Kirk Jowers, a Mormon family friend who lives in Utah and chaired Mr. Romney’s leadership PAC, said that Mr. Romney’s contemplation of a third bid is motivated by an “almost devout belief that he needs to do something for this country.”

But this time, Mr. Jowers said, Mr. Romney would treat his religion differently. “In 2008, Romney risked being a caricature of the Mormon candidate,” he said. “Now everyone seems to know everything about him, and that will be very liberating for him to talk about his faith.”…

But many close to him also point to the perseverance he learned as a missionary; the sense of American exceptionalism and public service central to the church’s teachings; and his belief — buttressed by his faith — that if he feels in his heart he has something to offer the country, he is compelled to pursue it, regardless of the obstacles.

“There is something not only with his experience in the church, but with his family’s experience in the church back to the Mormon pioneer days — and the church ethos as a whole does inform his thinking and character and behavior,” said Philip Barlow, a professor of Mormon history at Utah State University who served with him in church.