Over the weekend, Mitt Romney entered into a heated discussion with Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson. The interview started to get heated when Mickelson pressed Romney on his former pro-choice stance and how it correlates to Mormonism. For Romney, who is usually very structured and, almost, scripted in everything he says, this is one of the few times that we will get to see him this exposed and it is wonderfully refreshing. I, for one, loved seeing this. He stood up for what he believes, he would not cower or skirt the questions posed. He was absolutely right to say that it is not his place to discuss the LDS Church’s stance on abortion. He was right when he said that simply being pro-choice does not subject one to Church discipline. In no way is/was Romney distancing himself from the Church. One of the things the Church prides itself on is “teaching correct principles and allowing the people to govern themselves.” People have the right to choose what to believe, the Church will not punish/discipline an individual for personal belief. The church disciplines members for their actions. There is nothing wrong in the Church’s eyes for one to be pro-choice, there is something wrong if one participates in the carrying out of an abortion (with the exception of incest, rape, or the life of the mother is in jeopardy).
Where Romney hit a home run was when he said, “You do not understand my faith like I do, so give me for the moment, the benefit of the doubt that having been a leader in my Church, a Bishop and a Stake President, I understand my Church better than you do…” And then he procedes to explain the Church’s position. He was bold, steadfast, and unshakable. He refused to both distance himself from the Church and to apologize for his and the Church’s stances on abortion.
For those of you who are not too familiar with the Church, the office of a Stake President is a high office in the Church. The Stake President is responible for a specified region of the Church, it usually makes up 8-14 different congregation. In Utah the geographic area of a stake may be a neighborhood, but in the East, say Boston or Annapolis (the Stake I belong too), the areas are quite larger. Not just anyone becomes a Stake President, in order to be called to this position one must have extremely strong leadership abilities, understand church doctrines, be a local representative of the Church, and be completely worthy and have a high moral character. Stake Presidents usually know what they are talking about. Mitt Romney having been a stake president more than qualifies him as being an expert on Church doctrine, practices, and standards. He certainly understands the doctrines and intricacies of the Church better than Mr. Mickleson.
All in all, Romney was spot on and it was healthy for the electorate to see this. It shows him off the cuff and demonstrates his skills, education, and communication abilities. While there may be a few people who are put off by this, I think that ultimately it will help Romney by making him more human and real in the eyes of the voters.