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.”

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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. Ejaz Naqvi, MD

    I can't help but think that the main reason people worry about having a non-Christian president is that they don't understand other religions. If we taught the tenets of other faiths, in a "these are the facts about Mormonism/Islam/etc" kind of way, we might be more accepting of others' beliefs.

    August 31, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  2. Ol' Yeller

    So let me get this straight... Obama can be attacked on all fronts religiously. He attended a Christian Church for 15 years, so let's villify him through statements made by his Pastor (and all other Pastors are pretty much sacred ground and should never be accused of anything). Even though he attended a Christian Church (as we have noted in our other accusations) he is actually a Muslim and we have no evidence whatsoever to back us up, but since he is black and Democrat, who cares? But Mitt!? Oh no, to talk about his religion any more than he or his handlers would like to (like with his tax returns) then that is just underhanded and an attack on religion.
    The party of hypocrisy got there chance this week... the party of the people will get their's next.

    August 31, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • bryes

      Now Ol' Yeller... just relax. There is nothing to fear from the Mormons. We just want to live our life out here on earth and offer you all a chance to become our servants in the afterlife when we become Gods. All you have to do is join our Church to be saved. We are all nice people who never hurt anyone. That nonsense about us dressing up like Indians and killing those innocent men, women, and children settlers at Mountain Meadows was just a myth.
      Relax... otherwise when we do buy the Presidency and crwon our Prohet Mitt... YOU WILL BE SORRY!!!!

      August 31, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • bryes

      Warning: The response from "Bryes" at 4:10 pm is not from me. I have posted several other comments on this board, but not that one. Someone has hijacked my Profile name and written disparaging things in an attempt to make Mormons look bad.

      August 31, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  3. math

    It seems the mormons have taken on to the gop convention to propagate and prop up their cult to the public. Iwas wondering when it would happen, perhaps now that he secured the nomination.

    August 31, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  4. JennRenn

    My name is Obama, and I am a Muslim, I mean a Christian..... I read the Koran...... I mean Bible. Jeez people, really? Mormons bother you, but Obama's Christian/Muslim(???) doesn't spark a question in your minds?

    August 31, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  5. IdaCoug

    Question for Mormons. Given that LDS believe in a living prophet receiving direct communication from God, will Romney follow and be influenced by those messages? If not, why?

    In 1980, Ezra Taft Benson, then serving as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave a talk that stressed the importance of obedience to the prophets. This is straight from LDS website. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I know of no other contemporary religion that stress subservience to a living prophet. Aside from cults.

    August 31, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Abinadi

      This is absolute nonsense. Many mormons serve in high political office and serve well. Hatch, Reid, Mike Leavitt, Jon huntsman, and many others. Ronald Reagan loved mormons and had many on his staff. Ezra Taft Benson who you quoted was secretary of agriculture. Mitt Romney served as governor of Massachusettes. What is your problem?

      August 31, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  6. mary

    While Mormons believe in Jesus , they do NOT believe in the same god as do the mainstream Christians and Jews .
    ( Mormons believe followers get to be gods on their own planet after death / a polytheistic universe ) .

    The big question is , Will a country , founded by people who follow the God of Abraham , elect someone who does NOT follow that god ?
    If they vote for a Mormon , will they then vote for a Hindu or Buddhist or Atheist ?


    August 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • ZacG

      Mormons believe in the God of Abraham. They don't agree on all of the doctrines but they believe in the God of Abraham, Jesus Christ, the Bible and so forth. The question is why would it matter if the candidate didn't believe in traditional christianity? Mormons are christians but what if a muslim were running? What if it were a Hindu? Why would that change how you view their policy proposals. We shouldn't vote for a president based on how well the candidate matches our demographic. We pick a president based on what s/he will likely do in office.

      August 31, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Mystical Pizza

      Have you seen planet Kolob?

      August 31, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Mystical Pizza

      I seemed to have misplaced my planet Kolob...somebody help help me.

      August 31, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Mike T

      Question: Can you explain this to me?
      Revelations Chapter 3 Verse 21
      To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

      September 1, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  7. Greenspam

    I am offended by the headline that "Mormons come out". They don't need to come out! They are here amongst us every day openly practicing their faith! This article makes it sound like mormonism needs to be hidden to plain view.

    August 31, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Mystical Pizza

      It is embarrassing...grown adults believing a con artist who created a story and looked through magic stones to write his book. The claims in the book have no physical evidence or DNA basis...no historical record PERIOD.

      August 31, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  8. Truth

    The Mormon church, much like many religious groups in America, is full of loving, caring, wonderful people, I know quite a few of them. Just like the Jehovahs witnesses I know, all very nice people who really do mean well. With that said, these religions require them to go knock on doors and attempt to convert their friends and neighbors, and they truelly do believe because of the constant brainwashing, that their's is the best way to live. And therein lies the problem. They will not accept a country of secular freedom as the foundation of the nation, Mormons will continue to attempt to inject their brand of morality into the public sphere because it's part of their religious tenets. If Romney win's we should all get ready to learn what those tenets are because there is NO WAY the Mormons and their puppet past pastor president will back away from their belief that America would be happier and healthier if we would all just give in and become Mormon. It's like Jerry Sandusky, who i'm sure never meant to hurt anyone, he just wanted to be happy horsing around with his p e n i s in someone elses behind, what the big deal, right? The Mormons just want everyone to be happy and to believe in the true God that was revealed to them on some golden plates, thats all, why can't you people understand that?...

