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. DeeCee1000

    I wish everyone would take the time to find out how the Mormon Church came to be. You should look up Joseph Smith, its founder, his "Golden Plates", his "Book of Abraham", his teachings on the Jesus in the Christian bible, his teachings on blacks, and on polygamy and how he justified his polygamy. After doing that, I hope you ask yourself, "What is a man who follows this Mormon religion doing and believes what its founder Joseph Smith taught, trying to become the POTUS?"

    May 13, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • John Taylor

      Mitt Romney believes in peep stones. If elected, like the ole pet rock I used to have on my desktop at work, so will Mitt, have a peep stone on his oval office desktop to guide his every decision.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  2. Peick

    "He was assassinated by an anti-Mormon mob in Missouri well before Election Day"

    During which he was also shooting back. This was no martyrdom.

    Americans, do we care whether the claims of mormonism are true? We all know they are moral and friendly (the ones that we are shown–there are plenty who do not have the spotlight on them), but that doesn't make a religion true. It's shocking to me how people will just look past the issue of whether this religion provides salvation and make a decision based the PR campaign of its members.

    For more information, check out the topical list at UTLM dot org.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • John Taylor

      Mormons use events like this to validate their beliefs. Just like days of old, Mormons today will look at these events to validate their beliefs. Persecution only happens to those who have the truth. To Mormons, it’s the plan of Satan to destroy the good. It was Satan who tempted the mobs to murder Joseph Smith.

      It's all too delusional if you ask me.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Jackie

      So when a mob of over 40 men attacks you and your five friends, and you have a gun handy, you're not supposed to shoot back? The mob came with the intent to murder Joseph Smith, and they did. The fact that he tried to defend himself doesn't make it any less of a murder.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  3. jhalldor

    Not surprising to me. Just consider all of the polygamy. Now theres some marriage legislation we need in Washington.

    OK enough of the distractions. Let's concentrate on the real issues for the next president.

    End the wars. Bring our suffering soldiers home to their families. No war with Iran. No more bankrupting the country by military misadventure and overextension.

    Balance the budget. Preserve our liberties and our wealth to pass on to our children and grandchildren.

    Enough of the false dialogue to avoid the real issues facing this country.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  4. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Let's see... the alternative would have been Santorum (an extremist Catholic) or Gingrich. (a Catholic convert after his divorce and remarriage)
    Fun fact: the Supreme Court no longer has any protestants in it. All of the justices are either Catholic or Jewish.

    I too was born and raised Catholic, so I don't fear these people. I just know that historically republicans had just as much hatred and fear of Catholics as they do of Mormons today. It's a passing fad.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  5. Voice of Reason

    CNN it is your responsibility to report on the beliefs of the mormon faith. It should be front page news. A point by point illustration just what the mormon believes in.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • momoya

      Yep.. Let's get a pet...ition going

      May 13, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  6. Rainer Braendlein

    Billions of people get lost, because they are seduced by false churches, cults and sects and we sit on the couch and operate the remote.

    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 11:29 am |
    • Ox

      Wow.......a very loooong and wordy post.......and filled with tons of errors and incorrect assumptions.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein


      What do you mean concretely?

      May 13, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  7. Argyle

    I am not a Mormon, but my sister became one in 1978. Her family continues to multiply in Utah, Idaho, and Texas. Circa 1994 her teenage son showed me a placard endorsed by his church (otherwise he wouldn't have it). It was a pistol target with then-President Clinton's face in the bullseye. The caption read words to the effect, "Sometimes certain measures are justified."
    Please be careful, fellow Americans. Always use your logical mind - never fall victim to deceptive lobbying. This cnn.com article paints a deceptive picture of Mormons as wonderful people who should lead us. During the 70s I allowed myself to be "taught" by two sets of Mormon Elders, then on my own I got away from them. Something about them really disturbed me. They neer seemed to think logically - only as "groupthink." Since then their financial and political power - and population - has soared. That disturbe me even more.
    We were all given good minds. We need to make sure we use them. The world is counting on us.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      That's great to hear you escaped the throngs of evil! Keep up the fight for logic and reason!

      May 13, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Robert

      That placard was positively NOT endorsed by the church, and you should know that.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • John Taylor

      The facade of Mormonism changes about every decade or so.

      The version of Mormonism I was taught in a Utah high school seminary included the curse of Cain, the eternal progression of man, and our destiny was to become Gods and Goddesses of our own worlds. Today version of Mormonism doesn’t even come close to resemble the version of Mormonism I knew.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • ramsaxon

      Larry Flynt's "Hustler Magazine" portrayed a monthly centerfold back in the 1970s' that vividly portrayed events at that time. His "As- Ho–" of the month portrayals proved to be very volatile. His influence, although crass, was awakening.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  8. Jake

    Mitt Romney "donates" 10 million dollars to the Mormon Church. The Mormon Church then funnels millions through Bain Ventures and "coincidently" it winds up in secret accounts in the Cayman Islands just like Mitt Romney's money does. Since the US Government CANNOT determine or know what happens to that money once it gets to the Cayman Islands, this raises all kinds of questions of what may indeed be going on here.

    We all know that people have secret accounts in these countries to hide money for three reasons only...1. Tax Evasion. 2. Money Laundering, 3. Proceeds from illegal activity. If this were not the case, why not use US Banks for all their investments?

