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. Flipper

    So if this person was not an Obama supporter,would there even be a story about her and her Mormonism? Of course not!

    February 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Rsprings

      Correct you are!!

      February 6, 2012 at 2:43 pm |

    This is so Ludicrous. Where is the understanding in all of this?" " Funeral Potatoes" soup? "Not so healthy cheese" Smiling Buddha with his hands up to welcome you? A husband who sneers the meal? Where is the sense in all of this? I guess I missed a lot because I didn't finish the article, too complicated to read.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Duke5343

      Did you notice it was like reading a book "Kiss my BUTT and make it a love story" no really it will be the begining of CNN attcaking Mitt's religeion JUST a taste of what is to come

      February 6, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Rusty

      I agree. What a poor example of a Mormon! If she is your source of all things Mormon you are an idiot. A better source your be the Semi Annual General Conference, or how about interviewing the top women leaders in the Church. Or a normal every day Mormon woman. A liberal, feminist, gay rights, abortion promoting, fringe professor isn't even a good example of an American in general let alone a Mormon Mom!

      February 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • saopaco

      "A liberal, feminist, gay rights, abortion promoting, fringe professor isn't even a good example of an American in general let alone a Mormon Mom!"

      So Rusty, then you are saying that a good American should be a conservative, anti-woman,anti-gay,anti-choice, anti-intellectualist? What a peculiar viewpoint, if you do not mind me saying.

      February 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • mcp123

      Believing in fictional made up stuff is then?

      February 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • saopaco

      Can you give some examples of things that prayer actually changes? I am at a loss to come up with any on my own. Thank you for clarifying.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • ab

      Sorry, I outgrew my imaginary friends when I was in grade school. You, apparently, have not.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • tony

      Automatic reply to automatic post. Prayer changes nothing, otherwise you'd be gone by now.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  4. The Prophet Mohammed

    After being in the wilderness it is now time to cash in.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  5. Obamajoe

    People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
    Forgive them anyway.

    If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
    Be kind anyway.

    If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
    Succeed anyway.

    If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
    Be honest and frank anyway.

    What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
    Build anyway.

    If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
    Be happy anyway.

    The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
    Do good anyway.

    Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
    Give the world the best you've got anyway.

    You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
    It was never between you and them anyway.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      All the "people" that you reference in the second half of each sentence, all the cheats and liars and thieves, are the same people who have religious delusions just like you. You probably don't get it; if 75% of the U.S. are Christians, they they are doing 75% of the lying and cheating and stealing, duh!

      February 6, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  6. Obamajoe

    ===============Who cares what you think?================

    February 6, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  7. keith

    this woman's situation reminds me of a domestic violence relationship.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  8. Edward

    I always love the concept that one has new "modern" views of what is right /wrong and thus "return" to their religion to try to make everyone else agree with them. The reality is they haven't returned – they are still not a believer and they still think they know better. All they are really looking for is self-justification.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  9. jo an

    A reminder...one does not have to be a MORMON to have a beautiful family life...or community or store food...One does not have to be a part of ORGANIZED RELIGION....to experience community...that is how these ORGANIZED RELIGIONS suck people in...telling them they can't live without them and then demanding 10% of their money...Find community where ever you are...Jesus said..."Where ever two or three are gathered together, I'll be in their Midst"...Whether he said it or not..it is TRUE..When humans gather together in love and compassion...they are 'the church'...their church without dogmas or men in pointed hats...telling them what to believe or they will burn in HELL!

    February 6, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  10. Whatever

    What is "refreshing" about someone turning away from God in order to promote her own/political agenda through a national media outlet? Puhhhllleease. People actually buy this type of journalism hook, line and sinker and THAT is what is wrong with America.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Becuase people who obsequiously adhere to dogma are more trustworthy as journalists?

      February 6, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  11. Matthew

    Salvation does not require Joseph Smiths Golden Tablets.

    Mormonism is a violent perversion of the Bible, and anyone with a logic mind can easily find how hypocritical the entire LDS church is. Joseph Smith can not pass the test of what the bible requires of a true prophet.

    If you are Mormon, i urge you to abandon the LDS church as they are an abomination of the Bible in every way.

