A report from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life “reveals that as a group Mormons are among the most devout and conservative religious people in the country”.
The report, titled “A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S.” was based on data from Pew’s own 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.
“The Mormon community is also internally diverse, with differences according to levels of religious commitment and educational attainment, regions of the country where Mormons live, and between lifelong Mormons and those who have converted to the faith,” the report says.
The survey data is divided into three parts: demographic characteristics, religious beliefs and practices, and social and political views.
It should be of use to anyone researching religions, religion trends, and the Mormon Church in particular.
Christianity vs Mormonism
That said, a buyer beware: as a non-partisan, non-advocacy organization the Pew Forum does not get involved in the issue of whether or not the Mormon Church legitimately considers itself to be not just a Christian denomination but in fact the only true expression of Christianity.
Hence it lumps the Mormon Church, as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses — in with what the report refers to as “other Christian traditions”.
Christian theologians and Christians denominations consider the Mormon Church to be, theologically, a cult of Christianity. Many of the Mormon Church’s religious beliefs and practices contradict or reject essential doctrines of the Christian faith, thus placing Mormonism firmly outside the religious tradition it identifies with.
Claims by the Mormon Church that its beliefs and practices represent truth once observed, then lost, and now restored are clever, but — like so much in Mormonism — are not born out by facts.
In reading the Pew report, readers should keep in mind that Mormonism uses Christian terminology infused with different meanings.
Sandra Tanner, an expert on the Mormon Church, says,
Whenever an evangelical Christian and a Latter-day Saint engage in a doctrinal discussion they encounter the problem of terminology.
LDS leaders use the standard vocabulary of Christianity but with radically different definitions. A Christian should never take for granted that his/her LDS friend understands common Christian terms in the biblical way.
– Source: Terminology Differences, Sandra Tanner
She then documents where and how Mormon use of Christian terminology differs, and how it affects key doctrines.
Mormons and the Bible
The Pew report says:
Mormons also are united in their belief that the Bible is the word of God. More than nine-in-ten Mormons (91%) say the Bible is the word of God, with just 4% saying it was written by men and is not the word of God.
This high level of belief in the Bible as the word of God, however, is tempered by the belief that it should not be taken literally, word for word. A majority of Mormons (57%) say it should not be taken literally, with a significantly smaller proportion (35%) saying it should be taken literally, word for word.
Among other Christian traditions in which high numbers of members say the Bible is the word of God, much larger proportions say it should be taken literally. For example, more than nine-in-ten Jehovah’s Witnesses and more than eight-in-ten members of both evangelical Protestant and historically black Protestant churches consider the Bible to be the word of God, a figure similar to that of Mormons. But members of these three groups are more likely to say the Bible should be taken literally than to say it should not be taken literally. Among the public as a whole, two-thirds (63%) see the Bible or other religious Scripture as God’s word, with about half of these (33% overall) saying it should be taken literally.
– Source: A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S., The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, July 24, 2009
This is a good example as to why the survey data can not be taken at face value. After all,
The LDS Church has had a history of being very critical regarding the accuracy of the Bible.
In fact, it is the only book among the LDS standard works accepted with qualification. Article eight of the LDS Articles of Faith reads, “We believe the Bible as far as it is translated correctly …”
– Source: Does Scholarship Support Article Eight of the Articles of Faith? by Bill McKeever
The Mormon Church puts more stock in its own scriptures, which consist of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.
However, as Luke Wilson points out, There are many serious objections to the claim of Joseph Smith and the LDS church that the Book of Mormon is divinely inspired latter-day scripture supplemental to the Bible. However, none are more significant than the numerous contradictions between Book of Mormon teaching and the Bible.
Research resources on the Mormon Church
– Posted by Anton Hein
Related topic(s): mormon, Mormon Church, Mormonism, Pew Forum, poll, survey
First published (or major update) on Wednesday, July 29, 2009.
Last updated on August 17, 2009. Original content is © Copyright Apologetics Index. All Rights Reserved. For usage guidelines see link at the bottom.