    Folks, something is very wrong here and Mitt Romney knows it. But because doesn't have to disclosed any money transactions from his secret accounts in the Caymans, he can continue to do whatever he is doing and snub his nose at his own government. The irony and disgusting part of this is...he is running for President, to be in charge of the very same government that he is snubbing his nose at. Which one of the those 3 reasons is the reason that Mitt keeps secret accounts in the Cayman Islands, and what part of this does the Mormon Church play? Is it also kickbacks?

    May 13, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • David

      Wow, more conspiracy theory.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • John Taylor

      If the money is in secret Cayman Island accounts, then by virtue of you knowing, it's no longer a secret? I love a good conspiracy story.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Jake

      Nothing you these two scant replies says anything. The reasons why people hide money in secret accounts in the Cayman Island remains the same. The reporting to the US government doesn NOT have to disclose any business occurring in the Cayman Islands. That's the reason why people like Mitt Romney uses the Cayman Islands. According to the well respected Robert Morgenthau, the former NYC District Attorney, there is more money in the Cayman Islands than in all of the banks in NYC COMBINED. The Cayman Islands is the 5th largest money center in the world, a tiny island that is 102 square mile big. What does that tell you?

      May 13, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  9. Lofter

    Washington is a Jewish stronghold. In fact, its like an outpost of Israel. That is all you need to know about our foreign policy.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  10. paulbotinreallife

    it will be without romney.... and obama...... Ron Paul is winning state convention after state convention...... report that cnn.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  11. rkulla

    I love how all religions make all these insane mythological claims about miracles and preach a lot of immoral stuff about when it's okay to be racist or abuse people, yet because their scriptures have a few lines about common-sense morality that we all agree with - such as not stealing - we try to just base it all off that one good thing and say "Well, I'm sure the majority of them only believe in that one good thing." And then if you criticize all the negative things with a religion you get looked at as offensive of bigoted.

    That kind of extreme looking at the bright side doesn't seem to work with other things. For example, we won't let someone out of prison because he also did a good deed once, not just crime.

    If only religious people who look at other religions and go "wow, that is nuts" would realize that those other people believe just as strongly as they do – maybe they could start to see their own beliefs might be incorrect and could at least start basing what they're going to believe in from now on on a lot more evidence and facts and what's good for humanity as a whole, instead of just clinging to traditions or being bullied by peer pressure to believe what others want them to believe.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • A Serpent's Thoughts

      I know little about other places but, here within the U.S.A. we have now, a "melting pot" of many religions that seemingly do not breech or upset the boudaries of other religions' Faiths! Our socialized religious freedoms are fast becoming secular in that the Fiath of individualisms are what truly matters as long as one's Faith is hampered when entering the political arena!

      Stupid political insomniacs of imbeciled religious gropings!

      May 13, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  12. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Who cares. As far as republicans are concerned, as long as their president is a rich white man who promotes the rich white man way, they'd elect even a unicorn-worshipper.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  13. Copper's Donut Shoppe

    Position, power and access can all be had in Washington if your money is enough. Mormon, Jewish, Christian, Muslim ~ all monies are acceptable to our sold out government.
    The Mormon lobby in DC is just as tight and cash plentiful as the Jewish lobby ~ and neither are Christian.
    Twilight's last gleaming as US of hey sinks into the morass of it's own filth.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  14. judy

    mormons believe they are the answer and a mormon will lead this counrty and the world. Echo Hawk is from a mormon state boardered by a mormon state they have badgered him to convert for years. Not all indians are happy about the way mormons treated us. They are just white guys that now think it is ok to have blacks and indians in their church, They had a vision which is what they do when they need to change policy. Like mitt and his flip flopping. Im sure that is where he got it from. As president he will have lots of visions as dictated by the church.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  15. Little Tin God

    I wonder how long it would be if Romney were to actually win in November, before "Washington" moves to Salt Lake City.

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

      About as long as it took obama to move it to Kenya

      May 13, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • cherry

      as long as all mormons filled all the positions in washington,new grad or not..

      May 13, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Jackie

      Didn't you hear, it already moved to the Vatican in the '60s...oh wait, that didn't happen.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  16. oldbones24

    No wonder the Government has been trying to shove "Christian" values down our throats for the past 10 years!!!! Enough!

    May 13, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  17. PaulieJ

    Follow whatever religion you like or none at all. Just stop trying to legislate those religious beliefs.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  18. Seyedibar

    Mormons.... are their own punchline.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  19. selfevolved

    Well when I was growing up in White House, TN, a large group of Mormons moved to town at the same time from Salt Lake City. They didn't even attempt to keep it a secret that they were sent there to "take over" a small town and that other such groups are sent to small towns all over the country to "take over".

    May 13, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  20. bookgirl

    I don't care if you believe little green men will try to take over the world, as long as you keep those beliefs to yourself. I am sick of politicians who try to separate the American people based on their "faith" . Religious beliefs have no place in the political discourse–none. None.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • IslandAtheist

      Religion shapes a person world view, as a voter I need to know what that world view is. (i.e. does Mitt believe dark skin people are cursed by god , like his faith teaches.)

      May 13, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • mandarax


      May 13, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • dav

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

      May 13, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • IslandAtheist

      Baby eating is not a requirement of atheism.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:37 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.