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)


    May 21, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  2. Curtis

    Entertaining! I get a chuckle out of people like "Joesoph was a con man" and "Nikki21" who spew hatred and then talk as if they understand what being Christian is all about. At least "Peter" admits in one of his posts that he's not even a Christian!

    There is a line from the New Testament which reads "By their fruits ye shall know them". If you think of yourself as Christian and yet are as hateful as some of you seem to be, then you are off-track and should reflect seriously on what sort of reward you are laying up for yourself in heaven!

    Christianity is about loving your enemies, not hating those who would be your friends. It's about turning the other cheek, not about character assassination.

    May 20, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • peter

      curtis-the peter you are refering to is a troll who stole my screename–everything he/she said wasn't me

      May 20, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • cyunthia

      peter, are you like, multiple-personality or something? What troll stole your name? You, yourself??? Your name on here is a pretend name. You're hiding behind your computer going on and on an on and on with your silly tripe-talk and you think someone stole something from you? You're stealing precious air by breathing!!!

      May 22, 2012 at 12:28 am |
    • peter

      cyuth-are you suggesting i put my real name up,address and cell phone number up so i can get cranked called all day?If you read the vast majority of my posts along with abin the mormon you will see there is a guy or two plagerizing our screenames–You say im hiding behind my computer–no im not-

      May 22, 2012 at 1:30 am |
  3. peter

    fbtruth-either the book of mormon, another testament of jesus christ is the word of God or it is blasphemy–I tell you that is blasphemy, that the spirit which led you to believe it is the antichrist-That your prophet is a liar and a murderer from the beggining. For sake of argument lets say the lds church and the book of mormon is true-than everyone who isn't a mormon will burn in hell forever and ever–like i said above,someone will be disappointed and it won't be me–i stand with christendom

    May 20, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Peter, we don't want any one to go to hell. You will first go to spirit prison where Christ went immediately after dying on the cross:

      18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
      19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
      20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. (New Testament, 1 Peter, Chapter 3)

      I will find you there and will give you every opportunity to accept the gospel and hopefully, someone on earth will be kind enough to give you a proper baptism with authority and you can progress from there, but it is better to accept the truth here and not leave it up to chance.

      May 20, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • FBTruth

      see 1 Corinthians 15:29

      May 20, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  4. That too

    Religion is evolving, Mormonism presaged the one true religion Scientology.

    Joeseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard now regularly lunch on a boat in kolob.

    May 20, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  5. FBTruth

    The dialogue is all so fascinating. I joined the LDS church after I read the new testament and couldn't find a church that even closely resembled the church Christ and his apostles established. When the missionaries taught me I did what James 1:5 says and as suggested by Moroni 10:3-5–I prayed to God to ask if it was true. I knocked, and he opened. I received a personal witness that the Church was true and that the Book of Mormon was the word of God, just like the Bible. Anyone that sincerely asks God with real intent will get the same answer that I received. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God chosen to restore the Churchthat Christ established with proper authority.

    May 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • peter

      fbtruth–and i submit to you that the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ written by joeseph smith is not the word of God. That joeseph smith was a liar from the beggining as is his christ and the spirit that which lead you to believe the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ is the word of God.

      Christendom rejects your cursed prophet and his cursed christ. Either the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ is the word of God or it is not. Someone is going to be very disappointed and it won't be me.

      May 20, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • FBTruth

      @peter. That's fine if today's version of Chrisianity rejects the Prophet Joseph Smith and the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Rejectiono by a group of individuals doesn't change whether it is true or not. The jews (the Lord's people) rejected Christ because they refused to even listen with an open mind and find out for themselves whether it was true. They rejected it because it threatened what they thought to be true. Why are there so many christian denominations of Christianity, each teaching their own interpretations of the Bible? Is God really the author of so much confusion among those reading the same passages of scripture? Absolutely not! Why do none of them resemble the church Christ established? The fullness of the gospel and the priesthood were lost, and a restoration of that gospel was required. I submit that anyone who reads the Book of Mormon and sincerely prays to know whether it is true will know for themselves that it is true and that Joseph Smith translated it. The priesthood has been restored. If such authority was never taken away, who has it and how did they get it? Where is the church that resembles that which was organized by Christ himself?

      May 20, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  6. Abinadi

    Hey, I have an idea. Today is the sabath. Instead of ripping each other apart today, why don't we tell about our church services and what we learned today? I would be really interested in what your pastor said – what he talked about, my services start soon and I will tell about them later.

