Mormonism

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    Philip Barlow   Mormon historian

    (Text only) A professor Mormon History & Culture at Utah State University, Barlow worked with Mitt Romney in the leadership of their Massachusetts Mormon ward. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on July 19, 2012.

    Read the full interview »

    Let's switch to the other questions, the "weird religion" question. What is it about Mormonism that people find so mysterious?

    Well, people find Mormonism more than mysterious. Mysterious is a polite term for people often find Mormonism off-putting or tribal and too isolated within themselves, or just plain weird. There's angels to account for, and gold plates, and famously, these days, magic underwear to account for.

    The problem with all of that is that any organization of any size and importance is readily ridiculed and caricatured if you don't know about it, religion especially. ...

    But the garments, for instance, that faithful Latter-day Saints, committed Latter-day Saints, who have been through the Mormon Temple experience ritual, or endowment, as they call it, they wear garments next to their skin that is not so different than other underwear, but it has symbols attached to it that allude to commitment, living commandments as exactly as possible, to keeping God in mind in all your actions and things like that. That's very religious, but it's not too spooky or absolutely different than others.

    The idea that it's underwear is just waiting for Jay Leno and David Letterman to go after it, of course, but there's nothing more spooky or odd about it than a Sikh wearing a turban or a Catholic wearing a little symbol of an instrument of torture around her neck. Any of that could be ridiculed.

    And Mormons also carry around people's perceptions of polygamy, which sounds, in an era of feminism and sexual equality, sounds unappealing and foreign, and it sounds like a sex orgy or a harem. Those are echoing in everybody's heads, rather than them bothering to explore what that meant and how it actually worked.

    And there's the conflict. The fact that Mormons were booted out of several states and out of the country means in part that the press about them, the novels written about them, the silent movies trapped by the Mormons with spooky music in the background, it means that the nation carried around a Mormon bogeyman in their heads for more than a century, and passed that on to their children, many of whom have never met a Mormon.

    I actually have more than one acquaintance who lived in various parts of the country and grew up and had people had their playmates say, "Can I touch your head to feel for the little nubs of horns?," because they were raised to think Mormons had horns. So that's part of the cultural waters that the Latter-day Saints have navigated.

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    Growing Up Romney

    Scott Romney   Mitt Romney's older brother

    (Text only) Six years older than Mitt Romney, Scott Romney is a fundraiser for his younger brother. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on August 9, 2012.

    Read the full interview »

    Talk to me about the role that faith played in your family and how that was taught to you children.

    Faith was a big part of our life because we went to church every Sunday. As I said, we had family prayers on a regular basis, and Dad talked about religion on a regular basis.

    He talked about the importance of respecting other people -- not just tolerating, but respecting and honoring their faiths and their views -- but that it was important for us to learn our faith and to learn enough so that we could decide how we wanted to conduct our own lives. It dominated his life and my mother's life in a very important way.

    For people that aren't religious, help me understand what it gave them, how that impacted them.

    I think their values in terms of faithfulness and giving to charity and their desire to respect other people, their view about needing to help other people, all of those things came from that.

    And particularly my dad's background, he saw the need for people to help one another and to work with one another. He talked about that. He talked about how important that was, and how the early settlers in Salt Lake helped one another and assisted one another and their families. So it was a big deal. ...

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    Dane McBride   Friend, fellow missionary

    A Virginia physician, McBride has been friends with Mitt Romney for more than 40 years. The two met in 1966 while serving as Mormon missionaries in France. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted by producer Gabrielle Tenenbaum on July 13, 2012.

    As I understand it, it's a pretty intensive sort of schedule and time commitment throughout the day of what you're doing. Give me a sense of that day, of what a day in the life was like there.

    You'd usually wake up at 6:00. You're supposed to be out of bed by 6:00 in the morning. You get cleaned up, get dressed. You'd have time for your personal prayers, and you'd have a prayer with your companion as well. You'd study together, and then you'd study independently the language, the scriptures, the missionary discussions. For a new missionary, you'd be struggling and working hard to memorize these things. And the guy who'd already been there for a year and a half already knew this, so he'd be helping, and you'd receive instruction from your older companion.

    But you'd spend that time until around 9:00, 9:30 in the morning, and then go out and start trying to contact people with an eye to be able to teach them. That's what we were there for, was to teach people about our faith. So we would find whatever the best methods were for contacting people. The tried-and-true and well-worn method was knocking on doors. So we knocked on thousands and thousands and thousands of doors. ...

    Mitt Romney has described sort of in his own words that when he first arrived, his beliefs at that time were based on "thin tissue." I've heard you speak about this. But help me understand that Mitt Romney in his early days. Describe him for me and how that applied.

    Well, just think about the age. You're going from a young teenager to an older teenager to a young adult. That's a time when you start looking at, questioning, deepening your understanding, asking yourself the questions that by virtue of added maturity you'd start asking anyway, and this in a setting where you're teaching it to other people.

