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. curious

    Why do Mormons write such long and complicated articles?

    May 14, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Solar

      Because we have a lot of perceptions, rumors, accusations, and stories which are completely untrue and unfounded that have been thrown at us over the course of nearly 200 years that require us to be very detailed in what we believe and do. It seems however that no matter how hard we try to set the record straight and bring out the truth of our beliefs their are always those who refuse to see the reason in our attempts and continue to call us un-christian, deranged, evil, cultists, and brainwashed.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  2. intel

    OK Mormons. Convince us you are not a cult. Simple question. Do you believe you are descendants of space travellers from the planet Kolob? Answer the question. Tell the truth. Because you do believe that. And I can't find planet Kolob in my Bible. Answer the question. I dare you.

    May 14, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • momoya

      christianity is just a bigger cult, intel.. Why don't you quit believing in your stupid fairy tales before you judge somebody else about the fairy tale they think is true?

      May 14, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • souptwins

      Simple answer- NO we do NOT believe we were brought here by aliens from the planet Kolob. Kolob is simple the name of a star near where God lives. He's got to be somewhere so why not there and no one claims to know where it's located. We believe we are all the divine creation of God the Father whose only begotten son, Jesus Christ died that all man may be resurrected and atoned for sin. Isn't that just "cultish" of us.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Mike Belcher

      If you could hie to Kolob....

      May 14, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Solar

      I do not believe that I am the descendant of space travelers from a planet named Kolob. I believe that I am a spiritual son of God and a physical descendant of Adam and Eve whom God placed on this earth. I defy you to find a single sane Mormon who would disagree with me.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  3. Craig

    Wow, I was thinking the liberals were the bigots. Not so. You hate-filled "Christians" actions and words towards Mormons puts you in a category all by yourselves. Your refusal to vote for Romney is much welcomed by Obama. Have any of you ever investigated Mormonism from reading the teachings of its' leaders or doctrines? I didn't think so. You so-called Christians bring shame to Christianity.

    May 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • intel

      The reason we all think the Mormon church is a cult is because we HAVE read your friggin scriptures. Mitt Romney is the false prophet the real Bible warns us of. And we will not let you destroy this country.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • souptwins

      Romney is not a Prophet of any sort and never claimed to be.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Joe

      I am republican and will not support this wako of a candidate Romney,he goes against the teaching of christ and he is not a christian,he is a phoney cultist and should be treated as such.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Agreed, Craig. This blog is crawling with Christian BIGOTS! Not sure where the hatred comes from – especially if they "SAY" they are Christians.... not exactly following the example of Christ. Apparently these are self – "professed" Christians but deep down they are pure bigots – nothing more!!!

      May 15, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Joe – you are EXACTLY what I was talking about just now – a professed Christian but doesn't live Christ's teachings..... interesting. Again, what's with the hatred towards a group that has nothing towards you, believes in Christ, teaches of Christ, and teaches us to FOLLOW his example. Yeah, that sounds like one evil cult, eh? Sorry that you say you are a Christian – by your own words – we all know you are NOT a Christian – that is very sad!

      May 15, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  4. ctbeckyw

    I think there is a typo... DC is a moron stronghold. Mormonism may be present but I am sure there are more morons by far.

    May 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  5. Jimbo21

    Wow is see the mormons are out in force to spin, spin, spin,Sorry but no matter how you guys try to make your religion sweet and innocent many of us know better and know mormans are a non christian cult.

    May 14, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Solar

      Please explain to me in concise proven terms how the LDS church and its members are not sweet and innocent and fail to worship Jesus Christ as their Savior and Redeemer.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Russ Morgan

      Yes, the people who actually know the church inside and out are commenting. Is your goal to be accurately informed or to spread ignorance?

