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. albert

    Jesus taught his disciples to be no part of the world John 17:16. This mostly pertained government. Jesus did not run for political office nor did he direct his followers to do so. In contrast, he taught them to pray for his fathers kingdom. Mormons encourage their members to join the military. So if there is a Mormon in another country it is possible that Mormons would kill other Mormons during war. Mormons.are obviously not following God's word. Jesus said his people would not be divided. Even within government, Mormons are divided. Like most denominations that claim to be Christian, Mormons are far removed from anything the Bible actually teaches.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • sybaris

      ........as well are most chrisitians.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  2. David

    Not Mormons but MORONS!!! stronghold.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  3. MaryM

    I am sorry, but belief in magic underware is just crazy

    May 13, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • Woody

      So is the belief in Resurection

      May 13, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • MaryM

      Woody, agreed

      May 13, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  4. Atheist

    I am deathly tired of religious bigots trying to influence our country to their advantage.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  5. Bob

    A Missouri mob or an Illinois mob?

    May 13, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  6. CH

    I agree with RC, total propoganda. From the "plain" santuary to the comment that LDS mainly steers clear of politicals towards the begining of the article. Not until many paragraphs later does he even decide to mention the millions of dollars the church put towards the Prop 8 campaign in California. Oh and they were fined by the California Fair Political Practices Commision for failing to follow campaign disclosure policies. But thats not a political fight, thats a moral one. Where are they on the other "moral" issues?

    May 13, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  7. Laurie

    @hitchens So I am incorrect in saying that our forefathers wanted separation between the church and state? Wow. I seem to remember umm somebody really important like Thomas Jefferson and I always thought that the First Amendment?

    May 13, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  8. Religious Fools!!!!!

    Mormons are a societal cancer!

    May 13, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Atheist

      ALL religions are a societal cancer.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  9. pete

    "(The book of Mormon) was done in a space of three months, using scribes while Smith translated (from golden plates) from behind a curtain." If the level of sophistication required to brainwash millions of people into a religion was displayed by Smith, we all have the capacity to start a religion.

    Because this is Romney's "religious" view, nobody challenges the absurdity of it. After all, religion is sacred, regardless of how stupid it is.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  10. faberm

    HEY FOLKS!!! This is CNN trying to get us to not look at a sorry economy, outlandish spending and debt, and ZERO job growth. A famous democratic theologian from Louisiana once said, 'IT'S ABOUT THE ECONOMY, STUPID!1" IT STILL IS.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • sybaris

      There are plenty of other news outlets talking about the subjects you desire.

      Find them. Google is your friend

      May 13, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • kerfluffle

      Google isn't my friend. My friends don't catalog my interests and behaviors in an attempt to track me, shape my behavior, and profit from the results.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  11. NoTags

    Christians, don't let mormons deceive you. If you ask a mormon if they believe in Jesus they will answer yes, however they WILL NOT tell you that the mormon Jesus IS NOT the same Jesus worshipped by Christians.

    Read what Gordon B. Hinckley (former president of the LDS church) says about the mormon Jesus.


    May 13, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • Atheist

      Who cares? Mormonism, Christianity... it's all a malignant fraud.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • peter

      No tags you don't have to worry–ask any baptist,catholic,lutheran, born again, methodist–ect ect–if the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ is the word of God and they will say no. Mormons are not and never will be part of christedom no matter how the cry and scream and demand to be part or our world. Cursed is joeseph smith as is the christ that he wrote about in the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • Michael Murphy

      NoTags you are correct, it is not the same Jesus of Christianity. If you ever get a hold of a book of Mormon turn to chapter five and in that chapter it states who there Jesus is, according to them he is the brother of Satan, no equal to the Father but created by the Father. Not Scriptual. Heed the warning by Paul, Peter and John that if anyone come preaching any gospel other then Christ crucified he is antichrist

      May 13, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Rawbird

      I have a mexican friend named Jesus, and he is not the same as the mormon Jesus or the Christian Jesus, just a man, like the other two... unless someone makes you believe he is more ... it's called brainwashing. All religions are the same.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  12. Amy

    My mother was raised in Salt Lake City and felt ostracized because she was not Mormon. When my non-Mormon grandmother died, I overheard her Mormon financial advisors talk about baptizing her after death into their temple. This is not something she would have wanted. I left my last job for a number of reasons that contributed to it being a toxic environment, but the final straw was that the one member of my work team that I respected and thought was my friend told me that he had a dream that he should tell me about his belief in Mormonism and that I would be his second wife. He told me a Bible story of Jacob, who fell in love with Rachel, but had to marry her older sister Leah and wait seven years before he could marry Rachel. He told me his current wife was Leah and I was his Rachel.

