The infographic from the LDS Newsroom in my last post, “Mormonism 101 Inforgraphic,” raised a few questions and concerns. First, it helps to recognize that infographics of this kind are condensed little factoids aimed at raising awareness and perhaps entertaining, but complex details aren’t going to be conveyed well. It also helps to know that this particular batch of factoids is partly based on a recent outside study of Latter-day Saints which, like all studies, has inherent limitations that need to be understood. I discuss the study and the info graphic briefly on my Introduction to the Mormons (LDS Intro) page at JeffLindsay.com.
“Mormons in America: Certain in Their Beliefs, Uncertain of Their Place in Society” was published in January 2012 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. In the full report (a 2 MB PDF) we learn that the study was conducted via phone interviews in late 2011. I believe that means that participants naturally were those who were willing to identify themselves as Mormon to a stranger and who cared enough about religion (or about surveys) to endure the interview. This will skew the results toward active Mormons. The survey, for example, reports that 77% of Mormon say they attend church weekly. But most Mormons know that in their wards or branches, average weekly attendance is under 50% (say, 30-50%) of listed members. So take these factoids with a grain of salt! But the Pew study may be helpful in roughly comparing some traits across religions, if we understand the limitations of the study. For example, after carefully considering this study, you may conclude that active Mormons, unlike most other active Christians, stand out in being much more interested in talking about their religious activity in random surveys. Ah, the fruits of Mormon missionary zeal!