    So you really have to come to grips with, do I believe this? How do I know this is so? I'm supposed to teach this and then give personal testimony that this is true. That's part of the power of the teaching of the Mormon missionaries. But you can't do that unless you know it. I mean, it's really hard to if you don't know it. Just personal integrity won't allow you to do that for very long if it's not real inside, so you really come to grips with that.

    And so you really start studying the scriptures. You ask yourself the question, you wrestle with the scriptures, and you say, did this really happen? Did these miracles of Christ really occur? ...

    And part of that, you -- again, as I understand it -- especially during that time that you were living together with your third friend, you would have helped each other spiritually connect and teach each other back and forth. And so talk about that experience working with Mitt Romney in that period of time for the three of you together.

    Well, it's a little hard for me to focus just on that particular period. We worked again together in the last four months or so of our mission at the Paris headquarters of the mission.

    By the time we were working together, we had gotten through those first struggles like that, and we were both more seasoned, so it was more a situation of sharing some passage of scripture that had a great deal of meaning to us, and sharing our feelings about that, and saying: "Wow, that's really neat; I hadn't thought about that before. Thanks."

    Rather than persuading each other of things, it was a sharing of personal discoveries, and then having experiences in teaching people, and sometimes in having some very negative experiences with people that helped weld a bond between you as well.

    Talk about some of those negative experiences and those challenges.

    Well, oftentimes, a set of apartment buildings would be owned by the Communist Party, and we weren't necessarily apprised of that. So we'd start knocking on doors and get some very hostile responses at the door, people who were angry about the U.S. being in Vietnam; people who said: "You Americans are all racists. Why do you hate the blacks?"; and all these kinds of things. "Go home and straighten out your own country. What are you coming to France for?," and so on.

    And they got uglier than that sometimes. Sometimes you start walking away and some fellow would start kicking you in the seat of the pants. I thought it would be funny if one of those guys realized that they one day was kicking the future president of the United States in the seat of the pants.

    It didn't happen a lot. And you're 19, 20 years old, male; you're inclination is to respond physically to that. But you're a missionary, so you don't. Again, great maturing experience: restraint, learn to control your emotions and so on. ...

    Mitt Romney has been described by his sons, his wife as a jokester, a prankster. Was he that guy overseas as well?

    Oh, yeah. It was always fun around him. He was always laughing. He didn't crack a lot of one-liners. It wasn't like that. It was that he would laugh about our circumstances, and we'd sometimes -- I can't remember the specific little pranks, but it was things where you'd surprise or just have a good laugh at the other's expense. But you knew it was going to come back around. And so there wasn't any offense at all. I can't remember the specific ones.

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    Dane McBride   Friend, fellow missionary

    A Virginia physician, McBride has been friends with Mitt Romney for more than 40 years. The two met in 1966 while serving as Mormon missionaries in France. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted by producer Gabrielle Tenenbaum on July 13, 2012.

    In a letter to his parents, he talked about reaching out to people through singing and basketball exhibitions and archeology lectures and street meetings, etc., and even going to bars to try to spread the message. So talk about the creative ways you all came up with to reach out to people.

    Well, knocking on doors can get pretty old, so we developed what you'd call creative contacting, and Mitt was very good at that. I enjoyed that a lot as well. Others were more comfortable just knocking on doors.

    But Mitt was pretty creative. We would have an American soiree where we would invite youth groups or people we'd meet on the street and knocking on doors, and we'd invite them and maybe the youth in their home to come to it. Some of us play guitar, and we'd sing some Western songs or some cowboy songs, something like that. And we'd have a baseball night, or we'd have -- goodness, what else? We'd make hamburgers and serve some American-type food. And the interest in something a little exotic -- i.e., American -- was interesting for people to come to as well. So we'd make friends in that way. ...

    And for people that don't understand, what was the ultimate goal in talking to those [people]? It was sharing your religion. Was it trying to have them join -- tell me what the goal was.

    Well, the goal was to teach people, and with two endpoints in mind. One was, if they didn't choose to join our church, then to know more about it and have a truer picture of it rather than what they heard in a lot of very biased and misinformed press releases or articles. To this day in this country, there's a lot of misunderstanding, people who believe that Mormons practiced polygamy and those kinds of things. So our hope was to disabuse people of incorrect concepts about our church.

    But what we really hoped was that we'd be able to talk with them, share our faith with them, and invite them to come to know also that this was a truth that they could relate to and could bless and improve their lives.

    So ultimately, as with missionaries through all time, it is to try to bring people to know God and to embrace those truths and practices that are going to improve their lives and be a blessing to them and make their families happier. That message of family was very, very important, and it was a message that probably had the greatest response and resonance with people, so we stressed that a great deal.

    As I understand it, Mitt encouraged everyone to read the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Tell me about that book and the significance of it.

    Well, I don't know that Mitt encouraged everyone to read that. One of our church leaders, Howard W. Hunter, was at that time one of the 12 apostles of the church. He later became president of the church.

    But in talking with the missionaries, he said: "You may want to get the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and read that, study it. You're not here to be rich, but you can take those principles and apply the principles of success to what you're doing here."

