One of my favorite stories of President Thomas S. Monson came in a talk entitled “Dare to Stand Alone.” In that talk, President Monson told about the end of his first week in Navy boot camp. After his commanding officer directed the Catholics, Protestants, and Jews to go to worship services, President Monson was left standing alone, or so he thought. But as he looked around, he realized that he was actually standing with others of his faith that he had not seen.
President Monson then explained that all of us will sometimes need to stand alone in defense of our faith or in doing what we believe to be right.
“With all my heart and soul, I pray that every man who holds the priesthood will honor that priesthood and be true to the trust which was conveyed when it was conferred. May each of us who holds the priesthood of God know what he believes. May we ever be courageous and prepared to stand for what we believe, and if we must stand alone in the process, may we do so courageously, strengthened by the knowledge that in reality we are never alone when we stand with our Father in Heaven.”
I was reminded of this story today, as I watched the actions of Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT). Senator Romney was the only member of his party who broke ranks and voted to convict President Donald Trump of a count of abuse of power. More than that, Senator Romney is the only person in U.S. History to vote to convict a President of his or her own party.
Whether you agree or disagree with his choice (and it is no shock that I strongly support his decision), Senator Romney’s willingness to follow his conscience even if it meant standing alone is inspiring.
Romney spoke passionately about his decision on the Senate floor. His remarks were filled with the fervor of someone who is following his convictions. Romney explained that he had taken “an oath, before God, to exercise ‘impartial justice.”” He emphasized that as “a profoundly religious person” that oath was “enormously consequential.” Romney rejected the demand that he “stand with the team” and betray his conscience. He noted that his “promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and biases aside. Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience.”
Romney was well aware of the consequences of his decision. He knew that he would be labelled a traitor and that the President and his allies would come after him with all of the force they could muster. But he could not vote but to convict because of “an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?”
Romney knew his vote would not change the outcome. But he voted for the sake of history and his posterity:
But irrespective of these things, with my vote, I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me. I will only be one name among many, no more or less, to future generations of Americans who look at the record of this trial. They will note merely that I was among the senators who determined that what the President did was wrong, grievously wrong.
We’re all footnotes at best in the annals of history. But in the most powerful nation on earth, the nation conceived in liberty and justice, that is distinction enough for any citizen.
In an interview with Chris Wallace about his vote, Senator Romney put his decision in starkly religious terms but invoking the Hymn”Do what is right.”
“There’s a hymn that is sung in my church. It’s an old Protestant hymn, which is, do what is right, let the consequence follow. I know in my heart that I’m doing what’s right. I understand there’s going to be enormous consequence and I don’t have a choice in that regard. That’s why I haven’t been anxious to be in the position I’m in. … I had to follow my conscience.”
In another interview with McKay Coppins in the Atlantic, Romney invoked the example of his father George Romney who courageously stood against his part in defense of civil rights. And he quoted his father’s favorite scripture from D&C 90:24: “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.” Romney also spoke of his constant prayer throughout the process.
For me, the example of Mitt Romney is a powerful one for many reasons. I love the example of a son drawing courage from his father’s brave example at his moment of trial. I love Senator Romney’s willingness to stand alone. I love how one man’s courageous example makes a difference, even if that impact is not easily measured in changed votes. Today, Senator Romney stood in defense of virtue and a willingness to do the right thing even if it is unpopular. He gave hope to many who had lost hope that any one was left in the Republican party who was willing to stand up and speak the truth.
I am proud to be member of the Church that Senator Romney belongs to. I see how his faith his influenced his actions and led him to stand apart. And I know that as President Monson explained, when we stand for right we are never truly standing alone.