"So what?", you ask?
Quick background -- a bishop is the leader of a congregation (ward), and the stake president is the leader of a group of wards called a stake. Nearly all issues faced by members of the church are dealt with at the ward or stake level.
A few months back I was sitting in a bishopric training meeting where someone from the LDS Family Resources center was giving a presentation on addiction recovery and support. The lady mentioned that they had encountered all kinds of people dealing with pornography addiction, including bishops, high counselors, etc. -- everyone, that is, except patriarchs, and stake presidents. I immediately understood that the position of stake president is unique -- that the caliber of person called into that role is much higher than your average church member. It also lines up with my experience with stake presidents.
Note, Mitt didn't run for the office of stake president -- in fact, anybody lobbying for a position like that is more likely to have their sanity called into question than get it. Neither stake presidents nor bishops get paid, and their workload is tremendous!
His story sounds good, but I wasn't ready to believe that Mitt was sincere until I found that out.
More facts for those who don't know:
- Stake presidents serve from 8 to 12 years -- Mitt served for 9.
- They likely spend 12-20 hours a week on stake business
- They oversee and work closely with dozens of the best individuals in the church in the area, interacting regularly with sharp, dedicated men and women who've managed to get their lives in order and keep them there for years and years -- then, they regularly go to trainings with church leaders, an impressive group, to learn directly from them
- Bishops and stake presidents are called to hear confessions of people who have committed serious sins -- they spend hours and hours with individuals pouring out their hearts -- listening to things that normal people never get to hear -- people being fully honest about their innermost weaknesses and sins. Mitt has been in this role for probably 15 years! He knows what goes on in the hearts of men, and I bet he knows more about how to read individuals than any of the other candidates, just based on that alone.
- Bishops and stake presidents oversee an organization that's the most perfect of any one I know -- that oversees dozens of ongoing activities and group structures, that takes care of the individuals and the group at the same time. He's been at least indirectly responsible for the religious instruction and care of toddlers, children, scouts, young men and women, young adults, adults, all the way up to the elderly. He probably feels as comfortable teaching a group of 18-month old kids about sharing as he does playing basketball with the old guys. He's been a part of an organization that really works from top to bottom.