    I realize that there are crazy people in every religion and culture and group that may not necessarily be representative of the whole. I believe in the freedom of this country, that we all should have the freedom to believe what we want and respectfully let others believe what they want. But given mine and my family's experiences to date, the last thing I want is a Mormon in office pushing their belief system on me through the laws of this country.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  13. What a crock

    Ask a Mormon about the book of Abraham.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  14. sybaris

    Well duh, why is anybody surprised by this story.

    That wingnut Smith copied the Jewish social structure for his little cult.

    Mormonism a.k.a. Judaism-lite

    May 13, 2012 at 8:44 am |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    May 13, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • martog

      where's your proof?

      May 13, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Hitchens

      Proof is all around you martog you idiot.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Prayer changes lives


      May 13, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • kerfluffle

      The idiot is the one that spouts incessantly that prayer changes anything.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Chuck

      If you pray pray pray and then get off your knees (or ass) and actually DO something YOU can change things.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  16. Woody

    Obama, and the influence of his Reverend Wright's Church of Hate and Divisivness had on his character is a much bigger concern. Mormonism isn't based in hate and bigotry like the ignorant Jeremiah Wright's "preaching". Some say Obama attented that "sxhurch" just to get credidbility with the Blacks.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • trex

      ..ok, a te ab ag ger that ADMITS Obama isn't a Muslim................

      May 13, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Woody

      Of course he's not a Muslim Trex as he married and lives with a pig. That's a big no-no in Allahland. So is Gay Marriage, that will get you killed in Islam...

      May 13, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • mshawaii808

      Woody, it is a very know fact, that studies have proven over the past 60 years, that when a man(male) makes a comment about a women, whether it's about her looks,her hair or even the color of her skin, the reason's are caused from a PENILE DYSFUNCTION! Every Morman's nightmare!!!!!

      May 13, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  17. jungleboo

    Sounds like cancer to me...

    May 13, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • Religious Fools!!!!!


      May 13, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  18. addison

    I am a scientist and early on I questioned God and if there was some powerful "being" controlling all. But I am convinced there iis not and that the universe and all we experience is just a natural order of time and change. That said I am not one who gets some sick pleasure out of attacking and belittling those of faith as I see many do on these blogs. My experience in my life has been positive with people of faith and it is a rare exception to find one who has strong belief and practices that belief system. Mormans are no exception, and I have not a bit of a problem voting for a person of faith. I voted for Obama and he has been a strong disappointment. His fiscal policies has so weakened the dollar that other countries now are actively trying to remove the dollar as the world standard for all transactions. If you do not understand how that would impact you, you need to, as it would devestate our economy, ,and printing money without value, as Obama has done for 3 plus years would no longer keep prices of products down, but would just devalue the dollar like we used to see in Mexico and other 3rd world countries where their money would lose value and people's money tomorrow would buy half of what id did today. Our country is facing a crisis like we never have before....and I could care less about anyone being morman, but I do care how someone might kill our country and our future fiscally. Obama is a huge risk and it may already be too late, but I would prefer to get someone else in, who may fix that problem if possible.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • trex

      ..do you REALY think that thw world would move to the YEN or Euro or the Canadian dollar?....................remember when that tennis moron wanted anything but Dollars and then within a couple months, the Dollar strength was way up again and they lost a TON of value?.........................

