May 12th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

With or without Romney, D.C. a surprising Mormon stronghold

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Alexandria, Virginia (CNN) – A few hundred Mormons filed into a chapel just outside the Washington Beltway one recent Sunday to hear a somewhat unusual presentation: an Obama administration official recounting his conversion to Mormonism.

“I have never in my life had a more powerful experience than that spiritual moment when the spirit of Christ testified to me that the Book of Mormon is true,” Larry Echo Hawk told the audience, which stretched back through the spacious sanctuary and into a gymnasium in the rear.

Echo Hawk’s tear-stained testimonial stands out for a couple of reasons: The White House normally doesn’t dispatch senior staff to bare their souls, and Mormons hew heavily Republican. It’s not every day a top Democrat speaks from a pulpit owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And yet the presentation by Echo Hawk, then head of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, is also a perfect symbol of a phenomenon that could culminate in Mitt Romney’s arrival at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue next year: The nation’s capital has become a Mormon stronghold, with Latter-day Saints playing a big and growing role in the Washington establishment.

The well-dressed crowd gathered for Echo Hawk’s speech was dotted with examples of inside-the-beltway Mormon power.

In one pew sits a Mormon stake president – a regional Mormon leader – who came to Washington to write speeches for Ronald Reagan and now runs a lobbying firm downtown.

Behind him in the elegant but plain sanctuary – Mormon chapels are designed with an eye toward functionality and economy – is a retired executive secretary of the U.S. Supreme Court.

A few pews further back, the special assistant to the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan sits next to a local Mormon bishop who came to Washington to work for Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and now leads a congressionally chartered foundation.

Mitt Romney, who would be the first Mormon president if elected, is the son of a Cabinet secretary under Richard Nixon.

“In a Republican administration, there will be even more Mormons here,” whispers the bishop, Lewis Larsen, pointing out prominent Washingtonians around the chapel. “Every Republican administration just loads up with them.”

Regardless of which party controls the White House, Mormonism in Washington has been growing for decades.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

When Larsen arrived in Washington in the early ’80s, there were a just handful of Mormon meetinghouses in northern Virginia, where he lives. Today, there are more than 25, each housing three separate congregations, or wards, as they’re known in the LDS Church.

“There’s been an absolute explosion in Mormon growth inside the beltway,” Larsen says before slipping out of the pew to crank the air conditioning for the swelling crowd.

The LDS Church says there are 13,000 active members within a 10-mile radius of Washington, though the area’s Mormon temple serves a much larger population – 148,000 Latter-day Saints, stretching from parts of South Carolina to New Jersey.

Signs of the local Mormon population boom transcend the walls of the temple and meetinghouses.

Crystal City, a Virginia neighborhood just across the Potomac River from Washington, has become so popular with young Mormons that it’s known as “Little Provo,” after the Utah city that’s home to church-owned Brigham Young University.

Congress now counts 15 Mormon members, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. That means the 2% of the country that’s Mormon is slightly overrepresented on Capitol Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, is the highest-placed elected Mormon in Washington.

Even many Latter-day Saints joke about Washington’s “Mormon mafia” – referring to the number of well-placed LDS Church members across town – though they cringe at the thought of being seen as part of some cabal. (Echo Hawk, for his part, left the Obama administration a few weeks after his chapel presentation for a job in the LDS Church hierarchy).

“No one talks about Washington being an Episcopalian stronghold or a Jewish stronghold,” says Richard Bushman, a Mormon scholar at Columbia University. Talk of “Mormon Washington,” he says, “represents a kind of surprise that people who were thought of as provincial have turned up in sophisticated power positions.”

Bushman and other experts note that, despite Mormons’ growing political power, the official church mostly steers clear of politics. It’s hard to point to federal legislation or a White House initiative that bears distinctly Mormon fingerprints, while it’s easy to do the same for other faiths.

For example, the White House’s recent “compromise” on a rule that would have required religious groups to fund contraception for employees was mostly a reaction to pressure from Roman Catholic bishops.

Nonetheless, Mormon success in Washington is a testament to distinctly Mormon values, shedding light into the heart of one of America’s fastest-growing religions.

And though the official church is mostly apolitical, most rank-and-file Mormons have linked arms with the GOP. Romney’s own political evolution mirrors that trend.

Such forces help explain why Mormons’ beltway power is poised to grow even stronger in coming years, whether or not Romney wins the White House.

‘A ton of Mormon contacts’

For many Washington Mormons, religion plays a key role in explaining why they’re here.

Larsen, who sports a brown comb-over and tortoise shell glasses, arrived in Washington in the early 1980s as an intern for Hatch, also a Mormon.

He landed the internship courtesy of Brigham Young University, his alma mater. The Mormon school owns a four-story dorm on Pennsylvania Avenue, not too far from the White House, which houses 120 student interns each year. It’s the school’s largest such program in the nation.

“Part of our church’s tradition is to be connected with civic life, to make our communities better,” says BYU’s Scott Dunaway, who helps place students on Capitol Hill, at the Smithsonian and other Washington institutions. “We don’t believe in being reclusive.”

