NYT: Romney’s Faith, Silent but Deep

The New York Times has an article out about Mitt’s “Deep” faith.  I took an excerpt from it below, and I think it’s a decent read:

A Man of Rules

Mr. Romney is quick to uphold rules great and small. During primary debates, when his rivals spoke out of turn or exceeded their allotted time, he would sometimes lecture them. When supporters ask Mr. Romney to sign dollar bills or American flags, he refuses and often gives them a little lesson about why doing so is against the law.

Doing things by the book has been a hallmark of his career in public life. When Mr. Romney took over the Salt Lake City Olympics, which were dogged by ethical problems, he cast himself as a heroic reformer. As governor of Massachusetts, he depicted himself as a voice of integrity amid what he called the back-scratchers and ethically dubious lifers of state government.

In church, Mr. Romney frequently spoke about obeying authority, the danger of rationalizing misbehavior and God’s fixed standards. “Most people, if they don’t want to do what God wants them to do, they move what God wants them to do about four feet over,” he once told his congregation, holding out his arms to indicate the distance, Mr. Christensen remembered.

He often urged adherence even to rules that could seem overly harsh. One fellow worshiper, Justin Brown, recalled in an interview that when he was a young man leaving for his mission abroad, Mr. Romney warned him that some parameters would make no sense, but to follow them anyway and trust that they had unseen value.

Church officials say Mr. Romney tried to be sensitive and merciful; when a college student faced serious penalties for having premarital sex, Mr. Romney put him on a kind of probation instead. But he carried out excommunications faithfully. “Mitt was very much by the rules,” said Tony Kimball, who later served as his executive secretary in the church.

Nearly two decades ago, Randy and Janna Sorensen approached Mr. Romney, then a church official, for help: unable to have a baby on their own, they wanted to adopt but could not do so through the church, which did not facilitate adoptions for mothers who worked outside the home.

Devastated, they told Mr. Romney that the rule was unjust and that they needed two incomes to live in Boston. Mr. Romney helped, but not by challenging church authorities. He took a calculator to the Sorensen household budget and showed how with a few sacrifices, Ms. Sorensen could quit her job. Their children are now grown, and Mr. Sorensen said they were so grateful that they had considered naming a child Mitt. (The church has since relaxed its prohibition on adoption for women who work outside the home.)

Among the Belmont Mormons, stories abound of Mr. Romney acting out the values he professed in church. The Romneys left their son Tagg’s wedding reception early to take some of the food to a neighbor being treated for breast cancer.

But many also see a gap between his religious ideals — in Sunday school, he urged his students to act with the highest standards of kindness and integrity — and his political tactics. The chasm has been hard to reconcile, even though people close to him say he is serious about trying to do so.

Mormonism teaches respect for secular authorities as well as religious ones, but “politics has required him to go against form,” said Richard Bushman, a leading historian of the church who knows Mr. Romney from church.

For example, Mr. Romney had ruled out running personal attack ads against political rivals, those close to him said. When Senator Edward M. Kennedy attacked him as an uncaring capitalist in 1994, using ads that exaggerated Mr. Romney’s role in Bain-related layoffs, Mr. Romney refused to punch back and exploit Mr. Kennedy’s history of womanizing. “Winning is not important enough to put aside my ideals and principles,” Mr. Romney told aides.

But when he ran for governor in 2002, his campaign targeted the husband of his general election opponent, Shannon O’Brien (he had formerly worked as a lobbyist for Enron; the ads linked him to problems at the company that he had nothing to do with.)

Last week, Mr. Romney repudiated efforts to attack President Obama based on his past relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. But earlier this year, he suggested that Mr. Obama wanted to make the United States “a less Christian nation.”

“I have absolutely no idea how he rationalizes it,” Mr. Kimball said of Mr. Romney’s harshest statements and attacks. “It almost seems to be the ends justifying the means.”

