Mormons in the Pew Forum 2012

This post is written off advanced word and may be inaccurate. The full results will be published tomorrow and this post will be updated as more details are available.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life is about to be published. Like previous years, the researchers have tried to untangle some of the complexities of the Mormon experience, and this year in particular the questions have a special importance. In this latest iteration of the survey, 1,019 Mormons were interviewed and some of this data captures interesting trends among the Latter-day Saints. As a caveat, part of the problem with this data, as always, is a lack of appropriate nuance in the questions.

According to the survey, less than half of Mormon respondents believe that abstaining from caffeine is necessary to continue to be a ‘good’ member of the Church. It is difficult to draw anything substantive about this particular question except that it is clearly trying to tap into something latent concerning the Word of Wisdom. If anything it seems surprisingly high, especially because it is not clearly proscribed by D&C 89.

Further, over one in four of the respondents report that they have been on a mission. Considering, first, that women are not especially encouraged to serve as full-time proselyting missionaries with, second, the fact that approximately 25% of the respondents were converts, this is a staggeringly high number. In short, this potentially reveals something interesting (but, perhaps unsurprising) about the way in which serving a mission reinforces a propensity to self-identify as Mormon later in life. Regardless, it is noteworthy that a large segment of this sample have been in the trenches so to speak and/or converted to faith. Either way, these are people heavily invested in Mormonism.

This is reflected in the high degree of orthodoxy amongst respondents. Approximately nine out of ten Mormons believe President Monson is a prophet and that the Book of Mormon was written by ancient prophets. Large portions of the sample give answers that harmonise with contemporary views of the Godhead offered by the general leaders of the Church and there is a large amount of hope that family relationships will persist beyond this life.

To this point there is very little to be said about any of this, except perhaps, meh! Yet, 46% of American Mormons think they are discriminated against. This is absolutely astounding and some might also be surprised it isn’t higher. Either way, clearly the Mormon persecution complex rages on. Two aforementioned factors may be at work here: first Mormon missionaries probably do experience behaviour (rudeness or dismissive comments) which in a somewhat sheltered environment could become interpreted as discrimination. This type of paradigm, forged in the formative years of early adulthood, may persist into middle age, and even later. Second, the large number converts in the sample may also have made certain social sacrifices because of their choice to join this new and somewhat unusual faith. These too might see discrimination as part of their Mormon experience. The high rates of these groups in the sample might partially account for this high percentage.

However, I am skeptical. In the sociology of stigma there is a distinction between felt and enacted forms of stigma. Enacted stigma refers to moments of concrete discrimination which are acted out because of a stigmatised social condition that an individual is perceived to possess. Felt stigma refers to the fear of discrimination based on this potentially stigmatised social position. In this second scenario, the discrimination is never actualised but it appears to be no less real. Mormons have spent so long positioning themselves as outsiders that they have forgotten how to be in a social position which lacks stigma. In short, approximately 50% of Mormons potentially live with a ‘felt stigma’ that has virtually zero possibility of ever being enacted. This kind of neurosis is unhealthy and stops Mormons from engaging healthily in public life.

On top of this, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, there is a broad recognition that homosexuals are also discriminated against. Approximately 59% of respondents agreed with this statement. On my first reading this did not surprise me, perhaps my British sensibilities blinded me to this glaringly obvious point. Note that gay people are, according to Mormons, discriminated against more than Mormons. A number of questions need to be pursued here, and we probably lack the data to do it adequately, but to what extent has this data shifted since Prop 8? Is it possible that Prop 8 has (as a result of the aftermath) increased the willingness of Mormons to now express sympathy for gay people because they fear being labeled as bigoted? If this is true, it may also be possible that these people are trying to distance themselves from a particular brand of Mormonism that is now very unpopular.

Whether these brief reflections on the survey are accurate or not, this Pew Forum will certainly become a touchstone for insights concerning contemporary Mormonism as Mitt Romney moves almost inexorably toward the Republican nomination for President.

Comments

  1. Rick Phillips says:

    There are probably some methodological issues that are inflating most of the measures of religious activity in this survey.