It’s a perfect characterization of Larsen. He grew up in Provo, in the shadow of BYU, and wanted to prove he could make it outside of Utah.

“Kids growing up in the LDS Church have been told, ‘Go ye out in the world and preach the gospel of Christ - don’t be afraid to be an example,’ ” Larsen said, sitting in the glass-doored conference room of the foundation he runs on K Street.

“So we are on our missions, converting people to Christianity,” he continued. “And coming to Washington, for me and probably for a lot of people, came out of that interest. We see it as our career, but also we’re going out to preach the word of Christ.”

For Larsen, that usually means correcting misinformation about Mormonism or explaining Mormon beliefs and practices – you really don’t drink coffee, ever? – over lunch with co-workers or at business functions, rather than on-the-job proselytizing.

He learned about integrating work and faith from Hatch. He was initially shocked to discover that the senator prays in his office each morning. Larsen and Hatch developed what the bishop calls a “father-son” relationship, with the intern rising up through the ranks to become Hatch’s chief Washington fundraiser.

“We would go on trips, and I’d quiz him on the plane: Why did the church do this? Why didn’t the church do this?” Larsen said. “He was like a tutor to me.”

Now, as the head of a foundation that educates teachers about the U.S. Constitution, the bishop helps other young Mormons with job leads and introductions. Larsen was appointed to the role by Hatch and the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Much of Washington’s Mormon professional network is still anchored by BYU, which operates a handful of big, well-connected alumni groups with major Washington chapters. The most prominent is BYU’s Management Society, a global organization whose biggest chapter is in Washington.

At the chapter’s recent alumni dinner, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was the guest of honor. She has strong ties to the Mormon community and has hired Mormons as top aides. Says Larsen: “Condi’s got a ton of Mormon contacts.”

Patrice Pederson also knows how to work a Rolodex. A lifelong political activist, she moved from Utah to Washington last year and soon tapped into BYU’s local network.

Pederson served as the U.S.-based campaign manager for Yeah Samake, a Mormon running for president in the West African nation of Mali.

Samake traveled frequently to the U.S. to raise money and build political support, so Pederson enlisted the help of BYU’s Management Society and other groups to host events for the candidate.

Both in Washington and across the U.S., many Mormons are watching his candidacy.

“Members of the church on Capital Hill were anxious to introduce the candidate to other members of Congress,” says Pederson, sipping an herbal tea (Mormons eschew black leaf teas) in a strip mall Starbucks near her apartment in Alexandria, Virginia.

“It’s cool to have a member of the church running for president in Africa.”

Beyond making connections, many Washington Mormons say the LDS Church provides an ideal proving ground for careers here.

Unlike most churches, it has no professional clergy; from the bishop to the organist, each role is filled by everyday Mormons, most of whom have other day jobs. As a result, Mormons take church leadership roles at an early age, speaking publicly at Sunday services almost as soon they learn to talk.

“My kids grew up in the church, and we get together for three hours on Sundays, and each member needs to get up and speak,” says U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. “By the time they graduate, they have all these speaking assignments that other teenagers just don’t have.

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, says Mormonism provides ideal training for aspiring politicians.

“For those who grow up in the Mormon church, they are taught skills that allow them to be successful in a tough city like Washington,” says Chaffetz, who converted to Mormonism shortly after college.

Young Mormons also hone leadership skills by serving missions away from home. The missions last from one and half to two years and happen when Mormons are in their late teens and early 20s and often include intensive foreign language training.

“Young Mormons are more formidable in public settings and international settings than others,” says Terryl Givens, a Mormon scholar at the University of Richmond. “Normally you would have to acquire more age and work experience before you feel comfortable and useful at NGOs and think tanks.”

Chaffetz, whose son is serving a mission in Ghana, says the experience is the perfect preparation for political careers.

“They learn rejection early on,” he says. “If you’re going to be in politics, that’s a pretty good attribute.”

Christina Tomlinson served her mission in nonexotic Fresno, California. But working with the Laotian community there, she acquired the foreign language skills that landed her first internship at the U.S. State Department.

“I look back at that and it’s nothing but divine providence,” Tomlinson says one night at an office building-turned-chapel in Crystal City, after a weekly discussion about Mormon teachings. “I would have never made those choices.”

When she arrived at her foreign service orientation in the late 1990s, Tomlinson was surprised to find that a half-dozen of her State Department colleagues were also Mormon. The thriving LDS community at State even runs its own e-mail list server so Latter-day Saints can find each other wherever in the world they’re stationed.

Like former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who used the Mandarin language skills acquired through a Mormon mission to Taiwan to help secure his job as President Barack Obama’s previous ambassador to China, Tomlinson leveraged her mission to get ahead at State, where she now serves as special assistant to the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“I’m basically the chief of staff for the president’s representative charged with implementing U.S. foreign policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan,” she e-mailed on a recent plane ride back from the region.

Language skills acquired on a Mormon mission helped Christina Tomlinson get her start at the State Department.

