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. jungleboo

    For those of you who missed motoring along the DC beltway back when this Mormon Temple was new, picture this: A graffiti visionary had the Almighty nerve to spray paint a massive slogan on the side of a railroad overpass. It was a spectacular message, behind which loomed this hideous Temple of Doom. It read, "SURRENDER DOROTHY". It stayed there for years, and always brought a smile to my daily commute.

    May 13, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  2. Danman

    I you are considering becoming a Mormon, I would have to suggest to you the Amish way of life. Now that is truly conservative. They didn't even need to make up a new prophet!

    May 13, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  3. jim

    Joseph smith stole most of Mormonism from the Freemasons. His brother taught him about the secret handshake and other nonsense they use in their lodges. Mormonism also has secret handshakes and blood oaths. It is a scary thing. This is all part of Satan's plan and all will end as the Revelation tells us...Best to get with Jesus and try on some persecution as he did.

    May 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  4. DoNotWorry

    Not surprising. The Mormons ONLY recruit those that are fairly high in society. They'll take poor folks if they insist, not otherwise. I don't know about in Joseph Smith's time, but in this time it is assured.

    May 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • truth

      I'm fairly high...

      May 13, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  5. Danman

    If Dateline were around when Joe Smith was getting married he woulda been soooo busted!

    May 13, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • DoNotWorry

      His first five or so marriages were done in secret from his first wive. The Book of Mormon has a chapter written to her... she could approve his other marriages as required by God or go to hell. Not kidding.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Chris Hansen

      "So Joe, whats that in your hands? a two pack of leather co.n.doms? What exactly were you planning to do when you got here? I mean, she's 14, you do know that right?"

      "But, but, she said she was 18, at least in spirit...besides I have paid her parents well and it's not technically banned by federal or state law yet!"

      "And you think that just because something hasn't been specifically banned that makes it not child r.a.p.e? Well we found that stuffing these severed dog pen.ises in your nose was not specifically banned either so we'll just go ahead and...there we go... now stop trying to struggle, you'll tear tear a nostril..."

      May 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  6. Anti-Christ

    This is why Religion should not be involved into politics, Religion was created by mistake, greed and power. Whats sad is that we still have people in this world, in our current evolution that they still believe that MAN was able to keep accurate records from thousand"s" of years and yet we just want to suck it in and hope for the best.

    I can not wait for the day when we will encounter new life outside our own solar system, so i can say "IN YOUR FACE" too all of the pretenders.

    May 13, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  7. Danman

    A mormon woman is simply a muslim woman without a Burkha.
    A mormon man is simply a muslim sympathizing insurgent.

    May 13, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  8. RayJacksonMS

    This cult has long dispatched its brainwashed minions out to gain power. They can not be trusted. They got their start with the money they stole off the bodies of dead children they murdered at the Mountain Meadows Pass.

    May 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • DoNotWorry

      I hope you get to feeling better real soon.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  9. MojoJack

    Mormonism is a newer religion that sounds like a 19th century attempt to create the Republican party by aligning Christians with Republican values.

    1) Start with a good set of Christian values and attach Republican political beliefs to them.
    2) Figure out which states are strongly Democratic.
    3) Strategically find the best locations to put up new Mormon churches in those states to preach Mormonism (Republicanism)

    Now whenever I see Church of Latter Day Saints it will just make me think Church of the Grand Old Party. Here to spread GOP beliefs by piggy-backing on Christianity. There are plenty of religions that preach Christianity of your choosing that are not Mormon.

    May 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Stuart

      19th century Mormons were actually democrats.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • MojoJack

      I said "sounds like" because I wasn't sure when. The point is that Mormons are mostly aligned with the GOP.
      They don't preach about voting one way or another because then it would be obvious. They just preach the principles that are Republican and count on the brainwashing to do the work.

      May 13, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  10. Danman

    If you give me some money I will tell you about the one true word.

    May 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • DocktheScot

      Dan, so much contempt for church that does more for society than any other organized religion. You obviously were done wrong by a Mormon and now have decided to attack the church. Get a life.n

      May 13, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  11. BOb the Prairie Dog

    Only two kinds of adults participate organized religion: Crooks and Idiots, and they are a match made in heaven. Ka-ching!

