Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pew Forum On Religion Releases Survey On Mormons In America: LDS Church Pleased, Prominent LDS Bloggers Question Findings

On January 12th, 2012, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released the results of a survey entitled "Mormons In America", but a number of prominent bloggers who make up the LDS Bloggernacle are questioning some of the findings. In contrast, the LDS Church sent an official statement to KSL Channel 5 expressing its satisfaction with the outcome. Church spokesman Cody Craynor wrote:

"As the Church and its members are increasingly the focus of media attention, we're eager to participate in conversations that help the public get to know us better.

"Even though the recent Pew study did not survey any of the Church's 8 million members who live outside the U.S., it highlights some important aspects regarding who we are and what we believe. For example, the study found that Church members subscribe to traditional Christian beliefs, have high moral standards, are overwhelmingly satisfied with their lives and communities, are active in serving others and have a profound dedication to family.

"These results reflect the Church's message that a deep commitment to the teachings of Jesus Christ brings lasting happiness."

According to the Topline, 1,019 individuals who identified as Mormon and living in the United States were interviewed between October 25th - November 16th, 2011. Of those interviewed, 99 percent identified as members of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with the remainder split among other restorationist denominations such as the Community of Christ and unspecified other Mormon sects. Page 76 of the full report reveals that 88 percent of respondents are White (non-Hispanic), 7 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Other, and 1 percent Black (non-Hispanic). Page 74 shows that 44 percent of respondents live in Utah. All information on methodology begins on Page 67 of the full report.

Topics covered included the leading presidential candidates, general social trends, perception of attitudes towards Mormons, and finally, Mormons' own religious practices. The mass media will already be focusing upon points one and three; rather than duplicate their efforts, I prefer to focus on points two and four. From the social trends category comes these noteworthy highlights:

-- Homosexuality: 65 percent of respondents say homosexuality should be discouraged by society.
-- Immigration: Almost evenly split; 45 percent of respondents say immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents, but 41 percent say immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care.
-- Abortion: 74 percent say abortion is morally wrong.
-- Divorce: 46 percent say it's not a moral issue, while 25 percent say it's morally wrong.
-- Polygamy: 86 percent say it's morally wrong.
-- Sex between unmarried adults (fornication): 79 percent say it's morally wrong.

And from the religious practices category come these highlights on how Mormons believe in Church doctrine and participate in Church activities:

-- Attending church: 77 percent say they attend services at least once weekly.
-- Activity: 67 percent define themselves as Very Active.
-- The Book of Mormon: 91 percent say the Book of Mormon was written by ancient prophets and TRANSLATED by Joseph Smith, while 8 percent say the Book of Mormon was WRITTEN by Joseph Smith (all caps in the original)
-- Jesus Christ: 98 percent say He rose from the dead.
-- Godhead: 94 percent believe the Father and the Son to be physically separate beings.
-- President of the Church: 94 percent believe that the president of the LDS Church is a prophet of God.
-- Temple Activity: 95 percent believe that families can be bound together eternally in Temple ceremonies, but only 65 percent of respondents hold a temple recommend.
-- Women in the Priesthood: 87 percent say that women who are dedicated members of the LDS Church should not be ordained to the priesthood.
-- Food Storage: 82 percent keep an emergency food supply, but only 60 percent have at least three months' supply on hand.
-- Missionary Service: Only 27 percent report having served a full-time proselyting mission. Of those, 92 percent said it helped them grow their faith, and 80 percent said it helped prepare them for employment success.
-- Personal Prayer: 83 percent report praying at least once per day; 64 percent more than once.
-- Tithing: 79 percent of respondents pay tithing.
-- Spouse/Partner: Of those identifying as being married or cohabiting, 85 percent said their partner is also a Mormon, while 6 percent said their partner was from a nonspecified Protestant denomination.
-- Is Mormonism Christian: 97 percent say Yes.

The survey has generated considerable discussion on the Bloggernacle, with analysis and discussion posted on Juvenile Instructor, on By Common Consent (HERE and HERE), and on Mormon Metaphysics. Several question the finding that 77 percent of Mormons in America attend church every week, because most who care about such things find that the actual rate of attendance is nowhere near this high. Likewise, the finding that 79 percent of Mormons pay tithing is also considered high when the Church itself estimates that it's around 50 percent. It's possible these high figures were skewed by the large number of Utah Mormons who responded; in Utah, there is more cultural and social pressure for Mormons to be active since they comprise a much higher percentage of the overall population. Some of the questions were not considered sufficiently nuanced; for example, what's the difference between Very Active and Active?

In the final analysis, the survey provides a good snapshot on the attitudes and actions of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints in America.

No comments: