By Samantha Hayes, Los Angeles, Cali.
Whether he wins the Republican primary in Florida or not, Mitt Romney knows where he'll be this coming weekend. Utah.
Along with more than twenty other states, Utah will hold its presidential nomination contest on February 5th, one week from today. But Romney's not worried about a win in Utah. He says he'll be there for another reason: his faith.
Sunday night, the leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints passed away at age 97. His funeral is planned for Saturday. Mitt Romney's membership in the Mormon church has been a defining characteristic of his presidential bid, and he spoke about it in a speech at the George Bush Presidential Library last year on December 6th. In part, Romney said this of his allegiance to the LDS church, "I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers -- I will be true to them and to my beliefs."
During a campaign stop in Florida Monday, Romney brought up the death of President Gordon B. Hinckley himself, calling Hinckley "one of the great leaders in our faith."
I know from personal experience, having been a reporter in Salt Lake City, that Gordon B. Hinckley worked to raise the profile of the LDS church worldwide. The number of LDS temples more than doubled during his presidency. And Gordon Hinckley was one of the more visible presidents of the Mormon Church. CNN's Larry King said of Hinckley, "he was very easy to listen to. He was never boring. He had a nice touch, it's a quality you can't teach someone."
While Mitt Romney's Mormon faith has attracted a lot of attention, his presidential bid, in turn, has also shined a light on the LDS church, which he says has not been involved in his campaign in any official way. But you get the impression from a recent article that he may have sought guidance from his church's leadership on his decision to enter the presidential race.
According to a story in the Washington Post, Romney says Hinckley told him a presidential run "would be a great experience if you won and a great experience if you lost."