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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mormon Says Romneys Are Leading Church Into Mainstream


BOSTON â€" With Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, looking on, a prominent member of the Mormon church, J.W. Marriott Jr., told his congregation on Sunday that the Romneys were helping to lead the church “out of obscurity” and into the mainstream.

“There has never been as much positive attention to the church, thanks to the wonderful campaign of Mitt Romney and his family,” Mr. Marriott said during services in Wolfeboro, N.H., where the Romneys are spending the Labor Day weekend.

Mr. Marriott, who is the son of the founder of the Marriott hotel chain, reached into his past, recalling a story that showed how public perception of the church seemed to be shifting.

It was the mid-'90s, Mr. Ma rriott said, and the church had reluctantly agreed to participate in a “60 Minutes” segment with Mike Wallace.

“Didn't want to do it,” Mr. Marriott said, according to a pool report distributed to other news organizations. “Salt Lake encouraged me to do it. And I remember returning to my office, and there sitting in my office chair was Mike Wallace. And I was given a hard-back chair and Mike said, ‘You sit there.' ”

Then came the question about underwear.

“Of course the one question that they put on the air was, ‘I understand Mormons wear different underwear?' and I said yes, and he says, ‘Do you?' ”

Mr. Marriott replied that he did wear the undergarments and that they were really not that much different than a T-shirt and a pair of boxer shorts â€" except perhaps in one fundamental respect.

He told Mr. Wallace about a time he was involved in a serious boating accident and had been wearing the s pecial undergarments. “I caught fire; my polyester pants had burned off all the way to my waist. But my undergarments from my waist down to my knees had not even been singed,” he said he told Mr. Wallace. “And I said, ‘These holy undergarments saved my life.' ”

Mr. Marriott said that later, Mr. Wallace provided him a tape of the interview. When he finally listened to it, he said, he had only a spotty recollection of what he had said.

“I was obviously influenced by the spirit in some of my comments and remarks.”

Now, a decade and a half later, the church is starting to receive more positive attention in the news media, he told the congregation.

“So today we see the church coming out of obscurity, and we see that 90 percent of what has been written and said, including an hour on NBC and two â€" an hour and a half on CNN. Two front-page articles in The Washington Post, many articles in the national news, about the church â€" 90 percent of it has been favorable.”

He added, “And that's a great tribute to Mitt and Ann and their family for living such an exemplary life.”

Another churchgoer, who was not identified in the pool report, rose and told the congregation, “Never in my life did I think I would ever see as I'm watching the RNC â€" I would never see a Catholic get up and say that a Mormon is just as good as any Catholic.”