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. YBP

    I'm trying to decide if religion is most like a blindfold, a straightjacket, or a wrestler that has the believer in a headlock, cutting off the oxygen to his brain.

    May 24, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  2. Saywhatyoumean

    I have faith in Jesus Christ and I believe he helps me with his spirit to mature and evolve to into a better being. If you choose another faith or no faith at all that is your right and your decision. Who am I to tell you what path you life must follow ? All I ask is that you use common sense and respect the freedoms of others.

    I don't put my trust in religion though – I see the results of turning a belief system into an organization where whoever is in charge at any given time tells everyone else what to believe. It takes away the power and freedom of the individual to make their own choices and people only become stunted in learning and do not grow as individuals.

    May 23, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  3. Ex-Mormon

    Mormons are all sweet and wonderful people until 1 of them decides to marry outside of the flock and not go to church anymore...see how fast they are ostracized from their families and rejected by their very own mother. That sure doesn't seem like Christ-like behavior to me.

    May 23, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • LinSea

      I'm very sorry if that was your personal experience, but that is certainly NOT how all Mormons behave. You are judging more than 14 million people by the actions of a few.

      May 24, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  4. kolob

    Does the average American know that Mormons believe Jesus Christ appeared in America hundreds of years ago? That the founder of the Mormon church was jailed on fraud charges for stealing people's money? That Mormon heaven is a planet called Kolob? That Mitt Romney's family fled to Mexico to avoid being jailed on polygamy charges? The Mormon church is a cult. Educate yourself. And then tell your friends.

    May 23, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Joesph Smith's 'seer stones' sure were handy!
      They enabled him to wander the countryside as a treasure hunter for hire, with his magic rocks as the primary tool.
      Then they became holographic projector translation matrices!

      May 23, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • to: Kolob

      actually according to mormon theology kolob is the "star nearest to the dwelling place of god" -Abraham 2:2-4
      do your homework or else no one will take you seriously

      May 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • YBP

      Seems like he did do his homework, and more people better take notice.

      I wonder if the Governor believes that he is going to become the god of his own planet. If so, what a boring and miserable afterlife it will be for all his sister-wives. Is it possible to hang yourself on that planet? I mean, how do you get out of that?

      May 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Dave

      Just curious: "Does the average American know that Mormons believe Jesus Christ appeared in America hundreds of years ago? " clearly your objective here is to ridicule that belief. Can you prove otherwise? Are you the keeper of Christ's agenda? I suspect you are not nor do you have any idea who Christ may or may not have visited.

      "the founder of the Mormon church was jailed on fraud charges for stealing people's money?" sure, Joseph Smith spent time in jail but curiously was never convicted of any crimes. Perhaps you just should look up the legality of those times he spent in prison..you might be surprised.

      "That Mormon heaven is a planet called Kolob?" Again, your point here is to ridicule. As pointed out by someone else, Kolob is not heaven nor does anyone believe God lives on Kolob. But since you seem to know everything about the universe, please prove that a planet called Kolob does not exist.

      "The Mormon church is a cult. Educate yourself" This is childish hot air. You are the one who needs to educate himself.

      May 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  5. S

    I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I have read the Book of Mormon and I know that it is true.I have also read the Bible and believe that it is true. I believe in Jesus Christ. I do believe that I am a Christian, as the scriptures define it. In the Book of Mormon, Alma 46:15 it says: "And those who did belong to the church were faithful; yea, all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ, or Christians as they were called, because of their belief in Christ who should come." In 2 Nephi 25:26, it states "And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins." Is that not Christian? In 1 John 4:2 it reads: "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God." Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, really do believe in the Bible. The Book of Mormon is another testament of Christ. It goes hand in hand with the Bible. In Doctrine and Covenants 42:12 it states: "And again, the elders, priests, and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the Gospel." Latter Day Saints/Mormons really do read and study the Bible. There are direct references to the book of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. (2 Nephi especially.)

    Please, in respect of me and my religion, do me a favor. Rather than looking up facts about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from ex-Mormons or non Mormons, please look up mormon.org. That is where you can find what we truly believe.


    May 23, 2012 at 1:40 am |
    • peter

      S–reject the claims of the cursed prophet and his cursed christ from which he preached and wrote about in the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ.

      May 23, 2012 at 4:05 am |
  6. about time

    who cares. all religion is fake anyways. you are all arguing over who has the best imaginary friend...

    May 22, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  7. Kindness

    A thought to consider without a typical ego response

    Accept Jesus christ as your lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Let go and let god".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from som other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    Your all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome .

    May 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • kolob

      Reading from the Bible is enlightening. Reading from the Book of Mormon is blasphemy.

      May 22, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  8. CSM

    It is STILL a CULT.

    May 22, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • ukuleleism

      EVERY religion is a cult by definition. Sorry to burst your bubble.