At the point of a bayonet

Like many Mormons, Tomlinson says her professional life is driven by a faith-based patriotism that sounds old-fashioned to modern ears: “I just really wanted to serve my country.”

But that distinctly Mormon patriotism was hard-won. From their very beginning, Mormons had tried to forge a special relationship with Washington. And for decades, they failed.

Joseph Smith, who founded Mormonism in the 1830s, petitioned the U.S. government to protect his fledgling religious community from the violent persecution it was experiencing, even meeting repeatedly with President Martin Van Buren.

But Washington refused, provoking Smith – who Mormons consider their founding prophet – to run for president himself in 1844. He was assassinated by an anti-Mormon mob in Illinois well before Election Day.

In the face of such attacks, Mormons fled west, to the territory that’s now Utah. But they continued to seek ties with Washington, dispatching representatives to the capital to lobby for statehood.

Congress refused to grant it. Instead, Uncle Sam disincorporated the LDS Church and sent the U.S. Army to police Mormon territory.

In the eyes of Washington, Latter-day Saints were flouting federal law by practicing polygamy. The feds saw the LDS Church as an undemocratic rival government that threatened Washington’s power.

Joseph Smith, Mormonism’s founding prophet, ran for president in 1844 but was killed before Election Day.

Mormons would eventually ban polygamy, paving the way for Utah statehood in 1896. But Congress nonetheless refused to seat the new state’s Mormon senator, who also served as a top church official.

For four years, the U.S. Senate held hearings to grill U.S. Sen. Reed Smoot and other church leaders, alleging that Mormons continued to practice polygamy despite promises to the contrary.

“The political trial was as much a galvanizing cultural moment as was Watergate,” says Kathleen Flake, a scholar of Mormonism at Vanderbilt University in Tenneessee.

When Smoot was eventually seated – after the LDS Church took further steps to stamp out polygamy – he managed to become a Washington powerbroker. He would chair the Senate Finance Committee and act as a presidential adviser.

“He was Mr. Republican,” says Flake. “For a while there, he was the Republican Party.”

Smoot’s unflagging pursuit of legitimacy in Washington, despite the city’s bias against him and his faith, symbolizes what many call a uniquely Mormon appreciation for American civic life. It helps explain the Mormon fascination with Washington to this day.

It may seen counterintuitive, but Mormons’ early exposure to persecution at the hands of other Americans – aided, Mormons say, by the U.S. government – wound up strengthening their patriotic streak.

In the face of attacks, Mormons clung to the U.S. Constitution and its unprecedented guarantee of religious freedom. They distinguished between the document and those charged with implementing it.

Mormon scripture goes so far as to describe the U.S. Constitution as divinely inspired, establishing a unique environment in which Mormonism could emerge.

“Mormons are superpatriots,” says Columbia University’s Bushman. “Joseph Smith said that if the government was doing its job as laid out in the Constitution, it would protect Mormons from their enemies.”

Mormons began to shed their Utah-only siege mentality and fanned out in the early part of the 20th century. Their patriotic streak, which translated into military enlistments and applications for government jobs, led many to Washington.

That wave included J. Willard Marriott, the hotel chain founder, who launched his business career by opening an A&W root beer stand here. He would go on to forge the kind of deep political connections that would help make Willard “Mitt” Romney his namesake.

Washington’s Mormon community got another boost in the 1950s when President Dwight Eisenhower appointed a top church official, Ezra Taft Benson, as his agriculture secretary.

“Mormons took it as a sign of maybe, just maybe, we’re being accepted,” says Flake. “It signified a cultural acceptance of Mormonism. People thought Mormons believed weird things, but also that they were self-reliant, moral and good neighbors.”

As Mormons became more accepted, they became more upwardly mobile, landing in parts of the country that could sustain careers in commerce, academia and government - another reason Washington was a big draw.

By the time there were enough Mormons in the eastern U.S. to justify the construction of the first Mormon temple east of the Mississippi River, the church chose a site just outside Washington.

The temple opened in 1974, shortly after another high-profile Mormon – George Romney, Mitt’s father – left his post as Richard Nixon’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

“The Washington temple served as a symbol of the triumphant return of Mormonism to the east,” says Givens, the University of Richmond professor. “Mormons left from the point of a bayonet in the 1800s and the temple is this gigantic symbol that says ‘We’re back – and we’re back in the nation’s capital.’ ”

The Mormon temple outside Washington was the first such temple built east of the Mississippi River.

Unlike Mormon meetinghouses, where members meet for Sunday worship, temples are grander buildings reserved for certain rites, such as proxy baptisms for the dead.

To this day, the first monument many Washington visitors see isn’t a federal landmark. It’s the massive Mormon temple, its Georgian marble towers and gold-leafed spires looming above the trees on the Washington Beltway like an otherworldly castle.

The temple houses a J. Willard Marriott-financed mural of Jesus Christ’s second coming, which features a picture of the Washington temple itself in the background.

“Are you implying that the millennium will begin in Washington?” a temple visitor once asked Marriott, referring to Jesus’ return.

