"A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S." is a new study by the Pew Forum that might help you better understand what kind of people make up the Latter-day Saints in the United States. Part One of the "Landscape Survey" looks at age, gender, race, geographical distribution, and other statistics. You may find a couple of surprises in the data, such as Latter-day Saints being more racially diverse (i.e., less white) than several other religious groups including mainline Protestant churches. The report also examines the differences in age, education, and race of converts versus life-long members. (Unfortunately, the fact that I'm 0.2% Mohawk probably didn't make it into the stats - but I'm proud to be more diverse than I look.)

Part Two may be even more interesting as it explores the beliefs and practices of Latter-day Saints. Some of the information surprised me.
A similar pattern is seen when it comes to frequency of prayer and Scripture reading. Three-quarters of Mormons (76%) say they read Scripture outside of religious services at least once a week, more than double the figure among the general population (35%). More than nine-in-ten Mormons pray at least once a week, with 82% praying daily. And a majority of Mormons (55%) say they receive a direct answer to a specific prayer request at least once a month.
That's better than I expected. But what really surprised me is that 58% of the general population prays daily, and only 18% never prays. Prayer is a big part of American life - something you would NEVER suspect from popular media depictions of American life in movies, television, and the popular press. I think most of the people in charge of the media fall into that 18% minority. In their world, if someone is praying daily or reading the scriptures, you know they will end up being the child-abusing, pension-stealing, environment-trashing villain who is planning to kill the Mother Theresa-like saints at the local abortion clinic. But I digress.

Part Three deals with social and political views. "A significant portion of Mormons (68%) also agree that their values are often threatened by Hollywood, which is much higher than among the general population (42%)" - whoa, where does that kind of thinking come from? And there was another surprise:
Mormons are very politically conservative. Six-in-ten Mormons identify as conservative, about three-in-ten (27%) say they consider themselves moderate and only one-in-ten identify as liberal. This is in stark contrast to the general population, in which roughly a third identify as conservative (37%), a third as moderate (36%) and 20% as liberal.
This caught me by surprise. Based on what I've been seeing on television, I thought 80% of the population was liberal and the other 20% lived in caves (only coming out occasionally to spread hate and fear, eat a few children and hunt an endangered species into extinction). Guess I need to get out of my cave more often.

Overall, a valuable reference for understanding who the Mormons are, in broad, general terms. But for best results, don't forget to actually chat with some of us.
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