What We Really Know About Mitt Romney's Near Death Experience

Before he was the 70th governor of Massachusetts and before took a stab at the presidency, Mitt Romney led quite the exciting life. Along with attending college and raising a family, the politician also survived a tragic car accident that left one other person dead. This is what we really know about Romney's near death experience. 

The crazy story dates all the way back to Romney's 20s, when he was serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (per US News & World Report). During the Vietnam War, a young Romney got a draft deferment that allowed him to travel to France in 1966 to spread the message of Mormonism. It was during this time that he was driving a five-seater Citroën DS with the mission leader, his wife, and three others. Another vehicle struck theirs head-on, killing the mission leader's wife. 

Romney's own wounds were so severe that first responders assumed him dead. A photo taken after the crash while Romney was hospitalized, and later published by the Daily Mail, shows a young Romney sporting a cast and a black eye to boot. After the death of his wife, the mission leader left France and many of the church's responsibilities fell on Romney, who had been transferred to Paris (via The Daily Beast).

Mitt Romney's car crash changed his outlook on life and faith

Françoise Calmels, a spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France, shared the impact of that fateful day with The Daily Beast. "When someone who you know dies, everyone is sad — and the Church continues," Calmels said. "Missionaries — we have 52,000 in the world — are attacked and killed. It can, and does, happen. And it leaves a mark on them."

But despite the tragedy, she went on to explain that hardships during missions shape congregants, including Mitt Romney. "You arrive as a young man and you become a man," she said. "You live simply, deal with your money, learn a language and talk to people a lot about their problems. It makes you grow, and change. Everyone who has gone on a mission in our Church will tell you that they are the main beneficiaries, because they learn to live. Mitt Romney had this same experience."

For his part, Romney has described his mission in France as a time when he "grew up" and strengthened his faith. "On a mission, your faith in Jesus Christ either evaporates or it becomes much deeper," he told The New York Times in 2007. "For me it became much deeper."

While he may not have ended up in the White House, a failed presidential run must have felt like small cookies to someone who endured all that Romney did at such a young age. Talk about earning your chops.