January 26th, 2012
11:23 PM ET
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN
(CNN) – In a recent conference call with conservatives across the country, Mitt Romney expounded upon subjects he usually doesn’t talk much about: Jesus and eternity.
Asked on the call how his faith had shaped his success as a businessman and his political career, the presidential candidate spoke about “a conviction that life is eternal, that your family is your greatest prize, that ultimately what we accomplish in life is of little significance compared to the interests of the savior Jesus Christ and his purposes.”
“It puts everything into perspective and the perspective is that there are things more important than the here and now,” Romney continued on the Wednesday call, which was organized by the Faith and Freedom Coalition and included thousands of participants.
His answer may sound to some like boilerplate Christian thinking, but Romney was expressing core Mormon beliefs in a way he almost never does on the campaign trail.
“I had not heard him speak that openly about his faith in a public setting prior to last night,” said Gary Marx, a former Romney aide who is executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, in an interview on Thursday.
Romney almost always deflects questions about his Mormon beliefs. He answered a question about how his religion would affect his presidency at Thursday’s CNN debate by talking about the Founding Fathers’ belief that rights came from God, as opposed to talking about his Mormonism.
Romney campaign spokeswoman man Andrea Saul said it was not unusual for Romney to talk publicly about his faith in public and in news media interviews. "Last campaign, he gave an entire speech on his faith," she said in an e-mail message.
In speaking about his views of eternity on Wednesday, answering a question from a caller based in Atlanta, Romney was echoing Mormon beliefs about the eternal nature of human existence.
“Earth life, as Mormons would put it, is just a tiny moment in eternity because Mormons believe that the spirit exists before there is life and that life is just one short episode in the total journey to becoming more like God,” said Richard Bushman, a Mormon scholar at Columbia University.
“It’s a Mormon way of coping with suffering in this life,” said Bushman, who is Mormon. “You don’t get upset about failures.”
Romney reinforced that sentiment repeatedly in the Wednesday conference call, hosted by conservative activist Ralph Reed, the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
“What we’re experiencing here is just a moment in time which will soon be replaced by an eternity with our father in heaven,” Romney said.
“Sometimes in daily activities you think about all the implications of what’s happening, based upon how people think of you or what’s going to happen to your financial success,” he continued. “And you stop and think a second, what is the eternal implication of what’s going on here?”
Romney’s remarks about his faith also echoed Mormon teaching on the importance of family, which Mormons believe remains intact after death.
“At the end of the day, when Ann and I are getting ready for bed, we’re talking about the day’s events, we remind ourselves about what matters most to us,” Romney said. “Our family and our relationship with each other and our absolute conviction that Jesus Christ is our savior.”
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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.