      May 14, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Jimby – pretty funny post here. Another bigot comes out of the closet and professes to be a Christian – sorry, dude – you are not even close to being a Christian spewing so much hatred to a group. This is what we get to read and put up with from such ignorant people! Poor Jimby

      May 15, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  6. JL Fuller

    Mormons believe in becoming gods in the sense that believers in Christ can be co-inheritors of Christ's full inheritance. That makes them gods too in practical sense. They have all the pwoer and staus of Jessus Christ as teh bible says. Yet there is only one God The Father as the bible says. Where Mormons and traditional Christians come into conflict is Mormons believe God the Father and Christ are two distinct and seperate personages. TYraditonal Christians say that makes Mormons beleivers in multiple Gods. Not so. There is only one God and that is God the Father. All the rest who attain a complete and full inheritance are gods with a small g. But not all will make it.

    May 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • E B

      The core of Mormonism is to follow Jesus Christ. The media and other religious leaders often focus on the peripherty of LDS Church beliefs and practices to make us seem different or strange, but when it comes down to it, everything ties back to following Jesus Christ. Rather than take the word of news articles or eclesiastic leaders about Mormons, I invite those of you who care to know about Mormons to find information at the source. Mormon.org and mormonnewsroom.org are great resources for fact-checking or for your own enlightenment. This article is quite accuate, by the way, and I express my thanks to the author.
      Thanks for listening.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Ex

      JL FULLER – You'd better read this:

      Speaking in the Tabernacle on August 8, 1852, Brigham Young stated,

      "The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like Himself; when we have been proved in our present capacity, and been faithful with all things He puts into our possession. We are created, we are born for the express purpose of growing up from the low estate of manhood, to become Gods like unto our Father in heaven. That is the truth about it, just as it is" (Journal of Discourses 3:93).


      There is little doubt that the goal of every faithful male Latter-day Saint is to one day be elevated to the level of an infinite God and rule and reign over his own personal kingdom. Mormon Apostle James Talmage wrote:

      "We believe in a God who is Himself progressive, whose majesty is intelligence; whose perfection consists in eternal advancement - a Being who has attained His exalted state by a path which now His children are permitted to follow, whose glory it is their heritage to share" (The Articles of Faith, p. 430).


      Mormon Apostle Orson Pratts explains:

      "Each God, through his wife or wives, raises up a numerous family of sons and daughters; indeed, there will be no end to the increase of his own children: for each father and mother will be in a condition to multiply forever and ever. As soon as each God has begotten many millions of male and female spirits, and his Heavenly inheritance becomes too small, to comfortably accommodate his great family, he, in connection with his sons, organizes a new world, after a similar order to the one which we now inhabit, where he sends both the male and female spirits to inhabit tabernacles of flesh and bones. Thus each God forms a world for the accommodation of his own sons and daughters who are sent forth in their times and seasons, and generations to be born into the same. The inhabitants of each world are required to reverence, adore, and worship their own personal father who dwells in the Heaven which they formerly inhabited" (The Seer, p. 37).

      May 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Hey, ex..... and your point is? At least you quoted from our prophets and apostles and didn't go off on your own little hate-filled blather..... again, I would say.... AND?

      May 15, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  7. Mike Belcher

    Isaiah 9:15 the elders and prominent men are the head, the prophets who teach lies are the tail.

    Jeremiah 7:8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

    Jeremiah 23:21 I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied.

    Jeremiah 23:25 "I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, 'I had a dream! I had a dream!'

    Jeremiah 23:31 Yes," declares the LORD, "I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, 'The LORD declares.'

    Lamentations 2:14 The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The oracles they gave you were false and misleading.

    Lamentations 3:37 Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?

    Ezekiel 13:10 "'Because they lead my people astray, saying, "Peace," when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash,

    phaniah 3:4 Her prophets are arrogant; they are treacherous men. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law.

    Zechariah 10:2 The idols speak deceit, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain. Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd.

