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Survey: U.S. Mormons feel discrimination, hope
The Mormon temple at church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah.
January 12th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Survey: U.S. Mormons feel discrimination, hope

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – Nearly half of American Mormons say they face a lot of discrimination in the United States, though most also say that acceptance of their religion is on the rise, according to a major survey released Thursday.

The survey also found that a large majority of American Mormons think their countrymen are uninformed about their religion and don’t see Mormons as part of mainstream society, even as most Mormons also say the country is ready for a Mormon president.

“The survey creates a mixed picture for how Mormons see themselves,” said Greg Smith, senior researcher with the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, which conducted the study. “On the one hand, many tell us they’re misunderstood and often discriminated against, recognizing the challenges of acceptance.

“But Mormons also seem to think that things are changing, that more Americans are coming to see Mormonism as mainstream,” he said.

The survey comes amid what has been called a “Mormon moment.”

Two of the Republican presidential candidates – Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman – attend the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The religion has also cropped up in big ways in popular culture, from the hit Broadway play “Book of Mormon” to the recent HBO series “Big Love,” about a fundamentalist Mormon family.

Mormons constitute about 2% of the American population.

The Pew survey found that 46% of American Mormons say they face a lot of discrimination in the U.S. today, while six in 10 say their fellow Americans as a whole are uninformed about the LDS Church.

Two-thirds of Mormons say their fellow citizens do not view Mormonism as part of mainstream American society.

At the same time, 63% of Mormons say Americans are “becoming more likely to see Mormonism as part of mainstream society,” in the words of the survey report, while 56% say the country is ready for a Mormon president.

There are some surprising parallels between how Mormons feel about their place in American society and how Muslims do, according to an earlier Pew survey.

"We do see a remarkable degree of similarity about what it's like to be a minority in society," Smith said. "They are under no illusions" about how the broader public currently feels about them, and know their religions are not widely understood, but they remain optimistic at heart, he said.

They recognize the challenges, "but both groups are relentlessly positive about their future in the United States," said Luis Lugo, the director of the Pew Forum.

As Romney’s and Huntsman’s ability to win evangelical votes in the approaching South Carolina presidential primary has become a major question in the presidential campaign, the Pew survey finds that half of Mormons believe that evangelical Christians are unfriendly toward them.

In fact, Mormon and evangelical political opinions match closely on almost everything except immigration, the survey found. (Mormons are much more likely than evangelicals or the U.S. population overall to see immigrants as making a positive contribution to society, said David Campbell of the University of Notre Dame, who helped advise the Pew Forum on the survey.)

Mormons also subscribe to key tenets of mainstream Christianity, despite the sense many evangelicals have that Mormons are not Christians. Previous Pew surveys show that about half of white evangelicals say Mormonism is not a Christian faith.

"Nearly all Mormons say they believe Jesus rose from the dead and that Mormonism is a Christian religion," Smith said.

But the Mormon-evangelical divide is not simply one of theology, a leading evangelical said.

"Evangelicals are - famously or infamously, depending on your perspective - very evangelistic," said Richard Land  of the Southern Baptist Convention. "And so Mormons are out there going door-to-door trying to convince folks  to become Mormons, and evangelicals are out there going door-to-door trying to convince people to become evangelicals."

By comparison, most Mormons said that Americans who are not religious are either neutral or friendly toward them.

Mormons and evangelicals are politically similar, the survey found, with three-quarters of Mormons saying they identify with or lean toward the Republican Party.

And the survey showed that Mormons are more devout in their faith than evangelicals, who are more devout that the public at large.

Three-quarters of Mormons report attending religious services at least weekly, while eight in 10 pray daily and give 10% of their income to their church.

The Pew Forum says the nationwide survey, conducted in October and November, constitutes the biggest survey of American Mormons conducted by an organization that’s not connected to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Pew surveyed 1,019 self-identified Mormons for the project.

CNN's Richard Allen Greene and Emma Lacey-Bordeaux contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Mormonism • Politics • Polls

soundoff (1,639 Responses)
  1. Andrew M.

