Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Study Finds Mormons Know The Most About Christianity

A recent study conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life tested to see how much Americans know about their own religion and the religion of others. They asked thirty two questions that tested a wide range religious subjects such as famous historical religious people, core tenets of different faiths and how much people understood the Bible. What the Pew Forum found is good news for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 
In terms of overall knowledge about religion, Mormons come in third while Jews come in second place and agnostics as well as atheists come in first place.
However, the most surprising part of this study is how well members of the LDS faith knew about Christianity in comparison to other Christian faiths. Mormons scored the highest when it came to answering questions about Christianity and the Bible by getting 7.9 out of 12 right on average. Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University and an advisor on the survey made this comment about how well Mormons know about the Bible: 
"He said he found it significant that Mormons, who are not considered Christians by many fundamentalists, showed greater knowledge of the Bible than evangelical Christians."
It is good to know that Mormons, who claim to be part of the Christian faith, have the highest knowledge about the Christian tradition. I think the significance of this finding is that Mormons do take the label "Christian" very seriously and that we really are dedicated to the Bible. When we say we're Christians, we mean it. And studies back it up. In fact, as I pointed out in earlier blog posting, there was a study conducted in 2001 by the The Barna Group, a pro-Christian research firm found that Mormons are more likely to read the Bible during the week than are Protestants or Catholics. These studies, as well as other studies, show that Mormons score high on every measure of Christianity whether its Church attendance, knowledge of the Bible, how often we read the Bible and our belief in God and His Son. At some point, Christians of other faiths must realize that we really are Christians despite the doctrinal disagreements we may have.
The Pew Form study found that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints take the study of our own religion very seriously. What the study found that Mormons, out of the different faiths involved in this research, are the most dedicated to learning about their own faith.
"Mormons, black Protestants and white evangelicals are the most frequent readers of materials about religion. Fully half of all Mormons (51%) and roughly three-in-ten white evangelicals (30%) and black Protestants (29%) report that they read books or go online to learn about their own religion at least once a week. Only a small fraction of all religiously affiliated Americans – 6% of the general public and no more than 8% of any religious group – say they read books (other than Scripture) or visit websites to learn about religions other than their own at least once a week.
Nearly half of Americans who are affiliated with a religion (48%) say they “seldom” or “never” read books (other than Scripture) or visit websites about their own religion, and 70% say they seldom or never read books or visit websites about other religions."
I think this also ties in with why Mormons are so knowledgeable about our faith and why we score so well on questions about Christianity. Not only are we encouraged to read our scriptures daily, but we are encourage to engage in personal study in reading the words of our religious leaders and reading up on Church history as well as doctrine. That includes comparative studies as we learn about other Christian faiths in conjunction with learning about our own. 
The study revealed some clues about what made people more knowledgeable about other people's faiths. They found that education was the greatest factor in influencing how much a person know about religion. The Pew Forum also found that religious activity was also a significant factor: 
"Other factors linked with religious knowledge include reading Scripture at least once a week and talking about religion with friends and family. People who say they frequently talk about religion with friends and family get an average of roughly two more questions right than those who say they rarely or never discuss religion. People with the highest levels of religious commitment – those who say that they attend worship services at least once a week and that religion is very important in their lives – generally demonstrate higher levels of religious knowledge than those with medium or low religious commitment. Having regularly attended religious education classes or participated in a youth group as a child adds more than two questions to the average number answered correctly, compared with those who seldom or never participated in such activities." 
The conclusion I draw from this is that The LDS Church does a great job in helping is members be religiously literate and knowledgeable about religion whether it be our own faith or the faith of others. The emphasis on getting  an education and   participating in Church activities such as attending Sunday services, going to the temple, serving full time missions, having Family Home Evening, personal and family scripture study, going to early morning seminary, and institute all contribute to helping us enrich our religious life on a personal level. It helps us improve spiritually and intellectually. 
What are your thoughts on this study? 

UPDATE 9.29.10: I fixed some links and added a quote for this blog story.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Leaving Your Faith Can Be Detrimental To Your Health

An interesting study is claiming that losing your religion could be bad for your health. Christopher Scheitle, senior research assistant, in sociology at Penn State asked an interesting question: 
"Previous research showed some association between belonging to a religious group and positive health outcomes," Scheitle said. "We became interested in what would happen to your health if you left a religious group. Would people demonstrate any negative health outcomes?"
Before I share the results of the study,  the subjects of the study is almost as interesting as the results itself and the conclusion is almost so obvious that a research study of this kind isn't required. But its nice to have science confirm the obvious. Researchers were studying the health effects of those who left a "strict religion." What religions did they classify as a strict religion? They were looking at people who had left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or Jehovah's Witnesses who are known for being an exclusive faith with rigid codes dietary, social, moral and physical standards.
As a result, this study should be of interest to the LDS Community regardless if they are in the community or have left it. 
What did the study find? Here are the results: 
"About 40 percent of members of strict religious groups reported they were in excellent health, according to the study. However, only 25 percent of members in those groups who switched to another religion reported they were in excellent health. The percentage of the strict religious group members who dropped out of religion completely and said their health was excellent fell to 20 percent. The difference between switchers and non-switchers, in reference to health, is statistically significant for the strict groups.
The study also indicated that people who were raised and remained in strict religious groups were more likely to report they were in better health than people affiliated with other religious groups."
The reasons for why people who left the LDS Church or Jehovah's Witnesses is pretty obvious if you think about it. Leaving a group that promotes a healthy lifestyle and strong social bonds may result in a reduction in one's health. Of course, its possible that that might not be true if someone replaces one healthy lifestyle for another. However, having poor health might be a cause for leaving the Church as well since unhealthy people may find it harder to find enjoyment in a organization that follows a strict health lifestyle. 
For those of you who are in or out of the LDS Church, do you agree with the findings of this study?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Study: Keeping Sabbath Day Makes Women Happier

