If Romney ran and were in the lead or gaining ground, a desperate candidate, or more likely a political action committee, might bring up the church's pre-1978 exclusion of blacks from the priesthood, or the continuing exclusion of women. Or there might be an attack on Mormon doctrine--to the effect that Romney is a member of a cult. The evangelical leaders I spoke with said that such an attack wouldn't work, as it would be seen as way over the line of what's politically acceptable. It's interesting to imagine who might rise to Romney's defense, and it's not inconceivable that Harry Reid--the Senate minority leader and a Mormon--would protest, especially if his party or its allies were the ones lobbing the grenades.

It's conceivable, too, that some evangelicals might speak out. In recent years a small group of evangelical theologians and Mormon scholars of religion have been meeting to discuss doctrinal issues. In November the Latter-day Saints opened the Mormon Tabernacle to Richard Mouw, a prominent evangelical. Mouw issued an apology to Mormons, saying, "We evangelicals have sinned against you" by "seriously misrepresent[ing] the beliefs and practices of members of [your] faith." Some evangelicals are critical of Mouw and other evangelicals for their continuing dialogue with Mormon scholars.

As for the question that I came to Boston to ask Romney--whether he thought a Mormon could be elected president-- Romney posited "stick figures"--people we know nothing about "except we are told their religion. Well, we are going to say, 'I like that one better than that one, and I don't like this one but I like that one.' But there are no stick figures in politics, you have human beings, who have families, who have lived careers, who have political positions, whom you have watched debate. You know them as human beings, and their religious affiliation actually becomes only one small part of the person."