Until now, the ward has been meeting in a converted space in Mount Pleasant and at the Mormon church in Chevy Chase. Smaller groups of Mormons (called branches) have met in recent years in temporary spaces in Anacostia, Capitol Hill and the National Press Club building. While the District’s Mormon population has been small, the Washington area has the biggest Mormon population east of Denver.
Church officials attribute this, in part, to the powerful cultural value of public service in Mormonism — including through the government.
At the D.C. Third Ward, the possibility of Romney in the pews has set off quite a bit of chatter. Several congregants said they were surprised by Romney’s disparaging comments about the nearly half of Americans who don’t pay federal taxes.
In the remarks at a fundraiser captured secretly on videotape and released by Mother Jones last week, Romney referred to “the 47 percent” as “people who will vote for the president no matter what . . . who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
But Tillemann-Dick said, “It’s hard for me to believe that that’s who he is.”
“He’s a brilliant guy, and he’s spent a good chunk of his life trying to serve. It’s hard for me to believe that he doesn’t know that for many people there’s no safety net. . . . I think it would be great for Romney if he was president to come to the ward every Sunday and be reminded there are a lot of real good, hardworking people who still depend on the government for some help. . . . I hope it would influence his policy.”
This would hardly be the first time Romney worshiped among a diverse group of Mormons. He was bishop and then stake president over the city of Boston and much of the surrounding region.
The possibility of a Republican president in the pew has raised other topics, too.
What if, for security reasons, Romney didn’t join the church? What if he was excused due to being too busy? Since every Mormon is assigned a “calling” or volunteer job in their church, if he did join, what would his be?
The Romney hypothetical tests Mormons, who are hugely proud of the fact that they have no paid clergy and a system built around equalizing the powerful with the peon. Mormonism calls for most everyone to be a home teacher and to have one, and it’s a source of great pride that politicians and chief executives teach Sunday school, tutor or serve in the nursery on Sundays. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is a home teacher and a leader of the men’s group at his Chevy Chase ward, said a regional church spokeswoman.
Debbie Marriott Harrison, spokeswoman for the stake that includes the Third Ward (Mormon regions are called stakes, like dioceses), said Romney would likely be excused from a calling, partially because he’d be too busy as president and because of security challenges.
A core Mormon rule is the need for a regularly updated credential, called a temple recommend, in order to go to Mormon temples for marriages and baptisms for the dead. The credential is given every couple of years after an interview with the local bishop to make sure the person is attending church and living a moral life.
Romney would be interviewed by Robert Nelson, 56, an IT manager and the ward’s bishop.
“If he’s here four years, I’d see him at least once! I just can’t imagine,” said Nelson, giggling.