A recent Pew Forum study showed that Mormons know their religion and the Bible better than do Protestants. Only atheists, agnostics, and Jews scored higher, and statistically, each of those groups was a tie. This is one of a series of studies that have demonstrated Mormons know their religions better and practice them more, both in adulthood and in the teen years.
So what gives the Mormons a jump on other religions? Mormon beliefs teach that we are expected by God to be well-educated, both spiritually and temporally. It is part of our duty to God to learn our religion. We place a high value on keeping the commandments and we can’t keep that which we don’t know.
The study showed the Mormons answered more questions about the Bible correctly than did other Christians. This is because the Mormons put a strong emphasis on reading scripture. Each church member is asked to study the scriptures privately each day. In addition, they are asked to read scripture daily with their family. This means they have two sessions of scripture reading each day. In addition to this, every Sunday, they attend a Sunday School class—even adults—in which they study a book of scripture for four years. Two years are reserved for the Bible—one for the Old Testament and one for the New Testament. The third year is for the Book of Mormon and the fourth for Church history and Doctrine and Covenants, a book of modern teachings. Since the Mormons have twice as much time spent on the Bible as on other books, they naturally learn it very well. Scriptures are also used during worship services and during the additional class attended by Mormons each Sunday.
Children study the scriptures as well. Even the toddler lesson, for children ages one to three, include a scripture to be learned in each lesson, as well as scripture stories. Children ages four to eight study the Bible one year and uniquely Mormon scriptures the next, repeating each one time. They are taught doctrine and morality through the stories in these books. Children ages nine to eleven follow the same course of study as the teens and parents, so families can get together after church to study and discuss what was taught. Of course, their materials are adapted to their age.
Teenagers have yet another opportunity to study their religion. During these critical years, they meet for a scripture study class each day during the school year. This is held before school in most places. It is an intense study program with scripture memorization, tests, and assignments, much like a school class. College students have a similar program which is even more scholarly in nature.
Still not enough? In addition to all of this, each family holds a Family Home Evening, which is only for family members and held in each private home. During this time, they study one principle of the gospel and decide how they can apply it in their own lives.
Is it any wonder Mormons know so much about their own religions?
Mormons believe the glory of God is intelligence. He gave us our minds and expects us to use them. Whatever knowledge we gain in this life stays with us, since we continue to be ourselves after we die.
Studying the scriptures allows us to learn God’s history. By studying how He has interacted with His children, we can learn how much He loves us and what He expects from us. We can gain a sense of our own importance to God and begin to see our divine heritage. It’s not just something to do, or something that lets us score high in these types of studies. Scripture study is a commandment that affects all of eternity.
David A. Bednar, a Mormon apostle, offered five steps for improved scripture study, regardless of your religious faith:
Principle 1: Pray for understanding, and invite the help of the Holy Ghost. The things of the Spirit can be learned only by and through the influence of the Spirit. Each time we begin a session of sincere scripture study, an earnest and humble prayer in which we petition our Heavenly Father in the name of His Son for the assistance of the Holy Ghost will greatly improve our learning, understanding, and recall. It is helpful to pray not only at the beginning, but to plead for understanding as you study. Also, I find it helpful to express gratitude for what I have been taught as I conclude the session.
Principle 2: Work. Gospel knowledge and understanding come through diligent study of the scriptures and tutoring by the Holy Ghost. The combination that opens the vault door to hidden scriptural treasures includes a great deal of work—simple, old-fashioned, hard work. A farmer cannot expect to harvest a crop in the fall if he does not properly sow in the spring and work hard during the summer to weed, nourish, and cultivate the plants. In like manner, we cannot expect to reap a rich scriptural harvest unless we pay the price of regular and diligent study. The scriptural treasures we seek in our lives cannot be borrowed or loaned or obtained secondhand. We must each learn to open the vault door by applying the principle of work.
Principle 3: Be consistent. Given the hectic pace of our lives, good intentions and simply “hoping” to find the time for meaningful scripture study are not sufficient. My experience suggests that a specific and scheduled time set aside each day and, as much as possible, a particular place for study greatly increase the effectiveness of our searching in and study of the scriptures.
Principle 4: Ponder. The word ponder means to consider, contemplate, reflect upon, or think about. Pondering the scriptures, then, is reverent reflecting on the truths, experiences, and lessons contained in the standard works. The process of pondering takes time and cannot be forced, hurried, or rushed.
David A. Bednar, “Because We Have Them before Our Eyes,” New Era, Apr 2006, 2–7
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.