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Mitt Romney opens up about LDS faith to public; NBC's 'Rock Center' takes a look at Mormonism Thursday

Published: Monday, Aug. 20 2012 1:37 p.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, walks towards the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012 in Wolfeboro, N.H. (Evan Vucci, Associated Press) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, walks towards the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012 in Wolfeboro, N.H. (Evan Vucci, Associated Press)

Throughout Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, the presumptive GOP nominee has been quiet about his Mormon faith. However, with the 2012 Republican National Convention opening next Monday, Romney has begun to be more open about his religious convictions.

Although the Romney family has had membership in the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for more than five generations, Mitt Romney has not often spoken of the faith in public. In the five years that Romney has been campaigning for president, he has only made two major addresses about his religion — only mentioning the word "Mormon" once. His first address was in 2007 at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, and the second was the commencement speech at Liberty University.

As the 2012 RNC draws closer, Romney's aides invited members of the media to accompany him to LDS Church services yesterday near his lake house in Wolfeboro, N.H., giving the public a look into his religion.

FILE - This April 27, 2006 file photo shows the sun setting behind the Mormon Temple, the centerpiece of Temple Square, in Salt Lake City.  (Douglas C. Pizac, File, Associated Press) FILE - This April 27, 2006 file photo shows the sun setting behind the Mormon Temple, the centerpiece of Temple Square, in Salt Lake City. (Douglas C. Pizac, File, Associated Press)

The decision came with encouragement of his advisers, and they believe that after a year of not emphasizing religion in his public campaign, Romney should now embrace it. His advisers believe the appeal of the positive qualities Romney has cultivated because of his religious devotion and leadership in the church will outweigh the apprehension voters may have about the unfamiliar Mormon religion.

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found a majority of voters are comfortable with Romney's religion. However, many of those surveyed didn't know what his faith was, and an increasing number said they thought Obama, who is Christian, is a Muslim.

The poll also found the while voters arenít concerned about what faith a candidate belongs to, they do care that he or she is a person of faith. A recent interview with Cathedral Age gave a rare glimpse of each candidateís views about their faith and the role of religion in politics and the public square.

FILE - In this July 20, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks in Bow, N.H.  (Charles Dharapak, File, Associated Press) FILE - In this July 20, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks in Bow, N.H. (Charles Dharapak, File, Associated Press)

The faith will be a point of focus during primetime television this week as this Thursday night NBC's "Rock Center with Brian Williams" on KSL 5 will take an hour-long look at the LDS faith, featuring interviews with JetBlue founder David Neeleman, and author and Deseret News contributor Jeff Benedict.

"I think we're just serious about life," Neeleman told the TV newsmagazine. "You know, we are taught that it's not bad to make money in life. It's not bad, but it's not your money, it's heavenly father's money and you should be good stewards over that money."

Benedict, author of "The Mormon Way of Doing Business," remarked in the "Rock Center" interview that the two-year LDS mission that many in the faith participate in strongly impacts how LDS business leaders work. "It's a life-changing experience for them," Benedict said in the interview. "It's like a fast track to seriousness."

Republican presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney greets supporters during a campaign stop at the Hires Big H on 700 East and 400 South in Salt Lake City Friday, June 24, 2011.  (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News archives) Republican presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney greets supporters during a campaign stop at the Hires Big H on 700 East and 400 South in Salt Lake City Friday, June 24, 2011. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News archives)

Contributing: Matthew Brown, Deseret News

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