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. Humanist11

    It is interesting how the christian commentors can easily see through the absurdity of the mormon and islam religions. The only difference between these christians and athiests is that christians can't see the absurdity in their own religion. Atheists clearly see it. Why can't christians?

    May 19, 2012 at 2:29 am |
  2. el condor

    Wow, Satan and his mormon cult have sure taken over this page and the White House. Will the Saints go marching in.....into hell for sure unless they repent. May God have mercy for their satanic blindness.

    May 19, 2012 at 1:02 am |
  3. Preaching Thy gospel through love...

    A great LDS hymn performed by talented Mormons preaching the need for service to each other! Enjoy...


    May 19, 2012 at 12:24 am |
    • lauracan

      GAG! What is this...some sort of freaky, "we feel so good because we're about to become gods" propaganda?

      May 19, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Karin

      Yes, make sure to have the "token" black person in this video so people think mormons actually like them.

      Also, I love how mormons are the only ones that think they can change the world. I've heard better (and yet extraordinarily similar) songs from Disney....

      May 19, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Preach with Love not Anger

      I believe you both are missing (by a long shot) the real meaning of this song. It is not for only Mormons, but for each and everyone of us to help lift each other up. We should love one another and do good works to one another.

      Wouldn't this world be a better place if we all would just strive and do more good to each other?
      Wouldn't this world be more beautiful if we all would help to protect and preserve the natural beauty that was created by our loving Heavenly Father?

      James 1:22, But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

      John 13:24, A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

      Mosiah 2:17, And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.

      We are all a child of God, and serving each other is serving God.
      With Love...

      May 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Preach with Love not Anger

      BTW... Teachings like this and many more similar ones are what is taught every Sunday at the LDS church.
      I never have ever heard a sermon or statement that "bashed" or "belittled" a person of different faith or of no faith at all, while at church, or listening to a sermon.
      Please do some real research and look at the true teachings of the church. Then if you feel inspired, pray about it and you will receive an answer through the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
      James 1:5

      May 19, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  4. Seriously

    My goodness. If I could have written such a glowing article with beautiful pictures (including but not limited to the halo around romney) about MY religion, I imagine everyone would have to sit up and take notice.
    The sad thing is that the mormon church is paying for these articles to be put on CNN. We get a one sided view of the mormon cult without the REAL history and then we have the mormons coming out of their swamps to attack anyone that dares to question their cultish beliefs. It's really frightening, when you realize that THAT is what this country has come down to: Forget freedom of thought and speech, instead, herald in the NEW ORDER OF CONTROLLED THINKING BY THE LDS CHURCH!

    May 18, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • peter

      seiously-christendom rejects the claims of the cursed prophet who wrote the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ–Cursed is the christ that joeseph smith wrote about and preached about-I wouldn't worry about the lds "taking over" or this so called world order you are worried about

      Mormons are cursed to even the 7th generation-

      May 18, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Seriously

      Ok...so peter, I can appreciate your opinion, but looking at it over and over and over and over and over and over again, page after page on here...ya gotta take a break on the "cursed" part. You're starting...ok, no, you're just sounding downright silly and crazy. Nobody "curses" anyone anymore and it seems like it's the only thing you can say. You can tell I'm not a fan of mormons but really man...ya gotta say something intelligent at some point or maybe you should try a different chat board???

      May 19, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • cindy

      Preachwithlovenot anger. What you say sounds so wonderful, but answer me this....1: Do you believe that as Jesus or God is you can become like him? 2: Do you believe in 3 heavens? 3: Do you believe in the trinity (one Godhead..one God) 4: Do you believe in 100% of the Bible(Holy Bible) I am curious as to your answers

      May 22, 2012 at 4:06 am |
  5. REAL


    May 18, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  6. lee

    Thank you for the informative and well written article.

    May 18, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • Jackflack

      I agree...if I were a mormon. Thank you for a one sided look at how wonderful mormonism is, while leaving out its cult beginnings. Make sure to look at mormon sites only for REAL information and don't think for yourself. After all, if you join this mormon cult you get to become a god when you die. Who wouldn't want that????? God....

      May 18, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
  7. DC Mormon

    I would like to point out that there are also a lot of honest, hardworking, and faithful Mormons who are independents or Democrats. Yes, in some parts of the country Mormons are overwhelmingly Republican (ie. Utah, Arizona, Idaho, and Nevada), there are other parts of the country where Mormons are more likely to be an independent or a Democrat.
    This article focused on the political careers of DC Mormons. There are also a large number of Mormons in the DC region that are in business, medicine, education, and science (I have a PHD in physics).

    May 18, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • nikki21

      your and underwear cultist! Sorry your brainwashed and a cult member,you are not a christian,your a sico pervert just like your religion ,worshipping a molester and rapist,murderer Joesoph Smith,go back to planet KOLOB where you believe your god lives!

