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Friday, January 13, 2012

Pew Research Center's Survey of Mormons on Mormonism

I found the results of this survey utterly fascinating, during this 'Mormon moment.' Not entirely what I would have expected, yet not too surprising. There are about 6 million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints within the United States, about 2% of the population. There are 8 million more members out of the United States. This survey reflects the feelings that Mormons have about themselves, their religiosity, political leanings, the types of things they value. Given that a few of the responses to this survey- of Mormons about Mormonism- were so off-base with the heart of Mormonism, I thought I'd elaborate and clarify for the blog audience. For much more detail and the complete results, follow the link provided.

Of no surprise to me were the numbers reflecting Mormons at the top of the charts among fellow Christians who consider themselves religious, pray daily, pay tithing, attend church weekly, etc. I know my fellow Mormons, and that as a whole we stick out for religiosity.

Deseret News has an elaborate write-up of the survey, not surprising since they're based in Salt Lake City. Quoting them, "... respondents were asked several questions about what is essential to being a good Mormon. According to the survey, 80 percent said "believing Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ" is essential to being a good Mormon, 73 percent said "working to help the poor," 51 percent said "regular Family Home Evenings," 49 percent said "not drinking coffee and tea" and 32 percent said "not watching R-rated movies." Now, I looked at the survey itself and it had asked the Mormon respondents to rank each of these topics as essential, important but not essential, and not important. I personally, as a Mormon with a good understanding of the doctrine taught by Jesus Christ and the prophets, would say that questions 1, 2, and 4 are the essential ones, and the other important but not (as) essential. You see, those particular questions have bearing on the worthiness of members to enter the temple, where recommends are required. To obtain a recommend, one must answer standard questions by local Church leaders every two years, reflecting one's commitment to living the gospel of Jesus Christ, and keeping oneself pure from outside influences such as addictions. The temple is the house of God. It is not open to those who would make a mock of it by indulging in sinful behaviors, or those who are not ready to commit to living a clean, moral life. Converts are required to wait one year before they may enter the temple and make sacred covenants with God which can only be made in temples. Baptism is the single covenant one enters into outside of a temple.

Back to the survey: one question asked whether the participants believed in reincarnation or yoga as a spiritual practice. I suppose I should be relieved that only 11% of the former, and 27% of the latter were agreed, but in reality neither of these are embraced as doctrines. Resurrection; absolutely. Reincarnation? Absolutely not! Yoga as a form of meditation for those who do yoga; sure. Yoga as a specific spiritual practice? Nope.

Another strange question for religious Mormons is about whether women should have the priesthood. 11% said yes! They fundamentally do not understand what the priesthood is. Men and women are already equal partners in the work of God, within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They have different roles because men and women are different and have different divine qualities. Both are important in the sight of God and in leading the Church on earth. The priesthood (authority to act for God) is given to all worthy males in the Church, not only leadership. The priesthood is a gift to men, a responsibility given to help them become better servants of God. Priesthood is used to bless the lives of other people, not for power or gain or in any way to glorify the individual holding the priesthood. The blessings of the priesthood are already available to every member of the Church, men, women, and children. The women in turn, have an equal responsibility to serve others, but they have a natural inclination to do so, because God gave women compassion and the desire to nurture as part of who they are as females. They do not need the priesthood to fill their roles within the Church.

There's a huge section on politics in this survey too. Nothing too surprising. 74% of Mormons identify themselves as Republicans, 17% Democrats, 9% independents. There's a huge selection of questions about different politicians they favor, parties' philosphies, etc. You can read that on your own. I'll just say that the reason Mormons who are registered voters are 86% favorable towards Romney while only 50% favorite towards Huntsman probably has to do with how both live their religion. Romney is an active member, living the gospel. He's been both a bishop and a stake president in the past (local lay leadership within the Church). It is difficult to say how committed Huntsman is to his religion, but judging by the way his daughters dress, it suggests that he doesn't have a strong committment. Modesty is a strongly encouraged practice for active Church members, preparatory for making covenants in the temple, and receiving the blessings from those covenants.

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