the only college she ever considered attending, Brooks imagined the warm embrace of being among her people. Looking at those around her, at first she worried she was too different. But during orientation, an English professor quoted a verse from the Book of Mormon that she'd carry with her.

He denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

“I felt the knot of panic in my belly loosen and disappear,” she writes in her memoir. “Deep inside my chest, a door opened. Light and oxygen flooded the room.”

She gravitated to professors who shined the light on possibilities, devouring the words of Mormon poets and feminist historians.

All are alike unto God.

In the Student Review, an alternative and unofficial school paper, Brooks poked fun at university policies, interviewed polygamists, wrote about gay issues and simply didn’t shy away from matters most people were afraid to talk about.

While getting ready for church on Sundays, she blared Public Enemy.

Outside her circle of like-minded friends were people like John Dehlin, a staunchly conservative Mormon student who watched her from afar. Whether it was hot-button issues in the paper, pro-choice demonstrations at the state Capitol or night vigils and marches for rape victims, he says, Brooks was always involved.

“She didn't know me, but I knew her. I was torn between being uncomfortable and seeing her as dangerous, and respecting her for her courage and convictions.”

Brooks was riding an optimistic wave of change at BYU, when the tide suddenly shifted.

The early 1990s brought a LDS Church crackdown on intellectuals, feminists and activists who were perceived as being threats.

Professors at BYU lost their jobs. Others walked away in solidarity. In September 1993, six prominent Mormon scholars were excommunicated or disfellowshipped – stripped of certain religious rights, including access to LDS Church temples.

The day Brooks received her diploma, she handed it back in protest.

Wrestling with God

The still-warm funeral potatoes take their place on a picnic table crowded with treats in a La Jolla  park. Milling about are those who've gathered for a monthly meeting, a support group of sorts, under the auspices of an organization called Mormon Stories.

Some, like Brooks, are faithful churchgoing members. Others no longer attend services but long for cultural connections. For at least two of these Californians (one says she is a distant relative of Mitt Romney's), the day church leaders called on Mormons to support Proposition 8 – a 2008 ballot measure to prevent same-sex marriages – was the last time they sat in the pews. One first-time visitor shows up, her crisis of faith new and raw.

“I believed everything until two weeks ago,” she says, her expression one-part grief, the other anger.

Brooks understands those in painful transition. God knows she's been there.

After graduating from BYU, Brooks headed to Los Angeles to get her doctorate in English at UCLA. For about five years, she says she regularly went to church but was still reeling from “the purge” of so many mentors.

She wrestled internally. Each time the LDS Church galvanized its members behind the Defense of Marriage Act or supported initiatives that predated Prop 8, she felt like a cinderblock had been dropped on her heart. If her bishop asked how she was doing, she burst into tears.

“Whenever I went to church, I'd just cry,” she says. “So I just stopped. It was my way of saying 'uncle.' It was too much. I clearly needed time.”

Brooks retreated not just from church, but also from her liberal Mormon peers. She guarded her tongue and emotions around family.

Meantime, her life moved forward in other beautiful ways. She'd fallen hard for David Kamper, then a doctoral student in anthropology, “a sweet and soulful Jewish man from my California hometown: a man who saw no enmity in me, a man who would never put me on trial, a man who would never audit my heart for heresy,” she says in her memoir.

They met at a union party for teaching assistants. About two months into their relationship, she turned to him and said, “You know we're going to get married.”

When they did, some years later, she couldn't have a temple marriage, which allows two Mormons to be sealed for eternity in a sacred ceremony – a rite considered necessary to reach the highest level in heaven. Instead, their unconventional wedding blended their religious backgrounds.

When Kamper stomped on a glass, which marks the end of a Jewish wedding ceremony, Brooks knew she was in some way breaking her parents' hearts.

The oldest of four siblings, all dedicated Mormons, she still attended family events in the LDS Church during those years in self-imposed exile. Each visit made her ache with longing. She tried other Christian denominations, but none felt like home.

It was the birth of her daughters Ella and Rosa, now 8 and 6, that would eventually help bring her back. When she rocked them to sleep, she mindlessly sang a Mormon pioneer hymn, a reminder of those who walked before her.

Her faith journey was shaped, in part, by the birth of daughters Ella -- walking ahead with the family dog -- and Rosa.

She realized she had to be true to her spiritual needs and her legacy, not just for herself, but for her little girls. She began writing the book that would become her memoir, to help her heal and so they would someday understand their mother.

