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. mormons c0rnh0le choir boys and blow boys scouts

    mormons have more child molestors in their vhurch than all religions combined

    May 13, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • O.T.

      This is religious bigotry.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • mormons c0rnh0le choir boys and blow boys scouts

      mitt is a child molestor!

      May 13, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • seedenbetter

      I think you're confusing Mormons with Catholics.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  2. ExPAVic

    The Word

    Just like the man said, Mormonism is a freaky cult-like belief system. Without money and some power it would go away. Too bad it hasn't already.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • vhalen

      It has money and power. And is growing every day. Get used to it.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  3. Independant Jack

    Google MORMAN MAGICAL UNDERWEAR and tell me this is normal christian behavier,They beleive their magical underwear protects them from evil and the most devout shall never take them off,This is sillyness and just think some people want to vote for a man who believes and wears magical underwear rofll.The mormans are all cultists that distort and pervert the christian religion,and I will not vote for a cultist period!!!!

    May 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • ufadoof

      Yeah, the concept of immaculate conception is totally normal and not some crazy cult idea. /end sarcasm

      May 13, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  4. n8263

    It is immoral to impose your religious superstition on others.

    You do not believe in religion because you honestly think it is true, you believe in it because you fear mortality or are seeking meaning in your life. It does not take a genius to figure out all religion is man made, so for humanity's sake, please stop lying to yourself.

    Deluding yourself in religion does not change reality. Lying to yourself is probably the worst possible way to try to find meaning.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  5. trex

    .....What happens when a Mormon LIES............................I guess they turn into a rich plastic man......................

    May 13, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  6. trex

    .........I find it NO SURPRISE that DC is infested with MO RONS...................ohhhhhh,....my mistake......................

    May 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • ExPAVic

      You are forgiven and commended.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  7. Mom

    We should move towards theocracy.... we´ll be loved more by God

    May 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • ufadoof

      yeah Mom. Seems to be working out great for Iran.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  8. M

    Okay For starters Joseph Smith was killed in Illinois not Missouri, second he was killed by his own people not anti mormonist. And 3rd but most importantly he ran saying he was going to become president so he could turn america into a "Theocratic Democracy" with him in charge. Over Looking the mountain Meadow Massacare. Lets just all ask ourselve if we really want to elect a person who religion was founded by a scam artist that believes Jesus Christ will return to this world in Jacksonville Misouri and that the Native Americans are really Jews.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Sven

      You got the killed in Illinois part right...

      May 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Don

      Actually he got all those points right.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • RandO

      The Carthage Grays killed Joseph Smith. There were no Mormons in the group except for those who had been removed from the jail prior to the mobs storming of it. But why bother with history. This forum seems much more interested in promoting bigotry. Who needs truth for that?

      May 13, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  9. M

    Okay For starters Joseph Smith was killed in Illinois not Missouri, second he was killed by his own people not anti mormonist. And 3rd but most importantly he ran saying he was going to become president so he could turn america into a "Theocratic Democracy" with him in charge. Over Looking the mountain Meadow Massacare. Lets just all ask ourselve sif we really want to elect a person who religion was founded by a scam artist that believes Jesus Christ will return to this world in Jacksonville Misouri and that the Native Americans are really Jews.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Don

      Facts who needs those... am i right?

      May 13, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  10. Toast123

    Everyone so afraid of Mitt the Mormon...I don't think his religion affects his stances as much as the data and numbers that he gathers. That's why he's a flip flopper, because the data isn't always the same depending on the time or place, so he changes his position to match what the data says.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  11. P. O. Carl

    J: If a person is a true atheist, why would they invest any time or effort in doing anything good for anyone? If all that you do dies with you, what is the difference? You tell about many scientific achievements that atheists have done, I ask why? If there is no god, then there is no good or evil? Right? So, if there is no good or evil, what influences people to do either? We would live like bacteria, just existing, reproducing and dying with no thought. The strongest would simply take what they wanted without regard for life. The answer is the god influences even people who do not believe in him.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • ufadoof

      We are SOCIAL beings. Helping others is in our own best interest. A belief in some imaginary sky god is not necessary.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • ChazH

      It's called compassion and religion doesn't have a monopoly on it. In fact, the atheists I know are naturally compassionate and don't require a god for it.
      Your claim that atheism is a disincentive to do good proves that the only reason you're good is to please your god. Otherwise, you'd care about no one but your self.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • ChazH

      Compassion existed long before religion. In fact, compassion is a product of evolution. If religion is necessary for compassion, then how do you explain it in animals?

      May 13, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • P. O. Carl

      ChazH: "In fact, compassion is a product of evolution." Sharks have evolved into the creatures they are today. When feeding, if one is injured, and begins to bleed, that shark is eaten by the others. Same with piranhas. So much for your statement.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • seedenbetter

      If religion is the only thing that keeps you from hurting others then please never lose your faith.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  12. barney

    Read the Book of Mormon. It is funny and weird and nutty.
    I'm not a religious person but was raised in mainstream Christianity.
    Mormonism is NOT Christianity.
    Sorry Dipsy!

    May 13, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Sarah

      I'm a Christian and I read their Book of Mormon. I'll tell you what, its not any weirder than the Bible. They sound pretty similar actually. Of course they are Christians, and anyone who doesnt is just being an annoying and ignorant idiot. The name of their church is called, The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints. How hard is that to understand?? There are other things we can ask them about, I think this Christian or not thing is getting old...

