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)

    How could the people of LDS be good people when they don't even care about the poor? At least that is what Mitt Romney said!

    February 6, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • sara

      and that thing about getting planets is insane

      February 6, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • John Rea

      He said he was not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net. He also said if the safety net is broken he will fix it. I love how the liberals take things out of context and zero in on stupid, irrevelent things.
      Also, just because one Mormon says something doesn't mean ALL MORMONS believe that. Another rediculous statement made by an obvious Mormon-hater.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • John Rea

      And Sara...just because you don't comprehend something doesn't make it "insane".

      February 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Spencer

      Just look up "Welfare Square" if you don't think LDS people care about the poor.... Or better yet Google "most charitable state"
      and see where Utah is ranked by Forbes.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  2. The Flamingo Kid


    February 6, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  3. AnnaRose

    Excellent article. Glad to see it posted here. Kudos to Ms Brooks for all the hard work she is doing, and kudos, too to Mr Brooks for supporting his wife in what she does...and not nagging at HER to convert to Judaism.

    It's great to see such a successful and supportive marriage out there.

    February 6, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  4. Hooligan

    No faith is squeaky clean and no faith today is not without those who abuse it for their selfish wants and needs.

    People of one faith accusing others of lack of morality is like the pot calling the kettle black

    February 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • renster

      One faith is squeaky clean: Atheism.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • bff

      Lets not get into calling atheism a faith. But it is pretty squeaky though.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Liv

      Well said

      February 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Joe T.

      renster, I'm an atheist and even I know that isn't true.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  5. rgr

    Acceptance of modern revelation is fundamental to Mormon belief. The Church was founded on this principle and is guided today in like manner. Members of the Church are encourage to study and to seek personal confirmation regarding church doctrines. But, we also believe that our church leaders receive revelation needed to counsel members in respect to correct principles. Therefore, we are taught that marriage is decreed in heaven as a sacred union between a man and a woman. As such, we come to understand that the security of the home and society in general is best served as we adhere to this principle. Members of the church who, through their own reasoning, reject this position also reject the counsel of their leaders and find themselves in a difficult position. They wish to persuade the church to conform to their personal belief, based on intellectual study but, in so doing, they disregard the guidance of inspired leaders whom they have vowed to sustain.

    February 6, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • bff

      so these people have no choice but to leave the LDS, right? What happens to their relationshipts with LDS members when that happens?

      February 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • LaGryphon

      "they disregard the guidance of inspired leaders whom they have vowed to sustain."-–thank you for confirming by your obvious testimonial to your religion of the strict adherence to your church leaders by "vowing" to sustain. CULT CULT CULT!!

      February 6, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  6. Liv

    This is a great article, thank you for posting it.

    February 6, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  7. BL

    The only difference between a cult and a religion is the number of followers. That said, with it's bizarre origins, dark history and science fiction belief system, by modern standards, it's a cult.

    February 6, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Spencer

      There's 14 millions Mormons...That's pretty big.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  8. Spud J Dog

    another steaming pile about magical figures that direct peoples' lives. Everybody wants to believe they won't really die but will go to magical places and be happy forever.
    Just get over it and run your own life. BTW, leave other peoples' lives alone.

    February 6, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  9. DOUG

    Freedom of religion, amazing how so many are intolerant of others religion, mainly those who worship a Messiah who resides in Washington DC currently. They will be praying toward Chicago 5 times a day come 2013 and I respect their right to do so.

    February 6, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • ProgressiveMike

      Give the paranoia and delusion a rest already, huh?

      February 6, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  10. ryan c

    Mitt Romney getting his wish, non-stop Mormon talk on CNN. Please stop pretending that this cult is 'news'. No, I won't join, go away....

    February 6, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Liv

      If the LDS church is a cult then why didn't it die when their leader died? Stop being an ignorant American and see the good in people. LDS people are terrific people, you should get to know them instead of being insulting.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • bff

      The question isn't about how good or bad LDS people are. It is how true/untrue the doctrins are. Agree?