“I am an unorthodox Mormon woman with a fierce and hungry faith,” she writes. “Sometimes even in my own tradition I feel a long way from home. But I will keep on crossing as many plains as this life puts in front of me. I drag along my Jewish husband, my two daughters, and a trunk of difficult questions.”

Finding her way home

Slowly, in 2008, she dipped her cold feet back in the LDS Church waters.

Three months later, like a tsunami, came the push for Proposition 8.

“So I took another few months off. To shake my fist at God,” she wrote in a recent Ask Mormon Girl column. “That's what I did until the vote was over. And then I went back. Again.”

That wasn’t all she did, though. Once, during this hiatus from church, she returned to her childhood congregation for a new nephew’s naming and blessing. She squirmed in her seat as each talk and prayer mentioned the need to protect marriage, she recalls in her memoir.

Using Rosa, then 2, as an excuse, she went for a walk. On a hallway table she spotted clipboards holding data for “Yes on 8” voters, canvassing materials culled through hours and hours of work.

“My heart pounds. I look around. The hallways are clear,” she writes. Brooks snatched those papers and shoved them in her flowered diaper bag. She rushed outside, her heels clicking on pavement. Shielded by cars and with Rosa on her hip, she forced the papers down a metal sidewalk grate. “Still, I feel the weight of the cinderblock on my heart.”

When she could guard her tongue no longer, she decided to speak publicly at a rally opposing Prop 8. She held her breath as she sent her speech to her parents.

The next morning, she opened her e-mail to see this from her father: “ ‘We want you to know we love you. You have wanted a more just and loving world since you were a little girl,’ ” she recounts in her memoir. She then describes her reaction: “Tears drop on my keyboard. My chest heaves.”

Now her father is dying of ALS, an experience that’s made their differences irrelevant.

“My parents are very devoted Mormons, and they didn’t always know what to do with me,” she says. “But there’s nothing like a terminal illness to put things in perspective.”

In late 2009, she began writing about her Mormonism for others. Her first published piece was about raising interfaith children.

Brooks hopes that through her writing and speaking out she can help humanize Mormons, who are often misunderstood.

Perhaps no one was more relieved to see her name than John Dehlin, the BYU student who'd once watched her from afar.

He'd gone through his own faith crisis years after they graduated, and searched online for Brooks. He couldn't find her anywhere. When he saw her byline, he reached out immediately.

“Where have you been?” he asked. “We need you. We've always needed you.”

Dehlin created Mormon Stories in 2005, first as a podcast offering open conversations for those grasping for reasons to stay in the LDS Church, which he has. Now the group also runs conferences and online communities, as well as support groups, which are sprouting up across the globe.

Brooks didn't need Mormon Stories to get back to church. She'd worked through her struggle in her own way and own time. But realizing there were others like her out there – even if they weren't sitting next to her in church – gave her comfort. There's a kinship among those who want and need to speak freely.

The way Mormons show up for one another, she says, is part of what she loves most about her faith tradition. And while her “calling” may not be conventional or church-sanctioned, she's fulfilling a mandate to serve.

By being there for folks who are lost and looking to be found or are desperate to say things they don't feel safe uttering at church or to their families, she attends to those in need.

“Is there space for difference? People are feeling it out,” she says. “No one wants to start a new church. No one wants a schism.”

Some of her friends, especially those not in the LDS Church, have wondered why she didn't just walk away.

That might have been easier, and it's what most of her BYU friends did do. But she's shed tears and worked so hard to maintain her identity, faith and community because, like those who came before her, that's what Mormon pioneers do.

“I know who I am”

Scampering out of the garage, Mosi leads the way. The family dog - her name means "cat" in Navajo - tugs Brooks through the neighborhood on a walk that doubles as thinking time for this busy mother, professor and author.

On this afternoon, she talks about how carefully she must toe a line - one that allows her to be faithful, respectful and gently critical. She's emboldened knowing she doesn't walk alone. There are dozens and dozens like her who - thanks to blogs and social media - are also weighing in.

Brooks speaks on stages and radio programs. She also has been interviewed for documentaries, including one about Mormons in politics.

Not afraid to discuss touchy issues of race, polygamy, or same-sex marriages, Brooks says she's gotten plenty of mail from LDS Church members begging her to stop. They say she's not a spokesperson for the church, and she agrees – she isn't. She's not trying to be.

