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. Name*Chedar

    Romney should just switch his faith to evangelical much like Nicky Haley and Bobby Jindal. They change their faith from Hindu to christianity to get the votes. Hey when you are in "Rome you must act and think like the Roman do"

    May 13, 2012 at 6:44 am |
  2. tokencode

    everyone secretly gets together in special underwear, and conservatives think two gay guys getting married is strange....

    May 13, 2012 at 6:42 am |
  3. Jonquil

    Mormons are required to give a certain percentage of their income to their church, to remain members of it, so growing influence in Washington is not evidence of growing support for the misogyny and bigotry masquerading as "Old Fashioned Values" in America, it's just evidence of well-pooled and well-placed church investments.

    They pay to send their young people abroad to influence vulnerable, desperate people living in absolute poverty (like other "outreach" evangelical religions, I must add) and they purchase buildings in influential, expensive regions of this country, to secure presence and by association, influence.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • LODT

      Interesting, but it would be more convincing with evidence to back up this claim. Otherwise people may assume you just made this all up.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:47 am |
    • Howie76

      Your right and if others do not believe this then they need to look it up. The Mormons own a large percentage of property in the US.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:19 am |
    • Murphdogz


      I expect that you also believe in other conspiracy theories like alien abductions and Obama is a muslim. What is the difference between passing a plate around your congregation and the Mormons giving to the church? You make it sound so underhanded which it is not. Faithful people of all generations have given charitably to their church and it makes them good, selfless, giving individuals.

      I am sure I don't need to encourage you to keep trolling!

      May 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Another ignorant spammer in the blog. You don't have a clue what you are talking about but that's ok – you must have learned it from some other bigot – too funny reading some of this posts...... Poor, poor, Jonny... this was laughable to read. Thanks for the humor today – it was great reading.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  4. remorse2

    Mormon is much much better than a muslim !

    May 13, 2012 at 6:40 am |
    • Study People

      O now's it down to...My Gods better than your God? And people wonder why I'm Agnostic.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:09 am |
    • Howie76

      One is a religion and the other is a cult. Take an anthropology class so you can learn the difference.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:20 am |
  5. Ken

    I rather see a Methodist or catholic priest that a Mormon in the w house. If they winn power the ridiculous laws they would enact will be noemi mental

    May 13, 2012 at 6:18 am |
    • LODT

      Such as?

      May 13, 2012 at 6:47 am |
  6. truthteller

    if you want to know what mormons believe just go to utlm.org/onlineresources/bomoverview.htm

    May 13, 2012 at 6:17 am |
    • mormonsarechristian

      Baptism: Jesus Christ’s church must baptize by immersion (Matt 3:13-16), must practice proxy baptism for the dead (1Cor 15:16&29), and have no paid ministry (Acts 20:33-34; John 10:11-13)
      The Trinity: Jesus Christ’s church must teach that God and Jesus are separate and distinct individuals (John 17:11; 20:17), and that they have bodies of flesh and bone (Luke 23:36-39; Acts 1:9-11; Heb 1:1-3)
      Theosis: Jesus Christ’s church must represent man’s potential correctly 1 Corinthians 8:5-6, Psalm 82, John 10:34 "If we are children (of God)," wrote the apostle Paul to the Romans (8:17, New International Version), "then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ." "To him that overcometh," says the Savior to John the Revelator (3:21, KJV), "will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear."
      Jesus Christ’s church must claim divine authority (Heb 4:4-10), have the same organization as Christ's Church (Eph 4:11-14), must claim revelation from God (Amos 3:7), and must be a restored church (Acts 3:19-20)

      May 13, 2012 at 7:16 am |
    • Howie76

      @ moromonsare christians. What about the sunglasses and magic underwear?? Where is that in teh bible?

      May 13, 2012 at 7:22 am |
    • Mpalmer

      Better yet, why not go to the church's website:

      May 13, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  7. Melvis

    Great job Republicans...This is the best you have to offer?...you might want to go back to the drawing board.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:10 am |
    • ReliefSociety

      I guess your life is pretty sad because the "best we can offer" is beating your best ever in the polls.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  8. Melvis

    Mormons are crazy. Christians are pretty bad too. Even worst than the Muslims. I think they are all nuts.

