In a soul-baring session of emotional anecdotes, six GOP presidential candidates through tears and laughter confessed to foibles, failures and hardships during a forum Saturday in Iowa.

The two-hour Family Leader event felt at times more like a Christian prayer meeting or a dishy talk show than a campaign event, which made moderator Frank Luntz exclaim at one point: “I feel like Dr. Phil!”

Organizers with the Family Leader, an influential Iowa-based evangelical Christian advocacy group, wanted the unconventional event to elicit personal answers that revealed each candidate’s character – with none of the timers and buzzers of typical presidential debates.