    At one point the report says that self-identified Mormons constitute 2% of the population (p. 5), then in another place they say “slightly less than 2%” (p. 7). They were administering surveys in November of 2011. The Census Bureau’s population clock puts the U.S. population at 312,510,000 at this time. If “2%” and “slightly less than 2%” = 1.9%, then that’s 5,937,690 self-identified U.S. Mormons. On 1/1/2011, the church claimed 6,144,582 total members in the United States. Let’s say that 2011 was a banner year for growth in the U.S., and 90,000 converts and children of record had been added by November 2011. That would put the official church figure at 6,234,582 members at the time of the survey. Thus, Pew asserts that the church in the U.S. has about a 95% retention rate. (If you define the “retained” as those on official church rolls who also self-identify as Latter-day Saints.) In other nations, where self-identified Mormons are counted by the national census, the “retained” constitute between one third and two thirds of the church’s official total. That would make the U.S. an outlier to be sure. In an earlier survey, Pew found that 29% of people raised Mormon no longer consider themselves to be LDS. (see: http://www.pewforum.org/Christian/Mormon/A-Portrait-of-Mormons-in-the-US–Social-and-Political-Views.aspx). If both of these Pew surveys are methodologically sound, then the church has been fastidiously cleansing its rolls of these disaffiliates in the United States, but not in other nations.

    Now consider the fact that Pew asserts that 77% of self-identified Mormons attend church services weekly. (!) That’s 4,572,021 members who never miss church. Another 9% attend “once or twice a month.” If everyone who said “once or twice a month” attends only once a month, that’s another 133,589 in the pews every week. The church had 11,551 wards and 2040 branches in the United States on 1/1/2011. Let’s lump wards and branches together, and assume that by November 2011 the church had added as many new congregations (wards + branches) as it did in all of 2010: 117. That’s 13,705 congregations in all. So ((4,572,021+133,589)/13,705) = an average of 343 people in every congregation in the United States on every Sunday, conservatively estimated. Sounds kinda high.

    Either their estimate of the size of the self-identified LDS population is off, or their church attendance estimates are off. Both things can’t be accurate.

    The study also asserts that 65% of self-identified Latter-day Saints hold a current temple recommend. That also seems high. At one point the LDS statistical almanacs used to report the percentage of Mormon men over 18 who had been ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood. These numbers were issued by the church itself. The last year they came out, a total of 59% of eligible men in the United States had been ordained. Obviously it is not possible for the percentage of Latter-day Saints holding a current temple recommend to exceed the percentage of eligible men ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood.

    I suspect there might be two sources to these problems. The first is that the study does not rely on a simple random sample. (see pp. 68-69) To cut costs, Pew went to where the Mormons are, oversampling counties with dense concentrations of Mormons. Fully 35% of the survey’s respondents came from counties where Mormons have a >50% “market share.” The only counties that fit this bill are in southeast Idaho and along the Wasatch Front. There is lots of evidence from other studies showing that social pressures and cultural norms elevate church activity in these places. Pew uses statistical weighting to adjust for these oversamples, but this is not ideal, and their sampling strategy increases the likelihood of error and bias both in their estimate of the size of the self-identified Mormon population and in their estimates of religious activity.

    The second possible explanation for inflated numbers is something sociologists call “social desirability bias,” or the tendency for people to project an ideal self to a survey researcher. You can see how this might happen in this survey. After asking respondents how active they are in the church and gauging their belief orthodoxy on a number of items, the researcher then asks, “Have you served a mission?” “Do you pay your tithing?” “Do you hold a valid recommend?” Lots of research shows that people are inclined to fudge a bit on things like this.

    Tl;dr: I might dial everything in this survey back a bit to account for sampling issues and social desirability bias. I think what we’ve got here is a statistical portrait of the political and social attitudes of highly religious Mormons, particularly those living in Utah and the West. As such, it is a fascinating and informative study. I am not inclined to generalize to all U.S. Mormons from these findings.

  2. Rick, it is great to have your thoughts here. Thank you for taking the time. Your right of course that their sampling methodology is not ideal but in my view the second of your explanations is more important than the first. The social desirability bias at work in these results seems to skew the results in a powerful way; a bias which is exacerbated by the fact that they are sampling Mormons who are more intimately aware of and sensitive to those expectations.