    May 13, 2012 at 6:04 am |
    • Bill Michaels

      Yeah, it's TOTALLY crazy to live a happy, stable lifestyle and contribute to society.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:06 am |
    • tokencode

      I think it's safe to say religous people are nuts...

      May 13, 2012 at 6:43 am |
    • LODT

      I think it's safe to say that making such a generalized statement can never have any validity in any argument.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:48 am |
  9. Michael Ma

    He's the best Republican we got?

    May 13, 2012 at 6:04 am |
    • remorse2

      Much much better than a muslim !

      May 13, 2012 at 6:42 am |
  10. unowhoitsme

    Mitt moves into the White House...Mormonism moves in, too. Mormonism is a cult. America will become a Mormon nation...it's part of their agenda.

    May 13, 2012 at 5:53 am |
    • Bill Michaels

      If it's part of our agenda, I definitely haven't been told about it.


      May 13, 2012 at 5:56 am |
    • LODT

      Facts? Evidence? Statements? Or is this just an attempt to stir the pot a little? If so, well played. If you're serious....

      May 13, 2012 at 6:03 am |
    • mormonsarechristian

      Here are the characteristics of a cult:
      • Small? The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) has 14 million members in 132 countries. In America, there are more Mormons than there are Presbyterians or Jews.
      • Excessive devotion? Mormons are devoted to the Savior, but in appropriate measure He would approve of.
      • Unethical techniques? Ask the pie-throwers to name one.
      • Control by isolation? Even if Mormons wanted to, this would be impossible with 14 million members in 28,000 congregations throughout the world.
      • Control by threats? Again, evidence? Mormon missionaries may be exuberant, but do not threaten.
      • Dependency on the group? The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is just the opposite. Mormons want members to be self-reliant and independent so they in turn can help others.
      • Powerful group pressure? Only if that’s the way the critics prefer to define love.
      • Strange? Guilty as charged. Mormons plead guilty to all the strange things that were done by Christians in New Testament times that were lost during the great falling away in the aptly named Dark Ages, among them temple worship, baptism by immersion by the father of the family, vicarious baptism for the dead, definition of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit as separate but united in purpose, salvation requiring both grace and obedience to commandments, prophets and apostles, unpaid clergy, and continual revelation to guide His Church.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:00 am |
  11. Name*Chedar

    Ssssh! The Mormon has a plan. They want Romney who is a Mormon to win the presidency so they can pass a law to legalize polygamy and for you to marry your first cousins and take an underage girls as a wife. Isn’t that exciting?

    May 13, 2012 at 5:50 am |
    • Bill Michaels

      Yeah, you got it. Just like a Jewish President would want to force us to make blood animal sacrifices on altars.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:57 am |
    • Rick

      Hey Chedar, better look at the family tree of Pres. Obama. You might find it interesting that his great-grandparents are polygamous also. Just in case you may want to verify, David Maraniss, a Washington Post Pulitzer Prize journalist, and author of, soon to be published book in June about Pres. Obama, wrote that the Pres. great-grandfather practice Polygamy in Kenya no doubt. Oh btw he's just not some Rep nutcase he actually has covered and wrote about Pres. Clinton's 1992 campaign and Pres. Obama's campaign. Yet we voted him in.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:41 am |
    • MormonMoralBlindSpot

      Polyandry is separate from marriage of first cousins or minors. If all members of the marriage, are consenting adults, why not?

      May 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  12. Scott Morris

    Anyone who has been to Utah will see that the Mormon faith is the absolute worst when it comes to separating church and state. People who call this a Christian nation are gravely mistaken that the Mormon faith is in any way Christian. I find it amazing that Christians are now so willing to accept someone who is a proclaimed member of what every Christian church teaches is a cult. Just read their book. Christians should fear this slippery slope that Romney represents. Otherwise, there will eventually come a day when the Mormon faith is the official faith of the USA. How does that ring for you? Think about that one good and hard, and ask yourself if you want to set those wheels in motion on election day and head down that road...even to this day, black members of the Mormon church encounter obstacles of prejudice and outright racism. This is not what you want to put in the White House...

    May 13, 2012 at 5:47 am |
    • Bill Michaels

      Oh c'mon. This is the most ridiculous fear mongering I have ever seen. Every Mormon would oppose making Mormonism the official religion of America.