      May 18, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Jackflack

      I would like to ask you why you think that hardworking, kind, honest mormons are different than any other religion and why they should be respected more than any other person belonging to a different religion? You seem to think that we should all just Kow-tow to you and your beliefs and think that Mormons are the ultimate religion...that we should think you're alll so cool and real. Please. Give the rest of the 7 BILLION people on this earth some dignity by acknowledging that your little religion is SO small and do much like a cult that it doesn't even have enough members to call itself a real religion like the rest of the world.

      May 18, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  8. TheMagusNYC

    Political power serves the worldwide outreach very well. Orin Hatch was instrumental in pressuring the authorities in Guayaquil, Ecuador, to have a massive temple built in the exclusive neighborhood of Kennedy North. It is as imposing an eyesore as that in DC.

    May 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  9. TheMagusNYC

    Mormons "teaching about Christianity" is like Muslims teaching about Judism. The Mormon church equivocates in its use of "trinity," that being a Father (incarnate), a son (created spirit), and holy ghost (?), these concepts having nothing in common with Christian concepts. Joseph Smith explicitly rejected Christianity as in error, and invented his own unitarian version.

    May 18, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  10. Mormon magical underwear

    Mormons are a bunch of phoney cult con wackjobs.They believe in MORMON MAGICAL UNDERWEAR that protects you from evil that only the most devout shall never take off.They believe in the MOLESTER,RAPIST,CON ARTIST,MURDERER JOESOPH SMITH AS THEIR MESSIAH,They believe in the BOOK OF MORMON the teachings of the molester Joespoh Smith. They believe thier god lives on PLANET KOLOB is he an alien or what? They believe in sisterwives and that women and children should be submissive and follow the rule of man allowing women and children to be BEATEN AND MOLESTED.FORCED PRE ARRANGED MARRIAGES sometimes with children that are 12 years old.Tell me folks that the MORMONS are not a sicko cult. Mormons brainwash their people then use violence to keep them in line.NONE of these things I listed SOUND VERY CHRISTIAN TO ME DOES IT? I am a republican but will not vote for a cultist bishop Romney,how can we have anyone in charge that is wacko enough to believe this garbage religion.SORRY MORMONS TAKE YOUR MAGICAL SKIDMARKED UNDERWEAR BACK TO PLANET KOLOB,YOU ARE NOT CHRISTIANS YOU ARE SICKO MOLESTER CULTISTS, LOL YOU PEOPLE ARE THE BIGGEST JOKE OF A RELIGION.

    May 18, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Erick

      You are obviously EXTREMELY ignorant about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and/or believe whatever false info you have found over the internet or from your preacher. If you want to know the truth about the church visit mormon.org or go and visit a church. The only way to know the truth is by going directly to the source.

      May 18, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Oliver

      I am an active Mormon for more than 20 years and I can honestly say that we do not believe in many of that s**t you are talking about. You are sooo misled. Don't believe in everything you read on the Internet.

      May 18, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • REAL

      Why can little oliver use profanity on here when he's so angry that his beliefs have been challenges but nobody else can post the reality of the brainwashing done by the mormon church?
      I think the fact that little oliver is SO defensive shows that he doubts his own beliefs and he's so angry that anyone would encourage him to leave a church that he knows isn't true. How sad for oliver.

      May 18, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  11. Jackflack

    What is the crazy person "robert" going on about Baptists? This chat board isn't about baptists. If you (robert) have issues with the baptist church, then maybe you should, I don't know, stop talking to them or maybe just move away from where you are? Geesh! Crazy...

    May 18, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  12. Orwell seen it before

    Mormons and Christian Creationists are essentially the same cloth.
    They both reject factual reality when it contradicts their religious dogma.
    They prefer to be like the catholic church 500 years ago, when scientists and navies demonstrated the world is not flat and the earth revolves around the sun. Tennesse and Utah have a lot in common in denying science, evolution and the age of biology.

    To get elected they may, and most likely will, have to lie about this.
    To publically admit this would make them come off weird, strange and backward, qualities the public would reject as POTUS.

    But at their religious core level they the prefer the Book of Mormon as fact, than accept the possibility that science can and does lead to inherent contradictions in their theological FOUNDATIONS, as divinely stated in the Book of Mormon.

    This country has never elected a high religious official as POTUS.
    To elect a weird, strange and out of touch oligarch, who is a high religious official, would truly be backward.

    May 18, 2012 at 5:27 am |
    • TheMagusNYC

      Please note that while Mitt is a highly respected leader within a socialist oligarchy, his faith is an explicit rejection of the Catholic and Protestant religions, Mormonism having sided with the unitarians against the trinitarians. And if Christ is not Divine, what possible role can he play in our salvation?

