The media spotlight on Latter-day Saints on TV and social media may seem like a continuation of the “Mormon moment,” but a new national survey shows most Americans still know very little about them and their beliefs. .
“The level of ignorance people had about the church was shocking,” said Josh Coates, executive director of the BH Roberts Foundation, which published the study and is best known for its Mormonr brand. “I mean, two-thirds of the people who responded either thought we were practicing polygamy or they weren’t sure if we were practicing polygamy.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints banned polygamy in 1890.
“Mormon Moment II” perhaps perpetuates the misunderstanding. As people watch shows like Netflix’s “Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey,” Coates said that even when producers explain the difference between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a separate fundamentalist group, many viewers walk away without a clear understanding. .
Coates said the survey of 1,157 Americans by Momentive is the first in a long series. The BH Roberts Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports education and research related to Latter-day Saints, plans to conduct the survey every year or two so it can track American opinions about the church. .
“My biggest takeaway is that the more you know about Latter-day Saints, the more you love them. The less you know about Latter-day Saints, the more you dislike them,” Coates said.
What do people know about Latter-day Saints?
The problem for Latter-day Saints, Coates said, is that the survey’s other big finding is that most people don’t know much about Latter-day Saints. For example, 84% scored an F on a short quiz about Latter-day Saint beliefs and practices.
Without much knowledge of the church or its members, it is understandable that about 50% said they had no strong feelings about the church or its members.
“Most people don’t like us or really like us, they don’t even think much of us,” he said. “They don’t know much about us and they are neutral about Latter-day Saints, both the church and the people.”
Where do people get their information about Latter-day Saints?
Coates was also surprised that 46% of Americans have never spoken to a Latter-day Saint missionary and that about half of those surveyed said they have no church member friends or family.
Utahans may think everyone knows a Latter-day Saint, Coates said, but half of Americans say they don’t have a Latter-day Saint friend or family member. days.
“There’s a whole world there and people don’t know us,” he said.
The flurry of films and shows and social media accounts about the church vie with family and friends for the sources of the most information about the church, according to the survey.
Over the past two years, streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu have released several shows about Latter-day Saints or church-related groups, including “Murder Among the Mormons”, “Under the Banner of Heaven”, “Sins of Our Mother” and more.
The interest has led some to compare it to the so-called Mormon moment from 2007 to 2012, when interest in Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns and other topics catapulted the Church of Jesus Christ into the spotlight.
This moment did not necessarily change Americans’ outlook on Latter-day Saints. Gallup polls at the start of Romney’s second campaign found that about 1 in 5 Americans would not vote for their party’s candidate if the candidate was a Latter-day Saint. That number was virtually the same as in 1968, when Romney’s father, George, ran for president.
“Where people get to know us is primarily through family and friends, but also on TV and in movies,” Coates said. “Especially these days, there’s so much media about Latter-day Saints over the past two years, and most of it hasn’t been flattering, and that’s one of the best ways people learn to know us. It’s kind of a disappointment, I think. But that’s not going to change. We’re a really interesting subject, apparently.
How many (or how few) people know of Latter-day Saints?
The church beliefs and practices quiz included polygamy. Missing two or more responses was considered a failure. Here is the quiz:
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)…
- Can live with more than one wife (false)
- I can’t eat chocolate (false)
- I can’t drink alcohol (true)
- Cannot have blood transfusions (false)
- Believing that Christ is the Son of God (true)
The survey found that those who said they liked Latter-day Saints scored three times higher on the quiz than those who said they disliked church members. Those with a college degree scored 78% higher than those without a college degree.
Coates said it’s important to understand what people know about Latter-day Saints at a time when many people are turning away from religion. Interestingly, the survey found a correlation between religiosity and feelings toward members of the Church of Jesus Christ.
“The more religious you are, the friendlier you are to Latter-day Saints,” Coates said.
“Today it seems like we have a lot in common because faith is rapidly declining in America,” he said. “The fastest growing belief system is the non-belief system. In fact, several surveys indicate that approximately 1 in 3 Americans no longer affiliate with a religion.
A Pew Research Center study released in September found that people unaffiliated with religion, sometimes referred to as “non-religious,” make up 30% of the US population.
Coates said his team checked the survey results against other survey results, including the University of Chicago’s GSS survey, which has been conducted approximately every two years since 1972.
The ESG indicates that mainstream Protestant churches have lost about a third of the 20 million members they had about 20 years ago, Coates said.
“It’s incredible, 7 million members disappear. It’s just an extreme drop,” he said. “Latter-day Saints in the United States have been growing, although the growth rate in absolute terms is declining. Over the past 10 years, the (Church of Jesus Christ) in the United States has grown by 530,000 members.
Which religious groups are friendliest to Latter-day Saints?
According to the survey, the religious group most supportive of Latter-day Saints were Muslims, perhaps because their beliefs match those of Latter-day Saints in many ways, from abstinence from alcohol to importance of families to the wearing of sacred garments, Coates said. .
Coates started the BH Roberts Foundation to create a comprehensive database of primary source documents related to complex faith-related topics. The foundation is entirely independent and funded by Coates and other private donations. Coates said the foundation will share the investigation with the church.
“Collecting sociological data about the Church and about Latter-day Saints has always been a fascination of mine,” he said. “And BHR has the means, the motive and the opportunity to get more data on the subject.”
A second Utah-specific survey will follow. Its purpose is to find out what people in the state who do not belong to the Church think of members of the Church. He will also be looking for more information about Utah’s Latter-day Saints and former members of the church.
What is Mormon?
The Mormonr brand is aimed at 20-40 year olds. Its website publishes Q&As on different church-related topics. The site attracts 30,000 visitors a month, Coates said, 77% of whom call themselves Latter-day Saints.
Mormonr’s Twitter account has 10,800 followers and is known for its memes.
The 2022 BH Roberts National Latter-day Saint Survey White Paper will be available at bhroberts.org/2022BHRNLDSS.