Stories show how church service shaped Mitt Romney's character

Published: Friday, Dec. 9 2011 1:00 p.m. MST

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets supporters before speaking at a town hall meeting, Friday, Dec. 9, 2011, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Associated Press

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The Los Angeles Times published an article this week highlighting anecdotes about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney from his volunteer ecclesiastical service in the LDS Church from 1981-94.

Romney was appointed in 1981 to be the bishop — or lay spiritual leader — for a Belmont, Mass., congregation of The Church or Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Reporting from Belmont, reporter Alena Samuels talked to people he served as a bishop and stake president. They revealed stories about his advice regarding abortion, about blessings he gave and about how he spent 11 years befriending and bringing into the fold a Mormon woman's husband who smoked and drank alcohol.

"While leading the Belmont ward," the story related, "… he was so dedicated to his church responsibilities that he wouldn't travel anywhere that kept him from getting back to Boston for the night, (BYU-Idaho president Kim) Clark said."

In 1986, Romney ascended to the calling of stake president. In that role he was tasked with oversight of 12 LDS congregations in the greater Boston area — a capacity in which Romney served until 1994, when he resigned to challenge Ted Kennedy for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

"Romney became stake president … (and) helped many Mormons overcome grief and depression, sometimes by laying two hands on them in a Mormon tradition of blessing, he said."

The article also mentions the speech Romney gave in 1996 at a confrontational zoning board meeting regarding whether the LDS church would be permitted to build a tall spire on its new temple. The Times notes that "the board hearing would be one of the few times Romney spoke about his faith with those outside the church." For the full text of Romney's speech during that board meeting, click here.

In October, the New York Times published a lengthy piece about Romney's church service beneath the headline, "For Romney, a Role of Faith and Authority."

"In ticking off his credentials on the campaign trail — management consultant, businessman, governor — Mitt Romney omits what may have been his most distinctive post: Mormon lay leader, offering pastoral guidance on all manner of human affairs from marriage to divorce, abortion, adoption, addiction, unemployment and even business disputes."

The Washington Post's Aaron Blake blogged Thursday about the role Romney's religious affiliation could very well play a major role in shaping the outcome of the Iowa caucuses on tap for Jan. 3.

"A new CNN/Time poll out Wednesday showed Romney trailing Gingrich 33 percent to 20 percent in the Hawkeye State. A look at the crosstabs suggests religion is a big reason why. Gingrich takes 31 percent of the self-described 'born-again Christian' vote, which is pretty much in line with his overall vote total. Romney, though, takes just 13 percent of born-agains, and actually gets twice as much support — 26 percent — from the rest of the electorate."

EMAIL: jaskar@desnews.com

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