Religious Beliefs and Practices
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Importance of Religion
Prayer and Religious Attendance
Mormon Temple Recommends
Being a Good Mormon
Belief in Reincarnation, Yoga
Converting to Mormonism
large majority of Mormons say religion is very important in their lives, more
than four-in-five pray at least once a day and three-quarters attend religious
services weekly or more. Almost all Mormons (98%) accept the traditional
Christian teaching that Jesus rose from the dead. Mormons are also nearly
unanimous in accepting other teachings of their church that are different from
the beliefs of other Christian traditions. For example, 94% of Mormons believe
that the president of the LDS Church is a prophet and 91% believe that the Book
of Mormon was written by ancient prophets and then translated by Joseph Smith.
However, more than one-in-five Mormons (22%) say they find some of the church’s
teachings hard to accept, and nearly one-in-ten (8%) say they seldom or never
attend religious services.
Importance of Religion
than four out of five Mormons (82%) say religion is very important to them,
compared with 56% of the general public. Mormons closely resemble black
Protestants (86% of whom say religion is very important to them) and white
evangelicals (83% very important) on this question. Mormons are significantly
more likely than Catholics (56%) and white mainline Protestants (45%) to say
religion is very important in their lives.
women are more apt than Mormon men to say that religion is very important in
their lives (87% vs. 78%). College graduates (90%) and those with some college
education (88%) are more likely to say religion is very important in their
lives than those with a high school education or less (70%). More Mormons
residing outside the West say religion is very important to them compared with
those who live in the West (88% vs. 80%).
Prayer and Religious
than four out of five Mormons (83%) pray at least once a day, with nearly
two-thirds (64%) saying they pray multiple times per day. Mormons pray at rates
similar to those seen among black Protestants (80% pray daily) and white
evangelicals (81%). Mormons pray much more frequently than Catholics (58% pray
daily) and white mainline Protestants (48%).
of three-quarters of Mormons (77%) say they attend religious services at least
once a week, and in response to a separate question two-thirds (67%) say they
are “very active” in the LDS Church. Mormon rates of worship attendance are
well above the national average, with 39% of the general public saying they
attend religious services at least weekly. Mormons’ church attendance exceeds
that reported by white evangelical Protestants, among whom nearly two-thirds
(64%) say they attend church at least once a week.
survey’s questions about the importance of religion, frequency of prayer and
frequency of religious attendance can be combined to form a scale of religious
commitment. By this measure, nearly seven-in-ten Mormons (69%) exhibit high
levels of religious commitment, saying religion is very important in their
lives and that they pray every day and that they attend religious services at least once a
week. Only one-in-fifty Mormons (2%) exhibit low levels of religious
commitment, saying that religion is “not too” or “not at all” important to them
and that they seldom or never pray and seldom or never attend religious
services. Roughly three-in-ten Mormons (28%) fall somewhere in between,
exhibiting medium levels of religious commitment.
express significantly higher levels of religious commitment on this scale than
other religious groups, including white evangelical Protestants (55% high
commitment) and black Protestants (50%). Among the U.S. public as a whole, 30%
exhibit high religious commitment.
survey finds a significant gender gap in religious commitment, with more Mormon
women than men exhibiting a high level of religious commitment (73% vs. 65%). A
similar gender gap is seen among the general public; in the Pew Forum’s 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, 36% of women exhibited a
high level of religious commitment, compared with 24% of men.
who have graduated from college display the highest levels of religious
commitment (84%) followed by those with some college education (75%). Mormons
with a high school education or less exhibit substantially lower levels of
religious commitment (50% score high on the scale) than their more highly
educated counterparts. These large differences in religious commitment among
respondents with different educational backgrounds are not seen among many
other religious groups in the population. Among all Christians interviewed in
the 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, for
instance, 40% of college graduates exhibited high religious commitment on this
measure, as did 36% of Christians with a high school education or less.
Similarly, religious commitment gaps across levels of educational attainment
are fairly muted among white mainline Protestants, black Protestants and white
Catholics. Among white evangelical Protestants, however, there is an 18-point
gap in religious commitment between those with the highest and lowest levels of
educational attainment. In the 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape
Survey, 68% of white evangelical college graduates exhibited high
religious commitment, compared with 50% among evangelicals with a high school
education or less.
distinctive aspect of the LDS faith is that worship takes place in two separate
contexts. Weekly congregational services and other church activities are
held in local meetinghouses or churches. In addition, members in good standing
are encouraged to attend a Mormon temple regularly, and many Mormons do this
about once a month. In order to attend a temple, members must have a “temple
recommend” provided by local leaders and renewed every other year. (For more
information on Mormon temples and temple recommends, see the glossary).
two-thirds of Mormons (65%) say they have a current temple recommend.