She believes this cautiousness of fellow Latter-day Saints, this fear of individually speaking up, isn't serving Mormons well. Instead of relying on church officials to read from scripts that sound likes scripts, she says, “People need to see us as human beings.”

The sacrifices of Mormons who’ve spoken out before her also help prod Brooks along. She has to trust that times are changing – that what happened to women like feminist Margaret Toscano won’t happen to her.

Toscano, 62, was excommunicated in 2000 – seven years after her husband. She recalls how the late 1970s Mormon supporters of the ERA were driven underground. She was among those who re-emerged in the late 1980s, only to face a slapdown. She says she personally knows hundreds who’ve walked away from the church over women’s issues.

She watches Brooks and others like her with hope, but not complete optimism. The ability of activists to do what they do while in the church, Toscano says, comes and goes at the whim of whoever is in charge.

Others who watch Brooks may be concerned about the company she keeps.

She knows there are those who fear her association with “apostates,” but she shrugs this off. “It’s not a concern for me. I know who I am.”

Who she is and what she believes rankles Ralph Hancock, a political science professor at BYU who’s taken her on in an LDS blog review called The Bulwark. Simply put, he says in an e-mail, “Joanna thinks or assumes that Mormonism is compatible with (or intrinsically drawn toward?) a contemporary liberal-progressive agenda – and I think not.”

But not all conservatives are bothered by her work.

At the helm of the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR), an organization that defends the LDS Church from detractors, is president Scott Gordon. He may not agree with many of her positions, but he’s glad she’s out there.

She shows the “plurality of thought within Mormonism,” he says, and has taken on characterizations of Mormons in the press in a way that’s made him want to cheer.

LDS Church officials have never contacted Brooks directly, she says. And they wouldn’t comment directly on her or her work for this story.

While Brooks will speak openly about the church she loves, warts and all, she has limits. She refuses to feed the uninformed, broad-brush sensationalism so many use to paint her often misunderstood faith. That's why she graciously turned down a recent request from a History Channel producer who, among other things, hoped Brooks could show how she uses a “seer stone” – a prophetic tool used by LDS Church founder Joseph Smith.

“Are you kidding me!” Brooks says, remembering what went through her head but never came out of her mouth. “That's like asking David [her Jewish husband] if he knows how to sacrifice animals.”

Back from the walk, she rounds up the family to head out to dinner.

Over pizzas at a long table in the Blind Lady Ale House, her husband joins friends in sharing tastes of microbrews. Brooks didn't always follow the Mormon rules to abstain from coffee, tea and alcohol. But with her renewed commitment to the church, she does now.

Among her friends here are two women with whom she leads a Girl Scout troop. Giggling at the far end of the table are their daughters, members of what they like to call “the rogue Brownie troop.”

More important to them than competitive cookie peddling are missions these moms can get behind: a tour of an organic farm, an environmental cleanup activity and a food drive for AIDS patients.

Leaving the other adults to their beers, Brooks heads outside with the four girls. Soon the little ones are marching up and down the sidewalk, arms linked, shouting something that leaves passersby smiling.

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight! Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!”

Brooks has spontaneously taught them the intro to the television classic “Laverne & Shirley.”

She hooks her arms with them as they scream, “Again! Again!” She coaches their footwork and matches their youthful enthusiasm. She wonders, as an afterthought, if she’s got that “hasenpfeffer” word right.

Reaching into a pocket, Brooks pulls out her smartphone and says with a sheepish grin, “Let me check my seer stone.”

On white people, lipstick and the sacrament

It's a Sunday morning, and the family is getting ready for church. Kamper serves up pancakes before racing off to change. Ella and Rosa look over their visitor to make sure she's dressed appropriately. Modest skirt and sleeves? Check.

“Church is a good place,” Rosa says. She bounds past a globe of the world and a child-sized drum set to grab a book from the playroom shelf.

“Read this,” she orders, handing over “How Does the Holy Ghost Make Me Feel?” “This'll teach you about church.”

Rosa shows off their food storage, recommended by the LDS Church in case of disasters.

In the kitchen, Brooks holds up the New York Times Sunday Review and rails against Lee Siegel's Mitt Romney-related opinion piece, “What's Race Got to Do With It?

“ 'Mormonism is still imagined by its adherents as a religion founded by whites, for whites, rooted in a millenarian vision of an America destined to fulfill a white God's plan for earth,' ” she reads aloud. And then, swatting the paper with the back of her hand, she asks, “Is there fact checking involved?”

