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. J

    I find it pathetic that religion plays a role in politics. the moment a politician discusses their faith, i'll refuse to vote for them. I wont have a religious extremest who believes in imaginary friends running this country, no sir. we do NOT live in the 14th century.

    May 13, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Donald

      I guess you wont be voting for either Mitt or Mr. Obama.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      ... and what are your core beliefs, Mr. "J"??? I would be that most of what you believe will be based on some sort of 14th century "myths" as you call them. What do you believe in that's better than this? C'mon – lay it out for us and let US be the judge of how stupid your beliefs are, ok? Dare you to answer this one!

      May 13, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • P. O. Carl

      This country was founded by people with a deep faith in god. And that belief is still strong.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • gah

      good luck finding an atheist candidate

      May 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Grammy

      Look son, whether you like it our not. Around the world religion is part of most of the world in one way or another. Our Nation is a nation of believers in one way or another. You not so much? none of my bussiness. You not voting, sad

      May 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Sven

      The reality is that a person's political views are tied to his or her moral views. Some people's moral views are informed by religion. More important than a person's expressed belief in my mind is what they embrace. I am inclined to vote for a catholic, jew, atheist, buddhist, hindu, muslim, zoroastrian, etc. if I agree with his or her views on the economy, education and even (at times) moral stance. You cannot effectively divorce a stance from much of the law (example: at what point do we consider a homicide justifiable self defense?) The inalienable rights that we fervently want for every body have a moral basis. I am not at the point where I am willing to put a moral view ahead of another merely because it was not initially rooted in atheism.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  2. kate

    "When Fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and caring the cross."
    Sinclair Lewis

    May 13, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • barney

      And it will have a purple triangle on its head. Mormons created the Teletubbies. Strange but true.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Hollie8

      Could be true...you know what's funny though? Look at any Mormon building, website, person etc. and you won't see a cross anywhere...

      May 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  3. Really?

    Are the mormons trying to take over our government?

    May 13, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  4. barney

    Which one is Mitt's favorite? Po?

    May 13, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  5. barney

    If Tinky Winky is a Mormon, how about Dipsy, Po And LaLa?

    May 13, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  6. bzcoolness

    It's sad to see that no one can get along nowadays, whether it's religion, politics, or even the color of their eyes/hair. Is it possible for us to actually get along for once, or is that too much to ask for in the 21st Century?

    Yes I'm a Mormon, yes I believe in a god, yes I'm a Christian, et cetera et cetera. Can someone please explain to me why it is that almost everyone I run into online thinks we're stupid, ignorant, liars who are going to go to Hell for their beliefs (without going into a religious debate over it, please)? Is it because of our beliefs? Is it just a general lack of information? Is everyone just ignorant/crazy? Please explain in simple terms; I'm a layperson.

    May 13, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • peter

      Because the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ is not the word of God. Cursed is the man who wrote the book of mormon and cursed is the jesus christ he preached.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • J

      who cares, you're not going to hell. everyone who dies will decompose in the ground, not that hard of a concept, religious crazies.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • prediction

      The republican party knew they had a difficult fight and so they changed their rules to choose a candidate, even at the risk of appearing as if they were parading a circus of clowns. Clowns are all they could get to run, who else they could convince into committing political suicide. Obviously they knew head on it was going to be an embarrassment. They decided to once again hoping to lie and convince the people who tried to buy them a job, they did not waste their money. Sorry Karl, they are just clowns and Mitten the thug. What did you expect.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Whoa, Peter – you are one angry little man. What do YOU believe in? Put it out for ALL of us to disect. What are they based upon? Are yo even a nice person? Doesn't look like it reading your hateful comments. It will be interesting to see if you have the guts to put it all on the blog.... WHAT it is that you believe in....if anything.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • P. O. Carl

      This post if for Peter, since you can not post to a reply. Have you read it?

      May 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • bzcoolness

      @Peter Have you read the Book of Mormon?
      @J That's an excellent and true response. I was talking more about my soul, but you are correct. At least I can die a bit happy knowing that only part of me might go to Hell.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  7. Andrew Casey

    All theologies are good and true. Whatever brings you closer to God and Nirvana are welcome and positive. There are no false religions and there are no real atheists. Anyone who claims that there is only one true religion is a false profit and is someone to call out. All will be revealed..when you die.