  3. Rick,

    One thing to consider in your critiques is that, especially in the areas outside of Utah and Idaho, respondents were chosen because they self-identified as mormon. This disclaimer is included on page 8. It would be correct to say that the survey reflects the opinions of people who claim to be mormon. Whether or not the responses match with church membership statistics isn’t particularly important. If anything, it brings up the question of what makes a person think they are mormon vs. what makes the church think they are mormon.

    Regarding temple recommends, again you conflate self-identified members with church membership statistics. These are not equal and comparable data sources. Also, “Obviously it is not possible for the percentage of Latter-day Saints holding a current temple recommend to exceed the percentage of eligible men ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood.” is not really so obvious. Assume a representative sample of 50 men and 50 women. Now assume they all have temple recommends if eligible and that only 59% of men have the Melchizedek Priesthood. 50 * .59 + 50 * 1.0 = 79.5; a percentage larger than the percentage of Melchizedek Priesthood holders. (just a counter example. I don’t claim that it is likely). In any case, how many men who never received the Melchizedek Priesthood are likely to self identify as Mormons in adulthood and respond to such a survey.

    In short, the survery is not intended to illustrate mormon life and position in America. It’s intended to illustrate how mormons perceive their life and position in America. It is an estimation study; not inferential and I think your critique loses sight of that assumption in several places.

  4. Discrimination can be experienced in mild forms and noted without falling into paranoia. Some people may snub others on the basis of religion, and life goes on. John Fowles has written a few times on this site about stronger forms of discrimination that Latter-day Saints experience in Europe, but he doesn’t seem to be nursing a raging persecution complex.

    I expect American LDS are most likely to experience discrimination in two places: Southern states where evangelical Christians are socially dominate. Western states where most people know many Latter-day Saints, and some wish they knew fewer.

  5. I think Rick just p0wned this entire study. Pew FAIL.

  6. John Mansfield, I think John F. just hides it really well.

    I am not quite sure what you mean by mild forms of discrimination and I do not think being ‘snubbed’ would count. The point is that the status of Mormons in Europe is vastly different to status of Mormons in America. There are forms of discriminatory legislation enshrined in European countries that publicly recognises the deviant or dangerous status of Mormonism. Further the role and status of religion in European public life is quite different as well. However, even here (in Europe) I wonder whether Mormons relish their outsider status just a little too much because it confirms our peculiarity and our chosen-ness.

  7. Rick Phillips says:

    re: #3. If the numbers for temple recommend holding and church attendance are accurate, then Mormons can’t be 2% of the population. If they are 2% of the population, then the recommend and attendance numbers can’t be accurate. That was the point of my not very parsimonious comment. I can buy that many inactive Mormons no longer tell survey researchers that they are LDS, and that the “faithful remnant” that is left behind is very highly engaged. But that highly engaged portion can’t be anywhere near 6 million people, otherwise you end up with the absurd problems with church attendance and retention that I mentioned. Something is not right with the sample.

  8. An interesting bit from p. 27:
    “Nearly two-thirds of Mormon college graduates (65%) view evangelicals as unfriendly toward Mormonism, compared with roughly half of those with some college education (52%) and roughly one-third of those with a high school education or less (35%).”

  9. 11% believe in reincarnation? Now that was a surprise. Maybe people are counting resurrection as a form of reincarnation?

  10. John, what would you attribute that to?

    Further, to return to the issue about discrimination. The question asks whether there has been ‘a lot’ of discrimination against the named groups.

  11. Steve Evans says:

    #9, Multiple mortal probations?

  12. Interesting stuff. Thanks for the analysis Rick and Aaron.

  13. Aaron R, since you wish me to return to discrimination, if I’d been asked the question, I would have answered no and if invited to elaborate, I would respond that there is some, the bulk of it trifling, only now and then rising to something like a rejection for employment. It seems though, reading the report, that what the respondents had in mind is that we are rejected as Christians, and that on stage and screen we’re free targets for anyone who wants to generate a laugh out of the guys in the funny underwear.

  14. For your other question, it seems that differences in education are a substantial barrier to friendship, and as all readers of this site know, those evangelicals are a bunch of hillbillies.

  15. John, I just think it is an interesting conversation and worth discussing; primarily because I am passing judgment on people outside of my own experience and I am open to disagreement.

    In light of this, the Pew study states that “Mormons with the highest levels of religious commitment (those who say they pray every day, that religion is very important in their own lives and that they attend religious services at least weekly) are more convinced that acceptance of Mormonism is on the upswing (70%) than are those with lower levels of religious commitment (47%).”