    May 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Reasonable Believer

      You just make the Left look and sound bad.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  12. tom

    The church’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians,” so they say. Then why a need for the book of Mormon? Isn't the New Testament supposed to be the basis for Christian beliefs and practices?

    May 13, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Danman

      I have NEVER heard a Mor-ON teach a word of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is how you recognize false prophets.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Reasonable Believer

      Second withness of Christ.......assuming that it is bogus, the Book of Mormon's intentions and the Mormon church's effect on Christianity is VERY positive.

      Mainstream Christianity believes in a very simple, "take on the name of Christ and be saved" process, while "Mormonism" is that as a beginning. NOTHING in the LDS church takes ANYTHING away from mainstream Christianity.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Danman

      They don't add anything to christianity either. Borrowed Masonic Rituals and a made up testament aren't great contributions. By "worshiping" Joseph Smith primarily you are breaking one of the most important commandments... though shalt have no other gods before me... By believing you will be a planet ruling breeding machine godlike being in the afterlife you take on the hubris of many fallen angels.... get it? You are not that important, populating planets is not that important, what is important is love, forgiveness and getting them through Christ, the son of god, the redeemer and the only way to eternal life. At least that's what christians believe. That's all we need. I don't need masonic symbols in the way of me and my savior. Peace out!

      May 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • DoNotWorry

      Good explanation, Danman. I wish more pseudoChristians would become real Christians.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • God's Old Dreamer

      @ Danman

      The "Sons of God" as so written in the Gospels are of God and many of Gods Sons do God's will while many have united against God and His trighteous Sons! We are nothing but God's buildings as is so written in the Gospels! Can't the people see that Gods honorable Sons do fight against the dishonored sons of God within their Cosmos of the micro-chasms of inner-space? Luke 17:21 and 1 Corinthians 3:9 are but two verses of religious scriptures I find to soothe my sinful soul! May the forces of God be upon all Life forms' desirabilities for peace above and within and inside all things of Life!

      May 13, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  13. susan

    If you want to see the real bigots, liars, and cheats.....read the comment section. I cannot believe how messed up our country must be when we have people this hateful in here.

    May 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Danman

      I am truly sorry that the majority of people do not agree with you, nor are as easily convinced by the argument "because we told you to believe it".

      May 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • susan

      I never stated anything about my beliefs danman. The greatest form of arrogance is assuming you know what someone else is thinking or believes.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Danman

      I'm sorry, I thought you actually were making a comment about SOMETHING. Guess I was mistaken. You made no statement, have no opinion and believe nothing, so why are you on here? SPAM?

      May 13, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • DoNotWorry

      Danman, clearly Susan was using contempt for others to elevate her own position... in her own eyes. Had nothing to do with thought or opinion, just egocentric blab.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • DocktheScot

      Great statement Susan, and SO true, and I am not even a Mormon.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  14. Voice of Reason

    September 21,182, Joseph announced he had obtained gold plates, inscribed with an ancient language, that were buried in a hill near his home. Emma had gone with Joseph to the hill, waiting patiently in the wagon until he returned; the plates wrapped in his coat. Emma described that she later wrote as Joseph translated the plates, “with his face buried in his hat...hour after hour.” The plates “lay on the table...wrapped in a small linen table cloth”. Emma was not allowed to see the plates, but she remembers touching them beneath the cloth. By spring of 1830, the gold plates had been published as the Book of Mormon, and a new church founded, with Joseph as its prophet.

    May 13, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Danman

      Wow, Joseph had such a high tech hat device! The hat is symbolic for his thinking cap, in other words, his imagination. By teaching Joseph Smiths teachings you are following a false prophet who was just an attention seeking little brat and had to steal all his good ideas from masonic rituals and the bible. Even today the Mor-ons practice masonic rituals in their temples and use masonic symbols. It's just a big good ol' boys club like a Elks Lodge. Cults, sheeesh.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Really-O?

