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. coltakashi

    It is amazing that anyone srriously can assert that Mormons belong to a "cult." As noted in the article, each Mormon congregation is led by unpaid parttime volunteers from the congregation, who serve for a few years and rotate out to other responsibilities. This widespread leadership experience comes in handy when cobgregations grow and need to be split in order to keep each group within the 300 to 500 member range that allows each member to have a responsibility for teaching or leadership. There is no career clergy in Mormonism so no one has a financial incentive to be a Mormon or a Mormon pastor. This also means that no leader is "dping the thinking" for members, since leaders ARE members.

    Mormons work in regular jobs, not selling flowers in airpirts, often jobs that require education and intelligence. They live with their spouses and childten in their own homes, not in a communal camp. They study their church doctrines alongside academic subjects in college and grad school. Many Mormons are converts from other faiths and many Mormons have experience as missionaries answering questions about their faith. These are not characteristics if what most Americans think if as a "cult" and it is a lie to use that term to refer to Mormons, who generally have a more intense study experience behind their religious beluefs than many Evangelucal Christians.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Stevo


      May 13, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • Smed Furam

      You are talking like mormons are the only people who do volunteering. Nothing is free in life. These guys have fun controlling their followers, asking private questions and having an easy way to leadership. Want to see real servants? then look at people like Mother Teresa that relieve the pain of people that are not their own religion. Mormons are selfish and very capital oriented. Most of their general authorities are business people. In general they want temporal blessings, that is what they think they will have when they volunteer even as bishops. Nothing is free in life especially for Mormons. Follow the money.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
  2. Holly in CA

    a very well-written article, surprisingly positive, a rarity when the media is reporting on Mormonism

    May 13, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  3. Liberalism_is_suicide

    Conservative living mixed with a feeling of superiority of your people, faith and lifestyle has been a recipe for success for many groups. Liberalism is slow suicide. Libs will eventually disappear, weighed down by guilt and self-loathing, inclusiveness of every idea, diversity, open borders, abortion, euthenasia, drugs, decadent living, aversion to hard work, aversion for money, neglect of the economy and free market principles. Libs have no common sense, no will to survive.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  4. John the Historian

    Why did Joseph Smith die in a gun battle defending polygamy ????

    May 13, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • proud mormon

      There are more women in this world than men, if a man married only 1 wife there would be many unmarried women left. many prophets married multiple wives, Solomon, Abraham etc.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Smed Furam

      He was in jail because he and his batallion destroyed a private printing press; it would probably be considered terrorism nowadays. Besides that, he had also married young women. He was the equivalent of Warren Jeffs of now.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • Christian LDS

      He didn't, but that's one of those lies you have to decide to expose or believe. Your choice.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  5. proud mormon

    Mormonism is the way and life of Jesus Christ. Somebody mentioned baptizing "holocaust" victims ..jews need to be redeemed they are vile and we offer a way for them to be saved.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • MikeB


      May 13, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Conservative Christian

      Mormons pretend to be christians but you are a cult that twisted the christian religion to feed your own selfish needs.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • Smed Furam

      Conservative, indeed. Mormons generally preach only to christians and when they change religions, they call them converts. Christians are easy pray for them as they utilize ankers such as Jesus and other things that will seem they are christians. Mormons will not go to great lenghts to convert muslims, jews or budhists because it is diffficult and they can not use such ankers as jesus and stuff. It is very convenient. Most of their converts now are in developing nations and they take advantage of their situation and their desire to go to the US. They have very beautiful church with a soccer and basketball field in a very poor areas in order to get people interested and they use this as and anker too. They say that people who join the church will have temporal blessings, etc.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  6. coltakashi

    I see the Mormon bashers are out in force in the comments section. A more objective and positivebassrssment can be found in the views of most leaders of other teligioys denominations in Utah, including the Catholics, who have amicable relations with Mormon leaders and join with them in campaigns for civic betterment.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Smed Furam

      This does not make sense and it is just one of the proofs that religion and politics are dirty. Mormons think and they know and they will give testimony in front of people that they are the only true church on the face of the earth and they all other churches are false. This is further proven my their temple ceremony where they portray a protestant minister as the messenger of don s a t a n. Further the BoM talks about the abominable church and other things. Mormons goals is to convert other chirstian religions. Mormons doctrine is a modern day fable. If they get along with other religions is because issues that are common to both of them. In the inside though, they think all other churches are false and that the true priesthood in on them and NOT on others. They think that others are works of s a t a n as their temple ceremony states.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
  7. John the Historian

    Why did Romney do such a terrible job in France in trying to convert the French ???? How many mormon cult followers are there ????