    And so we did, and we studied that together and talked about the concepts and talked about how we would apply that in what we're doing. And then we did apply that, especially during the time that Mitt was the primary leader in the mission. Those principles, we'd go city to city and talk with the missionaries in groups there and employ those principles for helping to lift them and encourage them and to help reach goals that we had set.

    Tell me how you first learned about Ann Davies.

    Oh, goodness. I guess it was while we were driving around southwestern France. "You got a girl back home?" -- you know, as you get to know each other. "Oh, yeah." You know, "Boy, she's a beauty," and she's this and that and the other and so on. And he clearly loved her. Was silly in love with her. And it had been a hard thing for him actually to decide to go on a mission, principally because he was reluctant to leave Ann for that long. But he did. And so I learned a lot about Ann. ...

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    Dane McBride   Friend, fellow missionary

    A Virginia physician, McBride has been friends with Mitt Romney for more than 40 years. The two met in 1966 while serving as Mormon missionaries in France. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted by producer Gabrielle Tenenbaum on July 13, 2012.

    ... You described, I read somewhere, the fall of 1968 as an epochal moment in Mitt Romney's life. So tell me [about] that, and why you say that's the case.

    In June '68 is when the automobile accident occurred.

    Talk to me about that.

    Actually, Mitt at that point was in Paris. I was still down in Bayonne. We corresponded occasionally, but didn't have as close a communication as we'd had when he was in Bordeaux, so I was getting information secondhand during most of that time around the accident.

    But the accident had occurred. As you probably read, Mitt was driving the mission vehicle, the mission president in the window seat, his wife in the middle seat, which was the common practice back then, and a three-person bench in front. And then there were three individuals in the backseat. They were coming from, as I recall, the city of Po, and they were going to be driving up to Bordeaux where some of the passengers lived, and then they'd continue on to Paris.

    It was during that segment of the trip before getting back to Bordeaux that as they came around a bend, another car, a Mercedes-Benz -- I mention the Mercedes-Benz because it was like a tank versus this car that would tend to kind of explode on impact -- came around the curve in their lane, and they hit head-on.

    The mission president was injured badly enough that he had to go back to the States for medical treatment for several weeks. His wife was killed.

    You have to understand the mission president was like the surrogate father there; his wife, surrogate mother, the mission mother. And she was to many of us a mother there, so it was an awful loss for us that she was killed. And Mitt was badly injured and famously was bloodied, broke his arm and had bruised face and so forth, was unconscious when the gendarme came up to investigate the accident, and he was pronounced dead, obviously prematurely. And he recovered over the coming weeks. But I think folks in the backseat were not as injured. I think everyone was injured to some degree.

    But that was a difficult time. Mitt was the driver. I never saw that he blamed himself, but you always have a certain sense of responsibility when you're the driver and someone is badly injured or killed in your car. I don't believe he was one to beat himself up over that, but it was still a lot for a 20-, 21-year-old young person to take in, process, and move on. But he had the maturity to know that you have to put some things behind you and move on ahead. There was a job to do, and we're going to do it, and he did that.

    ... It clearly wasn't his fault -- someone hit him -- but as you say, that responsibility. And yet it's pretty amazing to me that he was able to pick up and move forward without needing to go home or to take that time or to go away.

    I think part of that is because of our faith, the fact that [we have] a deep conviction that this isn't the end of all life; it's just the end of mortal life, and that we'll regather afterward, and that there's purpose beyond this life, and that Sister [Leola] Anderson now had gone on and would be involved in great work going on on the other side of the veil, and that our job now was to make a success of what she had been there for and what she had nurtured us for, and that that's what you have to do.

    Again, you learn to cope with, in this case, a tragic loss even. But you're learning to cope every day with difficulties. Again -- and those are the kinds of things that cause someone to come back a much more mature individual two years later, as opposed to just being off at college and having a great time.

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    Ann Romney   Mitt Romney's wife.

    Born Ann Davies, she met Mitt Romney in high school and the couple married in 1969, three months after Mitt returned from being a missionary in France. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted by producer Gabrielle Tenenbaum on Sept. 11, 2012.

    And not soon after you started dating, he left first to go to Stanford, and then he went on his mission. And while he was there, he was in a very serious car accident. How do you think that experience impacted him?

    I think that accident, where he was actually pronounced dead at the accident, and where the passenger -- he was driving. And, you know, it was a head-on. And he didn't even have time to brake. Someone came over the hill and hit him straight head-on. So I think it was a very crucial moment in his life, where you realized that life can be so fleeting. And the person sitting right next to him, the mission president's wife, was killed. And the mission president was very seriously injured, as was Mitt.

    But when those things happen to you, I think it's time to grow up and to say: "Life is serious. Life is fleeting. Life is precious." And then Mitt was given a great deal of responsibility afterward as well, to help run the mission, while the mission president was recovering from his injuries. And, you know, Mitt was thrown right into some very difficult situations as a very young man. And I think he left behind his boyhood, I would say, on that roadside. And I would say he learned that life is fleeting.

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    Romney as a Leader

    Dane McBride   Friend, fellow missionary

    A Virginia physician, McBride has been friends with Mitt Romney for more than 40 years. The two met in 1966 while serving as Mormon missionaries in France. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted by producer Gabrielle Tenenbaum on July 13, 2012.

