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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. dave

    Sevenveils, try being civil. Many many organizations use attire as symbolism and as reminders or an attempt to aspire to higher values. MInisters and priests often wear special garments to reflect their position and desire to help others, Catholics often wear crosses and St. Christophers, Jewish people wear Yamikas (sp?), Some Muslims wear special headresses as do Hindus etc. These are NOT bad. They are symbolic of what they are aspiring to. The fact that Mormons do not wear them outwardly should not be a point of derision. They are a reminder of covenants and promises made and aspirations to be better! Why ridicule! You have picked up the derision "magic underwear" when they are only viewed as a spiritual shield against temptation and a reminder of sacred determinations to be better than they are.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  2. Raymond James Thibault, SFC,USA Ret

    Well know people know how Roman Catholics feel in some parts of our Country. Freedom of religion in some small portions of our country, Small Towns and Counties, is the freedom to worship as they do. Felt it in the Military, Protestants acted and talked like they were better than Catholics. Too many events had southern baptist and staunch protestant over tones. Well welcome to the bigotry that seems to never go away..

    January 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  3. Ron

    They don't believe in the Holy Bible either: one of the 10 Commandments is "Thou Shall Not Have No Other God Before Me" well that exempts them since the men think they are God

    January 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Raymond James Thibault, SFC,USA Ret

      Do you at all understand the Right to Freedom of Religion. I also think you miss the Point Jesus made. JUDGE NOT LEST YE BE JUDGED AND FOUND WANTING. A closed mind mind is a terrible thing to have.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Dave

      WRONG. It is one of the tenets of their beliefs as found in their Articles of Faith. Do your homework before posting false information that you think people will believe.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Ummm, THAT is one of the 10 commandments?!?!? What the heck did I read then????

      January 12, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Kinetic

      @Dave – However, the bible the Mormons use has been modified in a few but specific places to match their other tenets.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Dave

      Wrong....King James version is used.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Kinetic

      @Dave – get an electronic copy of the King James Bible and a copy of the Mormon bible, do a compare. You will find they are different.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Dave

      Done it before. It is the same.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Kinetic

      @Dave – also, although Mormons say the believe in the Bible, they also claim to not rely on it as it is not reliable.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Well then, sounds like the Mormons are on to something there.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Kinetic

      @Dave – You do know that the bible used by Mormons is really not the King James version, right? The bible used by Mormons is a translation created by Joseph Smith. It is very similar to the King James version but NOT the same.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  4. Bex

    Mormons are some of the most discriminatory, bigoted humans on earth. They believe all religions, creeds, etc... are beneath them, so any criticism they face is generally warranted.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Raymond James Thibault, SFC,USA Ret

      Well they fit right in with many so called Christian Groups.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Dave

      Bex – I'm sorry you feel this way. We ask for your forgiveness and we rely on the grace of God like all others who have fallen short of his glory.

      January 28, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  5. peggy

    Excellent posts-
    I am fortunate to have been exposed to many people of different religions. I appreciate all beliefs including Atheism,
    Agnosticism and Buddhism. I ask questions. I listen. I learn. I have no religion but I know three things for sure, which are; that fear keeps us apart, love brings us together and that we are more similar than dissimilar, which lead me to suspect that there is a common thread connecting our beings and that common thread is enough to propel me to be the best person that I can and to regard each human as my brother and or sister, or fellow pilgrim.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Raymond James Thibault, SFC,USA Ret

      Your a wise person.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  6. Portland tony

    I know very little about the religious practices of the Morman church. I do know about the followers of the Mormon theology and find them, without a doubt, to be among the most ethical and giving religious group here in America. Their trait of self reliance is what every American should possess. Their 2 year missionary commitments certainly help their young people grow both spiritually and intellectually. Some may fault some of their beliefs, yet I have no problem by knowing and observing their lifestyle.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  7. UtahNative NOT Mormon

    Give me a break!!! The Mormons feel discrimnated against. The ones in Utah should look at how they treat none Mormons. I remember being 7 years old and was told by a group of my mormon classmates, that they were not allowed to play with me because I was "Catholic". I thought "what is a Catholic". My parents never taught us that we were "different". I thought, we just went to Church in a different building in a different neighborhood. Keep in mind my maternal Grandmother and all the way back were Mormons, and even "came across the prairie in those handcarts". But my father's family was Catholic. My Mormon family was wonderful and very different than those of my childhood. I left Utah as an adult.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Dave

      Yeah, reminds me of my evangelical family that would not let me go around those crazy Mormon neighbors where I grew up in NC. Ended up best friends in high school with one of the sons. My family believed all the bunk they heard but I found out different in just getting to know them. They should have done that with you in UT.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Dave

      I'm sorry that this happened. We have experienced the same problem on the oppostie side. We invited many non-LDS friends to come to our daughters wedding reception, but none came. It is too bad we misunderstand one another. I'm sure Christ would not approve.

