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As someone of a conservative traditionalist bent, I find contemporary Mormonism encouraging. Not for its theological aspects–if I have a spiritual bone in my body, I’ve yet to find it–but instead for its practical expression. As Jack Cashill memorably said in response to a question about Mormonism’s relationship to Christianity at a mock debate in which he played Mitt Romney, “We’re socially conservative, baby-making married members of the middle class and we vote overwhelmingly Republican, so why worry about our theology when we’re producing those kinds of results?” Of course, to someone who takes the tenets of his religion seriously, that response could come off as supercilious and flippant. Be that as it may, it captures my sentiments pretty well.

A recent report put out by Pew Research entitled “Mormons in America” accentuates my positive feelings. Some highlights:

– Mormons don’t see the US as particularly ‘structurally unjust’. Excepting perceived discrimination against themselves, Mormons detect less discrimination against every other protected class (and it can hardly be said that the PC aegis shields Mormonism) than the general public does.

– They’re more content with the communities they live in than other Americans are. While only 38% of the public rates the communities they live in as “excellent”, 52% of Mormons do. Given the high concentration of Mormons in Utah specifically and the Southwest more generally, this isn’t especially surprising. The dictionary definition of “community”:

A social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.

Mormons actually live in communities thus defined, rather than in multicultural hodgepodges lacking any sense of unity, where disparate members avoid one another and instead “hunker down”, acting as “turtles” retreating into their shells.

– Younger Mormons are more conservative than their elders are, with 68% under the age of 50 identifying as conservative compared to 62% of those aged 50 and older. As the insultingly popular adage “If you’re 20 and not a liberal, you have no heart; if you’re 40 and a liberal, you have no brain” attests, the opposite is the case among the larger public.

In further contrast with broader American social trends, the more educated a Mormon is, the more religious he tends to be. While 90% of college-educated Mormons say their faith is “very important” to them, only 70% of Mormons with a high school education or less report the same.

– While Mormon positions on so-called hot button social issues like same-sex marriage have been highly publicized, Mormons are stoutly conservative on fiscal issues as well. The following table ranks several major religious traditions in the US by how favorably inclined they are towards pushing for a smaller government that provides fewer social services as opposed to a larger government that provides more social services by taking the percentages of adherents from each tradition who favor “smaller government, fewer services” and subtracting from it the percentages of adherents from that tradition who favor “bigger government, more services”:

Religious affiliation Small gov’t score
Mormons +55
Evangelical white Protestants +51
Mainline white Protestants +28
Catholics +3
Unaffiliated (4)
Black Protestants (55)

– While Mormons often find themselves as the butt of jokes about polygamy, by a margin of 86%-2%, American Mormons overwhelmingly reject it as immoral (Gallup polling shows that among the general public, polygamy is similarly rejected as immoral, 91%-7%).

– Mormons take a harder line than the rest of the public does against other degenerate behaviors. The following table shows the percentages of Mormons and of the broader public who assert that the behaviors in question are immoral:

Immoral? Mormons Public
Sex between unmarried adults 79% 35%
Abortion 74% 52%
Drinking alcohol 54% 15%
Divorce 25% 29%

Well, if you’re only allowed to hit it with your wife, you’d better be able to kick her to the curb if things don’t work out. Man is a sexual animal, too.

– Mormons are more family-oriented and less career- and self-oriented than the rest of America is. The following table shows the percentages of Mormons and of the broader public who count the following goals as “one of the most important things in life”:

Among the most important things in life Mormons Public
Being a good parent 81% 50%
Having a successful marriage 73% 34%
Living a very religious life 55% 20%
Being successful in a high-paying career 7% 9%
Having free time to relax and do the things you want to do 7% 10%

If the nuclear family is the building block of Western civilization, Mormons are better stewards of our venerable occidental traditions than the rest of us are.

– Sometimes pictures speak louder than words. This image is heart-warming in its own right (irrespective of whether or not the guy kneeling in the center is recognized):

Tangentially, in a post at Secular Right last October, Andrew Stuttaford wrote:

To an outsider, at least, Mormonism is clearly a part of the greater Christian family.

And not just to an outsider. Most people in the US feel the same way. By a 51%-32% margin, Americans consider Mormonism to be a “Christian religion”.

(Republished from The Audacious Epigone by permission of author or representative)
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  1. Younger Mormons are more conservative than their elders are, with 68% under the age of 50 identifying as conservative compared to 62% of those aged 50 and older.

    This is the most interesting data point, to me. It's the clearest indication that the Mormons have an effective positive feedback loop set up. And it reminds me of over here.