    You talk about using that as a motivating force. And you all came together and really sort of made it your mission to also succeed, and succeed above and beyond. Talk to me about that period of time and how you came together to help boost up the spirits of the others that were there with you.

    Well, again, recognizing what spring had been like, and then the accident, and all the bad news coming back from the U.S. of upheaval that was going there, just as there had been in France -- kind of similar, not on the same scale -- there was a pall over the mission. Missionaries were not -- they weren't looking up as much. You didn't see the happy, smiling, typical happy faces of the Mormon missionaries like one usually sees.

    At that point we'd had some goals of new converts to the church during the year. We'd been earlier in the year on a pretty good track there, and then it kind of flattened out. And as Mitt became the senior assistant shortly before I had come onboard there in the mission home, we started talking about what do we do about this? So there was an analysis of what was the matter? What do we do about it? How do we lift spirits? How do we effectively challenge people to higher performance?

    So we decided to do all of the above. One of the things that we did was that we wrote some songs that we set to music, popular tunes, some stories of what was going on in the mission in different cities. ...

    So we made up these songs and put missionaries' names in these things. But in Angoulême, to the tune of "We Three Kings of Orient Are," we put together a little song that was -- which I actually won't sing right now -- but anyway, it was very clever. And it caused people to just holler and laugh and just get outside themselves again. And there were about 15 such songs that we did. And they were fun. It was fun making them up; it was fun performing them. We had found some vaudeville outfits that were in the basement of the mission headquarters where they had a play one time, and the three of us, Bill Ryan, Mitt and myself, donned these vaudeville jackets, straw hats, red vests and billed ourselves as the Righteous Brothers. We performed these songs. It was fun. It was laughter again. And it seemed to uplift and brighten spirits.

    At the same time, we took the serious side of it as well, and that is we'd go from city to city meeting with missionaries there, talking with them about what's involved in leadership, maybe [ask] a district leader there, "What is your responsibility?" Talking about how you motivate, how you uplift, how you challenge.

    And then Mitt did something that I think was really remarkable, is actually very typical of him, but it was I think a surprise to everyone. He said: "In order to get all of us to really do our best, we've got to do something that's going to cause us to do differently than we've been doing. Let's raise the bar. Let's raise the goal."

    Here it was, Sept. 1 or so, and we were only halfway to the goal. He said, "Let's raise it by 40." And so we went from 160, the goal became 200, so in the last four months to have 120, whereas in the first eight months there had been 80.

    And that did help to motivate. You couldn't just keep doing what you're doing; you had to do something different. You had to do something better. And so the missionary companionships would plan together better; they'd be more serious about what you do differently, how we'll improve. And it was effective.

    I saw that later on, and we can get to that later. But I saw that later on when we were at BYU [Brigham Young University] together as well, that Mitt showed that kind of leadership.

    As someone who had struggled to get -- you know, it's not easy getting people to listen, let alone converse. When he raised that bar, do you remember your reaction and [that of] the people around you? Was it well received, or was that extra challenge something that you all were a little, you know --

    I was fine with it. I was there as a part of it. And we read Think and Grow Rich Together, so this made all the sense in the world.

    But our job was to then sell that idea and motivate others to move up to that. And that was an interesting and a fun challenge. And it was very gratifying to see -- again, these are 19-, 20-, 21-year-old young men stepping up and doing this. Again, in the process of that, just great bonds, like brothers in arms together. Some of those friendships have, again, lasted over decades and decades.

    As you work together, as you come together, as you succeed together, it's a great experience. And Mitt was a great leader of that, better than anyone I've ever known before, or since really.

    Why? Tell me about that.

    Just his personality. The fact that he had thought things through well. He presented things in a very logical and persuasive and convincing way.

    But you also knew that he had the energy to do what he was talking about. It wasn't, "You guys go out there and do this." He then demonstrated with them. After we teach and train, we then go out and work together. And he made it fun. And people responded to his leadership.

    Do you think that's something that's just inherently in him, part of who he is? Or do you think that period of time for him with connecting to his faith and growing and being independent and being a leader, it all came together? How do you see that balance?

    I think he always had that innate ability. I think that this schooled it and disciplined it and directed it, focused it. Whereas before there had been pranksterism or one thing or another, now it was really directed toward very worthy goals and to really uplifting people, and realizing that that was a great key to leadership is to uplift and inspire. And he did.

    And you achieved your goal.

    We did. ...

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    Ann Romney   Mitt Romney's wife.

    Born Ann Davies, she met Mitt Romney in high school and the couple married in 1969, three months after Mitt returned from being a missionary in France. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted by producer Gabrielle Tenenbaum on Sept. 11, 2012.

    During that period of time that he was gone, you were very young. But you made an important decision in your own life, to convert to Mormonism.

    Right.

    Talk to me about that decision and what that conversion meant to you.

