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. Peter j

    Whats next in 50 year we shall see te tear full testimonies on the book of star trek. Dr Hubbards book of tales created scientology. Shall there be those whom testyfy that harry potter was the choosen one and believe his spirit came to them stating his books were real ... People are we so dumb!?

    May 13, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • O.T.

      No, but apparently you are so bigoted. It doesn't seem like Romney's religious views prevented him from being a good father, successful businessman, effective Olympic organizer, and governor of a state where his party was a minority party. Is he going to start wearing tinfoil on his head now?

      May 13, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  2. 900rr

    Scientology,mormonisam,jehovah christians ,muslims and list of craziness goes on and on.And we might get a mormon president!

    scary !

    imagine someone who believes in this nonsense as head of the very powerful country vs. crazy muslim rebellious leaders ? ! All armed with nuclear weapons and blinded by religion. In order to avoid annihilation people need to start using common sense instead being guided by some fairytale books not more realistic than peter pan and and santa claus .

    Time 2 wake up

    May 13, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  3. O.T.

    Once Romney is officially nominated, Obama should come out and decry all religious bigotry in the campaign, like Bush did for Islam after 9/11. It would be consistent with the themes of his 2008 campaign and the right thing to do.

    May 13, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • David, CA

      that same logic should have Romney speaking out against the lies told about gays and lesbians. You think he'll defend against any of those lies? No- he joins in the persecution with glee. He is and always was a bully.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • O.T.

      I think you need to look up the meaning of persecute, but I do agree with Obama on gay rights and gay marriage. In fact, I think it is the only thing on which Barack and I agree.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  4. Objective

    Politics and religion are two things that people can never argue about, -there's no point because everyone believes THEY are correct.

    May 13, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  5. Conservative Christian

    I will not votte for a cultist,I am a Repub and a conservative christian and Romneys religion is a deal breaker with me,I cannot support a man who is a member of a cult. I cannot support a man who thinks its ok to twist and distort the bible.I cannot support a man who worships the book of morman instead of the bible,or looks at Joesoph Smith as the savior and not Jesus. Many Christians will not support Romney and sit this election out because we will not support a CULTIST PERIOD!!!

    May 13, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • O.T.

      Then it's a shame that you let religious bigotry get the best of you. What if a Muslim or a Jew in your community said the same about a Christian candidate? Let go of the hate.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • the Dawn

      Your bible already was a distortion of earlier stroies.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • thormountainimages

      You are misinformed my friend. Your ignorance is screaming volumes.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Dave

      People during Christ's time also criticized him for having a strange "sect."

      May 14, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  6. BunnyBunny

    Mormon's believe every religion is of the Devil except theirs. Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostal etc. all a from Satan.

    Romney's dad, Romney have spent millions trying to be president. You know that anti-Christ everyone talks about. Look into Romney's soulless eyes.

    He knows two emotions. Anger and laughing at others troubles & misfortunes. Someone who thinks it's funny to lead a blind man into a door. Who thinks it's funny to hold a schoolmate down and cut off his hair. Who thinks it's funny closing factories and sending the jobs overseas, while gutting their retirement funds to make more for himself.

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

      Mormons believe that everyone should worship how, where and what they may. They simply ask people to do the same in return.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  7. P. O. Carl

    If the mormon church is a cult, it has to be the best organized, most successful cult in the history of the world.

    May 13, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  8. bryan

    i'm a mormon. i read a few comments in this and i'm pretty amazed. some of you guys need to relax a little or just show up a few times at church. heck, just pretend like you are a convert and 'infiltrate' up in the ranks even...

    you'll find there's no conspiracy. no crazy. nothing. just normal people trying to live lives of moral awareness and caring for their fellow man.

    heck, that's why i joined. too much hate in the world (kind of like in these comments..)

    peace out dudes

    May 13, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • O.T.