      February 6, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Liv

      Well maybe to you thats what it meant, but i am reading a bunch of garbage on here about how stupid LDS people are. If there are people on here that don't believe the LDS religion then thats fine, but when they start tearing down other people's faith thats when I get concerned. I feel this way about any religion.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Liv, lots of cults have members that don't survive without them. That doesn't mean that the LDS is not a cult. It is a cult. You need to look into what makes a cult a cult and you will see it. Jehovah's Witnesses fall right into that category.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • bff

      A religion is just a set of ideas. Ideas are up for scrutiny. If you are convinced that these ideas are true, then you should not be afraid to accept the criticism.
      The truth is not afraid, is a well known axiem. So my question to you would be why you believe the doctrins of your religion?

      February 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  11. ggillis

    The mormon church helped take away my right to marry who I love. I have no respect for them and its appalling that they are paying to have their tarnished reputation re-imaged. Please go away. Its nothing more that a legitimized cult!

    February 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Bill the Cat

      Marriage has NEVER been a right.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • 'Merica Joe

      Sorry to hear that ggiliis. Those psychos stole away a girl I cared about too. She is so messed now, that she isnt anything like the wonderful girl she used to be. They preyed on all her weaknesses just to add one more to their cult. I hope your heart break wasnt as bad as mine

      February 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  12. Spencer

    I'm LDS, and I promise most of us are pretty normal, down to earth people. You can google David Archuleta (the American Idol singer), Brandon Flowers, (lead singer of the Killers), Jimmer Fredette, Steve Young, Danny Ainge, etc. It's a little funny the media is paying so much attention to it to be honest. I personally feel a person's morals are convictions are far more important for a president to have than what faith he belongs to.

    February 6, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Maybe they pay attention to it because it is a bizarre cult?

      February 6, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • bff

      I believe you, that you are normal.
      But why do you believe these things that are clearly made up?

      February 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Spencer

      Sorry, meant to write..."and convictions"

      February 6, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Willie

      You forgot to mention Jim McMahon. He went to BYU in spite of the mormons!

      February 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • LaGryphon

      Maybe you are normal but explain to the world Kolob, becoming god's someday, polygamy in the 3rd degree of the celestial kingdom, Joseph Smith's different versions of his 1st vision, Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon by looking into a hat like Abraham Lincoln wore using a "peep stone", the Adam-God doctrine, blood oaths in your temple prior to 1990....I could keep going on and on. The world should discover what you believe and when they do the world cult will be assigned to your so called religion.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Spencer

      @LaGryphon I honestly could put into context all of our "weird" beliefs, but you would have to listen for a few hours. All those things you brought up, there's an un-officicial LDS website that answers those questions called "FAIR" just google fair lds .org if you have the time.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  13. Dr. Kolob

    Great article. Worth a lot more than a basketfull of "Are Morrmons Christian?" articles.
    1. I wish LDS had 10 million more Joana Brookses. Maybe they would reform. But too many LDSers are sheep, afraid.
    2. Mormon scholars and dissenter are some of my heroes - the Tanners, Toscano, Thomas W. Murphy, D. Michael Quinn, Grant H. Palmer, etc. Brave and inspiratioinal.They sacrifieced much.
    3. What I don't understand is how people like Joanna reconcile LDS history and teachings that are non-Christian. LIke god was once a man, that good mormons become gods of their own planets, that god told JOseph that all other denominations were an "abomination" to him. That she, her kids and her husband will all have to be baptized in a Mormon ceremony (after they die?) if they are to get to heavan. How does Joanna's psyche deal with the abosultely horrible doctrine and bad behavior? Like the research that has proved JS was not a translator of anything (ref Book of Abraham, KInderhook Plates).
    4. I cannot fathom the Cultural Mormonism that Joanna seeks comfort from. Joanna: Ditch the curtural Mormonism and find yourself a progressive Anabaptist congregation. You will feel more at home. And they will probably let you bring your Funeral Potatoes, green Jell-O and root beer.

