Understanding Mitt’s Mormonism

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow are both men of faith, but Romney isn’t likely to strike a Tebow pose on the campaign trail.

The GOP presidential candidate is not any less committed to his religious beliefs than the Denver Bronco quarterback – it’s just that Mormons and Evangelical Christians often express their faith differently.

Like many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Romney is devoted to his faith, but is more likely to express gratitude to God in personal prayer instead of the glare of the media spotlight. Public expressions of faith by Tebow shouldn’t diminish the faith of those who choose to practice more privately.

While several presidential candidates proclaim their Christian faith frequently on the campaign trail, Romney rarely discusses his religion in a political forum – something that has fueled skepticism about Romney’s core values. Given the Mormon culture regarding politics, it isn’t surprising that Romney is more private about the role of religion in his life.

Politics are not discussed from LDS pulpits. The Church takes no official position on candidates or political parties, even though the vast majority of Mormons are registered Republicans and espouse conservative family values. Before each presidential election, a letter from LDS leaders in Salt Lake City is read to every Mormon congregation in the country, encouraging members to engage in the political process and vote for the candidate that shares their values. There is no mention of supporting a particular candidate or political party – even when a candidate is LDS.

Mormons typcally don’t display their religious convictions on bumper stickers or march in large demonstrations at Planned Parenthood clinics. Members of the LDS Church aren’t shy about proclaiming their beliefs – evidenced by a large worldwide proselytising missionary force – but they discuss and demonstrate their faith in a more subdued manner.

Visiting an LDS meetinghouse for Sunday services illustrates how Mormon worship differs from many other religions: there is no charasmatic preacher passionately lecturing congregants about the Bible, there is no band playing contemporary Christian music and there is no clapping or spontaneously vocalizing in the congregation during the service. Instead, the primary focus of Sunday worship is to partake of the sacrament, which consists of bread and water, to renew baptismal covenants. Also during the meeting, preassigned members of the congregation give talks on various spiritual topics. The reverent tone of an LDS Sacrament meeting differs considerably from some Evangelical Christian congregations that worship more passionately.

Several Romney rivals are vocal about their Christian faith on the campaign trail as they court the religious vote. Romney does not back away from his faith, yet he also does not insert his religious convictions into the political narrative. Instead of speaking to various church groups on Sunday, Romney is more likely to be found quietly slipping into a local LDS meetinghouse to partake of the sacrament, listen to prepared talks and sing worship hymns.

Tebow kneeling on the sideline to express gratitude to God should not diminish the religious convictions of others who convey their gratitude more privately. A person’s faith and values shouldn’t be measured solely by words they proclaim or by public demonstrations. A closer look at Romney’s life clearly illustrates what he values.

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