      January 28, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
  8. Derek

    The Mormon "religion" is as big a joke as Scientology is.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Raymond James Thibault, SFC,USA Ret

      Now Now, remember we they God Given right to be as stupid as we want to be. Ask Larry the Cable Guy.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  9. Mormon Shame

    Discriminated? That is what I felt when I learned that as recent as 1980 if I was Mormon I could not go to heaven because I am black.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Dave

      Read 2 Nephi 26:33 and you might be surprized .

      January 28, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  10. razol

    Mormons shuld be glad that most Americans are uninformed about their religion. If most people knew that they perform posthumous baptisms for some of the most wicked humans in history (Adolf Hitler), they might feel even more discriminated against. They also perfomr baptisms for non-Mormons distorting the historical record of people who were born and lived following other religions such as Jewish or Islamic people. This is just one of their odd beliefs, along with polygamy which is publicly denied, but secretly still embraced. I would encourage all people to read The Mormon Mirage by Latayne C. Scott. Once you have a read through that, you will see that we should never be ready to accept a Mormon President.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Dave

      Read books by their clergy, not some jackhole with an axe to grind is you want to learn.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Joe

      Yeah! We should at least make a law that keeps them out of any public office. Better yet, we should probably get a lynch mob together and get rid of them all! They're a threat to us all! But make sure to look behind their food storage, that's where they hide their secret wives! We have to be thorough about this you know! All I say is, if we don't understand 'em, and we're pretty sure we know everything about them, then we don't need 'em! I mean come on, this is America. We can't tolerate people who are different whether they're mormons or muslims or anything else. There's no way they're equal to the rest of us. Oh! lets get rid of the Irish too.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Dave

      Read 1 Corinithans 15 about baptism for the dead.

      January 28, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  11. Laerteg

    The Mormon church is a false church. I say this with no hatred or animosity, but simply because it is true. There is not one facet of Mormonism that stands if you turn even half a critical eye toward it. Not one. Mormon leaders were long extremely hateful and condescending regarding Christians. But as more and more information has come out that undeniably proves Mormonism and its claims to be false, they are trying to reposition themselves as "just another Christian church." (at least on the outside, believe me, on the inside, they still believe they are the "one true church" and that their souls are superior to the rest of humanity – or to put it in Mormon lingo, choice souls, worthy souls, more valiant in the pre-existence) Everything about the church has been whitewashed, rewritten or flat out lied about. I feel badly for the members that they have been misled by something that is completely false. Your spiritual position matters. Being misled by falsehood as longstanding consequences. People are desperate about the situation our country finds itself in which is why they are willing to take a look at Mitt Romney the businessman, despite (and not in any way because of) the fact that he is a Mormon

    January 12, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Dave

      Absolute rubbish. Cannot say that without saying every other religion is false.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Laerteg

      Sorry, Dave, most definitely not rubbish. Many people who knew far more about the Mormon church than you do and had completely committed their life's work to it have come to this heartwrenching conclusion. Many of them were completely devastated. Do the research. If Mormonism is gaining any traction, it is because many Americans have become spiritually lazy. The Mormon Church does your spiritual thinking for you (as in "if the prophet has spoken, then the thinking has been done"). And that suits some people just fine. But if a person honestly cares about their salvation, then they better take the time to learn the truth. Because the Mormon church doesn't have it.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  12. oregonslee

    Reporters are completely wrong when they claim it's not important Romney is a mormon bishop. That's vital info for voters, especially those who believe in freedom of choice or separation of church and state. These anti-science religious candidates need to be identified and called out.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • megs

      I'm a Mormon science geek. You mention separation of church and state which is something I believe very strongly in and support wholeheartedly. My religion has never taught me otherwise. We don't all fit the mold you place us in, get to know us, you might be surprised what a diverse group we really are!

      January 12, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Gayle

      How does being religious in general, or being a mormon bishop specifically make a person anti-science. There have been, are, and will continue to be mormon bishops who are scientists. Many of the best scientists are devoutly religious. Just because some people worship science doesn't mean that the study of science precludes the worship of God.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  13. Larry

    They will lie cheat and anything else to be number one they believe the husband is a god and the only wat a women can get to heaven is through the husband. I believe before you vote for you had better read what they believe

    January 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • megs

      Ignorance is bliss!
      I think my husband is divine only in that he makes a heavenly beef & brocolli.
      I'm Mormon and I don't worship my husband and I have a master's degree and I work part-time and I love being a mother and I have my own opinions and I have a testimony of my religion.
      Have a nice day!