    May 13, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • MikeB

      How many are in the cult that calls Mormons a cult?

      May 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • kerfluffle

      How many wurms are there under that same rock that conceaed the golden chinet set?

      Mormon apologists = lipstick on an uglier pig than Palin.

      This election will set conservatism and mormonism back for years.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Smed Furam

      If you correlate mormon church membership with country education level, chances are that they are inversely proportional. With exception of muslim and jew countries where they do not have many converts.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
  8. John the Historian

    Wiil caffeine drinks be banned in the White House in the unlikely event Romney gets elected ?

    May 13, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • MikeB

      That is a clueless comment.
      Imposing upon others is contrary to their 'Articles of Faith'. Check them out.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Darby

      I'm hoping he'll run all the idiots...i mean, liberals out first

      May 13, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  9. DavidUtah

    Members of the LDS organization who live in or near Washington, DC and the typical “Utah Mormon” are two completely different creatures.

    Here in HATU—the Bass Ackwards State—Utah Mormons are hateful, arrogant, prejudiced, judgmental, and delight in how efficiently they can organize to hurt their law-abiding, tax-paying neighbors or shove their narrow-minded beliefs down their neighbors’ throats. Criticism of any behavior, especially political activity, is interpreted as an attack on their religion. Criticism by anyone, regardless of the topic, is not accepted as a valid difference of opinion because, of course, “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done.” The behavior of Mormons here in Utah screams cult-like organization.

    Sadly, far too many Utahns (especially members of the LDS organization) think that The Golden Rule applies only to people who are exactly like themselves. Followers of Jesus are expected (commanded) to treat others the way that they would want to be treated. Here in Utah, far too many of these so-called Christians treat their neighbors like a pile of fresh stinking canine excrement.

    Yes, friends, it really is that bad.

    And what is worse, they take pride in how badly they treat people who do not agree with their beliefs, political philosophy, etc. The common response to any criticism is a statement, “Mormons founded Utah. If you don't like it, leave.”

    By the gods, that day cannot come soon enough.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Holly in CA

      So sad. This does not describe my experiences with Mormons in California or Pennsylvania, the states where I've lived.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • souptwins

      This may be true of SOME Utah Mormons but that's a mighty broad brush you paint with so I'm not sure it's possible to lump them all so neatly in one heap– excrement or not.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • P. O. Carl

      Visited Salt Lake City many times. Very clean for a large city. Always was treated kindly and with respect. Businesses do well in that state, might be their work ethic. Large percentage of the people volunteer their skills. Would consider living there for sure. They have some really nice places to eat too. So, before you make judgement, you might want to go there and find out for yourself.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  10. JimAR

    I read that Mitt Romney says marriage has been between one man and one woman for 3000 years. I guess he forgot about his grandfather who believed marriage was for one man and twelve wives.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • DavidUtah

      Please don’t make the story worse than it actually is. Miles Park Romney only had 5 wives.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Smed Furam

      Mormon thing that they can have plural wives in their celestial kingdom. This is doctrine.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  11. John the Historian

    Did Romney ever rebaptize Holocaust vixtims as a bishop in the mormon cult ?

    May 13, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • MikeB

      Does it really mean anything to those that don't believe it has any affect?
      It's just more malice to pick on a culture. Sad that so many are doing the hateful things that they claim others 'may' be doing.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  12. Jackman

    I cant believe anyone would vote for a wacko like Romney if he believes in the morman faith,I am a republican but I cant vote for a man who puts on morman magical underwear haha.Plus Romney is a cultist and he is a Bishop in his cultist church. Why would anyone want this crazyness in the whitehouse. I dont want Obama as president,but I will not sink this low and hurt America by voting in an insane maniac like CULT leader Bishop Romney lol.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Ridiculous

      Why would anyone want anyone want someone in the White House that believes a zombie that rose from the dead can save them so that they can go live in the clouds when they die? Or that a snake spoke to a women and convinced her to eat fruit that would give her all knowledge? Or that the entire earth was covered in water from one one storm and a guy built a boat to save all the animals?

