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. al

    DC is a Moron stronghold

    May 14, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Yes, almost since 1776.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • flyer

      Agreed. Good thing there are Mormons there to counteract the Morons.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  2. GianCarlo

    Every Mormon I have ever met walks around like a zombie or robot of the LDS. Sorry, I don't like Mormons, and for Christians that support Romney, they are all a bunch of hypocrites. I used to be a Christian, I left and will never return to Christianity, makes me sick to my stomach of what Christianity has become in this country.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Mike Bennion

      Met two or three of them...eh?

      May 14, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  3. Steve409

    When I was a kid, I thought the beltway Mormon temple was Disney World.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Chuck

      Would be a better use since such tall tales are told there.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  4. Chuck

    Three Strikes!

    May 14, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  5. Patrick Lewis

    As someone who lives in Washington, the LDS people do not make for good neighbors... unless you are LDS! If you are LDS they will preferentially hire you, give you contracts, tips, etc. The LDS cult does everything it can to improve the lives of it's cult members and if there isn't one around, then they will deal with the gentiles. Let's make no mistake, Mormonism as practiced by a lot of them, is not mainstream – it is shamelessly prejudicial in the public arena.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • kjrussell

      A lot of minority religions do this.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Dave

      I doubt you will receive any preferential treatment when you call them cultists. Sounds like you need to look in the mirror and fix your own faults before you point out those of others.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  6. intel

    Joseph Smith was a flat out con man. He was jailed on numerous occasions for using magic stones to locate buried treasure. The problem? He never found buried treasure, but kept the money. He finally stumbled on a fake religion by invoking the name of Jesus Christ to perpetuate fraud. To true Christians, this is sacrilege. Heresy. The Mormon church is a cult. Don't believe me. Do a wiki search on the White Horse Prophecy. Or Parley P. Pratt. Or the Book of Mormon. Anyone who believes the rantings of Joseph Smith is mentally ill. Are you ready for a mentally ill president? Do your own research. And then tell all your friends.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Skyler

      Wiki is the worst place to get or info. that's why all colleges and any school say not to use wiki. because it has the wrong in formation

      May 14, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • intel

      How's the weather in Cult Lake City today?

      May 14, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • CULT

      Mormonism is a crazy cult who's goal is to dominate the world by infiltrating and controlling government.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • SlaveWorld

      Skylar's in a Metal Band

      May 14, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • mariana

      you are a very dumb person you are problably not a mormon just a jerk listing to any crap that you hear!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      May 14, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • mariana

      mormons dont want to take over the wrold dont be stupid!!!!!!!

      May 14, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • looking for truth

      I absolutely agree with you. I don't mind people believing whatever they want to, but for Pete’s sake, at least understand what it is you are getting into. You don't need to read "anti Mormon" literature to get the truth. Read Joseph's diary, the Journal of Discourses (early leader sermons), and please spend time looking at the wood cuts from the papyrus in the Book of Abraham, then compare these to the originals which were recovered in the 60's. Look at the parts missing from the originals, and compare that to what Joseph filled in "by the strength and power of the Holy Ghost"). The parts he filled in are upside down, backwards, coptic- not hieroglyphic, and taken from other areas on the same scroll, but aren't in the correct context. Like I said, believe whatever you want, but (A) don't call Mormonism Protestant Christianity and (B) read Joseph's history and writing so you can choose to believe who he actually was NOT just the stories we are all told in Priesthood or Sunday school.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Dave

      Funny that you are tellling people to do research when you clearly haven't done any yourself. Try looking at mormon.org or lds.org if you want to know what they believe.

      By the way..."jailed on numerous occasions for using magic stones to locate buried treasure" COMPLETELY FALSE.....easily debunked with a half ounce of effort. Joseph Smith did spend time in jails but I wonder if your research ever found how many charges he was convicted of? I'll even save you some time....none. The lies, slander, misinformation was always proven false when the truth came out.