Replied Marriott: “What better place is there?”

Good at organizing

These days, the Mormon impulse toward Washington is often as much political as patriotic.

Patrice Pederson - the campaign manager for the Mormon running for president in Mali - made her first foray into politics at 15, hopping the bus from her home in the suburbs of Salt Lake City into town to intern with a Republican candidate for the U.S. House.

“I remember that when Bill Clinton was elected, I wore all black to school that day,” says Pederson, who was in junior high at the time. “I was mourning the death of liberty.”

When then-Vice President Al Gore visited Utah, Pederson protested his speech with a homemade poster that said “Blood, Guts & Gore – Healthcare’94.” (She can’t recall the poster’s exact meaning).

Pederson’s activism as a “total hardcore right-winger” continued into her 20s. She put off college at BYU to start a “pro-family” advocacy group aimed at lobbying foreign governments and the United Nations. The work brought her to Washington so frequently that she decided to relocate last year: “I had more friends here than in Utah.”

Pederson’s path to D.C. speaks to the growing Mormon/Republican alliance since the 1960s, driven largely by the emergence of social issues such as abortion and gay marriage and the rise of the Christian Right.

“In the 1950s and ’60s, Utah became Republican,” says Bushman. “It’s partly about being anti-communist, but it’s also a response to the 1960s and the decay of old-fashioned moral virtues. It’s an anti-1960s movement, and the Republicans seemed to be the party of old-fashioned virtues.”

Pederson’s roommate, Kodie Ruzicka, grew up squarely in that movement, with her mom heading the Utah chapter of Eagle Forum, a conservative Christian group founded by rightwing icon Phyllis Schlafly.

In the 1970s, when the Catholic Schlafly led a successful grassroots campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have made gender-based discrimination unconstitutional, she enlisted the help of Mormons.

To its opponents, including the LDS Church, the ERA was the work of radical feminists who wanted to upend traditional gender roles.

Much of Schlafly’s organizing was among evangelicals, and “given the sometimes hostile evangelical line on Mormons, [Schlafly’s] Mormon outreach was kind of revolutionary,” says Ruzicka, who now works at the Justice Department. “But we’re good at organizing, and we have a lot of useful structures for it, so that was useful to her.”

Today, Mormons head Eagle Forum chapters across the West, including California, Arizona and Nevada, as well as Utah.

Bridge-building between Mormons and the conservative movement helps explain the Reagan administration’s push to hire many Mormons into the White House - which further cemented the alliance. That bond continues to lure Mormons to D.C.

Ruzicka, for one, continued in the political footsteps of her mother, arriving in Washington in her mid-20s to lead a nonprofit that promotes safe haven laws, which allow young mothers to legally abandon young children at fire stations.

Beyond hot-button social issues, U.S. Rep. Chaffetz says the Mormon faith engenders support for limited government.

“The church is very adamant about personal responsibility, and for people to voluntarily participate in service,” the Utah Republican says. “There’s this feeling that service is not something that should be mandated by government.”

The LDS Church, for its part, insists it is politically neutral and that it avoids pressuring Mormon elected officials to tow a church line. “The church’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians,” the church’s website says.

Mormon experts say the church’s support for a relatively strict separation of church and state is born of the U.S. government’s refusal to help Mormons in the face of early persecution.

And after being accused of setting up a rival government around the turn of the last century, the church is loath to be seen giving marching orders to LDS politicians.

The church did, however, play a leading role in passing Prop 8, California’s gay marriage ban, in 2008. Church officials called it a moral cause, not a political one.

Plenty of critics disagree. But neither Mormon bishops nor church officials are known to lead the kind of church-based legislative lobbying efforts that Catholic bishops or evangelical leaders do.

Mitt Romney himself embodies the reluctance of Mormon politicians to connect their religion and their public policy positions, in contrast to politicians of other faiths.

That reluctance also appears to be born of anxiety over Americans’ lingering questions and doubts about Mormonism. When Pew asked Americans last year what word they associated with the Mormon faith, the most common response was “cult.”

In recent weeks, Romney’s newfound position as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has produced a mix of excitement and worry among Mormons. That’s especially true in Washington, where politically savvy Latter-day Saints send out frequent e-mail round-ups of Mormon media coverage to their LDS networks.

“A lot of us know it’s ultimately a good thing, but it’s hard to feel like it’s a good thing because so much of the publicity is about things you wouldn’t talk about in polite company, like my underwear,” says Pederson, referring to the enduring fascination with Mormon undergarments.

Like many conservatives, Pederson is suspicious of Romney.

“I don’t like his waffling, to put it gently, on life and family issues,” she says. “But if it comes down to Romney versus Obama, hand me the pom-poms. I’ll be president of the Romney-Is-the-Best-We-Can-Come-Up-With-for-President Club.”

For now, Pederson is working with the National Right to Life Committee’s political action committee to raise money for the Romney effort, even as she makes up her mind about how actively she wants to promote his candidacy.

Some of her calculus is about weighing political reality against her conservative idealism. And some of it is about her next professional move. It’s a very Washington place to be.

