Mitt's LDS roots run deep

Published: Monday, July 2 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

LDS roots

Romney's family history is intertwined with that of the LDS Church. The Romneys came from the English village of Dalton-in-Furness, about 280 miles northwest of London, and immigrated to America in response to the same kind of missionary work that Mitt would perform.

Mormonism was in its infancy in 1837 when the Romney family, headed by a carpenter named Miles Archibald Romney, heard a missionary speak near their home about the story of the religion's founder and prophet, Joseph Smith.

Born in the little village of Sharon, Vt., Smith was praying in the woods of western New York when, according to his account, he saw "a pillar of light exactly over my head." Two personages, God and Jesus, appeared before him, telling him that other churches "were all wrong." Several years later, in the same woods, the angel Moroni appeared to him, directing him to a set of golden plates on which was recorded the history of an Israelite tribe that migrated to America and became the ancestors of the Native Americans.

The Romneys were so moved by the missionary's story that they were baptized as Mormons and, in 1841, they journeyed to Nauvoo, Ill., where Smith had established a Mormon community. On Aug. 18, 1843, the Romneys had a son named Miles Park Romney, the great-grandfather of Mitt Romney.

A year later, Smith was assassinated and the Mormons were driven out of Nauvoo, headed for a new promised land of Utah.

The Mormons believed that the great mountains of the West would protect them from persecution and from hostility toward polygamy. Mormon men had begun taking "plural wives" after Smith said God told him to revive the Old Testament practice of polygamy.

When Miles Park Romney turned 18, he followed instructions from Mormon leader Brigham Young that he find a wife. On May 10, 1862, Miles married a woman who would eventually bear him 10 children, Hannah Hood Hill. One month later, with Hannah pregnant, Miles left to perform church missionary duties in England for nearly 3 years.

Two months after the marriage, on July 8, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed an antibigamy act, which prohibited polygamy in Utah and the other territories. Miles believed strongly in the church's practices and was committed to his mission to bring converts to America. He laid out his beliefs in England in an article titled "Persecution."

"Many, now, wonder why it is that we are so despised," Miles wrote. But Miles stood by his faith, writing that "from the earliest ages of the history of man, Truth and those who strictly adhere to its principles have been unpopular."

Miles returned to Utah in October 1865, meeting his 2-year-old daughter for the first time. The family was poor, possessing a small cook stove, a bed, three chairs and a small table. Miles, a carpenter, bought land and built a two-room wooden house. Hannah became pregnant again, and a second daughter was born.

"We were happy," Hannah recalled, in an autobiography written for her family when she was 80 years old. "We had two sweet little girls to bless our home and make it more happy and they bound us together in love and union."

Addition to marriage

It was then, in 1867, that Miles P. Romney had a fateful meeting with Young.

"Brother Miles P., I want you to take another wife," Young requested, according to Hannah's autobiography.

Miles faced the choice of obeying U.S. law, under which polygamy was illegal, or the head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He chose the church.

Hannah was distraught.

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