      The late, great Mr. Hitchens claimed that both the LDS church and the Church of Scientology are clearly the works of Con Men.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  15. Don Jones

    I grew up in a comunity that was 99% molrmon as a non mormon. This writer is iether a mormon or has no idea how the church works. As for getting information about a religion likr the mormon church from members is absolutely rediculus. For a mormon to cheat or lie to another mormon is not viewed well but because they were pesecuted its ok when dealing with non members, kind of one upsmanship. That why we call them rocky mountian jews. The heads of the church are the utimate authority and thier views are the members views. Dont think that a democrat mormon is any differnt than a republican mormon, the church knows it would be bad business to be 100% republican and probably has directed a certian percentage to be democratic.

    May 13, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Gast

      I'm living in the same community you describe and I think it's YOU who have the problem. I'm not from here and I'm democrat. It's frowned upon by the community and makes it very difficult to build friendships. Moreover, if people are dishonest, they are dishonest. They don't choose whether or not to be dishonest based on whether you are LDS or not.

      As someone who grew up LDS outside of Utah, I can say that this is not the same here as elsewhere. I miss being with other LDS people who understand the world and live their religion because they understand what it means because they've been on the hotseat having to explain it! And they're being watched so they have to live it. I certainly miss the East Coast. That makes it necessary for those who live there (not commute like Hatch, Chaffitz, etc.) to have to open their eyes and minds.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Reasonable Believer

      Sorry you have an atypical experience with Mormons. Sounds like you are a bit jaded.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Karen

      I grew up non-Mormon and politically liberal in a small, college town that was overwhelmingly LDS. My friends, neighbors, teachers were all Mormon–with the same challenges and triumphs in life as anyone else. While I may not agree with all the Mormon teachings, I have come to respect their ability to form strong communities and families based on service to others. It is something I found lacking in other places I have lived.

      My current professor (raised Roman Catholic) tells a story of having moved to Utah from Ohio twenty years ago. Soon after moving into his new home, a pipe broke one morning and flooded his entire basement area. He said he was in shock and horror at the sight and he kind of staggered outside. A neighbor saw him and greeted him and then asked what was the matter. My professor explained what had happend and 30 min later the calvary came–the neighbor had notified the "ward" about the water break and all sorts of folks with shovels and trucks showed up to help him clean up the mess. There was even a littel girl running around with drinks and hot muffins to give to the workers. Even the youngest have a way to serve in Mormon society.

      My elderly parents (non-Mormon) and living in Utah for 40+ years have also had the local ward help them out with sand-bagging during a year with floods. We were all very grateful for their service.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Pepek the Assassin

      Mr. Jones, your ignorance and your arrogance leave me speechless. Almost.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  16. jhalldor

    Good luck keeping the South, Republicans

    with your Liberal, former Democrat, Morman candidate from Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.

    Support Ron Paul at the Convention for a real chance to see a Republican in the White House.

    May 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  17. Voice of Reason

    The wives of Joseph Smith:

    Emma Hale
    Fanny Alger
    Lucinda Morgan Harris
    Louisa Beaman
    Zina Huntington Jacobs
    Presendia Huntington Buell
    Agnes Coolbrith
    Sylvia Sessions Lyon
    Mary Rollins Lightner
    Patty Bartlett Sessions
    Marinda Johnson Hyde
    Elizabeth Davis Durfee
    Sarah Kingsley Cleveland
    Delcena Johnson
    Eliza R. Snow
    Sarah Ann Whitney
    Martha McBride Knight
    Ruth Vose Sayers
    Flora Ann Woodworth
    Emily Dow Partridge
    Eliza Maria Partridge
    Almera Johnson
    Lucy Walker
    Sarah Lawrence
    Maria Lawrence
    Helen Mar Kimball
    Hanna Ells
    Elvira Cowles Holmes
    Rhoda Richards
    Desdemona Fullmer
    Olive Frost
    Melissa Lott
    Nancy Winchester
    Fanny Young

    May 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • True

      His penis was the key given by God, of course he would have to try it on a lot of locks to find out what heavenly door it opened...

