[i]Street preacher Eli Brayley, talks to students in front of Utah State UniversityÕs Taggert Student Center on Wednesday. (Meegan M. Reid/Herald Journal)[/i]
Holding a worn, leather-bound Bible, itinerant preacher Eli Brayley raised his hand and shouted, Mormonism is not true.
Gradually, he was encircled by about 50 students outside Utah State Universitys Taggart Student Center. Many folded their arms and frowned as they watched the neatly dressed man lay out his views. A few sat on the ground, settling in for a long debate on religion, evil, Christ and the afterlife.
Wait, what about baptism? one shouted.
What about the apostles? another yelled.
Ill get to that, Brayley said, before returning to his main thrust that the Bible is inviolable; faith is more important than works; Mormons arent really Christians; and everyone should embrace Jesus as a born-again Christian.
Richard Hart idly rolled a cigarette as he listened.
Im having a great time, he said. I love religion. Its one of my favorite things. I think its good that hes here. In Utah, its such a rare thing to hear a different viewpoint.
The 20-year-old history and anthropology major said he was raised aggressively Mormon but now considers himself spiritual.
Hart said that he felt many of the LDS students in the crowd were being impolite to Brayley. However, Hart also felt that Brayley should not be attacking Mormonism specifically.
I dont think it is helping his cause, Hart said.
Accounting student Craig Hibbard agreed.
I think its going nowhere, Hibbard said. He only answers the questions that he can answer. He ignores the others. Im just standing here because I dont have anything else to do.
Hibbard, a 24-year-old accounting junior, has attended USU for three years and has never seen another preacher on campus.
He welcomed the dialogue, but felt his LDS religion was being attacked.
He has something against Mormonism, Hibbard said. Its sad. I dont know why he has something inside him that makes him against Mormons.
Brayleys colleague, Evan Schaible, said the two felt Mormonism needed to be addressed because it is Utahs dominant religion. The two 21-year-olds also do not support Islam, Buddhism or other religions that they feel do not strictly follow the Bible.
When people embrace Christ, they will want to go to a certain kind of church, one that has only the Bible with nothing added or taken away. If someone is perfected, they will leave the Mormon Church.
Brayley and Schaible have brought that message to college campuses across the country as members of the born-again Christian organization Open Air Outreach. The groups Web site (www.openairoutreach) states that they are Christian laymen who utterly refuse to merely go to church rather than be the church. ... Through biblical methods of evangelism we bring the message of eternal life to a dying world.
Last week, Brayley and Schaible visited the University of Utah, where a crowd of about 200 listened to their opinions.
They arrived at USU Tuesday and plan to stay through Thursday.
Brad Scheelke, owner of Logans Oasis Bookstore invited them and is giving them a place to stay.
Scheelke also gave away 30 to 40 Christian books from a folding table near Brayley.
Asked why he wanted to bring the two preachers, Scheelke said he wanted to expose Utahns to born-again Christianity.
Next year, he hopes to invite them again, though he added, We never know what the future holds.
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