      May 13, 2012 at 5:52 am |
    • NClaw441

      How many Mormons are in Congress? Last I heard Congress has to pass laws before a President signs. If this is the best attack on Romney the GOP looks to be in pretty good shape this fall.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:32 am |
    • james A.

      The Mormon (LDS) church teaches that everyone has "free agency" to do whatever they feel is right, ultimately. However, if you do exercise your "free agency", you can expect to be pressured to give up the pursuit of your "free agency" until you either relent or drop the church.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:52 am |
    • mormonsarechristian

      If there had been no Nicene Creed or Emperor Constantine, Evangelicals’ theology would be quite similar to Mitt Romney’s In fact, there would likely be no need for the Mormon Church to restore Jesus Christ’s church. Mormons’ theology is based on New Testament Christianity, not Fourth Century Creeds. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views on Baptism, Lay Ministry, the Trinity, Theosis, Grace vs. Works, the Divinity of Jesus Christ are closer to Early Christianity than any other denomination. And Mormon teenagers have been judged to “top the charts” in Christian Characteristics by a UNC-Chapel Hill study. Read about it here:


      According to a 2012 Pew Forum poll of members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) 98 percent said they believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and 97 percent say their church is a Christian religion. They volunteer 7 times as many hours as does the general population, according to a 2012 University of Pennsylvania study. Mormons have a better understanding of Christianity than any other denomination, according to a 2010 Pew Forum poll:


      11 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence (including several presidents) were non-Trinitarian Christians, as is Mitt Romney.

      May 13, 2012 at 7:06 am |
  13. whocares

    Who would've thought that in a Godless hellhole like D.C. that followers of a false prophet would be numerous and influential...

    May 13, 2012 at 5:44 am |
  14. Bill Michaels

    It's amazing how foaming-at-the-mouth some of the anti-Mormon bigotry is in these comments. You are all terrible people and should be ashamed of yourselves. This is America, a country founded on religious freedom. If you don't like it, you should leave. Now.

    May 13, 2012 at 5:37 am |
    • Study People

      Tell the truth. This is nothing new at all. Back when Pres. Thomas Jefferson was running for Office... (Unitarian) The Church of Boston put out a pamphlet warning... "If you vote for Mr. Jefferson that French Educated, Atheist. Our Country will surely go to He**."

      May 13, 2012 at 5:50 am |
  15. Hyrum

    I love all the ignorant people who rely on YouTube and Google searches to tell them what mormons believe. Since when is everything we hear and read on the internet true?? On the other hand The Book of Mormon is true. Read it, and ask God. See what He says, not some so called "scholar" on Mormon faith that you don't even know.

    May 13, 2012 at 5:37 am |
    • Melvis

      Hyrum, Ok I will ask a book what it has to say...you nut job...Americans are worst than muslims in their crazy Jesus beliefs...You guys should all just go to your own crazy country in the middle east and live there.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:08 am |
  16. LODT

    I've yet to hear a good argument of why someone would refrain from voting for Romney because he is a Mormon. Many logical arguments can be made against his platform, but here the "Mormon" issue seems to take center stage. If someone has an educated response, using current information that actually applies to why Romney's religion would effect his presidency, I would be interested in hearing this. However, saying because the Mormon's did this, way back when, so therefore, Romney can't be president doesn't have any current relevance.

    May 13, 2012 at 5:37 am |
    • peter

      If romney rejects the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ as the word of God and tells the nation he was wrong about his former religion i will be more than glad to vote for him.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:02 am |
    • LODT

      Ok, but what is it about being a Mormon that makes one unsuitable to be president is my question? I understand that there are disagreements in theology, but that exists amongst every major religion, and that doesn't explain why you wouldn't vote for someone who has a different belief system.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:08 am |
    • peter

      I didn't say romney wouldn't be suitable if elected president. I don't vote for people who believe that the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ is the word of God–It is a false religion like scientology and islam–It is not a theological difference. Neither three are of christedom and nor do i vote for such people. If it makes you feel better mr mormon neither will i be voting for obama for other reasons.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:18 am |
    • LODT

      Okay, thanks for the clarification. I don't want to misinterpret what you said, but it sounds like religious belief, to you, is more important than qualification or ability? I don't think there is anything wrong with that I'm just trying to understand.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:39 am |
    • Martin

      If Romney could have been so deceived to believe In something so completely false, how can we dare trust him I'n the Oval Office. We can't!

