Mitt Romney and I went on our Mormon missions exactly the same time. Born in March 1947, we spent a week together — along with 200 other new LDS missionaries — being trained in a converted hotel in downtown Salt Lake Citythat is now the site of the church’s 21,000-seat Conference Center.
Of course, Mitt wouldn’t remember me (we never talked), but he sat right in front of me during most of the training sessions. At the end of the week, I entertained Mitt and the rest of the missionaries with my guitar, as I sang Peter, Paul, and Mary‘s version of “Early Morning Rain” — with the lyrics altered, since it was about fast women and being “cold and drunk” on the outskirts of an airport (things I literally I knew nothing about). It’s one of my favorite songs, which I still sing regularly — altered lyrics and all.
I thought it ironic, at the time, that I would be in the “mission home” the same week as Mitt, since I knew I was going to Michigan — where his dad, George W. Romney, a popular icon in Mormondom, was governor. As it turned out, I served in Detroit and Lansing, along with several other cities in the region.
By another coincidence, at the time I was courting my wife DeeAnn, when we were both seniors at Brigham Young University, I lived a few houses up the street from Mitt’s basement apartment, where he and Ann were living as newlyweds. I passed the building every day on my way to teach guitar at Herger Music in downtown Provo (humming, no doubt, my favorite song).
By a third coincidence, Mitt and I both graduated in English in 1971 from BYU, where he gave the valedictory address (while I was attending graduate school elsewhere, and was glad to be away from the authoritarian center of LDS culture).
A little more background…
Since my dad (who twice almost became president of BYU) idealized Mitt’s dad (a well-known automobile industrialist) — and because my life had the above incidental overlaps with Mitt’s — I’ve always taken an interest in Mitt’s life and career. I know details about him most other LDS-raised Americans wouldn’t.
I’ve always known, for instance, that Mitt held the highest position a missionary could attain during his mission to France, an “assistant to the president” — an esteemed office gained only by the most obedient of missionaries within the framework of the highly-controlling mission regimen.
I was also aware that, while he was in France, Mitt was driving a mission vehicle that was hit head-on by another car, killing the mission president’s wife, an experience that had to be life-altering for Mitt, who was seriously injured.
I knew that Mitt’s oldest son was named Taggart. I thought that fact memorable since one of the most popular missionaries in my mission before I arrived was an Elder Taggart. I can only assume Elder Taggart was well known to the Romney family in the Bloomfield Hills area of the mission, and that Mitt possibly chose to name his first child after him — although I’m just guessing. Elder Taggart went on to become a prominent campus figure at BYU when Mitt and I were both there after our missions, further fueling my presumption.
I knew that Mitt’s mother, Lenore — who ran for the U.S. Senate in 1970 — was explicitly pro-choice in her public life, something at odds with Mormon teachings.
I knew that Mitt ran against Ted Kennedy…………..
via Inside Mitt’s mind.