    It was just sort of an evolutionary thing that happened to me. And it wasn't like it was a big moment of decision or anything like that. It just felt so right. It felt so good. And I think there was no pressure coming from Mitt whatsoever. He wasn't really involved in that decision at all. He was gone. His father, George Romney, took me to church. He did become such a good friend of mine through that experience, and sharing such deepness and fondness for that man.

    And, you know, they had such an extraordinary life. They had a life of service. It was so clear that, when you met that family, you knew that they were people that cared, people that believed in the goodness of humanity. They were just such an extraordinary family.

    So yeah, it was an easy thing for me to jump into. And I was a member while Mitt was gone. So when he came back, it was a very easy sort of transition in that respect. And it was all just sort of nice.

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    Mitt and Ann

    Scott Romney   Mitt Romney's older brother

    (Text only) Six years older than Mitt Romney, Scott Romney is a fundraiser for his younger brother. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on August 9, 2012.

    Read the full interview »

    Tell me about their wedding, what that experience was like.

    They were married in Ann's home. It was just a wonderful wedding. ... Then the next day they went to our temple in Salt Lake City and had it sealed there, because we believe marriages can be forever.

    ... Talk to me about the significance of that sealing.

    We believe that everybody has the chance to be sealed to their families forever, so by being married in the temple, they have the chance of being together with their family in the eternity. ...

    Ann converted to Mormonism, and your father, as I understand, he really helped teach her and guide her as well. Talk to me about the bond they formed during that.

    While Mitt was gone for two and a half years, my dad would take Ann to church. And he did that because he liked Mitt so much, and he knew Mitt really cared about her. When he left on his mission, he was in love with his bride, and when he came back she was still there. Usually the girls are not there when they come back; they found somebody else.

    So [my father] was very devoted to Mitt and trying to see if that was a possibility. And he liked [Ann] an enormous amount. He had a special affection and devotion to her and thought she was a terrific, marvelous person, so he spent a lot of time taking her to church and doing other things because he cared for her so much as well. ...

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    Philip Barlow   Mormon historian

    (Text only) A professor Mormon History & Culture at Utah State University, Barlow worked with Mitt Romney in the leadership of their Massachusetts Mormon ward. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on July 19, 2012.

    Read the full interview »

    So let's just start at the beginning, and tell me how you first came to know Mitt Romney.

    Well, you know how a Mormon ward is organized geographically, so I moved back to Cambridge, Mass., to go to graduate school in the late '70s and became aware of him then, and then switched wards to the ward next door and became in his ward.

    And then in 1982 I was called by him indirectly, as Mormon protocol goes, to be his counselor when he was appointed the new bishop of that ward.

    Describe to me a younger Mitt Romney, back in those days. What was he like?

    As the nation knows by now, Mitt was a handsome man. His wife, Ann, was a beautiful woman, and the children were beautiful children. So they were a photogenic group, high-energy.

    Cambridge, the ward that we were in and that general area that we were in, was full of a large mix of people, of course -- salesmen and schoolteachers and things -- but also Harvard Business faculty and MIT scientists and White House fellows and Olympians, and even among that lot Mitt stood out as a high-energy, ambitious accomplisher for good causes. So people were aware of Mitt. I was very aware of Mitt before I had much to do with him and started working with him.

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    Romney as a Leader

    Philip Barlow   Mormon historian

    (Text only) A professor Mormon History & Culture at Utah State University, Barlow worked with Mitt Romney in the leadership of their Massachusetts Mormon ward. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on July 19, 2012.

    Read the full interview »

    Explain to me the role that Mitt Romney was asked to take on as bishop of the ward, and what the responsibilities were that came along with that.

    A Mormon bishop is a pastor. There's no professional clergy within Mormonism, so he's not getting paid, and it's not a full-time job. And he, like everybody else there, was a very busy man professionally, of course, and in his family life. But to be a bishop means to take a dozen or 15 hours a week, donated, to be the pastor of the congregation organizationally and spiritually, and as a counselor.

    So he would take time with individual families when they have questions or having to make some important decisions in life, or they're having a marital crisis or loss of job or a daughter has been diagnosed with cancer, as a pastor would in many situations.

    And organizationally, the bishop is in charge of the worship services, of planning the worship services, of staffing the congregation. Because Mormonism is a lay operation, that means everybody more or less in the congregation has a calling or a job, a task, to look after, but they have to be called and authorized for those callings, to look after the young women's organization or the young men's organization, the children's organization, or the elaborate visitation process or the welfare concerns. So there's quite a bit to it that he's looking after.

    Although Mitt was extraordinarily efficient and half-genius in diagnosing problems and working through them, still, he's, like any other bishop, having to navigate those chores.

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    Romney's Core Nature

    Philip Barlow   Mormon historian

    (Text only) A professor Mormon History & Culture at Utah State University, Barlow worked with Mitt Romney in the leadership of their Massachusetts Mormon ward. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on July 19, 2012.

    Read the full interview »

    Well, it begs the point of sort of. One of the things you hear on the campaign trail today is him being out of touch and not connecting or relating to the common man.

    Yeah.

    Help me understand how his experience as a bishop and what you observed would inform otherwise.