Possessing a temple recommend is most common among college graduates (85%),
followed by those with some college (67%) and those with a high school
education or less (46%). Married Mormons are more likely than those who are not
married to say they have a current temple recommend (74% vs. 47%). Mormons with
the highest levels of religious commitment are four times as likely to have a
temple recommend compared with those with lower levels of religious commitment.
There are no significant differences on this question across age groups or
between those living in the West and those who live in other regions.
are expected to tithe (or “pay tithing”), donating 10% of their earnings to the
church. Nearly four-in-five Mormons say they pay tithing (79%). Tithing is most
common among those with the highest levels of religious commitment (96%), and
less common among those with lower levels of religious commitment (41%).
Tithing is also correlated with educational attainment and income. Fully 91% of
college graduates say they “pay tithing,” compared with 80% of those with some
college and 66% of those with a high school degree or less education. Among
those whose family income exceeds $30,000, 83% say they pay tithing, compared
with 69% of those with incomes of less than $30,000.
the most well-known of the practices distinctive to Mormons is a period of
full-time missionary work – which Mormons refer to as a “proselyting” mission
(see glossary). Just over one-in-four Mormon adults (27%) has served
in such a mission at some point in their lives, though this number is
significantly higher for men (43%) than for women (11%). Missionary service is
more common among those under age 50, among whom 32% say they served a
full-time mission, than among those age 50 and older (21%). More college graduates
(48%) and those with some college (26%) have served a mission as compared with
those with a high school education or less (10%). And there are more
missionaries among those who were raised Mormon than among converts to the
faith (31% vs. 16%). This may partly reflect the fact that most full-time
Mormon missions are served in early adulthood, whereas many converts to
Mormonism joined the church later in life.
those who have served a mission, 56% say it was very valuable in gaining
converts to Mormonism. Many more say their missionary service was very valuable
in preparing them for job or career success (80%) and for helping them to grow
in their own faith (92%).
Mormons hold many of the same beliefs espoused by other Christian traditions.
For example, the Pew Forum’s 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape
Survey found that 90% of Mormons express certainty in their belief
in God, that 91% believe that the Bible is the word of God and that 98% believe
in life after death. And the current survey finds that 98% of Mormons believe
in the resurrection of Jesus.
current survey also shows that Mormons hold firm views on a variety of
doctrines that are not shared by other Christian traditions. For example,
Mormons are nearly unanimous in the view that God the Father and Jesus Christ
are separate, physical beings, with 94% expressing this view. Identically large
majorities of Mormons affirm that the president of the LDS Church is a prophet
of God (94%) and that families can be bound together eternally in temple
ceremonies (95%). Mormons are also united in the belief that the Book of Mormon
was written by ancient prophets and translated by Joseph Smith (91%); by
comparison, less than one-in-ten say that the Book of Mormon was written by
Joseph Smith himself (8%). (For more information on LDS teachings about these
and other matters, see the glossary.)
three-quarters of Mormons (77%) say they believe wholeheartedly in all the
teachings of Mormonism, but a significant minority (22%) finds some of the
teachings of their church hard to believe.5
Mormons over age 50 are somewhat more apt than younger Mormons to say they find
some Mormon teachings hard to believe (28% vs. 18%). And Mormons with a high
school education or less are substantially more likely than those with more
education to say they find some elements of Mormonism difficult to believe (34%
of those with a high school degree or less, compared with 19% of those with
some college education and 14% of college graduates). And more converts to
Mormonism (30%) than lifelong Mormons (20%) say they find certain teachings of
the faith hard to believe.
Being a Good Mormon
Mormons say that believing that Joseph Smith actually saw God the Father and
Jesus Christ is an essential part of being a good Mormon. Nearly three-quarters
(73%) say that working to help the poor and needy is essential for being a good
comparison, other practices are seen as important but less essential. For
example, half of Mormons (51%) say holding regular “family home evenings” is
crucial for being a good Mormon, while 45% say this family time is important
but not essential. Half (49%) also say that avoiding coffee and tea is
essential, while 32% say this is important but not essential for being a good
Mormon; nearly one-in-five (17%) say that avoiding these beverages is “not too”
or “not at all” important for being a good Mormon. (For more information on
family home evenings and Mormon beliefs about coffee and tea, see the glossary.)
of Mormons (32%) say it is essential for good Mormons to avoid R-rated movies,
while 47% say this is important but not essential and 19% say avoiding R-rated
movies is not important.
