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Romney: LifeWay store is ministry ‘oasis’

SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–Robert Romney is accustomed to the question: “Are you related to Mitt Romney?”

The answer is yes, he is related to the presidential candidate in the 2008 race.

Robert Romney, manager of the LifeWay Christian Store in Salt Lake City, is related through his father, who was Mitt Romney’s cousin and childhood playmate. Robert’s father died five years ago.

But while Mitt Romney is firmly entrenched in his Mormon beliefs, Robert Romney grew up in a Christian home.

“My mother was loosely Protestant,” he said. “My mom was raised going to any church that was on the corner. She came here for school and was hit with Mormon theology. It was presented to her as just another Christian denomination. She fell into that and met my dad who was already quite involved in the LDS (Latter-day Saints) church.”

Romney’s mother and father married but his father soon moved to accept a position in a town several hours away, leaving his new wife in Salt Lake City. Romney said God used that time of separation to grow his parents together.

“My mom began reading the Bible and she and my dad would sometimes talk for hours about what she’d read,” Romney said. “He would make notes on what he was reading…. By the time that job ended, they’d decided that [Mormonism] wasn’t right and they needed to get out of it.”

Although neither had professed faith in Christ at that time, Romney’s parents began attending a Protestant church. The transition didn’t sit well with their extended family, who saw it as a betrayal. The couple soon learned that faith in Jesus Christ -– not just believing the Bible -– was necessary for salvation. As a result, Romney grew up in a Christian home and accepted Christ himself as a junior high school student.

Growing up in Salt Lake City and not being a member of the LDS church comes with pressure, and Romney was no exception to ostracism from other kids in his neighborhood.

“Each neighborhood has its own LDS church and so most of the kids in that neighborhood go to school together and church together,” he said. “Since Mormonism is so dominant here, you can become excluded pretty quickly.”

Romney’s parents sent him to a private Christian school which he said helped “quite a bit.” And a strong youth group was instrumental in his life.

“I think that is key, to be a part of a strong youth group,” he said. “Youth need to have that support and need to be around other Christians, especially Christian adults.”

Romney has been a LifeWay Christian Store employee for nine years and manager for three. He believes his opportunity to guide Salt Lake City’s LifeWay store is more than a job.

“I see this first as an oasis in the desert for the Christians here,” he said. “It isn’t easy to be a Christian [in this area] and we have the opportunity to support them in their faith. We pray for the needs of our customers every morning at our devotion time. We do see it as a mission opportunity.”
Chris Turner is media relations manager for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.