    This article is nothing but a divisive ploy to make Mormons seem more acceptable as the GOP tries to sell a Mormon as the next President.

    Wake up

    February 6, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • scott501

      Who the F are you to say whats right and wrong. How arrogant. You do know that only a third of the world is Christian?

      February 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Duke5343

      YOU need to wake up and realize there are 400 different religons on planet earth and does it really matter how one prays

      February 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Matthew

      Both of your comments are reactionary and worthless.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Think Instead

      You hit the nail on the head by putting hypocrite and bible in the same sentance.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • saopaco

      Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.

      -The Dude

      February 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      What you people are failing to realize is that this IS the "Christian" condition, because, remember, they're right and everyone else is wrong. The scariest part is that, because this idiot actually believes he's right, I wouldn't put it past him to hurt or kill someone else if he felt it was furthering his cause. You know, pretty much like Christians have been doing for the past 1800 years.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Matthew


      You are an example of the very ignorance you are projecting onto me.

      Not only is your comment divisive and worthless to anyone, its use is only to dement peoples understanding of the truth.
      If you have something of worth to contribute i recommend you try. You sound like any other degenerate waiting to run his weak diatribes for attention.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • saopaco

      Matthew. The Bible is a very violent book. How does a stripe of Christianity, in this case the LDS church make it more violent? You claim that you reject the LDS faith as being an abomination, which is fine as everyone is allowed an opinion. What I take issue with is the fact that you present your view of a religion as fact and then use ad hominem attacks on the people who attack your position.

      Religion is all opinion, and I do not think that anyone at this level is in a position to tell someone else that his/her faith is wrong.

      "If you have something of worth to contribute i recommend you try. You sound like any other degenerate waiting to run his weak diatribes for attention."
      Follow your own advice.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Terry

      Prove it....and don't say you know the bible, which by the way is a translation of a translation of a translation all done at the order of a king that you can bet the farm on wanted things said his way.

      but anyway prove you are right using proven fact not your belief. Oh and when did God tell you to go out and tell everyone YOU know the answers, it must be nice to be perfect....tell you what here you throw the first stone.

      February 6, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  12. Benjamin

    I couldn't force myself to read the whole article.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Bill, Bloomington Il

      I agree

      February 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • saopaco

      It was a little verbose.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  13. Calvin

    So CNN is creating celebrities and fitting them into their agenda. This isn't reporting. Its just stupid..

    February 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  14. Stephen Buck

    Becoming as God or Theosis
    How do Latter-day Saints view the early Christian doctrine of theosis: becoming like God?
    Actually, the doctrine is found in Psalms 82:1, 6-7, 1 John 3:1-3, 2 Peter 1:2-4, Philippians 2:5-6, Romans 8:15-17, and Revelation 21:7. From the very beginning, the Bible teaches theosis or the deification of man. When Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, "the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever" (Genesis 3:22). The implication is that had they been able to partake of the tree of life, they would have been like God in another respect, being immortal. This is precisely what is promised to the righteous in Revelation 2:7, when Christ says, "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God."
    Here is a quote from 2 Peter 1:2-4 you may wish to consider:
    2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
    3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
    4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
    Theosis, also called apotheosis, divinization, and deification, was commonly taught by Church Fathers of the earliest centuries A.D. It is still an official doctrine of the Eastern Orthodox churches and is even mentioned briefly in the current Catechism used in the Roman Catholic Church (Article 460). Though most Protestants don't accept the concept, a few Evangelical scholars have recently written articles demonstrating that Wesley and Calvin taught it. The Church fathers often noted the term "God of gods" (Deuteronomy 10:17; Joshua 22:2; Psalm 136:2; Daniel 11:36), indicating that since God could not be the God of false gods, these must be real gods. Psalm 82:6-7 was cited by Jesus (John 10:33-36) and both passages were frequently used by the Church Fathers to demonstrate that men were gods.
    Because some of you are not familiar with the doctrine does give you the right to ridicule it. I am sure some of the things you believe may be counted as strange also. That does not mean we have to make light of others beliefs.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      If people choose to believe in religious delusions that are ridiculously, laughingly insane, they SHOULD be made light of, and certainly not encouraged.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Terry

      addressed to WhatWhatWhat.

