Mormon speakers at RNC mark sharp departure from Romney's reticence on faith
Mitt Romney at his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.
August 30th, 2012
10:45 PM ET

Mormon speakers at RNC mark sharp departure from Romney's reticence on faith

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - After years of keeping quiet about his Mormon faith, Mitt Romney’s campaign thrust his church life into the national eye Thursday night, as a handful of Mormons took to the Republican National Convention’s stage to deliver moving testimonials about the Republican presidential nominee’s role as a member and leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

One couple that belonged to the same Massachusetts ward, or church, as Romney did recounted in a prime-time address how Romney tended to their 14-year-old son when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

“You cannot measure a man’s character based on words he utters before adoring crowds during happy times,” Ted Oparowski, the boy’s father, said on the RNC's final night, following speeches by such GOP stars as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“The true measure of a man is revealed in his actions during times of trouble,” Oparowski said, his voice shaking. “The quiet hospital room of a dying boy, with no cameras and no reporters – that is the time to make an assessment.”

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Oparowski explained how, more than 30 years ago, Romney would go on to eulogize his son.

Moments later, Pam Finlayson walked onto the convention stage to tell how Romney helped her when he served as bishop – the rough equivalent of a church pastor – of their ward in Belmont, Massachusetts.

Finlayson told how she’d given birth to a daughter 3½ months early and that the baby suffered from underdeveloped lungs, an unstable heart and a brain hemorrhage.

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“As I sat with her in intensive care, consumed with a mother's worry and fear, dear Mitt came to visit and pray with me,” Finlayson said, provoking tears throughout the convention hall.

“I will never forget that when he looked down tenderly at my daughter, his eyes filled with tears, and he reached out gently and stroked her tiny back.”

“When it comes to loving our neighbor, we can talk about it or we can live it,” Finlayson said later. “The Romneys live it every single day.”

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With Romney almost never even invoking the words “Mormon” or “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” the intimate windows into the candidate’s church life came as a surprise to many ears.

“I was a little surprised that it really came out so strong,” says Richard Bushman, a Mormon and a scholar of the religion at Columbia University. “The number of Mormon notes struck in this one evening was remarkable.”

“It must have been some kind of balance of power in the campaign that shifted.”

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Romney has opened up more about his Mormonism in recent weeks, but Thursday night’s speeches from Mormon friends marked a dramatic departure from Romney’s vague pronouncements about his faith.

In formally accepting the Republican nomination on Thursday night, Romney took the unusual step of invoking the "M" word, as he recounted his early years.

"We were Mormons and growing up in Michigan," Romney said. "That might have seemed unusual or out of place but I really don’t remember it that way. My friends cared more about what sports teams we followed than what church we went to."

Later in his speech, as he talked about arriving in Massachusetts, Romney referred to his church experience in a way that made it sound universal.

"Like a lot of families in a new place with no family, we found kinship with a wide circle of friends through our church," Romney said. "When we were new to the community it was welcoming and as the years went by, it was a joy to help others who had just moved to town or just joined our church."

Earlier in the evening, the Oparowskis and Finlayson were introduced by Grant Bennett, a fellow ward member who talked in specific terms about Mormon life.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an unpaid, lay clergy,” said Bennett, who succeeded Romney as bishop of the ward. “While raising his family and pursuing his career, Mitt Romney served in our church, devoting 10, 15, even 20 hours a week doing so.”

“Like all Mormon leaders, he did so on his own time and at his own expense,” Bennett continued.

While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has seized on the national Mormon moment with national ad campaigns to try to explain and normalize Mormonism, the slate of Mormon RNC speakers may have done more to explain the fundamentals of Mormon life to millions of Americans.

“Tonight’s stories had an authenticity that’s greater than 20 public affairs releases from the church office,” says Bushman. “It’s just a huge enlargement of the understanding of the faith.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Politics

soundoff (553 Responses)
  1. Lukas

    Wouldn't it be funny if Romney were elected pereidsnt, only to have the pereidsnt of the LDS church receive a revelation a year later, calling him as a mission pereidsnt in Africa? I wonder which he'd choose?On a less whimsical note, LDS apostles have been called upon to serve as U.S. senators and cabinet members. Imagine if a vacancy occurred in the Twelve, and the pereidsnt of the church called Romney to fill the vacancy, while simultaneously serving the remainder of his pereidsntial term!

    October 8, 2012 at 1:41 am |
  2. Justin

    Check out this hilarious song about Mormons


    September 19, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  3. tuvia






    September 5, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    September 2, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • hal 9000

      I'm sorry "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but you assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. I see that you repeat these unfounded statements frequently. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to... by the Alzheimer's Disease Society

      September 2, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
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    September 2, 2012 at 1:08 am |
  6. used to be there

    Let's have some of those religious right Republicans ask Bishop Romney if Jesus was the result of a virgin birth.

    September 1, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Mike T

      Jesus Christ was the result of a virgin birth. Says so in the bible. Really not sure what this had to do with anything that was being said.

      September 1, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • Wade Wixom

      After Mitt gives his response, perhaps the next question should be "is Christ the SON of God?"