wide margins, Mormons who exhibit the highest levels of religious commitment
are more likely than those with lower religious commitment to say that each of
these elements is essential to being a good Mormon. And those who have served a
full-time mission are more likely than those who have not served a mission to say
that believing Joseph Smith saw God, helping the poor and avoiding coffee and
tea are essential for being a good Mormon.
with Mormons under 50, those age 50 and older are much more inclined to say
that not watching R-rated movies is central to Mormonism (42% among those over
50, compared with 25% of those under 50). Otherwise, there are only small
differences across age groups in opinions about what is central for being a
graduates are more likely than those with a high school education or less to
see believing Joseph Smith saw God, helping the poor and not drinking coffee or
tea as essential for being a good Mormon. On the other hand, those with a high
school education or less are more inclined than those with higher levels of
education to say that avoiding R-rated movies is essential for being a good
Mormon (41% among those with a high school education or less, compared with 28%
among college graduates and 27% of those with some college education).
Mormons see helping the poor and avoiding coffee and tea as more central to
being a good Mormon as compared with those who are not married. Differences
between married and unmarried people are smaller on other requirements for
being a good Mormon.
are encouraged to keep a supply of food in storage in case of emergencies, with
church leaders recommending that Mormons keep at least three months of supplies
on hand. (For more information on the practice of food storage among Mormons,
see the glossary.) Four out of five Mormons interviewed (82%) say
they do this, with more than half of all Mormons (58%) saying they keep at
least three months of food in storage.
is the case among members of other religious groups, significant minorities of
Mormons express belief in certain tenets more commonly associated with Eastern
religions. One-in-ten Mormons (11%) say they believe in reincarnation – that
people will be reborn in this world again and again. This is comparable to the number
of white evangelical Protestants who hold this belief (and significantly lower
than the share of the general population saying they believe in reincarnation).
In addition, more than one-in-four Mormons (27%) believe in yoga “not just as
exercise, but as a spiritual practice,” comparable to the 23% of the general
public who share
Converting to Mormonism
of Mormon adults (74%) say they were raised Mormon, while 26% say they were not
raised in the faith. More than four out of five converts to Mormonism (84%)
were raised in a different Christian religion. About half (53%) were raised as
Protestants, while one-third of all converts to Mormonism (31%) were raised
Catholic. In addition, 15% of converts to Mormonism were religiously
unaffiliated as children. Only 1% of converts to Mormonism came from a
to Mormonism tend to be older than other Mormons (67% of converts are over the
age of 50, compared with 32% of Mormons who were raised in the faith). There
are more women among the converts surveyed (57%) than among those who were
raised Mormon (47%). And compared with lifelong Mormons, there are far more
racial and ethnic minorities among converts to the faith. Fewer than one-in-ten
lifelong Mormons (8%) are non-whites, compared with 24% of converts to
Mormonism. Three-quarters of lifelong Mormons (78%) live in Western states and
40% live in Utah, but nearly half of converts (47%) live outside the West and
only 16% live in Utah.
and non-converts have comparable levels of religious commitment, but converts
are somewhat more likely to say that some of the teachings of the Mormon faith
are hard to accept (30% vs. 20%).
half of converts to Mormonism (51%) say they joined the church before turning
24, including 26% who converted before reaching the age of 18. One-third (34%)
say they converted between the ages of 24 and 35, 9% became Mormon between the
ages of 36 and 50, and 6% joined the church when they were over the age of 50.
asked to describe in their own words their reasons for converting to Mormonism,
59% of converts cite the religion’s beliefs as a reason. The most common
responses within this category are general statements about the religion being
true or making sense (38%), as well as statements about the Book of Mormon or
other scriptures (13%). Mormonism’s emphasis on the family and family values is
cited as a reason for converting by 5% of converts, and 3% cite the faith’s specific
teaching that families can be bound together for eternity.
one-quarter of converts to Mormonism (23%) cite issues of personal spirituality
as reasons for their conversion, including 17% who say they felt called by God
or “gained a testimony.” About one-in-five converts to Mormonism (21%) cite
either the influence of Mormons they interacted with before they converted or
an appreciation for the institutions and practices of the LDS Church. Common
responses in this category include the work of Mormon missionaries (5%) and
positive impressions of Mormon people (4%).
over one-in-ten converts (13%) mention a major life change as their reason for
becoming Mormon. This includes 12% who say they converted because they married
a Mormon or for other family reasons.
5 The survey did not ask those saying they find some teachings hard to believe to
specify which particular teachings they find hard to believe. (return to text)
Photo Credit: © Walter Bibikow/JAI/Corbis