Editor’s Note: Since Oct. 5th, C4P has brought readers a number of perspectives on the presidential race. We’ve written positively about Senator Rick Santorum here and here and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich here. Perhaps we’ll write about Congressman Ron Paul in the very near future. Who knows? Thanks for your continued support of C4P. Here is a different angle on the GOP frontrunner.
As a young man just out of high school, Mitt Romney spent three years as a missionary, serving the needy, and spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. Later on, he served 13 years as a lay pastor of several Mormon congregations in the Boston area, counseling those suffering from illness, unemployment, marriage troubles, and debt.
For much of his life, Mitt Romney has been a spiritual mentor and leader in his church.
Though we don’t believe in a religious test for president, a politician’s faith and spiritual practice provide a window into their character. Certainly Governor Palin’s heartfelt and unapologetic Christianity is part of why so many of us support her so strongly. We trust her judgment because we know she consistently seeks divine guidance. We love that she is a woman of faith. We feel confident in her intentions and motives.
By the same token, and though we’ve never had a Mormon presidential nominee before, many Mormons feel similar pride and confidence in Gov. Mitt Romney and his aspirations for the presidency. (Witness the enthusiastic crowds of roughly 2,000 and 9,000 who turned out to see him in Arizona and Idaho recently. Both states have large Mormon populations.)
Representing just 2% of the overall population (same as Jewish Americans), we Mormons are eager to overcome any barriers to understanding about our faith – and to represent the best of Christian good will in America.
Devout Mormons, like all followers of Christ, feel called to serve. We believe sacrifice is a duty of Christian discipleship. Like Mitt Romney, I served a mission as a young adult for 18 months in the early 90s, laboring in South Korea. As missionaries, we pay our own way. We receive no salary or benefits, and are not allowed to see family or friends during the duration of our service. We truly believe we have an important message about Jesus Christ to share with everyone, and as you’ve probably no doubt seen, we proclaim it boldly throughout the world. It is a joy to serve.
In our church, we also rely on an unpaid ministry – which gives every member a chance to serve and to grow in their walk with Christ in various capacities. Our congregations are run completely by volunteers. Everyone from the organist, to the choir director, to the Sunday school teacher, to the “pastor” receive no compensation. We serve gladly and diligently – if less than perfectly.
The bishop or “pastor” of a Mormon congregation often works upwards of 25 hours a week on top of his regular job and family responsibilities. He counsels the needy, provides material assistance from church resources, and serves as the spiritual guide for the congregation. A bishop feels responsible for the welfare of every person within the geographic boundary of the congregation, regardless of their church affiliation. I can’t think of a more spiritually taxing job in my church than serving as a “bishop” or area lay leader as Romney did for more than a decade. It would no doubt drive him to his knees to seek Heavenly guidance. Romney refers to this period of his life as a great blessing and opportunity to meet people from all walks of life – people he might not ordinarily meet. The L.A. Times chronicled some of the people Governor Romney impacted during his service as lay pastor, including one man who believes Governor Romney’s counsel saved his life.
As devout Mormons, we also feel obliged to walk the walk when it comes to charitable giving. With little fanfare, Gov. Romney has routinely given much more than 10% of his income in tithes and offerings. (His 2011 tax returns showed his charitable <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/mitt-romney-taxes-show-very-high-charitable-giving-005152039.html"giving at 14% — twice the average giving even by the wealthy. Some of the Romney donations went to cancer research, but the bulk went to the church.) This generosity and sacrifice by members allows our church to construct building facilities, and to provide humanitarian relief around the world during disasters and economic hardship. We maintain large warehouses of food and supplies for wide distribution in times of need. The Wall Street Journal recently ran an Op-Ed on our church’s welfare program which is built on the notion of self-reliance, helping people to help themselves.
Charitable giving is ingrained in members of my faith, as it is in all Christians, obviously. Many people don’t realize that Mitt Romney gave away his entire inheritance to his alma mater, Brigham Young University, to establish a school of public management. The sizeable donation was in honor of his late father, George Romney, the former head of American Motors and a three-term governor of Michigan who died in 1995.
Gov. Romney is a man of faith who has been extraordinarily successful in business, but clearly isn’t driven by material wealth. He gives a lot of his wealth away. He worked for no salary for three years as head of the 2002 Olympics, and likewise accepted no salary for several years while turning around a troubled company, and while serving as Governor of Massachusetts, where he inherited a $3 billion debt. I wouldn’t be surprised if he rejected the presidential salary, if elected.
Gov. Romney has stated time and again that family is the most important thing in the world to him, as it is to most devout Mormons. We believe marriage and family relationships are sacred and eternal — the most treasured part of life on earth. We believe no worldly success can compensate for failure in the home. We seek a government that won’t undermine strong families.
A devout Mormon as president could be counted on to see the wisdom in limited government. After all, it was runaway government in the 1840s that issued extermination orders on members of my faith. We see the First Amendment in particularly poignant terms given the early persecution that hounded the founders of our sect.
Indeed, Mormons believe God’s provident hand guided the framers of the Constitution. We believe this American nation is exceptional and reserved for divine purposes.
Obviously, religion shouldn’t be the sole or even determining factor in selecting a president, but for me, a practicing Mormon, it is a bonus consideration. I have every confidence that if elected Mitt Romney would govern with integrity, and seek divine counsel, in leading America to better times.
I look forward to the remainder of the primary season, to see who will emerge from the battle with the determination and backing to become the next president of the United States of America.
If we can’t have the best woman, may the best man win. And may the best man, whoever it is, be guided by faith.