Mitt Romney’s fellow church members delivered a personal affirmation of the Republican nominee’s religious bona fides at Thursday’s convention, offering a rare look into Romney’s Mormon roots.
Pastor Grant Bennett described Romney, who served as a lay pastor for 14 years, as a tireless and devoted member of their Boston church who frequently rose early in the morning to help out ill or needy members.
“Mitt prayed with and counseled church members seeking spiritual direction, single mothers raising children, couples with marital problems, youth with addictions, immigrants separated from their families and individuals whose heat had been shut off,” Bennett said.
He described Romney as more concerned with service than with the intricacies of church ritual or theology, a more sensitive area where many Mormon beliefs come into conflict with Catholic and Protestant beliefs.
“He found the definition of religion given by James in the New Testament to be a practical guide: ‘Pure religion … is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction,’” Bennett said.
The first Mormon nominee of a major party, Romney’s religion has most often been discussed as an obstacle to the presidency — many credited it with swaying evangelicals against him in his failed 2008 bid.
Perhaps as a result, Romney rarely discusses his Mormon religion on the campaign trail. But he has recently opened up a bit more ahead of the convention. Earlier this month he let a pool reporter attend services with him at his New Hampshire congregation. Thursday night’s convention proceedings featured a benediction from one of Romney’s church friends, Kenneth Hutchins.
Bennett suggested that Romney’s reluctance to discuss his work in the church stemmed from a respect for his congregants.
“To uphold the dignity — and respect the privacy — of those who came, he met with them in private and in confidence,” Bennett said. “He has upheld that trust.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.