If I were running for president, I wouldn't want to answer questions either.
Christopher Hitchens (on slate) has written a pretty scathing opinion piece about why Romney's mormonism should be fair game for questions. I say scathing since it calls mormonism a cult and Joseph Smith a convicted fraud. Those are usually terms that do not win you accolades from most faithful members (of any religion for that matter).
I know I have readers that have many different backgrounds and paths (LDS and non). I think it's easier to write about this for someone not familiar with mormonism. Apologies in advance to my readers who already knew all this stuff.
But mormonism/a.k.a. the LDS faith is rather complicated. Defining the faith is like trying to hold a greased pig.
For example, on Main Street Plaza, every time someone tries to make a definitive statement about mormon/LDS policy, other posters come right back with "I don't know that they teach that" or "That's not my experience". See here, here and here. And in the end, aside from quoting from LDS leaders, I can't really argue against experience because everyone's experience is unique. And I acknowledge that everyone's experience is different - but I think there are some commonalities. I don't think anyone can argue (successfully) that mormonism is not a top down hierarchy.
And I can't quote prior LDS prophets (like Joseph Smith or Brigham Young) because some of their teachings are out of favor. (They weren't speaking from God, they were speaking as men). Although sometimes the current LDS leaders (prophets) like to claim the LDS faith is the same "yesterday, today and forever" - it's really not. It really changes with social pressure and culture. That's why the notion of LDS fundamentalists grates on the nerves of LDS leaders - because there should be no need to return to "fundamentals" within mormonism. But one can't deny there have been a lot of changes. Changes in the secret/sacred temple ceremony. Changes to the Book of Mormon. Outlawing polygamy and allowing men of African descent to hold the priesthood, for example.
You can't even go to a book like Bruce R McConkie's Mormon Doctrine any more. There are no definitive texts for what mormons believe and what they don't. You can go to the articles of faith - but those are fairly vague and can be widely misinterpreted.
Many people (particularly active LDS) like to compare Romney's run with Kennedy's in 1960. But there's a big difference between Roman Catholic beliefs and LDS beliefs. While they are both male dominated top down religious institutions, there's not a lot about Catholics that isn't open and available for anyone to understand. It's all pretty straightforward. There are no (or not many) secret/sacred places or objects that anyone off the street couldn't view or talk about. They certainly don't have special buildings (a.k.a temples) where members get married that no one knows what goes on in.
For all a layperson knows, they could be performing satanic rituals in there (and this is what is claimed by some fringe groups). They're not, and the temple ceremonies can be read and discussed on many places on the web. Fraternities and Sororities have these "secret rooms" and secret handshakes - but for some reason it's seen as different. I suppose it's that fraternities and sororities are more familiar. And while people make promises in those initiation ceremonies or whatever - they may still discuss them (which is how I know about them despite never having joined a sorority/fraternity) without fear of eternal damnation.
So, with all the strange past and secret/sacred beliefs, it's no wonder that Romney (or any candidate) doesn't want to discuss mormonism. Not only could the debate go on infinitely, it could become the focus of the entire campaign. Because it wasn't so long ago (in the 50s) that mormons didn't even want to call themselves Christian, they wanted to be called Mormon (this is no longer the case).
And as most of the readers of this blog know - the US political system is focused (too much so in my opinion) on every detail of the personal life of our elected officials. As if whether or not the president goes running or biking really makes a difference in the decisions he/she makes. Or whether or not the president's wife/husband or child becomes a lawyer, teacher or librarian. But these are all fodder for the debates and front page headlines.
My advice to reporters and concerned voters? I do think that a candidate's personal life and beliefs can be important (within reason). I think it is acceptable to ask questions about belief - particularly if you make assumptions about a candidate (are they really conservative? Are they really Christian? How do they really feel about women in the public arena?).
And I don't think it's unreasonable to point out the differences that a candidate expresses over what their professed organized religion teaches. Saying "all those questions have already been answered and refuted" is really not an answer at all.