  2. You could say they are "operationally" Christian.

    Jews, who in principle are at least as "Christian" as the Mormons, are operationally a bunch of rabid leftists.

  3. I'm kind of surprised the media focuses on the obstacle of Mormonism. It's not like people are possibly voting for a candidate who is from a group responsible for half of all murders, a disproportionate share of criminals and dramatic socioeconomic dysfunction.

  4. Mormons are living in the 50s. I'd like to join them.

    (But I do have to have my plonk.)

  5. IHTG,

    Well put. Mormons are like Israelis in that both are affluent, modern, and occidental while simultaneously being fecund, devoted to and proud of their cultural heritages, and not having succumbed to ethno-masochism.

    SOBL (may I call you that?),

    I'm surprised at the mild disdain middle class whites who are nominally Christian (Protestant or Catholic) have for Mormonism, at least abstractly. "We have to think happy thoughts about lots of other groups that are a lot uglier in their conduct than Mormons are, but we can let fly on those weird polygamists, so forgive us for venting a little here!" I think the strong 'evangelical' support for Newt–who is amorality personified–in South Carolina and the Santorum surprise in Iowa are consequences of this.

  6. I'm surprised at the mild disdain middle class whites who are nominally Christian (Protestant or Catholic) have for Mormonism, at least abstractly. "

    It's because Mormon missionaries annoy people by going door to door, a behavior that is associated with the far stranger Jehovah's Witnesses.

  7. I'd be somewhat careful with that Pew survey. A lot of the answers seem wrong on the face of it. At first I thought there might be some good explanations now I just think a lot of the questions were bad and the selection problematic. (See my comments here)

  8. Clark,

    The points about selection are ones I'm not qualified to address, and Pew isn't specific enough in the body of the report to know for sure.

    Re: missions, women aren't encouraged as strongly as men are, but they're not discouraged in any way, are they?

    I have a friend who is the youngest of 6 and both of her brothers and 2 of her 3 sisters went on missions (the real kind–two years without electronic communication with family members except at holidays), though she has not and isn't planning on going on one. I didn't realize the missions could be within the US though, and I guess many (or most?) of them are, so it doesn't seem that difficult to think that one-quarter of self-identified Mormons undertake one. She tithes, too, even though she only makes about $40k a year. Obviously this is a one-family sample, but it doesn't seem to be well within the norm of Mormon households in the US.

  9. Is the nuclear family really that widespread in the western world. I thought it was mostly a British/colonies thing.

  10. " but we can let fly on those weird polygamists,"

    Heck, Mormons aren't even polygamists anymore. Not that they would need polygamy to outbreed leftists these days, anyway.

  11. White Leftists, that is.

  12. JTollison,

    Anglophone more than anywhere else, but it's the norm in other European countries like France and Germany.

    Silly Girl,

    Heh, right–an overwhelming majority of Mormons find polygamy to be immoral.



  13. AE,

    Yeah, SOBL is a good acronym for my long pseudonym. On topic, I just find the squeamishness the media mentions with Romney and Mormonism much more a product of him being Republican. If the Mormons were a reliable Dem coalition partner, we'd be hearing nonstop how he is the "one" who went to the Ivy league and was so smart. Kind of like how America did not hold the sins of modern blacks against Obama and were constantly told that if they didn't vote for him they were racists. The day will come when A Jewish Dem will run for POTUS, and we will see how the media portrays him compared to Romney as Jews have that familiarity yet difference to Christians similar to Mormons. My theory is it will eb the same as the Obama campaign as they are part of the Dem approved crowd.

    It is a shame Spitzer had a problem with prostitutes, or else we would have been able to see that thought experiment in action in 2016.

    The press will have a conniption fit in a few years when Rubio runs for POTUS or when George P. Bush runs.

  14. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    "if I have a spiritual bone in my body, I've yet to find it."

    You should look at the games you played and reviewed a little more carefully. For a supposedly secular race, the Japanese sure seem adept at either copying or adapting Western spirituality. Mostly they're just better at delivering transcendence than church.

  15. The problem with thinking 1/4 would go on missions is that I believe something like 1/3 of Mormons are converts (although many convert as teenagers and then go on missions). There's also a reasonable number who don't go on missions (more so outside of Utah where there's not quite the ubiquitous social pressure). That just seems unlikely. But honestly that's the least problematic of the statistics. The one that has 77% weekly attendance rate by self-identified Mormons is ridiculous. I've never been in a congregation that remotely had that good of statistics.

    A lot of women do go on missions although they aren't encouraged in the way men are. A reasonable number of retired people go on missions as well. I'm believe about half of all the missionaries serve within the US and Canada.

  16. Anon,

    True. And I enjoy it there, especially the redemption in DQ8.

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