This Thursday, Mitt Romney is slated to give an address at Texas A&M University where he will give an explanation of his faith. Of course it is something that many people have been clamoring for throughout the weeks of the current campaign. I am not writing this post to suggest support for Governor Romney or to suggest non-support. I am simply raising the issue to suggest that Governor Romney’s best course of action, indeed the best course for all of us, is to be honest and straightforward about our religion and the things we believe.
In a recent Republican debate, Governor Romney was asked if he believed every word of the Bible to be true. I immediately thought about the 8th Article of Faith (yes, I had to look it up to make sure it was the 8th) which says “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far it is translated correctly…” It’s probably what I would have said in the pressure of a debate. But Governor Romney chose to parse his words with something more complex and he choked a bit, which brought criticism and undoubtedly, more suspicion about our faith.
Robert Millet of BYU has written a book called “More Holiness Give Me” and he tells of serving a mission in the Eastern States mission (a long time ago). His companion was kind of a slacker and so he insisted that he be the one to do all the talking at the next house. A young woman answered the door and the companion gave the standard opening line (I didn’t serve a mission so I don’t know what that line is.) The young woman stated that she already had a religion and so in an attempt to engage more conversation Brother Millet asked her to tell them about her religion. She said something like, “Oh, you’ll probably think it is strange. I believe the body to be sacred and so I don’t put harmful substance into my body. I don’t drink or smoke and I try to eat healthy foods.” Brother Millet saw the perfect opening here to introduce the gospel but he stuck to his guns about having the other companion do the talking and he gave him a look that said, “Go ahead”. His companion then said, “We have baptism for the dead!” to which the young woman replied, “That’s sick!” and slammed the door shut. That chapter of Bother Millet’s book is called “Milk Before Meat” and suggests that it is best to introduce the gospel in small parts rather than overwhelm someone with practices that might seem strange but that are more acceptable once someone has accepted the basic principles of the gospel.
And so we have a paradox, it seems. Do we let it all hang out there when it comes to telling someone about our religion or should we be cautious? Should we try to explain our faith in terms that sound more palatable to mainstream Protestant churches or should we just tell it like it is. I hope Governor Romney will be forthright and open about our faith because I have found that once you explain it to people, in honest terms, they will identify with its most beautiful precepts. I believe the basic precepts of our faith are just what Americans everywhere are looking for and I think if he is looking for the one moment that will help him become more acceptable to the voters, this may it.
What do you think?