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. Matt

    II feel any "research" you do on the LDS church is fairly flawed if you've never actually READ the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. The message within it is either Gospel Truth or it isn't. People join the LDS Church because they read the Book of Mormon, not because of what people say about it on their blog. You don't even need to ORDER one. The entire thing is online at http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm?lang=eng . Just read the book and find out for yourself. If you don't understand something, go to mormon.org and get an answer. Besides, if you have time to start a comment war on this article, you probably have time to know once and for all about the truth of the Book of Mormon.

    January 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • McJefferson

      Wasn't the book of mormon written by Joseph Smith?? The same guy who used seer stones to hunt for treasure?? Was a polygimist?? Murdered?? Developed mormon doctrine over a 15-20 year period?? Declared himself a prophet of God?? and some how reading HIS words and following HIS religion is not the act of joining a cult?? HAHA Silly mormons have you ever heard of Jim Jones or David Koresh??

      January 12, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Dr.Fritz

      Actually, I have read the Book of Mormon, and it is completely wacko. I am also familiar with Mormon secret doctrine. Wacko.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  2. Tammy

    If we believe in god, follow the commandments....why do we have to part of any religion. I dont want to give any of my money, especially 10% so they can build these monstrous building for people to pray in. I can pray in my car.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  3. JimmySD

    How ironic that a "religion" that disowns FAMILY members who leave it are whining about bigotry and discrimination.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Tammy

      thats right, I forgot about that...its crazy

      January 12, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  4. James

    The leader of LDS is considered a prophet and whatever he says is canonical.

    That means Mitt Romney would be obligated to do whatever the prophet says. If we vote for Romney we are voting for the prophet.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Just like a vote for JFK was a vote for the Pope?

      January 12, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  5. frank vel

    I am a Roman Catholic and do not believe Mitt Romneys Mormon faith should be the focus in this election. Barack Obama's Rev. Jeremiah church is more disgusting than the Mormon faith. The only difference in the Mormon faith is people have judged them as a cult. Mitt Romney's family is a model family compared to Newt's "Christian" faith of marriage and divorce !! We should look at Romney's success in turning around the L.A. Olympics and of course his Capitalist business ventures. We are not a communist country so those who think Rick Perry is right, let him kiss ass of oil magnates in Texas.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Tammy

      Obama left his nutty church and has led a exceptionable life, there is really nothing to criticize about his wife or children.
      Possible Mitt has led great life too but Im not giving any money to the Mormons. Im afraid their status will be raised and we will have all these mormon castles everywhere and the mormon business men will get what they want from Washington.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  6. dave

    sincerely, pulling out doctrine without context or building blocks is disengenous. Its like saying Romeny likes to fire people without putting it in context (btw.Mitts comments.still not wonderful in context...but at least it makes a bunch more sense)

    January 12, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • James

      Are those not taught and believed by Mormons? I'm not trying to be disengenuous, I am just pointing out differences in Christianity and Mormonism.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  7. James

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

    January 12, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Tammy

      god help us

      January 12, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  8. Grumpy

    With all due respect, as an ordained Christian minister, I must take issue with any religious body, denomination, sect or cult, that descriminates against another religious person on the basis of their beliefs. Having had Mormon neighbors, I understood that I was looked upon by them and their church as being an agent of Satan himself. To receive tolerance, one should be willing to give it as well.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Vicky

      That is what the gay community has been telling you and yours for generations Mr. Grumpy.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      “It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creeds into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.”
      – Robert Heinlein

      January 12, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Grumpy

      And, Ms. Vicky, there are a great many of us Christian clergy who support gay rights and welcome gay marriage! We're not all a bunch of narrow minded Pat Robertsons, you know!

      January 12, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  9. Tammy

    WOW......and how much of our tax dollars will go toward what the church wants ???

