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.”

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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. lolo

    He is the bishop, what else did you expect them to say, but really did you see the lady try to hug Romneyhood and he backed away? He is not use to going outside of the box and we can all see that. He only comes out of the mormon circle to raid companies. Notice how the other speakers were talking about themselves more than Romney. (could it be that they are already looking at 2016?) They are only voting for this man to go along to get along. Putin will eat this puppet alive.

    August 31, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • LinSea

      He's not a bishop anymore. Bishops in the LDS church only serve for a few years (usually five or six years), then someone else is called to lead a congregation.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  2. SMITH


    Vote Romney and Convert

    August 31, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  3. Ed

    I want to see Mitt's marriage certificate to make sure he is married only to one woman. Also records from the Mormon Church. Why is he building a bigger mansion if he only had one wife?

    August 31, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  4. Ed

    Gee no one talked about the high sucide rate among Mormon women.

    August 31, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • LinSea

      What high suicide rate? You can provide legitimate health department or government statistics? In 35+ years of church memberships, I've known, gee, thousands of Mormon women. I don't know any who committed suicide or ever heard of anyone who had an LDS acquaintance who committed suicide.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The rate of suicide in Utah for females between the ages of 15-44 is four times the national average. With this being said, the CDC has been “unable to explain the regional variation of suicide”. The Utah Department of Health has declared it an “epidemic”.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Momof3

      Lin –


      August 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  5. tkayvegas

    I don't see how his faith could be anything but a plus for Romney. The democrats plan on using it as a weapon over the next couple months but I think it will backfire big. I want a job. What do I care what the person fixing the country believes?

    August 31, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Soothe

      Are you serious? Do you ever read the ingredients in your food? Probably doesn't matter if it fills you up?

      August 31, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  6. nanna

    Why do they want to bring their religion/cult into this. Keep it to themselves and leave the rest of the country to think for themselves. We do have a brain to think whatever we want. Go to Utah and do your thing. To many secrets in their church. Very scary!!

    August 31, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Michael

      Go back to Nevada? So you don't agree. But go back to Nevada? That is really discriminatory. Can you tell Jews to go back to Israel or Mexicans to go back to Mexico, Africans to Africa, White's to Europe? What is the difference, right? Can you look at what you said and say it is any different than a common discriminatory perspective?

      August 31, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Chris

      So, we have too many secrets, but we should go back to Utah and just keep to ourselves? Interesting.

      August 31, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  7. Atty

    I do not know where most of the people making coment's live. I live in the the state with the highest population of Mormon's in the U.S. Half of my family are Mormon's and I have grown up as an Episcopalian in a Mormon dominated town. The simple fact is that there are good and bad in every religion. I have know both for forty years. The problem with Mitt (besides his politics) is in the Mormon church, you do not seperate proffesional life from church life. Thats just the way the church is! So make no mistake, if we elect Mitt, Mormon ideals will be incorporated into national decisions. Good or bad, we as a country should decide.

    August 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  8. clubschadenfreude

    First, it's rather sad that Ms. Finlayson forgets that Mitt wants to remove the chance for such medical care for children from anyone who can't afford it. Tears are fine, but actions to actively harm people by denying them medical care because of wealth or preconditions is exactly what Mitt wants to do. So much for any love or concern for "the least of these".

    Mormonism claims that the afterlife will be full of planets for the "worthy" to rule over. Evangelical Christians claim that their heaven is a city of gold where they must praise god all of the time. So, how does it work to support someone who is sure that your religion is wrong and that you'll go to some "hell"? I've seen enough Christians claim that Mormons were anti-christ, so are those Christians right? Are those who accept Mitt right? And how about those lies that are repeatedly told by Mitt and by Paul Ryan? I seem to recall that Christianity and Mormonism say that lying and false witnessing are wrong. What are the excuses for accepting such falsehoods and not calling them out, like even Fox News has?