    This adds an interesting layer to this discussion, I think, and a factor which I had not previous considered.

  16. Rick, I got the impression that the survey was given to those who currently self-identify as Mormon, and Pew specifically says they didn’t include post-Mormons, cultural Mormons, etc. They initiated the interviews by phone and asked for the person’s religious affiliation. Those who said “Mormon” were then given the full survey. I agree that “social desirability bias” has an effect on surveys like this, and I always look at results with plenty of grains of salt. But it seems to me that “social desirability bias” would also tend to get more results from people who feel positively about their Mormon faith, enough to tell a stranger on the phone that they are Mormon. Inactive people, former Mormons, etc., I think, are probably less likely to say they are Mormon, so you’re starting out with a particularly slanted sample. So I read the results of this survey, largely, as telling me what Mormons who are comfortable self-identifying as such might think on these various issues. There are other problems I see with reading the results too literally (what do people view as “discrimination,” etc.) but it is what it is.

  17. Mark Brown says:

    Huge selection bias here. The survey claims that 79% of Mormons pay tithing and 77% attend weekly meetings. Those two figures are incredible, to the point of being laughable.

    The official church reporting system figures activity by counting who attends at least one meeting per MONTH, and activity fluctuates between 40-50%. Tithe-payers are about half that number.

  18. Mark Brown says:

    But Blair’s # 16 explains it.

  19. It seems like Mormons are one of the few demographic groups that appear to be *more conservative* in many ways the more educated they become. Is it fair to assume this is some sort of BYU house effect? I don’t know much about the U, but I imagine Utah State and Weber are awfully conservative institutions as well.

  20. I actually wrote this response yesterday, but it was lost in the temporal prime directive…I’ll do my best to repeat what I wrote then.

    I actually was a participant in this survey. I don’t remember a caffeine question, though I do remember a coffee and tea question. The online summary references coffee and tea. I haven’t been though all 125 pages of the .pdf file yet, so maybe caffeine is in there. It was a telephone survey several months ago, so I may have forgotten that detail.

    As for the discrimination questions — I said no to Mormon discrimination because I’ve never experienced it (or if I have, I have been blissfully unaware). But I said yes to homosexual discrimination, mostly because of my awareness of rants from the Christian Right and others. I was out of the US for Prop 8 and was not particularly engaged in that battle; it didn’t enter my head when I responded to the survey. I agree it would be interesting to understand whether there’s been a shift since Prop 8.

    Of course, the whole survey was 15 or 20 minutes on the phone at dinner time. I didn’t carefully weigh the semantics of each question. And, upon later reflection (even before the results were published) if I had it to do again, I might have answered some questions slightly differently.

  21. Matt #19: I think there’s a strong possibility you are right. I suspect if you compared BYU grads against graduates of universities such as Liberty, Bob Jones, etc., you’d see a similar effect. The increase in conservatism is likely a direct result of the political tendencies of the institution attended, and not inherent to the education itself. One interesting sidebar would be to look at those who were educated at “Church” schools and those who attended college elsewhere. I can think of at least two other possible explanations- differences in educational attainment by race (though this would have presumably shown up not just among LDS) and the fact that leadership positions in the Church tend to open up as one moves up in income, which is often commensurate with education. Therefore, more educated members are adopting and internalizing conservative political positions in order to fit in and ingratiate themselves with older generations that are in a position to administer positions of leadership.

  22. Rick (#7)

    You estimates are also dependent on 2% being an exact estimate of the size of the mormon population. Looking back at the 2008 US Religious Landscape Survey (forgive me, I couldn’t seem to find 2007, which is cited in the research in question), the estimate of the mormon population was 1.7% with a margin of error of 0.6%. That would put the US mormon population somewhere between 3.4 million and 7.2 million (with 95% confidence).

    One thing that wasn’t mentioned that really should have been was that the definition of mormon included the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Community of Christ, and “Mormon, not further specified,” although these groups apparently only comprised about 0.1% of the population.

    Using your comments about church attendance or temple recommends as a foundation for methodological problems seems inaccurate to me simply because your conclusions ignore the sampling error (not the same as bias).