    May 14, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Solar

      I agree that we must indeed beware false prophets. Those that teach contrary to the teachings of Christ are obviously false prophets. Those that drain money from their people to finance their own lavish living are false prophets. Those who's teachings make men miserable and destroy their lives are false prophets. This is why we believe the presidents and apostles of the LDS church to be prophets, seers, and revlators for they do not fit the description of a false prophet. They preach the word of God and the gospel of His Son Jesus Christ which uplifts all those who embrace it. I challenge you to find proof and evidence that contradicts this statement.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  8. lolo

    No one cares about Mitts religion but the republican/tpers. You need to be telling them to do more research, because Mittens needs their votes badly to get elected. The only people who are confused are them

    May 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  9. Use your brain

    Mormons are generally patriotic and although most are conservative, their church takes no party side. There are republicans and democrats.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  10. Russ Morgan

    It's so interesting to me to see comments about my faith that are so off base. I am LDS and what that means is that I go to church every Sunday to worship Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father. I personally have taught many classes that focus on encouraging all in attendance to become more like Christ. We teach every member to be virtuous, kind, and to keep the promises they made to God at the time of baptism. We believe in keeping the commandments – like keeping the Sabbath Day holy, honoring our fathers and mothers, and living lives of honesty and integrity. We don't have magic underwear. When you are baptized – is it magic water? No, it cleanses from sin based on your faith. When you take the sacrament is it a magic wafer or bread? No, again – the ordinance is an effective means of renewing your covenant with God if done with real intent. All outer manifestations in religion are usually a reflection of an inner commitment to follow the Savior Jesus Christ. The family is the most important unit in mortality and eternity. We adore and honor women. My kids and wife are the most important people in my life. Where are these comments coming from that talk about brain-washing and hurting women and children? Is it just fear tactics? Go to any LDS chapel on a Sunday and see for yourself. Don't be ignorant and uneducated.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Well put, Russ – The ignorance and bigotry I find on this blog is amazing to me. Not sure why the "HATRED" of our religion but am shocked that there is so much of it. Amazing.....

      May 14, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Jeff

      Cultist spin

      May 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Kristina

      Jeff, the LDS church has ~16 million members worldwide. That's one helluva huge "cult." Also, read the article. I've never known a cult to be full of so many intelligent, educated, and successful people. I don't know (actually yes I do), but maybe you're missing something kinda obvious.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Andy

      I don't believe in deities, but I can certainly say that I've been friends with many Mormons over the years, and I've always enjoyed their company. My sons and I have enjoyed ward picnics, pinewood derbies, etc, and we've always been welcome, even though they know we're a secular family. I don't believe in heaven, but their kindness and love go a long way.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  11. Jeff

    Many conservative republicans from the south have a big problem with BISHOP Romney being a part of a cult religion.being a christian is a big part of our lives and we will not support a man who perverts our religion and worships Joesoph Smith as their messiah.Many opastors have a big problem with Romney being a cultist non christian. We are not going to vote for Bishop Romney.We will sit this one out.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Dave

      If you don't vote then you are an idiot.
      If you won't vote for a mormon because you don't believe they are christian then you are an idiot.
      If you vote for Obama you are an idiot.

      Verdict is in....you are an idiot.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Worship Joseph Smith as their Messiah? Dude you are living in the dark ages or are reading some sort of bizarre comic books..... they do NOT worship him that way – no wonder the South has such a problem with Mormons..... you all don't even know the FACTS of their faith. Wake up, Jeff and start reading some real information about the church – not some idiot's perverted explanation of what they "think" that they believe..... get it? This is a joke reading some of this crap on here!!!

      May 14, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • MikeB

      What some don't realize it that some of these congregations exist because the preacher is charismatic or validates the ill-will of their following. Especially since those followers choose to follow whomever suits their liking. By definition, that makes them a cult. Having a collective of cult leaders to for a convention does not change that fact.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • MikeB

      Your statement that the Pastors have a big problem with Mormons is telling. It acknowledges that Jesus doesn't have a problem with them. Even 'competing' Pastors in the same town have a real problem with each other; that money thing is a real concern for them.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Jeff, Dave may know something, not sure what other than him calling you an idiot. Forget him.