She knows of the millions of LDS Church members dotting the globe in Africa, Asia and Latin America. And the Japanese-American, Filipino-American, black and Hispanic members in her own ward, or congregation. Later that night, she'll write her response. In this moment, Ella turns her attention to the diversity of American Girl dolls.

Scattered across a sofa are Rebecca, a Russian-Jewish girl from New York; Kaya, a Native American from the Nez Perce tribe; and Kirsten, who wears a bonnet.

“Mommy,” Ella screams, racing out of the room, “Did you know Kirsten's a pioneer girl?”

With her daughters loaded in the Prius, Brooks takes the wheel and tunes in Bob Marley. The girls start rifling through her purse in the backseat. They gob on her lipstick.

“Great,” she says, peering in the rearview mirror. “They're getting tarted up for church.”

Lipstick wiped off, they stroll inside. Brooks takes a seat in the back, and the girls dart up the aisle to sit with friends.

Who Brooks is outside of church is of no consequence. If anyone does follow her work, she says, “No one is up in my grill.” When she's here, she's here for spiritual sustenance – to pray, take the sacrament, and connect with and serve her community.

Bags crowding her feet hold the coffee cake she'll take to the Sunday school class she'll teach later, the Jeopardy-style game she's devised for today's lesson, and reading materials and toys to keep kids occupied.

The LDS Church's children's magazine features a story about Mormons in Tonga. Brooks spots her visitor reading it and whispers, “See how focused we are on white people?”

A little boy scoots a toy car along the floor. Stacked on a chair above him, next to hymnals, are “Curious George” books in Spanish.

Her husband sits down beside her, his arm around her shoulder. Kamper shows up because who she is, what she needs for herself and their kids, matters to him. Her acceptance of his Judaism, the fact that she's never suggested he convert, has helped him get over what the couple jokingly refer to as his “Jesus allergy.” He doesn't take the sacrament when it's offered and admits he sometimes passes on saying “amen” to church prayers.

“They don't know what the hell to make of me,” he says. But ever since he fell in love with Brooks, this trained ethnographer has been a close observer of Mormons. He feels embraced by her parents now, but that took time. Her father once challenged Kamper to read the Book of Mormon and accept the missionary lessons, visits from LDS teachers. Kamper figured it was the least he could do, but it didn't lead him into a baptismal font.

Unable to play an official role during Mormon family ceremonies, like baby namings, he accepts his job as the designated microphone holder. Someday he'll tell his nephews, “If you get busted and go to jail, call Uncle David.”

Here in church, his role is supportive husband. Kamper strokes Brooks' back when she weeps. Tears fall when her eyes close in prayer.

In a small classroom afterward, she meets with four high school students, three of whom are heading to BYU in the fall. When she meets with them, she says she sees herself at their age.

The Book of Mormon, the introduction of an additional scripture, “was a bold claim,” she tells them. “I think that's why Mormons are bold. We're OK being different.”

Trusting God’s plan

The girls plop down at the kitchen table, feasting on leftover funeral potatoes. They start humming the “Muppet Show” theme song and then, after rattling off some of their favorite Simon and Garfunkel titles, bust into the chorus of “Mrs. Robinson.”

And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson,
Jesus loves you more than you will know,
Wo, wo, wo.
God bless you, please, Mrs. Robinson,
Heaven holds a place for those who pray,
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey.

Each night at dinner, the girls lead the family in prayer. Sometimes their words are inspired by their Mormonism; other times they honor the Jewish side of themselves.

They're being raised to be part of both religious traditions. They celebrate Christmas, Easter and Pioneer Day, which marks the day in 1847 when Mormon pioneers first entered now-Utah. The family also observes Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover. Because Kamper likes to host a big Passover seder each year, Brooks decided the family would also host a Mormon seder on Pioneer Day, featuring her favorite recipes, including her “Green Goddess” Jell-o salad.

One month the girls attend Sunday school at church; the next they can be found in Hebrew school.

“It can be challenging because I have to learn one thing and then another thing,” Ella says. “But it can be fun, too, because I know I'm special.”

Brooks doesn't worry about their kids. All she can do is be responsible for her own choices and give them a rich spiritual life, she says. They'll be free to decide what path they want to travel. “God has a plan for everyone, and everything is going to work out,” she says. “I'm not afraid for them.”

Nor is Kamper, though he admits he's starting to realize some rabbis might balk if the girls want bat mitzvahs.