  23. Rick Phillips says:

    #22 – Can you give a more exact number for the estimate of the population for this study? The report just says something like “slightly less than 2%.” Also, what’s the margin of error at p<.05 for this figure?

  24. Nick Literski says:

    I think it’s worth noting that according to the survey, 59% of U.S. Mormons believe there is “a lot of discrimination” against gays and lesbians, while 65% of U.S. Mormons (actually 77% of U.S. Mormons with “high religious commitment”) believe homosexuality “should be discouraged by society.” With that sort of distinction, it sounds like a large portion of U.S. Mormons are thinking there’s NOT ENOUGH discrimination against gays and lesbians.

  25. I have a hard time believing that most modern American Mormons have experienced discrimination. Have they been passed over for a job, promotion, scholarship, college admission, housing or government service or been denied a Constitutional right because of their faith? I highly doubt it.

    Being the butt of a few jokes on TV because of our beliefs or being the target of political protests because of our politics does not equal discrimination.

  26. Clark Goble says:

    Back from the dead but the old comments were lost…

    A few thoughts. First the missionary stats are pretty remarkable. Given the number of converts to have about 1/4 of all members having gone on a mission is much higher than I’d ever have expected.

    The self-identification issue is a big one as previous studies had us closer to 1% on self-identification surveys such as the 2008 self identification study. Nearly 2% is a big jump. So either reactivation and missionary work has significantly improved or there’s a weird anomaly at play. As you say something sounds very off which makes me leery of the whole study. I think Rick (1) identifies some of these problems but I do think it makes the study biased.

    77% of members attending weekly meetings is astounding. That’s a higher figure than I bet most wards would attest to with their activity rating. That just sounds wrong somehow. And a lot of those less active people would still self-identify.

    As I said in the original post’s comments I don’t find the discrimination figure surprising although there is a large ambiguity in what is meant by discrimination. Outside and even inside of Utah I regularly hear pretty nasty things said that if we replaced Mormon by Jew would be considered blatant anti-semitism. I’m not sure Mormons do have a persecution complex because most of us let those slide off in ways other communities don’t. I think in a way we expect it and are fine with it. Perhaps that attitude is itself part of a persecution complex though. (i.e. thinking that of course we’re persecuted against – the Saints always are) I do think a lot of our self-image is tied up with persecution. Especially our romanticized version of the 19th century. While I’m glad we aren’t quite where we were in the 60′s with our mindset I do think that persecution complex can be helpful for maintaining a group identity.

    Also in my original comments the figure of 90% thinking Pres. Monson is a prophet seems too low if this is self-identified Mormons. I’ve not yet looked at the full stats but even what’s quoted in your post and the Huffington post seem off. Some figures are ridiculously too high and some two low given their identification methods.

  27. Since it deals specifically with the issue of self-identification, a post I wrote a couple of years ago about prior Pew survey results and self-identification may be interesting (if you haven’t already read it).

  28. I think the discrimination question is interesting, because, as is stated, it also includes perceived / felt discrimination and doesn’t provide a single definition. Thus, everyone who (incorrectly) sees the production of “The Book of Mormon” musical as mocking Mormons in a way that wouldn’t be tolerated if directed at other religions or (correctly) hears / reads preachers and political operatives saying people shouldn’t vote for Mitt Romney solely because he’s Mormon would be prone to answer “Yes” to the question.

    Fwiw, I personally have encountered “real” discrimination in my life – including being passed over for a job and promotion because of my religion. I also have had a co-worker “exorcise the room from the spirit of the serpent that is among us” after I left a room while working in the Deep South about 15 years ago. So, I probably would have answered “Yes” to the question, even though I am well aware of the fact that the discrimination we face is very different and less than the discrimination homosexuals face.

    Are we a terribly persecuted people now? No. Do we imagine too much that we are – or that our persecution / discrimination is special or unique? Yes. Is there still real and obvious “discrimination” of Mormons, even if it is nothing like it used to be and less severe than other groups. Yes. Do I wish we would quit whining and live the kind of lives that would make the persecution / discrimination cease as much as possible and stop bringing it on ourselves so stinking much? Absolutely.

  29. Clark Goble says:

    WaMo (25) as I mentioned I think discrimination is ambiguous. I’ve never experienced the things you have mentioned but I’ve heard pretty outrageous things said about my community that would be blatant racism if we changed Mormon to Jew or Black. On my mission, not that long ago, I had people throw things at me while biking down dangerous roads. I think that all counts as discrimination whether it’s affected my job prospects or not.

