Mormons don’t believe in evolution … so it would appear at first glance. But a closer look at the data suggests that (1) while Mormons rank among the highest percentage of people who don’t believe that the human species came about through strictly natural processes, (2) they also comprise the highest percentage of people who admit that they don’t know how the human species came about. Either that’s a paradox or it appears that Mormons have unusually open minds.
Yesterday I presented a lesson at church on the subject of “following the prophets”. I asked myself the question, “Is there any data to suggest that following the prophets is a good idea?” So I took a look at some statistics published by the Pew Research Center, which compares America’s major religious groups. I had some interesting finds, which I’m going to briefly list below. (I recommend checking out the source yourself at http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/religious-tradition/mormon/. Let me know if I’ve misinterpreted any data. I am, of course, biased.)
Here goes. Mormons …
- Are in the top 25%, overall, for income.
There’s no competing with the Jews.
- Have the highest percentage of those who have at least completed some college and are among the highest, overall, for education.
I couldn’t help but chuckle at this one. Some college? That pretty much describes what’s going on a BYU, which is first and foremost a mating ground.
- Have the highest marriage rates and are among the lowest divorce rates.
Utah’s gotten a bad rap fore having high divorce rates. The truth is, while there are many divorces, there are many more successful marriages, so, comparatively, Utah’s divorce rate is actually impressive. (Yes, I’m conflating Utahans with Mormons here, but just look at the first chart, “Mormons by State” …)
- Are within the top 25% of religions reporting an absolute belief in God.
Jehovah’s Witnesses barely beat Mormons in many of the categories, so hats off to them. It should be noted, however, that Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons score on opposite ends of the education spectrum. In this regard, Mormons are the anomaly. The rest of the groups that score high on education tend to score low on faith.
- Are among the highest of those who say religion is important in their lives.
Again, the two higher groups also rank lowest in education.
- Have the second-highest religious worship attendance
- Have the second-highest in frequency of prayer, scripture study, and meditation
- Almost tied (minus 1%) for the highest reports of feeling frequent peace and well-being
Isn’t that what it’s all about? This is the evidence I was looking for.
- Are among the top 25% for feeling wonder about the universe.
This is good, but its not great. Why aren’t Mormons number one? If you’re a Mormon, I want you to go outside, take a deep breath, look at the clouds, and say, “Wow!” Hopefully, then, the next time you get a call from the Pew Research Center, you’ll have a better answer.
- Tie for highest in belief of absolute standards of right and wrong.
- Rank highest for a belief in heaven.
Delightful, considering that Mormon view of heaven is totally non-mainstream.
- Rank highest for the view that government aid for the poor does more harm than good (64%)
Interesting considering that Mormons put a significant amount of their income into the church’s welfare program, which is probably the largest, independent welfare program in the world.
- Have the highest percentage of Republicans in the nation (70%).
- Have the highest percentage of conservatives (61%)
- Have the highest percentage of believers in small government (75%)
- Rank second-lowest for supporting legalized abortion in all cases.
Like these or not, I think there’s at least something beautiful about a people who want to be unified in all things … even, heaven forbid, politics. I remember reading the journal of Governor Liburn Boggs of nineteenth century Missouri, who complained about how politically unified the Mormons were. Why couldn’t the Mormons provide balance by dividing over the issues like everyone else? I could see how it could be annoying if you’re on the opposite side of the Mormons. I can also see how effective a huge, collective bargaining power can be. And why not play to win?
But it goes deeper than that. Unless there’s something in Utah’s water, I find it unlikely that this unusual spike in politics is the product of culture alone. Even if it is, the question would remain of how the culture evovled. It appears that there’s something foundational in Mormon doctrine that leads to a belief in limited government. It’s almost as if there’s some correlation between high education, strong marriages, high satisfaction, and, yes, limited government.
And finally, Mormons …
- Have the lowest income inequality
What I see from the data is one of the highest percentages of people in the $50,000 – $100,000 income ranges and fairly average percentages for the rest of the ranges. Most other religious groups report a lot of rich and a lot of poor. I wasn’t sure if I was interpreting this one correctly, so I found on Wikipedia (and a whole bunch of other sites) that Utah ranks #1 among the states for lowest income inequality, AKA the Gini Coefficient (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_Gini_coefficient). Comparatively, Switzerland, Sweden, Poland, and Norway have some of the highest income inequalities in the world (just below the US) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_equality). Personally I don’t think comparing the entire United States with its 325 million in population to countries with about 5 million makes any sense, but comparing a country of 5 million to Utah’s 3 million is a little less absurd. So the next time you hear someone say, “I wish the United States had more progressive policies like [enter Scandanvian country of your choice] so that we could have lower income inequality,” you might tell them (1) to check their facts and (2) that a more realistic and close-to-home means to that end would be an incorporation of the less progressive policies of Utah.
Okay, sorry if I digressed too much into politics. The Pew Research Center started it. The bottom line is, if you’re interested in Mormonism, it would appear that “following the prophets” is a statistically sound thing to do. Have a nice day.