A recent study has found that women are more happier when they are keeping the Sabbath. The study, conducted by Researchers from DePaul University in Chicago and Ben-Gurion University 
followed church attendance and levels of happiness among Americans living in states that had repealed so-called blue laws, which once required most retailers to stay closed on Sundays.
The researchers found that allowing stores to open on Sundays was linked with a decline in church attendance among white women, which led to a subsequent decline in happiness. Among black women, the repeal of the blue laws had no measurable effect, although that may be because the sample size was too small to draw any statistically meaningful conclusions.
Notably, the finding was true only for women. For men, the repeal of blue laws didn’t seem to influence church attendance or levels of happiness.
Since the repeal of blue laws, women are about 17 percent less likely to report being “pretty happy,” and more likely to report being “not happy,” according to the study, which is still awaiting final publication.
“People know there is a correlation between religiosity and happiness, but there’s not conclusive evidence that there is a causal effect,’’ said William Sander, professor of economics at DePaul. “Our paper tends to provide more conclusive evidence that religiosity among women does affect happiness.’’
The study is surprising in someways and not so in other ways. Studies have shown that women tend to be more religious than men. However, what is surprising, to me at least, is that not keeping the Sabbath only affects the happiness of women and not men. I would have assumed it would have affected the happiness of both genders.
Several possible reasons for why women are more unhappier when they're not keeping the sabbath are that children are more likely to get in trouble because they're hanging out at malls, women started to work on Sundays after the repeal of Sunday Blue laws or that it allows women to shop on Sundays:
Or it may simply be that the lure of shopping is more powerful than the desire to attend church, even though it brings less happiness.
“Shopping is kind of addictive, and even though it doesn’t make people happy, they’re doing it and they don’t return to church as much because of that,’’ Dr. Sander said. “There is instant gratification from shopping compared to the benefits of church, which may occur over a longer period of time.’’
None of the explanations seem satisfactory to me. They could equally apply to men. Does anyone have a better explanation for why women are not as happy as men when they're not keeping the Sabbath? 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The LDS Church Expanding Into Mainland China

The LDS Church has formally established a relationship with China in which the Church as well as its members will have greater freedom in operating and worshiping in the most populous country in the world. This is a huge breakthrough for the LDS Church. KSL is reporting that the the two parties have chosen to call the expansion of religious freedom for Mormons in China a "regularizing" of Church activity in that country:
While the Church makes it clear its agreement with Chinese leaders does not mean LDS missionaries will go to China, it appears there will now be fewer restrictions for members of the Church who live in China as they practice their faith. 
At a meeting held Aug. 24 at LDS Church headquarters, the First Presidency met with a senior official of the People's Republic of China. Together they established a relationship, which the Church expects will lead to "regularizing the activities of the Church in China." 
"The Church deeply appreciates the courtesy of the Chinese leadership in opening up a way to better define how the Church and its members can proceed with daily activities, all in harmony with Chinese law," LDS Church spokesman Michael Otterson said Monday 
Both sides agreed to publicly acknowledge the meeting. LDS members with connections to China believe the announcement is a major breakthrough for the LDS Church.
 What does regularizing of Church activity mean in China? The LDS newsroom has the answer:
“It is important to understand what the term regularizing means, and what it does not mean,” Church spokesman Michael Otterson said. “It does not mean that we anticipate sending missionaries to China. That issue is not even under consideration.
“The Church deeply appreciates the courtesy of the Chinese leadership in opening up a way to better define how the Church and its members can proceed with daily activities, all in harmony with Chinese law.”
Otterson said that many details need to be worked out in further discussions with Chinese officials but that the pending developments were the result of 30 years of building mutual trust with the Chinese.
“They have become thoroughly familiar with us through numerous contacts, and they have seen how we and our members operate in China. They know that we are people of our word when it comes to respecting Chinese law and cultural expectations,” he said.
What is interesting is that the Church claims that John Huntsman played no role in the discussion and that no other U.S. government official were involved in the discussion. While John Huntsman may not have had any official role in making this historic agreement happen, I think the Chinese government were impressed with him as a person who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that it may have had some bearing on their decision to regularize Church activity in China.
Regardless, the Lord does work in amazing ways to get countries to open up to the Gospel.