    Nick (24) I suspect the discrepancy is due to thinking the people shouldn’t be treated differently with respect to services, jobs, etc. but think that the acts should be discouraged. If one doesn’t think the acts should be separated from the biological or psychological state then of course what you say is right. It gets into the ambiguous of discrimination I mentioned. It also probably explains why Mormons think they are discriminated against as well.

    Aaron (14) That really is an interesting distinction. It suggests there’s a lot of projection of acceptance based upon our acceptance.

    PS – I screwed up the survey that put us at 1%. I posted a link to a Pew study that had us higher and which is closer to this study’s figure. The one I was thinking of had us at 1.4% without much variance in 1990 or 2001.

  30. Rick, You’re right that the numbers don’t add up properly, but the answer seems simple enough: it’s a combination of (i) the selection bias in self-identified Mormons being more active on average than all of the people counted in the Church’s official count, and (ii) the 2% number coming from using the Church’s official count rather than survey self-identification Mormons. Seems simple enough to me. My guess is the Pew people just missed the nuance here.

  31. “Nearly half (46%) say that Mormons face a lot of discrimination in the U.S. today – which is higher than the percentage that says the same about blacks (31%) and atheists (13%)”

    Who are we kidding? We face worse discrimination than blacks?

    That being said and acknowledging that Mormons do have an overwrought anxiety that we face discrimination at every turn; in reality we do face some discrimination. We need to do a better job discussing as group what really is discrimination and what isn’t. Fifth Sunday? Curbing the persecution complex while discussing real problems would go a long way to help us mingle socially, and improve missionary work.

  32. Clark Goble says:

    MMiles, I suspect there are some intrinsic problems with the survey on discrimination. For one there’s a distinction between intensity and rate. Someone may face more frequent discrimination but believe it pretty superficial stuff. But I agree that the whole discrimination thing is but one among a bunch of head scratchers. I’m pretty confident we don’t have 79% tithe paying nor 82% having some food storage.

  33. Rick Phillips says:

    #30 – I saw a pre-release copy of the report about a week ago, and suspected that the folks at Pew had simply used the church’s figure. I emailed one of the study’s authors to ask him if this was the case, and to suggest that if it was, it would cause problems because of how the church removes (or doesn’t remove) the disaffected. He wrote back and told me that they did not use the church’s number, and the ~2% estimate derives from their data. That’s the reason why I think the numbers in the report are a little tilted. The estimates of Mormon “market share” and the indicators of church activity in this survey are much higher than in other surveys of self-identified Mormons. Obviously there is a margin of error for all these estimates, but they seem to be uniformly on the high side, which increases the likelihood of some kind of sampling issue.

  34. RE the discrimination issue, I would likely have answered that I’ve felt some discrimination, but looking at it in light of these figures, we have a perception problem, not a discrimination problem. What Ray discusses having experienced is a far cry from what I have ever experienced. One person’s “South Park” laugh could be another person’s Lilburn Boggs/1838 Missouri moment. As Mark Brown pointed out not too long ago, we are insular and often socially awkward outside our Mormon families, friends, and ward activities. We need to get out more.

  35. Rick #33. Thanks for telling about your communication with Pew. Then it sounds like their near 2% is a bit of a rounding up or, like you said, some sort of other sampling issue.

  36. Ray and Clark: I’m sorry that you were both the victims of discrimination.

  37. Clark Goble says:

    As I said, the level of discrimination I’ve experienced isn’t a level I particularly care about. Even having big gulps regularly tossed at me as I rode a bike is something I can think back and laugh about. I really think there’s a ton of ambiguity in what one means by discrimination. It leaves out the question of intensity vs. frequency not to mention the level of actual damage. Then throw in the question of how people respond to discrimination and we’re really covering a lot of different sorts of experience.

  38. #9, I was also very surprised that the reincarnation number was so high, but the question asked was very clear IMO on what they meant by reincarnation.

    “Do you believe in reincarnation, that people will be born in this world again and again, or not?”

    That 11% said yes just seems very strange.

