In 2008, Will It Be Mormon in America?

Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney could become the first Mormon in the White House.

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Romney speaks of the moratorium as an act of deference to "an overwhelmingly pro-choice state" and not as reflecting any commitment he might still have to a pro-abortion rights position. Romney describes himself as "pro-life," but his own moratorium has prevented him from moving abortion policy in that direction, were he inclined to do so. On abortion, Romney's church is in favor of life but permissive of abortion in cases of incest or rape or when the mother's life or health is threatened. Suffice to say, Romney has not seen fit to advance his church's policy.

On the question of when life begins, Romney is actually to the right of some members of his church, since, invoking science, he says life begins at conception, while some co-religionists say it doesn't begin until implantation occurs, because "there's no soul" until then. Romney's position on when life begins has shaped his response to the therapeutic cloning legislation just passed by the Massachusetts legislature. Romney says it would sanction "the creation of life with the intent of destroying it."

Romney hasn't been able to turn around the decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirming same-sex marriage. But he sharply criticized the ruling when it was handed down, and he continues to push for a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Romney's opposition to same-sex marriage is consistent with that of the General Authorities in Salt Lake City. But his arguments against same-sex marriage don't use religious language.

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Regarding the passage in Mormon Scripture stating that the American founding documents were inspired by God, Romney says, "Yes, my own faith believes that." But he adds, "My guess is that most Americans think the same thing." Romney emphasizes how his faith is like "every other faith" in that it has "fundamental values that are quintessentially American." Observing, "I surely don't think that it hurts for an individual [running for president] to openly express the fact that they believe in God."

Romney's positions on social issues could make or break his candidacy, and social conservatives who've followed his term as governor tend to give him mixed, though on balance positive, reviews. He's generally praised for his stand against same-sex marriage, though some conservatives think he could have used his executive powers to prevent the implementation of the state Supreme Court's decision affirming such unions. He's applauded as well for opposing the creation of embryos for research. But he's drawn criticism because he would allow research using "surplus" embryos created through in-vitro fertilization.

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