Poll: Are you a typical Mormon?

Posted by on April 15, 2012 in Belief, Family | 15 comments

Mormons in America 2012

Source: Study by Pew Research Center; Infographic by Deseret News

In January 2012, the Pew Research Center published a survey of self-identified American members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Reports about the study claim that it may be the most comprehensive study of American Mormons ever that was not published by the LDS Church or an affiliated organization, like BYU.

Comparing myself to the majority of respondents, I see that I am a typical Mormon in many ways.  I’m White, educated, married to another Mormon and living in a Western state. I knew I was pretty typical in these demographics, but I was surprised to find that many other Mormons also share some of my opinions.  Like most Mormons, I believe that it is essential that Mormons care for the poor but don’t care about whether or not Mormons avoid R-rated movies.  The study also confirmed that I am different from other Mormons in some very important ways.  I am among only 17% of American Mormons who are Democrats (liberals) and among the 38% who prefer a marriage where both husband and wife work and care for children. (In the survey, 58% said they preferred a marriage where the husband works and the wife cares for the children.)

You can see the full report here: http://www.pewforum.org/Christian/Mormon/mormons-in-america.aspx

View the full-size infographic here: http://www.deseretnews.com/media/pdf/722608.pdf

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15 Comments

  1. I think there is no such thing as a “typical Mormon”, but if there were, it would be me.

  2. I once began a Relief Society lesson by asking women to stand up if they were “typically” Mormon in various ways — the point being to point out that in some ways we are all typical, and that in some ways each of us is an outsider. I don’t remember what the rest of the lesson was, but I do remember that one woman, in many ways one of the least typical/orthodox in the ward, remained standing for everything I listed.

    I find the statistics in the infographic depressing. Really — a third of us think you can’t be a good Mormon if you watch R-rated movies? (I don’t see that the MPAA ratings have anything to do with whether a movie is uplifting, educational, or entertaining.) Two-thirds of us think that we’re not part of mainstream American society? Three-quarters self-identify as Republicans? That doesn’t sound like a group of people I’d be particularly comfortable in. But statistics lie, as my RS experiment showed. Maybe it’s a more hospitable environment than it looks.

  3. I think that it is important that studies and surveys like this are conducted, and I know this was done by a non-church affiliated group, but … well, I am not living in the US. A lot of church members don’t live in the US. So…. are we allowed to be typical, even if we aren’t residing in the US?

    The church is often called an “American church” because of the start and the headquarters being in the US, as well as the overt American culture than come across in meetings and structure (either that or it is the “American business culture church”, rather than the “American church”).

    So I sadly chose “other”– because although I am Mormon, and typical in many ways for the stats shown, like the church in general– it seems as though my non-American placement deems me not relevant. :/

    Fun American survey, though.

  4. There are so many deeper, more important issues here that I should be focusing on, but I can’t get over how many of them had a three month supply of food storage!

    • If you don’t have at least a three month supply of food by now, you really ought to! With everything happening in the economy, and with food prices continuing to rise, it really is a good idea to start stocking up on long lasting food items. Also there’s the whole December 21, 2012 thing that is supposed to end the world… I don’t believe anyone can predict the end of the world, but I do believe in nutjobs who could cause their own man-made disasters in order to prove they were right.

  5. On the surface, just looking at those statistics . . . I’m almost utterly a typical Mormon. And by the statistics, these people don’t seem like ones I would really want to spend time with. But in practice, people in the church tend to look at me as the crazy one (you know, the one who watches r-rated movies and hangs around with democrats–crazy, right?). And I do choose to spend my time there. So something doesn’t line up.

    I think it’s impossible to define a ‘typical’ anything. You can stereotype, you can generalize, and you can pull out the statistics, but none of those things will ever really show you what a typical Mormon is because a truly typical person does not exist.

  6. I find topics like this very divisive, from the survey itself to the related discussion. I’ve found that I have lot of anxiety lately when I think about how I fit into the various groups I associate with. I don’t really 100% fit in anywhere. And my guess would be that most people feel the same way.

    At church I don’t fit in because I’m not a stay at home mom, and don’t plan on ever being one. I question everything, and I’m divorced + remarried with step kids. I don’t fit in outside of church because of my crazy Mormon beliefs, and the fact that while I have 4 step kids, my husband and I are thinking of having a few of our own. I don’t fit in places like Exponent II because I’m not a Democrat. The list could go on and on. I was starting to feel like there was no where I could be accepted for me.

    I realized that I need to stop looking for all of the differences. Once I started looking for what I had in common with individual people (rather than the group as a whole), I began to feel much more comfortable in my own skin. This doesn’t mean I don’t try to understand other people’s point of view, or talk to them about mine. I still see changes that need to be made (and changes that I need to make), but I have a hard time doing that if I’m crippled by my feelings of not belonging everywhere I go.