      Oh wait, every single President that's ever been in the White House has believed those things. All religions can be made to sound crazy. It shouldn't make a difference what religion a President believes.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • souptwins

      A few corrections are in order here-- First, Romney WAS a Bishop and is no longer. LDS local leaders typically serve for 5 years and then someone else is given the assignment. With over 28,000 wards currently in the LDS church, that makes for A LOT of former Bishops. 2nd– Mormons don't believe their underwear is "magic". Do you also say Jews wear "magic beanies" or Nuns wear "magic robes"? All are physical reminders of sacred promised made to God. LDS people just see them as personal and therefore not necessarily appropriate for public display. The person wearing them can feel them and are reminded to live as a disciple of Christ in all their daily activities. Not so "weird" if you ask me.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • Smed Furam

      Ridiculous, Mormonism is a modern religion and they claim that their church is the only true church on the face of the earth. They portray protestant ministers as messengers of sa ta n in their temple ceremony. this religion is modern enough that there is conclusive proof that what they preach is false. Their prophet was a conn artist. Their relition is part of their life. Their beliefs such as baptisms for the death, only true church on the face of the earth, undergarments, eternal poligamy, etc is is ingrained in all members. This is not a regular religion but a trojan horse. Let me put in this way: their crazy teachings run through their veins and are part of every day life. Rev. Jesse Jackson is nothing compared as the mormons have hidden agendas. Just read their books.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • Ridiculous

      Smed, your argument is still weak and obviously biased against Mormons. Look at the corrupt and often dark history of Christianity and the things that have been done in the name of Christianity. Christianity thinks it is the only true religion as well and that Islam, Buddism, etc are mostly false. There is nothing wrong in believing that your religion is the right one. There is more material to make a conspiracy out of Christianity being a "trojan horse" than there is to make Mormonism a cult. Drop the whole paranoia thing about Mormons. I don't get why so many Christians think it is OK to bash Mormons because they don't agree with their beliefs. Do you think Christ would ask you to do that? I doubt it.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  13. mormons c0rnh0le kids

    if mitt becomes potus...i hope someone pulls a jfk on his sorry a$$!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 13, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Darby

      Wow...such hate. And here I thought all the conservatives were the violent ones...and what are you afraid of, that he might correct all the mistakes that the liberals have made?

      May 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  14. floridamom1

    Your comments here are ludicrous about Romney's wives and killing of non mormons.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • steve

      you mean the mountain meadow massacre? oh its real

      May 13, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • Smed Furam

      Check out about the destroying of the press before JS was killed. This was equivalent of an act of terrorism now. JS is equivalent to modern Warren Jeffs.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  15. joseph smith=freemason=illuminati

    there are many vids on youtube that expose this satanic mormon freemason cult.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  16. Name*Norbert Herriott

    Can't believe Christians...would vote in a cult religion!

    May 13, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  17. John the Historian

    Could Romney take an oath on the Lincoln bible like President Obama did ?

    May 13, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      Mormons believe that humanity will be judged by Mormon founder Joseph Smith. Plus, they believe the biblical Jesus had several wives. They are considered a cult by many Christian denominations.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • thechrischild

      Mormons believe the Bible contains the word of God. As long as the Lincoln Bible is available, a President Romney could use it in the oath.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • Smed Furam

      Probably would cross his fingers as the church is not correctly translated, according them. This in spite that they copied entire chapters and put in in the BoM, including the errors. Funny but true. Mormons do not read the bible much; only to justify stuff that is convenient for their purposes. They do have to read the BoM every day though. Sort of a mantra.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  18. Say NO TO CULTS!

    Mormans are not christians,they are pretend christians to the public.They are a cult religion that is a distortion of christianity and how dare they claim they are christians when they worship the book of Morman,and worship JOESOEPH SMITH THE CON MAN. REALLY HOW GULLIBLE CAN YOU BE TO FOLLOW THIS GARBAGE LOL. My church taught me mormans were evil and they are cultists that believe all other religions are the work of satan. I have news for you mormans,You Distorted the bible,You worship Joesoph Smith the con as your messiah instead of jesus,You worship the book of morman....You are the evil RELIGION NOT OURS. SHERRIF JOE ARPAIO FOR PRES!!! NOT MITT THE CULTIST>

    May 13, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • momoya

      All religions is bullsh!t.. You're welcome.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • gordo45