    May 13, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • P. O. Carl

      You are almost right.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Hollie8

      a bit hasty calling Christ a false prophet there... though your way of seeing life would make things a bit simpler.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  8. barney

    Is Tinky Winky a Mormon?

    May 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  9. kate

    This months SALT LAKE CITY MAGAZINE cover,story "The Myth of Mitt'. Read it!

    May 13, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  10. Questions401

    In many other western countries Mormonism is still considered a cult, and it is only recently here in the U.S. that it is no longer considered a cult. Now to learn of their over representation in our government. I believe in Religious freedom to worship or not as one pleases, but being over represented in our government cannot stand, for this means the actual majority is under represented.

    May 13, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • prediction

      Maxwell, a Michigan attorney, is still haunted by what he claims he witnessed on the campus of the state's elite Cranbrook School in 1965: a young Mitt Romney and a group of friends holding down a classmate named John Lauber and cutting off chunks of his long hair.
      "It was not an event you take a lot of pride in. And it was that way for all of us," Maxwell told CNN.
      Maxwell confirmed the story, first reported in the Washington Post. However, he insisted the incident was far worse than a high school prank.
      "I'm a lawyer. I know what an assault is. This kid was scared. He was terrified. That's an assault," Maxwell said.
      Romney said in an interview with Fox News Radio he does not recall the incident described in the Post article.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • bzcoolness

      I don't see how representing 2% of Congress is over-representation (then again, I could just be crazy). Can you explain how it is?

      Also, for your information, we (Mormons) are a cult, as is every other religion. A cult is, according to dictionary.com, "1. a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies. 2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers. 3. the object of such devotion. 4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc. 5. a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols." 1, 4, and 5 sound a lot like religion and even atheism (Muslims unite around the Qu'ran, Christians around the Bible, etc., while Atheists unite around the belief that there is no God). So every religion is a cult.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Donald

      Our political and governmental system allows everyone to participate. If one group is over or under represented, it is their responsibility. Mormons have been involved in government for over 100 years. The world hasn't stopped and America has somehow managed to thrive. I wouldn't be concerned about Mormons participating in our government. Mormons believe in the separation of church and state. Mormons in government are guided by their ideology and their conscience just like most others. They are not told how to vote or what ideology to adhere to. Hence you have Harry Reid and Mitt Romney both being active Mormons.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • nobody important

      Politicians are way too over-reperesented in Congress!

      May 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Hollie8

      I'm a lifelong Mormon in Australia and we are certainly not considered a cult here, just Christians. You Americans are just so...weird sometimes; so caught up in a frenzy of information that isn't always correct and the rest of the world watches you and laughs a lot of the time at how internally-focused you come across.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  11. drafter31

    Ron Paul's "Rise For Liberty" Money Bomb begins this Thursday, May 17th...

    Dr. Paul is asking his Supporters for $650,000...Let's give him $1.3 Million!!!

    Go Dr. Paul!!!

    May 13, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  12. josh1

    All is good but Mormonism is a poster child for the birth of a religion, we know the exact origin and the subsequent events that leads to the church it currently is. One of the most interesting things was that in its foundation, anyone could directly communicate with God and if God told him (of course no women) that he was the new leader of the church, then that was the case. This led to chaos and all the different subtracks within Mormonism. This rule was quickly banned and now only the leaders can talk directly to God... Hmmm...

    May 13, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Hollie8

      You're a bit wrong there I'm afraid.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Josh, Josh, Josh..... interesting words you put out on the blog..... where did you get your misinformation?... National Inquirer? It's unbelievable how much garbage is spewed about in ignorance and hatred of the LDS church. lds.org might help you out a little bit. Probably just reading some hate filled book against Mormons. What a way to get info.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Chris D.

