The Mormon church is distinct from many other American denominations in what it asks from adherents in money, time and commitment -- and not just because it asks young Mormon males to spend two years proselytizing for the faith as missionaries, said Jan Shipps, a religion professor at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, and one of the preeminent non-Mormon authorities on the church.
Romney has spoken about the 30 months he spent in France as a missionary, but his role within the church as an adult is largely unexplored. Shipps said Romney has held several significant posts within church leadership, including bishop and "stake" president, a leadership post that covers a sizeable geographic area and requires a significant commitment of time.
Beyond that, Romney appears to have lived up to rigid financial requirements within the church that asks parishioners to contribute 10 percent of their annual earnings.
"People choose their own way of deciding how to tithe," Shipps said. "I know friends who are lawyers who take 10 percent out of their fee. In the 19th century, they would take corn, or wheat. It's up to the person."
Stock contributions, negotiated during his high-wheeling deals while at the helm of Bain Capital, would not be unexpected, she said.
Bain officials said it is common in public offerings, whether in Silicon Valley, on Wall Street, or in private equity, for participants to carve out shares to be donated to a favored charitable cause.
Securities records show that Romney found ways to help include the church in some of the companies most lucrative deals, just as other executives at the firm found ways to generate support for their favored charities. Among the companies named on securities filings as "Bain charitable institution donees" were the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, The Boston Foundation Inc., Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund, and family foundations run by several top Bain executives.
In some cases the filings are vague about the way stocks are apportioned to the different recipients. In others, such as the 2000 stock sale involving DDi Corporation, the records show the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held 27,016 shares, worth $754,827 at the time of the sale. In a 2008 stock sale involving Innophos Holdings, the church's 50,301 shares were worth nearly $1.4 million. SEC filings for Marquee Holdings note that "certain members and other employees of Bain and its affiliates may make a contribution of shares to one or more charities prior to this offering, including … The Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
Romney's own family nonprofit, The Tyler Charitable Foundation, was also cut into numerous Bain deals. The nonprofit, run by Bradford Malt -- the Romney personal attorney who oversees all of the candidate's financial holdings -- passed those stock earnings along to a variety of other charities, including the church.