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Romney cuts off question on Mormon scripture

Published: Monday, April 2 2012 5:42 p.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets people in the crowd as a Secret Service agent watches at right during a campaign stop at a building supply store in Green Bay, Wis., Monday, April 2, 2012.

Associated Press

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Mitt Romney fielded a question on Mormon scripture and race in Wisconsin Monday, Politico reported. The questioner began to read from Moses 7:8, a passage in a book called "The Pearl of Great Price," which members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consider scripture.

The passage seems to suggest that ancient Canaanites were cursed with dark skin.

"Why don't you give me a question," Romney asked. Hatch continued, as can be seen in video of the exchange: "Ok, well, in the Mormon book it says there was a blight cast on all the children of Canaan.”

Romney cut him off and said, “we’re just not going to have a discussion about religion in my view.”

The questioner then parried with a more general question: “Do you believe it’s a sin for a white man to marry and procreate with a black?” “No. Next question,” Romney said, according to the Washington Post.

Another awkward question soon followed, this one asking how Romney could connect with average people. He took that opportunity to turn to his experience as an LDS church leader, a topic he rarely touches, noting that as a church leader he had to “work with people on a very personal basis that were dealing with unemployment, with marital difficulties, with health difficulties of their own and with their kids.”

“Most Americans, by the way, are carrying a burden of some kind,” he went on. “You don’t see it. We see someone on the street, they smile and say, ‘Hello.’ But behind them they are carrying a bag of rocks. It may be their own health difficulties. It may be concern about a job. It may be inability to pay for the home or the college they were hoping to pay for for a child.”

He concluded that “When you get a chance to know people on a very personal basis, whether you’re serving as a pastor or as a counselor or in other kinds of roles, you understand that every kind of person you see is facing some challenges. And one of the reasons I’m running for president of the United States is I want to help people, I want to lighten those burdens.”

CNN reports that the questioner then held his own mini-press conference, where he said, "Either he believes the Book of Mormon or he doesn't," Hatch said. "I think that's an important issue. He's going up against a black guy! He's going against Obama. This is a racial issue."

The LDS Church recently released a statement denouncing racism. It warned against speculation about the origins of an earlier ban on blacks holding the priesthood in the church, a ban that was lifted in 1978.

The Church’s position is clear," the statement said, "we believe all people are God’s children and are equal in His eyes and in the Church. We do not tolerate racism in any form.

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.