      May 13, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • rochdoc

      Thank you, you are a voice of reason. People cannot just live and let live.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Jan

      I disagree with you in regards to Obama. Of all your Presidents, except for a very few, he has done more for you than you realize. Imagine having to pick up the pieces of what Bush and others left behind, not an easy task for anyone. Obama is your savior but of course too many people don't have the patience or know how to realize this. You want instant gratification but with the damage caused by the Bush admin it's going to take time to "fix" things. I know that many of you do not like Obama because he is black, hence by comment in Martog's post of "good christans" who judge other people by the colour of their skin tsk tsk...live and let live. Who cares if he is white, black, yellow, green or purple. He is fixing your country but you people – yes you people – are so coloured blind that you can't see it. What a shame...I am so happy I do not live in the US – you people – yes you people – are destroying your country one by one. I live in Canada and we would be ecstatic to have Obama as leader of our country! He is highly intellectual, very well read and spoken – does Bush come to mind here as not well read and spoken good grief – and he believes in your country and wants to better it unlike the Bush admin who was all about me me me and the more money I can make off of you people – yes you people – the better it is for me me and me. Wake up citizen of the US...you have a great leader in your midst but it's overshadowed by religion and racism. Sad...after so many decades there still lies racism amongst you esp in the deep south...

      May 13, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • rochdoc

      Our problems started during the "golden" era of Clinton because he was not looking after the house. Money lending process was liberalized and reports of terrorist threats were never taken seriously. Then came Bush, who was not big enough to calmly take care of issues facing the country, but thought wars will bring in fortune eventually. He burned the house down. Obama the creation of the media, internet and international community, failed miserably on his promises. He is paying back his endorsers right and is keen on going for the second round. I used to blog for Hillary in 2008 and was very angry how this media treated her. Anyway, I just hope that people will make better decision this year.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • rochdoc

      Ofcourse if you say something about Obama, you are a racist tsk tsk. But you can talk about Mormons taking over washington!! how hypcritical. It is is coolaid time again!!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • kerfluffle

      I call BS on your entire post. You read as a poorly trained hack, trying to instill some sense of legitimacy to the idea that Mittens will be any different or better than Obama.

      I suspect that you are another mormon apologist, working to soften the margins.

      I call out your intellectual dishonesty.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • Michael Murphy

      Obama didn't kill the dollar, the republicans budget plan has. Europe is extremely worried that Ryan's budget will be implemented and cause the US to turn from recovery to the depression it was headed for under the last republican administration.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Rawbird

      You don't sound like a scientist and you write morman instead of mormon.
      Obama has done more for the people in 3 years than the bushes in 12. No contest.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  19. martog

