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.”

CNN Explains: What’s Mormonism?

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.

How Mormonism shaped Mitt Romney

“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.”

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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.”

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

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. WatchDog

    Based on the comments on this board, the readers of this board did not watch those speeches. Do not know if I can post links, but go you youtube and search for Ted Oporowski and then search for Pam Finlayson. Watch them and then post your comments.

    August 31, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  2. Rational Libertarian

    Whatever happened to FairTax? If Romney proposed introducing FairTax, maybe then he'd get my vote. Surely FairTax is right up Ryan's street.

    August 31, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  3. bibleverse1

    I dont understand the faith of Mormonism and as a voter this further alienates Romney from me. I would like someone from Massachusetts to tell me what kind of leader he is. Romney was a one term governor.

    August 31, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • G

      ace comment

      August 31, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • chongno

      There were several from Massachusetts last night talking about what kind of leader he was in that state. Sounds like you didn't watch too carefully.

      August 31, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  4. 1amazed2u

    Romney is full of empty promises. Romneyhood ............ Give to the Rich take from the poor

    August 31, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  5. beau

    Dear Hispanics,
    If any of you are considering handing your vote to the GOP, please visit the Fox Entertainment News comment section under any article that mentions race or immigration. Read the comments (or read the comments from conservatives visiting this website), and ask yourself if you want to be on the same side as these "people."Those comments were so disgusting that Fox decided to shut down comments on their articles. You can't comment on articles anymore there. A left wing Mexican Mormon and an Indian Hindu (no, not Native American, the other kind).
    Now that's what I call a right wing Christian conservative dream ticket.
    This has to be a funny movie, this cannot be real.

    August 31, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  6. beau

    Religious sales people believe that they can sell their version of Christianity to weak-minded Christians. Mr. Osteen is attempting to use his standing among Christians to influence the election. Thus, he has revealed his hand and should have no credibility with true followers of Christ. Mormonism does not adhere to the teachings of Christ and therefore it is not Christianity. Many will preach in His name, but beware of them. Christians are followers of Christ and know the he is GOD. Moreover, they are advocates for the poor and homeless.

    August 31, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Reality Check

      As a Christian for more than 40 years, I can state unequivocally that you are seriously misinformed. Try reading for yourself and getting the FACTS before communicating, instead of relying upon the propaganda of others who have a personal agenda. Failing to do so displays ignorance. Perpetuating an agenda of misinformation is evil. Seems very close to bearing a false witness. As a Christian, you should know what that means. It's best not to die unrepentant.

      August 31, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Mike T

      I'm sorry, but what teachings of Christ do we not adhere to? Please let me know so that I can adjust my standing in the church that bears His name, that teaches to love Jesus Christ is to obey His commandments, and that He is the only way to salvation – that he suffered, died, and was resurrected so that we could be forgiven of our sins, breaking the chains of hell and death so that we can live with our Heavenly Father again.

      Please tell me what teachings of Jesus Christ I don't try to adhere to. Please tell me what teachings my Church – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – doesn't teach it's members to strive to adhere to. I have yet to find one in 40 years of searching. But, I guess it's always possible that you know something that I don't.

      September 1, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  7. beau

    So the Republicans are going to settle on an east coast, elite, millionaire from an aristocratic family? What is his experience that will make him a successful Conservative President?
    1. He fires people, lays off employees, and outsources jobs while pocketing the pension funds of those same employees.
    2. He is comfortable in an upper class setting. After all, America IS the upper class, isn't it? The little people, like you and I, are not really very important. People of Romney's class and background see us as livestock that can understand English.
    3. He does not care if Americans suffer. He has made lots of them suffer so far in his life. He's made of tough stuff. No weepy compassion will ever cloud his judgment.
    4. He knows how to destroy corporations and sell off their assets. He could use those skills to destroy the federal government, a stated goal of Conservatism
    5. After the Romney Administration is over in 2016 or 2018, Conservatives will say, "Hey, you can't blame us for the disastrous Romney Administration. He wasn't a TRUE Conservative. What we need is a TRUE Conservative like Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum … or maybe govornor Palin."

