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August 30th, 2012
03:53 PM ET

Convention’s Mormon speakers expected to shed light on Romney’s faith life

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - Mitt Romney is famously quiet about his Mormon faith, but his campaign has said that some of Thursday’s speakers at the Republican National Convention will shed light on the candidate’s role in the church - and that Romney may open about his faith, too.

Thursday’s invocation will be delivered by Ken and Priscilla Hutchins, Mormons whom Romney befriended in their Massachusetts ward - the word Mormons use for church. Another Romney Mormon friend and former co-worker, Grant Bennett, will deliver a prime-time speech.

The speakers are part of the campaign’s broader attempt to humanize Romney at this week’s convention, which has played host to a prominent speech by Romney’s wife, Ann, and will feature speeches from more Romney friends on Thursday.

Campaign aides have hinted that Bennett would talk about Romney’s leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Bennett was a bishop in Romney’s ward, serving after Romney had been bishop - the rough equivalent of a minister or priest - in the early 1980s. The Romney campaign has said that a church leader would speak Thursday about the experience of trying to “"fill Gov. Romney's shoes."

That leader appears to be Bennett, who talked to CNN’s Gloria Borger this year about following Romney as a bishop.

As soon as he stepped into the bishop’s role, Bennett told Borger, he was moved by his predecessor’s humility. Romney had just stepped down as a Mormon stake president - the rough equivalent of a bishop in the Catholic Church. But Romney immediately approached Bennett about his next assignment, saying he’d “look forward to any assignment that you’ll give me.”

That first post-leadership assignment turned out to be Sunday school teacher.

“It was a wonderful example of the idea that in the church we rotate and serve each other and learn from each other,” Bennett said.

He also spoke of Romney’s frugality. After a busy day of church meetings, a volunteer would always be tasked with making sure every light was turned off and that all the doors were locked. Romney has a “sort of a visceral dislike for waste,” Bennett said, and “would never leave the building without walking through every room and turning off every light.”

A key episode in Romney’s stint as bishop was a destructive fire at his ward’s almost-completed Mormon meeting house in Belmont, Massachusetts. It was a suspected arson, though the cause of the fire was ultimately unknown.

Following the blaze, various nearby houses of worship - Catholic, Protestant and Jewish - invited the Mormon ward to meet in their buildings while it rebuilt. Bennett said that Romney’s response was telling: He decided that the ward would meet in a handful of different houses of worship as a way to build ties in a community that seemed suspicious of Mormonism.

“He did it that way both to express appreciation to accept the offer of help but also to simply get to know our neighbors. … He saw this as a bridge-building opportunity,” Bennett said. “And it really did set the stage for the church being in Belmont, perhaps more actively involved really in interfaith kinds of relationships certainly than we had been.”

Bennett worked under Romney at Bain Capital but said he was always impressed with Romney’s emphasis on family and service rather than just making money.

Could some of those themes emerge in Bennett’s Thursday speech? He didn’t reply to requests for comments this week.

Ken Hutchins, who with his wife will give the invocation Thursday, is not expected to speak specifically about Romney’s faith. But he told the Deseret News this month that Romney, while serving as stake president for the church, tapped him to be a bishop. The Deseret News paints a nice picture of the relationship:

… (T)he two men could not have been more different. Romney, the son of an auto industry CEO and former governor, was the CEO of Bain Capital. Hutchins, the son of a union organizer for mill workers in Massachusetts, was chief of police in a small town. … Together, he and Romney carted Mormon teenagers all over Boston for youth activities, figured out to build congregations for a burgeoning community of foreign-speaking Mormon immigrants in inner city Boston, and helped bring a Mormon temple to Boston.

"We had some just outrageous, wonderful, memory-stoking youth events," Hutchins told the Deseret News. "Mitt was an integral part of those memories. I spent time with him there and talked with him and got to live with him so to speak. He was a terrific leader."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Mormonism • Politics

soundoff (552 Responses)
  1. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    In reality, prayer doesn't change anything. Afterall, I'm still gay and stupid and I've tried to pray the gay away to no avail. All I can do now is harass people until Jesus notices me!

    August 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  2. ScottCA

    This Jessica belief blog writer in the video just doesn't understand secular politics at all. Religion really has no place in politics at all. Romney's only mistake is in believing in any faith based religion in his private life, which will through religious delusion distort his ability to examine facts. In turn this will lead to poor social and political decisions based in misinformation. We need a leader who can use logic and reason, without being blinded by irrational delusions.

    August 30, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Scott,

      you watched the video.