      Suck it up, for the gipper. You got to vote republican, it's all you believe in. So what if Mormon religion is against your religious beliefs. It is all about winning, beating Obama, prove God is against Obama and the communist democrats.

      It is not about the economy, it is about the GOP taking over, who cares if it is a Mormon Christian nation. You can do it. Prove to Dave you ain't a coward letting your religious political party down. Liberty university can man up, show your convictions, take down Obama, nothing else in your life matters. Listen to Glenn Beck, he will show you the way, the strength to do it. Be a man, not Dave's idiot. When you die, you will be later baptized a Mormon, all is forgiven, you will be taken care of. Just do it.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • mayflower

      Jeff, your reply indicates how little you know about the religion. The full name is the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saint. There is no Joe Smith worshipping going on. Christ is front and center. If you must form an opinion on something, try getting some information from varied sources instead of those that very clearly support your own myopic views.

      And for the record, if you evangelicals sit out the election, you are in essence supporting gay marriage, letting Obama win by default. If you truly are a Christian, you need to make sure you vote your values (even if that means simply voting against the values you do not support). You might want to reconsider your stand, and take some time to read up on Romney before deciding he's in a cult. Millions of mormons around the world indicate it's not a cult, not by strict definition anyway. If we applied your standards of a cult to your religion, anyone could say you were in a cult as well.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  12. JL Fuller

    nikki brings up a point that often is thrown at Mormons but seldom explored rationally. How can a Christ following people believe all those things that are not found in the bible but still claim they believe in and use it? The answer is, the Book of Mormon and the other standard works are in harmony with the bible. They compliment it and explain it. These other works were written by real prophets of God just like Moses, Daniel and the Apostles of Christ. The key in accepting that is in believing God will tell what is true is you really want to know. It is that confirmation that Echo Hawk was talking about that is the singular undeniable manifestation of the truth of these things. No person can do that for another person. Only Christ can through the Holy Ghost.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Ex

      to JL FULLER: Sharing in Christ's full inheritance is an EXTREMELY different concept or promise than being in a position of being worshipped as God is worshipped now. In Mormonism the concept is referred to as "Eternal Progression". That means that what God is now, you (you = "good" Mormon) will evolve into being: a god, married to your goddess wife (which God has, also) in eternal copulation creating spirits to populate your own subject universe whose inhabitants will worship you as God is worshipped now. This also means that the current Divinity (who we call God) has been eternally progressing (which means he is still growing in power) and was once as we are, being a begotten offspring of some even more powerful deity, the likes of which we cannot imagine. The key difference within Mormonism is clearly being indoctrinated with the idea that your reward is not just being in heaven eternally with the Creator, but you actually become the Creator worthy of worship just as God (of this universe) is due. It is LITERALLY the oldest trick in THE BOOK! "Eat this and you will be like GOD..."

      May 14, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  13. Jeff


    May 14, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • JL Fuller

      Often the question is asked whether a detractor wants to know if all this Mormon theology is true. That is the key. Do you really want to know? Most often the retort is "I already know". If so then there is no reason to go further. You can't teach those who will not hear.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Ha ha ha ha..... one of the dumbest comments I have read thus far on here!!!

      May 14, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • The dude

      @ Jeff
      Hey christian, how about you actually look in to the faith instead of listening to the media about it before you make such a bigot comment. And after you do, please give us a factual reason on why you would consider them a colt. Thank you for your tolerance.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  14. Anomic Office Drone

    Silly cult, you're several centuries too late to be called a religion. You should have gotten in early with the other cults if you wanted to feign legitimacy.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Kristina

      Silly comments. You're several IQ points short of even being called borderline.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  15. Jeff

    I find it offencive as a christian to see what the Mormans have done to the bible and its teachings,and how they turned it into a brainwashing cult con game.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • John

      LDS use the King James version of the Bible. What have they done to that? Where do you guys get your news? Oh right... this is a CNN forum.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Orwell seen it before

      I find it offensive what Christians have done to Christianity.