    It's the American way to belittle, discriminate, bigot, and hate. You're all free to see whatever you want in people. We're all children of a loving God who cares deeply about each of us. God's ways are not man's ways.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • James

      Christians and Mormons are not related. They worship a completely different God and if you are a Christian then you believe that Mormons worship a false God.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Mitsy

      Not all posters are trying to belittle other posters who are supporting Mormonism. I have family & friends in this faith. However, that said, I do not believe America will elect a Mormon president. That may be totally unfair to Romney, but that is the way I see it–good or bad. I will be shocked if he does win over Obama.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • mfbeans191

      Mitsy, I'll be more shocked, not because he is Mormon, but because (as a conservative-minded person saying this) the candidates are doing an excellent job in making themselves look stupid. If Romney gets the nomination, I don't believe he can win against Obama, mostly because the entire process so far has made him look like a bad candidate. Again, that's from a conservative-minded person (I'm not going to call myself Republican, because that's an insult these days)

      January 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      I'll tell you one thing–I am of the protestant Christian line, and I think Mitt Romney is more devoted and committed to his faith than any other so-called Christian candidates. At least he actually BELIEVES in and PRACTICES what he believes in. Most politicians are liars–they aren't actually Christians in the real sense at all. I can't help but have respect for that part of him despite not being religiously or politically on the same side as he is

      January 12, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  2. Sam

    oh! Really! Welcome to our world of first generation immigrants! Yes, this country offers opportunities, but then there is this veil of discrimination here and there!

    January 12, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  3. Michele

    I have lived and volunteered alongside Mormons. Though I am not of that faith, I've admired them. So what if their church directs them to volunteer and give back? They were the Cub Scout leaders, the classroom volunteers, the folks who picked up trash along the side of the road which is more than I can say for the majority of the general population. And as far as some of the comments here, plenty of churches confused by the gay issue. The community where my kids were raised, Belmont, Massachusetts, was also where Mitt Romney was mayor. One of the best run places you'd ever want to live with great schools that included music and art and where law enforcement was adequately funded. Say what you will, I'd rather live in a place where Mormons uphold the bar than some of the white trash in this country.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • supa

      Finally a comment that isn't twisted by the anti-mormon apostate websites most get their information from.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • mfbeans191

      I completely agree, they are great people and, to many, are a good role model. I guess the only complaint I would have about them is their never ending goal to convert everyone to their faith.. While I see what they are trying to accomplish, it's what turns a lot of people off to them and their ideals. But as for the rest of your post, I completely agree, they lead lives that, quite frankly, could be used as a model for how everyone should live.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • JacobS

      I agree with you. Again, it must be said: No religious group in this country should be hated or disparaged or demeaned for their beliefs. What is faith to one is nonsense to another and that pertains to most religions between those who accept a certain belief and those who dont. You needn't accept Mormonism to respect Mormons and recognise what they have contributed to the US. And I say that as a Democrat who does not want to see Romney elected. Disagree with them but do not disrespect them.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  4. OakRockers

    Mormons feel discrimination? You mean, like the discrimination they have fomented toward blacks and women ever since their cult was incepted...and most recently toward gays as well? The mormon cult is a worthless lot. To he11 with them.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Dan

      They are about the same as catholics or any other cult.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  5. Big Easy

    So predictable. Plenty of comments twisting LDS doctrine by ignorant people like Joe B and alientech.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • James

      This isn't twisting their beliefs, this is doctrine straight from the books that Mormons learn from
      •Baptism for the dead, (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. II, p. 141). This is a practice of baptizing each other in place of non-Mormons who are now dead. Their belief is that in the afterlife, the "newly baptized" person will be able to enter into a higher level of Mormon heaven.
      •The book of Mormon is more correct than the Bible, (History of the Church, 4:461).
      •The Devil was born as a spirit after Jesus "in the morning of pre-existence," (Mormon Doctrine, p. 192).
      •Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers and we were all born as siblings in heaven to them both, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 163).
      •A plan of salvation was needed for the people of earth so Jesus offered a plan to the Father and Satan offered a plan to the father but Jesus' plan was accepted. In effect the Devil wanted to be the Savior of all Mankind and to "deny men their agency and to dethrone god," (Mormon Doctrine, p. 193; Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 8).
      •God resides near a star called Kolob, (Pearl of Great Price, p. 34-35; Mormon Doctrine, p. 428).
      •God had s.e.x.ual relations with Mary to make the body of Jesus, (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, 1857, p. 218; vol. 8, p. 115). – This one is disputed among many Mormons and not always 'officially' taught and believed. Nevertheless, Young, the 2nd prophet of the Mormon church taught it.
      •After you become a good Mormon, you have the potential of becoming a god, (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345-347, 354.)
      •If it had not been for Joseph Smith and the restoration, there would be no salvation. There is no salvation [the context is the full gospel including exaltation to Godhood] outside the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 670).
      •There is no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet of God (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, p. 188).