      Ick.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • ScottCA

      I know I feel dirty after it, like my ears are tainted with ignorant echoes.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Scott,

      so I watched it. Ick. But what I thought was weird, is that the video his all about Jessica's Belief Blog column on "Shaping the Candidate", yet nowhere is it linked in Dan Gilgoff's piece! (The embedded links all link elsewhere.)

      It's all very disconnected.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • ScottCA

      GOP very strange indeed I noticed the lack of connection as well. Other than both seem to be examining Mitt's beliefs.

      August 30, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    August 30, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • carolllyn

      And yet you're still here. Ah, it's easy to watch your daily scheduling of meds there in the psych ward because you freakishly always show up at the same time....

      August 30, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Good afternoon Prayer-bot.

      So you curse us with your bilious issue once more.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • ScottCA

      No it doesn't. Every study in the behavioral science has shown that prayer has no effect. Their is a minimal placebo effect when someone is aware that they or someone else is praying for them, in other words you can get the same effect by a doctor handing you sugar candy instead of real medicine. There is no effect, it just tricks your mind into thinking there is.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • TROLL ALERT

      Every time you feed the troll a kitten gets run over.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      Please do NOT pray for me. If I need heart surgery, it will harm me. Proven.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html?_r=1

      August 30, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • truth be told

      I'm a dog fan myself, post on about prayer.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  4. John the Baptist

    Why doesn't Romney allow a camera crew to go through a functioning, used Temple? Because it's all secret, oops, I mean "sacred." LOL! Whatever. Just like Jones put poison into the cool-aid to make it better huh?

    August 30, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Rocinante

      Ask a neighbor or coworker who is Mormon about those things. Or have a polite discussion with the local missionaries.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Rocinante

      or read mormon org .

      August 30, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Chelle

      And they will politely tell you nothing.

      August 30, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  5. NorCalMojo

    Are they going to do a bigot-baiting article on powerful Jews next?

    I won't be holding my breath.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • ANNEridly

      Why so paranoid Norcal? Are you afraid to confront the truth? If your testimony is strong enough, anyone else's doubt should not affect your own. Did Gandhi care if someone that wasn't a Hindu doubt his faith? No...and in fact his closest friend was a christian priest. Get over yourselves mormons.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • NorCalMojo

      I'm not the one who's paranoid.

      I don't believe in Jewish or Mormon conspiracies. It's called sarcasm, aspergers-boy.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Jackdack

      Ah, norcalmo, I didn't know you were a boy that has Aspergers. My sympathies! No wonder you're such a jerk on here.

      August 30, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  6. pastmorm

    I am a 7th generation mormon and past return missionary, having served my mission in the Macon GA mission from 90 to 91 and I can tell you that mormons are programmed to lie. They (I have since gratefully, and by MY own choice, left the church) are taught to tell people they are constantly persecuted while at the same time they persecute anyone that does not belong to their faith. This is a religion that has, at its roots, so much mental illness and criminal activity that even the thought of having a president in the oval office from this cult, is horrifying. The shinny, happy face they show in their commercials and through their speeches and their clean faced young men and women is nothing but a facade. Please educate yourself by doing real research on this religion. Don't read online information because they can alter that. Look up, "No Man Knows My History," "Mormon Doctrine (original version before the church watered it down after people started to freak out...) and "Banners of Heaven." Think for yourself....do the one thing they don't want you to do.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Hear, hear. And well done.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Paul

      How do you deal with the real internal theology untruths in Mormonism. For example the fact that there are no ruins from any of the civilizations depicted in the Book of Mormon, and the fact that the source scrolls supposedly translated by Joseph Smith are not at all an autobiography of Abraham, but rather just a common funeral scroll from Egypt.

      These, and many other items show that Mormons don't care whether something is true or not. Isn't a President that doesn't care whether something is true or not, or is just hypocritically using his religion to get what he wants a step down for the United States?

      Please reply!

      August 30, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Rocinante

      Read mormon org.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • currentmorm

      I am a current member of the LDS church and have been for over 25 years. My experience in the church has been very positive. I can't say I agree with your analysis of the church, we have many Mormon leaders in this country already. Some members of President Obama's cabinet are LDS. I'm a Ron Paul supporter personally, but to be afraid of Mitt Romney because he's Mormon is like being afraid of a Dog because it's tail is fluffy, you should probably worry more about his policies. I've been on a two year mission and have held several leadership roles in the church and there is no sinister conspiracy that I am aware of. The vast majority of Mormons are just ordinary people trying to live their lives the best they can. If you think the LDS church is a cult, or have questions, I would recommend visiting one of our Sunday services. I think you'll find that overall we are actually a very open and friendly people.

