Below are my thoughts concerning Mitt Romney as President of the United States. These are my own opinions and statements and are in no way official statements from my employer (thank goodness I still have one), the Romney campaign (which I don’t work for) or the LDS Church (which I belong to).
Mitt Romney at one of his presidential campaign rallies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I woke up the other morning and found out that pastor Bill Keller is claiming that nearly 1.4 million Christians are writing in Jesus on their ballot.
I’m absolutely committed to the ideal of Jesus Christ being our leader. He is 100% + infinity the MOST qualified to lead us. But, He will never force His will on us. We have to choose Him. Christ’s leadership of us doesn’t have anything to do with marking a bubble on a ballot. Keller’s insistence that Christians place Jesus as their write-in during the most important election in world history is a cynical, self-serving, and self-promotional publicity stunt. I’m sure he has a book in the works for when the initiative fails. It will sell tens and tens of copies.
From a Mormon perspective, there’s no use arguing with Mr. Keller’s tedious repetition of long-refuted anti-Mormon demagoguery in justifying his bigotry against members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There’s literally “nothing to it”.
Instead, because there are still too many people wondering if a Mormon can be a good president, I want to highlight why Mitt Romney—and indeed many faithful Mormons, male and female—would be the best president.
First, let’s focus on the word “President”. It’s an understatement to say that it’s a term that pervades Mormon vocabulary. The terms “presidents” and “presidency” are absolutely infused into its culture.
We have a prophet whom we address as “President”, along with his two counselors. There is a Presiding Bishopric. There are several presidents of quorums of seventy, of areas, of “stakes” (similar to a diocese), bishops of large congregations or “wards”, and presidents of small congregations or “branches”.
There are male and female presidents of ward quorums and relief societies. There are presidents of young men and young women’s groups. The Mormon Church is simply overflowing with presidents and presidencies. It’s how we roll.
“So what,” one may ask. “Anybody can call himself ‘president’ if they want. How does this prove Romney is presidential material?”
Mormon Ecclesiastical Presidents Personify the Founders’ Definition of Public Virtue
“President” in the Mormon church is more than just a title. In the case of prophets, bishops, and stake presidents, the title “president” is accompanied with a heavy dose of massive responsibility for a lot of people, and often, despite anti-Mormon armchair fiscal analysis, with limited, consecrated resources. And, this work is 100% voluntary in addition to the person’s vocation.
Men and women are called to presidencies whether they are corporate CEOs or middle school janitors or unemployed. They are not selected on the basis of their wealth, societal status, intellect, organizational skills, or innate leadership capabilities. Mormons believe their leaders are chosen by God, through 100% inspiration, via prayers of and revelation to other leaders. They are formally called in a public congregation setting, set apart (consecrated), and sustained voluntarily and, 99.9% of the time, unanimously by the congregations they serve.
Bishops and Stake Presidents bear the awesome task of caring for the physical welfare and spiritual needs of between 300-500 and 3,000-5,000 church members, respectively. They do so with the help of two counselors, a clerk, a secretary, and presidencies of auxiliary organizations at all levels and among all facets of church life: a “presidential cabinet”, if you will.
It’s literally a second full-time job. But for those who serve in public office and work and serve in ecclesiastical positions, they are literally serving at 3 times the capacity of the average American.
And they do it without pay.
The term “public virtue”—as it was used in the era in which the Foundering Fathers built the structure of our nation—means to serve without regard to remuneration or one’s own wants and needs. It was to sacrifice everything to the noble service of the public good and one’s country. The Founders’ practice of public virtue is a shining light on a hill for all of us to look to, and a candlestick to pass along to each generation behind us.
Some may still not be convinced that being called a president in one’s church equates to being capable of being President of the Free World. In theory, that is a reasonable objection. In practice it is not. Though it would seem to some that theory and practice in that last sentence ought to switch places, Mormon presidents quickly find out that local groups of people are every bit as human and, at times, as difficult and as stubborn as people in the world writ large.
How Mormons Produce So Many “Natural” Leaders
You must understand that Mitt Romney didn’t arrive at his leadership excellence by accident, by caste, or by mere virtue of genetic inheritance. As he stated in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, his mother and father started out poor and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, with the grace of God as the wind in their sails.
In the Mormon church, leadership is taught from day one…through example. Fathers and mothers are taught, and are expected to teach, their children with love and respect. They work to correct them early, often and with loving compassion when they make mistakes. Children are taught to honor and respect their parents as their natural leaders in the family unit, which Mormons consider the bedrock of society. Mitt had both a loving father and mother, both truly devoted to each other, and he and his wife, Ann, have passed along those traits to their five boys through teaching by example.