    I find that if I own who I really am, and am not ashamed, I am accepted (for the most part) by people in my various social groups. I recently have shared with several people that I just don’t think being a SAHM is for me, with no negative consequences. And if someone does push back, I find that the fact that I am ‘owning it’ makes me more confident despite their opinions.

    Sorry for this long, meandering comment, it’s just a compilation of thoughts I have had that maybe don’t even relate to the original post. :)

    • “I realized that I need to stop looking for all of the differences.”

      That has been key for me as well.
      Well articulated thoughts, Christie.

    • That is fabulous. Thank you.

  7. I find it interesting that so many members of the church (not just feminist mormons) completely blow off the R-rated movie counsel or treat it as optional, when the counsel came directly from the prophet. I don’t believe that mormons who watch R rated movies are bad mormons, but I do believe that it makes you vulnerable to making choices that can lead you down a path of misery that you wouldn’t otherwise have traveled, had you heeded the prophets counsel.

    I blew off a lot of steam the other day, about my own personal feelings about feminist mormons. I apologize for offending people, but I just do not understand the whole feminist mormon thought process. I’m here seeking answers and enlightenment. I have good friends who have turned to the feminist mormon movement hard core, and I’m baffled by it. They don’t understand why they can’t have the priesthood, or be a bishop. I hope they are the extremes, and that your general feminist mormon women aren’t quite that nutty (maybe “nutty” is offensive, but that’s how it seems to me at the moment. I’m hoping someone can change my mind!).

    What it seems like to me, is that a feminist mormon woman believes that she knows more than the prophet of God, which leads me to believe that she believes she knows more than God, Himself. If I’m wrong, please correct me. I’m here to learn. I only shared what it seems like to me, so that you can get an understanding of where I’m coming from.

    I am a stay at home mother of 4. I firmly believe that staying at home is best for all children. I understand that there are situations that a woman HAS to work, but I will never understand women who choose to work when their babies are small. I have no problem with a woman who chooses to work after her kids are in school, so long as her hours coincide with her children’s hours and she can be home when they are home. And when I say, “I will never understand,” or that, “I don’t have a problem with,” that’s exactly what I mean. I don’t generally look down on or judge working women (occasionally I get all aggravated and I blow up and rant and rave about it, but that’s just me blowing off steam), I just don’t get it. I believe that everyone has a story and it’s not up to me to judge anyone.

    I taught in daycares for over 10 years. I taught in centers in every “class” of area there is. Once you got past the front doors, whether they were barely hanging on their hinges, or if they were fancy doors with a fingerprint scan key pad lock, the insides were all the same. Minimum wage paid teachers who may or may not care enough to do their job right. Those women love your children, that is for sure, but they do not care about your child’s future. Their main concern is keeping your child alive and unhurt for the time your child is in their care, and when your child leaves, that teacher is relieved that she doesn’t have to be responsible for your child anymore. That is my issue with women of small children who choose to work when they don’t have to.

    I fully understand being prepared to go to work if something were to happen and your husband loses his job, or you get divorced, or your husband dies, or whatever. It’s always a good idea to have a back up plan. I have plans b-z on stand by, should that ever happen to me.

    Hmmm, what else can I tell you about me that might help you tell me about you? I love guns. I just got two new handguns and I can’t wait to go and play with them at the shooting range!

    I believe that men should absolutely come home from work and dive into his role as the other parent. I find it shocking when women in Relief Society still lament about how their husband came home one day and she was still in her grungy clothes and hadn’t finished cleaning the house, and his dinner wasn’t prepared, and she just felt so awful about it, because he has been hard at work all day and she’s just been home with the kids all day. SERIOUSLY???? If my husband comes home and I’m not finished with the house cleaning, I throw a rag and some cleaner at him and tell him what hasn’t been done yet. If dinner isn’t made, half the time, he’ll go and make it (a huge part of why I married him is that he enjoys cooking… I HATE cooking!).

    My husband does the repairs that require sewing, because I refuse. I can sew, but I despise it. Every once in a while I get this urge to be crafty, and when that happens, I can create some beautiful things… but those times are few and far between. I would much rather spend my time with my kids, than do much of anything else. I do keep them on a good routine, where my baby and even my almost 4 year old takes a two hour nap during the day. BUT our routine is flexible and if we miss nap time, even my baby adjusts and deals with it. I have high expectations of my children, but I’m not unreasonable about it. I never underestimate them, though. Even a 9 month old knows how to manipulate!