      Ghandi put it this way, like Jesus, big problem with Christians.
      But then what did he know, a non Christian killed him.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      Jeffy – not quite understanding where you get your idiotic information but you, as other bigots – just want to spew lies on these forums and don't have a clue what you are talking about. Wise up, dude! Might want to have your facts straight before you look like a fool on this blog.... which you already do!!! Poor guy!

      May 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  16. Reload

    All you Obamanaut bigots should be doing a little fact checking. Mormons, as a socioeconomic group are more likely to graduate from high school, and are more likely to go to and graduate from college. As a group they volunteer more hours to community organizations. As a group they give more of their income to charity. They have more boys that earn their Eagle Scout award than any other group. Per capata more Mormons speak multiple languages than any other group in the US. Out of civic duty they join the military are over represented in the ranks of military officers. Zombies, brainwashed, stupid, backward, illiterate, fools? Not hardly.
    The leeway that CNN gives to bigotry toward Mormons is staggering. If the comments made here about Mormons were aimed at blacks, Jews, Catholics, Muslims or any other religious/ethnic group they would have been removed. CNN is clearly campaigning for Obama. It's OK for liberals to bigots, just so the venom is aimed at the "right' groups. Bigots by any other name.......

    May 14, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Samantha

      haha my experience with mormans have been they are the bigots,they think they are superior to all other religions and we should bow to them,my mormon neighbors were nice till they found out I was catholic,now they treat me like the devil.They have been rude and mean to my kids because we are not mormons and I say get the hell out of here cultists you are not wanted,you are not christians and you do not act like christians.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  17. Morman magical underwear

    America wake up these Mormons are a con religion and will spin spin spin trying to get you to not see how screwed up they are.Mormons have been the leaders in religion when it comes to incest,violence against kids and women,the brainwashing,these people are psyco,they of course will spin and lie to condfuse the public making doubt so we cant see them for what they are,a bunch of weirdos that hurt people and pray to joesoph smith the ultimate religious criminal con man lol. You would be better off worshipping dog droppings at least they wont hurt you or your family or brainwash you lol.Say no to the cult of magical underwaer with skidmarks lol.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      You are quite the angry little fellow, aren't you? Wow – such hatred towards a group of people of which you apparently know absolutely nothing. Something must have happened in your sorry little childhood – molested? Something strange to see such anger come out here. Poor guy – but it's quite funny to read and see your ignorance SHINE through. Thanks for making this such an entertaining blog to read – humor is always good at the start of my day.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • fp737

      Thanks for your spew. Now go back inside your hillbilly shack, brush your tooth, and hitch up your suspender.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  18. John


    The LDS churches are open to anyone who wishes to attend. I'd invite you to put away whatever random anti-mormon literature you may be using for information and attend a meeting. Talk to the people there. You will not find a happier people anywhere in your community. Talk to the children. Please try to find any signs of abuse.

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

      A LOT easier to be "happy" when in the depths of your soul you believe you will rise to the status and power of GOD.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Orwell seen it before

      Thanks for the invite. Don't have the time to figure out the rabbit trails of the catholic church or a lot of other religions.

      Good luck on mainstream acceptance. I don't think Mormons are horrible people or do particularly evil things. You got super fringe getting a lot of negative attention, which they deserve. As for the beliefs, that is going to be tough to get much non-Mormon buyin. But with Liberty University ready to back up the Republican agenda at all costs, Bishop Mitt will get some votes by non Mormons.

