Over and over I have heard (before the debates) that Mitt Romney is just a rich suit. That he’s an elitist. That he doesn’t understand real problems. That he can’t possibly know what problems the average American faces. That he doesn’t understand single mothers, fathers, broken families, families with drug, alcohol or other problems. I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around this because I’m coming at it from a LDS (Mormon) perspective. So allow me in my ineffectual way to offer a look into why I am confused at this portrayal of a man who spent several years as a Bishop and then as a Stake President in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The LDS (Mormon) church has no paid local clergy. Bishops, Stake Presidents and other local leaders receive no pay, stipend or monetary support for their service. Each Ward (congregation) has upwards of 300 members, usually a third of which are under the age of 18. The Bishop is the ecclesastical leader, who has two councilors. They are responsible for the running of the ward and supervise the other organizations within the unit. The Bishop is also responsible for the Priest Quorum (boys ages 16-18) as he is the president of that quorum assisted by two assistants who are members of that quorum. The Bishop along with his councilors sees to the needs of the congregation assisted by both Home and Visiting Teachers. These members are assigned to look out for and visit members of the ward monthly and bring to the bishop any needs, spiritual or temporal, that he needs to address.
Bishops council with members of the ward on all sorts of issues. Most are spiritually based but many bleed over into other areas, financial, moral, to name just a few. Budgeting, job hunting, addiction, family problems, behavior issues all are subjects a bishop must address. Most wards do not have just wealthy people in them, but even if they did wealth is no barrier to the problems affecting our society. Disobedience to commandments brings upon people secular as well as spiritual consequences. Bishops of wards deal with differing socio-economic levels but similar problems.
As a Stake President, who is the leader of groups of Wards (congregations) in an area, one would fulfill the same kinds of roles. While a Stake President doesn’t deal as often with individuals, he is responsible to help train and lead Bishops with the help of councilors and a 12 member body called the High Council. He makes decisions for the good of his Stake and calls leaders to positions within the stake by inspiration. These men and women are not called because they gave a lot of money to the church, or because they are business leaders. Members do not aspire to callings, one cannot ‘”run” or “campaign” to any calling. Most members when called to positions of authority are humbled that the Lord would give them the opportunity to serve their brothers and sisters and most are somewhat concerned about whether or not they can do a good job. Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is at the head of the church and so he is in effect their boss as well as their brother. (if He’s the Son of God and we’re God’s children that makes him our brother) They love him and want to do what he’s asked them to do and do it well.
I have been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for over around 35 years. I have lived in Florida, New York, Maryland, Utah, Michigan, Kansas and the Republic of the Philippines. I know what Mormons believe and how their organizations function and have held leadership positions in every organization in which I was eligible. I know what I’m talking about because I live it every day and have for 35 years. So that is why I’m confused at this portrayal of Mitt Romney as someone divorced from the average American. More than any president in the last 20 years he is uniquely qualified to know about the problems of all Americans, and uniquely qualified to lead this country from the brink of disaster to solvency. Because if he can’t we are well and truly finished as a country as a people and as a world.