- Video by CNN photojournalist Jeremy Moorhead

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • DC • Jon Huntsman • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Politics

soundoff (3,419 Responses)
  1. NicARigs

    I love how the only thing dems have against Mitt Romney is that he is Mormon. They HAVE to play on that card because he lives a socially acceptable, if not comendable, life. He doesn't smoke like Obama, he doesn't drink alcohol... He doesn't need to resort to mud-slinging right off the bat like Obama. It is obvious that Barack is afraid... in press conferences when someone even so much as mentions Romney he stutters for a short instance of time and declares, "I didn't know you were the... uuhh... spokesperson.. for.. uhhhh... Mitt Romeny, next question?"

    May 13, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      Does everyone know what Joseph Smith taught his cult about black people? He told his followers that all humans started out white but that a group of evil people were given black skin because "God" wanted to set them apart from the rest of the human race for being evil.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • NicARigs

      First and foremost, I have already discreditted what you had already said on my previous post, just wanted you to know that before I discreditted this one as well. Second, he did not say that they were "evil," we believed that darker skin was a sign of neutrality in the great arguement in heaven... the souls who had sided with Lucifer (Evil) were cast down and not given bodies, where as the darker skinned humans were the ones who did not side with Christ or Lucifer... That was then, and this is now and obsolete misinterpretation. Now, before you start making claims, actually DO RESEARCH beforehand when trying to slander the Mormon faith, you would look less stupid in the long run.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Bob Aussie

      DeeCee, are you upset that the LDS made the changes? Why shouldn't an organization, religious or otherwise, evolve to become a better one? My history books indicate that Catholics and Protestants used to burn people as witches and that witches were to be burned at the stake or hung by the neck until dead. Do these organizations teach those uneducated precepts now? Or are you one of those pitch fork wielding, torch holding, uneducated fear mongers?

      May 13, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  2. Roscoe Chait

    Just because some may be Mormon doesn't mean you should vote for a deceptive, lying coward like Romney.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Bob Aussie

      That's true. But regardless of religious persuasion, the term "politician" is synonymous with lying. I'm Mormon, I'm Democrat, and this election, I'll vote for Romney. Not because he's Mormon, too, but because the fact that he flip-flops, which indicates he's a person who believes in being as Centrist as possible. Radical politicians are what get you the problems they have in Greece. Bush was radical, and so is Obama. So far, the US has always chosen as president, the candidate that espouses the most centrist of the choices. Mormons teach (though not always practiced) the precept of moderation in all things. We're not all like Pederson, who is more interested in making a splash for herself than she is interested in good politics.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  3. Diana Harris

    I know it is far easier and "more fun" to make incorrect assumptions and remarks than to "find out the truth" of ANY matter in this world of busy-ness and apathy. I guess as a Mormon, the biggest 'wrong assumption' I would like to correct 'once and for all' is that we EVER thought/think that Mormons 'will go to Heaven and all others will go to Hell.' We believe we are "judged by what we KNOW to be true." (IF we follow that knowledge, that is.) So–plenty of third world country people who never even heard of Jesus Christ, but did the best they could with whatever knowledge of right and wrong they had (I am speaking of things like premeditated murder NOT for purposes of self-defense, war, etc.) will be blessed before many (INCLUDING Mormons) who know what we should be doing, but out of apathy, convenience, temptation, etc., do NOT do it. Just like when Jesus was crucified and said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." THAT IS the way it IS!! How could it be any other way? Being responsible for what one does NOT know only happens among mankind–e.g.–the great fines one gets when crossing a state line and not knowing a certain law/rule about traffic in that state. That's how many states make their money–of course!

    May 13, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  4. vhalen

    As a Mormon, one who served a mission in a foreign country, and mastered a vital language that is in high demand for National Security purposes....The CIA, NSA, and State department has come recruiting myself and many others I know. Supply and demand, if you have the skills, and patriotism, and willing to serve-there are opportunities to play vital roles in Washington. Many call it a cult, but LDS people serve in the military and fight in the wars, and are as much heroes for that service as anyone else...crazy to see so much animosity.

    Also gotta say its crazy that CNN has some Mormon article every other day.....the media are the ones politicizing the LDS church every minute, I wish CNN would give it a rest.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • NicARigs

      Unfortunatly, some don't see that... they only see what they want to out of the past and what they pass of for slip-shot logical. I knew a member that was killed in aphganistan and to know that the president (as well as other officials) thanked if for his sacrifice, only to encourage the discreditation of everything that young man believed in, is heart wrenching. 🙁

      May 13, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Bob Aussie

      Can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, right?

