McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed reports this morning that Florida Senator Marco Rubio was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was eight years old and was an active and “enthusiastic” member of the faith during his youth. In fact, Rubio’s name remains on the membership records of the LDS Church to this day.
Rubio’s family encountered Mormonism after moving to Las Vegas, a town with deep Mormon roots and a significant LDS population, in the 1970s.
While his father worked as a casino bartender, young Marco attended church (walking to the chapel when he couldn’t get a ride), memorized Osmonds tunes, and tagged along with his cousins on family vacations to Provo, Utah, where they toured Osmond studios.
His was a happy Mormon childhood, from his baptism by immersion at eight years old—most Mormon children are baptized at eight rather than in their infancy—to his eager participation in LDS youth social groups and his urging of his family members to attend their LDS Church meetings.
But when the Rubio family moved to Florida in the early 1980s, a teenaged Marco vocally encouraged his parents and siblings to return to their Catholic roots. He received his first communion in 1984 at age 13.
In his public life, Rubio has been happy to claim his connections to the Roman Catholic Church, as well as to the non-denominational Baptist church he attends today with his family.
Not so for his Mormonism. BuzzFeed’s Coppins notes that team Rubio went into “frantic damage control mode” when he contacted them to confirm the story.
That’s a revealing reaction—revealing not only about how Rubio’s public religious professions may relate to his political ambitions, but also about the status of Mormonism in the GOP today and the likelihood that now that his Mormon background is public Rubio will still be a contender for VP if Romney wins the nomination.