    February 6, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Nathan

      Mormonism is the most scripturally adherent of all the Christ believing religions. My view is that if she can't find comfort in the doctrines of the LDS church then she should probably explore options outside organized religion. To jump to another church that is maybe more comfortable with her belief system but further separated from rational scripture interpretation is just wasting the precious time she has in this life for finding happiness.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • LaGryphon

      Nathan and I'm quoting you....."Mormonism is the most scripturally adherent of all the Christ believing religions. My view is that if she can't find comfort".... explain how the book of Abraham that Joseph Smith translated is actually an Egyptian funeral rite...."the most scripturally adherent of all the Christ believing religions"? Everything about the LDS religion is based on a hoax and the Book of Mormon cannot be substantiated through archeological finds. Supposedly a society of the magnitude the Book of Mormon describes would leave evidence of their existance and none can be found.....it's all a hoax perpetrated by the con man Joseph Smith!

      February 6, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  14. serdich

    speaking of fair and balanced..when CNN will open blog about atheism..huh?
    Im sick and tired of delusional ramblings..o and Santa Claus and The Tooth Fairy is real.

    February 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Willie

      That will never happen. The masons require it's members to believe in a religion, which one doesn't matter. That's how they stay in control.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Arne

      @Serdich no no no, you got it all wrong. There is only one true god (mine of course)! And that one is the flying spaghetti monster! Hail to the spaghetti monster!! Death to the infidels!!!

      February 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  15. David in Corpus

    What is with all the mormon stuff lately. Can we please go back to discussing crazy christian sht? I get confused easily and all this back and forth religious stuff is silly. You say tomato I say BS to it all.
    Oh.... and FK Al lah and his pigfk boyfriend Mohammmmmmed.

    February 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Charles Widmore

      Hey David, any relation to David Koresh?

      February 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  16. matt houston

    Insane. Just insane. And what's scary is that nobody says a thing about the insanity. From invisible guys living in the sky, to burning talking bushes and snakes, to the belief that everyone came from one incestuous family, to humanoids with wings who help people in need, to the big bad horned boogieman who lives underground in a lake of fire...it makes the Greek Pantheons seem realistic in comparison.

    February 6, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • David in Corpus

      It does get old. The hard part is dealing with these people in real life. How do they expect any of us to take them seriously on anything when they are spouting this BS?

      February 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Bill the Cat

      But it still makes atheism look like the bankrupt worldview it is.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • BRC

      Technically atheism is just the belief that there are no gods, so it's not really a world view. I gues you could call it a bankrupt (because it does say there is nothing) other world view, but that seems a bit clunky.

      Still my guess is that you were trying to say that atheists have a common personal philosophy that is devoid of any value. Care to expound on that concept at all? Any valid comments or accusations?

      February 6, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • renster

      "Bankrupt worldview"? It is a bankrupt worldview to create a pack of ridiculous lies and to indoctrine people in them from the instant they are born? That is somehow supposed to promote trust and care among people? It is a bankrupt worldview to think that people must adhere to religion for the world to be a decent place. The sooner the world shuns religion for the bull it is the better this world will become. If it weren't for religion, we wouldn't have fought two ridiculous wars over the past decade and face the prospect of more. Sunni, Shia, Muslim, Christian, Mormon, they're all different colored buckets of bull-s.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Hindu Warrior

      I see all the redneck Texans are out in full force. 🙂

      February 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • jerrygergich

      I, too, marvel every time I consider that people still believe in gods. Drives me batcrap crazy.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • matt houston

      Basing any ethics/morals on love/fear of a god is equivalent to being morally bankrupt. Why? Because you don't think for yourself, you think that way that god tells you to think, so if that god tells you to kill your own son...you would think it's right do so. Surely any sane person sees the insincerity and stupidy of such "morals/ethics". Such a person has no moral or ethics of his/her own...they are the moral and ethics of some god whom they never spoke to, never seen nor touched...except for maybe in their own minds.

      People who do not believe in god(s) but whom still live ethical and moral lives...such people are vastly superior to those whom live ethical and moral lives because of their fear of god(s). Therefore, atheist ethics/morals are much more sincere and true than any ethic/moral based on fear of god(s).

      February 6, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Nathan

      Hi Matt. FYI, modern DNA science confirms that all living humans, whether white, black, asian, pacific islander, latino, aborigine, etc. have all descended from one human pairing estimated to be about 75,000 years ago. You best get comfortable with the idea you are the product of one incestuous family because all religion aside, it appears to be true.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  17. jared

    Would I get to have my own planet??? LOL I've been asked many a strange questions, but that's one that hasn't come up before. And I don't see that as a "hard" question by any means. The answer is no. Sancho is correct, it sounds to me like you read this somewhere on a misinformed website that clearly has some points of the LDS doctrine confused. If you've got questions, ask the young men that ride their bikes in the white shirts. They'll do their best to answer whatever question you have, and if they don't have an immediate answer, they will do their best to find the answer according to correct LDS doctrine.

    Before my conversion, and even still today, I find that the beliefs of the LDS church are about as "normal" and simple as one can appreciate in a faith. The doctrine really is perfect, the people are not. R. Glenn's comments above are eloquently stated, and I'll say nothing more than concurring with his points. We've nothing to hide, come and see.

    By the way, I get first dibs on Pluto! 🙂

    February 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Bill the Cat

      Almost none of what your church teaches existed before Joseph Smith. Yet, your church claims to be a "restoration". In order for something to be restured, it had to exist.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Well then when the white-shirted Mormons come strolling by I'll ask them that. When they say no, I'll respond by saying I don't want to be a Mormon if I don't get my own planet.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • converted_from_mormonism

      Actually, if you live a righteous life according to the scriptures, then yes, you will become a god to your own "world." Have you ever read the books that the church actually writes? I have a Mormon primer that spells out such issues. While it's an unusual principle that folks don't always like to talk about, it is true. There's also a Heavenly Mother, we were all born in heaven and knew each other in the pre-birth existence in heaven, and Jesus Christ came to South America after he arose on the third day. All true Mormon beliefs.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Does Romney wear the magic underwear? Somehow I don't think he does.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • jared

      Bill The Cat,

      It wasn't the church that was restored, it was the priesthood authority that was removed from the earth for a time. Again, confusion with the facts.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • jared

      "World" and planet are two far different things, converted_from_mormonism. We're not talking about being rewarded with some sort of real estate here. I understand my facts just fine, and yes, I do plenty of reading regarding my church's doctrine. Again, the doctrine is being confused, which is the case by most people.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Dan

      I'm with Jared. Get it from the source, not the detractors.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Dan

      Jesus said more than once, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

      February 6, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  18. D Shaffer

    Rob The LDS church recognizes her marriage because it is a legal civil marriage. I was so married to my husband. It is legal and recognized, later we attended the Temple and were sealed as a family.

    February 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  19. Clarify

    This gal is confused. She believes in secular humanism, not Mormonism.

    February 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  20. 'Merica Joe

    Wow, if all it takes to get on CNN's website is to tell a story that is completely made up and spread that lie to the masses, then shoot, I want to be on the internet.

    February 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • David in Corpus

      As long as no one puts down the Magical Purple Unicorn it is all good. Everyone knows when you bad mouth the Magical Purple Unicorn it leads to all sorts of natural (or not so natural as the case may be) disasters. So please people, never never never use the Magical Purple Unicorn's name in vain.
      Glory be to Magical Purple Unicorn in the highest. Hallowed be thy name. Thy magical horse stall come, thy horse will be done, on Earth as it is in Magical Horse stall heaven.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • bnb42

      @David in Corpus:
      Magical Purple Unicorn.... Blasphemy you splitter... you know the only true religion is that of the Invisible Pink Unicorn. Like all religions IPU is based on both Faith and logic we have faith that she is Pink and we logically know she's invisible since we can't see her.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
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About this blog

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