      I actually talk to God every day. It's called prayer. You can talk to your Father in Heaven too if you sincerely pray. I generally get on my knees, begin by saying "Father in Heaven", then I give thanks for my many blessings and those hardships I am currently encountering (they make me become better in the long run), then I close with "in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen". The President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Thomas S. Monson, receives revelation to direct the church as a whole unit, but each person on earth has the ability to directly talk to God.

      Whenever I pray sincerely, I feel the Holy Spirit witness unto me His love, and sometimes my prayers are answered immediately and sometimes in time, but I do know that when I receive those answers, they are always at the right moment.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  13. Normon

    " the spirit of Christ testified to me that the Book of Mormon is true" Many Mormon claims have been tested and found to be false in court proceedings, and the Mormon religion tends to change it's promotional material and practices to avoid criticism. Check online for "former Mormons" to get more personal stories and history of this organization. A feeling of the "spirit" may not be from God the Father or from Christ (see below). Many have fallen prey to similar claims from strong leaders and ended up in horribly abusive cults. The "main" LDS church is a bit gentler, at least in our day, but nevertheless deserves to be taken with caution. The oft-heard phrase "we don't understand that principle, but God will explain it in the hereafter" is just a distraction. I trust Jesus to have adequately explained the workings of the Kingdom of God for us, and contrary to Mormon teaching yes, everyone has the ability to receive the continual companionship of the Holy Spirit and relevant personal revelation – not just Mormons. They will tell you only members of their organization have this gift. The Book of Mormon has been shown, in court, to be originally a manuscript for a novel that mysteriously "disappeared" from the publisher's office at the same time some promotional material was being produced by that same publisher. This is not "persecution" as they will claim, but proven reality. We must be careful when deciding who to follow! 2 Thessalonians 2:2 "be not quickly shaken from your mind, . . . either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us"

    May 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • John Taylor

      During the 1970’s, I was taught in my LDS High School seminary that the blacks were cursed, and would never have the priesthood in this life. I was taught the principle of eternal marriage, and how that convent relates to the eternal progression of man doctrine. I was taught that I could become a God of my own world and with my wife who I was sealed to in the Temple; she would become a Goddess and the mother of untold numbers of spirit children, who we would send to our own earth, which we created.

      Today’s generation of Mormons is told the blacks and the priesthood is folklore and the eternal progression of man doctrine, were falsehood, taught by miss-directed men. This is called the ever-changing word of Mormonism; it’s all about the corporation and public relations, damage control if you will

      May 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Hollie8

      that last past is a bit of a laugh. If that were true, i would love to have met the person who wrote that "novel"; he would no doubt have had the greatest literary and theological mind of all time. Try reading it with the bible next to you to use as a reference, I promise you will soon realise it was not written by any man. You Americans are so funny and full of interesting stories and rumors, quite entertaining to watch you bicker.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  14. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things !

    May 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • josh1

      Except when I pray for you to stop posting this in every forum 🙂

      May 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Hitchens

      You can't pray against prayer josh. That would be insane.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • prediction

      A simile changes everything. Only love will set you free.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • J

      I'm praying for you to get past your religious extemeist beliefs, turn your "faith" into reason, science, and move out of the 12th century. maybe then i won't declare you mentally retarded. I sure dont want a grown adult with imaginary friends in public

      May 13, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  15. Michael

    google "shaking you cannot handle" to see something awesome!!!

    May 13, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  16. Ron

    Do they wear magic underwear and hold a bunch of teenage wives?
    It's what their so-called religion is all about, heh?
    Like, planet Kolob and interplanetary flying spirits.

    May 13, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Skylar

      no...just no. you are wrong.

      May 13, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Hollie8

      ...very wrong, in fact. Although the thought of "magic underwear" sounds fun, almost like a superhero!