Children, through their “Primary” (children’s Sunday School) years, learn songs and scriptures that are brimming with examples of Christ’s leadership as well as leadership of Biblical, Book of Mormon, and latter-day prophets. They hear histories of pioneers who made a barren desert valley bloom, where nobody thought anything could grow, under the leadership of the near-legendary, but very real Brigham Young.
At the age of twelve, their leadership training becomes “hands-on” as the young men are given position of authority and responsibility as Deacons, Teachers, and Priests and the young women take charge of their own personal development and activity programs to prepare them for motherhood, careers, or both if they choose.
Missionary work also plays a critical role in developing leadership, diplomacy, and intercultural communication skills. Mitt Romney served in France, where he undoubtedly learned how to manage cultural differences to get along with a series of companions and multiple individuals he taught and served.
Members are “called” to specific roles and responsibilities (known as ministry in other denominations). It’s a process of daily thought and prayer by, and revelation to, other senior leaders in the Church. Mitt participated in extending callings to numerous individuals based on “perspiration and inspiration”, and not desperation or expediency, resulting in voluntarily unanimous decision-making among he and his “cabinet”.
Does Mitt Intend to Rule the United States of America as a Theocracy?
Absolutely not. Church doctrine actually forbids even the prophet to attempt to establish a theocracy. That is because we believe that only Jesus Christ will ultimately establish His Kingdom on the earth and that such will conclude when he appears again at His Second Coming. We don’t claim to know when that will be but we try to live and prepare as though it will be tomorrow—even though it could be another century or more away.
And, rumors that the LDS Church will somehow seek to directly influence a Romney presidency are just that…rumors. The Church continues to boldly and publicly proclaim that it has no intention to do so. The Church news website asserts, “This is especially ironic considering the partisan political neutrality of the Church, which does not endorse candidates or party platforms, does not put out voter guides and has some of the strictest rules of any church in America in forbidding use of its buildings and membership rolls for political purposes.”
Mitt Romney Knows Welfare
The LDS Church welfare system is well-regarded worldwide for its sustainability, efficiency, economy, and ability to put people back on their feet with dignity. That’s because it is a hand up, not a handout. It is a means of sustaining life, not maintaining a lifestyle. Its main product is not dependency, but honest, productive, useful work.
Anyone who wishes to engage with the Church to receive welfare “benefits” must work for them in whatever way they can. Those who are not able bodied enough to work for their welfare are accommodated as well.
Some recipients are asked to fill No. 10 cans with dry goods and pack them into boxes for shipment to areas of great need. Others repair used clothing. Yet others offer skills from their prior vocational training to repair vehicles, help with child care, and even train other workers. In short, nobody receives Church welfare without lifting a finger to carry his load. “We all have work, let no one shirk. Put your shoulder to the wheel,” as a favorite Mormon hymn states. (Though, my kids like to insert “don’t be a jerk” whenever we sing it.)
Now, I don’t know just what Mitt Romney has planned for welfare. But imagine if Mitt Romney looked to the Church welfare model he has already administered many times as a Bishop as a new model for American welfare systems. EBT cards (nee “food stamps”) would probably still exist. Nobody would lose benefits they’re receiving, other than free phones and get-out-of-jail-free-cards on the taxpayer dime. And the only dependency left in the welfare system would be that you only get benefits depending on your level of effort. No effort, no benefits.
Mitt’s Church Leadership and Foreign Policy
Mitt Romney is part of a worldwide church that just happens to have started in America. In fact, there are more Mormons outside of the United States than in, and it’s been that way for quite a while. Mitt is used to thinking about the global picture as he helps people locally. His donations to charity have included many worthy global charities that have made a lot of difference for real people. Mitt can see through the veneer of national borders and recognize that human beings all have basic needs that must be met before they can fully participate in their own self-actualization.
Romney seems at this stage to reject the tyranny of U.N. dictates and the foolishness of sending money as “foreign aid” to our enemies to curry favor. He understands that there are corrupt individuals in the world who would use our generosity against us. I’m absolutely sure that he will seek out those instances of counterproductive aid and root them out for good.
Yet he is also wise enough to recognize a diplomatic relationship-building opportunity through disaster relief. Again, the LDS Church’s world-renowned aid system could serve as a model.