    August 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • bryes

      Again I ask – Did Massachusetts become a Mormon theocracy when Romney was Governor?

      I think you are making too much of Romney's religion. He recognizes that he is being elected into a secular position, not a church calling.

      August 31, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Mystical Pizza

      How are those laws in Utah....

      September 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  9. DorisV

    Loved the Bill Maher video about Mormonism. When did politicians start boardcasting their religous beliefs? So much for separation of church and state. " Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is my motto and belief.

    August 31, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  10. coco

    Does anyone else have concerns that for the last couple of years the Mormons have been running ads showing they're like everyelse in the US? It seems like the church was promoting Mormonism with the plan for Romney to run for President. I'm not ready to change from living in a democracy to living in a theocracy.

    August 31, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Abinadi

      The ads are being run to counteract "the Book of Mormon" musical and hate groups that ridicule our Sacred beliefs, our leaders, and even our underwear. We don't deserve this kind of treatment and we didn't start it.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • bryes

      Did Massachusetts become a Mormon theocracy when Romney was Governor? Not even close. Just relax.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Closet Atheist

      If a theocracy is what you fear, then you should be much more concerned about fundamentalist christians. Having lived in Utah for a while, I found the mormons to be very good people.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • someone

      Nobody asked you nor expects you to become Mormon. Your fear of the unknown is holding you back nothing else. Mormons are just like everyone else, human beings. If you actually got to know one you might realize they're nice people.

      People have a tendency to harshly criticize what they don't fully understand.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • .o.

      All religion should scare people these days. Out of necessity for survival and political gain, the Mormons have become very adept at redefining themselves over a short period of time. But it doesn't take much to expose the wacky extremism that pervades evangelicals, Southern Baptist, and Catholicism, where some of that extremism goes back to the roots of Christianity.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Mystical Pizza

      You cannot be of sound mind believing in Mormonism

      August 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • JennRenn

      Coco, I think things have already started leaning away from democracy with Obama and the dmage he has done this past 3 1/2 years. We need to back to the core beliefs of this Country and the Love for our freedoms and the desire to fight to keep them. Obama has not shown to be interested in this fight. My hopes and PRAYERS are that Mitt is. And, by the way, I am not a Mormon, but I am a Christian.

      August 31, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  11. bryes

    Just reading thru some of these comments, it's no wonder Mitt Romney is reluctant to discuss his faith. It just seems to bring out those with so much hate.

    I'm sure Mr. Romney considers his faith a pearl in his life, but as the Savior said, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you."

    It seems there are many swine on this board.

    August 31, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • pockets

      and you bynes are the biggest swine of all.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      Argeuments about religion are ultimately fruitless, since people always insist on absolutes will never admit they could be wrong. This is why religion does not interest me, other than as an intellectual subject. I know that I will eb wrong far more than I am right, so why get into a screaming match with somone over which passage is what book proves their point?

      August 31, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  12. SoFunny

    And they don't believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Right Romney.

    August 31, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Jeffrey Root

      Actually they do. I used to be a Mormon, I served a mission, but I am no longer religious. I don't believe in a God. They believe in God the Father, Jesus his son and in the Holy Ghost. They believe that Jesus governs this Earth under his fathers orders.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Stahooven

      You were so close to sounding intelligent...

      August 31, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • pockets

      Son of who? What? god, what's that?

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

      They don't beleive in the Trinity. That God is made up of three equal parts, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus claimed that he IS God. They simply say he is the Son of God. A minor difference in syntax, but a HUGE difference that separates them from Christians.... it also allows them to talk like a Christian even though their belief is significantly different.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Drew, it is the Protestants and Catholics who have changed the true doctrine. A good example is the Nicene creed. The Nicene Creed is nowhere in the Bible. It was totally fabricated by Constantine and his council of pagans, Capadocians, Nicenes, Gnostics, Arians, Apolinarians, Greek mystics and others who had an agenda. Constantine didn't know any doctrine. He just wanted peace in his empire from all the factions who were fighting over doctrine. He just settled for the first thing that the majority could agree with. The sad thing is that there were probably people there who knew the truth, but couldn't prevail over all the other factions – doctrine by committee! Paul would not have approved of the mess christianity is in. He said, "5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism," (Ephesians 4) Obviously, there can not be more than one true church or more than one true doctrine. The question is, which one? We invite all to visit mormon.org for the answer. Christ taught the true doctrine of the Godhead when he suffered himself to be baptized by John. In Luke 3:21,22 we read, "21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
      22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased."
      This is the true doctrine of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost which was taught by the Bible – that the Father and Son are two separate beings.  Funny, the smartest religious leaders have been reading the Bible for 2000 years but it took a 14 year old boy to point out the obvious!  Let's just come clean.  The Nicene creed directly contradicts the teachings of the New Testament.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  13. D. Mama

    The thing that bothers me the most is Mormons knocking on doors trying to push thier relegious ideas on other people! Do they really think people are living like cave men and are not aware of life and beliefs of thir own

    August 31, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Setting the Record Straight

      The Gospel of Jesus Christ brings us more happiness than anything else in our lives. We want others to share our joy. Sometimes it's tricky getting people's attention, and it can feel like being a door-to-door salesman (I served a mission myself). I'm sure for someone who doesn't want us to talk to them, it feels pushy. But we're just trying to share.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Setting the Record Straight
      Ever had a Jehovah's Witness come to your door?