      May 13, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Skylar, poor Ron is some angry little man who doesn't have a clue how to understand a religion. Everything he posts on this blog is so bizarre and false, it's almost funny – except that he believes it. Ignorance is rampant here today. Oh well –

      May 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Sarah

      Yea sorry, if you're going to ask questions...make sure they dont make you sound like an idiot.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  17. -

    Few 100% true Reasons why Atheism is TERRIBLE and unhealthy for our children and living things:

    † Atheism is a religion that makes you angry, stupid, brainwashed, ignorant & blind.
    † Atheism is a disease that needs to be treated.
    † Atheism makes you post stupid things (90% of silly comments here on CNN blogs are posted by closet Atheists)
    † Atheist are satanic and have gothic lifestyle.
    † Atheists are misguided and causes problem in our religious & public society.
    † Atheists are mentally ill, that's why they have no faith.
    † Atheism won't take you to kingdom of heaven and paradise.
    † Atheism making you agree with Stalin, Hitler (Denied his faith later), Mao, Pol Pot & other terrible mass murder leaders.
    † No traditional family lifestyle, no holidays, no culture, boring and feeling 'outsider'
    † Atheists are angry, drug additcted and committ the most crime.
    † Atheist try to convert people over internet because they feel "safer" behind closet.
    † Atheists do not really exist, they just pretend that they don't believe in God and argue with religious people.
    † Atheists have had terrible life experience, bad childhood and not being loved.
    † Most Atheists are uneducated... No Atheists could run for presidency.
    † Atheism brought upon the French Revolution, one of the most evil events of all of history.
    † Atheism cannot explain the origins of the universe, therefore God exists.
    † All atheists believe in evolution, which means they don't believe in morality and think we should all act like animals.
    † The Bible says atheism is wrong, and the Bible is always right (see: Genesis 1:1, Psalms 14:1, Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:19-20)
    † Countries where Atheism is prevalent has the highest Suicide rate & Communist countries = Atheism!
    **Only 2-3% of the U.S. are Atheists/Agnostics VS. over 90% who believe in God (80% Christians) in the U.S.**

    † † Our Prayers goes to Atheists to be mentally healthy and seek their creator † †

    PS! the USA is a Christian nation and will always be...

    May 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Skylar

      I'm religious too, but wow. Jesus taught not to judge others, and you are doing exactly what he taught us not to do. I don't hate Atheists, but in your post you made it seem like they are the devil. There are plenty of them that are not like what you described. In fact, half the stuff you posted does not even make sense. "Atheists aren't real" or "Atheism makes you agree with Stalin or Hitler" come on...be nice to them 🙂

      Btw, I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

      May 13, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Brian

      This must be a joke

      May 13, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Andrew Casey

      For the person who posted the anti atheist post above..you and your ILK have created more suffering, torture and death than any other group in the history of the world. It is not Christian to judge and I am offended by your lack of acceptance and brotherhood. I was so put off by my first introduction to "Christian" teaching that I have invented my own religion and it suits me fine. I am not afraid to die, I love and accept all people and their beliefs. My God is a loving and forgiving God who gave us all the ability to chose our path and learn from our choices. There is no hell and when you die you will be reicarnated and live more lives to perfect your soul. Unlike your vengeful God who gives you one chance, what a fairy tale.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Danny

      Mormons are a bunch of goofballs.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Andrew

      Thats all fine and dandy but atheism isn't a religion. Its literally the absence of religion.

      The rest of your post is just offensive and utterly false. Atheists tend to be content in not living in fear like some religions like to follow. A lot even understand that this is your only known life and there is nothing after it. Mine as well live it to it's fullest.
      The "atheists" you speak of are people in conflict with their families religion. They choose atheism out of rebellion and forsake god because of conflicts in their lives. Feeling lost, betrayed, and neglected they may eventually kill themselves. Its the standards and responsibilities that drive these poor people to an early grave especially when they don't have the actual physical reinforcement that is their community helping them out. Some magical being doesn't make our world operate. No, man does and we are in charge of our own destiny.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • proud atheist

      I could tell why every your statement is wrong but I do not want to waste time on troll.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • J

      † Atheism is a religion that makes you angry, stupid, brainwashed, ignorant & blind. – Troll. atheism isnt a religion, atheism is about setting aside religion, putting faith into science, only religious people are brainwashed, there are more non-religious scientists then religious scientists.