Ella describes how she feels in church.

“I feel comfortable because I'm in God's house. And I also feel comfortable because I know lots of people love me,” she says.

Her parents smile at each other. They want to know if she feels like she's in God's house at synagogue.

“No, but I feel like God's watching over me,” she answers.

Ella then offers to share a typical prayer she and Rosa might recite.

“We fold our arms and close our eyes,” she instructs. “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this food and this family. Please bless those who are sick... And if I was going to sleep,” she decides to add, “Please help me so I won't have nightmares. And if I do, send the Holy Ghost down to comfort me. I say these things in Jesus' name. Amen.”

Seconds later, she and her younger sister switch gears.

“Shema, Yisrael. Adonai Eloheinu. Adonai echad,” they sing, the translation being, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.”

Across the kitchen, their mother’s voice rises in perfect Hebrew, too.

It's a Jewish prayer sung by a faithful Mormon who believes “all are alike unto God.” And she sings it with every bit of her pioneer spirit.

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Judaism • Mormonism • Politics • Same-sex marriage • Women

soundoff (1,778 Responses)
  1. madonfan

    To all. Do you really think if the bible was outlandish that so many people would die for a cause they were "iffy" about? Jesus is Lord and will be coming back to claim His kingdom. God didn't establish denominations. He established the church at Pentecost. Non-denominational teaching is the only way to go. That is the only way to the Father. Anything else, is man-made and fabricated. Look at the dead sea scolls. Found in our time for us to find. No mistakes with God. The Holy Spirit confirms His truth unmistakeably. If anyone is interested, my church is http://www.reliancechurch.org. We are non-denominational, and you can hear our services online. You can get previous ones too. Take a listen and see if God's conviction moves you....:) Blessings everyone! Love you all!

    February 17, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  2. Amber

    It is disgusting how many judgmental, ignorant, and hateful things have been posted on this message board. I think this is a beautiful family – kudos to them for raising their children in a loving, open, and thoughtful home. I have no doubt that their girls will have a wonderful world view when they grow up. Why can't we respect each other, regardless of our differences in religious belief (or lack thereof) or how we choose to raise our own children?

    February 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  3. dx2718

    Leaving cheese out of funeral potatoes? Forget the fact that I've never heard of funeral potatoes, but what if its a Jewish funeral and the food is flashik (meat)? Presumably then you need to leave out the cheese...

    February 17, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  4. Abinadi

    Why was it necessary for Joseph Smith to restore the true church of Jesus Christ to the earth when the Lord had already established it ? The earth was not ready for the church during the Roman Occupation. The world was a brutal place and began killing the early Christians and the apostles. Paul was a prophet and knew that the true gospel would be lost for a time. In 2 Thessalonians 2 he said, “1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
    2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
    3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;”

    The early apostles also knew, however, that the church would be restored in the latter days and in anticipation of that great day they spoke directly to you and me in Acts 3, "19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
    20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
    21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of rest itution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”
    Can a thing be restored that has not been lost? We are indeed greatful to the great reformers for their sacrifices and work to prepare the way for the true gospel of Jesus Christ to be restored to the earth. They were like John the Baptist, who prepared the way for our Lord Jesus Christ. But, just like John the Baptist had to diminish while the Lord increased, so the protestant churches also need to diminish and give place to the true church. They have done their work and must end. I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. I invite you to visit mormon.org for more information.

    February 17, 2012 at 2:33 am |
  5. F.E.S.

    Hello, my name is Elder Price
    And I would like to share with you the most amazing book
    Hello, my name is Elder Graham
    It's a book about America a long, long time ago

    February 16, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Tina

      It has ... so many AWESOME parts!! :0)

      February 17, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  6. k

    Believe and obey only ONE God. Every time humanity deviated from this path, God sent down His of prophets (Noah, Ibrahim, Mosses Jesus and Mohammed were among thousands) who carried this single message to the whole humanity (And they all had the highest moral standards). That is the message of Islam.

    God speaks to the whole humanity through His book Quran..

    “Proclaim, He is the One and only GOD. The Absolute GOD. Never did He beget. Nor was He begotten. None equals Him." [112:1]

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    “…anyone who murders any person who had not committed murder or horrendous crimes, it shall be as if he murdered all the people. And anyone who spares a life, it shall be as if he spared the lives of all the people....." Qur'an [5:32]

    Most exalted is the One in whose hands is all kingship, and He is Omnipotent.The One who created death and life for the purpose of distinguishing those among you who would do better. Quran [67.2]

    Subsequent to them, we sent Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the previous scripture, the Torah. We gave him the Gospel, containing guidance and light, and confirming the previous scriptures, the Torah, and augmenting its guidance and light, and to enlighten the righteous. Quran [5:46]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to clear your misconception by going to whyIslam org website.

