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|
|Evangelical white Protestants||+51|
|Mainline white Protestants||+28|
– 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:
|Sex between unmarried adults||79%||35%|
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”.