Members of Jesus Christ's Church of Latter Day Saints have begun leveraging their evangelizing networks through smartphone apps to help draw support for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. By employing specialized apps like LDS Tools to gather phone numbers and addresses of Mormon church members, political supporters can cross-check the contact info with voter registration data to contact other Romney backers.
However, Mormon church rules forbid the use of LDS resources for political purposes. Dave Isbell, a Nevada Mormon, , the apps are being used despite official church policy.
[More from Mashable: ]
"The church makes it really easy for you to get a hold of anyone in your ward," Isbell says. "If you are a Romney supporter in the church, you have an opportunity to talk to everyone in your ward that already has a relationship of trust with you."
, available for free in the , offers full directories of church members including that of stake and district presidencies. The app even offers event calendar listings and a "birthday list."
[More from Mashable: ]
Isbell adds, "I'm sure the campaigns and the church are saying 'you can't do that,' but people will fall on their sword for Mitt Romney and some people will justify the means."
The Mormon church has also expanded traditional pavement-pounding evangelizing with a virtual experience, now reaching out to people more through social networks, like and , than in person.
Traditionally, Mormon church members are expected to spend one to two years of their lives going door-to-door spreading the Gospel. But Elder Erich Kopischke, the head of the Church's European operation, told that the Internet is proving more effective in getting converts.
"One post on Facebook could reach 900,000 people in an instant," Kopischke says, arguing it would take many months, if not years, to knock on that many doors.
About half a million people have liked the church's . The account displays photos and videos of Mormon families and practicing members of the community, as well as polls like, "Why is Jesus Christ Important to You?" and scripture passages as status messages. The official account has around 13,000 followers.
The somewhat young religion (founded less than 200 years ago) has seen a dramatic increase in recent years. The census reported 6.1 million Mormons in the U.S. in 2010 -- a 45% growth since 2009.
Kopischke adds the practice of "door-knocking" has often been regarded as "aggressive proselytizing" and the web gives believers a more unassuming space to share their religious views.
"If I want to share with you what is really on my heart or that I have observed something, [social networking] is easier than to make the trip," he says.
This isn't the first time the Mormon Church has used digital means to connect with others. In 2011, the church launched a multimillion-dollar TV, print and Internet advertising campaign using the tagline, "I'm a Mormon."
The ads featured people of different races, cultures and lifestyles discussing their personal stories and declaring their faith. The purpose was to help negate prevalent stereotypes of Mormons in America. The ads also encouraged people to go to the official website and share their own stories about being a practicing Mormon.
Since the launch of the campaign and the subsequent , more than 1 million people have had online conversations with Mormons, the .
Do you think Facebook and Twitter are good forums for discussing religion? Tell us in the comments.
Image courtesy of , .
This story originally published on Mashable .