    I consider myself somewhat of an expert on children, though I’ve never specifically gone to school to become one. I take issue with keeping all things pc and multicultural, because I am sick to death of people getting offended by every little thing. I proudly hang a confederate flag in my window and if you feel like that makes me a racist, then you don’t know me.

    I understand how polygamy CAN work, and I actually mostly think it’s a good idea. I wouldn’t want to have to practice it here on the earth, where we’re all subject to human feelings and emotions, like jealousy, pride, lust, etc…. but I can see how it could work in the eternities. I would NEVER want more than one husband, though! One is enough, thank you!

    I fully believe that priesthood leaders are human beings, subject to human mistakes, but I do NOT believe that the members of the first presidency fall into the exact same category. I don’t believe they are perfect, mind you, but I do believe that a man who has direct communication with Heavenly Father every day, is a little less likely to lead church members astray, than maybe a bishop or stake president would be. I question things when they don’t make sense to me and I’m certainly not afraid to tell my bishop or stake president what I think.

    I hope some of that helps. Please explain feminist mormon views to me. I’ve read and read, but it just doesn’t make sense in my head.

    • Mari,

      A couple of quick replies.

      1. Please understand that while we absolutely welcome all viewpoints and are generally very happy to respond to questions, your comment is very long and not entirely on point. That makes it hard to fully respond without derailing the conversation. If you really want to understand how feminist Mormons think, I think the best way to do so is to read here and at other Mormon feminist publications with an open mind and a charitable heart. Even if you never agree, doing so will perhaps help you undersand. I hope you can see why it’s not really possible to respond to every question and issue you raise in your comment.

      2. You said: ” I question things when they don’t make sense to me and I’m certainly not afraid to tell my bishop or stake president what I think.” I can’t speak for all Mormon feminists, but I can tell you that for me your statement there is exactly my own approach and my reason for being a feminist. The only real difference I see is in the scale of the things that I see that don’t make sense and which seem wrong to me vs. those that seem wrong to you, at least based on what you’ve written here. Perhaps rather than dismissing us as women who think they know more than God Himself, you should instead try to see us as women who love God and Goddess, who love what is good and right, and are simply doing the best we know how to make our church and world a more Zion-like place.

    • For me,it is about a relationship with God rather then with the prophet. I feel that the prophet speaks through his own human bias; he is saying what he thinks God said, but through his own words and understanding. Those who have similar thought processes and biases as the prophet might be more okay with his choice of words and understanding. Those who think differently sometimes do not. There are assumptions the prophet has that I do not agree with, but he uses them to understand revelation. So the way he interprets revelation though those biases does not work for me because I don’t accept the biases. They aren’t divine; we were all raised with certain thoughts and ideas and they color how we think and interpret things.

      So the assumption that every word that comes of the prophets mouth was given to him verbatim by God is not shared by all on this site. So this statement “What it seems like to me, is that a feminist mormon woman believes that she knows more than the prophet of God, which leads me to believe that she believes she knows more than God, Himself.” is over-simplified. Aren’t we supposed to pray about what leaders say? Can’t we have a personal relationship with God? Doesn’t the prophet speak generally and God tell us specifically what we should do? Doesn’t the prophet speak as a man as well as a prophet? And often it’s hard to know when he’s speaking as what. I believe God can tell me something specifically for me better then the prophet can, because God is God and the prophet is human who has biases and beliefs that he filters things through, just like the rest of us.

  8. While I appreciate your interest in engaging in conversation, there is too much here for me to comment on, and of course, I cannot speak on behalf of all feminists, only myself. Therefore, I will respond to the two items you mentioned that seem relevant to my words from the original post:

    1. R-rated movies. I mentioned in my post that I do not care whether other Mormons watch them or not. As you have mentioned, some church leaders have specifically counseled against them. Others have advised us to use more subjective decision-making standards. I think it is relevant to note that the rating system was designed for children, not adults, and only exists in the U.S., not worldwide. I also think it is relevant to note that many, not all, R-rated movies contain violence and lewd content that may not be appropriate. Altogether, I see this as a personal decision. If you would like to know more about my opinions about how to make personal decisions, see this post: http://www.the-exponent.com/2011/12/05/shortcutting/

    2. Working outside the home. I mentioned my preference for shared parenting and work responsibilities. If you would like to know more about how this arrangement works in my home, see this post: http://www.the-exponent.com/2011/06/16/guest-post-my-husband-the-nurturer/

  9. Thanks for all of your honest answers. Bigger thanks for not being offended by my questions! Sorry for very long post, and hijacking the thread. I’ll work on it! :)

  10. I cannot believe that a third of respondents believe that the MPAA is inspired of God.

    Or rather, sadly, I can.

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