Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman makes his way through the media as he leaves a polling station in Manchester, N.H., on Tuesday. He's one of the candidates young Mormons are often asked about as they proselytize.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman makes his way through the media as he leaves a polling station in Manchester, N.H., on Tuesday. He's one of the candidates young Mormons are often asked about as they proselytize. Adam Hunger/Reuters/Landov
If campaigning for Republican presidential candidates in New Hampshire sounds like hard work, try going door to door before the primary — for Jesus. Ike Sriskandarajah of TurnStyleNews.com, a production of Youth Radio, spoke with two Mormon missionaries in Exeter, N.H., to hear how they ride the line between proselytizing and politics.
As Sriskandarajah reports on All Things Considered, most canvassers wear candidates' buttons and carry campaign signs.
But these two young men stand out for having neither. Elder Taylor Bayles — he's just 20 years old but given the religious title of "elder" by the Mormon church — and his partner, Elder Kyle Hodson, who's 21, walk around in suits and ties to do their work as missionaries.
They joke about being asked the same question over and over by Granite State voters: "Huntsman or Romney?"
As Sriskandarajah reports, "It's a question they can't answer, despite the fact that Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney are both Mormon."
As Bayles puts it: "The church has a longstanding policy of neutrality as far as candidates and parties; as representatives we mimic that neutrality. But we are people, we do have opinions. We just choose not to voice them during these two years that we serve."
During their mission, Bayles and Hodson don't watch TV or read newspapers — just scriptures and hymns. And they only spend 30 minutes of time online each week at the local public library. That's when they check out the only website they're allowed to browse for two years: Mormon.org, Sriskandarajah reports.
That site is part of a recent ad campaign by the Mormon church to educate Americans about the religion — an effort that got under way even before there were two prominent Mormons in the race.