As a Mormon leader, Romney grew, learned from broadened experiences
Taylor described a meeting in which Romney, near the end of his time as a stake president, addressed the concerns of women in the stake.
"He invited anyone who wanted to come, to come," Taylor said. "He had one of those big chalkboards and he divided the chalkboard into three areas: ward level, stake level and church headquarters. He wrote down all the concerns and comments in the area he felt they would be addressed. He committed to working to change those things on the ward and stake level that he could and promised to escalate those things to church headquarters that were on the list. I remember leaving the meeting feeling like I'd been heard."
Although there was initially plenty of skepticism that anything would actually change based on the meeting, Taylor remembered that most of the suggestions actually went into effect.
"Romney was extraordinary at making a quick study of assessing a problem and finding an imaginative way to go about solving it," Barlow said.
Barlow recalled how after a fire razed their church building, a diverse group of other local denominations offered their facilities to house Mormon worship services. Instead of accepting the offer of just one of those faiths, Romney chose to accept every offer from faiths that had sufficient room to house Sunday services. Barlow believes the decision built bridges between the denominations and fostered good will.
By most accounts Romney was known for his organizational management prowess and decision-making skills, but there was more to his role than that, said Kenneth Hutchins, a former Massachusetts police chief and a counselor to Romney during his stake presidency.
Romney selected Hutchins this week to give a prayer during the Republican National Convention.
"He was a great example for me of how a stake president should function, and he made sure not to run the stake like a business," said Hutchins, who succeeded him as a stake president. "Believe it or not, Mitt has a great sense of humor, he's always smiling; he's warm and gracious ... But, when we met as a stake presidency, everything was done in a very prayerful way, and we fasted quite often."
In 2007 Romney told the Christian Science Monitor that being a church leader was "a very weighty responsibility, which you take with a great deal of care and sobriety." Now, as the convention opens, Romney's campaign is preparing to again open a window to Romney's faith. On Thursday, during an interview on the Global Catholic Television Network, Romney said, "There's no question that being a pastor, if you will, a small ‘p' pastor, where you are working with people of all different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different economic circumstances, some employed and unemployed, as you work with those people, as you try to provide for them a positive path forward in their lives, you understand the very real concerns and pains people have, the struggles that they have. You want to help them... ."
To better understand Bishop Romney, Barlow suggests, one might start with Bishop Anybody.
Like Mitt Romney at a similar age 30 years ago, 37-year-old Tony Marsh has been bishop of his Los Angeles ward for more than two years now. And like Romney then, Marsh is a businessman, a senior investment banker with Credit Suisse, where he works roughly 70 hours a week, much of it on the road.
At home in Los Angeles, he is a husband and the father of four kids, ranging from 7 years old to an infant. Marsh spends between 15 and 20 hours a week on his bishop responsibilities, including almost a full day on Sunday. "And when I'm not traveling, I'm at youth activities every Tuesday from about 7 p.m. till 9 or 10," Marsh said by phone this week from Atlanta, where he had just arrived from Houston on business.
How does he manage all those roles? Marsh believes in heavenly support. "When you are called to be a bishop, you are given extra capacity to fulfill those duties," he said. "Your faith grows and your family is blessed."
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