      January 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • ExMormon

      How do we know that Mormons aren't Christian? It's very simple, really.
      Christians go into the world to convert people to Christianity.
      Mormons go into the world to convert people (even Christians) to Mormonism. If Mormonism is Christian, then why do they need to convert Christians to Mormonism?
      It's a cult, plain and simple.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Balls McGhee

      excuse me but ALL religions are ignorant.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Mitsy

      There is enough info out there that proves (to me) that this is a cult group that masquerades as a Christian denomination. I have friends who are LDS & even some family members who converted to it. There are many good people within this organization, but their belief system is based more on what Joseph Smith taught than what most orthodox Christian denominations teach. Any group that gives as much (if not more) allegiance to a mortal man (or woman) than they do to God or Jesus tells me that it's a cult organization.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  6. coldcase

    Discrimination as in what Mormons have done for 150+ years....Blacks, Women, Non Americans, etc.......There is probably no religious group in US more bigoted than Mormons.....Just ask the next time two elders knock on your door.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Mitsy

      There is a lot about Mormonism that the average person on the street does not know about, but they aren't things that make Mormonism look more mainstream; it actually shows just how far off they are as far as orthodox Christianity goes. You have to believe that a man named Joseph Smith was the true prophet in order to believe the doctrines taught in this sect. It's far, far off from what they want you to think it is (just another denomination). Nothing could be further from the truth. Read up on it.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  7. Dave

    I have a feeling if I hung out with most of the people who make insulting comments on the internet I would think they were pretty normal, good people. Why does the anonymity of comment boards turn people into jerks?

    January 12, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Joe B

      Discussing the wacky beliefs of the Mormon cult is not making insults, it's discussing the truth

      January 12, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Dave

      Joe B: I'm not just referring to this article. I'm referring to pretty much every comment board under news articles. And I would hope you would agree that a number of the comments under this article, regardless of what you believe, are beyond "discussing wacky beliefs."

      January 12, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  8. Austinisfull

    Do you really think having a president who belives in "Magic Underwear" would be good for our country?

    January 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • LMB123

      Anyone who says "magic underwear" is simply showing their very low IQ.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Richard

      Yea, Mormons do not call them magic underwear nor think they are magical. Get your facts straight.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • supa

      Read the bible idiot. And you'll learn about something called garments. Such ignorant idiots.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • joe

      Many religions have sacred clothing. Your use of the term "magic underwear" makes it maybe the 377,289th time it's been said in the comments, so I would have to lean toward the IQ comment below.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • joe

      Correction: the comment "above" (different format here)

      January 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  9. Susana

    N1CK
    "Atheist and sort-of-christian" are quite different concepts, would be beneficial for you to learn the difference. Also, the concept of 'family values' isn't the exclusive domain of religious persons/organizations."

    N1ck, first of all you certainly didn't get my point. There was a slash separating both concepts and you don't need to teach me the difference because I know them better than you, and second, I wasn't advocating for exclusivity in connection with my statement on "family values". Read my post again, boy. In other words, "vete a la M y llevate las perras de O contigo" as we say in Latin America.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  10. sam

    Since the LDS church excluded African Americans from the priesthood until 1979 and since Mr. Romney was considered a priest and member in good standing long before that , it would be perfectly acceptable to make Mr. Romney's affiliation with a group that codified discrimination until recently. There should be no distinction to being a member of a religion that discriminates and a country club that discriminates. The media seems to be afraid of this however it should be a fair question for someone looking to be our president. Chris Hitchens we miss you !

    January 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Joe B

      I thought it was 1980

      January 12, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • joe

      I remember the day the blacks received the priesthood in 1979. It was an exciting, joyful day everywhere for most mormons. It was one of those peak moments where you can say where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news. And church leaders, if not all people, were very concerned about the black issues as far back as the late 1800s. Check out blacklds.org.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      so are you trying to tell me that none of our presidents have been members of golf clubs that were all white or all male only? The fact is, people in this country are elected all of the time that have affiliations with organizations that do not so wonderful things. The world is changing and you't can't hold everyone's feet to the fire for the past

      January 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  11. Klaus

    How can you feel discrimination AND hope at the same time?

    Mind-boggling.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      read something about MLK

      January 12, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • RightCoastVA

      It's not rocket science....Go sit down for a while and think about it.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  12. Joe B

    Do Mormons still believe if dark skinned people become Mormons that their children will be blessed with lighter skin coloring?