    January 12, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Vicky

      Through Bush's and Obama's Faith Based Initiative Program your tax dollars are flying out the window as we speak and going to most all churches. Of course they have to promise not to spread the Word. Can you really believe that is not going to happen. Please!!!!!!! Other tax dollars are building mosques in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can't escape money to the Gods.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Grumpy

      As long as there's one hungry child, one homeless person or one person out of work, not enough! If the United States were truly a "Christian" nation, or even a religious nation, there would be no one in need.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  10. James

    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).

    January 12, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  11. Willie12345

    If you want to see some of the hate directed towards the Mormons, go to the Huffington Post. The majority of articles and blogs are filled with hatred and anger towards the Mormons. And those on the FAR left really hate them. They never bothered me and seem to be good folks.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  12. James

    Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers and we were all born as siblings in heaven to them both, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 163; Gospel Through the Ages, p. 15).

    January 12, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  13. God

    Who cares if the Mormons are a cult. Even Christians are an evil cult just like the Muslims. I sent both Jesus and Mohamed to hell where they are still paying for their sins. Love God. P.S – I like the ur silly fights & comments on religion on the cnn forum. Keep it up. hahaha

    January 12, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Dr.Fritz

      I care, and it's MY VOTE, and I'll vote as I please. I will not vote for a Mormon, a Moonie, or a Scientologist. That's my FREEDOM.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  14. Sanity

    Folks, let's be serious here. Harry Reid is Mormon; he was named Mormon of the Year in 2009. Obama is an evangelical Christian, as were Truman, Johnson, Carter and Clinton. Pelosi is a devote Roman Catholic, as was JFK. Meanwhile, no Republican presidents in the same era were members of evangelical churches or Roman Catholic. Dem are just two-faced about the religion issue.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Dr.Fritz

      JFK was a Catholic in name only. Romney is a devout Mormon. Please stop with the Mormon PR.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  15. James

    The true gospel was lost from the earth. Mormonism is its restoration, (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 182-185.)

    January 12, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Dr.Fritz

      Why can't Mormons just be honest and admit that they view the Bible as a flawed book and their own secret doctrine as replacing Christianity? That's one reason that Mormonism is a cult: its dishonesty.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  16. dave

    Hey Mike,
    How long in your mind is a break off religion the same religion? Is Luther still a Catholic? Just curious! Warren Jeffs group broke off and were ex-communicated in the 1800s. We are in the 2000s. Are they still the same religion. Or if it goes 200 years, or 400 years....when are they no longer the same

    January 12, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  17. James

    God is married to his goddess wife and has spirit children, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 516).

    January 12, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Vicky

      Wait, don't tell me, they live in a shoe.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  18. Dr.Fritz

    Mormons lie about what they believe. They are not Christians but pose as Christians. They have a secret doctrine and secret rituals. Hey, Mormons, why not just be honest and stop lying? That's the turn off: the dishonesty.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Vicky

      Where did all of that Mormon money come from to pass the anti-gay Proposition 8 referendum in California? How can they possibly think we could feel their discriminatory pain when they are in the business of greasing the wheels of discrimination. Surely no one had a straight face while delivering this discriminatory message of hurt but hope.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • epicjourney

      So what does a Christian believe that makes mormons not christian? It is easy to spout stuff like a troll, lets hear some specifics. Of course nobody will make specific accusations because they know that their arguments will be proven patently false, and that Mormons really are christian – perhaps the only real christians left who believe Christ is the real messiah and not just a prophet.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  19. James

    There are many gods, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 163).

    January 12, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • blowfreedom83

      Ye are all gods, children of the most high.– Psalms 82:6
      Jesus Christ quotes this scripture to those who were hated him for claiming he was the Son of God in John 10:34-36 saying
      "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?" then he clarifies the rest in verse 35 through 36. So these scriptures in the bible teach us that we are the "God is our creator, not nature. We are not the children of chance but rather
      the offspring of Deity." – Elder Boyd K. Packer... If you believe in the bible then you have to understand these plain and simple teachings that imply that we are all children of the most high God. Also read Romans 8:16-17

      January 12, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  20. Leo Smart

    God would not say that.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:50 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.