      Okay so you and you alone know the trust? God came to you in person and said "My Son, I'm going to let only you know the truth" Wow, please tell us more.

      February 6, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  15. tony

    Why can't their kids go to other kids' birthday parties?

    February 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • BobinCA

      That's not true. That may be something in the breakaway FLDS church but certainly not in the mainstream mormon church.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Jim

      Mormons can go to other kids birthday parties.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Rsprings

      When I was younger, we had neighbors who were Mormon. Our kids played together, went to school together, and even went to each others birthday parties. They were excellent neighbors and friends. . Never once did they proselytize or look down upon my family. They weren't different as you suggest. The issue is a matter of ignorance on your part and most non Mormans.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • David

      Wrong religion tony.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Terry

      Man some people have no idea about the truth.

      February 6, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • andrew

      they can and do. you may be thinking of another religion

      February 6, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  16. God is only in your head

    It's amazing to see so many people who have absolute faith in their particular religion. Do they realize that if they had been raised in a different religion, they would believe in that one, instead of the one they believe is the absolute one and only Truth? If god existed, and god did not want people to kill each other over different beliefs, god would reveal itself to everyone in the same way. God is either profoundly evil, profoundly incompetent, or non-existent. The evidence strongly suggests all gods only exist in the minds of their believers. It is really sad to see how much damage religion does to people. This story is a real eye-opener.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Calvin

      Far more damage is being done these days by the godless.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • John

      God, regardless if you believe in him or not, is a proper name and should be capitalized. Grammar counts.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • BRC

      Prove it.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • BRC

      Only if you are refering to the Christian "God". You can type god/gods with lower cases all day long as long as you aren't referring to that one proper noun.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Duke5343

      Funny how you said that- Scientis when looking at space 400 million light years away took what they Called the God picture- of Matter and Anti Matter and how everything is connected in the Universe- one has to be real ignorate to not realize when you look at the enorminty of space there MUST be a higher being – having said that do i agree with Organized Religion NO I dont as you say millions have been put to death in the Name of God- his name has led a lot of armies-

      February 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • ab

      Even if that were true, that the godless are doing more harm these days, have you forgotten that the religious nuts have gotten an eons long head start and when all is said and done, any damage done by the godless will pale in comparison. Religion is for the weak minded who need a crutch.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Dalrymple

      Do you believe in the same religion as your parents? If your statement is true then no one would be able to change religions or convert to any other religion. You need to rewrite your statement or else it is completely untrue and makes you just look like a sillypants.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      What hole did you just pull your head out of Calvin?

      February 6, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Terry

      The problem isn't with God, the issue is man. you get 10 people in a room and show them a picture and you'll get 10 different answers regarding what they see. The problem is God left it up to man to understand his word. Now before everyone screams, just read the bible, tell me...which version.........God put his word down and then left it to man to interpret it. Most different religions believe in God, most even in the same God, the problem is in how they interpret his word. Things would have been better had God stuck around to explain things to us.

      February 6, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • BRC

      Actually, the problem is that there is no reason to believe that any of the words we have actually come from a god. They don't match what we know to be tru, adn the conflict with what we feel is right, so why should we trust them at all?

      February 6, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  17. Pete

    Watch for the slight (or not so slight) jerk of tension in a full temple-going mormon's face if you tell them you're a member but you don't expect or even see the need to get your family to convert.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • selby

      what are you talking about....so not true..... you are exagerrating buddy

      February 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  18. Amber

    What a beautiful family.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  19. EG

    Good-bye Dick and Jane, Hello Chang and Chiquita Applebaum. CNN: a P.R. agency for Obama's agenda. If I were smothering my kids w/Mormonism and Judaism simultaneously, I'd have myself committed to an asylum. Or perhaps I'd be too "enlightened."

    February 6, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  20. WhatWhatWhat?