      And the attacks continue today with the same baseless accusations made by the intellectually lazy.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Chuck

      Show us what's right then Skyler.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  7. brian

    All religion flies in the face of rationality. In spite of this, irrationality in one sphere does not foreclose perfect rationality in other spheres. Obama and Romney and millions of other accomplished human beings are testament to this fact.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  8. bdl1978

    If you need a fictional book to tell you how to be a good person then you're probably not a good person to begin with and you don't have any common sense.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  9. bdl1978

    These people make me sick. They want to use their delusional "faith" to run the country. basically using something that has no proof for the existence of their god to brainwash the rest of the country. Your faith does not equal fact and it won't prevent a nuclear war you morons.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  10. mikrik13

    I saw this "chapel" in the 70's and I don't think it was built just before I got to town. Cathedral is more like it and the largest and most grandiose I have seen in the USA.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  11. Marie

    Sorry, but Mormonism is not a religion, it is CULT!

    May 14, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • MikeB

      Geee ... another Social Supremacist.
      Is there any 'Love' in your Heart?
      Do you even know what Christ gave his life for?
      It wasn't to give you a pass to judge others.

      May 14, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • TCP

      So are Catholicism....Protestantism....Judaism....Islam....Buddhism...Atheism...etc., etc., etc....

      May 14, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • nairb247

      It looks like because Marie said it, it must be true. I hearby denounce any religion that doesn't believe the way I think they should believe as a cult.

      Most people don't even know what the definition of a cult is anyway.

      But because Marie says it, I will follow.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • ScienceSoma

      Marie – you do not get to call Mormonism a cult and not the other religions – be consistent. Either everyone's mythology is rational or no one's is, but if you are of faith, do not be a hypocrite. Their belief is just as justified as yours.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • ronbry

      Do you enjoy your life with such hate in your heart when you belittle other people's beliefs with such as callous and insensitive word like "cult".

      May 14, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  12. Nevada Smith

    EX: Turn the page; "and now man has become as one of us, to know good from evil" The Savior also said to come join Him on the right hand of the Father...and my personal favorite Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven We can become perfect through the Atonement of our Savior, by His grace after all we can do. It's a tremendous gift my friend

    May 14, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Who is at the left hand of the father?
      Are we allowed to know?
      Does the righteous father have a left hand?

      May 14, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  13. stebar2

    Judging from the comments on this article, it seems bigotry is alive and well amongst the self-professed "charitable" Christian Conservatives.

    May 14, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • nairb247

      It is because they fear what they don't understand.

      May 14, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • MikeB

      Some of those post are from posers that are just being agitators.

      May 14, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      No, really? Or maybe you're the agitator who's trying to make everyone else look bad. That's my guess, you whimp.

      May 14, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  14. UtahProf

    It will be easy to see who will be President if Mitt gets the nomination (looking likely). The media will either present the Mormon religion as being "mainstream' – which will indicate their support for Romney OR they will give the public the truth about Mormonism – which will indicate their support of Obama.

    May 14, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • MikeB

      If you work with Media Matters, we already know where you are going with that.
      Just more snark and derision for a Social Supremacist.

      May 14, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • UtahProf

      I am a Libertarian – I hate Republicans and Democrats equally – just using my PoliSci background to make an observation. Like it or don't – I could care less what you think.

      May 14, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • TCP

      One class in poli-sci makes not a "political-scientist"......as clearly evidenced by the posts of UtahProf...

      May 14, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • MikeB

      UtahProf – Your lack of caring is obvious. Isn't that the source of derision?
      Really "~OR they will give the public the truth about Mormonism – which will indicate their support of Obama."
      Then yo show your arrogance by touting your PoliSci background. How is conformity training supposed to prove expertise or special qualification to divide Americans?

      May 14, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      The prof really didn't say anything other than the obvious, so why the attack Mikey? I think you're just looking to pick a fight over nothing.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Swift boats attack Utah prof, he is snarky, a shill for media matters, teaches one class and is anti Romney.

      Danger, attack attack attack.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  15. zambonie17

    I love all you anti-mormons. It's like watching kids throw snowballs at a brick wall.

    May 14, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • MikeB

      Some of them are 'Predators' looking for someone to put down, deride, malign, etc ... Kind of like what bullies do to feel better about themselves.

      May 14, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      Hey MikeB, aren't you the little know-it-all. Maybe I'm just trying to share my view as it's my right, and you're just an insecure simpleton who's afraid of the truth?

      May 14, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Chuck

      A wall of bricks with really big holes in it.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Is that the brick wall that Pink Floyd sings about?

      May 14, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  16. AGeek

    TL;DR Too many wackos believing in magic underwear *far* too close to the Federal Government for any rational person's comfort.

