Missionary work goes viral thanks to 'I'm a Mormon' campaign

By Beki Winchel

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, June 9 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

The pass-along cards missionaries carry direct people to the Mormon.org chat feature as well as member videos and profiles.

Jared Kelson

Kevin Fedderson said he gets approached almost on a daily basis, and it’s not just for an autograph. A YouTube video of the professional skateboarder sharing his testimony has been viewed more than 121,000 times, causing people to ask him many questions about being a Mormon.

“I have a lot more pressure on me to be an example, all eyes are on me now,” he said.

Fedderson is one of many individuals who have shared their stories of how faith impacts their daily lives through a series of videos on Mormon.org. The videos are posted on YouTube and available to share on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites while pictures of the individuals can be found on billboards, buses and taxis throughout the nation.

Although the videos aren’t as viral as others on YouTube — Harvard’s version of “Call Me Maybe” had more than 10.7 million views in three weeks — they still receive a lot of attention. Many of of the videos have more than 20,000 views, and former NFL player Gabe Reid’s video registered more than 712,000 views. Fedderson said he has answered many questions about his faith, referring people to the missionaries and the website for additional learning.

"Anyone can access it," Fedderson said. "And you'll always go away uplifted."

The videos are ultimately changing missionary work for the better. Jeremy Kidd, an elementary school teacher in Pasco, Wash., said the videos are incredibly easy to share and show that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are normal people with a variety of jobs and family situations.

“I think the church is one of the best organizations in the world that has stayed current with technology,” Kidd said. “The bad things on the internet are just a click away, and now the church is making it so that good things are just a click away as well.”

Kidd said getting people to understand available church resources like Mormon.org make missionary work not only easy, but also more inviting.

“It breaks down some barriers,” he said. “You don’t have to go across the street and knock on their door and invite them to a discussion.”

The Mormon.org YouTube channel has more than 13,300 subscribers and more than 15.9 million video views. Many members have used the videos to start discussions and regularly post them to Facebook and Twitter. However, the series has also received opposition as well as support. In answer to "I'm a Mormon," a handful of videos have been posted to YouTube with titles such as "I'm an ex-Mormon." Even without direct opposition, some individuals don't understand the purpose of the series.

Tiffany Heide, an independent dog groomer in Fitchburg, Wis., who isn't Mormon, said the videos are filmed well but fall short. Watching Ryan Wright's video, Heide said that although he was likable and she related to him having a family, she didn't see how being a Mormon was relevant to his story.

"He finds balance by taking time for himself to play squash, but I can play atheist squash," she said. "I want to see how (members) use their faith to guide them in their work or how they stay true to their moral compass even when it's hard."

Amanda Dryer, who works as a therapist in Spokane, Wash., said she was "pleasantly surprised" at the diversity represented in the videos.

"I feel like it brought out pieces that we do have in common," Dryer said. "Being a Mormon is a piece of their identity along with all the other things they align with."

Dryer, who said she was more spiritual than religious, appreciated the central themes of family and staying connected that were prevalent throughout the videos. She said watching the videos helped her to broaden her thoughts of what church members are really like.

Sheryl Garner, a school teacher in Washington, D.C., said she participated in the YouTube series because she wanted to share her testimony, especially because, as an African-American, she doesn't fit the stereotypical mold of an LDS Church member. Her video now has more than 133,000 views and she gets calls from friends that see her face on Mormon.org advertisements in various cities.

"This is so bigger than I thought it would be," she said. "But I'm really glad I did it."

Garner said she has seen the positive effects that have come from this campaign, which is why she agreed to participate. While visiting the Washington Temple visitors' center, a sister missionary thanked her for her video. The missionary often used it to teach visitors, who were then touched by Garner's testimony. Garner remembers the moment vividly.

"That is why I am doing this," she said. "It wasn't for the billboards, the taxicabs, any of that. That moment was the reason."

Members of the church can make their own Mormon.org profile to share as well as a YouTube video.

Beki Winchel is a current BYU student studying public relations and business management. Besides being a tech geek, she loves social media, music, movies and craftiness. She’s also a fierce Packers fan with a Wisconsin accent.

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