      I'm not Mormon, and I agree with you 100%. The anti-Mormonism expressed here is really akin to the white supremacy of segregation.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • the Dawn

      You joined for the people, not the religions truth, right?
      How about the American Legion? I hera they are a group of "stand-up" folks.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Conservative Christian

      Of course you will not admit to the crimes your religion does to women and children out of fear of being arrested or profiled,of course you all pretend to never be biggoted or put down other religions,of course your never going to admit you are a cultist and a non christian

      May 13, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • David, CA

      Care to address the videos of LDS "elders" instructing members on how to give required donations to support PROP8 so it wouldn't come back to the church? Prop8 was a conspiracy of lies funded by the LDS church. Ask a gay man or woman how your "moral awareness and concern" has ruined their lives. Why is the LDS church funding the hate group NOM?

      May 13, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • goodNplenty

      Who would want to admit to being a christian, for christ's sake!

      May 13, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Objective

      I'm a convert. It's amazing how many lies are spread here. None of the people I know at church want anything more than to help others and become better fathers, husbands, and men and for the women the same thing. They want their kids to grow up thinking of others first and to be great stewards in this world and teach the word of God to those who will hear it. Those who don't want it that's fine too. What is wrong with trying to hold oneself to a higher standard for your kids and your community?

      May 13, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • bryan

      i've been to church in several places and no one has ever been instructed to fund anything

      donations and charity are 100% optional. also, seriously feel free to show up one day and hopefully you won't make the same blind judgements afterwards

      also we believe in the same jesus christ in the old and new testament. there's really nothing cult about it. we also share love with fellow christians, atheists, [insert any group on earth].

      sorry there's so many strong sentiments. i'm not trying to change your mind. only you can do that. i'm just saying 1 point of view who's been in the church his whole life for 24 years

      May 13, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Chutzpah

      Objective... spoken like a true Moonie. I never heard a cult member say, I joined this cult to become brainwashed, give up all control ove my thoughts, and donate all of my money and possessions to The Leader.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  9. ChazH

    Okay, first off, was this article long enough? It is obviously a fluff-piece for the Mormons.
    And the claim that Mormons aren't political is pure bunk. I've no doubt they're even more political behind-the-scenes.

    May 13, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • BunnyBunny

      The Mormon church will be involved in policy if Romney is elected..

      May 13, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Objective

      @ bunny–No they won't.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • O.T.

      Please tell us where you learned that Mormons will influence Romney on policy.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • BunnyBunny

      Mormons answer to their church first. Not their Country, not their family. Their church.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  10. chicago man

    The Morman religion cult is very scary,they are a powerfull group that is out to brainwash america and enslave our women and kids.The Bishop Romney is behind all of this 100% he knows that his religion is behind hurting women and molesting kids but will stay silent on this because he is fot it in the name of Joesoph Smith.

    May 13, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • O.T.

      This is rank religious bigotry. It is no different that if you called a Jewish person a KI=== or an African-American a N===. Why is this considered socially acceptable among those who support Barack Obama. It seems like the opposite of what he campaigned for in 2008. It is shameful.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • MikeB

      More Media Matters propaganda B.S.
      Is malice really your strong point?

      May 13, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Objective

      My wife is Mormon and free to do whatever she wants. As far as molesting kids, an ex-friend of mine (NON-Mormon) did that to my girls.

      You sir, are an idiot.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Conservative Christian

      Mormans are a religion that distorts christianity and changes it to make it fit their perverted agenda.Mormans are biggoted to minorities,abuse women,children,brainwash its members,They have religious camps that they use for molestation and controlling women,sisterwives,bigamy and i can go on and on. What do you think mormans will say if asked if they did these acts to people,forsure they will deny it,but guess what,all across this nation many have been arrested ,many have been put on trial and convicted,many women escape to tell their stories of horror the religion has done to them.So to say I am morman and we dont do that is just hogwash,we all know you mormans are cultists and violent toward women and kids and you are not christians!

      May 13, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Dave

      Kind of interesting: Mormon women were first to vote in the United States (Wyoming and Utah).

      May 14, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  11. O.T.