    May 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • vampiro

      today (Sunday) is the Sabbath? can you show me where in the Bible it says that the Sabbath was changed from the 7th day of the week (Saturday) to the first day of the week (Sunday)?

      May 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Yes, no problem. We are all aware that Satur day was and is the Jewish sabath, however, the early Christians insti tuted Sunday as the day of worship because that is the day Christ rose from the dead and is called the Lord's day. There is evidence in the new testament that the early Christians observed the 1st day of the week as the sabath. I will give only one, but there are numerous.

      7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. (New Testament, Acts, Chapter 20).

      Let me just add one note; there is no evidence that the days of the week held true throughout history and that the day we hold as Saturday was actually the same day the was Saturday in Jesus time. Last saturday may actually have been Wednesday or Sunday back then, so the name that we give a day is not significant. What is significant is that we meet one day out of seven to worship the Lord.

      May 20, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Well, it doesn't look like anyone else wrote about their day, but I will write about mine. My Sabath was wonderfully refreshing. We start out with sacrament meeting. After taking the sacrament, about 10 or 15 minutes when we obseve silence and think about the Savior and about things we need to repent of, two high counselors spoke about priesthhod power. We learned that priesthhood power is real power, but we only use it to do good

      We then went to Sunday School and talked about Abinadi, who was a Book of Mormon prophet and my name sake.

      The highlight for me was in priesthood meeting where the lesson was about the scriptures. The instructor asked if anyone's life had ever been radically influenced by the scriptures. One brother had fought in the Vietnam War and during one particularly hard battle, he was in a fox hole and as the bombs and shells burst around him, he said his nerves were frayed and he felt he couldn't stand it anymore. He reached into his pack for a candy bar that he could chew on to steady his nerves and instead his fingers closed on a small, servicemans Book of Mormon (he was Catholic and didn't mention why he had a Book of Mormon), but he began to read it and it calmed him down. The experience was so profound that he later looked up the missionaries and became a member. It definitely changed his life.

      May 20, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Skibum

      Ripped some wicked lines, downed a few brews and gave thanks to mother nature and my good fortune, wicked day!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  7. TPN51

    Not much on the Mormon faith but I kinda like the polygamy and they have one heck of a choir.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      ahahha. They do. It's about the only thing positive I can think of concerning Mormons.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • peter

      Give credit where credit is due-handels messiah is excellent-By the way, i read where mormons are leaving the lds in droves recently–but make no mistake mormonism and scientology won't be going anywhere anytime soon.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Peter, that is not quite the truth. We are growing so fast that we have had a little trouble integrating new converts solidly into our culture, but we are working on that and I am sure we will have a handle on it soon, but "leaving in droves"? I wouldn't say that at all.

      May 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • peter

      abin-When mormons boast of how many mormons worldwide or how fast their religion is growing i always responded that even you converted the whole planet it doesn't make your true religion or not–google,"mormons leaving in droves" and you will see articles this year on mormon websites and elders,and even the president talking about mormons in america leaving the church. I'm not bringing this up as a reason why mormonism is true or not but that talking point is not true-
      Interesteing is that a daughter of a high official left the church because she found out that joeseph smith was a polygamist-Now i thought that was very well known–Besides,can't the prophet do as he wishes? It just amazes me the reasons why people leave the church is never for the reasons i point out–If you look at those ex mormon videos it's never about the religion itself being true or not. Like i said before mormonism is like scientology

      May 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  8. Mormon magical underwear

    Peter its ok,you have been telling the truth! Sometimes its hard for people to hear it or they refuse to accept it,but you defianately have told the truth peter!

    May 19, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  9. peter

    It's true, I am pathetic. I am a bully and a hater. If I can find someone to pick on that is weaker than I am, I will do it. It sounds like I'm the kind of person that becomes a serial killer. Maybe I am. I'm a horrible person for being so cruel to so many people. I'm not even a christian!

    May 19, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • peter

      peter- i could be all those things and yet i am right about the mormon religion–However, i didn't once claim another screename and pretend to be a mormon.

      May 19, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  10. chaep flights

    Could anyonw please tell me the cheapest airfare fro plante Kolob, I want to go and spend time tehre on my summer vacations

    May 19, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  11. chicago man

    How can you worship a con man,and a religion made up by a scammer,molester? You folks deserve all the heat you are getting because its very clear what your religion is about and yet you follow it,you folks are brainwashed! Is it the magical underwear? Is it the promise of Kolob? is it the poligimey? why on earth would you follow a sicko twisted religion roflll

    May 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • bryanbeus

      If you learn about the religion (and essentially _any_ religion, in fact) with an open heart, you might be surprised to learn that it is quite beautiful. Whether or not you believe it's true, it is powerful force for developing compassion and serving our fellow man.
      I am a member, and I have a testimony that the LDS church is true. I can tell you honestly that it's worth your time investigating openly.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  12. Jeff klein

    Mormons are a cult period!!! you all can go back to KOLOB now !!