      May 22, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  9. ukuleleism

    Why can't we all just live in communitarian peace and forget about religious, political, physical, emotional, mental, and social differences?

    Who cares if President Obama is unaffiliated? Who cares of Mitt Romney is Mormon? Who really cares if your an atheist or a theist? Who cares if you have depression? Who cares if you have ODD? Who cares if your gay? Dont know about y'all, but I really don't. We're all human, and all deserve the same respect as anyone else.


    May 22, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  10. kolob

    Do a wiki search on the White Horse Prophecy. Mitt Romney has big plans for America. Educate yourself. Then tell all your friends.

    May 22, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  11. John

    I hate all minorities, gays, and atheists. If it was up to me I would have them all killed so the Christian and Jewish people could live without fear of persecution.

    May 22, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Bruno Caronte

      When you touch us Puerto Ricans we will kick your ass first!

      May 23, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Bruno Caronte

      I am an hetero by the way, And also an atheist, racist.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  12. Charly Brains

    Mormon faith is a Big Fat Lie. Just to say that a lost hebrew tribe came to the Americas and that Jesus came to visit them and that all the indians (and by consequence all latinos today) are part of that hebrew lost tribe just makes me think how DUMB and IGNORANT a person can get to believe that. The claims that the Book of Mormon proclaim are just too far beyond the science and the logic to prove. There is not even a single place (from all the ones described in that book) to look for any kind of evidence and that contrast with the Bible and all its archeological evidences found in the Middle east. If you would like to know some more about this, I suggest to log into this website: http://hotm.tv/45/ and watch the video.

    May 22, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • howard Dao

      The next president of US may very well put his his hand on the Book of Mormons for oath of office. Are you guys going to argue with POTUS that that book is NOT the words of Gods ?

      May 22, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • ukuleleism

      All religions can't be proved by science. Its called faith. You don't judge your faith on scientific facts or not.

      Mormons are the nicest people I know, probably hundreds of times nicer than you will ever be.

      Shape up, will you?

      May 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Rational Thinking

      Wow, if science and archaeology was your litmus test, you should have passed on the Bible a long time again. A talking donkey, cities being turned into pillars of salt, water being turned into wine, and a man rising from the dead. Can you honestly prove any of that scientifically? If you are going to judge the LDS church by such standards, why not hold your own beliefs to the same? For the record, I believe in both the Bible, and the Book of Mormon, and it has nothing to do with what can, or can not be proved with science.

      May 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Amber

      I totally agree! I just don't understand why people fall for the Mormon BS! I think it's money.

      May 22, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • barbraS

      As with all faiths, there are some nice ones and some that are not so nice. I don't like doing business with Mormons because they throw their beliefs out the window when it comes to $. You can see the same with Romney.

      May 23, 2012 at 2:19 am |
    • David

      Hey Charly Brains.....There is plenty of proof for the book of mormon but it appears you are asking the wrong questions. Clearly the types of societies described in the book of mormon existed in the ancient americas as we have seen evidence via archaeology. The real question is this: how did Joseph Smith know about these things in 1829? Much of what we know about the ancient american civilization was learned in the past 100 years. Do you think he was just a very good guesser?

      Some examples: early critics scoffed at the mention of horses in the book of mormon since everyone knows the spaniards introduced horses to america......until, horse fossils predating the spanish were found in the 1960's (oops)

      critics have scoffed at the phrase 'land of jerusalem' used to describe where christ would be baptized because everyone knows that christ was baptized in bethlehem.....until, the dead sea scrolls confirmed that 'land of jersualem' was a common phrase used to describe the area (including bethlehem)...ooops

      I could go on with the examples but I doubt you would be impressed. The point is that time and time again criticisms of the book of mormon have wilted with new discoveries. What was once used to discredit the book of mormon now validates it. Unless of course you believe that Joseph Smith would intentionally write something that contradicted the knowledge of the day because he knew he would be vindicated 200 years later?

      To quote the bible: 'those who have ears to hear, let them hear'

      May 25, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  13. cindy

    Mormons keep telling us that they believe in God and the Holy Bible, But let's take a look at what they truely believe:
    Following is a comparison between Christian doctrine and Mormon doctrine. It will become very obvious that Mormonism does not agree with the Bible. In fact, Mormonism has simply used the same words found in Christianity and redefined them. But with a proper understanding of what Mormonism really teaches, you will be able to see past those definitions into the real differences between Christianity and Mormonism.

    The difference is the difference between eternal life and damnation.

    There is only one God (Isaiah 43:11; 44:6,8; 45:5).
    "And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light: and there was light (Book of Abraham 4:3).

