Political Intelligence

Mormons who served as leaders with Mitt Romney to address Republican convention

Mitt Romney will offer voters a window into his Mormon faith Thursday night before accepting the Republican presidential nomination when the man who succeeded Romney as president of the church’s Boston stake delivers a prayer of invocation.

Kenneth Hutchins, a Walpole native, will address the Republican National Convention in Tampa, accompanied by his wife, Priscilla.

“I am honored and stunned,” Hutchins told the Deseret News in Utah last week, adding that he planned “to be in good enough shape ... to travel to Tampa and do what Mitt has asked.”

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Hutchins is battling lymphoma and has been undergoing chemotherapy.

Hutchins, 71, is the former chief of police in Northborough. He became a church bishop in 1987, at Romney’s request and took over as president of the stake when Romney ran for US Senate in 1994 and remained in the role until 2003. A stake is a group of churches.

Hutchins told the Deseret News that Romney’s oldest son, Tagg, visited his Belmont home to invite him to deliver Thursday’s invocation. He said he has great memories of his time as a church leader in Boston and “Mitt was an integral part of those memories.”

“I spent time with him there and talked with him and got to live with him, so to speak,” Hutchins said. “He was a terrific leader.”

Another local former bishop, Grant Bennett, also will speak at the convention Thursday. In the past, Bennett has spoken publicly about Romney’s leadership when a new Mormon meeting house in Belmont burned down in 1981. Romney used the fire, which some suspected to be arson motivated by bigotry, to forge relationships with non-Mormon churches in the area, Bennett told WBUR last year.

Romney arranged for his congregation to meet in Catholic, Armenian and Congregational churches after the fire, Bennett said.

Romney has recently been more willing to discuss his leadership roles in the Mormon church, although he steers clear of discussing its precepts. Some religious conservatives do not consider the church part of the Christian community.

Phone messages left at the Massachusetts homes of Hutchins and Bennett were not returned Wednesday. A Romney campaign aide did not respond to a request to interview the former church leaders.

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