    Well, with the rest of the nation, I've seen him make comments that seemed ill-advised -- making a $10,000 bet on the spot when you're extremely wealthy. You can forget how that would come across to ordinary people.

    But I also roll my eyes at the endless commentary that I observe about him being out of touch, because in the years that I worked with him, that's what a Mormon bishop does, and he was not only not an exception, but exceptionally good at hands-on involvement.

    I do remember saying early on, within the first month or so of being a new bishop, coming, and we met in his home, and I remember him a time or two shaking his head, saying, "I had little idea that people live like this." And that comment did not reflect, as far as I could make out, that he was so much out of touch or above, because he's in an elite social class, but just the experience that more or less every Mormon bishop has at getting so involved with people's lives. ...

    So he was touched, he was moved, and I saw him and participated with him, involved intimately with people of all sorts of economic and social and ethnic backgrounds. Out of touch, oblivious, to that part of the world he is not. 

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    Romney as a Leader

    Philip Barlow   Mormon historian

    (Text only) A professor Mormon History & Culture at Utah State University, Barlow worked with Mitt Romney in the leadership of their Massachusetts Mormon ward. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on July 19, 2012.

    Read the full interview »

    Talk to me about the way that he was received by the Belmont community and the members of that ward.

    Mormonism works by geographical definition. If you're in these boundaries, you're really strongly urged to attend that congregation or that ward. So, unlike many religious organizations where you might go where the pastor's sermons appeal to you the most or the people appeal to you most, in Mormonism the culture and the policy really is that you operate where you are and it's not a popularity contest. So the people tend to be very supportive of the bishops.

    He was an effective, strong leader, a quick diagnostician of problems and immediate action. He was generally admired and well received, like his predecessor, and, as far as I know, like his successor.

    But the only thing I am particularly conscious of that was in the air ... [was] the height of the '70s, '80s feminist movement. So there was nationally, as well as within Mormonism, what does this mean? The world has discovered that women matter. And there's a patriarchal order and tradition within Mormonism, so Mormonism had its own inflection of, how do we deal with this new reality? And Mitt was no exception, I was no exception to that. I presume every male in America was no exception to that entirely.

    And Boston had some strong feminist Mormon women who were on the cutting edge of exploring what that meant, ... and they were founding a new periodical of Mormon feminism, and having discussions.

    Mitt looked like the perfect poster boy of CEO patriarchal Mormon perfection, and so there was a natural tension. So I think he had to navigate those waters. But by and large, he was accepted very well. ...

  14. Ψ Share

    Philip Barlow   Mormon historian

    (Text only) A professor Mormon History & Culture at Utah State University, Barlow worked with Mitt Romney in the leadership of their Massachusetts Mormon ward. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on July 19, 2012.

    Read the full interview »

    We hear from the people that we've spoken to, who know him from the community, sort of like the story you told of him going to someone's home and being available, that community service was very important to him -- being a good neighbor, taking care of others. And yet it's not something he's comfortable talking about himself. You don't hear those stories from him. Why do you think that is the case?

    I'm not capable of psychoanalyzing him as an individual. There's doubtless some things that pertain just to him about that.

    But so far as how it works within the church that he's a part of and the culture that he's clearly a part of, to have frequent commentary about all of that would seem like bragging, undercutting the nature of the authenticity of the service.

    Mormon culture flows in that direction. Everybody from the time before they can speak are urged to understand that salvation, exaltation in Mormon parlance, is a relational theme. I may be a perfect person and my wife has all sorts of flaws, and though I've never sinned or done anything wrong, that isn't going to get you to where you're aspiring to get in this life or in the eternities, because a marriage is a relational thing, a family thing, a generational thing and a social thing, with neighbors, whether they're Mormon or not.

    Well, Mitt's part of the culture, where doing good for others isn't merely a cliché, but really, that's the flow of existence and consciousness.

  15. Ψ Share

    Philip Barlow   Mormon historian

    (Text only) A professor Mormon History & Culture at Utah State University, Barlow worked with Mitt Romney in the leadership of their Massachusetts Mormon ward. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on July 19, 2012.

    Read the full interview »

    As a fellow Mormon, as someone who knows Mitt Romney, as you look at him in a practical sense, what are the things about his faith that sort of inform who he is, that drive him, that we should -- that you see in the man?

    Well, people ask me regularly how Mormonism would affect, a Mormon in the White House, how it would affect Mitt Romney and people's wariness about, "Can we have a guy who believes in angels and gold plates having his finger this close to the nuclear option?," or something like that.

    It wouldn't work like that at all. He's not brain-dead; he's not weird. Theology isn't going to inform his presidency in any practical way. What Mormonism would mean to Mitt Romney in the White House has more to do with character, ways of seeing what the world is for, what people are for, and what good relations mean. It would have more to do with resilience in the face of challenge. It would have more to do with an authentic optimism. 

    He can come across as authentic like any candidate can, a cheerleader for this or that cause, or, "America's really in great shape and needs to be the greatest and the best." That is doubtless partly campaign cheerleading, but it's drawing on a fuel and an authentic belief that we are not helpless in front of greater forces. We really can devise strategies to recover from disaster or from problems, from defeat, to not be defeated by defeat. So the Mormon way is a supremely organized, can-do optimism, practical religion. There's theology out there, but it's really less abstract theology than practical human experience of solving problems. ...

