HOWARD, Wis. – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was confronted at a town hall meeting here Monday by a young man who read from a book of scripture published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and asked Romney whether he agreed with his church’s one-time belief that interracial marriage was a sin.

Romney, who is on the cusp of becoming the first Mormon ever to win a major party’s presidential nomination, became visibly agitated with the man’s line of questioning. The former Massachusetts governor replied to his question with a terse “No.” Later, Romney said that he would talk only about the practices of his faith, not its doctrines.

The questioner, Bret Hatch, 28, a local supporter of Rep. Ron Paul’s, read from typed notes as he asked Romney whether he agreed with a verse from Moses 7:8 from the “Pearl of Great Price.” As he began citing the verse, Romney interrupted: “I’m sorry, we’re just not going to have a discussion about religion in my view. But if you have a question, I’ll be happy to answer your question.”

Hatch asked his question. “If you become president,” he asked, “do you believe it’s a sin for a white man to marry and procreate with a black?”

“No,” Romney said. “Next question.”

A few minutes later, after another voter asked him about his ability to connect to average Americans, Romney returned to the subject of his faith.

“This gentleman wanted to talk about the doctrines of my religion,” Romney said, referencing Hatch. “I’ll talk about the practices of my faith.”

He went on to describe his work as a volunteer lay pastor for his Mormon congregation in the Boston area. “That gave me the occasion to work with people on a very personal basis that were dealing with unemployment, with marital difficulties, with health difficulties of their own and with their kids,” Romney said.

“Most Americans, by the way, are carrying a burden of some kind,” Romney continued. “You don’t see it. We see someone on the street, they smile and say, ‘Hello.’ But behind them they are carrying a bag of rocks. It may be their own health difficulties. It may be concern about a job. It may be inability to pay for the home or the college they were hoping to pay for for a child.”

Romney added, “When you get a chance to know people on a very personal basis, whether you’re serving as a pastor or as a counselor or in other kinds of roles, you understand that every kind of person you see is facing some challenges. And one of the reasons I’m running for president of the United States is I want to help people, I want to lighten those burdens.”

Clarification: This post has been updated to reflect that the book referred to by a man questioning Mitt Romney’s stance on Mormon doctrine was a Mormon publication, “Pearl of Great Price.”

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