    It is frankly shocking to see the shameless religious bigotry that CNN is consciously ginning up. Conservatives should condemn racist attacks on Obama, and liberals should condemn religious bigotry against Romney? Is political advantage really worth this much hate speech? And, let's be clear, hate speech is not something that some you disagree with commits on your side. It can also go the other way. And is equally wrong. How about some liberal condemnation of anti-Mormonism? This is America after all.

    May 13, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • David, CA

      Always amusing when the oppressors try to play victim.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • O.T.

      Please explain who I've oppressed. I'm for individual freedom for everyone, whether straight or gay, man or woman, American or not, white or not.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Conservative Christian

      Not biggotry ,the mormans are a cult and most of these posts are true about how mormans have hate and hurt women and kids

      May 13, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Objective

      –Conservative Christian
      Not biggotry ,the mormans are a cult and most of these posts are true about how mormans have hate and hurt women and kids–

      Other than the fact you can't spell, you spread more lies. I know of no Mormons that hate let alone hurt women and kids. Have you been abused?

      May 13, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  12. 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 6:58 pm |
    • Objective

      So any comment other than YOURS is bs. Interesting. Very one sided and biased.

      You already use faith everyday. You won't touch a live electrical wire will ya? No. That's faith in the fact that others have told you that you could be electrocuted doing so even without seeing someone actually get electrocuted on that particular wire.

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

      The power of an electrical wire to electrocute a person can be easily and objectively demonstrated at any time.

      C'more... let me show you.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  13. DeeCee1000

    Look up what Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism taught his followers on: Blacks, his "Golden Plates", his false "Book of Abraham", that the biblical Jesus was really a polygamist, what he teaches about wives and harems. It's actually scary that anyone in the 21st century would still be a Mormon cult member.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • Dave

      Interesting scripture in the Book of Mormon: "He (God) inviteth all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile."

      May 14, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  14. Joe

    Mormans are a fake religion made to take advantage of women and children.This is a sick biggoted religion that is full of molesters and woman beaters and they are a cult.Mormans are a sick religion and no real christian will ever accept them as christians after they distorted the bible to fit their selfish perverted needs.My church condems mormans because they dont teach love,they teach hatred toward minorities and hurt women and children.Sorry MR. Romney Christians do buy into your crapola twisted religion.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • J rad

      What a bunch of lies. You sick pig.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • O.T.

      This is religious bigotry, yet no Obama supporters condemn it. Why not?

      May 13, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • S.K.

      I am a Mormon and I love Jesus Christ, I try to pattern my life after him. I try to love others as he does. He is the only way. I love my wife, I have never beat my wife, have never hit my wife, I have never said any unkind thing to her. I have children, I have never beat them or molested them. I love them and try to teach them to live as Christ lives. I teach them to be responsible and that are free to choose what they may.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  15. ufadoof

    Belief in the separation of church and state is patriotic not bigoted.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  16. Jack Watcher

    People, don't mock the Morons, the LDS has a serious plan to take over this country. Just because they appear to be a foolish, strange cult do not take them lightly. They take over every state and local office they can and now they are trying to take over the Whitehouse. Seriously, these people are a threat to our way of life. They should be investigated but have already immunized themselves from that by getting so many of their members into elected positions. The next election is about the future of America. If you don't believe this, read a history of Mormon atrocities in the west during the early days of their expansion. These folks are not funny, they are scary.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • John Taylor

      Come on now. I'm not a believer anymore, and will be the first to say Joe Smith was a con-artist, but to say Mormons are out to occupy and takeover America is foolishness.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  17. Concerned christian

    The mormans are not christians they are a cult and Romney is a Bishop of a cult. I as a Christian cannot vote for a man who is part of a cult religion that teaches molestation of kids and the beating and submissiveness of women as slaves.I would rather not vote than support a Morman because his cult ideas can transfer into laws and decisions that will effect america.May as well have snake dancers,ansd satin worshipers run for office too

    May 13, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • O.T.

      You are a bigot.

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

      And O.T., you believe in molestation of kids and the beating and submissiveness of women?

