Mormons have long viewed Mitt Romney’s political rise with a mixture of pride and apprehension, fearing that the intense spotlight on their church’s most prominent member could lead to misunderstanding or ridicule of their beliefs in the public square.
But there were no signs of that anxiety when Romney attended church services on Sunday morning, his first since formally accepting the Republican presidential nomination last week.
At church in Wolfeboro, N.H., a quiet lakeside retreat where the Romneys and several other prominent Mormon families have vacation homes, fellow congregants testified that Romney was guiding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “out of obscurity.”
Romney and his wife, Ann, sat silently as four congregants took turns at the pulpit praising the couple. One of them, J.W. Marriott, the chairman of the international hotel chain that bears his name, said Romney was creating positive impressions of Mormonism among many Americans because he had lived “a good Latter-day Saint life.”
“There has never been as much positive publicity about the church, thanks to the wonderful campaign of Mitt Romney and his family,” Marriott said. “Today we see the church coming out of obscurity, and we see that 90 percent of what has been written and said, including an hour on NBC and — an hour and a half on CNN, two front-page articles in The Washington Post, many articles in the national news about the church — 90 percent of it has been favorable.”
Marriott added, “That’s a great tribute to Mitt and Ann and their family for living such an exemplary life — a life of love and compassion, a good Latter-day Saint life, a life of leadership, reaching out to others and touching others, and worshiping the Lord and putting families and the church first. Now that we’re out of obscurity, everybody is looking at us and saying, ‘Are you as good as the Romneys?’ “
At church in Wolfeboro on Sunday, some of the speakers did not give their names during their testimonials.
One man, who was identified as an Archibald, a prominent family in Mormon history, paid tribute to Romney.
“As President Marriott said, we are coming out of obscurity,” he said. “I have friends who say, ‘Do you know Mitt Romney?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, he’s the real deal. He really is. You should support him. I think he’s a marvelous ambassador of who we are.’ “
Another man said he was pleasantly surprised to see members of other churches embracing Romney, a Mormon, as their standard-bearer at the Republican National Convention.