    God has always been God (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 57:15).
    "God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!!! . . . We have imagined that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea and take away the veil, so that you may see," (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345).
    God is a spirit without flesh and bones (John 4:24; Luke 24:39).
    "The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's," (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22; Compare with Alma 18:26-27; 22:9-10).
    "Therefore we know that both the Father and the Son are in form and stature perfect men; each of them possesses a tangible body . . . of flesh and bones," (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 38).

    The Trinity is the doctrine that there is only one God in all the universe and that He exists in three eternal, simultaneous persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
    The trinity is three separate Gods: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. "That these three are separate individuals, physically distinct from each other, is demonstrated by the accepted records of divine dealings with man," (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 35).

    Jesus was born of the virgin Mary (Isaiah 7:14; Matt. 1:23).
    "The birth of the Saviour 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).
    "Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers" (Mormon Doctrine, by Bruce McConkie, p. 547).
    "Jesus is the eternal Son. He is second person of the Trinity. He has two natures. He is God in flesh and man (John 1:1, 14; Col. 2;9) and the creator of all things (Col. 1:15-17).
    "Jesus is the literal spirit-brother of Lucifer, a creation (Gospel Through the Ages, p. 15).

    The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is not a force. He is a person. (Acts 5:3-4; 13:2)
    Mormonism distinguishes between the Holy Spirit (God's presence via an essence) and the Holy Ghost (the third god in the Mormon doctrine of the trinity).
    "He [the Holy Ghost] is a being endowed with the attributes and powers of Deity, and not a mere force, or essence," (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 144).

    Salvation is the forgiveness of sin and deliverance of the sinner from damnation. It is a free gift received by God's grace (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 6:23) and cannot be earned (Rom. 11:6).
    Salvation has a double meaning in Mormonism: universal resurrection and . . .
    "The first effect [of the atonement] is to secure to all mankind alike, exemption from the penalty of the fall, thus providing a plan of General Salvation. The second effect is to open a way for Individual Salvation whereby mankind may secure remission of personal sins," (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 78-79).
    "As these sins are the result of individual acts it is just that forgiveness for them should be conditioned on individual compliance with prescribed requirements - 'obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel,'" (Articles of Faith, p. 79).

    The inspired inerrant word of God (2 Tim. 3:16). It is authoritative in all subjects it addresses.
    "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. . ." (8th Article of Faith of the Mormon Church).

    This is only a sample of many of the differences between Christianity and Mormonism. As you can see, they are quite different doctrines. God cannot be uncreated and created at the same

    May 22, 2012 at 4:37 am |
    • Charly Brains

      Wow. Amazing! Thanks for the time and effort to write and explain the abismal differences between the real Christian faith based in the Bible and the faith in the religious method created by the Book of mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, a Pearl or Great Price and other sources.

      May 22, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • David

      @Cindy....help me understand your authorization to label who is or isn't a Christian? Unless you have some divine authorization you are just opining like the Mormons. And please don't point to the scriptures as your authorization....if the scriptures were so plain on the topic then there wouldn't be a zillion churches claiming to be christians but teaching different doctrine.

      I for one really appreciated your summary because it points out where Christianity has got it plain wrong. Thanks.

      May 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  14. Robert Jones


    You're a trio of idiots. If you had any brains, you might be able to make a career out of it, like The Three Stooges. Unfortunately, and very much to our dismay, you come nowhere within a fleas penis of being even remotely funny. Therefore, we've decided to pass on your act. ( Where it will pass, only you can tell).

    "As our consolation prize, you will recieve, well, tell them, Vanna" "Oh thank you Gene. As a result of sucking ass, you will both receive an all expense paid trip for two to the Grecian Islands!!"

    May 22, 2012 at 3:11 am |
  15. Abinadi

    Peter and I love to fight
    we do it all throughout the night.
    When we wake up in the morn
    we hug and kiss and act all norm.
    Most people do not know
    that in one bed, we do go
    we only fight and hate on here
    so you don't know we're really q***R

    May 22, 2012 at 12:33 am |
  16. limpdk

    Abinadi, abinadi, two by four
    can't fit through his temple door
    when the christians came out to play
    Abinady began to bray....

    May 22, 2012 at 12:29 am |
  17. pastmorm

    Abinadi, peter too, they are often without a clue,
    if you argue, or claim to be
    a man or woman of faith, then see
    how both of them waste our days
    with useless words; such dirty haze.
    Ignore these mental patients now
    and find yourself free and how;
    you will be kinder still
    than these two "gits" ever will.