    O people of the scripture, do not transgress the limits of your religion, and do not say about GOD except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was a messenger of GOD, and His word that He had sent to Mary, and a revelation from Him. Therefore, you shall believe in GOD and His messengers. You shall not say, "Trinity." You shall refrain from this for your own good. GOD is only one god. Be He glorified; He is much too glorious to have a son. To Him belongs everything in the heavens and everything on earth. GOD suffices as Lord and Master. Quran [4:171]

    February 16, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  7. Joe citizen abroad

    This is the story of an adult woman still trying to deal with the damage of being raised in a dysfunctional, authoritarian culture that doesn't make sense. This isn't exclusive to LDS churches. It happens in protestant churches, Catholic churches, mosques, temples and synagogues all over the world. I challenge everyone to take a hard look at the prejudice, bigotry, isolationism, inequality and hate propagated by their own religions, and follow this woman's example by defying it.

    February 16, 2012 at 8:13 am |
  8. dustbunny

    Check it out, there is nothing false in the Nicene Creed, basically its a broad over view of what the church believes and teaches, and if you are a catholic then Jesus(the son) God(the father) and the holy spirit were all the same person, because "Jesus was begotten not made, one in being with the father" and if you believe 'in one true god, through him all things were made' then how could Jesus not be God, one in the same. because if they are two separate beings then you really cant believe in one true god huh? Secondly, if you believe in the teachings of the bible, then the second coming of Christ would signify the end of the world, so by the Mormon belief structure(Jesus came to America), technically the world should have ended already. In conclusion, you sir, need to study up on your religious facts. Even though you are in a cult, that's cool this is America, you can do that, but at least know what you are talking about before you go ranting about how everyone is wrong but your cult. Also, please tell your Mormon buddies to stop baptizing dead people, if they didn't want to be cultist while they were alive, they probably don't want to be cultist now that they are dead.

    February 15, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Dear dustbunny, You are basically accepting the Nicene Creed as scripture equal to the Bible. All scripture comes from prophets as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost. There were no prophets present in the Nicene Council. It was presided over by a pagan emperor of Rome. God declared through Amos, " 7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." Now, we must ask ourselves if God would really reveal new doctrine through an instrument like the Nicene council. If he did, he would be breaking with everything he did and said in the Bible. The Nicene council is simply not in harmony with the teachings of the Bible.

      February 17, 2012 at 1:08 am |
    • Abinadi

      If you are Catholic, you should know your own history. I was recently reading about Pope Alexander VI of Banquet of Chestnuts fame and who sold the papacy for money to the highest bidder.

      February 17, 2012 at 2:24 am |
    • Abinadi

      It is well docu mented that many popes achieved the office through murder. You must ask yourself if God, who is Holy, would really run his church through such men. We must come to the inescapable conclusion that the church had apostacised from the truth and was not the church that Christ established.

      February 17, 2012 at 2:26 am |
  9. natalia

    didnt jesus tell us to love one another as he loved us?weather we belive the mormons are wackjobs or we belive that they are not bad people ,it shouldnt matter we should love eatchother .i mean isnt that what being a christian is all about?following the doctrines of christ?they may be a bit outrageous but hell,at least they love everyone .im just saying.negativity never got anyone anywhere.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • T-Max73

      Among other supposed sayings, yes. But it was also Jesus who admonished those who do not believe in his teachings to "depart into everlasting fire." This is most certainly not love. Jesus is not the most desirable of moral teachers-we can do much better than following the rambling dictates of a bronze age Rabbi. Read your Bible; there are dozens and dozens of instances in which God (Jesus, if you believe in the Trinity bologna) kills innocent people who cross him. No, think for yourself and don't get your morality from an ancient book-we know so very much more now than we did 2,000 years ago. Peace.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • common sense

      "Innocent People?" Read Romans and you'll find very quickly that there are no "innocent people" For we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If god wishes to take life, its his will and it is Just....So....Read your bible

      February 15, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  10. CEH

    I think it's wonderful that this woman has decided to come back to church, but it is not a "cafeteria-style" religion. At the end of the day, you don't pick and choose what you believe, you have to have faith that this is the Lord's one and only completely true church, and that even though there are issues or doctrines we don't fully understand, we have to take them on faith that the Lord is in charge, and He is directing the living prophets and apostles today, as leaders in the church.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Paula

      Thank you, I couldn't have said it better.....100% agree 🙂

      February 16, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      So basically – don't ask questions, just believe.
      Oh, and make sure you pay up your 10% or no Celestial Kingdom for you.
      Remember – if faced with teh choice of feeding your family or paying your ti/the, the church's official position is that your kids should starve.