      † Atheism is a disease that needs to be treated. – Treated with Nobel peace prizes, scientific awards, humanitarian awards, atheism is about compassion, no bigotry. atheists were the biggest supporters of the civil rights movement

      † Atheist are satanic and have gothic lifestyle. – that's satanism, a branch of Christianity. atheists arent religious, lol

      † Atheism won't take you to kingdom of heaven and paradise. – i feel pretty content being 3x smarter than you'll ever be

      † Atheism making you agree with Stalin, Hitler (Denied his faith later), Mao, Pol Pot & other terrible mass murder leaders. – Hitler was christian, sheltered religion so he could put all effort into his political agenda. also see other mass-murderers like christian leaders in the crusades

      † No traditional family lifestyle, no holidays, no culture, boring and feeling 'outsider' – ???

      † Atheists are angry, drug additcted and committ the most crime. – Statistics prove otherwise. 95 percent of people in jail are religious

      † Atheist try to convert people over internet because they feel "safer" behind closet. – wait..what. closet is the metaphorical term for being trapped in something, i.e. religion. you're the one in the metaphorical closet

      † Atheists do not really exist, they just pretend that they don't believe in God and argue with religious people. – religious people dont exist, they just pretend to believe in God so they can fit in the "in" crowd in their church.

      † Atheists have had terrible life experience, bad childhood and not being loved. – no proof

      † Most Atheists are uneducated... No Atheists could run for presidency. – Everyone in my family is successful, aunt is a CEO, dad makes 300k in biotech,etc. only religious family i have are my grandmother and some in-laws

      † Atheism brought upon the French Revolution, one of the most evil events of all of history. – LOL?

      † Atheism cannot explain the origins of the universe, therefore God exists. – You cant read my thoughts, therefore, I have super powers.

      † All atheists believe in evolution, which means they don't believe in morality and think we should all act like animals. – We're all animals, we evolved past our primitive functions and are more involved in societal interaction, using tools. animals are the 13th century religious people. 21st century atheists are the leading force in the technological and scientific advancement of mankind

      † The Bible says atheism is wrong, and the Bible is always right (see: Genesis 1:1, Psalms 14:1, Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:19-20) – The Holy Book Of The Spaggheti Monster says every other 11,000+ religions are wrong, therefore your religion is blasphemy
      † Countries where Atheism is prevalent has the highest Suicide rate & Communist countries = Atheism! – That makes 0 sense, true atheists know death is no escape from anything, id rather live the most horrible life on earth than die, because death is the end.

      well it was fun responding to your poor troll, I would feel extremely sorry for you if you said this seriously. If you don't mind, can you give me your contact info? I know some good numbers of psychiatrists to help you deal with your paranoia, schizophrenia (believing in imaginary friends)


      May 13, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  18. Tim

    People are leaving the church in record numbers.

    At least we are headed in the right directions!!

    May 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Matt

      Really? Mormon church is the fastest growing

      May 13, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • will

      `i would like to see any factual basis on this tim,your comments are headed in the wrong direction get your head of your ass!

      May 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Brian

      Mormon church is the fastest growing because they claim conversion of the dead in the numbers reported

      May 13, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      these threads are unbelievable – and so false. What a bunch of crap that is spewed on this blog – I guess we have more than enough stupid people that are like sheeple and don't have a clue where to find the truth. Wow – good to see that HATRED, BIGOTRY, and IGNORANCE is alive and well in 2012

      May 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  19. Kalamazood

    Rethinking the whole "moving to Canada" plan now..

    May 13, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Matt

      LOL Canada is a religious country too. Maybe slightly more liberal, but they still observe Christian holidays and is Christian country.

      May 13, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  20. Miles

    All of my Mormon friends in Texas are not voting for Mitt, and Texas is a republican State. I think so many people assume that all Mormons like him. They don't. Texas just might vote Democrat this year!

    May 13, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • bzonline123

      Hi, Miles: I hope what you said is true. That makes me less scared about Republic party this time. Hallelujah!

      May 13, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Brian

      you are intoxicated if you think Texas will go democrat.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      What a funny post. One of the trolls that tries to spread lies. Nice try, little miles.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:04 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.