As we watch the Republican Convention, we find ourselves wishing that the general public knew Mitt and Ann Romney better — really knew them, not just as candidates and office-seekers but as people and as parents and as friends.
For the most part, Mitt has avoided speaking about his faith, and there are good reasons for this.
The problem is that his faith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are so much a part of who he is that it is almost impossible to know or understand him and Ann without knowing at least some things about the church.
So forgive us for being presumptuous, but here is a hypothetical speech we wish Mitt Romney would give — and whether or not he does, we can at least share it as our thoughts about serving and parenting in the LDS Church.
“Fellow Americans, as you all know, and as the media frequently point out, I have been hesitant during this campaign to talk in depth about my faith. I believe, as I think most of us do, that a person’s faith is a deeply personal thing and I also do not want to distract from what I think political campaigns should be about — namely political issues and political solutions.
“Still, I realize that as voters consider their alternatives, they deserve to know as much as they can about a candidate's ‘core’ and about his convictions. I have tried to be candid and open about my lifelong and deeply held belief in God and my love and devotion to Christ as my personal savior.
“As most everyone knows by now, the church where I worship and where I practice my faith is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nicknamed, somewhat unfortunately, Mormonism. Those who want to know more about this denomination or who have questions about it should go to the church’s sources itself, at Mormon.org or LDS.org.
“It is not appropriate for me to speak for or on behalf of the church, but as I talk about myself and about why I am running for president, it is important that I not omit the parts of me that were shaped and defined by my faith.
“I would like people to know that most of Mormonism is very much like most other Christian churches, including the central focus on Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. And this conviction, more than any other, makes me who I am. We are also very similar to other churches, synagogues, mosques and other major faiths and places of worship in our strong emphasis on humanitarian service and our outreach to people less fortunate the world over.
“But today, I would like to point out a couple of aspects of my church that are quite unique, that differ with traditional Christianity, and that have had a great deal to do with how I have lived and prioritized my life.
“First is that the LDS Church operates with a lay ministry — that is, our clergy is not made up of professional priests or ministers, but of unpaid volunteers who are called to be bishops and teachers and auxiliary leaders within the church. This has had a profound effect on my life and on my perspective — and on Ann’s and on all of our family.
“I served for nearly five years as the bishop of our Boston congregation — called a ‘ward’ and similar to a parish. I then served for another eight years as the president of our ‘stake,’ which is a group of wards and might be compared to a diocese. During those 13 years I did my best to lead large congregations, but perhaps more importantly I ministered to countless families and individuals across the widest possible economic and social spectrum. I became deeply involved with the problems and concerns of every conceivable kind of poverty, domestic situation, racial issue and interpersonal crisis. Many of my paradigms and perspectives, and certainly much of the empathy I feel for all Americans today, were shaped by these experiences. In addition, as a much younger man, I spent two and a half years as a full-time volunteer missionary in the poorest areas of Paris doing all I could to help those in both physical and spiritual need.
“The second aspect of my church that I think is relevant to what voters need to know about me is my church’s highly family-centric theology. Mormons put huge emphasis on the importance of families as the basic unit not only of our society and our economy, but also of God’s plan and purpose for the mortality of us, his children. The church offers extensive youth programs, music and sports activities, parenting classes and ‘family home evenings’ to help keep parents and children together and to pick up the pieces when family relationships are strained or come apart.
“The highest form of marriage in our church is not ‘till death do you part,’ but ‘for time and all eternity.’ We literally believe that ‘families are forever.’ Ann and I have tried to make the raising of our five sons our highest priority, and I tell you this because it is an integral part of why I am running and of the kind of president I would be. I want America to be as great if not greater for our children and grandchildren as it has been for us. I believe that parents are this country’s most important special interest group. And I would like every policy and direction of a Romney presidency and of the Congress I work with to be considered from a family impact standpoint.
“America is great because of our unprecedented ability to blend cultures, faiths, and traditions and to draw the best from all of them. Even as we celebrate our diversity, we can gain strength and unity from the common values and priorities that we share. Understanding and appreciating the unique aspects of our faith can help us know each other better and trust each other more.”
Richard and Linda are the founders of Joyschools.com and New York Times No bestselling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.joyschools.com or at www.valuesparenting.com.