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

      Once again a generalized statement like this does not help me. This statement insinuates that you are smarter than all Mormon's and have logically disproved the religion. I, therefore, must assume you are one of the smartest men alive, or more likely, have only superficially researched the issue, which would explain why you refrained from including facts or anything of relevance.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  17. superman

    It disgusts me how many of these comments are so blatantly uneducated, and bigoted. Our country is one of tolerance, decency, and I'd like to think it's of high moral standing. But from what I've read here I would believe myself sorely mistaken. It would seem as though we should instead persecute our fellow Americans simply for exercising their right to freedom of religion. I don't care what religion you are or aren't, there is no excuse for this ugly hatred and bigotry based on faith.

    You've read this article because you're a good citizen; you read the news to educate yourself of the current events. But that seems as though it is the only education you'll allow yourself. There are tons of "facts" touted in these comments are incredibly false, proving how little really is known by its commenter. "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." I do applaud some of you for taking Mark Twain literally... other than the first half of the quote.

    As an educated American, I believe it just as horrible an offense to label ignorance without trying to impart knowledge as it is to be ignorant in the first place. Therefore, I will offer a few pieces of understanding to those of you who are unaware, or have by any means come to misunderstandings of some "facts" said or eluded to on this forum. First, the "Magic Underwear" so loved by the media are not "magic" nor are they supernatural; they are a symbol of purity in their whiteness, representing promises of worthiness and cleanliness Mormons make with their God, much like the age-old white of the traditional wedding dress is a symbol of similar purity in marriage. Second, Brigham Young and the Mormon settlers never attempted to form a separate nation in the territory of Utah. The name 'Deseret' was in the original submission given to Washington in its application for Statehood under that name. Third, fourth, fifth... twentieth... all the actual facts are available, but much like you cannot learn European geography by staring at a Chinese roadmap, the only way to know your facts are facts are to get them from a reliable source. Oh, perhaps a Mormon, or their scripture.

    I've known many Mormons and of course I didn't become friends with every single one. But any dislike was never based on their religion. Like everyone else out there, they are people. Woah, that seems revelatory to some. They believe what they believe, and so do others. I don't judge someone because they believe that aliens built the Great Wall of China, nor if they believe in the existence or power of the Higgs Boson. Or any God for that matter.

    In the words of one of the most beloved Americans of all time once famously said, "The highest result of education is tolerance." I simply wish us all to educate ourselves.

    May 13, 2012 at 5:34 am |
    • Bill Michaels

      Well said. Thank you for this.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:00 am |
    • Rick

      "Our country is one of tolerance, decency, and I'd like to think it's of high moral standing."
      superman, I don't know what country you are describing, but it sure the heck ain't good ol' USA. We gave all that up with free thought. This country only caters to the special interest and those that have the most to lose. Wake up and smell the coffee buddy. The vitriol in these posts is America at it's finest. Land of the Free (loaders) and home of the brave (behind a psuedonym/avatar.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:49 am |
    • superman


      Said like a true patriot.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  18. cameo35

    ......................... MORMON CHURCH , JUST LIKE SCIENCETOLOGY, INSTEAD UFOS FOUND THIER CHURCH , A BUNCH OF SEAGULL FOUND THIERS....................................................................

    May 13, 2012 at 5:32 am |
  19. Want to know why Mormons don't mind bigotry..

    Its because they have two classes.....The Holier than thou, haven't made any mistakes Mormons and the Jack Mormons...The Jack Mormons are the ones that are excluded from tabernacle etc...because they made a mistake in the eyes of the leaders...ex..Glenn Beck is a Jack Mormon, aka 2nd class Mormon because of his drinking, drug and divorced past...I'm really surprised they even let him into Sunday services to be honest...Must be all that money...

    May 13, 2012 at 5:30 am |
    • Auto101

      @Want to know why Mormons don't mind bigotry..

      What are you talking about? Do you have any Clue how the Church works?

      May 13, 2012 at 5:45 am |
  20. cameo35

    ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, JUST LIKE MOST RELIGIONS , THE MORMON CHURCH IS ALL ABOUT MONEY AND POWER,,,,,,,,

    May 13, 2012 at 5:29 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.