    May 22, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  18. c

    Utah Light House Ministries, exmorman.com, exmorman foundation youtube has a wealth of exmorman testimonials about the LDS. I would suggest that if you really want to get a better idea of the LDS you might want to hear what these people are saying. The LDS has long been accused of fudging membership numbers and of people leaving. Some of the people who have left are not ordinanry congregant's- they are BYU college professor's,scientist, Bishops, stake President's.
    They are talking about how the LDS leaders mishandling church funds, doctrinal untruth, plagarims & archeological inconsistancies in Morman doctrine according to Joseph Smith. * Aside from accepted LDS lore; Smith was actually killed escaping from jail because of complaints of him (shall we say diddling) the local young ladies and because he had a newspaper burned down for writng about how he was diddling said local ladies.

    For years Sandra Tanner was a much loved icon in the LDS, because she is the great great grandaughter of Brigham Young. Hear her testimony. The LDS has tried to sue this woman over her very popular Utah Light House ministries web site. She was one of the participants in a much hated film production against the LDS called the God Maker's. She comes right out and uses the term Apostate religion.
    Fredom of religion is fine ; but don't paint this stuff as ordinary is dishonest at best. I suspect that if people bothered to read beyond some this fluff, the so called "evangilcals would be dumbfounded by the blatant lies told by the Mormans.
    Romney is counting on their ignorance. The question they should ask themelves is-Do I really believe an angel appeared to Joseph Smith in Palmyra , New York to tell him to find another version of the Bible.
    Instead of printing rediculous articles like this one; CNN should publish the BOOK of Morman on it s web site.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Dave

      If one wants to get an idea of the LDS it makes little sense to listen to those who aren't LDS. I once worked in a family law office, and I would meet soon-to-be-divorced people when they came for interviews and meetings, only to later read their depositions against the other spouse- the real person and the description of the person from someone divorcing them were wildly different. To me, reading exclusively ex-Mormon accounts is like learning about a person from their ex-spouse. The emotions are close to the heart and raw, and it can often get nasty and even untrue.

      The LDS that I have known have been nice and good people to have around, just like Jews or Catholics who are also often insulted for their faith. I say judge a person by their personality and who they are, not by what disaffected people claim about their religion.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Abinadi

      I recommend mormon.org for a realistic view of what mormons believe.

      May 21, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • xyzdude0

      Didn't John F. Kennedy have to go through some of the crap for being Catholic? People said that a Catholic president would follow the Pope and the churches opinion. Common sense is so rare nowadays I am starting to think it has become a super power

      May 22, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • Cindy

      C, I agree with you 100%. If people would just take the time to research the mormon religion, you would hope they would realize what a cult they are. This article made them sound almost saintly. Not sure who the person who wrote it was. Mormons are not christians. They believe in several Gods, not just one. They believe in the Bible as long as it correlates with their bible(book of mormon) They believe in 3 heavens. They believe that one day they will become a God just as Jesus did. They also believe that everytime one of their wives give birth in heaven a child is born here on earth. Sounds like blasphamy to me.
      There were reasons the government sent out the calvery. Mormons were killing people in wagon trains who passed on their land. If you denied the mormon religion you were gutted (atoned) in front of everyone. DO some reading folks and wake up. Don't just go on word that they are wonderful. The Bible says ignorance will not be allowed when we are called above.

      May 22, 2012 at 3:03 am |
    • peter

      Cindy–you don't have to research the mormon religion-The book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ written by joeseph smith says it all–everyone knows they are not christians except mormons–All this magic underwear or kolob wether they believe it or not–wether it is even true in their religion is neither here nor there–the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ proves they are not christians–

      May 22, 2012 at 4:04 am |
    • David

      I hope that rational people are able to see the slander and bias for what it is from posters like Cindy and Peter who claim to have the key to this great conspiracy called Mormonism. The Cindy's and Peters of the world cast stones and spread ridiculous 'magic underwear' notions with the hope that their vitriol will protect the 'real' christians and perhaps help some poor deluded mormon. Their cause is to destroy through ridicule, slander, libel and whatever tools at their disposal. This is not how God operates. They are modern day pharisees in the way they attack, trap and attempt to confuse with lies and distortion.

      The truth is that we know very little about God. It is foolishness to assault those who claim to know a little more when all you have as evidence to the contrary is your opinion and your interpretation of doctrine. If you are sincere about your beliefs you should share them. If your beliefs only consist of attacks on others then I submit you have no beliefs. The name calling and slander does nothing to advance the dialogue and only indicts you as one of the same types that mocked Christ during his ministry.

      May 25, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  19. Llad

    That's right .. God lives on the planet Kolob.

    P.S,Don't forget to change your underwear

    May 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  20. Janicepalrm

    Why are most of the comments on here from the same two people: peter and abinadi? It's like watching a freak show of two troubled people going back and forth, thinking that people find them interesting. Get a clue you two sad little people, you're both coming across as just pathetic.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • limpdk

      Because it appears to be a banter of two very strange people back and forth as though they are on their soap boxes and they think everyone cares what they have to say.

      May 22, 2012 at 12:31 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.