      August 30, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  7. @GuileOfTheGods

    I can only assume if Mitt Romney becomes president, he will baptize dead soldiers after they are killed fighting in the name of Jesus Christ, and he will make polygamy legal & mandatory, as thats what Mormons believe.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Why shouldn't polygamy be legal with the consent of all parties?

      August 30, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • @GuileOfTheGods

      I personally do not care if polygamy is legal or not. I just think it's funny the same people who were afraid of Obama because of his Christian roots, then again for his fake Muslim roots, embrace this wacky man and his wacky religion.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • rp

      all I can say in response is that we all know what happens when YOU ASSUME!!! Really think of what you are saying and take a step back and see how ignorant you make yourself.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • LinSea

      Paranoid much?

      August 30, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  8. swingstater

    Someone ask them why non-Mormons can't go to services–not even to attend an event like a wedding.

    I'm not comfortable with someone who says his faith is a big part of his life, yet keeps it hidden.

    Say what you like about Obama's former reverend, you could attend services to hear what he said.

    You aren't allowed in Romney's church.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @swingstater,

      no, you're not allowed in the Temple but I suspect that if you looked like a potential ti'thing convert they'd have you a Ward meeting quicker'n you ken spit.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • babs

      Mormonism must be like personal income tax returns.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • RDB

      Educate yourself a little more. Visitors are welcome and encouraged to attend services, including baptisms or even weddings at the local ward's church. Temples are not open to the general public but the Temples and ward churches are not the same thing.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • rp

      A past president of the LDS church said "the church does not keep anyone out of our temples, they keep themselves out."

      August 30, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @rp,

      Ha Ha! Good one.

      What's the going rate for a "temple recommend"?

      August 30, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • visitor

      You know, separate but equal.

      August 30, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Seperate but equal doesn't work. It just ends up being seperate and certainly not equal.

      August 30, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Stephanie

      @swingstater:
      If you want to find an LDS meetinghouse, go to http://www.lds.org/rcmaps/?lang=eng#lat=0&lng=0&z=2&m=google.road&layers=selected and make sure that you search for "meetinghouses" in your area. Services are held every Sunday, and worship service times are listed on that website under the meetinghouse.
      Many temples also have visitors centers that anybody's welcome to visit! The temples themselves are not open to the public because they are very sacred to members of our faith. However, if you're lucky and a temple is opening nearby, you can visit it during the open house before it's dedicated!
      We're really not that secretive. Visitors are always welcome!
      The reason that

      August 30, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
  9. ScottCA

    The last thing this nation needs is a leader who believes in gods without evidence.

    Just as it is insanity to believe in the 6ft tall green monster in my closet without evidence, so is it insanity to believe in god without evidence.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • TP

      OK. Well said. By these rules, President Obama must go. He does profess to be a Christian...

      August 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • RobertC

      That would include all 44 Presidents to date.

      August 30, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  10. will never vote Republician again

    What does religion have to do with running the country!? I could care less what your spiritual belief is or not is!
    SEPARATION of CHURCH and STATE! I am so tired of these holier than thou politicions riding the coat tails of Jesus!

    August 30, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • babs

      Willard is riding the coattails of some very sick mid-19th century cultists.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  11. retiree

    If Mitt comes across as an Elder speaking at a relief society meeting, well, there goes his chances for the White House. He'll still get his planet, but the house won't be the big white one on Pennsylvania Avenue.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  12. babs

    Nuthin more Amurikun than mixin' religion & politics!
    And nobody does it better than Republicants!
    Come let us worship at the altar of Mammon!
    More in common with cultists than non-whites.
    It has ever been thus.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      And ye shall worship at the sacred altar of the Amurhican patheon: Gods, Guns, Mammon and Divine Exceptionalism.

      Ye shall not speak ill of these for that is heresy most UnAmurhican.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Ain't nothin' wrong with guns and mammon.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  13. babs

    Gimme that old-time religion!
    Gimme that old-time religion!
    Gimme that old-time religion!
    It's good enough for me!
    Let's all worship Zarathustra
    Just the way we used tah!
    I'm a Zarathustra boostah!
    He's good enough for me!

    August 30, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  14. Colin

    The belief that an infinitely old, all-knowing sky-god, powerful enough to create the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, chose a small nomadic group of Jews from the 200 million people then alive to be his "favored people" provided they followed some rural laws laid down in Bronze Age Palestine equals Judaism.