      May 18, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • cindy

      If you want some great reading try: http://www.cuttingedge.org/news/n2226.cfm
      Mormons want you to look at only their page and ignore the person behind the curtain....their job is to recruit you into their religion. Scary that some people can be herded like cattle.
      When I moved to Utah, the bishops swarmed to my door. Missionary after missionary came. I watched them and listened to them and noticed by their words that they feed on lonely, lost people. Thank God I know my Bible well enough not to be swallowed up by their persuasion. For all you people who are not aware of the word of God. He is a jealous God and the only God. He states their will be false prophets and we are not to follow them. If we do, our souls are at stake.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:17 am |
  13. Robert

    I get a laugh at these "real" Christians bringing up polygamy, which the Mormons abandoned over 100 years ago. The Anabaptist movement which rose in Europe at the time of the Thirty Years War (when millions of people died to establish who were the "real" Christians) practiced polygamy. They also advocated communism, started violent rebellions, killed people and destroyed property. This is the Baptists: polygamists, communists, murderers, arsonists, anarchists. What a sick cult.

    May 18, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • peter

      robert–polygamy isn't the core of your false religion–the book of mormons,another testament of jesus christ is–cursed is your prophet who wrote it and cursed is his christ–You sir are not a christian

      May 18, 2012 at 1:56 am |
    • nikki21

      Take your magical skidmarked underwear back to planet kolob where you so called god is,we do not want you here with your silly beliefs that distort christian teachings and makes a mockery out of them.You mormons offend christians by distorting and slandering the bible,you bring shame to it and its quite offencive.To take our holy book and practice your cult worship with it then tie it in with your planet kolob,or magical underwear,or Joesoph Smith the crook is making a mockery out of our christian religion and ang how can you not understand that you offend millions of christians by doing this.You can play victim all you want but the truth is if you try to twist or distort our religion people will fight back,people will be angry ,people will say no to this madness.

      May 18, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  14. Rhlawrence

    This is what mormon families are REALLY like...


    May 17, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • peter

      nothing about mormonism is mentioned in there

      May 18, 2012 at 3:27 am |
  15. JohnporterPA

    Yeah brandon, are you such a little man you have to pick on a woman and accuse her of "trolling" on her because she doesn't agree with your sick beliefs? All you're doing buddy, is showing what mormons are really like. You're doing us non-mormons a HUGE favor by being such nasty little people. The world doesn't want your kind anymore. There are new generations here and coming that won't tolerate your kind anymore.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • Robert

      Really? What are you going to do? Kill everyone who refuses to join the Baptist church? History repeats itself.

      May 18, 2012 at 12:09 am |
  16. Abinadi

    Troubling Quotes from the Second Prophet (leader) of the Mormon Church

    Brigham Young said your own blood must atone for some sins.

    "There is not a man or woman, who violates the covenants made with their God, that will not be required to pay the debt. The blood of Christ will never wipe that out, your own blood must atone for it . . . " (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 247; see also, vol. 4, p. 53-54, 219-220).

    Brigham Young said you must confess Joseph Smith as a prophet of God in order to be saved.

    "...and he that confesseth not that Jesus has come in the flesh and sent Joseph Smith with the fullness of the Gospel to this generation, is not of God, but is Antichrist," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 9, p. 312).

    Brigham Young said his discourses are as good as Scripture.

    "I say now, when they [his discourses] are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible . . . " (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 264; see also p. 95).

    Brigham Young said he had never given any counsel that was wrong.

    "I am here to answer. I shall be on hand to answer when I am called upon, for all the counsel and for all the instruction that I have given to this people. If there is an Elder here, or any member of this Church, called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who can bring up the first idea, the first sentence that I have delivered to the people as counsel that is wrong, I really wish they would do it; but they cannot do it, for the simple reason that I have never given counsel that is wrong; this is the reason." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 16, p. 161).

    Brigham Young compared his sermons with scripture.

    "I know just as well what to teach this people and just what to say to them and what to do in order to bring them into the celestial kingdom...I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture. Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve. The people have the oracles of God continually." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 95).

    Brigham Young said you are damned if you deny polygamy.

    "Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 266). Also, "The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 269).

    Brigham Young said you can't get to the highest heaven without Joseph Smith's consent.

    "...no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 289).

    Brigham Young boasted.

    "What man or woman on earth, what spirit in the spirit-world can say truthfully that I ever gave a wrong word of counsel, or a word of advice that could not be sanctioned by the heavens? The success which has attended me in my presidency is owing to the blessings and mercy of the Almighty . . . " (Journal of Discourses, vol. 12, p. 127).

    Brigham Young said Jesus' birth was as natural as ours.

    "The birth of the Savior was as natural as the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood–was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, p. 115).

    Brigham Young said that God the Father and Mary 'do it.'