    May 19, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  13. joesoph was a con man

    This is a joke,the Mormon religion is a cult and should be treated as such! I am not supporting Romney either,I cannot support a man who believes in this sick religion.Sorry Mormons you are all to Brainwashed to see how your all being conned. I am sitting this election out,I have no candidate to vote for. Its a shame Christians have no repub candidate.

    May 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  14. nikki21

    Mormons are a sick cult that brainwashes its members.The Mormon church is not christian,its the furthests from it yet they insult christians by distort the teachings of the Bible. You mormons offend millions of christians every day by saying your christians but using the name of god in your cult rituals.Joesoph Smith is your messiah,savior, give me a break this man was a con man,theif,child molester,rapist,polyigimist,murderer, and yet you worship him and his Book of Mormon that he created to control women and children? Then you believe GOD lives in outer space on PLANET KOLOB wth kinda crap is that? Then you believe dark skinned people are sub human,they are the devil? You Mormons are the Furthest from christians and should never be included as christians! I am a Rebub and will not vote for BISHOP ROMNEY! ME AND MY CHURCH KNOW MORMONS ARE A SICKO CULT THAT WORSHIPS A MAN WHO MOLESTED AND MURDERED, THERE ARE 800 AT MY CHURCH AND WE ALL ARE SITTING THIS ELECTION OUT,WE WILL NOT SUPPORT THE CULT BISHOP ROMNEY AND HIS SKIDMARKED UNDERWEAR CULT! TAKE YOUR SKIDMARKED MAGICAL UNDERWEAR BACK TO PLANET KOLOB WHERE YOU SAY YOUR GOD LIVES AND TAKE YOUR BUSHOP ROMNEY WITH YOU!! YEAH YOUR CHRISTIANs........ YOUR A JOKE NOT CHRISTIANS!

    May 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Matthew

      We don't worship Joseph smith, that's a common misconception, and I don't blame you. We worship God the Eternal Father, we teach that he loves us with all of his being and that we should love him as well. We believe in Jesus Christ who was born of Mary in Bethlahem. We believe that he was crucified for us, and we believe that three days later he was ressurected from the dead.

      We believe that the Holy Bible is the word of God and that its teachings are true.

      We believe that God loves all people, no matter who we are or what we've done, he will always love us. He would give up the entire universe just for one of us, that's how much God loves all people.

      Please don't let hatred born of ignorance cloud your mind. Do what Jesus did and love all people, show respect for everyone, serve others with a heart full of kindness. Please, you don't have to agree with us, just please try to love one another, for that is one of the most important commandments of all.

      It is my testimony that Christ lives and that he loves us! It is my testimony that he knows each and every one of our difficulties and trials, because while he suffered in the garden of Gethsemane he felt all the pain of every person that has ever lived, he knows what you've been through because he's felt it, and that means he is the perfect one to help you, no matter what trial or difficulty you may be suffering.

      May 20, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  15. cgs

    People are so silly. All religions have weird stuff. Who cares? Joining a congregation can make one part of a lovely social group that takes care of each other, serves their community and promotes good citizenship. Let's stop this "will the real Christians please stand up" crap. Romney/Rubio 2012!

    May 19, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Mormon magical underwear

      Your a sell out to support a cultist and sell out your christian faith! You will go to KOLOB ! Im sure Romney will give you a free BOOK OF MORMON,and a free pair of MORMON MAGICAL PANTIES! People that support Romney knowing he is a cult Bishop and are Christian are just as sick and TWISTED as the Mormons,do the christians a favor and Join the mormon cult, you have sold us out,you will get your magical underwear and go to planet kolob where BISHO ROMNEY PROMISED YOU!

      May 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  16. Kristencantoo

    peter, why don't you find another board and go bully people there. Your silly "cursing," calling people a liar and just being nasty has proven to people why the DON'T want to be a christian. You're obviously very miserable, but try practicing your religion and get a life!

    May 19, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • peter

      Im not anti-mormon i am anti-mormonism-mormons need to be exposed to the truth of their religion–Listen, im not knocking on anyone's door nor am i bothering mormons in their temples–If you can't take it don't come to this site anymore

      May 19, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Mormon magical underwear

      You have been possesed by the Mormon Magical Underwear,You will go to KOLOB TOO.

