comments_image Comments

7 Ways Mormonism Shaped Mitt Romney

For many, religion goes to the core of their belief system, so what does it mean for Mitt to be a Mormon?

Say what you will about Mitt Romney; he is a devoted to his religion. A multi-generational Mormon, he has held high-ranking leadership positions and donated millions of dollars to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). For many, religion goes to the core of their belief system, so what does it mean for Mitt to be a Mormon? Of course, Mitt is not just any Mormon; he inherited the special status that comes with being the son of a wealthy Governor. Looking into Mitt's religious experience might provide some insight into his character and an explanation to some of the things he says on the campaign trail.

1. Mormons are expected to spend a couple of years as missionaries and, when Mitt's time came, he was sent to France.

While in France, Mitt was involved in a terrible car wreck that claimed the life of his supervisor's wife. When his supervisor went home for the funeral, Mitt was left in charge of the French effort. He immediately moved from the countryside to a home in the wealthy district of Paris complete with artwork and servants. By all accounts, the young Romney led a heroic effort of converting over 200 French people to a religion that prohibits drinking any alcohol, including wine. If Mitt seems undaunted by taking unpopular positions (i.e. more tax cuts for the wealthy), it could stem from his days of selling austerity to the French.

2. There is a well known strong puritanical streak that runs through Mormonism.

The "Word of Wisdom" requires members to abstain from not only alcohol, but also tobacco, coffee and tea. In addition, they are supposed to refrain from sex until marriage. Non-Mormons are not even allowed at the wedding ceremony, including family members of the bride or groom. Although Mitt admits to tasting a beer and sampling a cigarette during his wild teenage days, he's been squeaky clean ever since. And while this demonstrates a determination and discipline that is admirable, it makes me wonder how relatable he is to most Americans.

3.There are no paid clergy in the LDS.

Instead, they rely on members to take on temporary leadership roles. Mitt took his first turn at 30 years old (in 1977) as a counselor to the President of the Boston stake. Among other responsibilities, he counseled fellow Mormons who were going through tough times: lost jobs, marriage troubles, unwanted pregnancies. Peggie Hayes has told about being an overwhelmed single mother who was pregnant with her second child. She went to her friend and LDS Bishop at the time, Mitt Romney, who advised her to put her unborn child up for adoption, even threatening her with excommunication. Being a counselor to struggling people gave Mitt an opportunity to see suffering up close, although he wouldn't deviate from his opinion of what it meant to be a "good Mormon.'

4. In its August cover story, Bloomberg Magazine chronicled how the Mormon church has become a business empire, owning corporations in a variety of industries that bring in $1.2 billion annually, as well as an estimated stock (and bond) pile of $6 billion. 

LDS has been accused of blending spiritual values with financial success, seeing the latter as a blessing from God and a way to improve life for its members. Mitt embodies this glorification of materialistic success. At 37, he was tapped to head Bain Capital, which would use leveraged capital to invest in businesses. While he never managed any of the companies they bought, he was effective in making money for investors and himself, even if profits came at the expense of slashing jobs or piling up debt for the companies.Mitt and the Mormons are proud of their achievements, even if they do not want anyone to know the details of their business or the extent of their wealth.

See more stories tagged with: