Critics and outsiders wonder how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can grow so solidly when the demands upon members appear to be so challenging. The answers can be found within the results of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Mormons in America.
A religion with high demands for members to live the teachings of Christ has clear attractions to people who aspire to live good high-quality lives. Such people in the Church in part because of the fruits of Mormonism that are exhibited in the lives of members. As shown by the Pew study these fruits of Mormonism include pursuit of education, planning for the future, industriousness, service and accomplishments beneficial to others, loving and productive family relations, remarkably good health and longevity, optimism, energy, happiness and the peace that comes from harmony between the divine and good ways to deal with the practical challenges of life.
As Jesus taught“ by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:20).
In America: The National Catholic Weekly, John J. Dilulio Jr. reports in “Mormons and Charity” (April 9, 2012) on the Pew Forum Studies: 73% of Mormons believe that “working to help the poor” is “essential to being a good Mormon.” Led by Israeli-born scholar Ram A. Cnaan, the study concludes that church going Mormons “are the most pro-social members of American society.” On average, Mormons dedicate nine times as many hours per month to volunteer activities as other Americans do. In addition to tithing, on average Mormons also give about $1,200 per year “to social causes outside the church.”
Practicing Mormons follow the Biblical law of paying tithing to the Church and giving time and resources to charities and end eavors based on love for one’s “neighbors.”Just as one example, Mitt Romney’s tax returns for the past two years revealed that he contributed $7 million or 16% of his income to charity. Of that, $4.2 million went to the LDS Church. This practice is unlike some politicians who give away very little of their own money.
Arthur Brooks, former Syracuse Economics Professor, now President of American Enterprise Institute, calculated that Utah, with its majority Mormon population, is the most charitable state; and people give twice as much as in the second highest state. (Speech on “Why Giving Matters” at BYU, February 24, 2009.)
Perpetual Education Fund
An example of a poverty-busting Mormon program operated by voluntary contributions, beyond tithing, is the Perpetual Education Fund for developing countries.The Church started this low interest loan program in 2001 to pay tuition for job producing training programs for typically underemployed members from 18 to 30 years old, generally returned missionaries, with a slight majority female.
In one unusual case in Kenya, Tyson was an orphan who had survived polio. He learned about the Church from a member, took the missionary lessons and was baptized. He was unable to walk but with donated crutches he learned to use them to move ahead by swinging his body forward. Through the Perpetual Education Fund he was enabled to enter Augustana College to study information technology. He became the top student in his class and was so admired that he was also elected student body president.
The PEF program has already helped over 53,000 participants in 53 developing countries, plus five more approved.The average training program is about 2½ years with a reasonably high graduation rate around two thirds. Some participants leave early because they obtain decent jobs. Graduates typically gain jobs with at least twice their previous income. African countries typically have the highest loan repayment rate. Several non-Mormons have been so impressed with the program’s operational success and that every dollar contributed goes to students and none to administration or promotion that they contributed. In one case, the donation was $5 million.
In the Bible, Malachi (3:10) wrote the divine commandment: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” The Pew Forum survey of self identified Mormons found that 80% say they pay tithing. Yet, though it is counter-intuitive, you would have to search to find Mormons who tithe, but who complain about it. They are blessed as promised by the Lord, and they tithe willingly and privately since no collection plates are passed around in Church. It appears that God knew all along that giving generates more happiness, well-being and self-esteem than receiving.
Law of Chastity
LDS are committed to the Biblical law restricting sexual relations to marriage. This prevents the travesties of multitudes of children without fathers, many virtually consigned to minimal education, impoverishment, uninspiring lives, emerging children destroyed before they have a chance and widespread illnesses some of which are incurable. Limiting sex to marriage enables many husbands and wives to trust each other when they are apart. Iteliminates a major cause of family breakup and strengthens marriages and families.
Illustrative of how seriously this commitment is taken, because of a violation of the honor code requirement of chastity for unmarried students, Brigham Young University suspended for the rest of the season their third highest basketball scorer a year ago. This weakened a team that had ranked number 3 nationally just before entering the play offs with national player of the year Jimmer Fredette. Fellow team members showed their love and encouraged the suspended player to repent and work his way back to the team this pastseason- which he did.
Because the Church follows the biblical practice of an unpaid clergy, all members are expected to volunteer time and effort to achieve the highly organized spiritual vitality of the Church. All worthy young men are ordained to the Priesthood at age 12 where they learn to conduct meetings, speak to adult groups, organize service projects, and do home teaching with an adult partner. They typically take four years of in-depth daily seminary classes in the scriptures in high school, often early in the morning.
The young men typically go on two year missions after they turn 19 -- often to Latin America, Asia or Africa where they teach the Gospel and engage in service projects. Young women have the same type of leadership training in their organizations.There are currently over 55,000 fulltime missionaries and over 22,000 specialized fulltime service missionaries, often retirees who volunteer their talents, training and experience, for varying periods of time, without compensation to help those who are frequently in serious need.
The positions of women, including in the Mormon Relief Society (the oldest women’s organization in America), are apparently fulfilling, and the Pew Forum found that Mormon women are more satisfied with their role in their Church than are the women in any other religious group.
The fruits of Mormonism come from functioning as a volunteer Church -- as the original Christians did.
An objective Pew Forum factual questionnaire concluded that Mormons know the Bible and Christianity better than members of any other religious group (with white evangelicals being second.)
Another derivative fruit of Mormonism is the conclusion from a $4 million study of American youth and religion at the University of North Carolina that “Mormon Teens Cope Best: A study finds they top peers at handling adolescence.