    Judaism PLUS a belief that the same god impregnated a virgin with himself to give birth to himself, so he could sacrifice himself to himself to negate a rule he himself made equals Christianity.

    Christianity PLUS a belief that aliens from other planets mated with humans who will one day be gods, that post mortem baptisms send people to a heaven, that the Israelis colonized America and that magic underwear will protect you from evil equals Mormonism.

    I guess Mormons take the gold for utterly stupid beliefs. One can imagine Brigham Young standing on a pedestal, accepting his medal and humbly proclaiming, “If my beliefs are even more ridiculous than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants”.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • babs

      and please don't forget the underage marriages and polygamous unions with pubescent girls. Yeppers – something a Christian evangelical could easily support – all wrapped-up in the red, white and blue of a sicko vision of patriotism. Ugh!

      August 30, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • James Madison

      Just remember that that those who helped with th Founding of our great country held some of those same religious convictions that you now spurn. We may have the freedom of thought and choice as to what to believe in, but do remember that many great political and scientific leaders of this world may not agree with your rhetoric.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • A true believer

      I love it when people spout off comments on beliefs of churches they know nothing about. Whether it's judaism, christianity or something else, everyone seems to be an expert. Who can prove that a deity does NOT exist? Who can prove there is NOT life after death?

      August 30, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Colin

      James Madison. That doesn't make the beliefs any less ludicrous, it just makes them hisorically common.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Colin

      A True Believer. So, you believe in any god we cannot disproved, do you?

      August 30, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @true believer

      "Who can prove that a deity does NOT exist? Who can prove there is NOT life after death?"

      Shifting the burden of proof. That's really all you have?

      August 30, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • What IF

      true believer,
      "Who can prove that a deity does NOT exist? Who can prove there is NOT life after death?"

      1. It is up to the person making the claim that something exists to prove it.
      2. Lack of evidence one way or the other calls for the default stance of withholding belief until proven.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  15. ScottCA

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRxr9jxF6mg
    When will CNN show the courage MSNBC showed here by speaking out against the insanity of religious ignorance?

    August 30, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  16. babs

    Ya think that Bishop Mitt, the flip-floppin', flim-flammin', back-peddlin' draft-dodger, will talk about how he avoided fighting for the country that he supposedly loves so much by doing his cult's "missionary work" among the heathens of France? No, I thought not. But the Mttster and his boy Eddie Munster will be only too happy to start a war in some backwater that has no strategic value to the U.S. and fight to the last drop of someone else's blood. Republican hippocrites!

    August 30, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Americans Against Autism

      Don't be a hater now.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Scott

      you get paid to blog all day don't you.........

      August 30, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  17. What we need now

    Thank you Mitt for your quiet resolute and leadership. It's what our country needs at this time.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • babs

      Ha ha ha ha ha! Did Grover Norquist get any on you when you finished pleasuring him?

      August 30, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • @GuileOfTheGods

      Our country needs a man who will send jobs overseas, force his Mormonism on us, and lie his way while he continues to steal from the pockets of the working class? I'm guessing you don't live in America...

      August 30, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  18. babs

    LDS fairy tales about Moses and Jesus toking with the native Americans on the Savior's post-Resurrection road trip through meso-America. And evangelical Christians will still support this cultist rather than voting for a black man.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • sbab

      Your a narrow minded bigot aren't you now.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • @GuileOfTheGods

      Actually sbab, that's pretty spot on. babs presents facts (that's what LDS believe). SO if you think him questioning someone else's belief system is narrow minded, I want to know your definition of narrow.

      August 30, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • A true believer

      How do you know it didn't happen just the way they say it did? Isn't it fun to take pot shots at people from afar, and anonymous? Bet you have some funny beliefs as well...

      August 30, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Sean

      Close, but no. Mormons don't believe Moses appeared in ancient America.

      August 30, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • Dave, CA

      For a real eye opener on the REAL LDS church- see "Prop 8 the Mormon Proposition" really shows what lying- money laundering, evil drones the LDS church is packed with.

      August 30, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  19. Jesus freaker

    Nothing says RNC like a heaping helping of Jesus.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Dave, CA

      topped with extra crunchy lies and heaps of hypocrisy!

      August 30, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  20. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    Yawn ...

    Back to sleep now.

    August 30, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Blah blah blah Mitt blah blah blah good man blah blah blah laughs a lot blah blah blah bishop blah blah blah.

      August 30, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
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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.