Relying on Prayer

Though Mr. Romney almost never discusses it or performs it in public, prayer is a regular and important part of his life, say friends who have joined him. They describe him closing his eyes and addressing God with thees and thous, composing his message to suit the occasion, whether at a church meeting, at a hospital bedside or in a solemn moment with family and friends.

“Prayer is not a rote thing with him,” said Ann N. Madsen, a Bible scholar and a friend. Rather than requesting a specific outcome, he more often asks for strength, wisdom and courage, according to several people who have prayed with him. “Help us see how to navigate this particular problem,” he often asks, according to Dr. Lewis Hassell, who served with Mr. Romney in church.

Former colleagues say they do not recall Mr. Romney praying in the workplace — some say they barely heard the word “God” come from his lips — but he did pray about work from his home.

“I remember literally kneeling down with Mitt at his home and praying about our firm,” Bob Gay, a former Bain colleague and current church official, told Jeff Benedict, author of “The Mormon Way of Doing Business.” “We did that in times of crisis, and we prayed that we’d do right by our people and our investors.”

Mr. Romney also prays before taking action on decisions he has already made, asking for divine reassurance, a feeling that he is “united with the powers above,” Dr. Hassell said. Sometimes Mr. Romney would report that even though he had made a decision on the merits, prayer had changed his mind. “Even though rationally this looks like the thing to do, I just have a feeling we shouldn’t do it,” he would say, according to Grant Bennett, another friend and church leader.

Mr. Romney has also asked for divine sustenance during his political runs. The night before he declared his candidacy for governor, he and his family prayed at home with Gloria White-Hammond and Ray Hammond, friends and pastors of a Boston-area African Methodist Episcopal church.

His earlier failed run for United States Senate had all been part of God’s plan, Mrs. Romney told Ms. White-Hammond around that time. Mr. Romney had lost, but “just because God says for you to do something doesn’t mean the outcome is going to be what you want it to be,” Ms. White-Hammond remembered Mrs. Romney saying.

Having a higher purpose is part of what motivates Mr. Romney, many of those close to him say, and gives him the wherewithal to suffer the slings and arrows of political life. Mormons have a “history of persistence and tenacity, a sense of living out a destiny that is connected to earlier generations,” said Mr. Anderson, the business school dean. Mr. Romney is driven by “responsibility to his father and his father’s fathers to use his time and talent and energy and whatever gifts he’s been given by the Lord to try to make a contribution.”

And while voters tend to see Mr. Romney as immensely fortunate, those close to him say that he never forgets he is a member of an oft-derided religious minority. The chapel where Mr. Romney taught Sunday school burned in a case of suspected arson in the 1980s, a still-unsolved crime that church members attribute to prejudice.

As a candidate for governor, Mr. Romney endured crude jokes, made to his face, including about having more than one wife. After his failed 2008 presidential bid, Mr. Romney told Richard Eyre, a friend, that he wished the church could rebrand itself, replacing the name “Mormon” with “Latter-day Christian” to emphasize its belief in Jesus and the New Testament.

His response to prejudice, friends say, has always been to soldier on and to present the best possible example, knowing that others will draw conclusions about the faith based on his behavior. “In his generation, George Romney was the world’s most famous Mormon, and now Mitt is more famous than his dad,” Mr. Anderson said.

Mr. Romney told fellow Mormons at Bain & Company that they had to work harder and perform better because they had a reputation to defend. With a similar motive, Mr. Romney sent volunteer cleaning crews each week to the churches that lent space to the Belmont Mormons after the chapel fire. Confronted with the nasty joke about Mormons during the race for governor, Mr. Romney brushed it off even as his face tensed, recalled Jonathan Spampinato, his former political director.

“Romneys were made to swim upstream,” he has told friends many times.

About a year ago, Mrs. Romney told Ms. White-Hammond that her husband was probably going to run for president again, and that they were both already praying about the race.

Mr. Romney was still a bit reluctant to re-enter the fray, according to Ms. White-Hammond. But she recalled the soon-to-be candidate’s wife saying that the Romneys both “felt it was what God wanted them to do.”

You can find the whole article here.

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