What Is Ben Carson's Religion? The Seventh-Day Adventist Church Believes Jesus Is Coming

PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 06: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks to the media before attending a gala for the Black Republican Caucus of South Florida at PGA National Resort on November 6, 2015 in Palm Beach, Florida. Carson has come under media scrutiny for possibly exaggerating his background and other statements he has made recently. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

There has been a lot of speculation about what Republican presidential nominee and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson's believes, particularly regarding his religion. Fellow GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has even questioned Carson's religion, saying he just doesn't "know about" it at a campaign rally. So what is Carson's religion? He's a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a lesser-known Protestant faith that was founded in Michigan in 1863. They have about 18 million members and are the 12th largest religious body in the world, but only about 7 percent of its congregation are in the United States.

Carson's dedication to the faith started young, when he was just 12 years old. He asked his pastor to baptize him for a second time because he said he didn't truly understand what it meant when he'd undergone the ritual at age eight. But at age 14, he had an even more meaningful experience with God and prayer. In an interview in 2008 with Kim Lawton of Religion & Ethics News Weekly, a weekly PBS program that looks at religion, Carson said that he used to have a strong temper and was violent toward other kids. One day, he said it culminated in him attempting to stab a classmate in the abdomen with a large camping knife. The kid's belt buckle saved him. (This story has now been called into question in light of his presidential campaign.)

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Carson said he was terrified at that moment because he almost killed someone, and he realized if he continued he would not accomplish his dream of becoming a doctor. "I can’t control this temper," Carson told PBS. "I’m always in trouble. I just fell on my knees and started praying. I just said, Lord, there’s got to be something better, I can’t control this." He said he spent the next three hours reading the Bible and praying and left the bathroom a different person — with no temper.

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Seventh-day Adventists have a few beliefs that set them apart from mainline Protestant denominations in the United States. Mainly, they celebrate Saturday as the holy day, not Sunday, and they believe that Jesus will imminently return. That's where the church's name comes from too. Saturday is the seventh-day and advent is another way to say the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Other unique traits about the religion include its belief that taking care of one's body through nutrition and exercise is a spiritual exercise. The church advocates a vegetarian diet with a good source of Vitamin B-12. Tobacco, alcohol, and drugs are a no-no.

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The church began from a movement led by Baptist preacher William Miller who claimed to know the exact date of Jesus' return to Earth. The dates came and went and most followers abandoned him. Plenty stuck with it, though, and splintered into subgroups. The Seventh-day Adventists are the largest subgroup today. The imminent return of Jesus remains one of the denomination's biggest teachings, which would spell the end of times. Nevertheless, the religion has founded schools and universities around the world.

Carson responded to Trump with an interview on Fox News in October. He said he didn't want to get into the mud pit, because neither he nor Trump will change. He did say, however, that the main difference between himself and Trump is "I’ve realized where my success has come from, and I don’t in any way deny my faith in God." 

Time will tell whether his success continues. Voters will have just as much say as God does this election.

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