Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life has just released a 125-page report which resulted from an extensive survey of Mormons. Mormon is the nickname some use to describe members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This study is the first to be done by non-LDS researchers and looks into the religious and daily lives of Mormons. The survey involved more than 1100 Mormons of varying levels of testimony and activity.
The name of the report demonstrates the basic results of the study: Mormons in America: Certain in Their Beliefs, Uncertain of Their Place in Society,” Mormons in the study showed some concern over how they are viewed. They don’t want to be just like everyone else, but they do want their beliefs treated with dignity and respect.
To this end, as the title suggests, many Mormons are unsure of their acceptance in society. Half felt evangelical Christians were usually unfriendly to them. 54 percent felt media portrayals were damaging to their faith and 62 percent felt Americans don’t know much about them. Although two-thirds of Mormons don’t believe most Americans see them as part of the mainstream, 63 percent feel that their level of acceptance is improving.
The other part of the study’s title reveals that Mormons themselves have very sure testimonies of their beliefs. 97 percent of Mormons describe their religion as a Christian religion. 74 percent were raised in the Mormon faith and 65 percent have current temple recommends. This last statistic is important because a temple recommend requires a member to have belonged to the church for at least a year and to have a strong testimony of several key doctrines. In addition, they have to be living a moral and spiritual lifestyle. As a result, it is one indicator of a person’s commitment to his or her religion.
Deseret News, which summarized the lengthy report, said:
“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.
Clearly, Mormons are believers.” (See ‘Mormons in America’ Pew survey explores beliefs, attitudes of LDS Church members, By Joseph Walker, Deseret News; Published: Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 10:00 p.m. MST.)
Despite facing the ordinary trials of life, 87 percent of Mormons say they are satisfied with life, a figure higher than that of the general public. However, they also feel a strong responsibility to help others achieve better lives. 73 percent said that helping the poor was an essential element of Mormonism.
The study, and previous Pew studies in which Mormons were ranked against other religions, demonstrate that the Mormons are doing something right. The religion creates a high level of faith and morality. Mormons are well-known for their commitment to living clean, moral lives and for being happy while they do it. In a world that claims we can’t enjoy life without being immoral, Mormons are proving that morality is rewarding and joyous.
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.