“I am a profoundly religious person. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential.”
— Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah
As the pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake City, I am often asked by friends elsewhere if I feel I am ministering in exile. I tell them, “No, I wouldn’t trade my LDS friends and neighbors for anything.” My experience here is that we all, no matter our faith, have each other’s backs.
Nine years ago, when a tiny church in Florida burnt a copy of the Islam’s holy book, our church bought 90 copies of the Qur’an and gave them out at a local bookstore, saying we weren’t afraid of truth wherever it could be found. We knew that when people begin burning books they often end up burning people.
We got a lot of pushback from Protestant churches here and across the country, but our Mormon friends defended us. They know what religious persecution is all about. They’ve endured it for nearly two centuries. In turn, we said, “Had those Floridians burned a copy of the Book of Mormon we would have given away copies of that and asked people to read it and judge it for themselves, as well.”
And so it is part of living here and breathing this mountain air that we Presbyterians say, “Thank you, Sen. Romney, for following your conscience and for taking your responsibilities under God so seriously.”
Utah has always loved mavericks. It grieves me that so many of our state leaders are so anxious to throw Romney under the bus, and with him the values this state was built upon, values that make this place so unique. If Utah was built on anything, it was established on people respecting the God-driven consciences of others.
I wonder how Utah leaders — many of whom, like Romney, are Latter-day Saints — can justify to themselves their support of a man who questions the senator’s motives and speaks of his faith as a “crutch.”
Generations of Utah children will, I believe, look back and honor our senator’s courage, his conscience, and his refreshing humility.
As Mitt Romney said himself, “We’re all footnotes at best in the annals of history. But in the most powerful nation on earth, the nation conceived in liberty and justice, that is distinction enough for any citizen.”
Rev. Scott Dalgarno, Salt Lake City, is pastor of Wasatch Presbyterian Church.