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Sarah Jane Weaver
Paul E. Gilbert, president of the Tempe Arizona YSA Stake, left, sits by former presidential candidate Mitt Romeny and his wife, Ann, during a young single adult conference held at Arizona State University on Jan. 11.

TEMPE, Ariz. — Success in life cannot be measured by the world’s standards, but comes from loving God and his children, said Mitt Romney on Saturday evening.

Speaking at a conference for young single adult members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the former U.S. presidential candidate said that he has never been able to find a formula for worldly success. “There is a great deal of chance, or serendipity, or even luck to success in business, in politics, in science, in academics, in investments, in winning and losing.”

Therefore, the bad news is that if people define their lives by the standards of the world, then their success is something out of their control or something left to chance.

“The good news is that by God’s measure, success is entirely within your control. It is not in any way subject to serendipity or luck or chance. It is up to you alone.”

Romney and his wife, Ann, spoke during the final general session of the three-day YSA conference — held in the Grady Gammage Auditorium on the Arizona State University campus and attended by members of five local stakes. The stake presidents were seated on the stand.

“I am the only man on the stage that is not president,” quipped Romney. “I tried to fix that.”

Romney was invited to speak at the conference by President Paul E. Gilbert of the Tempe Arizona YSA Stake and the chairman of Romney’s presidential campaign in Arizona.

“I understand the theme of the conference is about obstacles,” said Romney, noting that given the outcome of his presidential campaigns people think he knows something about obstacles.

He said during the recent campaign he participated in 20 different presidential debates in the primary contest and three in the general election. He and Ann Romney attended hundreds of fundraising events and spoke more than 1,000 times. The last year of his campaign, the Romneys spent more than 300 nights in hotel rooms.

“So a lot of people look back on that and say, ‘It must have been awful.’” But, he said, “I loved it. It was fabulous. It was a great experience. If you get the chance to run for president, do it.”

The thing that made it wonderful, he said, was that “I met extraordinary people.”

A presidential campaign is an obstacle, he said. “It is a challenge. But it is also a terrific experience.”

That, he said, is the paradox of obstacles. “You pray not to have them. They are frightening. They are daunting. And yet they are some of the best experiences of your life.”

Noting that he was not talking about “tragic obstacles,” he said many obstacles can be a vehicle for learning, “where you grow in ways you could not imagine.”

Romney said many things in the gospel of Jesus Christ are also paradoxical. For example, the Jews expected the Messiah to be a great and powerful king; what they got instead was the son of a carpenter. And the prophet of the Restoration was not a minister; he was a 14-year-old boy from upstate New York.

“I think God must be telling us something in the way these paradoxes surprise us — where what we are given is so different from what we expect. I think what he is telling us is what we value may not be what he values. What we see as important may not be what he sees as important.”

Romney said Jesus defines success as “loving God and loving his children by serving them.”

During her remarks, Ann Romney shared her conversion story and spoke about “how I came to the knowledge of the Savior.”

She grew up in a home that “never had any religious experience.”

Then as a teenager she began dating Mitt Romney. One night Ann asked him about his religion. “What do Mormons believe?” she said.

What happened next was “the most extraordinary experience of my life,” she said.

“He said, ‘We believe in God the Eternal Father, in his son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost.’ Something happened to me when he said that. The spirit whispered to me so strongly that what he said was true that I burst into tears.”

Ann Romney said something had happened in her heart.

From that point on, even though she had not yet studied the teachings of the LDS Church, “I knew the gospel Mitt was teaching me about was true,” she said. “It opened my heart. Then I became extremely teachable to all these other things I needed to learn.”

Ann Romney said the knowledge that God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost were real became the foundation of her future life.

She said that having her husband run for president of the United States and lose was something most people “think was really tough.”

But “it is OK,” she said. “I still have the gospel of the Jesus Christ. I still have my husband. I still have my family. Everything is OK.”