    August 31, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  8. beau

    If you're a mormon:
    You believe in a man named Joseph Smith that declared himself a general against the American Government and then said he would create a Theocratic Monarchy with himself at its head.
    You also believe in a man named Joseph Smith that married a 14 year old girl – even though he already had plural wives – because he told the child's family they would receive instant eternal salvation if they gave her to him (Smith).
    You also believe in becoming a god after this life if you have committed to and followed all of your temple rituals sincerely and without deviance.
    You also believe that anyone that is not a mormon will NOT be allow to be with Jesus Christ or God, no matter how good they are, if they do not accept your gospel (religion) to be the only true church. For example. Mother Teresa will not be in heaven if she does not accept a posthumous baptism in the after life.
    You also believe that you must take on secret temple names, wear garments (underwear) that has secret symbols that are used in secret rituals in the temple as well as a blood oath that began in 1843, but ended in 1990 when there was a general uproar amongst non-mormons that found out about this particular ritual.
    You also believe Blacks and Native Americans were marked with dark skin for being evil in the pre-life or because they just displeased god.
    You believe that once you are a god of your own world, you with your heavenly wife will create spirit children that will then fill the earthly bodies of human on your own particular planet that you rule over...meaning that you are already (in certain terms) better than the God that created this planet.
    You do believe that Lucifer and Jesus were and are brothers. Sign A TRUE Conservative Republican."

    August 31, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • True

      What is the purpose of this post?

      You've compiled a list of half-truths designed to make the Mormon religion sound bizarre.

      That seems like slander, spiteful hatred, to me.

      August 31, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • RandomHero

      Thanks for telling us what we believe. I almost forgot.

      August 31, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • AnotherMe

      Thanks @RandomHero. I, too, had forgotton that that's what we believe. Although, to be fair, I must have been attending the wrong church services.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • LinSea

      No purpose. I've seen 'beau' cut-and-paste exactly the same list of cow plop lies over and over and over and over.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  9. 1amazed2u

    Look at Romneys fake smile. He is in it for the money only. Romney and Ryan ........ Laurel and Hardy of the 21st century

    August 31, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  10. dstruve

    Mormons only help Mormons. I would like to see how many Mormons are in his campaign. Probably a lot.

    August 31, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • True

      As a Mormon, that's sad to see that sentiment out there.

      Sadly, its probably true in more cases than we Mormons would like to believe.

      I feel confident though, that in more cases than not, it is not true.

      As with other Christians, we believing in helping anyone we can, whatever their beliefs

      August 31, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • SirToYe

      Spent some time in Utah, a more true statement could not have been said. If your not Mormon, good luck getting a job with them over another Mormon, regardless of your qualifications. They are an insular cult that believes that Jesus and Satan are brothers, and God comes from and lives on a planet or star named Kolob. It's like voting for a Scientologist, and perhaps a little crazier.

      August 31, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • True

      Actually, I live in Utah.

      And, actually, I just hired an employee without any knowledge of his religion. Because it doesn't matter.

      I'm sure it does happen, but I truly hope it is the exception.

      August 31, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Ryan

      Live near Texas/Louisiana Border and the first group to respond post Katrina with any mass assistance in the form of food or cleanup was the regional congregations of the Mormons. Not the Government, Not Red Cross, Not FEMA. The Mormons. I'm sure it doesn't happen everywhere but I thought you needed to know that they at least have good people who help anyone in Texas/Louisiana.

      August 31, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  11. 1amazed2u

    Romneyhood ............ Give to the Rich take from the poor

    August 31, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  12. ddpp

    when religion is playing such a huge role in our elections then who the hell are we to point fingers at other countries, muslims, hindus, or jews?

    August 31, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  13. Karl Rove

    We've seen enough mormonism in our politics , the most recent the former senator from Idaho that now gets taxpayer subsidized healthcare for life. The GOP just doesn't understand middle-class america.

    August 31, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  14. su3385

    Romney – Obama -–Just different seats on a sinking ship.

    August 31, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  15. M

    What is interesting is the similarities to Mormon and Islam. The one shocking point is that Mormons think they can become a God in there "next life" and a Heavenly Mother. I think I will vote for Ron Paul.

