Byron York

Scott has his own view. "(Romney) was not obliged to brief them," Scott said in an interview. "He probably was obliged to let them know as a matter of courtesy before he would take some stands on various issues that would raise eyebrows, because he was a fairly important officer of the church."

In any event, the episode points to a brief period in Romney's life in which his roles as a church official and as an emerging political figure overlapped. (Romney declared his candidacy for the Senate on Feb. 2, 1994, and stepped down as a Mormon leader on March 20.)

Romney went on to lose in a campaign that featured Kennedy attacking Romney's religion. Romney pointed out the irony of Kennedy -- whose brother John F. Kennedy faced attacks on his Catholicism in the 1960 presidential campaign -- launching religion-based attacks, but to no avail.

If Romney is the 2012 Republican nominee, he will surely face similar stuff. Much of it will undoubtedly be ugly and unjustified. But there will also be simple questions about Romney's role as a church official at the start of his political career.

Lately, Romney has begun to speak a little more openly about his church work. In a Dec. 12 Republican debate in Iowa, he mentioned his overseas missionary service and said, "I also spent time in this country, serving as a pastor in my church." By all accounts, Romney did a lot of good in his time as a Mormon official, and that work was a significant part of his life. In the coming campaign, voters will want to know more about it.

(Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.)

Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner