Critics say the presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney seems "stiff" and out of touch. Some say it's because of his immense wealth. Ross H. Palfreyman, a Mormon author of Two Years in God's Mormon Army, thinks it's something else.
"People get distracted by religion, especially the Mormon religion, because, hey, we do some quirky stuff," Palfreyman says. "I think Romney has stayed away from the personal stuff because much of it has to do with being Mormon. But if people knew about his experiences as a Mormon, they'd see his softer side."
Like Palfreyman, Romney served two years as a Mormon missionary, a rite of passage that teaches young men compassion and self-discipline, among other values, Palfeyman says. That time away from home â€“ no visits allowed and only two phone calls a year on Mother's Day and Christmas â€“ can be the most memorable in a Mormon's lifetime, he says.
Palfreyman offers facts for voters about Mormonism and Romney's relationship to it:
- Romney served his two-year mission in France. No matter where a young man serves his mission "it prepares you for a life of service," Palfreyman says. The missionaries witness abject poverty, learn selflessness and hard work, and learn how to accept rejection.
- Romney also served five years as bishop of his congregation in Belmont, Mass. It was an unpaid position where he managed nuts-and-bolts-type issues like administrative tasks and more delicate duties, including financial counseling and assistance, and marriage relationship help.
- Mormons revere and exalt the Bible, and see it as the bedrock of Christianity. They also believe in a revelation given from God to Joseph Smith, which is found in the Book of Mormon.
- Children are baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at age 8. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a potential running mate for Romney, was baptized into the LDS Church while living in Utah with his family. Rubio converted to Catholicism as a teenager.
- Mormons believe God wants human beings to follow a health outline called "The Word of Wisdom," which discourages use of alcohol, tobacco or coffee. Adherence to this health code is especially important for baptism, full-time missionary work, church school attendance and entry into the church's temples. Violation of the code is not grounds for excommunication or other disciplinary measures. Other guidelines include limited meat consumption, the restriction of narcotics and an emphasis on eating herbs, fruits and grains.
Romney is far more than the stiff businessman in a suit often seen in public, Palfreyman says.
"Clearly, there's a softer and more developed side to Mitt Romney, because he was a great bishop from all I've heard," he says. "His religion is the elephant in the room, but he's got to keep it from distracting from his message about what he would do as the nation's leader."
Ross H. Palfreyman is a lawyer who began his mission work in 1973 in Thailand, during the Vietnam War and the Thai Revolution of '73. Two years of trying to convince devout Buddhists that they'd be better off as Mormons was trying enough; he also was threatened at gunpoint and fended off parasites and rabid dogs during his "indentured servitude." He initially wrote about his experiences for his six children. Palfreyman's youngest son returns from his mission in Mexico in August.
Submitted by Ginny Grimsley, National Print Campaign Manager, News and Experts