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Everything You Need to Know About Mormonism

Pundits still haven't figured out how to talk about Romney's Mormon religion. Here's everything you need to know.

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Stephen “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” Covey is a Mormon. So are past and present Harvard Business School deans Kim Clark and Clayton Christensen, the CEOs of Dell and JetBlue, and NBA executive Dave Checketts. Mitt Romney himself was named for J. Willard Marriott, founder of the Marriott hotel empire and a close friend of George Romney. (Something Mormon-connected brands tend to have in common is that they are fairly dull.)

Romney clearly internalized Napoleon Hill’s lessons: His “Turnaround” is full of of Hillisms translated through business school and management seminars. He reprints the list of “Guiding Principles” he placed on each Salt Lake City Olympics Organizing Committee employee’s desk, as if being explicitly told to “Seek ‘Gold Medal’ performances in your own job” and “Don’t sweat the small stuff” is what really turned those Olympics around following the bid scandal.

That’s “what kind of Mormon” Mitt Romney is: the Chamber of Commerce/Fortune 500 kind, making a fortune but not too ostentatious about it, and always starting a meeting with a joke.

He’s by no means a fundamentalist, and as a non-­Utah Mormon, he comes from a less insular and conservative environment than many of those raised in the church’s stronghold. But young Mitt Romney, who admits to craving caffeinated sodas as a child, was sent to France during great political and cultural upheaval, and he was repulsed by student demonstrations and mass unrest. His response was to become much more Mormon — much more respectful of order and authority, much more “gosh” and “gee willikers.” More Brigham Young than Stanford.

His time at Brigham Young was Romney’s first experience living in Utah, which Mormons run as a sort of soft theocracy. Salt Lake City has a slim non-­Mormon majority, but the power rests in the heavily Mormon state government. Public schools feature Mormon seminaries, usually connected or across the street, and they give an hour a day to (wink-­wink) “released time.” (They also ban school events on Monday nights, which is church-­mandated family time.) Salt Lake City has faced ACLU lawsuits for selling public areas to the church, which then restricts speech in the areas. Non-­Mormons can face soft employment and housing discrimination, and what they do with their free time is … heavily restricted by the state.

Even after Gov. Jon Huntsman significantly relaxed the liquor laws in 2009, the regulations remain restrictive (last June, the state banned drink specials) and often bizarre. The New York Times reported on the current cumbersome state of Utah’s liquor laws in the summer of 2011. In restaurants, patrons can’t get drinks without ordering food, and all alcohol — liquor, beer or wine — must be hidden from view. You’re no longer limited to nothing but 3.2 percent beer, but getting a cocktail can be complex:

Stiff drinks and doubles are illegal in Utah. Bars and restaurants must use meters on their liquor bottles to make sure they do not pour more than 1.5 ounces at a time. Other liquors can be added to cocktails in lesser amounts, not to exceed 2.5 ounces of liquor in a drink, as long as they are poured from bottles clearly marked “flavoring.”

It is illegal to stiffen a drink with a second shot: under the law a drinker can order a vodka and tonic with a shot of whiskey on the side, but not a vodka tonic with a shot of vodka on the side.
 

Romney writes in “Turnaround” of being unprepared for a heated local debate over alcohol sales at his Salt Lake Olympics. It takes a secular newspaperman to explain to him that alcohol debates in Utah are actually about the frustrations of liberal religious minorities living under conservative religious rule, and Romney still doesn’t entirely get it:

 
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