    August 31, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Michael

      It is hyperbole to say that Mitt wants to actively harm children. I want to say "C'mon! Really! So this guy wants to kill babies? Are you seriously saying this guy doesn't care?" It seems cruel to even imply that a person has no heart. Clearly that is not true at all.

      August 31, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  9. Poncho's raincoat

    A deluded president will bring deluded policies. We've had that and it doesn't work. We must get past religion or join the extinct.

    August 31, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  10. Mormmon in New York

    I think if we can get Mitt elected President, we can convert millions to the only true made in USA Faith – Mormonism. People don't realize that Our Mormon Faith is a unique and proud part of the USA. Mitt will be an example to children and young families across the USA and the world that Mormonism can enable great things.

    August 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Plucky

      Well, I guess if we can't buy anything "made in the USA" anymore at least we can make up a new religion in the USA and claim is is the truth for all.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Sorry bud… but your religion isn’t unique. It’s just another version of Christianity called Christian primitivism. Basically you’re the Chinese knock off of Christianity.. who itself is in violation of copy write infringement from Judaism.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • GAW

      I smell a Toll

      August 31, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Informed Mormon

      Mormon in New York, I think your comment is a front to get people riled up about Mormonism. Nice Try.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Jon

      You're right...we should trust the "Mormmon" in New York who can't even spell the name of the faith of which he/she is trying to masquerade as a member.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • clubschadenfreude

      Mormonism is a rather poor mess of Masonry and Christianity, full of rather pathetic lies about how Native Americans are somehow Israelites. It also was quite a lovely last refuge of bigotry when Mormons wouldn't allow people who had darker skin participate. Mormonism is a great example of how Americans can make up religons, just like Scientology.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • nanna

      UGH!!!! you have to be kidding-keep America out of this please!

      August 31, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Chris

      @clubschadenfreude – Look up haplogroup x. Apparently, as of 2008, the idea that Native Americans came from Israel is good science. As time rolls by, the curtains continue to be thrown back and the truth of the Book of Mormon is vindicated over and over again.

      August 31, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • LinSea

      Where is the biggest Billy Goat Gruff when you need him?

      August 31, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      @chris – "Look up haplogroup x. Apparently, as of 2008, the idea that Native Americans came from Israel is good science."

      Chris, you are a liar. There is nothing "good" or "science" about your claim.

      "The genetic sequences of haplogroup X diverged originally from haplogroup N, and subsequently further diverged about 30,000 years ago" – Correcting for Purifying Selection: An Improved Human Mitochondrial Molecular Clock June 2009

      So about 27,000 years before Israel was Israel, their ancestors teleported back in time to start the "other" tribe of Israel here in the America's.... right.

      " in 2008 that same team of genetic scientists republished essentially the same article under the same ti.tle, making a similar point: "Here we show, by using 86 complete mitochondrial genomes, that all Native American haplogroups, including haplogroup X, were part of a single founding population, thereby refuting multiple-migration models"

      August 31, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  11. Holy Man

    I don't see how anyone who calls themselves a Christian could support Mitt Romney for president. Mormons do not believe that Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation. Mormons do not believe in the Trinity. Mormons believe that humans can become Gods - if they're white males who give enough money to the church.

    One of the definitions of a "cult" is a group that tells its followers that they must shun anyone who is excommunicated from their religion. Mormons are told that they should have no contact with their own family members who are kicked out of the church. This makes them a cult.

    August 31, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • LB

      To Holy Man: You are lieing or are misinformed. My father was excommunicated for adultery, but I was never told not to have contact with him. In fact, I was encouraged to stay close to him and help him repent. Recently he was rebaptized and is forgiven of his sins. This is what it means to be Christian; bearing false witness against others is not.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You’re basically just describing Christianities break from Judaism. You are no better than they are.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • GAW

      BTW the President of the United States is Commander in Chief not Pastor in Chief.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Jon

      @Holy Man. I hope the falsehoods you are spreading are based on ignorance and not a desire to deceive. Instead of tearing down someone else's faith, why not look for the good in others? As people of faith, we can all do a better job of following the Golden Rule, which is found in the tenets of all faith groups.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Informed Mormon