  16. Ψ Share

    Philip Barlow   Mormon historian

    (Text only) A professor Mormon History & Culture at Utah State University, Barlow worked with Mitt Romney in the leadership of their Massachusetts Mormon ward. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on July 19, 2012.

    Read the full interview »

    Is there a way of separating the Mormon from the man, or is that really sort of what informs him? How do those values and that culture contribute to the full picture of Mitt Romney?

    I don't think there's a way to separate Mormonism from the man insofar as his character, his values, goes, what he finds worth doing -- even his ambition for the presidency or ambition to accomplishing in the business world or in the family world. Those aren't unique things to Mormonism, to be ambitious that way, but they have Mormon shape, Mormon coloring, Mormon inflections to them.

    It's a saying within Mormonism, coming from a Mormon Church president by the name of David McKay, "No other success can compensate for failure in the home" -- not even the U.S. presidency, not even being the richest man on the planet.

    He's ambitious in various ways, but there's a check and a balance within Mormonism, and I've seen it operate with Mitt, that kind of tries to circumscribe that. When you're home, be home. Don't bring all your work with you, but attend to those children; attend to your spouse.

    There would be some authentic -- how does that matter to the U.S. presidency? It would be an example of how to manage all the pressures and balance that we need to manage in life.

    But the capacity to bring people together in a cause is something that his way of thinking and his Mormonism informs the now-famous story about him shutting down Bain for a few days while he marched off to New York City with his colleagues, anybody who wanted to join him in the enterprise of a lost child of one of his colleagues. To go door to door in New York City, looking for clues and hunt that down, is an exceptional thing to do. But it's typical of Romney. I've seen that in less dramatic and public ways. ...

  17. Ψ Share
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    Philip Barlow   Mormon historian

    (Text only) A professor Mormon History & Culture at Utah State University, Barlow worked with Mitt Romney in the leadership of their Massachusetts Mormon ward. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on July 19, 2012.

    Read the full interview »

    Do you think that there is both a need for and a way that he can discuss his faith so that people can understand the way it informs him, the way it guides him? ...

    I hope there's a way that [during] the run for the presidency and if he were to be elected as president, that he could talk about his Mormon faith at some point like a Presbyterian could talk about her faith or a Buddhist could talk about his faith.

    Right now, it's clearly, even though there's rapid change, it's clearly politically toxic, because there are so many fears about Mormonism. Is Mormonism too weird, sufficiently weird that it's going to make a weird president, who's going to help enact weird policies or something? Until the culture can mature and until the American society can get to know Mormonism authentically for what it is, whether people like it or not, instead of the common misconceptions that exist about it, then, clearly, the Romney campaign team -- maybe him, himself -- thinks it's politically too toxic.

    That's unfortunate, because there are many lovely virtues and resources, an orientation for service and helping, that has clearly formed who he is, and the nation has a right to understand the influences that have informed him. The situation has been, up until now, to mention anything about Mormonism is to miscommunicate. Even if his words are accurate, what the country is hearing has to do with all of their perceptions of this movement. ...

  18. Ψ Share
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    Romney's Core Nature

    Tagg Romney   Eldest son

    Tagg Romney is the oldest of Mitt Romney's five children. Here he discusses what Mitt and Ann are like as parents, as well as lessons his father learned running the Olympics, serving as a governor, and losing his bid for the White House in 2008.This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted by producer Gabrielle Tenenbaum on Aug. 7, 2012.

    A number of people that we've spoken to -- articles have been written about it -- when you ask sort of what's at the core of your father, they talk about the importance of faith, and that really being something that is essential to who he is. So talk to me about that in terms of how that core and those values were brought into your home, and that sort of added to the way he raised you boys.

    Yeah, I mean, at the core of my dad is, he has a very strong faith. He believes very firmly in loving God. He believes very much in this country. He thinks this is a country that is meant to be at the forefront of the world and leading. The values that he wanted to pass on to us were faith, integrity, hard work, honesty, love of fellow man. Those are the things that are at the core of who he is and drive everything that he does.

    And it's clear watching him as we grew up that that really was what motivated his life. It wasn't the pursuit of money, trying to grab power, or things we saw drive a lot of other people. It really was, how can I make this a better place for people around me? And we didn't ever anticipate that it would grow into running for president. We just thought it was, he would help his neighbors and the people his life bumped up against. And so we were surprised as anybody when he started his political career.

    But at the core of who he is, he is a good man who loves his family, loves his neighbors and wants to make their lives better.

  19. Ψ Share
    Related topics:
    Romney's Core Nature

    Tagg Romney   Eldest son

    Tagg Romney is the oldest of Mitt Romney's five children. Here he discusses what Mitt and Ann are like as parents, as well as lessons his father learned running the Olympics, serving as a governor, and losing his bid for the White House in 2008.This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted by producer Gabrielle Tenenbaum on Aug. 7, 2012.

