Mormons “Most Healthy” by a Landslide on the Religious “Health-O-Meter”

By: Nate
November 20, 2013

Interpreted as an “anomaly” by Visual Interpretation Guy, who created the visualization based on findings from the Pew Research Religious Landscape Survey, Mormons overall religious health was shown to be much higher than any other religious group according to the graphic.

While no definitive conclusion can be made about a religious organization’s true well-being, it is interesting to note that there is a clear discrepancy between wealth and education and religious devotion. Churches who scored high in wealth and education (Hindus and Jews, for example) scored quite low in religious devotion. Conversely, churches who scored low in wealth and education (Historically Black Churches and Jehovah’s Witnesses) scored high in religious devotion. Most of the churches remained somewhere in the middle. Mormons are the anomaly in this chart, as the only religious organization that scored high or relatively high in all six categories, making their composite score (55) much higher than the others.

“Balance:” The Secret of Mormonism’s Success

Mormons only scored highest in one of 6 categories (Prayer), yet at the final tally, they were overwhelmingly rated the most healthy.  Even though other churches scored higher than Mormons in individual categories, their weaknesses in other categories brought them down.  But Mormons had no weak spots.  It is this well-roundedness seems to be the secret of Mormonism’s high rating.

Mormons Different Than Other Religions

All other religious groups in the survey huddle together in the middle, suggesting perhaps that religion in general provides a certain expected level of “health.”  But Mormons are all alone at the top of the chart, providing an unexpectedly high level of religious health.  What are we doing differently?

Works Versus Faith

The graphic suggests that works-oriented liberal churches (those valuing education, wealth, and marriage) are poor in faith (those valuing prayer, devotion, and attendance), and faith-oriented conservative churches are poor in works (as defined by education, wealth, and marital success).  But Mormons can do both works and faith.  Why is it so difficult for other religions to achieve this balance?   My own view is that “works” and “faith” are mutually exclusive world views which have built-in contradictions.  (I’ll try to develop this theory more in a later post.)  It is difficult for people of faith to have worldly success (works), and vice versa.  However Mormons fully embrace both the Law of the Harvest and the Law of Faith, even though the contradictions inherent in these two laws have led all other religious traditions to abandon either one or the other.

Missionary Potential?

If this graphic has indeed uncovered a secret ingredient in Mormonism’s success (balance), should we incorporate it into our missionary approach and media outreach?  Perhaps we are already doing that with the “I’m A Mormon” campaign, which highlights Mormons who have worldly success, yet who also bear testimony of LDS truth claims.

  • What do you take away from the graphic?
  • Is it an accurate portrayal of Mormon’s superior “health?”
  • How does Mormonism succeed in balancing works and faith where others fail?


11 Responses to Mormons “Most Healthy” by a Landslide on the Religious “Health-O-Meter”

  1. Frank Pellett on November 20, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    I don’t think it’s a very good graphic, as the information isn’t based on the actual numbers but on how those numbers rate against the others. An actual numbers representation might be a less dramatic chart. Also, I agree with one of the comments that it doesn’t really take into account that not all faith traditions have the same indicators for strength in that faith.

    It might be fun for mormons to get to gloat – “We’re number 1, not in anything in particular but when you add up all the factors . . . but We’re number 1!” But to me it just shows a bad way to use good statistics.

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  2. Jenn on November 20, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    Yeah to me this reads as “we’re the best at being mormon!” It’s a very western WASP view of success.

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  3. Nate on November 20, 2013 at 5:51 PM

    Frank and Jenn, Visual Interpretation Guy adds this note about his graphic: “The “Health-O-Meter” was intended by the author to point out an interesting, albeit superficial and statistically non-significant trend: that some religions score high in particular categories and low in others, and some high in all or low in all. But no real conclusions can be drawn about any religion’s “health” nor their actual statistical relationship to other religions with the data being used. The viewer is advised to draw their own conclusions about what the ordinal data might actually suggest.”

    Sure, the word “health” is arbitrary, the choice of these particular indicators is somewhat arbitrary, and their value is arbitrary. Jesus said “blessed are the poor in spirit” after all, so if Mormons are happier, that would mean that they are less blessed according to Jesus.

    But I also think the author is being overly dismissive of something quite persuasive. This graphic clearly shows that Mormons are the best at being, all at the same time: educated, wealthy, married, prayerful, devoted, and active. These indicators are universally coveted by all religions in varying degrees. And education, wealth, and marital status are statistically strong indicators of happiness in secular surveys as well. I believe that the fact that Mormons can do all these things, all at the same time, far better than anyone else, says something significant and worthy of discussion.