      I can tell you that being a Mormon, I believe that Christ is the only way to return to God and this is a central doctrine of the LDS faith. We also believe in God and the Holy Spirit.
      As far as excommunication goes, we are never discouraged from loving people that have chosen different paths.
      I also don't know where you heard that by giving enough money Mormons believe they can become gods. That isn't taught in our religion at all. I would be interested to hear your experience or where you got your information from on these points.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I appreciate your point and agree it’s a good view to have. But you are wrong on the golden rule being in all faiths. But most of the faiths that it is in, it is also contradicted by that same faiths other tenets. Theists like you just pick and choose which you follow in the modern age. After all..if you did everything the bible said was okay..you’d been in jail.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • GAW

      Holy Man must have Mormons confused with Jehovah's Witnesses who shun ex members.

      August 31, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Setting the Record Straight

      Just a few corrections for you from a lifelong Mormon:

      You said: "Mormons do not believe that Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation." Actually, we do. From the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 3:17, if you're interested), "And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent." And again from the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 9:41), "O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name."

      You said: "Mormons do not believe in the Trinity." We believe in God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. Where we differ from some is our belief that They are separate individuals, but perfectly united in word, plan, and purpose, such that everything Christ taught and everything witnessed by the Spirit are in perfect accordance with the will of the Father. This is what the term "One God" means to us.

      You said: "Mormons believe that humans can become Gods – if they're white males who give enough money to the church." We believe we can become like God, and in fact that Jesus's life set the example of how to be like God. He commanded us to be perfect, even as His Father in Heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). We also believe that, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can be cleansed and purified enough to live with God, as Jesus promised his apostles in John 14: 2-3. This is what Mormons refer to as eternal life, or becoming gods as you put it, and we believe this promise is extended to all of God's children.

      "One of the definitions of a "cult" is a group that tells its followers that they must shun anyone who is excommunicated from their religion. Mormons are told that they should have no contact with their own family members who are kicked out of the church. This makes them a cult." I'm 31 and a lifelong member, and have never encountered this. Excommunicated members are not only welcome in their families, they're welcome to attend church meetings. Excommunication is not done to punish or shame people, but to discipline them. We always want them to come back. Disciplinary proceedings are strictly confidential. The only person I know of who was excommunicated (he told me himself) never stopped attending church and was rebaptized two years later. However, I could see family members being counseled (not ordered) to cease contact to protect the family, as in cases of abuse, but such counsel would be given in a personal and confidential setting, such as meeting with the bishop (pastor), and is no more authoritative than personal advice you'd get from a friend or neighbor.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Mr. Whit

      Please try to get your facts straight. Most of what you say here is completely inaccurate. I'm sure it's not intentional, but you've been given some bad information. Mormons do believe that Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation. They don't shun excommunicated members. In fact the opposite is taught and encouraged. The true point you make is that Mormons don't accept aspects of the doctrine of the Trinity. But they do believe in God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. Thanks.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  12. SATAN

    This guy just looks like a freakin idiot.

    August 31, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  13. John

    Mormons Suck and are annoying. Enough said.

    August 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  14. Thumper

    Contrast this mans deads with the current president...
    It's pretty clear who really cares about others as well as this country.
    Go Romney/Ryan!

    August 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • .o.

      Would you like to try that again, you idiot? Maybe start by getting an education.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • DandyStryker

      I was greatly confused by all this, so I went into the woods to pray - as James says - to God, who giveth to all men liberally.

      Well, Jesus and God the Father appeared to me. After introducing his son, Jesus spoke to me and said: "Thy sins are forgiven - go and tell this people that Mitt Romney is the anti-Christ, and that I, Jesus Christ, your Lord and savior, give unto all men a commandment that they shall vote for Obama, for verily I say, Obama is a much better Christian."

      August 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Momof3

      There must be a bible in front of that Thumper...

      August 31, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Mike T

      @ dandy You might just have sent us both to hell, but you made me laugh.

