Descendants of the "first families of Mormonism," such as the Marriotts, Rollinses and Gardners, have helped open doors for Mitt Romney, New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg suggests in a new article. The ties to Romney run deeper than a shared faith, though, and delve into a history of overcoming challenges and rising to wealth and success.

"Mr. Romney's candidacy has produced great pride among many Mormons, known officially as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But for this core group of the religion's most prominent families, the ties to Mr. Romney go deeper. They share with him not only a faith, but also a dramatic history in which they have scaled the ladder of American society, starting as vilified outsiders and, after helping to settle the American West, rising to the heights of wealth and success within four generations," Rutenberg wrote.

"Several of these donors say that their giving has nothing to do with their business interests. And while that is a common refrain among major financial supporters of both parties, in this case the candidacy they are backing represents something bigger as it draws new attention to their religion.

"'I think for Mormons, particularly for prominent ones who already feel widely accepted and admired individually, this feels like a chance to also see their church, which they love, accepted and admired institutionally,' said Richard Eyre, a Mormon and a best-selling author who lives in Utah and is a friend of the Romneys.