    Ten Reasons You Know you are an Atheist.
    1. You were likely brought up a theist (probably a Christian if you live in the USA) and had to do your own thinking to rise above the beliefs that still occupy the mind of the believer. This usually involved being smart and working hard at school and college so as to get a good, accurate view of the natural Universe and overcoming significant social pressure to dumb yourself down and conform. In short, you had the guts to ask the hard questions and the brains to spot the weak answers. The more you came to understand the Universe, the less reason there was to believe in a god and the more you came to appreciate human nature, the more you understood why billions of us still do.
    2. While rejecting the supernatural elements of the Bible, you nevertheless retain a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent you reject Christian morality, it is where it is mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, your basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – you just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over your head in order to act in a manner that you consider moral.
    3. You know a great deal more about the Bible than most believers. This is because you took the time to read it yourself and did not rely on the primary-color simple stories you learned in Sunday school. You have also probably done some research into the historical Jesus and have a good handle on where he REALLY fit in to the broader picture of the Middle East at the time. Needless to say, his miracles and other magic powers soon started to look pretty unlikely.
    4. Your knowledge of basic science and history is much stronger than that of your average believer. You likely have a basic working knowledge of physics, astronomy, evolutionary biology and cosmology and a good idea of the history of life on this planet. This acc.umulated knowledge puts you in a position to judge the claims of the Bible in a critical light and they are almost always found wanting. To the theist, this makes you “elitist” and ‘arrogant”.
    5. You relish your role as a religious minority in the USA, as this gives you an impetus to fight and you understand how others with unpopular, but doubtlessly correct views have felt throughout history. There is something altogether satisfying to you about having a deep conviction you are right and being viewed with disdain for your views by the errant majority. You feel a quiet confidence that future generations will look back on you as a member of a class of trailblazers, as religious supersti.tions go into inevitable decline in popularity.
    6. You are likely more environmentally aware than your theist friends and colleagues and unlikely to fall for claims of industry and wind-bag politicians concerning the impact of man’s activities on the environment. You could no more act in an environmentally irresponsible manner because “god will keep us safe” than you could jump of a ship, believing King Neptune will keep you safe.
    7. You generally have a live and let live atti.tude, but will fiercely defend any attempts by theists to thrust their views on you or your children, directly or through control of school boards, the legislature or the executive. While you are prepared to debate and argue passionately with the theist on an intellectual level, you would never wish them harm or ill will. You know you are likely to be smugly told you will “burn in hell for all eternity” for your healthy skepticism. This highlights what you despise about religion, as you would not wish a bad sunburn on another, simply because they have a different religious view to you. You have never heard of an evolutionary biologist strapping a bomb to himself and running into a church yelling “Darwin-u akbar”.
    8. You likely know more about other religions than your average theist. This makes you less fearful of them and enables you to see parallels. You realize that, if you were born in India, you would have been brought up with a totally different religion. You realize that every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. They cannot all exist and you see the error all faiths make of thinking only theirs exist(s). This “rising above” the regional nature of all religions was probably instrumental in your achieving atheism.
    9. You likely have a deep, genuine appreciation of the fathomless beauty and unbelievable complexity of our Universe, from the 4 nucleotides that orchestrate every aspect of you, through to the distant quasars, without having to think it was all made for you. You likely get more out of being the irrelevant ant staring up at the cosmos than you do in having to pretend that it was all made to turn in majestic black-and-white pirouette about you.
    10. While you have a survival instinct, you cannot fear death in the way the theist does. You know that the whole final judgment story, where you may be sent to hell if you fail, is Dark Ages nonsense meant to keep the Church’s authority. You also know that you were dead for 13,700,000,000 years before you were born. It is impossible for you to fear death, for the simple reason that you know the capacity to fear (or to feel pain or discomfort) itself dies. You will not even know you are dead. Fear of death is as meaningless to you as is the fear of a vacuum, the fear of not being born. You feel a lot more secure, and indeed a deep comfort, in this knowledge, than you would in trying to yoke yourself to some quasi-hope that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • Hitchens

      To waste a good portion of your valuable time try reading some martog posts. Rarely has the English language provided so much drivel by one person.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • martog

      Yea Hitchens, your posts are so elloquent, so well thought out. Do you drool a lot?

      May 13, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • Jan

      Martog, I agree with each one of these wholeheartedly. I'm a Catholic, was I suppose as I am now a non-believer, I am marriied to an Atheist and you are so right in all your points. Most of the good Christians do not know the bible inside and out but they claim they do...if they did know the bible they would see all the fallacies but they likely are clueless or choose not to want to know. My husband is a good and strong, loving and compassionate person, who lives and let's live. These people who say Atheist have no morals are completely out of line. They say so out of fear I understand this. But Christian people – most of them – have no morals at all. So Christians, live and let live and stop pushing religion down our throats. We can think for ourselves and don't need you telling how to do so. Religion DOES NOT belong in politics. No wonder you have so many problems with your US Government...flighting amongst yourselves about religion...you should be doing your work in government/politics. Religion has no place in government.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • Chuck

      Another great post Martog!

      May 13, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  20. RC

    Good grief this article is one long piece of propaganda. I stopped reading when it stated that the Mormon sanctuary was designed to be elegant but plain. Have you seen their temples? Nothing plain there. They are ugly and way overdone.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • trex

      ..........and their UNDERWEAR............well, its SUPERNATURAL......................................

      May 13, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • popseal

      From personal experience i can say that the Mormon good ole' boy network dominates some to the "three letter agencies" within the DoD. I liked their politics and moral; stance (sans the pagan stuff) and would choose one to them over a leftist, secular humanist, who hates July 4, 1776, while he pandering to Muslims, you know, 'Bam.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:49 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.