    In the "end times", Mor(m)ons believe that ALL godly people will go to heaven, including all the devout adherents of Islame, Buddhism, Jehova's Witnesses, Hare Krishna, Judisnt and, presumably, Sciencefictionology. I know that, from a Christinsanity point of view, they don't feel the same way. I wonder how Christians will reconcile that? By the way, Mor(m)ons do believe exactly like the Christians in that, all the non-believers will be persecuted and murdered during those "end times", so don't think they compromised on that.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • bff

      So how do mormons reconcile that there are good atheists (un godly)? Is this the one sin that can't be forgiven?

      February 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      Dude, if you don't BELIEVE IN GOD, it doesn't matter how good you are. Are you kidding? You have to have delusions of grandeur or you get killed, that's it, end of story.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • joan

      ) Mormons believe God is not eternal, or even the only God, but was who inhabited a planet in the star system Kolob.

      2) They believe they are saved by obeying Mormon doctrine.

      3) They believe that God had a god that elevated God to godhood and that they, too, can be elevated to godhood.

      4) They believe they lived as full-grown adults (the Doctrine of Pre-existence) in a spirit world before they were born. In Pre-Existence, they had friends and family and relationships and knowledge. While there, they were presented with the Plan of Salvation, which included being given a choice to be born as humans with the prize at the end being godhood of their own planet. They didn't have to and some were content to stay in the spirit world where they were already in heaven instead of taking the plunge and getting a shot at being God.

      5) They believe that when their spirits passed into existence, they also passed through a Veil of Forgetfulness where they forgot their previous spirit lives. Here, they recreate their pre-existent families as eternal families.

      6) Jesus and Satan were brothers and God liked Jesus' plan best so Satan rebelled. Mormons don't believe in the sin nature, or 'original sin'.

      7) Mormons believe the purpose of human existence is to become like God.

      8) Mormons also believe it is ok to lie about their beliefs and affiliations to non-Mormons and to new Mormon recruits under the 'principle' of "milk before meat.". So they are free to deny the crazier parts, (God was a man, there are lots of Gods, including them, they take spirit wives to become goddesses, etc.) on the principle that until a Mormon has been sufficiently indoctrinated, they will recognize how crazy it sounds and maybe refuse to join or even quit and then spread the word.

      9) Mormons believe that after they die, they move back to the spirit world. Some of them are imprisoned for not believing the Mormon gospel while on earth. Those that never heard the Mormon Gospel will be visited by Mormon spirit missionaries.

      10) Mormons believe that the dead can be saved after death if they are baptized by proxy by living Mormons.

      11) Mormons in this spirit world can still sin: "Those who are righteous in this life will still be righteous. Those who were unrighteous will still be unrighteous. We will have the same desires after we die as we had while on this earth" (Gospel Fundamentals, "Life after Death," pg 195.).

      12) Resurrection is a several parts and only those that had a perfect knowledge of the divinity of Christ yet chose Satan will be damned. The rest will go through various stages of perfection while in the post-life spirit world.

      13) If you miss your dog, don't worry. Fido, (as well as every other dog, cat, hamster, pigeon, aardvark and platypus) will ALSO be resurrected during the last of the, umm, seven different resurrections taught by the LDS.

      14) The Mormon Plan of Salvation is in seven parts as well, with final stage, logically enough, called the Final Judgment.

      15) At Final Judgment, those finally judged go to one of three heavens, as befits their works, or to the Outer Darkness, which is Mormon hell.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • bff

      Are you saying that
      o If you don't believe in god, you were correctr and there was no god so that's the end of the story


      o If you don't believe in god and it turned out there was one, you are doomed because it is the one sin that can't be forgiven.


      February 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Rsprings

      Read the Koran sometime.....you'll find the same stuff. Basicall,y all religious writings have a common thread.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      Thanks for using up all the space for everyone else to reply Joan. You must not have many friends? You probably believe in another idiotic religion, all the while blasting the Mor(m)ons, is that it? What a waste...

      February 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Terry

      Man I read this and wonder how you all can post untruths and then expect people to just take you at your word.

      Anyway in regards to WWW's post, I just have a hard time believing that a just god would take someone who lived a good life, who was kind and caring, who helped his neighbors and made a difference in a lot of people's life and send that people to hell just because he/she didn't believe in him 100%. I'm sorry I just have to think God looks at actions rather then words more.

      February 6, 2012 at 3:16 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.