  39. That 11% of self-described Mormons are not very bright is discouraging, but not surprising.

    In their defense, the reincarnation question really wasn’t that clear–I mean, obviously people are born in this world again and again. Just not the same people.

  40. RE: Number of converts and percentage of missionaries – You need to go back and look at the age of the converts in the survey. I read through it last night, and don’t have it at hand right now, but a good chunk of the converts (at least one-quarter, and perhaps closer to 40%) were baptized before they turned 18. The next biggest chunk were baptized between 18 and 24. All of these people would have been eligible to serve missions had they wanted to.

    I was surprised the missionary service percentages of folks (adults, as I recall) self-identifying as Mormons was as low as it was. Maybe that’s the result of living in a well-established area of LDS population, but looking at the active people I’ve known in LDS wards in the past 30 years, most of the men are RMs and a good chunk of the women are too.

  41. I’m surprised that there’s so much skepticism of discrimination. Perhaps it’s the part of the country I live in, but our Temple here was picketed by Evangelicals, a former boss told me his church had a traveling speaker come and talk within the year and tell them the evils of Mormonism. He also said the devil had gotten hold of me when I converted to the church, and what had been a great working relationship between us soured about the time I joined the church, to the point that he suggested I find another job. So I definitely feel that was a case of discrimination. I’m surprised at the outright rejection of the idea that Mormons face discrimination. It is real, if not nearly as much as that faced by women in technical fields, or by African Americans, or LGBTQ people.

  42. #39 – madhousewife, I don’t believe in the classic concept of reincarnation, but I do believe in multiple stages of life with different “bodies” from stage-to-stage (which is a way to describe classic, orthodox, traditional Mormon doctrine – as opposed to the classic, mainstream Christian idea of life starting with mortality and only one change at death) – so, if I was in a bit of a contrary mood and got a call asking me if I believe in reincarnation, I might have said I do (especially if I thought saying I don’t would lead people to believe I accept the Protestant view of life). Iow, my view actually is much closer to classic reincarnation (in concept, if not in detail) than to anything taught in the rest of Christianity – and there’s a chance that many of the people you insulted actually were expressing complex views that actually reflect solid Mormon doctrine.

    I know I’m stretching it a bit, and I probably wouldn’t say I believe in reincarnation in a survey like this, but to brush off the 11% who said they do as “not very bright” is not something I would have expected from you.

  43. Rick Phillips says:
  44. Daymon’s analysis is flawed. Since he won’t allow my comment left hours ago to appear on his site, I’ll summarize points here:

    Daymon misses the opportunity for some very rich inquiry by just dismissing the data outright with some vague, half-baked Pew-Church Office Building conspiracy theory. Take, for example, the polygamy is morally wrong figure he seems upset about. Indeed, it seems odd that we are quicker to condemn polygamy than other moral wrongs. But instead of dismissing the survey because that data point seems odd, we can open the door to some interesting questions. What does it say about how we want to be perceived that we will fall all over ourselves to renounce polygamy, more so than other moral wrongs? What does it say about our rigid conditioning about who is in and who is out of Mormonism that, it seems may speculatively be the case based on this data, less active Mormons are less likely to identify as Mormon to a Pew phone survey than are, say, less active Catholics?

  45. Amen amen #41.

  46. Tatiana, I do not think I am dismissing discrimination outright but rather expressing my surprise that Mormons (remember a substantial proportion of these Mormons are from the Mormon corridor) say that they are discriminated against ‘a lot’. That I have a hard time with. This is especially noteworthy as the Pew Forum themselves observed that asking about specific cases of discrimination seemed irrelevant because of the geographical concentration of Mormons in the US. Now certainly there is data to suggest otherwise, and American Grace contains some of that, however I think it is possible that our sensitivity toward persecution allows us to enlarge these experiences.

    Again, just to reiterate, I am not dismissing your experience – I too have experienced some of this, and violently so – but I do believe that Mormons too readily position themselves as outsiders in their host societies and draw on notions of stigma to articulate that status a little too easily. Perhaps my rhetoric was a little too strong when I initially wrote the post.

  47. Aaron R., you’re missing the kind of animosity that can be encountered only where Mormons have a substantial presence. In places like Michigan, Mormons are invisible and no one thinks anything about them one way or the other. In Salt Lake City, protesters stand outside General Conference.

  48. Grant Hardy says:

    Protesting is discrimination?