Mitt is also fiercely loyal to our military, many of whose soldiers are also Church members. He would not have let the Benghazi situation get so out of control and ultimately cost us the life of four Americans. Mitt personally knew one of the Navy SEALs.
How Mitt’s Presidential Attributes Help You
Throughout his years as a Mormon bishop (i.e. pastor), Mitt spent hours counseling families who were on the edge of financial ruin. He taught them self-reliant principles of provident living that helped many get out of debt and get back on their feet again.
The Mormon Church has imbued Mitt Romney with a penchant for selfless service. There are many examples of Mitt Romney giving of his time and substantial financial resources that have only recently come to light. From looking for a lost child to stopping spontaneously to help a stranger remove a tree stump from his yard, Romney’s record on helping “the average Joe” is unassailable and in sharp contrast with almost any politico in the beltway.
Because Romney is too humble of a gentleman to tout this service, I will quote, at length, Newsday’s article to do it for him. Again, this is probably only the tip of the mountain of good things the man has done for others.
— After Joey O’Donnell, 12, died of cystic fibrosis in 1986, Romney built a playground in his honor. “There he was, with a hammer in his belt, the Mitt nobody sees,” the boy’s father and Romney’s neighbor, Joseph O’Donnell, told Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, authors of “The Real Romney,” a biography of the candidate. A year later, Joey’s Park needed maintenance. “My wife calls me up and says, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but Mitt Romney is down with a bunch of Boy Scouts and they’re working on the park.’ … He did it for like the next five years, without ever calling to say, ‘We’re doing this,’ without a reporter in tow, not looking for any credit.” — In 1995, Romney heard about the Nixons, a family who moved to Boston. A car wreck soon left their sons paraplegic. Romney called and asked if they were available on Christmas Eve. Romney, his wife, and sons arrived with a stereo and other gifts for the crippled boys. Romney offered to put them through college and supported them through numerous fundraisers. As their father told Kranish and Helman, “It wasn’t a one-time thing.” Beyond generosity, Romney has demonstrated organizational leadership and personal courage while aiding others.
— Melissa Gay, Bain Capital partner Robert Gay’s daughter, vanished while visiting New York City in July 1996. Then-CEO Romney closed Bain’s Boston headquarters and jetted to Gotham to find the 14-year-old. Romney flew in his 50 employees and transformed a Marriott Hotel into a command post. He consulted the New York police department and recruited private investigators. He dispatched staffers to enlist Bain’s colleagues. Bain’s printer, R.R. Donnelly, produced 300,000 missing-person fliers.
Bain’s CPAs at Price Waterhouse placed the handbills all over town. Duane Reade, a Bain portfolio company, stuck leaflets in shopping bags at 52 local outlets.
Five days after Melissa disappeared, someone rang Bain’s tip line to ask about a reward. The New York Police Department traced the call to a New Jersey home, where a 17-year-old had hidden the disoriented and drugged child, unbeknown to his parents.
Romney’s focus and management saved Melissa. She now is a happily married mother who teaches fourth grade.
— A home once burst into flames near Romney’s residence. Kranish and Helman report that Romney “organized the gathered neighbors, and they began dashing into the house to rescue what they could: a desk, couches, books” until firefighters arrived.
— The Romneys were vacationing in New Hampshire in 2003 when screams shook the Independence Day air. Some 900 feet from them, New Jersey‘s Morrisey family and their leaky boat were sinking into Lake Winnipesaukee.
Romney’s sons Craig and Josh sped into the lake on a Jet Ski. “We tore out of there, and my dad hopped on the other Jet Ski and came out right after us,” Josh told the Boston Herald.
They found three men and three women bobbing in the water in barely buckled life vests. Massachusetts’ then-governor pulled the two younger women onto his three-seat Jet Ski, while his sons assisted their mother. They then whisked these women safely to shore, along with McKenzie, their Scottish Terrier. Meanwhile, the three men treaded water under the sons’ watchful eyes until Mitt made two more trips to rush them to dry land.
Previously, while spearheading the 2002 Olympics, Romney and his sons used a boat to rescue several kayakers when high winds slammed them onto rocks.
As well, a family the Romneys sold their Utah home to were stunned when Mitt personally took time to teach them about the home’s systems and quirks before handing over the keys.
Who does that? Mitt Romney does that.
That’s the kind of man you will get with Mitt Romney as president: a man who sees a problem or need and executes a plan to fix it.
In my next article, I’ll cover some of the philosophies of Mormonism that connect quite readily with American exceptionalism, and how a Romney presidency would start from that context to rebuild a torn nation while preserving its fundamental freedoms.