    August 31, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  16. GOP Word Association

    WORD = GOP Association
    Old People = Glob of cells that we don't care about. Let them die.
    Sick People = Glob of cells that we don't care about. Let them die.
    Poor People = Glob of cells that we don't care about. Let them die.
    Female People = Glob of cells that we don't care about. Let them die.
    Non-white People = Glob of cells that we don't care about. Let them die.
    Non-christian People = Glob of cells that we don't care about. Let them die.
    Unemployed People = Glob of cells that we don't care about. Let them die.
    Gay People = Glob of cells that we don't care about. Let them die.
    Glob of cells in a womb = Something we PRETEND to care about just to get votes.
    Gun Control = Something ELSE we PRETEND to care about to get dumb redneck votes.

    August 31, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • G

      Painting an exaggerated, extreme picture, will do nothing to convince anyone.

      Convince me with honest, accurate, portrayals.

      August 31, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • k

      Of course you don't have any glob of cells yourself if Obama gets back in maybe he'll take them from someone else and give them to you. You intolerant snob

      August 31, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  17. Jon

    Whether you believe in God or not – a man is not defined by his faith, he is defined by how dilligent he follows what he believes. Because of Romney's faith he is a better man, therefore because Romney follows what he believes in, what he believes in must be good. Anything that makes a man better is good.

    August 31, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • SirToYe

      Who said because of his faith he is a better man?

      August 31, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  18. KMW

    I am from Belmont, MA and I was sorry to see a large Mormon temple built in such a beautiful town. I am not against the Mormons but it is a sad sight to see.

    August 31, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • G

      Why is it sad?

      I'm not trying to provoke or anything here.

      I'm honestly curious, what is sad about seeing a Mormon temple there?

      August 31, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • KMW

      I am Roman Catholic and my favorite church was closed (Our Lady of Mercy) which was beautiful and tasteful. I just wish it was not so big. Again, I am not against the Mormons just their very large temple.

      August 31, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • G

      Ahhh, its the size of the building in its location. I can understand that.

      August 31, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • KMW


      Absolutely. I just wish it was a bit smaller. I admire the Mormons and they have a lot in common with Roman Catholics. Again, I wish they had been able to save Our Lady of Mercy which was beautiful on the inside and outside. Who knows? Maybe some day they will be able to rebuild such a lovely church as Our Lady!!! Miracles happen.

      August 31, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  19. G

    It is an admirable quality to hold fast to your beliefs.

    It is not an admirable quality to speak against another's belief out of spite

    August 31, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • blogger formerly known as Who invited me?

      It is not admirable to hold on to beliefs when those beliefs are shown to be incorrect if not totally false.

      It is not wrong to challenge someone elses beliefs in the name of reality and reason.

      August 31, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • G

      I agree that there is nothing wrong with challenging someones belief if it is the name of reason, and done with respect. Those can be great discussions.

      It is when it is done spitefully that it is wrong.

      My opninion is that, if so many brilliant people (smarter than me) have decided that Atheism, Agnosticism, Christianity, Mormonism, etc is what they beleive, who am I to tell them they are wrong.

      I have my beliefs and I am devoted to them. But, clearly, this world is not as easy to figure out as most claim.

      August 31, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • SirToYe

      It's not admirable to believe in something without any proof. In fact to believe in something that is against all scientific proof is foolish. Believing that God lives on a planet or star called Kolob, following a cult formed by a convicted fraudster, and being not only a member of such an organization, but a bishop is nothing to be proud of.

      August 31, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • G

      Clearly you have a strong opinion on Mormonism.

      I just think you ought to be careful calling a group of 14 million people foolish. It can come off as insulting and arrogant.

      If you took any group of 14 million people I don't think I would ever be smarter than all of them.

      But you seem to think yourself smarter than every mormon.

      August 31, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • G

      By the way "Scientific Proof" is a funny concept.

      Science hasn't proven anything yet.

      Not really. Not when everything that it "proves" is eventually, later "proven" false.

      August 31, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  20. chris

    Romney used Apple and Steve Job in his speech about American creativity and business. Apple products I agree is amazing products. What Romney did not tell is the following:

    As recently as 2002, most of Apple’s products were manufactured in the USA. What happened? Why is nearly everything, from Macs to iPhones, made in China now? The New York Times provides an in depth report on Apple’s move overseas, and it’s not as simple as you might think.

    It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.

    August 31, 2012 at 10:12 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
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.