    I don't care what, or if, you believe. Just keep it to yourself and don't push it on me either directly or through policy/legislation.

    May 14, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • BK

      You don't think politicians should promote what they believe?! What, they should promote only what they are paid to?! Belief doesn't equal religion. You have made yourself out to sound like a foolish bigot. You should think a bit more before you post silly statements like that.

      May 14, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  17. Andrew

    Religion is just a crutch for the weak, and easily manipulated portion of the population. I could careless about the biblical fighting these silly groups have with each other. They waste money just as bad as the government. Plus they expect donations like a required tax. What many people don't realize is these ideals wont last the test of time. The believers are dwindling in numbers as the youth increase and become far more liberal. The right wing and extreme religious views are going to fade.. Loose influence in the coming years. With bs they put forth about every major issue will only speed up the lose of followers. I'd rethink your next move.. Because the younger generations might not be so forgiving.

    May 14, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Chuck

      What Andrew Said!

      May 14, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • B

      "Liberal" becoming more and more synonymous with "educated"... It is no wonder that when you look at places like NC and their recently passed amendment 1, and you look at a map of what areas voted for and what areas voted against the amendment, all the urban areas voted against the amendment, whereas just about all the rural areas voted for it. That is no surprise. The people in the urban areas are a lot more educated, and they are forced to confront and work along people who are different from themselves, which creates an atmosphere of more understanding and tolerance. In rural areas, people rarely if ever meet people who are different from them. They live in ignorance of diversity and basically see America to them as white, Christian, and conservative and anything is just wrong... The best word to describe it would be ethnocentrism...

      May 14, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  18. Matt

    I have yet to meet a sane Mormon. Sorry folks, you're a cult and you know it.

    May 14, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • LostinSLC

      Matt- I am not LDS but I live here in the heart of Mormon country and honestly your full of it. They are normal every day people who just look to worship in their own way and lead regular lives like all of us. I bet you ten to one odds if you came to SLC you would never be able to distinguish the Mormons from the non-Mormons. Stop making this out to be something it is not.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Joseph Smith

      Mormons will only do anything that furthers the cause of the "church". Total brainwashing. That's what Matt is talking about LostinSLC. If you're stupid enough to live in the eye of the storm with the Mormons, then you've drunk the Kool-Aid, too.

      May 14, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • LostinSLC

      Joseph Smith- The fact that you have your name as their prophet already shows your obvious hate for their religion no matter what is truth and false. I have lived here for 28 years and never had a problem with my neighbors or the people I work with.
      I am an evangelical and even though our religions are on polar opposites, 99% of the LDS faithful I know are down to earth regular people. The fact is you just have a simple point and narrow minded view and you need to attack to make yourself feel better about the bull you are feeding yourself.
      Until you live you, you have no clue and are passing judgement on nothing else but speculation.

      May 14, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • nairb247


      A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.
      A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.

      By definition tell me one religion that isn't a cult. They all have odd or weird beliefs to someone outside of that religion don't they?

      May 14, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Ryan

      its true, Mormons are nothing but a bunch of "Brainwashed Buffoons" they think they can hear 'God' talking to them, through 'The Spirit' , but its only their inner subconscious speaking to themselves. These people are dangerous too, they go around doing crazy things and say, 'God told me to.' And going on a mission? Seriously, just join boy scouts or girl scouts of America. There yah go. The book of mormon is a cracked out book full of cracked out stories of a loony who was killed over his crazy beliefs.

      May 14, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • nairb247

      Ryan, most LDS boys do join the boy scouts, the LDS church has a HUGE boyscout program. Missions are completely different from boy scouts. And quite frankly because you don't understand a what a mission is/does for a young man or woman you have nothing to go off of except your own biased opinion.

      May 14, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • UtahProf

      I also live in Mormon country and I can tell you, the "devout" Mormons are "not all there" ... they will do ANYTHING – lie, cheat, steal – to further their cause and have a similar mentality to the Muslims in that "if you are't mormon, you are the enemy"- and, the "good old boy network" is seriously, blatantly alive and well amongst these people. Sorry, that is just the truth. We will see if the media \puts out the info about temple cards, clean fires, oil anointing, etc, etc, etc.

      May 14, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • TCP

      They are ALL cults Matt. Welcome to the real world...

