Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Evolution of Mitt...

There was an interesting Washington Post article last month about Mitt Romney’s church service. The main premise was how much he evolved from the time he was first called as the Bishop of the Belmont Ward in 1981.

Mitt served as Bishop for five years and then was called in 1986 as the Boston Stake President. The Post article quoted women involved in the publication of Exponent II, a Mormon feminist journal. Initially some women on the Exponent II staff were wary of Romney and somewhat critical of his patriarchal views.

But, even the feminists, for the most part, agreed that Romney evolved over the years. Some of the Exponent women described it as Romney’s “pilgrim’s progress from tone-deaf enforcer of doctrine to a more mature and tolerant pastor of the feminists in his flock.”

As someone who was both in Romney’s flock during the 1980’s (as a member of the Belmont Ward) and also loosely involved in Exponent, I think Romney may have evolved but the strong stance of some of the women may have also softened as they grew to understand who Mitt was at core.

As a Seminary instructor with a toddler and a baby, I didn’t have much extra time on my hands to get very involved with the Exponent journal but I found some of the women bright and likable. Others were on such a vigilant crusade for women’s rights that they sometimes carried things a little too far.

But, looking back, as I read the Washington Post article, I have to say that every encounter I had with Mitt (then Bishop Romney to me) was impressive and never demeaning towards women. If anything, I was sort of blown away when he asked me to teach early morning Seminary as a twenty-five year old mother of two. His confidence in my ability to pull off this feat gave me a sense of pride in myself.

A leadership approach Mitt used came up in the article and I think it’s a clever tool, something worth noting. At one point during Romney’s church service he decided to hold a meeting to address the frustrations of some of the women members in his area.

Mitt listened for hours to dozens of proposals by the women ranging from featuring more female speakers, to turning chapels into day-care centers during the week, to recognizing the accomplishments of young women, and not just young men, in church.

On three chart pads, Mitt listed policies and proposals into three categories: those he could change, those he couldn’t change, and those he could consider. Women who were at the meeting said that Romney did check with Salt Lake on several items and many things did change.

Whether a parent, a boss, or a leader, I like the idea of listing grievances in terms of things we can change, things we can’t, and things we can consider. It’s just another trait why I think Mitt would make an excellent Commander in Chief.