Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life recently completed an in-depth survey of Mormons in the United States. While the press has often evaluated the nation’s impressions of Mormon, there has not been an extensive study of how Mormons perceive themselves done by a non-LDS organization. The study, “Mormons in America: Certain in Their Beliefs, Uncertain of Their Place in Society,” surveyed more than 11,000 people who self-identify as mainstream Mormons. Mormon is a nickname sometimes used to describe members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All are members of the mainstream church and not the various breakaway sects. They have varying levels of activity and testimony, with about 65 percent holding Mormon temple recommends. Temple recommends require someone to have been a member of the Church for at least one year and to be living at a high level of obedience to the commandments, as well as to have a testimony of the essential aspects of the religion. They permit a person to enter the Mormon temples, which are different from the ordinary meetinghouses.
74 percent of those surveyed were born into LDS (Mormon) families. Previous Pew surveys have shown some variation in cultural beliefs between those born into Mormon families and those who joined later. 77 percent attend church at least one day a week.
The study showed that the surveyed Mormons are more religious than the general public. 82 percent said that religion is a very important part of their lives, compared to 56 percent of the general public.
“In terms of religious beliefs and practices, the survey makes it clear that Mormons are highly religious — again, not a big surprise. Eighty-two percent say that religion is very important in their lives, and 77 percent say they believe wholeheartedly in all of the church’s teachings. Fully 83 percent say they pray every day, 79 percent say they donate 10 percent of their earnings to the church in tithing and 77 percent say they attend church at least once a week. According to Pew, “Mormons exhibit higher levels of religious commitment than many other religious groups, including white evangelical Protestants.”
“Looking at basic, core religious beliefs, 98 percent say they believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 94 percent believe the president of the LDS Church is a prophet of God, 95 percent believe that families can be bound together eternally in temple ceremonies, 94 percent believe that God the Father and Jesus Christ are separate, physical beings and 91 percent believe that the Book of Mormon was written by ancient prophets.” (See “’Mormons in America’ Pew survey explores beliefs, attitudes of LDS Church members” Published: Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 10:00 p.m. MST by Joseph Walker, Deseret News.)
73 percent said working to care for the poor was an essential part of being a good Mormon. The Church offers an extensive humanitarian aid program world-wide, serving people without regard to faith. It also offers humanitarian services specifically designed to help church members through temporary difficult times. Individual congregations do extensive community and congregational service through their auxiliaries.
The survey demonstrated that Mormons are overwhelmingly optimistic, with 87 percent happy with their own lives and 92 percent with their communities.
Despite common perceptions that all Mormons are conservative, the study showed that sixty-six percent consider themselves conservative and 74 percent consider themselves Republican or lean towards it.
The study confirms things that have been in shown in previous Pew studies and things that Mormons always believed about active members of their faith. The strong religiosity compared to other religions is an oft-found statistic in studies, and one that Mormons themselves recognize. Mormonism is not a “show up on Sunday and forget about religion until next Sunday” sort of religion. It calls for active participation because it is a lay church with need for everyone to volunteer. It asks for a high level of obedience to the commandments of God. It is expected to be a religion one lives every moment of the day and night, and this tends to lead to stronger testimonies, stronger commitment to the faith, and a stronger sense of identification with the religion and the culture that builds up around it.
The results may be surprising to non-Mormons, who didn’t realize Mormons shared conservative religious values with the majority of Christian faiths, but the results are likely to surprise very few Mormons themselves. That 97 percent of Mormons consider themselves Christian and 98 percent believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ might surprise some non-Mormons, but the only surprise to Mormons is likely to be that both answers weren’t 100 percent. (If the study had been only of temple recommend holders, it would have been, since these are requirements for a recommend.)
The full Pew Forum report on Mormons is 125 pages. A six-page summary of the report, far less time consuming, can be found here:
“’Mormons in America’ Pew survey explores beliefs, attitudes of LDS Church members” Published: Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 10:00 p.m. MST by Joseph Walker, Deseret News.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.