      May 14, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Orwell seen it before

      I have met a few sane Mormons, just like I know some sane Jews, Hindus, various Orthodox, Catholics, Muslims, and Protestants.

      I would not extrapolate that all are sane. Nor would I know enough about their degree of buy in, or the depth of their sanity.

      As for the religion in particular, I would not say it is as strange as scientology, but close in some ways. I have yet to meet a sane scientologist. The book of Mormon definitely sets it apart from mainstream Christian. It's origin story reminds me more of Islam, Mohamed and Joseph Smith seem to have nearly identical stories as to how they come into their spiritual knowledge with angels helping them to personally read spiritual text characters on golden medium. At the very moment the same angels stopped by to retrieve them for return to heaven. Then there is this whole package of ideas dealing with the origin of native american Indians that does not match known physical facts, zip on the archeology and genetics that is hard to explain away. A lot of ancient battles being fought today thru spirits not referenced in mainstream Christianity.

      So Bishop Mitt is going to open new vistas for the general to check out what Mormons and ex Mormons think about it. Then there are converted Mormons like Glenn Beck that are going to raise fundamental questions as to political religious agendas. And we have people like senator Reid, who I consider credible, being put on the spot as to a Mormon POTUS and what that might mean in context to some of the non mainstream beliefs. Should be interesting, unless Omney decides to drop out.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Skyler

      Define cult? I have many Mormon friends! I Believe the Mormon are not a cult.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • shuaster

      cult   /kʌlt/ [kuhlt] noun
      1. a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
      2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.
      3. the object of such devotion.
      4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
      5. Sociology . a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.

      Under the dictionary definition I think mormons are a Cult just like Jews, Catholics, Baptists, or any one else that has a Dogma, rite of passage (marriage or Baptism) or socal expectations.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Dave

      @Utahprof....mormons are human and you are going to run into bad ones just as you will run into good ones. The point is whether the mormon church teaches people to do all the nasty things you claim. They do not, nor is some conspiracy to perpetrate great scams on the nation. Your bias is blinding you from seeing the obvious.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  19. Dave

    In response to Watsgoindown: Yes, it is true Mormons do not believe in the concept of the "Trinity" which was created in the 3rd century by politicians and clerics after Rome persecuted those who belonged to the church Christ established. We do believe in the Godhead (a biblical concept) and believe God and Jesus are separate beings (see Acts 7:56) and we believe Christ is a resurrected being.

    May 14, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • Ex

      Don't forget to add that you, as a Mormon, will eventually BE WHAT GOD IS NOW. What was that promise again that the Serpent made to Adam & Eve if they ate of the fruit?

      May 14, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • shuaster

      in the eternal perspective, yes,but relize it will not be in this state that we gain that promise. Life is growth and experience, eternal Life is eternal growth & experience. living with God we should beable to learn something of how He does what he does.
      Not to scare you, but I actually heard the same doctorine being taught by baptists in Ada, OK. I joined them in a Wednsday service. They were using the NIV to prove it, too.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Chuck

      The BoM makes mention of various technological products which were unknown to Mesoamerica. These include chariots (Alma 18:9) when there were no wheeled vehicles of any kind, steel swords (Ether 7:9) when there was neither steel nor swords, bellows for blacksmithing (1 Nephi 17:11), and silk (Alma 1:29). The BoM describes a vast civilization of millions who inhabited cities for hundreds of years, yet no ruins from even a single BoM city have ever been identified. No BoM place-names were in use when Europeans arrived in the New World.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  20. Watsgoindown

    All these CJCLDSers living off the government in DC show the hypocracy of the Republican stance on cutting out spending on social programs.

    The correct term isn't cult but heretics. They don't meet the criteria of Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant confessionals of belief or creed. They believe in Jesus as reinterpreted by their Prophet Joseph Smith.

    By the way Prophet Smith died in Illinois not Missouri. The Mormons had fled to Illinois after the Governor of Missouri had issued an eradication order against the Mormons.

    Jesus will not return to DC or Isreal but to northwest Missouri according to the Prophet Joseph Smith.

    May 14, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Orwell wants a photo biz

      Are there any bargain real estate deals in Independence Missouri, next to the Temple Lot?

      Could be the place to be for the second coming of Jesus, or Joseph Smith, or angel Moroni, or somebody else important passing thru. A papparazzi could make a fortune with some good shots.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:45 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.