      September 1, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  15. on StreetWise

    The book of Mormon is based on a huge lie, the followers of the LDS church are duped and the "Living" Prophet is a fraud. However, the Republicans were freaked about JFK's Catholic issue... Now the GOP’ers are very concerned about Islamic Brothers and Sharia law rule... BUT, they seem little problem with the Book of Mormon... Hummmmmm… are they leading us to the “land of (bilk) milk and honey” now, and prosperity? Can anybody spell HYPOCRITE?

    See: [ http://www.mrm.org/white-horse-prophecy ] and [ http://www.mrm.org/ten-lies ] Christians, be very carful with your vote this November!

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

      The Bible is based on lots of huge lies. So your point is what, exactly?

      August 31, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Exactly LynnC

      August 31, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Truth

      You, my friend, seem like a very bitter and unhappy individual. I have not been duped, maybe you have been lied to...

      August 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • The Other Labowski

      What in God's name are you blathering about?

      August 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Informed Mormon

      Streetwise, the Book of Mormon's main premise is that Jesus is the Christ and that through Him we can return to live with God. If a person is atheist, than I can understand them thinking this book is a lie, but if a person believes in Christ, then they should only come closer to Him by reading it.

      August 31, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • pastmorm

      informedmormon...the only way you can become closer to Christ is if he actually existed and actually came down to everybody and said, "hey, here I am...you don't need to read a book to believe in me anymore."

      August 31, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  16. patokc

    Think all of your might want to google the Mormon religion. Sounds to me like you are trying to elect the new anti Christ.Why is all of this Mormon stuff being crammed down our throats ? Well if a person was leaning toward Mitt, this convention has made the other party look good. Between his wife,him,his religion I sure as heck don't want him for President. He will have us all on bicycles riding up and down the streets in white shirts and ties preaching his religion.

    August 31, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Keith

      I don't know how it's being crammed down your throat. Do you lack the free agency to turn the channel?

      August 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Kenn

      Yeah, must have been horrible to hear accounts of a man lending his strength and support to those in need a suffering. I'm surprised you lasted as long as you did. You must be very strong.

      August 31, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  17. pockets

    As Newt has said, Romney is a Liar.

    August 31, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Keith

      As Romney as said, Obama is a liar.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • truth be trolled

      sorry, KEEF, Romney represents the CON in conservative, as did Bushy, Reagan and Nixon before him.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  18. Michelle

    Reblogged this on Republican and Democrat Daily.

    August 31, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  19. Robert Palmer

    Mitt Romney does not care about the American people. He only cares about other Mormans. All his "charity" contributions and any efforts went 100% to other Mormans only.

    August 31, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • CalGTR

      Robert, you are lying. A look at Mitt's tax returns shows that he gives millions of $ each year to charities having nothing to do with the LDS church. And, there were stories told last night of great, compassionate things done on behalf of Mormons and non-Mormons alike. The man whose daughter went missing was not Mormon, and neither was the woman to whom Mitt loaned money for Medical school after her father passed away. Oh yeah, Mitt forgave every dime of those loans upon the woman's graduation from medical school. Vote for whomever you chose, but Mitt is a genuinely good man.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Keith

      Robert you are the poster child of stupidity. The Romney's have even been criticized for donating their own money to Planned Parenthood. Check your facts before spewing inaccurate information. You must be a delegate for the Democratic Party.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • steve

      absolutely incorrect

      August 31, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Samantha

      The fact that these comments are made out of ignorance is evident by the fact that you can't spell the word "Mormon"

      August 31, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  20. Doc Vestibule

    Romney lies more than Nixon ever did.
    Steven Benen has been meticulously docu/menting all of "mitt's mendacity" since the beginning of the year.
    The count is more than 500 blatant lies in 30 weeks.

    August 31, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • babooph

      I do not think Nixon was lying when he dreamed of a massive reduction in military spending ,after peace with the USSR,all used for a MIDDLE CLASS tax cut.

      August 31, 2012 at 12:19 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.