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Romney a 'leading Mormon bishop'? That's a misleading phrase

Published August 31, 2012 4:10 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sorry, Howard Fineman, but Mitt Romney was not a "leading bishop" in the LDS Church, nor was he ever a "high-ranking religious official."

That's what Fineman claims in his summary of Thursday's Republican National Convention speeches.

"Romney was a leading bishop in the Mormon church," Fineman wrote at Huffington Post.

If Romney wins, Fineman continues, "he would be the first high-ranking religious official to become president of the U.S. in modern times."

Years ago, Romney was an LDS bishop in Boston but he was just one among thousands. Today, there are more than 28,000 leaders of LDS congregations across the globe, according to the faith's website.

Mormonism's only "leading bishop" is known as the "presiding bishop," lives in Salt Lake City and is employed full time by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Every other LDS bishop is on equal footing.

Romney was also an LDS stake president, who oversaw several congregations in the Boston area. Currently, there are nearly 3,000 such stakes worldwide.

Romney, though well-regarded in his area, was never a "high-ranking religious official." In Mormon circles, that designation would more fittingly apply to general authorities — men who serve as so-called seventies, apostles or as members of the First Presidency.

The LDS Church is run locally as an unpaid, lay clergy, so while Romney devoted countless hours to his assignment as Mormon bishop, he also ran Bain Capital at the time. He had no particular theological training nor did he preach on a regular basis.

A Mormon bishop is essentially an administrator who oversees weekly worship services while advising and ministering to members of his congregation.

Grant Bennett, a Mormon lay leader who followed Romney as the bishop of the Belmont LDS ward (congregation), laid out Romney's work as a bishop, including helping members who were injured, sick, out of work or in financial distress as well as counseling many who had spiritual problems.

Peggy Fletcher Stack