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  4. el oso on November 20, 2013 at 7:32 PM

    This is an even bigger “win” for Mormons than the meter suggests. The two worst scores for Mormons are in education and wealth where there are several religions that are preselected for those (Hindus and Buddhists) due to the majority of adherents being highly educated immigrants. Of course the actual measure of “health” may just be a number.
    I think that some of this information has been well known in the US for years. The church where even rich people are serving meals, cleaning the buildings, etc. are not all that common.

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  5. Newconvert on November 21, 2013 at 6:13 AM

    The general well roundedness of the local ward members combined with their humbleness was a HUGE factor in our conversion.

    I think converts like me (41 yr old mom who attended a year then baptized w hubby 3 wks ago) are able to slip this into conversation more easily than other Mormons. I still have the ability to mention how as outsiders, this in large part lead to our conversion and how this was part if the fruits of the church we noticed (Mattew 7:16).

    Need to avoid saying WE are NUMBER ONE. Sounds snotty. Need to avoid initially mentioning the study as proof. The Holy Spirit helps others recognize it.

    I’d love to see the church campaign and do special outreach to youn families–we all want the best for our kids and this is the best for their our kids health and well being. PLAN FOR HAPPINESS is a very unique concept for conversion. I always mention to secular friends how the people in this church seem to be on a whole new level of sincerity, kindness, and devotion. I say how drawn we were to kids being expected in the sacrament meeting where many other churches we tried wanted to segregate the kids immediately into Sunday school.

    I also mention to other young moms how accountable the church holds men. I haven’t seen this high of a standard in any other church. (I live in Seattle). I think many moms dream if their husbands leading a prayer or family home evening. I tell these nonmormon friends how supportive and structured the church is for families and for marriage. Other churches seem to try to simply inspire moms and dads but this church seems more able to expect more of the parents in deeds.

    I also would love to see the missionaries to go after very young single men. I think many young men are dejected by the current society’s constant and purvasive put downs of male leadership in the media (Croods, Simpsons, Southpark etc…). They are very aware of the rise of the antihero (Despicable Me), and the absence if true parenting in kids shows (Nickelodeon’s Hey Jessie and pretty much every other show on that network). Social media is trying to make men and marriage obsolete. In trying to win young male converts, we should let them know the LDS church values them and holds their roles sacred.
    It supports and guides men in these roles and gives them unique comradery in the priesthood. I suspect there is way less need for marital counseling in LDS supported marriages.

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  6. Heber13 on November 22, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    I wondered if there was an evident relationship of some kind between prayer and wealth.

    It seems those scoring highest on wealth were lowest on receiving answers to prayers.

    Do those that want God to provide for them pray, and those who work for what they need not need to pray?

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  7. chanson on November 23, 2013 at 8:24 AM

    Devil’s advocate: Another way to read it is that the CoJCoL-dS is very welcoming to those who are successful (by worldly as well as church participation measures). Those who don’t fit the mold perhaps feel less welcome/inclined to continue to identify with their religious traditions.

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  8. NewConvert on November 23, 2013 at 8:48 AM

    Not in my ward. Public assistance is unfortunately common.

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  9. NewConvert on November 23, 2013 at 8:52 AM

    I’ve seen jobs offered, housing for free and discounted rent to help folks from more fortunate members.

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  10. Nate on November 24, 2013 at 3:22 AM

    Thank you for your beautiful comment Newconvert and welcome to the church! I hope you don’t get put off by some of our crusty attitudes on this blog! Most of us have been in the church a long time, so you are right we have a somewhat different perspective.

    You are right that the church also attracts the poor and struggling. In my experience, most converts to the church are not wealthy and of course many of them are Latin American immigrants. Wealthy Mormons are usually a product of an LDS heritage of faith and sacrifice. Their ancestors were all very poor when they came to the West and it took generations to build the foundation for later success, valuing education and hard work. The same will be true for new converts who are poor. Over time, as they adopt values of faith, hard work, and education, their children will see the same wealth and success that multi-generational LDS families today often have.

    “Do those that want God to provide for them pray, and those who work for what they need not need to pray?”

    Interesting question Heber13. I think it’s clear that works oriented religions have more worldly success. Or perhaps faith-focused religions attract more poor and struggling, because of their humility. I think it would be troubling if Mormons scored any higher than they already do in the wealth category.

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  11. Joel on November 24, 2013 at 7:55 AM

    Chanson already made this point, but how much of this is correlation and selection bias? The Church is most attractive to heterosexual, married, spiritually devout, financially stable, educated individuals. These are the life choices that the church validates and rewards. Those individuals who fail on any of those markers are more likely to become inactive and stop self-identifying as mormon. Would the church have scored as high if the survey was not of self-identifying mormons but of members of record?

    Maybe these high scores are an indictment, suggesting that we are not a hospital for the sick but rather a country club for the religiously healthy. What can we do to be more welcoming to the uneducated, the poor, the single/divorced, the homosexuals, the less spiritually inclined?

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