Romney, I think, has a higher mountain to climb than Kennedy did, because Mormonism is more secretive and less understood than Catholicism. Here is Woodward:
Among the reasons Americans distrust the Mormon church is Mormon clannishness. Because every worthy Mormon male is expected to be a lay priest in voluntary service to the church, the demands on his time often leave little opportunity to cultivate close friendships with non-Mormon neighbors. A good Mormon is a busy Mormon. Those — like Mr. Romney — who serve as bishops (pastors of congregations) often find it difficult to schedule evenings at home with their own families.
To many Americans, Mormonism is a church with the soul of a corporation. Successful Mormon males can expect to be called, at some time in their lives, to assume full-time duties in the church’s missions, in its vast administrative offices in Salt Lake City or in one of many church-owned businesses. Mormons like to hire other Mormons, and those who lose their jobs can count on the church networks to find them openings elsewhere. Mr. Romney put those same networks to effective use in raising part of his $23 million in campaign contributions.
Moreover, Mormons are perceived to be unusually secretive. Temple ceremonies — even weddings — are closed to non-Mormons, and church members are told not to disclose what goes on inside them. This attitude has fed anti-Mormon charges of secret and unholy rites. Already in his campaign, Mr. Romney has had to defend his church against beliefs and practices it abandoned a century ago. That some voters still confuse the Latter-day Saints with fundamentalist Mormon sects that continue to practice polygamy and child marriage is another reason the candidate should take the time to set the record straight.
But Mr. Romney must be sure to express himself in a way that will be properly understood. Any journalist who has covered the church knows that Mormons speak one way among themselves, another among outsiders. This is not duplicity but a consequence of the very different meanings Mormon doctrine attaches to words it shares with historic Christianity.
For example, Mormons speak of God, but they refer to a being who was once a man of “flesh and bone,” like us. They speak of salvation, but to them that means admittance to a “celestial kingdom” where a worthy couple can eventually become “gods” themselves. The Heavenly Father of whom they speak is married to a Heavenly Mother. And when they emphasize the importance of the family, they may be referring to their belief that marriage in a Mormon temple binds families together for all eternity.
Thus, when Mr. Romney told South Carolina Republicans a few months ago that Jesus was his “personal savior,” he used Southern Baptist language to affirm a relationship to Christ that is quite different in Mormon belief. (For Southern Baptists, “personal savior” implies a specific born-again experience that is not required or expected of Mormons.) This is not a winning strategy for Mr. Romney, whose handlers should be aware that Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals know Mormon doctrine better than most other Americans do — if only because they study Mormonism in order to rebut its claims...
Finally, there is the question of authority in the Church of Latter-day Saints, and of what obligations an office holder like Mr. Romney must discharge. Like the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church has a hierarchical structure in which ultimate authority is vested in one man. But unlike the pope, the church’s president is also regarded as God’s own “prophet” and “revelator.” Every sitting prophet is free to proclaim new revelations as God sees fit to send them — a form of divine direction that Mormon missionaries play as a trump card against competing faiths.
Romney does have one thing going for him in the eyes of evangelicals: he has only been married once. On the other hand he has suddenly transformed himself from a moderate to a conservative Republican, so the question arises what kind of President he would really be. For this reason more than his Mormonism I will be surprised if he makes it through the gauntlet of the Republican primaries.