      Looking forward to hearing some good detailed explanations on the beliefs.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  19. Michelle

    You all missed the most important point. Mormons believe all good mormons will become gods and have many babies nd create their own world just like Jesus did. Did you not know Jesus was LDS. Investigate the LDS church, you will be shocked at their believes like Catholics are in cahoots with satan

    May 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • JL Fuller

      Not quite.The bible alludes to theosis in Genesis. In plain terms Christians believe in it as well although not by that name. It traditional Christianity it is known as sharing in Christ's full inheritance. Some folks say Mormons teach that believers will become Gods but they do not differentiate between "God" with a capital G as in God the Father and "gods" with lower case g such as in Genesis and those who are co-inheritors with Christ. Theosis is discussed by early Christian fathers too. It is a poorly understood aspect in Christianity.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • NotSuprisedbyBIGOTS

      I love reading these posts – am amazed at the depth of ignorance that is shown here. Where do you get your information, Michelle? What happened in your early childhood to cause you such anger against a group of people? Poor woman – must have been something quite traumatic, eh? Try and get over it and also you might want to become a wee bit more educated before people think you are a complete bafoon when they read your posts. Wake up, woman!

      May 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Ex

      to JL FULLER: Sharing in Christ's full inheritance is an EXTREMELY different concept or promise than being in a position of being worshipped as God is worshipped now. In Mormonism the concept is referred to as "Eternal Progression". That means that what God is now, you (you = "good" Mormon) will evolve into being: a god, married to your goddess wife (which God has, also) in eternal copulation creating spirits to populate your own subject universe whose inhabitants will worship you as God is worshipped now. This also means that the current Divinity (who we call God) has been eternally progressing (which means he is still growing in power) and was once as we are, being a begotten offspring of some even more powerful deity, the likes of which we cannot imagine. The key difference within Mormonism is clearly being indoctrinated with the idea that your reward is not just being in heaven eternally with the Creator, but you actually become the Creator worthy of worhship just as God (of this universe) is due. It is LITERALLY the oldest trick in THE BOOK! "Eat this and you will be like GOD..."

      May 14, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • son of God

      Jesus Christ was also persecuted for teaching the belief that we are gods, see John 10:22-42. In verse 37 we see Him quoting from the book of Psalms, chapter 82. Knowing that we are all gods, the children of God, may be considered heresy and blasphemy by men; but it is the truth.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • mayflower

      Catholics are in cahoots with Satan? Really?!?! Where did you get that, Michelle? Is there some anti-mormon website written by backwoods hicks you're quoting? Please, tell me more about Joseph Smith worshipping and the evils of magic underwear. Spouting ill-informed opinions like this only makes people look ignorant and uneducated.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  20. nikki21

    How can anyone defend the mormon cult, they are a bunch of sickos who have completely distorted gods teachings.Romney and his church are trying to make a positive spin on his cult church and most will not buy into it,there is a reason why we have herd negetive stories about the mormans and they are all true,the mormans made a name for themselves and are trying to hide what they really are to try and get votes for Romney and hopefully americans will see through this.Most real christians will not support a cult in any shape or form,only sell outs will. I will not support any religion or candidate that believes in Joesoph Smith or his underhanded dealings hurting women and children.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • ronbry

      Why do you belittle other people's beliefs with such as callous and insensitive word like "cult"? Do you enjoy your life with this kind of hate in your heart?

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

      Dear Nikki – you might want to brush up on your education a wee bit – you sound like a complete fool writing such interesting lies. Apparently you hate this group of people – not sure why – were you molested as a child? What happened in your sorry youth to cause so much hatred. Wow – you might want to read some more accurate literature on the Mormon church before you write anything else. Ignorance is such a sorry state of mind...... Poor woman!

      May 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Jake

      Really? You say bad things about Mormon. You even think all the bad stories are true? This is where ignorance comes from. It comes from someone that does not take the time to understand something and do not have tolerance for it at the same time. You might not agree with Mormonism but your hatred of it shows your ignorance of it.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • mayflower

      You have heard negative stories about the Mormons and you know they are all true...based on what authority? If you are truly Christian, you will love all Mormons because that is what Christ would do. You will leave the judging up to Him. And if you want people to consider your authority on all the "negetive stories you herd about the mormans" (your words, not mine) you may want to try spelling things properly so people take you seriously.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
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About this blog

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