      January 12, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  14. Bigotry

    Mormons do not hate gays! Mormons believe that marriage should be between husband and wife or male and female. I actually agree! They also have more children because the wife is normally a stay at home mother. I also repsect that as well. I have several Mormon friends and they respect everyone's religion.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • stdt

      I keep seeing "respect everyones religion" I'm not really sure what that means. Respect people, sure, but religion is an idea. A belief.
      Ideas and beliefs should be subject to scrutiny. How else can you determine their validity. The idea and the belief will gain acceptance if it can pass scrutiny. It will fall into disfavor if it can't.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • razol

      Oh really? Ask your Mormon friends why they perform posthumous baptisms for Jewish people. They list Jews as Mormon in their false historical records destroying the ability of future generations to trace their true ancestry. Mormons are anti-Semitic and in fact anti any faith, save their own made up teachings.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Jonas L-J

      Amen. If you lived next to a faithful Mormon family, you would feel and know what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  15. sfmitch

    Really? This from the biggest mob of bigots and child rapist on earth! The nerve?

    January 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • SevenVeils

      Until just very recently Blacks were not allowed into their church because they were considered NOT HUMAN!

      January 12, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Jonas L-J

      Blacks were always considered Human, they were not given the priesthood. If you read the bible, you will find that the priesthood was not given to every tribe at the same time. The Levites were the only ones who held the priesthood at one point. Now why that is, I don't know. God works in mysterious ways. "His ways are not your ways, His thoughts are not your thoughts" I'm black and I have the priesthood and I am a Mormon.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  16. Tony

    Criminy! Would Marvel and DC comics merge already!

    January 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  17. dave

    Kinetic you are grossly misinformed if you think Mormon males think they are equal with Christ. We worship and venerate Jesus Christ for the Atonement, the resurrection, his teachings. We view him as the only begotten Son of the Father and that through His Grace and Mercy we can be saved.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • SevenVeils

      But only if you wear special under pants. Don't get them bunched up because those symbols mashed up in your panty bunch resemble the mark of the beast.

      January 12, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Perry

      You're right, Mormon men don't believe they are equal to Christ. Instead, their belief is that they will one day become gods themselves if they follow their church's doctrine.

      January 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • test

      SALVATION DOES NOT REQUIRE JOSEPH SMITHS GOLDEN TABLETS!

      WAKE UP

      January 12, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Kinetic

      @Dave – "through his grace and mercy"? Hmm, do you know why Utah had death by firing squad available as capital punishment up until 2004? That was so any Mormon male who was sentenced to death because he committed a sufficiently heinous crime could shed his own blood to save himself. That is a core belief of the Mormon religion.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Dave

      SevenVeils=moron

      January 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  18. Alex

    All religions promote discrimination!!!! Mormons should be right up there with scientology. Hmmm let me read magic stuff out of a hat... Here I am starting a religion who wants to join? I believe magic dragon overlords run by Jesus are watching us from a cloud in another dimension. If we obey their laws we can have our own dragon when we die. they have already inducted me into their religion. All you have to do to join is either give up all your scientific ideas on where we came from, or pay $1000.00 usd to my bank account. I will use the money to open new churches I promise.. Sounds legit to me...

    January 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  19. Perry

    "The survey also found that a large majority of American Mormons think their countrymen are uninformed about their religion..."

    If their countrymen were informed about their religion, they'd be forced to flee to Mexico out of humiliation. It's amusing hearing garbage like this from Mormons when they are the reason more people don't know what they REALLY believe. They don't even tell new members to their church everything about their religion, let alone their "countrymen."

    January 12, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  20. Oldbear 60

    Having lived and worked in several Mormon dominated communities here in the west, I find it ironic that the members of the LDS church feel oppressed or treated like a minority. This is exactly what they do to all non-mormons. First they try and recruit you and then if you won't play you are ignored, treated like your wrong no matter your position and what you do and excluded from any community life they control. They purposely hire LDS members over non-LDS even when the other is more qualified. IT's a shame, because their communities are generally clean, pleasant and remind me of communities of the 50's.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • G

      Mormons discriminating – I have seen exactly this – Mormon communities or companies with Mormon mamgers discriminating against non-Mormons. It is Amazing that job postings specifically state you must be 'temple eligible'. I am not sure how they get away with this, but while looking for a job in the SLC area, I would say half of the jobs stated this for my industry, and another 25% asked it in a phone screen. The majority of the 'unowned' land is actually owned by the Church, and they will only sell to Mormons. It's unfortunate if you really would like to live in these areas, but there is an overwhelming feeling of Church dominance and if you are not with them, you are against them.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • TeddyG

      Glad you said it, Bear. I saw the same thing with our food broker in SLC, who would only hire LDS members even when we referred more qualified candidates to them. They are good people, but very insular and self serving in and among the larger world.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.