Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Romney effect: Campaign sheds light on Mormonism

When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney traveled through Mississippi earlier this year, he used grits, football and "y'all" to connect with voters, but in the heart of the Bible Belt, many Southerners were more interested in the religious beliefs of the first Mormon candidate for the nation's highest office. Local missionaries Brandon Urry and Riley Harris, both 20, spend as much as 12 hours a day pounding the pavement, sharing their faith with people who often know little about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Urry said lately, the first question people ask is, "What does Mitt Romney believe?" It's a difficult question, because the Mormon Church stays out of the political realm as much as possible, taking a neutral stance.

But for the general populace, Romney has become the poster child for his faith. "A lot of times, people come up and go, 'Oh, you're Romney's boys, but of course, that's a stereotype," Urry said. "We're politically neutral as a church, but we see more people willing to talk to us to learn more about Romney." Urry, a native of Atlanta, and fellow missionary Riley Harris, of Centerville, Utah, arrived in Columbus six months ago. They cover an average of five to 20 miles per day by foot, bicycle and car. They manage to connect with five to eight people a day. "One thing I've noticed is the surprise people have at the shared beliefs we have (with them)," Urry said. "We're more similar than people think. We're not that different at all."

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