      Your church spends time teaching you about mormons? My church spends my time teaching me the word of god and urging me to follow the life and teachings of the savior Jesus Christ. I would leave any church that spent my time trying to convince me that another religion was false. If your church has the truth there shouldn't be any spare time left to worry about anything else. Learn the word of god and follow it and you will be fine.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Smed Furam

      Gordo, the Mormon Jesus is a different one than the Christian Jesus. That is the reason they "preach" so much, so they endoctrinate you on this new Jesus.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  19. Welled

    If "faith" is faith in space. Otherwise your leading ignorant lives on this earth. Oh I know your not supposed to be a sharp as a usuor. Thats clearly plotted out for you to land in last place and not use your sense. Why? because your pretty sure giving up is the thing to do. So your not as smart as the children of the earth even though you live on the earth and not in space. Maybe if you stop focusing on outer space tried living on the earth and using some sense. You wouldn't have to trudge into work and buff someones shoes for them everyday. Many of you are grown people not children for Petes sake. Use your head a lot of those book are written to leave you thinking its just wonderful to be ignorant. You give your sense up your not playing it smart. Give your sense up to a bunch of swindlers they are going to take everything you have mostly your labor for the rest of your life. Get a clue.

    May 13, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  20. John the Historian

    Will Romney ever go to a non-Mormon church ? Why can't I ever just walk into a mormon temple and be part of a mormon marriage ceremony ? Why do mormons stop you from entering their temples ?

    May 13, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Say NO TO CULTS!

      They are a cult thats why,they dont want outsiders to hear and see the weirdo stuff they do like for example" the morman magical underwear lol" plus their is a lot of biggotry,brainwashing,and supression of women and children .America already knows how screwed up they are but there are still a few people left that are clueless on how violent and dangerous the morman religion is ,especially toward women and children. To sum it up for too many reasons they do not want the public to see.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • gordo45

      I have been in a mormon temple before in Winter Quarters Nebraska for a tour and found them to be very inviting. Seriously people there are MUCH MORE IMPORTANT issues this country faces than what particular christian sect our President belongs too.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Nathan

      John, the temple is sacred to Mormons, sacred things are about respect, not secrecy. If you respect the temple, you'd live in a way that qualifies you to enter. It's not hard to do, but it requires requires respect of specific commandments. Just like the temple Moses' descendants built, just like Christ did to purge the Temple in Jerusalem of those not respecting it. Mormon chapels on the contrary are open for all to enter and visit. Those married in temples may have ring ceremonies in chapels for their non-Mormon friends and family.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • souptwins

      You are welcome to attend any Mormon Sunday service you wish– although your behavior should reflect respect. Temples are reserved for those prepared to enter the covenants that are made there. Is the general public welcome to walk right into a the Vatican or a convent? I doubt it. They are however open for public tours before being dedicated. You just missed the one in Kansas City. Another will be coming up this summer in Brigham City, Ut and perhaps others I'm not aware of. There were several news reports of the KC open house and you could look up the news stories including pictures if you're curious. LDS people take these promised to live as disciples of Christ seriously and temples aren't meant to be a side show for the curious just as a Nuns vows are taken serious and are not appropriate for public view or ridicule.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • thechrischild

      All presidents go to the National Cathedral for special events. There is nothing in the Mormon religion that prohibits Romney from doing the same. That said, I'd expect him to attend his own church for weekly worship.

      You are free to visit a temple during an open house just as you are. These usually occur right after a new construction or renovation. Witnessing the ordinances performed is limited to those who gain a recommend from a Mormon bishop and involves intensive spiritual preparation. Marriage is the final ordinance in a progression of ordinances, and therefore participation is limited to those who have performed all the preparatory ordinances. Marriage is the most sacred ordinance in Mormonism today. You can't just skip all the others and go right to the end. That said, Mormons want you to participate in all of the ordinances, starting with the ordinance of baptism. If you don't want to participate in baptism, why would you want to participate in temple ordinances?

      Some Mormons choose to have a civil marriage ceremony outside the temple so their non-Mormon friends and family can participate and then the couple can later participate in the temple ceremony, making their marriage last beyond death per LDS teachings. In the end, the decision of what kind of marriage ceremony to have is left to the marrying couple in consultation with their clergy and their families. If they want to make the eternal covenant of marriage inside an LDS temple to start off their married life, that's their choice.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:34 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.