      May 13, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  5. An


    May 13, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Bob Aussie

      What's frightening? Is that the first statement that comes to your mind? Is that what you say when you see yourself in the mirror, too? I doubt it. Define your phobias, and then you can get help to overcome them, including mormonphobia.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  6. across12

    Very scary article promoting a religious cult that has nothing to do with God. I hope people will read it and acknowledge the danger.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Bob Aussie

      What danger, my friend? Do resolve a dangerous problem, you have to define it. You've just put out a statement showing your emotional immaturity. If truly you're afraid, and think it's a dangerous situation, then pony up and be specific on how what that danger is and how it is going to result in undesirable consequences.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Jeremy

      Your ignorant comment astounds me. Do a little research before you speak next time.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Jay

      Very scary article promoting religious bigotry that has nothing to do with news. I hope people read it and acknowledge how biased CNN "news" is...

      May 13, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  7. CatS

    After voting a Mormon into the WH, the public will be more open to 'non-traditional' religions. The next step is to start electing atheists to Congress, and eventually the WH.
    Romney getting elected may not be all that bad in the long run..... 😉

    May 13, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Bob Aussie

      That's right! We should be a nation that includes ALL, regardless of their preferred beliefs. However, we should always keep sacred the tenet of separation of church and state.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  8. DarwinsRight

    Doesnt anyone remember the discovery and investigation of John Smiths letters to his brother? These letters were authenticated by every lab that investigated (including BYU) and included him laughing about how he had duped all these people and was getting rich as their new "leader". The L.A. Times which was owned by Mormons or a Mormon, was forced to print the story because of the way they bashed and made fun of the Popes visit to Mexico at about the same time these letters were determined authentic. This was first visit from Vatican since the revolution and trip had to be cut short because of Popes disrespect and the L.A. Times ran wild with it. It was nothing short of Historical and no one remembers. They were even forced to print story in a precedent setting format – meaning the story ran complete, not jumping from page to page like most stories have always been and are today. Thats exactly why some called him member of a cult and were not forced to retract their statements because if it came to that these letters would have been brought back into the public arena again. Stupid,Stupid, Stupid..........nobody pays attention

    May 13, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      Does everyone else here know about Joseph Smith's "Golden Plates" and how he was the only one who was able to see them? He told everyone that he found the "Golden Plates" while digging in his backyard. When people asked him where they were after he supposedly dug them up, he told all of his followers that an angel went ahead and took them back to heaven. No one else actually saw these "Golden Plates" but yet, his followers were required to live according to what was supposedly written on them.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Jeremy

      DarwinsRight- John Smith? Like from Pocahontas?!

      May 13, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Bob Aussie

      DeeCee, you're showing you lack of knowledge, and hence your lack of intelligence. You should get the story right before you start knocking it down. There were at least 11 others that saw the plates which the Book of Mormon was translated from. Clearly, you have not read it, so why should anyone take you seriously? Read it, then critique it.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Bob Aussie,
      "There were at least 11 others that saw the plates which the Book of Mormon was translated from. "

      You might need to research these "witnesses" more thoroughly. Some recanted. They did not actually *see* the plates. Smith told them that only if they had "true faith" would they "see" the plates in their hearts, or souls, or some other imaginary body part.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • DarwinsRight

      Yo Aussie.......Lack of Intelligence is most evident when you try to divert the point of the conversation...dont have good response so bring up something already rendered pointless

      May 13, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  9. mshawaii808

    Mixing any kind of RELIGION with POLITICS is very explosive! That is a no no.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  10. Isaac

    I read the article and I thought it would be helpful for people who may have questions about the LDS (Mormon) Church to go the this link on the church's website. The article is FAQ about the church. I hope you all have a wonderful mothers day. http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/mormonism-101

    May 13, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Isaac

      Slight grammar correction. 🙂

      May 13, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • TRUTH

      I read your post and would like you to know you are a dummy!

      Don't need to know anything about you idiot cult losers! Take your brainwash website and shove it!

      You guys are a cancer!

      May 13, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      There are also plenty of videos on YouTube. . .just look up, "The Truth about Mormonism". Also look up Mormon cult founder, "Joseph Smith". The reason he said he should be able to practice polygamy is because he believed that the Christian Jesus was really married to several wives in the Christian bible but that he, Joseph Smith was the only one who was able to interpret that truth while everybody else just kinda misinterpreted that little "fact".

      May 13, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  11. Rainer Braendlein

    Gradually we should say goodbye to the long-held view that politics would be absolutely secular. This was never possible, because the human being by itself is a religious being and administrations are built by (religious) human beings and therefore most be religious as a whole.

    I don't dare to decide, if any member of a sect or cult should be allowed to become president of a country of the Western World, which has Christian roots.

    Basically I think that all people of a Western country should have the same rights and duties independent from their belief.

    However, it becomes dangerous, if a single sect or cult infiltrates the administration of a country. It would be naive not to assume that such people would not try to promote the interests of their own sect or cult, even if they had sworn to seek the benefit of the whole nation.

    Frederic the Great, the King of Prussia, promoted freedom of religion, but one should consider that at his time in the 18th century there was a great consensus in Europe that Christianity was the true religion, whereby there was a conflict between Protestants and Catholics. Although Frederic the Great supported religious freedom, he finished the rule of the pope in Europe by fighting the Catholic Habsburgians. Frederic the Great promoted the Englightenment (he was a friend of Voltaire), which was among others the end of the rule of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe. Frederic the Great was not anti-Christian (he was a Protestant), but aware that wolves in sheep's clothing always tend to use "their" churches, to gain worldly honor, power and riches.