      May 13, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • ufadoof

      You must have been raised within "mainstream christianity". Meaning you obviously haven't really read the bible like most here in the US. The bible has to be the most wacky thing ever put down on paper.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  13. Jataka

    Separation of church and state. Like it or gtfo of Washington. Our government is no place for religious fanatics and their bigotry.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • cantabman

      Thanks for showing us the true face of bigotry with your comment.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • jim

      I couldn't agree more. It is sad when we see how judgmental 'Christians' can be; how they claim to have the gift of 'discernment'. This country is a melting pot of religions, of believers or not. Like it or not, that's how it is. Its the foundation of our country....

      May 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Don

      Well Jataka is actually right. A little harsh but right.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  14. joe

    Anyone who ha questions about the validity of mormonism should research the story of how Joseph Smith "translated" an ordinary funerary papyrus from ancient Egypt and came up with the "Book of Abraham." The man was either the greatest charlatan who ever lived or he was delusional. It's just a simple matter of facts. Look it up for yourself.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  15. Ed

    I saw an article in a major news source a few months ago predicting this would happen. Rather then attack Romney directly or outright endorsing Obama, the liberal media would begin a long whispering campagin about him being a Mormon. Finding every extreme view to cast fear of him being elected. This article casts the fear of other Mormons in high places; fears of a secret conspiracy to takeover and force Mormonism on us. Change to date to 1960 and Romney to Kennedy and you have the same bigotry.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • BunnyBunny

      You mean like the whispering the right did to Obama last election? A secret Muslim who's not like us, who was gonna take away all our guns and have praying on prayer mats wearing Burkas?

      You mean like that?

      May 13, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  16. Put atheists in concentration camps

    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 6:06 pm |
    • Don

      well this looks like a long boring post so ill just respond to the last statement about US being christian. most of the founding fathers were Deist's so if that, like most people, is what you are basing this statement on than you are wrong. that is all.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Jataka

      Go phuck yourself you nazi loving fascist. I hope your whole family burns in an arson. And no, America is no longer a Christian nation, get your head out of your ass and live in 2012, moron.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • jim

      Christian and a lot of other religions. Why do Christians exclude or seem to forget non-Christians?

      May 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Put atheists in concentration camps

      Shut up... this is a Christian country

      May 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Maybe you should stop being a coward and changing your name when you post your ignorant little cut and paste crap. I've seen this same post under 3 or 4 different names, and you still have absolutely no way to back up your claims in reality. Go to your bigoted church and preach your hate, at least there everyone will agree with you.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • jim

      I'm not atheist but your comments are offensive. Ignorance will never surpass freedom of choice.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • kh

      I hope that's a parody of some anti-christian BS, otherwise it's quite idiotic to think any of those thing are 100% true.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • atheist

      As atheists, we do not believe in, or deny the existence of any god. We simply do not believe in faith. Faith is defined as belief without tangible evidence. There is no tangible evidence that a God exists, therefore, until any tangible evidence that god exists surfaces, we choose not to believe in him.

      As a sidenote, you comment is complete BS.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  17. Grammy

    I have never seen so many hate filled people post in one place. WOW! now, when it comes to a good man good values, Mitt is the guy. This ol lady will vote for him. This Christian that loves her brother in the Lord! AMEN!

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

      For a good dose of hate, read you bible

      May 13, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • trex

      ..So, "this Christian" will vote for the CULT Mormon,...........rather than the SELF PROCLAIMED BORN AGAIN CHRISTIAN who happens to be black..............................What would Jesus do?

      May 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  18. Rocky

    Mormonism or "moronism" as I like to call it is a heretical cult. It is not Christianity at all!! I do not trust them safari as I can throw them. I will probably vote for Mr. Obie Won Kanobie Obama in this election because I don't want a cult leader running this country. I have no trust in one of Joey Smith's followers running this country at all.

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

      Rocky, better re thiink that. Mormons have been a huge block of the social issues since before you were born. This Christian and family and friends are voting for this man. This guy I trust. Obama, I am afraid it is too late. He broke our back with socialism and the take over of our medial/ You ever seen anything the government did that the private secor couldnt do better? I didn't think so
      Ask all the world leaders from nations with socialized medicine if they want to wait in line for there doctors or Pay for a good one and get in now. LOL

      May 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • sybaris

      Obviously grammy, your only source of information are urban legend chain mails that circulate among the conservative hate Obama crowd.

      Do some research, educate yourself and stop letting other people make you look stupid.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Kyle

      "Ask all the world leaders from nations with socialized medicine if they want to wait in line for there doctors or Pay for a good one and get in now. LOL".
      Spoken like someone who's never left their small town and actually experienced other societies. Granted, Ignorance exist on both sides of the isle. Quit letting American shock jocks and one trick news anchors define socialism for you and actually read about its origins and roots before making blanket statements online. It does no good for your cause to talk out of your behind.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • P. O. Carl

      "I do not trust them safari – " I am sure your post will be highly considered.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  19. O.T.

    This is hate journalism. CNN is subtly trying to play the religion card against Romney. Why all the articles on Mormonism? To remind voters that Romney is ONE OF THEM. Can you trust THEM in the White House. Look there are already lots of THEM in Washington. This is the absolute lowest, most dangerous forms of politics, even if it is not done directly.

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

      "Can you trust THEM in the White House". So do you feel the same way about the GOP continuously alienating Obama since his inauguration? "He's not one of us, yada, yada, yada". Hack politics has come around full circle.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  20. rob

    The Mormon cult is a repulsive, immoral, disgusting, bigoted organization that spreads hate against others. And Mormon beliefs are laughable. And if they can spend tens of millions of dollars on hate campaigns, why can't they pay taxes? Why are taxpayers subsidizing government services to this pathetic, faux "religion?" The sooner this cult is brought down, the better off the country will be.

    May 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • O.T.

      This is religious bigotry. It only harms you when you carry hate inside.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:55 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.