This essay originally appeared on Beliefnet in 2000.
The inside covers of 56 copies of Mormon scriptures have these words written out in my father's longhand:
"Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another."
It is a verse in the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of revelations given to the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith.
These are the books and the wisdom George Romney gave to each of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. At the end of the scripture, he explains: "This is the Lord's formula for successful living."
But I didn't need him to write it out to know how important this verse was to him. I remember how he faced defeat in the gubernatorial election of 1964. Having been elected Michigan's governor in 1962 by the narrowest of margins, he was running again in 1964 on a ticket headed by Barry Goldwater.
As we watched national election-night returns from the campaign suite of Lansing's Jack Tarr Hotel, it was obvious that Goldwater would be swamped by Johnson's overwhelming tide. Michigan was being predicted to give Johnson a 600,000-vote plurality. Dad's pollster gave him the obvious news: "George, we've lost this one already--there's no way that enough ticket-splitters are out there to bail us out."
Lost! How humiliating! To a high school senior still battling the insecurities of zits, skinny legs, and b.o., I couldn't imagine facing my friends. And worse, facing my enemies. All those kids at school who said they were my dad's opponents, all the people who let me know what they thought about the bumper stickers on my car, all the partisans I debated at campaign stops over the last months.
But then I glanced at Dad. Not a trace of pain or anger or sorrow; in fact, he looked entirely calm and unaffected by the news. He was smiling, even joking with his staff. Turning to the family, he said, "This isn't just about winning, you know."
A few hours later, the pollsters were proved wrong, and Dad won a second term. Still, I will never forget how he looked, what he said, when he thought he had lost.
He explained it to me later: "I knew that I was doing what I was supposed to do, so win or lose, I was satisfied. I was successful."
How did he know that he was doing what he was supposed to be doing? "Because I had followed the Lord's formula for success." By this time, I knew what that meant. By age 18, any Romney could quote D&C 90:24 by heart. Dad really had given that scripture some thought, and he had learned about the Lord's promise by applying it. To him, the fact that "search diligently" came at the beginning of the scripture meant that before he went to the Lord for an answer to prayer, he had to search on his own. That meant study, analysis, lists of pros and cons, counsel from others.
"Pray always" meant that prayer was part of the search process as well as at the heart of the confirmation he would seek from God. A day or two of fasting and prayer would inevitably lead to a burning affirmation or a mental dead end.
"Be believing" meant going forward with boldness, with confidence that he was about the Lord's errand. The outcome was not what brought meaning; it was acting upon knowledge of the Lord's will. It was doing what was right and letting the consequence follow.
Dad didn't talk very often about the rest of the scripture--"walking uprightly" and "abide by the covenant." He didn't have to. We each knew his life to be one of complete integrity. Every promise he made to the Lord in His holy house was honored fully.
I witnessed D&C 90:24 in action every day in the behavior and character of my father. I saw that he had worked its message into his bones. I try to do the same.
His children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren may never experience the acclaim my father received. But D&C 90:24 was not written to guide any of us to success like that. It was given for successful living--as our Father in heaven would have us live, knowing that the only failures that matter are when we aren't following His will.
Win or lose in earthly games, all things will assuredly work together for our good.