    "When the time came that His first-born, the Saviour, should come into the world and take a tabernacle, the Father came Himself and favoured that spirit with a tabernacle instead of letting any other man do it," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, p. 218). "The birth of the Savior was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood - was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, p. 115). Note: the late Bruce McConkie who was a member of the First Council of the Seventy stated "There is nothing figurative about his paternity; he was begotten, conceived and born in the normal and natural course of events..." (Mormon Doctrine, by Bruce McConkie, p. 742).

    Brigham Young said that Jesus was not begotten by the Holy Spirit.

    "I have given you a few leading items upon this subject, but a great deal more remains to be told. Now, remember from this time forth, and for ever, that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 51).

    Brigham Young taught that Adam was God.

    "Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days! about whom holy men have written and spoken - He is our Father, and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do. Every man upon the earth, professing Christians or non professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 50).

    Brigham Young made a false prophecy?

    "In the days of Joseph [Smith] it was considered a great privilege to be permitted to speak to a member of Congress, but twenty-six years will not pass away before the Elders of this Church will be as much thought of as the kings on their thrones," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, p. 40).

    Brigham Young comments about blacks

    "You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind....Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 290).

    "In our first settlement in Missouri, it was said by our enemies that we intended to tamper with the slaves, not that we had any idea of the kind, for such a thing never entered our minds. We knew that the children of Ham were to be the "servant of servants," and no power under heaven could hinder it, so long as the Lord would permit them to welter under the curse and those were known to be our religious views concerning them." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 172).

    "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 110).

    Now if that last portion didn't strike you as unbelievably horrible, than imagine this....Mormons are taught to believe every word of their prophets as though they were the words of God: Unquestionable. And these are quotes from just one of their prophets.

    Now imagine the President of the USA being Mormon.....

    May 17, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Abinadi

      My name is Abinadi
      my head is full of snotty,
      if I pick it way to deep
      my mom tells me I'm naughty.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • nikki21


      May 18, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • TheMagusNYC

      Thanks so much for providing such vital information Abinadi. It would be less offensive if Mormon.org were explicit about its rejection of Christianity rather than obfuscating and equivocating. There is no shame in rejecting the divinity of Christ, all the other religions do so boldly, Mohammed playing the same role here as Joseph Smith. But it is a shame that about half of professing Christians, Joel Osteen among them, seem unaware of how Mormons explicitly reject Christianity, while co-opting the term.

      May 18, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  17. kolob

    Will a Mormon on this board acknowledge the fact that Joseph Smith was arrested on numerous occasions for fraud? He stole people's money claiming he could find buried treasure. This was way before he started a religion. He was jailed because he was a criminal. And don't compare Jesus and Smith. that is vile.

    May 17, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  18. peter

    matt–well like your cursed prophet and his cursed jesus christ it's a lie-No one is 'happy" all the time like your brainwashed religion and members claim–scientologists claim the samething–one of the main talking points of mormonism is "we smile all the time and are happy everyday" underneath your tiredsom smiles and claims is misery and darkness

    May 17, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Kansas1946

      LOL. And you wonder why some Christians are viewed as intolerant? Because they are intolerant. Fortunately, Jesus wasn't.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • LisaHutchins57

      Kansas...what do you KNOW about Jesus? Why do you mormons think you can swing his name around like he's your person hommie? I don't think so....

      May 17, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Robert

      Unlike Baptists who exude misery and darkness inside and out.

      May 18, 2012 at 12:11 am |
  19. Michael Pace

    Hey....why should we "religion bash?" My only gripe is that Mormons call themselves Christians. Mormons are Mormons, Christians are Christians. The Christ of Christianity is way far different than the christ of the LDS.

    May 17, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  20. Brandon

    Lisa, I have no idea why you're so angry, but while members of the church are trying to live happy lives you're sitting on CNN forum trying to tear people down. Do you think anyone is going to envy your role or change because of it? Why don't you go out and help someone instead of trolling on CNN?

    May 17, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • peter

      "members of the church are trying to live happy lives"' Must be very tiredsome to have to smile everyday and live 'happy" lives-I tell you the truth,you people sound just like scientologists–you really do

      May 17, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • matt

      your right peter is just horrible being this happy all the time. lol

      May 17, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • LisaHutchins57

      Emm...brandon,not sure where you're getting the anger vibe. If I'm angry about anything, it's the mormon sense of megalomania. You all try to come across as sweet, pure and kind and when you're backed in a corner and asked about your future godhood, you get ALL bent out of shape. Why don't you look inside yourself and take care of yourself before you accuse other people of being angry....

      May 17, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • Abinadi

      BRANDON, you accuse Lisa of "trolling?" Seems like that's what you're doing on here. Striking out against anyone that doesn't agree with the mormon church. You must really have some heavy doubts if you're calling people names...or is that what little mormons do?

      May 17, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Brandon is a bully
      his mouth is large and moldy,
      if he doesn't shut up soon
      his rep will be out coldy.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64
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.