      May 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • peter

      It's true, I am pathetic. I am a bully and a hater. If I can find someone to pick on that is weaker than I am, I will do it. It sounds like I'm the kind of person that becomes a serial killer. Maybe I am. I'm a horrible person for being so cruel to so many people. I'm not even a christian!

      May 19, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  17. Observant Historian

    As far as I'm concerned, Mormons are welcome to believe whatever they want, but does anyone truly think that if Mitt Romney would have looked around at all the religions available and, weighing each, decide that Mormonism was the one that made the most sense? When you reflect on that question, it becomes clear that almost anyone who follows a religion, regardless of which one, "believes" in the version of god that they were born into and taught to follow, regardless of how absurd its tenets. You can believe in a higher power, or you can follow the dogma of a man-made religion....but they are not the same thing.

    May 19, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • 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 19, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Preach with Love not Anger

      To "Mormon magical underwear" you are completely misguided and I believe you are confusing a "Warren Jeffs" type of cult/off shoot of the LDS faith with the true and only Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The LDS church is not full of hate, anger and contentment like your comment portrays. Please check the facts before judging millions of good people. If you actually did some real research you'd find out how wrong your statement is when talking about the LDS church and its members.
      I'm sure you are a good person and just concerned about the country, but please look and listen before you strike.

      May 19, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Simon

      A rare voice of reason. My hat is off to you.

      May 21, 2012 at 12:29 am |
  18. MichelleOHHH

    Barry is a Muslim so what's the big deal?

    May 19, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • peter

      Never have nor will vote for obumo–his religion is neither here nor there–for me anyway

      May 19, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • chicago man

      I am a repub and can tell you Obama is a Christian,grow up and tell the truth,lol you must be a magical underwear follower too,selling out your faith is a shame!

      May 19, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Simon

      Believe what you like, but the President is not a Muslim. To suggest he is is deep ignorance.

      May 21, 2012 at 12:28 am |
  19. Orwell seen it before

    I keep asking for a serious Mormon rebuttal on this letter written by a Mormon.


    May 19, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  20. Cami

    I have friends who are LDS and I love them. However, when I lived in a predominantly LDS community out west (about 97% LDS) I, a Christian, was actively persecuted. I was called names and the children in my small church were bullied by the LDS simply for not being LDS. I'm just sayin'

    May 19, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • peter

      The reason why i find it hard to believe is because mormons are weak–If your kid and the kids of your church are being "bullied' by mormons kids there is something wrong with that–mormons are afraid of their own shadows

      May 19, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • TheMagusNYC

      Yes, I have enjoyed the company of many fine Mormons. Yet a good friend of mine essentially lost her son and grandkids to that organization. She was not permitted to attend wedding nor baptisms. Thank God, her son left the woman and the organization who brought this about. Mitt is not the kind of person we want representing all of us, explicitly denying the validity of Christianity.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Joe citizen abroad

      Enough with the sweeping generalizations.

      I am an evangelical Christian. Growing up in the United Methodist Church in the midwest, our closest family friends were LDS. Only once in my life...when I was an adult and going through a particularly hard time, did one of them simply say to me, "My faith has always been a source of strength for me." That was it. No pressure. Just love. They were like family.

      I've had LDS people as professional colleagues, and they had the same strengths and weaknesses we all have. And I've had way more negative experiences with people who identify themselves with mainstream evangelical Christianity. For a group that claims to follow the teaching's of Christ..."love one another"...fundamentalist Christians can be some of the most hate-filled, narrow-minded, judegmental people on the planet.

      And talk about "losing" someone to an organization...many fundamentalist Christian groups take the "leave your family and follow me" admonition quite literally. I've seen family after family divided by this kind of false piety. I've seen young men disappear into Catholic monasteries, never to reappear. There are just as many...if not more...cults within the so-called "Christian mainstream" as there are outside of it.

      As evangelicals, we should probably take the log out of our own eye before we try to remove the splinter from another's.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • peter


      May 19, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • cindy

      Cami, I too moved to Utah for a couple of years. When enrolling my children into school I was asked up front what ward I went to. I was lucky that my kids were not persecuted, but I definately felt it. They are a hateful religion. They put up fronts in front of people, because their jobs are to recrute. They also believe by doing works they will work their way into heaven. To me mormon men are very arrogant. They truely believe they will be Gods one day. Their wives must wait in the ground after death until thier husbands call them to heaven. The man can choose if he wants her or not. It is in his hands, not Gods.

      May 22, 2012 at 3:31 am |
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About this blog

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