      August 31, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • pockets

      What these people have to realize is that ALL religions and cults like theirs are for the ignorant. Uneducated and those in particular tha feat death. That is why religion exists to this day, its a fear of death. Its woo woo, and hocus pocus. Run by charltans and con men.People who are not stable. But there to make a buck off those who are easily lead. You see them on Sundays heading into the "temples" and buildings with crosses on them. Like pre-historic cave people.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Abinadi

      19 ¶Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (New Testament, Matthew, Chapter 28)

      Since other churches do not adhere to the teachings of the Bible, but instead teach the "philosophies of men" we have been commanded to teach the truth.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Momof3

      SettingTheRecordStraight – maybe you should wait until people ask about your religion before you tell them about it? Seems presumptious, if you ask me...

      August 31, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • someone

      1. The missionaries knocking on your door have no idea you prefer not to see or speak to them. You do have the choice NOT to answer the door, but you do anyway.
      2. Nobody is forcing anything in your face. It is your right to say no thanks. But you opened your door.
      3. Missionaries would give you the coat off their back if you asked for it and needed it.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Chelle

      I don't want you to share thanks. I also cannot stand that the Romney campaign is pushing the fact he acted as a Bishop. The male members of the LDS Church take turns being Bishop. This is one of the stranger things about their religion. Their leaders are not educated in the ancient languages the Bible was written in, they aren't educated in the historical context of the stories etc.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Chelle, there is a word for paid clergy. It is called priestcraft.

      August 31, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Sunflower

      A very nice mormon family lived a few doors down from me when I was raising my children. They were the first I had met. She had children as well and we became friends. I admired how their family did things together as a family. They were all very much into health and fitness, and even invited me to their church for aerobics classes after my son was born. They were welcoming and never pushed anything on me... My friend suggested I listen to some missionaries since i had so many questions. I did. I invited them into my home, once a week for several weeks. Their passion was visible. While they were never able to "convert" me, I was very thankful I had the experience. It opened my mind, filled in gaps and misconceptions that I had, and made me much less ignorant about their faith. They are different, but from everything I've learned, they are very good people.

      August 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  14. kq

    Mormonism is a cult. They are a Church founded on racism, and still today – practice racism. It's in their Book of Mormon. The seed of Cain, a skin of blackness, the mark that blacks will carry.

    Quote from Brigham Young, Prophet. "You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind....Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 290).

    August 31, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • .o.

      All religions are cults.

      Science disproves religion on a rational level.

      All religions disprove themselves on practical levels (contradiction, circular reference, inconsistency).

      All that's left are the christards running around thinking that if they capitalize some letters in their arguments, that they have achieved greater wisdom.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Jeffrey Root

      Yeah, well, the Bible is racist as well. That is religion for you.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • someone

      I'd be willing to bet you have some racism in you as well.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Willis

      WORD!!!!!!!!!!! Bishop Tabby Nackle Mitt is oficially the worlds most influitional Mormon on Earth & you know damn well he will Enforce the Discrimination against blacks around the Globe. 14 million cult members & not a single elder with skin not of white. REVOKE this Bigotry so called Religion if they dont change their 1948 ways. They are realy realy FUC-ED up human beings who are not Cristian in any way shape or form. Majic Underwear Anyone????????

      August 31, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  15. 417-PC

    What? Clint, is that you?

    August 31, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  16. Natestory

    Please talk to someone that has "been there" with the mormon church before falling for their brainwashing techniques.


    August 31, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  17. Jesus Christ


    August 31, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  18. 1amazed2u

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

    August 31, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  19. Jeanbro

    Why not take it from someone that was a member and really knows what it's like?


    August 31, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Sloppy J

      Right. Because ex-members of anything are the only ones who will give you the clear, unvarnished, horrible truth.

      August 31, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  20. Reality

    Being fair about it:



    Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)

    "Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

    Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

    Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As does Obam and his family) (And Biden) (And Ryan)

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

    August 31, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Reality, you are just an atheist who does not know anything of any value. I have question for you. Do you stand and pledge allegiance to our flag and our nation? Do you profess that it is "one nation under God"? If you don't, then you are no American!

      August 31, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Reality

      Expressing my consti-tutional right of freedom of speech and freedom from religion: (and the god of the Pledge of Allegiance is any god I so choose and I choose FATHER FREEDOM.)

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      (references used are available upon request)

      August 31, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
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