Guess what: Mitt Romney is still Mormon

Let’s be honest: Mitt Romney isn’t exactly giving reporters many religion angles for reporters to pitch. He doesn’t talk about his faith much, so you won’t necessarily see how it explicitly plays out his policies. What’s a reporter to do? Write about his Mormonism, all the time, it seems.

Thankfully, we do have an interesting piece from the Associated Press about what that means, exactly. It’s not couched in polls about whether it’ll hurt him. It merely shows what practicing Mormonism looks like by following the Romney family to church in New Hampshire.

The Romney clan has attended the church in Wolfeboro many times before — only now the family patriarch carries the distinction of being President Barack Obama’s Republican challenger.

Not that church leaders or worshippers mentioned the new reality as, one by one, they stood at a podium to offer testimony, a custom in Mormon churches on the first Sunday of every month. Among those testifying: one of the many Romney grandchildren.

“My name is Chloe Romney and I’m visiting here from California,” the candidate’s middle-school-age granddaughter said from the church’s lectern, a pink flower in her hair. “I know that my family loves me and I like to go to church.”

I’m not sure whether the reporter actually expected the congregation to note Romney’s political work, but I did like the mention of the granddaughter’s testimony.

The family’s devotion to the Mormon faith is a part of Romney’s life that the electorate rarely sees. Romney almost never mentions it in public. And his campaign typically bars the media from seeing him participate in a religion that many Americans are unfamiliar with. But it’s a part of his life that could help him connect with a public that’s just now getting to get to know him — one that includes many church-goers.

What’s interesting is that what I observed was that Romney was much more open about his faith before 2008 (and obviously made his notable religion speech back then). It seems weird to almost suggest he could connect with the public by using his faith, almost as a political tool only and not as a legitimate way of explaining how his faith influences his policy. And just because the electorate includes church-goers, that doesn’t mean they’ll love the fact that Romney goes to church, especially if they think he goes to the wrong one.

Romney’s campaign doesn’t tell reporters when Romney is going to church. But the Wolfeboro branch is open to visitors and an Associated Press reporter attended the same sacrament service the Romney family attended. It featured bread with water instead of wine, a variation on communion that allows for the Mormon prohibition on drinking alcohol.

I like that the AP took the initiative to track his church down, going out of their way to not necessarily eat up whatever the campaign hands them. What I don’t understand is the mention of the bread and water, given that it’s not terribly unusual for any church to not offer wine (think Baptist church). The reporter seems to have some sort of expectation of what communion looks like.

During his presidential campaign, the demands of Romney’s faith can dictate how he spends his time; it requires as many as three hours nearly every Sunday for services. According to people familiar with his private schedule, Romney goes to church nearly every week. His faith also helps drive his fundraising; a significant amount of money comes from wealthy Mormon donors. And Mormon households across the country often housed campaign aides as they moved from state to state during the GOP primary.

Is there any ballpark number on the percentage of donations coming from Mormons specifically?

Some of the “color” the reporter uses to describe how the Romney family acted at church (Romney giving cereal to one of his grandkids), read like your average church service, though I’m guessing a few lines in this section would make those less eager for civil religion nervous.

As the first section of the service concluded, Romney and the congregation sang all the verses of “America the Beautiful,” a song he often quotes on the campaign trail. Many attendees departed while others prepared for the second portion of the service, a Sunday school for adults.
While church leaders moved to close partitions to prepare for the school, Romney chatted at length with others who had come to the service, including several who wore “Romney” pins on their lapels.

The story itself is fairly lengthy for the AP, so I know there wasn’t likely room for much more. However, I thought it would be useful to mention at least briefly the fact that the Obama administration is ironically almost opposite from Romney. 1) throughout his term, Obama didn’t really have an official church affiliation 2) his press aides do send out reports when he goes to church (holidays and such). I’m not making a value statement, but I think the contrast is worth mentioning, if we’re going to discuss faith practices of the presidential candidates.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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  • Alex Marvin

    Just to comment on what the AP article says about not using wine, in Joseph Smith’s time wine was used, but it was not alcoholic,(it was grape juice, which in ancient times was also called wine, even though it was nonalcoholic), and its use was discontinued, because of the possibility of the enemies of the church poisoning. When Christ comes again, it is believed that we will drink from the fruit of the vine again.

  • mapman

    I’m almost certain that the wine that Joseph Smith and Jesus used was alcoholic. It seems that the reason that its use was discontinued was that it was difficult to make wine in Utah. The Word of Wisdom prohibits the use of wine unless it is for sacraments and is “pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.” (Doctrine and Covenants 89:6) Elsewhere in the Doctrine of Covenants it explains that “it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.” (Doctrine and Covenants 27:2)

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Chas, didn’t Ann Romney say something like her husband is considering a female VP? Church leadership is different from political leadership.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    Chas, Romney’s chief of staff is a woman (and a Jew, I believe). She worked for him in that position when he was governor of Massachusetts.

    Ann Romney recently endorsed the Republican candidate for Congress from the 4th District in Utah, Mia Love, who is a daughter of Haitian immigrants (that means she is black) who grew up in the New York area, moved to Utah, converted to Mormonism and married a white guy. She has three kids, and is a fitness instructor and marathon runner, and serves as the elected mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah. During the Utah State Republican Party convention, she polled 70% of the delegates, meaning she did not have to run in a primary election, and is now challenging Jim Matheson, the incumbent Democratic congressman representing the Salt Lake area. If elected, she will be the first black Republican woman ever elected to the US House of Representatives. In 12 to 16 years, with more experience and a national reputation, she could be the next Mormon candidate running for president.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    On the materials used in the LDS communion (Sacrament of the Lord’s supper), the story was told by Ezra Taft Benson, who was sent to see the condition of Mormons in Europe at the end of World War II, that in one German congregation the sacrament used pieces of potato peelings that had been rescued from a US Army garbage can. President George Albert Smith was able to get authorization from President Harry Truman to allow the Church to send food to Holland and Germany, to aid Mormons and their neighbors. Among the children aided by those efforts was a boy named Dieter Uchtdorf, who grew up to be a jet pilot, Chief Flight Operations VP for Lufthansa, and now Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, famous for his humorous use of aircraft analogies in his sermons.