    The problem is that sects, cults and false churches always seek worldly honor, power and riches in contrast to Jesus, who was a meek and humble carpenter, who simply lived a righteous life, which pleases God.

    Our basic problem today is that we have lost the ability to discriminate between cults, sects, false churches and the Christian Church.

    The Christian Church was founded by Jesus himself and has a history, which is meanwhile 2000 years old. True Christian teachers always try to keep the connection to the Early Church. It is a calamity that today any pizza baker takes the Bible and interpretes it according to the thoughts of his own foolish heart. It is clear that such people have to fail and this is the reason for the many Free Churches, cults and sects, we have got today.

    For example, Luther did not simply take the Bible and interpreted it, but he agreed with the Fathers of the Church, whereby he saw the Bible as the most authoritative docu-ment. In fact, through the Fathers of the Church Luther found the right access to the Holy Bible.

    My humble self found the right access to the Bible by Bonhoeffer, who himself refered to Luther and the Early Church. Hence, when I tell a doctrine, it is not my lousy invention or interpretation, but the consensus of the whole Church, which is ruled by the Holy Spirit.

    Joseph Smith, the founder of LDS, once saw a demon (he regarded it as God), which told him that he was not allowed to cooperate with the currently existing churches. This fact alone is a clear proof that the Mormons must be a cult, because the true Church always keeps the tradition of the Early Church. The mainline churches of today have their roots in the Early Church, because they keep the one holy sacramental baptism, which is not allowed to be repeated. It is only that the mainline churches need a new reform, because they have forgotten that baptism is a divine call for discipleship. Baptism is the gateway to a Christian life, but not a free ticket for heaven. We will only enter heaven, if we live as Chrisitian day by day in the power of the divine call, which is the sacramental baptism, which refers to Christ's sacrifice.

    We need a free international council of the Protestant Churches and Orthodox Churches (the pope-rat should not be allowed to participate), in order to outline again the true, good old doctrine, which is teached for 2000 years. It is really possible to assess this doctrine by theological and historical means. Then this doctrine should be teached in the Anglican Church, the German Evangelical Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, Orthodox Churches, etc..

    This would be a great progress for the mankind, if people could certainly know, where they could find health for their soul. It is a calamity that billions of people today are entrapped by lousy cults, sects and false churches and will finally get lost. The soul's health can be found only in the true Church.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • tony

      Once in heaven, you would have to take into account the thinking souls of the billions of dead pagans who died before Christianity. They do outnumber Christians by a few million to one.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein


      Yet in Old Testament times it was possible to get saved by faith in Christ. Hence, strictly speaking, the Church is more than 2000 years old. Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Joseph, etc. were believers.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  12. GAW

    As Brigham Young once said "I don't care how you bring em Just bring em young".

    May 13, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • ramsaxon

      Thank you CNN for bringing to light the fragile nature of Democracy; if we don't defend it, big religion will destroy it!!!

      May 13, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  13. Jay

    Can you imagine the headline reading: "D.C. a surprising Jew stronghold"? The editors at CNN are so bigoted they cannot even see it in themselves.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • tony

      That would get their phones tapped.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  14. dabinut

    Can everyone please list there name down, So after you all pass away, you can have a baptism and be converted to the LDS church and counted as a member. PLEASE! 😀 I said please >_<

    May 13, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      Yeah. . all you guys, if you wanna inherit a harem of virgins in the the afterlife, you will have to allow the Mormon church to baptize your name after you're dead. Everyone should submit their full name to Romney so he can get you into Mormon heaven.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • cherry

      to deecee...haha and submit your name so that you will be very sure that you will be included in the heaven of mitt and arrive in a good job in washington..

      May 13, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Melissa Devine

      Dear Dabinut,

      You may be joking around and it was witty. However, just to cover our bases, you may want to review the policy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding name submissions for things such as baptisms. We don't collect the names of strangers. 🙂 I've included the official policy below.

      "Family History – Church asks members to understand policies"

      May 13, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  15. Denvervet

    I for one am glad that all of these "beliefs" of the Mormon faith are coming out. I wish the news media would follow suit. They seem to be afraid to touch the subject, but, if its another religion they will tell all...........This Mormon religion is so far fetched, so ridiculous and laughable. If the public were informed of the strange beliefs of Romney and his fellow Mormons probably no one would vote for him based on that.

    May 13, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • tony

      No one will already

      May 13, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Erik

      I am as well so people can actually learn about what we believe from an LDS person directly instead of falsified rumor or crude analogies and derogatory language. Everything we believe is so Biblically based with some quick study.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  16. NicARigs

    I hate how people comment and say, "oh Mormons are cultists.. blah blah," I am sick of it... If you think they are so bad and your living your "Christian" lives, by persecuting, hating, and flat out trash talking others, just because they have a different religion, you sir/ madam have just done yourself a dis-service. I am proud to a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and I will be danged if I am going to let ignorant people, who know really NOTHING about our religion and teachings, take shots at what I hold dear. Yes, I am a free-thinking person, and no... I am not a gullible fool who has fallen for the "Mormon propaganda." Anyone who wishes to disagree with me and be hateful /spiteful about it, go for it, just remember that it will only prove my point. and you know it.

    May 13, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • tony

      Then why do so many of your "elders" keep knocking at door.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      omg. That's exactly how cult members think.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • DrArgh

      I am not LDS but I do have to wonder why people that consider themselves to be the so called 'true Christians' would be so hateful. Love and let live! It will all be sorted out in the end anyways so why fret?

      May 13, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • cherry

      haha,,scary when they knock on your door...so more scary if mitt will be in washington..

      May 13, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • NicARigs

      The elders keep knocking at your door because they want you to hear them out... and Dee, really? Cult thinking dictates that I want others to stop persecuting me and to stop saying I am stupid? Hmm then I guess Martin Luther King Jr. was a cult leader too because he wanted blacks to stop being persecuted, lynched, and harrassed? I rest my case.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Moe Smith

      umm... you just answered your own dialogue... ALL Christian religions preach hate. All thrive upon converting people or forever condemn them. there is NO acceptance. Christianity is the embodiment of Hypocrisy. plain. simple. period.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • ARK

      Why did Christ knock on so many doors?

      May 13, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • GAW

      But don't you guys believe that you are the only true church?

      May 13, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • max

      Being an LDS. Go all the way cause I'm right behind you. Very well presented.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:50 am |
  17. tony

    May almighty god curse those who hold religious beliefs

    May 13, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  18. Ed

    WHAT is the big deal about Mormons? Do Mormons highjack planes and crash them into thousands of people? Do Mormons call for the death of 4 million American children? Do Mormons blow up school buses full of kids? Do Mormons cut people's heads off? NO! Then don't worry about them. I'll take a Mormon in the White House over the muslim there now any day!

    May 13, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • tony

      Your shortened nickname refers to your even more shortened cranium by the sound of it.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • NicARigs

      Tony, that was a really stupid thing to say... Plus, "more shortened" is not gramatically correct, go back to elementary school.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • DarwinsRight

      gullible, easily fooled, ignores evidence....not good descriptions for our president.....but to some it wont matter...right Forrest?

      May 13, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  19. Mary

    Why doesn't anything mention any of the more strange things like the belief that god lives on the planet Kolob. As stated int he book of Abraham, written/translated by Joseph Smith from some Egyption scrolls he bought from people in traveling show that was visiting a town in Ohio. The belief that our sun is plant revolving around another sun called Hah-ko-kau-beam, which is then revolving in orbit around the planet Kolob. And if you are a good Mormon, when you die, God will take you back to the planet Kolob to visit him before sending you off to become the supreme ruler of some other alien world. Yes, it gets stranger still.. There is a lot more.

    May 13, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • tuffyturf

      Mary, it truly is scary that MILLIONS of sheeple buy into this garbage. Thank goodness, we can just pack them into Utah where they are basically harmless.. But putting one in the White House, if that happens... I am starting my own religion, and I will rule the world!

      May 13, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Erik

      What about that guy that defied the laws of physics and walked on water. Crazy huh

      May 13, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Mary

      Thank you Tuffy. Honestly I believe that no politician should let religion of any kind steer their judgment while in office. I agee with Bill Maher. "Faith is making a virtue out of not thinking for yourself."
      I have to wonder if Romney thinks that God is going to make him supreme ruler of the earth? I mean, he is trying to take one of the most powerful seats in the world politics.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Bob Aussie

      Mary, you seem to know a lot. Why don't you share what you know?

      May 13, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Ed

      Have you read some of the thing in the Bible? I have read it several time myself. Mostly because of the strange things I have found. I suggest reading Ezekiel.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  20. shamgar50

    These people believe Jesus came to the Americas and preached to the locals. They think the entire story was engraved on golden plates, given to the "huckster" Joseph Smith, who oddly, was the only one who could translate them. "Joseph Smith stated when he formed and founded his Mormon sect, that he was visited by two men, who were aliens from a distant planet known as Kolob and told him to start a religion. Joseph further claims he was given special glasses to read gold plates, that were also given to him by the two aliens."

    Do you really want someone that believes this, to be making decisions that affect the world? What a person believes, goes directly to their judgement.

    May 13, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • seedenbetter

      So, a person who believes that God spoke to Moses from a burning bush and chisled commandments into stone tablets (twice) is less psychotic?

      May 13, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • cherry

      very well said...and hundred percent sure washington will be in mormons belief and feast if mitt will be the pres,God forbid...Pres O 2012..

      May 13, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • shamgar50

      seedenbetter, You have to draw the line somewhere. I hold my nose now, when I vote for a christian (or any religious person).

      May 13, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • dav

      You must be one of those athiet money relative animals.When you look at your children do you see a roast or a burger.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:18 am |
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About this blog

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