Romney: 'I'm Not Running for Pastor-In-Chief'

ByABC News
February 17, 2007, 9:26 PM

Feb. 18, 2007 — -- Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, together with his wife Ann, faced up to questions about their political, religious, and private journeys in an interview with ABC News' chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos on Friday.

"I'm not running for pastor-in-chief. I'm running for commander-in-chief," Romney said, dismissing concerns about the influence of his Mormon faith on his politics. "If I'm lucky enough to be elected president of this country and I take that oath of office, there will be no higher promise than to abide by the Constitution and the rule of law."

In light of speculation among political analysts as to whether his Mormonism will alienate the Evangelical vote, the former governor highlighted common values and beliefs shared by all religions.

"I think we are, if you will, one family of humanity," Romney said, in what appeared to be an attempt to reach out to voters suspicious of his religious affiliation.

While discussing the Mormon faith, Stephanopoulos asked Romney how Muslims might view the Mormon doctrine that teaches that Jesus will probably return to the United States and reign on earth for 1,000 years. Romney responded by saying "that doesn't happen to be a doctrine of my church."

"Our belief is just as it says in the Bible, that the messiah will come to Jerusalem, stand on the Mount of Olives, and that the Mount of Olives will be the place for the great gathering and so forth," he said.

But when contacted by ABC News for a clarification of Mormon theology, a church spokesperson said the Mormon Church does teach, in part, that Jesus will someday return to North America.

"We believe that Christ will return again to the Earth, and while that day is not imminent, it is our responsibility to prepare for that eventuality. One appearance will be to the new Jerusalem and another will be to the Jerusalem of the old world," said spokesperson Michael Purdy. "It is our belief that the new Jerusalem will be established within the state of Missouri."