    While the speculation about the meaning of the cross is interesting, I believe the real reason Mormons do not use crosses on their buildings is historical. The Mormons originated in New England and New York, at a time when churches were built with steeples but not crosses. Crosses and crucifixes were associated with Catholicism, which was viewed with hostility by many Protestants into the early 20th Century (when Al Smith was greeted with language that makes the anti-Mormonism of today pale in comparison). The original Puritan churches had no decoration at all. Placing crosses on Protestant churches was an idea that started to gain currency about a century ago, and the fact that they are retrofitted items (like tiny crosses at the tall tips of narrow steeples in New England) is obvious.

    By that time, the Mormons had already established their own distinctive architectural language, with buildings like the temples in Kirtland, Nauvoo, and Salt Lake, and meetinghouses for Sunday worship which were multi-purpose community centers. The older meetinghouses contained murals depicting Christ and scenes from the scriptures. The old chapel on 5th South where the Japanese language ward used to meet (which my family attended when we first arrived from Japan) has a mural behind the podium illustrating the vision of the Tree of Life from the book of Mormon. The South Second Ward chapel where I grew up in Salt lake City on 5th East around 7th South, (which included several black families in the congregation) has a large stained glass window at the back of the chapel that depicts the First Vision of Joseph Smith, with the boy kneeling in the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Most modern LDS chapels are, like the old Puritan ones, unadorned with pictures, though there are typically framed depictions from the life of Christ in the lobbies. The primary evocations of Christ in a Mormon chapel are the bread and water used in the Sacrament, and the words “In the name of Jesus Christ” that conclude every prayer and talk and ordinance and blessing.

  • Dandini

    It sure is bringing authors out of the “woodwork” to put together books describing what mormons believe, without a lot of research needed…. making money off of the media promoted “mormon moment”….

  • Karen

    As a member of The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I wish to comment that while we have no problems seeing members of other faiths display and/or wear crosses, we do not, because we believe that the ultimate concept we embrace about Jesus Christ’s life and death is the message that He lives again, and we shall as well because of his atonement on behalf of all mankind, living or dead. We live with hope of the resurrection, and goals to be reunited after mortality with our loved ones, and in the presence of our Heavenly Father and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, throughout all eternity! Any who want to know more about our doctrines and principles will please visit http://www.mormon.org.

  • Ryan

    I appreciate the title of this post. Every time I see a headline come up about Mormons and/or Romney, I have similar thoughts.

    While Karen’s comment above (7) is correct, Raymond Takashi Swenson’s comment (5) about crosses is probably more accurate as to the reason why. What he writes agrees with the research I have done.

    I am Mormon and wear a cross daily. I received it in Russia during my time there as a missionary. I like what it symbolizes; it is not much different than the CTR rings most Mormons wear.

    The thing that I think about the cross is when people begin to use it as a magical talisman without which one is not a Christian. There are a multitude of historically Christian symbols (that get left out), and none of them are required by God for salvation. After all, what is it that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wore?

  • M.D. Hillyard

    I place absolutely no significance in the fact that Mitt Romney endorsed a fellow Republican running in Utah’s 4th Congressional District against a Democrat. Had he endorsed the Democrat, now that would be news.

  • Passing By

    Indeed, the spike patrol can’t be far away.

    I’m a Catholic and appreciate the Mormon threads here precisely because of the Mormon voices bringing additional facts and perspectives. Most of what I’ve ever known about Mormonism was negative. While I’m not convinced of the theology, I’m amused at similarities of the disrespect Mormons and Catholics get in the press. Civil friendship is a good thing, and I am glad for opportunities like this to express just that thing.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Friends,
    Please keep comments focused on journalism, rather than your feelings about Mormonism. I had to delete a bunch of comments that were offensive (or responding to the offensive posts).
    Best,
    MZH

  • Louise miner

    I appreciate this article because it is a non members experience in attending a Sacrament meeting and finding nothing particularly unusual from the experience. I invite others who are curious about our worship service to do the same. This reporter unveiled for the public that there are no secrets in our meetings, you will walk into the chapel and hear organ prelude as you find a seat. Precisely at the appointed hour, a member of The bishopric will stand at the pulpit and begin the meeting normally included is a welcome to all visitors. He will announce the opening hymn and who has been asked to give the invocation, which could me a male or female, or one of the brothers or sisters in the ward. After the prayer, the bishopric member will conduct ward businenss which is releasing and sustainings to new callings in the ward. Next is the most important reason members are there, the Sacrament. A Sacrament hymn will be sung to prepare the congregation to partake of the emblems prepared. Usually two (or up to four) priests, who a re young men 16 and older will give the Sarament prayers, first the bread, which is passed to the congregation and then the water. We do this in remembrance of the Savior and to renew the covenants made at the time of baptism, to repent and try harder during the coming weeke (hence the explanation of why brother Romney may go as often as possible … It’s not to out do anyone else’s church attendance.). Next comes a couple of talks and usually a special musical number. The talks are on gospel doctrine topics prepared by assigned members, brother or sisters in the ward. The meeting ends with a closing hymn and a prayer. This same format for this meeting is done all over the world. With that I invite anyone to attend a Sacrament meeting in your area and you will no how Mitt Romney worships. As the sign states on the outside of a meeting house, “visitors welcome.”


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