      May 13, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  18. christopher

    How many religions have a new book? Mormonism is something new. "Give me something new" an intellectual asks. "Give me help" poor people ask. It is for everyone. God wants us to be curious and learn new things. Sin is boring and dull and always the same. Every 1,000 years or so a new book of scripture emerges. And the world is never again the same. Paul was told in the Book of Acts that it is stupid to keep kicking a cactus all day long. It is stupid to try and stop truth.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Joe

      Mormons may be new,but their con game is old,and they are cultist cons that are biggoted and perverted and distorted the bible to fit their screwed up needs their messiah con Joesoph Smith decided.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • Chutzpah

      Mormonism is of such recent origin that anyone with two brain cells that connect can see that it was founded on lies and con games. Already that seems to be overlooked by most people! I'd suggest that ALL religions are the same to one degree or another. The older they are, the longer they've had time to cover their tracks, rewrite history and assume a mantle of 'respectabbility'.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  19. Morman magical underwear

    The morman religion is sick and twisted,used to control and dominate women and children.They brainwash their cultists to believe Joesoph Smith is the messiah and force kids into pre arranged marriages and molestation all in the name of their messiah Joesoph.These people in the FLDS AND THE LDS are the same exept the LDS are more secretive about it and sneaky but they commit the same acts of crime against women ,children.How can anybody vote for Mittt Romney who believes his underwear protects him from evil lol, maybe its the stain in his underwear that repels everything so in theory it works lol.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Dave

      I am surprized at such comments. I have listened to many, many lessons about respeting women and children.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:50 am |
  20. P. O. Carl

    I wonder if John Kennedy got this kind of flack when some people said "there will never be a catholic in the White House???

    May 13, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Jack Watcher

      Carl, JFK didn't catch this kind of heat because his religion is not a cult like Moronism. The founder of the LDS wad a convict and made up all the stuff the cult is based on. This is not hate, this is fact. C'mon man, the American Indians are the lost tribe of Israel? Disappearing Golden tablets that only he could read.? Etc. Etc.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • John Taylor

      It the bizarre and ridiculous claims made by Joseph Smith that separates Mormons from the Catholic Church. Never make a claim that can be refuted later on, as it was with Joseph Smith and his Lamanites and Nephites.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • Ridiculous

      I'm Christian and I hate to break it to you, but all religions have what seem to be "ridiculous claims" that they preach. Here are a few examples of things about Christianity that one can make sound ridiculous and idiotic: 1) All humanity came from only two people; genetically impossible 2) A snake spoke to this woman and told her to eat fruit that would give her all knowledge 3) A flood filled the ENTIRE earth in hundreds of feet of water 4) A guy died and came back as a zombie to preach to some Jews.

      The only reason these might not seem crazy to you? You hear them all the time. They are widely taught to Christians. And you believe them. Don't mock other peoples' faith and belief even though it mind sound crazy to you. Our beliefs seem crazy, too, they have just been around for longer.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Tiyan

      Look brother, as a mmeebr I would say hypocrisy, Latino church mmeebrs are wondering why Republican politicians are addressing on our community are perhaps not realizing that with their cruelty, many families are hurting, disunited, many are used to mistreat not close your eyes is truth, and if you feel that they are well Forget it, everyone knows that the war in Iraq was a robbery, they kill lots of people, and did you know that those who supported it are called accomplices to murder begin to search your brain short justify these horrors, but no one ever knows except among you are going to justify what happens you are cruel to other races with the homeless, if they are ashamed to write to Republican leaders not continue to make more this type of crap, but we are Hispanic Mormons are not willing to bear its cheap excuses such as we obey the laws of men cruel, what happens is that there were no laws, but you, the evil they are doing, to hurt people, seriously it is annoying to see them in church proclaiming love for others but at the same time supporting evil people we are all Latinos know qu observed and although we are citizens of this country you are wrong, still think they are good with others, because they know one thing you will believe nothing but that vile lie. Do not try to justify the bad things anyway because they believe or not in the least, and for the good of the church say they are terrorists are not Mormons, because Mormon means being very good and you are not

      July 30, 2012 at 1:20 am |
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About this blog

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