PROVO, Utah (AP) — During a speech focused heavily on religion, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told Brigham Young University students Tuesday that being Mormon is a blessing even if it sometimes feels like a burden.
“Some folks will think you’re not Christian, some may be insulted that you don’t drink with them, and others will think you’re trying to be better than them by not swearing,” Romney said. “But I can affirm this: your fellow members of the church will be a blessing to you that far more than compensates.”
Romney delivered the speech, titled “Life Lessons from the Front,” to about 15,000 students at the Marriott Center on the campus in Provo. The university is owned by Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and nearly all students are practicing Mormons. Romney graduated from BYU in 1971.
He declared his love for the religion and its members, and told them that being faithful Latter-day Saints will bring incomparable happiness, now and forever.
He started his speech with a joke about a new essay from LDS church leaders that openly acknowledged that Mormon church founder Joseph Smith had dozens of wives, including a teen bride, during the early days of Mormonism when polygamy was practiced.
He listed off a series of things that had changed since he graduated from BYU with the final one being, “Back then, Emma was Joseph Smith’s only wife.”
That drew laughs and applause from an adoring audience. The former governor of Massachusetts is very well liked in Utah, where he served as the chair of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Romney spoke about his failed run for president with a mixture of humor and serious reflection. He didn’t mention anything about future plans for politics.
“In case you haven’t heard, I lost,” he said. “Actually, I’d prefer to say that I won the silver medal.”
He reflected back on the day after the election, saying, “The cheers were gone, replaced by the agonizing reappraisal by others of what had gone wrong.”
He said the election reinforced his belief that God doesn’t “always intervene in the affairs of men to make things work out the way we would like them too.”
“More often than not, our secular affairs are up to us. Don’t count on God to save you from the consequences of your decisions or to arrange earthly affairs to work in your favor,” Romney said.
But, he also urged students not to become enveloped by the “twists and turns of secular life” that threaten to overshadow who they are.
“You are not defined by secular measures,” Romney said. “You are a child of a Heavenly Father who loves you. You are His work and His glory.”