  49. No, protesting is not discrimination.

  50. …to a lot of Mormons it is. (to be clear, I don’t make that equation, but I hear it very often at Church and my Mormon facebook friends.)

  51. Isn’t there a distinction between discrimination and persecution? I think discrimination is a near-constant, but there is very little actual persecution.

    What would you call it when a 6th grade teacher takes away an 11-year-old’s recess privileges for weeks after a minor playground infraction that had not even the slightest connection to any religious discussion or action — making her stand silently with her face against the school wall all recess every recess — the only explanation being “You Mormons are so wrapped up in your blasted religion you can’t see the forest for the trees”?

  52. All the self reported numbers (tithing, temple rec., etc.) seem artifactually high. So I would guess that the self reporting of discrimination may be as well. Seems odd to take the discrimination numbers seriously while dismissing, e.g., the tithing numbers without outlining some methodological reason.

    But just to add to the anecdotal reports above, I have experienced job discrimination that would easily satisfy legal definitions twice. Both times were when interviewing for academic positions at elite institutions which I understood to otherwise be extremely careful about discrimination. But such experiences were decidedly exceptional. On the whole, I find I am treated with great respect, even if occasional bad apples engage in discrimination. I doubt I am exceptional in either respect.

  53. hbar, although the numbers might be inflated generally they still seem to reflect that particular sub-set of Mormonism under study here. As such they something interesting about that group.

    Ardis, that is awful. I hope that type of thing is rare.

    Ben P., agreed. That, for me, is exactly part of the issue here.

    Further, I want to explore something else here. Is there a difference between having protesters outside a small ward in West London (I am speaking from experience) and having protesters outside GC; when literally thousand of Mormons are moving together in solidarity to hear the Prophet speak. Does being in the majority shape the way specific actions, such as protest, are experienced? Anecdotally, let me say that I did not care in the slightest about the protesters at GC but felt far more insecure regarding those in West London.

  54. Clark Goble says:

    hbar, given the rates that are so obviously wrong if the numbers are supposed to reflect any reason sense of reflecting Mormons then I agree that contaminates all the questions. If it reflects the respondents answering the way they think they should rather than what they do then that suggests all the answers aren’t trustworthy as reflecting the community. If it reflects some bias to over representing highly active members then that too is problematic since our community isn’t made up of such people. However there are other problems such as the 2% figure and so forth. Then there is the ambiguity in such things as discrimination and morality. (What does it even mean to ask about the morality of drinking alcohol for instance?)

    As I’ve thought about it I’ve come around to finding all of it somewhat problematic.

  55. About the morality of drinking alcolhol (not having seen the exact question), I believe it is immoral for ME to drink alcohol (because I have promised not to drink it) but not immoral for others to do so. Thus, depending on the wording, I might answer a question about the morality of drinking alcohol either way.

    How, exactly, was the question worded?

  56. Ray, the question was, “Do you personally believe that [INSERT ITEM] is morally acceptable, morally wrong, or is it not a moral issue?” And they asked that question (or a similarly worded one) for five items:

    Having an abortion
    Divorce
    Polygamy – having more than one wife
    Sex between unmarried adults
    Drinking alcohol

    Your delineation would have been difficult to make (and impossible to clarify) given how the question was asked.

  57. I think here in the southeastern US there does happen to be a lot of animosity toward Mormons, because many evangelical Christian churches do seem actively to teach that Mormonism is evil. I can’t imagine having someone speak at our ward about the evils of Methodism, or of Presbyterianism, or whatever. Can you? The idea is ludicrous. Yet a good many Protestant congregations here are given the specific teaching to watch out for those Mormons. They may look nice on the outside but their religion is evil. This leads to outright fear, and so naturally to discrimination. It’s not as bad as I’ve faced simply for being a female in a technical profession, and I don’t feel particularly persecuted, certainly not compared to blacks or LGBTQ people, but I definitely recognize the pattern there. Yet I don’t think most LDS people in the area feel any sort of persecution complex, only a quiet acknowledgement of the idea that one should be a bit careful sometimes. Missionaries sometimes get pot shots taken at them, and so on.

  58. I mean, just because someone takes a pot shot at you doesn’t necessarily mean he was trying to hit you, but I do think it you have to think it means you’re unwelcome.

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