    January 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Mark

      Joe, where did you that info? Send us a link or your source of information, please. And if you don't have one, then you are just coming across as yet another stupid ignorant human being.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Chris

      Never did.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  13. Voice of Reason

    Calling out an irony on this board: I see people calling Mormons 'secretive' and others complaining that the Mormons keep bugging them to join.. Well which is it? If they are a closed-up secretive society, then why are they trying so hard to get people to be a part of it?

    People look for reasons to criticize and belittle what they dont agree with, then spin current prejudices to fit their own perceptions. Not exactly an enlightened view, is it?

    January 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • mfbeans191

      I'm sure people's perceptions are different. Personally, I think they push off religion a little bit too much, and thats just my personal opinion. But someone else might say, well, while they do that, they are still secretive. And someone else might completely disagree and say, well I think Mormons are the nicest people in the world and they are amazing people. I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to how people view others.

      While I agree that some people spin things to fit their own prejudices, I just wanted to say it's not exactly fair to generalize like that. Not everyone is looking to manipulate an opinion to meet their own ideas.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Tim

      LDS = Scientology

      January 12, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  14. Bob

    Discrimination is terrible, Mormons. So stop practicing it yourselves!

    January 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Pug

      I lived in Salt Lake City for 3 & 1/2 years and experienced LDS discrimination toward non-LDS people first hand. It's more difficult if you have school age children.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  15. Pug

    CNN: As usual you have taken the safe road. The thing missing from your article is that most theologians do not consider the LDS religion to be a Christian religion. It is considered to be a new relition. How about a little depth and courage in your reporting?

    January 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • James

      Heres a little bit as to why LDS aren't considered Christians, the God they worship is a completely different God than the one Christians worship.

      •Baptism for the dead, (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. II, p. 141). This is a practice of baptizing each other in place of non-Mormons who are now dead. Their belief is that in the afterlife, the "newly baptized" person will be able to enter into a higher level of Mormon heaven.

      •Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers and we were all born as siblings in heaven to them both, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 163).

      •God resides near a star called Kolob, (Pearl of Great Price, p. 34-35; Mormon Doctrine, p. 428).

      There is no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet of God (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, p. 188).

      January 12, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Lance

      @James So? I fail to see how any of those things are disqualifiers. Who cares where God lives or if someone believes He lives some specific place? Mormons believe EVERYONE is a spiritual siblings-yes, including Jesus and Satan. So? And yes Mormons believe that you must accept their modern prophets just as Christians believe they must accept the Biblical prophets. Mormons don't accept the Nicean creed-but many early Christians didn't accept it either. As silly as you may think Mormonism is the reality is that ask anyone not raised around the Bible and they would consider your religious ideas to be just as absurd.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      um NO protestant Christians do NOT believe that you have to accept "biblical prophets"–that's contrary to everything they believe. The main difference is that Christians believe the only way to get to God is through Jesus Christ, and anyone else would be idolatry. The Joseph Smith things is what ultimately separates the religions in protestant Christian minds

      January 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Mark

      @Lance > Dude, you are right. I can see you know your Bible. - @SockPuppet: I bet you are one of those Christians that always claim to have "read the WHOLE ENTIRE Bible a number of times" and you have only read bits of it here and there (or just the "important parts" of the Scriptures that that your pastor asked you to read).

      January 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  16. Joe B

    Do Mormons still believe that the Native Americans were given dark skin complexions due to the sins of their ancestors for rejecting Jesus Christ?

    January 12, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • alientech

      It's in the Book of Mormon.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  17. Kurt Kammeyer

    Like most anyone here, I enjoy a good mud wrestle now and then, but can we get back to the topic of the article? For your benefit, here is a link to the original Pew Research survey that started this whole kerfuffle:

    http://www.pewforum.org/mormons-in-america/

    January 12, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  18. James

    Heres a fun fact that mormons hold as truth: (I've included the reference)

    God had s.e.x.u.a.l relations with Mary to make the body of Jesus, (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, 1857, p. 218; vol. 8, p. 115).

    January 12, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Hey

      She must have had some o.r.g.a.s.m !

      January 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  19. Joe B

    Do Mormons believe like Michelle Bachmann that you can pray the gay away?

    January 12, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • joe

      No.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Practise what you preach

      I'll stop discriminating against Mormons, when they stop discriminating against gays. I have no sympathy for Mormons' collective feelings of being discriminated against by mainstream society. Look at how much the Mormons of Utah had bankrolled the Prop 8 funding to make sure it passed.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  20. alientech

    Nothing against Mormons except when they come to me and try to convert me. Then I want to strangle them.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
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