As the current Republican frontrunner in Iowa, Mitt Romney is still anything but yesterday’s news. And Newsweek, in its October 8, 2007 issue, has once again raised the question: Can the United States vote for and support a Mormon President?
Clearly Romney does not want his religion to become the central issue of his campaign, nor should it be. The fact that he has established himself as a moral, God-fearing man should mean something to the millions of voters who are looking for just that in a President–regardless of which specific religion he chooses to follow. Yet the media, and Americans in general, remain curious about exactly what Romney believes and how these beliefs might impact his Presidency.
The article discusses his childhood and how his parents’ strict morality influenced his growing-up years. His parents were in fact members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), but children of many faiths have been raised with similar values. Like many active Latter-day Saint young men, Romney went on a mission at the age of nineteen. As the article relates, he grew a great deal during those months and emerged as a leader: more sure of himself, who he was, what he believed, and what those beliefs meant to him. Many Latter-day Saints serving missions experience the same thing.
The Newsweek article seems to view the mission as something of a curiosity–something Romney was programmed to do by his family and his religion. Certainly we see many youth today of varying degrees of conversion choosing to serve missions for the Church in part because it is expected of him. But one thing the media often fails to pick up on is how vibrant and living the faith becomes in people who live it. Church members don’t serve just because they have to. Many choose to serve because they sincerely want to. They have true desires to serve the Lord and help people come to Christ.
We don’t often see statements of faith like these in the news media. Mitt Romney himself has been careful not to bring these sentiments to the forefront. But that’s how it is–and perhaps that’s one thing people are looking for as they try to understand Romney and how he ultimately feels about God, the Presidency, and life in general.
This theme continues through the Newsweek article beyond Romney’s missionary years. His marriage, college years, and early professional life are all explored through the scrutiny of writers who want to understand how his religion has affected his life, yet miss the vital vibrancy of it all: People of faith want to serve. They want to live clean, moral lives. They want to help others.
The article goes on to discuss his Church service as a bishop (the leader of a local congregation) and a stake president (the leader of a group of such congregations). Those who have served–or watched others serve–in such demanding positions, know the kinds of things that he must have experienced during this time.
While Newsweek believes that Romney does not talk enough about his past or his true heart and soul, the authors of the article have this to say about him: “In fairness, it is true that Romney has the stuff of great presidents somewhere inside him…a strong work ethic, an insistence on sacrifice and a reverence for those who put the principles of humanity over the conveniences of the moment” (36).
Trying to learn about Mitt Romney’s beliefs through the news media–usually from people who don’t truly understand those beliefs–will only give you a distorted picture. I invite you to learn from other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints what those beliefs are and how those beliefs shape their lives. You can get a sense of this from the blogs here at LDSBlogs.com. Another good site is www.mormon.org. This is an official site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, especially geared toward people of other faiths who would like to know what Latter-day Saints believe. Only by really talking to and watching people who embrace the religion can you get an inkling of what those beliefs are and the difference those beliefs have made in their lives.