      February 16, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Abinadi

      No, Doc, we believe that we must learn to put our faith in Jesus Christ who never fails us. You believe in putting your trust in the arm of flesh which seems to work for a time, but, in the long run, and in reality, does not work. I have tried both systems and know what I am talking about. You have tried only one and don't know what you are talking about.

      February 17, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Abinadi

      I quote the 23 psalm: "1 (A Psalm of David.) The LORD [is] my shepherd; I shall not want.

      2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

      3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

      4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou [art] with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

      5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

      6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever."

      David was an ordinary shepherd boy who was intimately acquainted with the Lord and put his faith and trust in him only, and not in his own abilities, and achieved great success. Doc has never tried David's formula for success and so doesn't know what he is talking about. I have tried both and can say that putting our faith in the Lord works consistently where putting our faith in the arm of flesh appears to work for a time, but then fails every time. I have observed nonreligious people achieve some measure of financial success, but but they end up losing something else more valuable, like their family. They end up miserable and unhappy. Faith in Jesus Christ is much more than that. Through faith in Christ I have not only achieved some financial success, but I also have a loving wife of 38 years and a fine family – six fine sons and daughters who bless my name instead of curse me. That is the real measure of success. Success is nothing without happiness!

      February 17, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  11. Lucifer

    If you think that magic underwear is hot, wait until all the Mormons are down here with me. they will be right next to the ones in the process of destroying the DOLLAR. Without cash, it's much harder to acquire souls. nobody wants just the 'fame' when they ask to be 'rich and famous.' LOL

    February 15, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  12. babs

    Sola Scriptura is a farce. Protestants would do well to remember that the Bible that they so revere as inerrant is the product of interpretation by the Catholic Church through the ages before protestantism was ever conceived.

    February 15, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  13. babs

    Sola Scriptura is a farce. Protestants would do well to remember that the Bible that they so revere is inerrant is the product of interpretation by the Catholic Church through the ages before protestantism was ever conceived.

    February 15, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  14. picanto


    canto BRGY. P A N G I N A Y
    Complaints po mula sa GOVT & INC dahil sa part'n ISSUES *
    Ang programa ng ahensya para sa “H RIGHTS ay tulong lamang ng tao lugar para kin

    February 14, 2012 at 1:38 am |
  15. xyfbx

    I am not a real active Mormon, but I find that use of logic applied to matters of the Mormon faith to be so funny. I was out to lunch with a friend who was evangelical and we talked about the nature of God. His beliefs all come the Nicene Creed and he quoted the "no other God before me" line. I found it sad that the simple truths that Christ taught us could be so easily misunderstood. At his baptism he taught us about God and about his own role to full fill all righteous and the role of the Holy Spirit to bare witness. His role was further explained in how he taught us to pray to God in his name, explaining else where that no one comes to the Father but through Him. Isn't the fact he was the Son of God necessitate that there is a Father and a Son. To me there is so many people deceived so fully that they do not question the lunacy of their own beliefs. It is a good thing that god loves us all anyway.

    February 13, 2012 at 7:19 pm |

      quest &morgan
      canto BRGY. P A N G I N A Y
      Complaints po mula sa GOVT & INC dahil sa part'n ISSUES *
      Ang programa ng ahensya para sa “H RIGHTS ay tulong lamang ng tao lugar para kin

      February 14, 2012 at 1:37 am |
  16. dats right

    Another coke head dies. Big deal. And Beonce's baby is ugly. What did they name it, Blue Spider or something?

    February 13, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • tim-tam

      what has this got to do with the story?

      February 14, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  17. Balance?

    The MagusNYC wrote:

    "Mormon.org is deceptive, using the terms Father, Son and Holy Spirit in ways quite distinct from Christianity, which is their right. Check out http://www.irr.org for balance."

