As a Mormon leader, Romney grew, learned from broadened experiences
"It was interesting to see him set aside that crusty exterior and become a loving and compassionate person," Puente said. "I was surprised to see how much he evolved on that front."
Like most church leaders, Romney encountered a few personality conflicts with some in his ward family and some have been detailed in various publications.
Not all who disagreed with him found him disagreeable. Helen Claire Sievers, a former ward Relief Society president who worked with Romney when he was stake president, is a self-described feminist, a Wellesley graduate, a staunch Democrat and the executive director of WorldTeach, a widely respected Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit. She is also a fan of Mitt Romney as a person and a church leader.
The essence of church service, for Sievers, is to look to lift the congregation, always asking, "How can I help each one have a richer life?"
"You find out a lot of that through visiting teaching and home teaching, (ward) council to hear the input from other people," Sievers said.
"That is what I love about Mitt," she added, noting that he was always looking for ways to "support his people and bring them up a plane, whether it's economic or social, spiritual. He looked at the whole package."
Growth and flaws are all part of the program for Sievers. "We are a lay church, and so we learn things by practicing on each other," she said. "We learn to be teachers by teaching, and we learn to manage things by managing things. None of us are very skilled at the beginning. Sometimes people can get hurt if our skills and sensitivities are a little lacking."
Sievers has occasionally encountered someone she was serving whom she doubted she could ever "learn to love."
"But you have to have that as the ultimate goal," she said, "You need to keep telling yourself: ‘I need to learn to be effective with this guy.' It's a great philosophy to have to carry around."
Contributing: Other Deseret News staff writers.
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