To spend some time in Salt Lake City and its environs, as I did earlier this summer, is to enter a world where faith, family and neighborliness really do seem to fill the role that liberals usually assign to the state. There you can tour the church-run welfare centers, with supermarkets filled with (Mormon-brand) products available to the poor of any faith and assembly lines where Mormon neurosurgeons and lawyers volunteer to can goods or run a bread machine. You can visit inner-city congregations where bank vice presidents from the suburbs spend their weekends helping drifters find steady work, and tour the missionary training center where Mormons from every background share a small-d democratic coming-of-age experience.

And then you can read the statistics: the life expectancy numbers showing that Mormons live much longer than other Americans, the extraordinary rate at which they volunteer and donate, their high marriage rates and low out-of-wedlock birthrates — even the recent Gallup survey showing Utah leading all other states in a range of measures of livability…

It’s understandable that Romney would prefer to keep these aspects of his religion off the table. But by trying to insulate his campaign from the things that make his faith seem alien, he’s cut himself off from things that make his life story impressive, and his message compelling. If his personality seems hollow and his philosophy insincere, maybe it’s because he’s hidden the story of his people, and the deepest longings of his heart.