      May 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Danman

      How many of them were "child brides"? There should be ages for them historically. I'm sure there is a reason Utah doesn't have a child protective service or their just paid to look the other way, cus their mor-ons too...

      May 13, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Joseph Smith's wives ages:

      May 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Voice of Reason


      Since 1890, the U.S. Census has collected "Average Age at First Marriage" information for both men and women. By studying demographic information known to correlate with "Average Age at First Marriage" since 1890, social scientist's can "look back" in time" and estimate "Average Age at First Marriage" historically.
      In 1840, the "Average Age at First Marriage" for women is estimated to be between 21 and 22 years of age. In 1950, the "Average Age at First Marriage" dipped to about 20 years of age. By 2005, the "Average Age at First Marriage" had risen to about 25 years of age.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      I thought through this life my time will be my own
      The step I now am taking’s for eternity alone,
      No one need be the wiser, through time I shall be free,
      And as the past hath been the future still will be.
      To my guileless heart all free from worldly care
      And full of blissful hopes and youthful visions rare
      The world seamed bright the thret’ning clouds were kept
      From sight and all looked fair...

      ...but pitying angels wept.
      They saw my youthful friends grow shy and cold.
      And poisonous darts from sland’rous tongues were hurled,
      Untutor’d heart in thy gen’rous sacrafise,
      Thou dids’t not weigh the cost nor know the bitter price;
      Thy happy dreams all o’er thou’st doom’d also to be
      Bar’d out from social scenes by this thy destiny,
      And o’er thy sad’nd mem’ries of sweet departed joys
      Thy sicken’d heart will brood and imagine future woes,
      And like a fetter’d bird with wild and longing heart,
      Thou’lt dayly pine for freedom and murmor at thy lot;

      But could’st thou see the future & view that glorious crown,
      Awaiting you in Heaven you would not weep nor mourn.
      Pure and exalted was thy father’s aim, he saw
      A glory in obeying this high celestial law,
      For to thousands who’ve died without the light
      I will bring eternal joy & make thy crown more bright.
      I’d been taught to reveire the Prophet of God
      And receive every word as the word of the Lord,
      But had this not come through my dear father’s mouth,
      I should ne’r have received it as God’s sacred truth.

      Helen Mar Kimball

      Joseph Smith's 14 year old wife.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Truth

      So their most revered founder is actually a serial child ra.pist. That explains quite a lot.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • DoNotWorry

      Brigham Young had waaayyyy more wives than Joseph Smith.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Gary

      And this is why if gAe's can marry with acceptance so should mormons be able to marry who and how many they want as it is their religion.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • GotPot

      @Gary – in a polygamous marriage who get's to decide when to pull the plug when if you get into an accident and become a vegetable? Which spouse decides where you should be buried? Which spouse should the court listen to as to the dissolution of your estate? These are questions that are automatic with a two person marriage contract. To add a third party or more to the contract adds to much ambiguity as to responsibility's of each party. Now if you want to live like Hugh Hefner and just have a harem (and can afford it) then by all means, enjoy, but don't add a financial burden to the State that would have to arbitrate custody/legal battles within polygamous marriages.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  18. hugh harvey

    They have to be crazy to want more than one wife, sounds kind of like the Muslims who have more than one wife.
    One wife at a time it all anyone should need, now 4 or 5 over a long period of time is ok.

    May 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  19. jackvigdor

    Actually, the article paints Mormons as decent, hardworking people.
    It honors their maturity and praises the LDS church as a training ground for responsibly and leadership.
    That is why it scares me.

    May 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • A Serpent's Thought

      @ jackvigdor

      Mormon,,,,maturity? What part of socialism do you claim to be from? Idiot Ventral? Imbecile's Harbor? Idiotic Mountains?

      May 13, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  20. God's Old Dreamer

    "Parented Politics" tends to establish illusionary momentums upon the mobs massings! Anti-Religious droppings here and there are percentaged libations' whineries! In the End Game of political posturings are the misfits brothels ever to languish their knighted selves thru inept voter participations!

    May 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
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About this blog

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