      September 2, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  7. Agnostic Atheism is Healthy for Kids and Grown-Ups Too!

    It's really best for all people including children to have an agnostic approach to god, and an atheistic approach to all religion. It keeps things simple for kids, and let's them be all that they can be. They just need to be taught that some things, like all religion, are just made up by salesmen and politicians from long ago; and that other things, like god, we really don't know a damn thing about.

    Atheists have strong minds, and don't run and hide their misdeeds within their religion (and by doing so, disserving society).

    So instead of praying to make-believe people, get a good cup of tea and go on and sit down and collect your damn thoughts. My goodness.

    mama kindless

    September 1, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  8. ruby Tea

    Mormons are not Christians ! It s a clanish twistted religious sect based on a ridiculous book all in the name of condonning polygamy – and I do want to see those tax statements

    September 1, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Stephanie

      Jonah, and Ruby Tea....and otheres ;;; Mitt Romney isn't asking you to believe in what he believes....we all believe in something and hopefully that something will bring us closer to wanting to be a more Christlike people...So if a small boy sought out truth and instead saw the son of God and and his father, and later was directed to scripture buried in the earth....who cares! Those who actually read the Book of Mormon will gain a testimony of it's truth by the Holy Spirit. Those that have prejudgment and prejudices will not. So what do you care if the book is true or not.....if it brings the person reading it closer to the savior and to their Heavenly Father and to work on being a better person then what do you care what they believe if they are only trying to better their lives and relationships with others...You know nothing of the Mormon beliefs, only the negative made up words of those who have no faith from the beginning. There is only one man that walked with the true religion and that was Jesus Christ and he set an example for all to live..... After he was crucified and his apostles murdered darkness came to the people for 400 years.....SO from this point on man has created their own religion and beliefs based off the principles Jesus taught...."of what they thought to be truth" So why so much condemnation towards those who wish to be Christlike..???? You need to look at yourself deeply ...what is your real reason....perhaps you lack true faith? Mormons have great faith in Jesus Christ and their Heavenly father.... because they each individually have a true and personal relationship with their Father above.....You also need to read the Book of Revelations, there is an angel who holds in his hands a book with the ever living gospel.......Just a note, .The book of Mormon is a story of an ancient people who lived here in the America's that were visited by Jesus after his Resurrection, Jesus taught these people "who were Jews" 600 yrs B.C. crossed the waters and landed in the Americas....he left them stating that he would one day return..., So we Mormons with the beliefs and the evidences of a white man coming to visit the natives are in your History books....Christopher Columbus was seen as the return of Jesus.....read your text books....but it all comes in faith......so even if you don't believe in what Mormons do, stop being so Un-Christlike ...Mormons believe hole heartedley in the Bible as both being two separate books containing the word of God....You see there are may scriptures that are buried in the dust, and we are still finding those scriptures today ....ex the dead see scrolls....do we not hold them in the same regard as the scriptures in the bible? Of course we do......same goes for our scriptures in the Book of Mormon....If you new anything about the Bible you can see that words have been changed many times to be simplified for the reader see http://bible.cc/revelation/14-6.htm But Mitt Romney has even greater love and passion for America because his faith believes that America was visited by our Savior.....I cannot say that Obama show's that much regard to or America or her Flag..............

      September 15, 2012 at 2:39 am |
    • I want my leader to share my beliefs


      I believe everyone should try to be more Christ-like. But as Jesus said, God want his followers to worship him in spirit and TRUTH -John 4:24. I have studied with the Mormans, and their beliefs are not found in the Bible (what I base the truth upon). Of course, they try to make them work with the Bible, but when you actually ask where they are found, you can't be shown. I have had Morman "elders" get their "elders" and even they couldn't provide answers to my questions from the Bible. They even stopped coming to my house!

      I'm afraid many others feel the same way. Why would someone want to support a Morman who doesn't base their solely on the Bible? I'm sure that people would not want to support someone who does not share their religious beliefs.

      There are also many "Christain" religions to don't even practice whats in the Bible, but thats a whole other can of worms and I wouldn't support them either!

      BTW – Jesus said that his Kingdom is no part of this world and commanded his own followers to be no part of it either. John 17. By being a leader of it, aren't you being apart of it? This truth doesn't bode well for any "christain" candidates.

      Another thought: Satan tempted Jesus by offering all the kingdoms of the world for one act of worship (Matt 4). How could Satan have offered the kingdoms of the world unless they were his to give? What do the 'kingdoms of the world' symbolize?

      I'll give you a clue,
      1 John 5:17
      John 12:31
      Revelation 12:9-12

      September 28, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  9. Jonah

    All of the mormon propaganda that I spew online is just so that I can feed my family. The mormon church pays me well to pay attention to news boards and to comment about them in a VERY positive light. It sure is exhausting though.

    September 1, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • bryes

      You're a liar. The Mormom church certainly isn't paying you to spew you're disinformation.

      September 1, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Jonah

      Wow bryes, how do you know what the mormon church is or isn't doing? And how dare you call me a liar when you know nothing about me??? You are such a typical mormon: attack ruthlessly anyone that doubts your crazy beliefs!

      September 1, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
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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.