Are the two guys related?
While Romney was building his career at Bain Capital, he was also a Mormon bishop (equivalent to a pastor) and a stake president (presiding over several area congregations) in suburban Belmont, Mass.
Because the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no paid clergy, Mormon men take turns overseeing wards (congregations) and regional stakes while continuing their full-time careers.
As a religious leader, Romney met weekly with students, teachers, immigrant converts and Utah transplants. He had to learn how to give sermons, advise squabbling couples, organize worship services, manage budgets and address the diverse spiritual needs of more than 1,000 Mormons in the region.
By most accounts, Romney was a good listener, a measured thinker and an innovative manager who considered various positions before making decisions. He was occasionally willing to work around bureaucratic edicts from Salt Lake City, such as allowing divorced men to continue in their leadership positions.
When LDS Family Services refused to place a baby with Brett and Janna Sorensen because Janna planned to return to work, Romney backed the couple. Eventually, the policy against adoptions for working moms changed.
To most members, Bishop Romney was pragmatic and open.
Given Romney’s experience in the working world, friends say, he was attracted to competence. He chose men with keen expertise as his two counselors in the stake presidency.
“I don’t think Mitt cares whether people are male or female, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat, old or young,” said Helen Claire Sievers, director of the WorldTeach program housed at Harvard, “but he really cares about their competency.”
Romney was “comfortable in his skin,” recalled Philip Barlow, an expert on Mormon history and culture at Utah State University, who was one of Bishop Romney’s counselors. The future Republican front-runner even showed off his “moon-walking” skills one day, gliding backward in a smooth imitation of Michael Jackson.
Like some Mormon leaders, insiders say, Romney could be insistent on the rightness of his position. He was used to dictating actions, then having the members raise their hands in support. That didn’t work so well with feminists.
Though sometimes progressive in his approach to women’s issues, Romney nonetheless was a product of the church’s male culture of the time. He didn’t initially believe, for example, that there were cases of physical or sexual abuse of women in his stake, though plenty of evidence pointed to it.
As a young bishop, Romney got word that Carroll Shelton, a woman in his ward, was considering an abortion. This was Shelton’s sixth pregnancy. She was in her 40s, had four teenage children and had developed medical complications. Her stake president had already approved the procedure when Romney arrived at the hospital and forcefully counseled her against it.