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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has sometimes faced criticism over his The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints membership. While some in the media have taken aim at his Mormon beliefs, others have staked the claim that the candidate doesn't speak candidly enough about his LDS adherence.
This week, famed business mogul Donald Trump, a Romney supporter, told CBN News' David Brody that Romney should, indeed, speak more openly about his faith. Far from a criticism, Trump's assessment was more rooted in encouraging the presidential contender to be more open with voters about his religious values -- specifically when it comes to charity.
When asked if he believes that Romney should stress the humanitarian aspects of his faith, Trump responded, "I really think he should, I think what he's done is amazing." The business leader continued, delving deeper into his views on Romney's charitable giving.
"I think the fact that he gives so much money back to his church is an amazing thing," he said. "They don't want to add that back to his taxes because frankly, people do that and they like to talk about it."
While Trump said the decision to talk about his giving to the church is up to Romney, he personally believes that doing so would benefit the candidate. Watch him make these comments, below:
As the convention is getting under way, of course, political operatives and journalists are wondering just how much, in a more general sense, Romney will tackle his Mormon faith in the coming days. The issue, of course, is multi-dimensional. Certainly, Romney hasn't gone out of his way to engage in theological discussion during the 2012 cycle, but it can be said that he has done so in the past.
Mitt Romney asked the nation on Thursday not to reject his presidential candidacy because of his religion, assuring evangelical Christians and other religious voters that his values matched theirs in a speech that used the word “Mormon” only once.
The passing mention of his Mormonism in his 20-minute speech here at the George Bush Presidential Library underscored just how touchy the issue of Mr. Romney’s faith has been since he began running for the Republican nomination. He and his aides agonized for months over whether to even give the speech, with those who argued against it saying there was no need to do it because he was doing so well in early voting states, advisers said.
At the time, the tides were turning and evangelicals were becoming more interested in former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, specifically in the electoral battle that was unfolding in Iowa. At the time, Romney purportedly realized that the issue, especially among a subset of evangelicals, needed to be addressed.
"I believe in my Mormon faith and endeavor to live by it," he told Americans at the time. "I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from the God who gave us liberty, nor would I separate us from our religious heritage."
Nearly four years later, it's a different political climate and, as analysis shows, Romney's faith isn't making him very vulnerable. Still, many are wondering if and when the candidate will, once again, openly discuss his religious convictions as he did back in 2007.
After all, remaining quiet and measured on the faith front may be part of his overall strategy. Considering that some prominent leaders like Pastor Robert Jeffress, now a Romney supporter, have made anti-Mormon comments in the not-so-distant past, the candidate may be avoiding any pot-stirring that could spawn further negative commentary and media reports.
As we've previously reported, November 2011 Pew Research Center results found that, while Romney may have experienced some negative results due to his Mormon faith in the primary race, his general election chances likely wouldn't be impacted.
With the RNC finally here, some Mormons, in particular, are anxious to see how Romney will address his faith. In an article from Deseret News, Linda and Richard Eyre outline "the 'Mormon' speech" they wish the candidate would deliver. They begin the speech with the following:
As we watch the Republican Convention, we find ourselves wishing that the general public knew Mitt and Ann Romney better — really knew them, not just as candidates and office-seekers but as people and as parents and as friends.
For the most part, Mitt has avoided speaking about his faith, and there are good reasons for this.
The problem is that his faith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are so much a part of who he is that it is almost impossible to know or understand him and Ann without knowing at least some things about the church.
Then, they go on to share text of what they would like to see Romney say in this fictional address (here are some of the highlights -- read the full mock speech here):
“Fellow Americans, as you all know, and as the media frequently point out, I have been hesitant during this campaign to talk in depth about my faith. I believe, as I think most of us do, that a person’s faith is a deeply personal thing and I also do not want to distract from what I think political campaigns should be about — namely political issues and political solutions.
“Still, I realize that as voters consider their alternatives, they deserve to know as much as they can about a candidate's ‘core’ and about his convictions. I have tried to be candid and open about my lifelong and deeply held belief in God and my love and devotion to Christ as my personal savior. [...]
“I would like people to know that most of Mormonism is very much like most other Christian churches, including the central focus on Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. And this conviction, more than any other, makes me who I am. We are also very similar to other churches, synagogues, mosques and other major faiths and places of worship in our strong emphasis on humanitarian service and our outreach to people less fortunate the world over.
Despite this stance, some, like Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, believe that there's no need for Romney to tackle his faith at the convention. While the prominent Mormon congressman sees no downside to Romney doing so, he believes there are other, more pressing issues.
"I don’t think there’s a downside [of talking about his religion], but I don’t think that’s what the American people want," Hatch told POLITICO on Monday. "I think people want to hear – what’s he going to do? Is he going to turn this mess around? Is he going to work at solving these economic problems that we know are in the doldrums right now and aren’t likely to be solved by President Obama, nice guy though he may be. The American people want to know: What are you go to do for us?"
It seems Hatch's advice isn't going to be followed by Romney, as he is reportedly planning to at least refer to his Mormon beliefs in Thursday's convention speech. Romney's senior advisor Eric Fehrnstrom says the candidate is planning to do anything but shy away from his religious views. POLITICO has more:
"So it’s something that the governor himself insisted on talking about," he said. "He will make reference to it in his speech and he will hear from other speakers at the conventions about the counseling and pastoral work that Mitt Romney did." [...]
"I think a lot of that curiosity that Americans have about the Mormon faith was answered four years ago," he said. "It's not necessarily from Mitt Romney himself but I think Americans look for an educationist process about the Mormon church and so here we are four years later. I think the frequency of those questions has abated. By the way, this is not that much different than what we went through in Massachusetts in 1994, when Mitt Romney first came on the state scene and ran for U.S. Senate — there was also a lot of questions from the people of Massachusetts about the Mormon church."
He added, "But when he ran again for governor eight years later, the economy was in recession and the budget was significantly unbalanced, voters were looking for a strong manager to come in and execute a fiscal and economic turnaround and so the questions that folks had about the church were of course answered eight years prior, because they were also much more focused on the economics and budgetary issues that were affecting the economy."
So, there you have it. Romney will provide at least a glimpse into his faith. However, we won't know how deep he'll go until we see his speech. What do you think -- should Romney discuss his faith more candidly? Take the poll, below and let us know: