(Editor's note: on Oct. 8, 1996, Mitt Romney spoke to the zoning board of Belmont, Mass., in favor of allowing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to proceed with plans for building a temple in the Boston suburb of Belmont that would include a 139-foot-tall steeple. Below are Romney's words from that occasion, according to an official Belmont document obtained by the Los Angeles Times.)
Hi, I'm Mitt Romney. I live in Belmont. I stand, and I'd also speak, in favor of a tall steeple, steeples for my church. And in the future I'm going to stand in this room for any steeple of any church that wants to be built in this Town, because I believe this Town and this State, this Commonwealth, and this nation needs more steeples, not less steeples, pointing symbolically to heaven, where I think the source of our blessings and the source of many of our questions come from.
Now, last week some of us put an ad in the Belmont Citizen Herald, and we displayed six other steeples there. They're taller in height than the one that's shown here or about the same size. Some were a little smaller. Some were taller. Those I find out in my driving around are not particularly hard to find.
I drove last week into work through the Mass. Pike, and I left my area, and I started driving, and I came to Plymouth Congregational Church. It's a relatively modest 90-foot-high steeple. Then I went into Watertown, and I came to Phillips Congregational Church. It's about 120 feet the way I tried to calculate it visually, and then I came across several churches that are built on the top of very tall hills, mountains almost. One of them was the Perkins Chapel in Watertown. That has a 171-foot-high steeple. Then I saw the United Church of Christ in Newton, a 160-foot steeple. That's my estimate. Then my favorite, which is the Trinity Catholic Church in Newton, 190-foot-high steeple, lit beautifully in the evening if you drive along the Pike on that hill there.
Now, some of us assert that these steeples aren't relevant, because they were built before zoning laws, and they're not in Belmont in some cases. They're grandfathered. Modern zoning, they'd argue, is designed to protect us against things like that. In my view that's wrong. Modern zoning is not designed to protect us from steeples. As a matter of fact steeples are what make our communities beautiful and neighborly, and they remind us of the things that are most important to us. I can't imagine anyone thinks a picturesque view of New England towns would be more lovely if all the steeples were lopped off at the same height as chimneys.
Steeples all around us are relevant in my view. From the Nation's Founding Fathers to the people who wrote our State Constitution to the people who reiterated that in the Dover Amendment, we are reminded that steeples stand above Town boundaries and Town zoning. The test of a steeple's reasonableness, I would say, is not bound by neighborhood or town boundary or zoning, because it is a religious purpose, which is being protected without restrictive boundary, because religious purposes provide us with purpose, peace, and perspective.
In my view, the notion should be rejected that steeples on a house of God can stand no taller than chimneys on the house of a man.
Now, as I've been across Belmont, and as I've driven across Massachusetts, and throughout Boston, I see that tall steeples stand above our homes and businesses everywhere. In my view they remind us that we were brought here and preserved in this land by providence.
They typify our diversity, representing a host of faiths and a host of people. To some they're like guideposts standing for constant answers in a changing and troubling world. As graffiti begins to corrupt our edifices — even in Belmont, I've noticed — I celebrate this physical witness of God's hand open to all his children.
I want more steeples. I'm not concerned with the faith they represent. Belmont's a Town of diversity and acceptance. Each church and synagogue in my view is a testament of our appreciation for our differences in some things, but our unity in the recognition of the family of mankind.
When our church was burned a few years ago or several years ago, the Armenian Protestants and the Catholics and the Congregationalists invited us into their sanctuaries to use their meetinghouse, which we did for a number of months, and when Armenia was rocked by earthquake, a friend of mine, a prominent member of our faith contributed to build a cement factory in Armenia that would go on to build 100,000 homes.Comment on this story
Nothing has brought home more the fact that acts of love go across boundary of faith and culture and even nations than the fact that I just recently got a letter — or read the letter in the Belmont Citizen Herald from the local ministers in this community supporting the building of this temple.
I submit to the Board that these steeples are reasonable. They're reasonable in relationship to the other magnificent steeples in our greater community and reasonable in the light of he who they are designed and dedicated to help us remember, and I respectfully petition the Board to approve the steeples of my temple as it has churches in the past, and I hope it will do, and I will fight to do for other churches of other faiths in the future.