    He was running Bain, a wonderful father by all accounts. And he also, when he was bishop of the Belmont, [Mass.], ward, from what I've learned, that experience had him going out there and dealing with a group of people he wouldn't otherwise have necessarily interacted with. How did he bring those life experiences home? He talks about having that experience open his eyes to people who had much less than he ever had. So how did those teachings come home to you?

    He was so busy doing things that he made sure that he brought his sons along with him to help minister to people. I remember a time, he got a call one Friday night from somebody -- she lived on the West Coast, and she said, "My daughter is living in Dorchester, and she and her husband have a young baby, and they don't have any money, and they've run out of fuel, and they can't fill their oil tank, and they have no heat." It was just before Christmas. "And they're very cold. Is there anything you, as bishop, can do to help them?"

    He grabbed me and my brother Matt and drove down to their house to take stock of the situation. It was very cold in their house. He called the oil company and said, "Listen, I'll pay for a tank of oil," and he bought some food for them. The oil company couldn't come until Monday, and it was Friday, so we went home. We loaded up the station wagon with firewood that we had spent the summer chopping. They had a wood-burning stove there. So we brought the firewood in, got a fire going for them. We stopped on the way, at Toys ‘R’ Us and bought some Christmas presents for the little girl.

    And it's just one small example. And he spent the next six months helping them, counseling the husband on how to find a job and what to do to get his résumé so he could go out and get a job, and making sure that they had enough money that they were eating and that they had enough money to pay for their fuel bill.

    It's just one example of many. I remember another time there was someone whose son was dying of cancer. He was 14 years old, and my dad spent time with them as they went through that difficult process, both of getting ready for that and trying to help him, visiting the hospital, and then after he passed away at 14, helping to comfort the family.

    And being there with my dad at the bedside of the boy in the hospital, those were experiences that meant a lot to us. Cameras weren't rolling. There weren't -- excuse me. But it was great to see his love for others, and he did his best to pass that on to us.

    Great.

    Thank you. Sorry.

  20. Ψ Share

    Eric Fehrnstrom   Romney political adviser

    Eric Fehrnstrom has worked for Romney for a decade, first as his press secretary in Romney’s 2002 run for governor of Massachusetts. Prior to his work in politics, Fehrnstrom worked in public relations and as a reporter for the Boston Herald. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted by producer Gabrielle Tenenbaum on Aug. 21, 2012.

    ... In 2007, he decides ultimately to give his speech on faith. Talk to me about the origins of that conversation, why he decided it was something that he needed to address.

    Well, yeah. Initially, those of us around Mitt Romney were not anxious about giving a speech on faith. We thought that the focus and the discussion on his religion would eventually fade with time. But it did not. And Mitt felt strongly that he needed to go out and make a declaration about his faith, and what it means to him, and how it affects the way he would govern.

    So that led to the speech in 2007 at Texas A&M, which I think was very well received. People compared it to the JFK speech, but it was different in an important respect. Like JFK, Gov. Romney said that the highest obligation that he has as an elected official is to the oath that he swore to the Constitution.

    But where he differed from JFK is that he talked openly about how his faith imbued him with values and how those values helped him govern, and would help him govern as a president. So that was what was different about the Mitt Romney speech compared to JFK.

    And I think what we learned in Massachusetts on the issue of religion is that when Mitt Romney first ran for the U.S. Senate in 1994, the subject of Mormonism loomed large in that campaign. It was something that was being introduced to the voters here for the first time, such that when he ran again in 2002, there was a been-there, done-that quality to the news coverage about his faith. And it faded in importance, particularly because the state was in a recession, the budget was unbalanced, and they were looking for someone who had a résumé like Mitt Romney's.

    I think you're seeing that same dynamic play out on the national stage. When Mitt Romney first ran in 2008, religion was a big issue because for all intents and purposes, it was being introduced to voters nationally for the first time, such that when he ran and made his decision to run in 2012, it had faded as an issue, particularly because the economy is so bad, and that has come to the forefront as the dominant issue of this election cycle.

    Again, sort of trying to learn more about him, in a situation like that, did he push back and say, "This is important to address"? And does he write those speeches himself? Were those his words?

    Those were his words. I mean, there are people who make contributions and ideas and have suggestions, but every speech that the governor gives flows from his mind and from his pen, even though he may incorporate suggestions from other folks.

    But yeah, he took that speech very seriously. There were those of us on the team who were concerned going into the Iowa vote that raising the issue of the governor's faith so dramatically might affect the outcome in Iowa. But as I said, the governor wasn't thinking so much about the political considerations; he was thinking about what he felt was the necessity of putting this issue to rest once and for all.

    You were thinking about the political side. So what were your concerns?

    Well, of course, I mean, his entire team was thinking about the political consequences. I think that the concern was that by raising the issue so dramatically in the form of a big speech, that you would enflame the evangelical community, which had some suspicions about the governor's faith. So we were cognizant of that.

    But again, the governor had pretty much set his course, that this was an undertaking he wanted to move forward with. And he wrote that speech, for the most part, by himself. He had some contributions from other people, but it really flowed from his own pen and from his heart.

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