This uncertainty about Mormonism’s status in America no doubt contributes to the ferocious work ethic typical of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons are taught to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause,” in the words of Mormon scripture. Stephen Mansfield, the (non-Mormon) author of The Mormonizing of America, explains: “Mormons believe they are in life to pass tests set for them.” The passage of repeated tests leads to self-improvement, ultimately to the point of perfection. In the words of early Mormon leader Lorenzo Snow: “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may become.” From the point of view of Christian orthodoxy, that idea may be unsettling; as a spur to effort, it’s unrivaled…

According to his biographers Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, Romney was horrified when one of his Bain partners purchased himself a private plane. Yes, Romney bought a $55,000 car elevator. But for every story of a rich man’s extravagance, there are many more of Romney’s frugality: patched gloves, dented cars, and $25 haircuts.

If Romney’s attitude toward money is influenced by his church, so is his outlook on how money should be used to help those in need. Mitt and Ann Romney have donated millions to the LDS church, a substantial portion of which has gone to its own internal welfare state for members in need. Unlike government aid, those who receive LDS welfare are expected to “give back”; they contributed almost 900,000 person-days in 2011. Here may originate some of Romney’s skepticism about federal welfare programs.