    Using this logic, I should ask the Nazi's about Judaism after speaking to a Jewish person so I can get a "balanced" viewpoint of who Jewish people are and what they believe.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Abinadi

      adj. Professing belief in Jesus as Christ or following the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus.
      adj. Relating to or derived from Jesus or Jesus's teachings.
      adj. Manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus; Christlike.
      adj. Relating to or characteristic of Christianity or its adherents.
      adj. Showing a loving concern for others; humane.
      n. One who professes belief in Jesus as Christ or follows the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus.
      n. One who lives according to the teachings of Jesus.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  18. Abinadi

    Amos 3 says, " 7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." The Bible is consistent. Jesus Christ is the "chief cornerstone" of his church. That means that he, himself, is the leader of his church and reveals his will through his prophet. There has always been a prophet on the earth when he has had a covenant people.
    Ephesians 2 says, "19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;" 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;"
    Jesus never intended that his saints (Christ's covenant people) be left without his personal direction, "14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;" (Ephesians 14).
    We don't denegrate in any way the great reformers. They prepared the way for the true gospel to be restored, just like John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus Christ,and we honor them. But, they have done their work and their followers must give way to the higher truth. There is a living prophet on the earth today and twelve apostles! You can read their words on lds.org or mormon.org. The gospel is restored!

    February 10, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  19. Minopl

    Mormons suck!

    February 10, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • U2

      Now we know what you think. You're probably the type of person who'd drag Mormons kicking and screaming into the gas chamber. A true Nazi, you are!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • markd

      to U2

      or maybe he just thinks Mormons suck!

      February 15, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  20. ironette

    Mormons are not Christians. They preach & teach a false Gospel. Getting to know a person personally does not change the fact that the truth is the truth & a lie is a lie. I have had mormons try to convert me & half of them don’t even know as much as I do about their own religion. I do not know it all but, I know enough to know how very bad all the teaching is. They are very secretive & ask you to pray before you read the book of Mormon & then you will know it is true. There is no archeological evidence for any of what Joseph Smith wrote while in Christianity there are scores of evidence of the cities that the bible speaks of. Remember the bible (which the mormons do say they agree with) says that the heart is deceitful , so do not listen to your heart. Listen to the truth.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • momoya

      If you read the bible with the same critical eye with which your read the book of mormon, you'll see that they are both equally outlandish fairy tales.

      February 10, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      There are scores of evidence of teh places that the Epic of Gilgamesh speaks of.
      Do you believe in a 3/4 divine ancient Babylonian king who ruled for 125 years?
      Ancient Greece was real, but that doesn't mean that the Iliad is historically accurate.

      February 10, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Abinadi

      Actually, Ironette, It is the Protestants and Catholics who have changed the true doctrine and who are preaching a false gospel. A good example is the Nicene creed. The Nicene Creed is nowhere in the Bible. It was totally fabricated by Constantine and his council of pagans, Capadocians, Nicenes, Gnostics, Arians, Apolinarians, Greek mystics and others who had an agenda. Constantine didn't know any doctrine. He just wanted peace in his empire from all the factions who were fighting over doctrine. He just settled for the first thing that the majority could agree with. The sad thing is that there were probably people there who knew the truth, but couldn't prevail over all the other factions – doctrine by committee! Paul would not have approved of the mess christianity is in. He said, "5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism," (Ephesians 4) Obviously, there can not be more than one true church or more than one true doctrine. The question is, which one? We invite all to visit mormon.org for the answer. Christ taught the true doctrine of the Godhead when he suffered himself to be baptized by John. In Luke 3:21,22 we read, "21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
      22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased."

      This is the true doctrine of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost which was taught by the Bible – that the Father and Son are two separate beings. Funny, the smartest religious leaders have been reading the Bible for 2000 years but it took a 14 year old boy to point out the obvious!

      February 10, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • psion13

      The Easter Bunny is very clearly made up, Santa Claus on the other hand is obviously real, how else do kids get all those toys...I tend to go with fairness in these types of issues, so my vote is for the religion that can lay claim to oldest: Hinduism (as much as stories made up by a bunch of apes can be True). Seek truth. E=hv.

      February 15, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Paula

      Oh C'mon how can you be so ignorant? 'mormon' is like a nickname ....the name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints...so if you take your time to analyze you'll see that Christianism comes from Christ dahhhh....Using your brain sometimes wouldn't hurt!!!!

      February 16, 2012 at 1:08 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.