Knowing more about the Bible

A recent religious literacy poll done by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life shows that Mormons know more about the Bible and general religion than Catholics, Jews, and Protestant Christians. (See “Survey: LDS know more about the Bible than other Christians,” The Salt Lake Tribune, Sept. 29, 2010, p. A4.)

The finding surprised many who would have thought that “White Evangelical,” “White Mainline,” and “Black Protestant” Christians would have scored better than the Mormons. “We don’t study the Bible as much as evangelical Protestants,” Jim Faulkner, the Richard L. Evans chairman of religious understanding at BYU, told a Salt Lake Tribune reporter. “I would have guessed that evangelicals would do better. They have a lot of Bible study classes, some weekly.”

Let’s be honest, folks, these questions should not have mystified those calling themselves Christian.  How could more than half of the Protestants not know who Martin Luther was (that’s Martin Luther, not Martin Luther, Jr.)? As my daughter likes to say, “Really?” Other questions that were asked included Where was Jesus born? Who led the Exodus out of Egypt? What religion was Mother Theresa? What day does the Jewish Sabbath begin? (OK, this one is tricky. Answer: Friday evening at sundown—we’ll give a bonus point for that one.)

Out of the 27 questions, Christians averaged 13 correct. If I remember correctly, less than 50% on a test is an F, every time! Atheists averaged thirty percent better with 17 questions answered correctly, for Pete’s sake! And Mormons—most of whom attend one-hour seminary classes every morning for four years of their high school careers—were just a little below that, at 16 correct.

So how can we process this? For one, shame on the Christian churches for not teaching our people better about the Bible and other religions. Instead of our youth groups heading to Disneyland or ski retreats every third weekend, perhaps we ought to be really doing what the BYU professor assumes we’re doing, having “a lot of Bible study classes.”

We can also know that just having a large knowledge of religion and Bible facts is, by itself, not very meaningful. After all, while Mormons averaged 7.9 correct out of the 12 Bible and Christianity questions, atheists and agnostics were not far behind at 6.7. White Evangelical Protestants averaged 7.3, which is very close to the Mormon total. Catholic (5.4) and White Mainline (5.8) believers were left totally in the dust.

Yet if a Mormon brags that he knows his Bible better than Protestants—honestly, I had one Mormon do to me this week—we must gently remind them that those who don’t even believe in God did better overall on this test than the Mormons. Does this mean that atheists have more truth than Mormons and Christians? While someone may know how to correctly answer Jeopardy-trivia-like questions, it’s putting the Bible into practice that matters.  Like, believing in one true God, believing that Jesus is God in the flesh, believing that grace, not our works, puts us into a relationship with God, and practicing loving our neighbor as ourselves.

It’s make-up test time. Let’s sharpen those pencils and get to work!


For more information see The Pew Forum’s “Who Knows What About Religion.”

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18 Responses to Knowing more about the Bible

  1. setfreebyJC says:

    A Mormon, of course, thinks that Ezekiel 37 is about the Book of Mormon, that 1 Corinthians 15 has room in it for a "telestial" kingdom, and that 1 Corinthians 8 is valid support for the notion of many real gods.

    My point is that Mormonism training of the Bible consists of a combination of Bible facts and lies. The program is designed to get ahead of the member's individual reading and study (and/or replace it) so that when a Mormon reads certain passages, they are altogether thrown off the trail by their prior brainwashing.

    Also, I'd agree with the assessment that "Christians" are not doing a great job learning their BIbles anymore. But we have to remember to acknowledge the fact that there are "Christians" who are the body of Christ, and then there are the "Christians" in name only. The name-only folks, those who claim Christianity but have never bothered to understand it…
    "Christian" is an overused and misapplied term. Even Mormons claim to be "Christian", and these name-only folks, not knowing their Bibles, are those who might be fooled by Mormon "Christianity"

  2. robsmom55 says:

    There is also the fact that head knowledge and heart knowledge can be 2 different things. I can know a lot of Bible verses but if I am not "hiding the word in my heart" and applying it in my daily walk with God then it's not doing me a lot of good.

  3. The Bible tells us that the Demons believe, and it seems Satan knows Scripture since he has quoted it a few times. The demons know scripture since in Acts we see a girl who is demon possessed and is telling everyone that Paul is sharing the truth. Then according to Job, Satan can and does have access to the throne room of God, yet despite all this Satan and the demons are not saved.

    As far as teaching the word of God, the church I go to teaches the entire word of God, We go verse by verse through the entire bible, and we do not skip books. I know some Church's that skip books like Daniel or Revelation.

    Also as sad as it is, some Christians do not like Christians who clearly know the word of God and use it to Share. I was on another board Sharing with LDS, My biggest critic was a (So-Called) Christian who was always getting on me about how hard I came across, I was simply telling the truth and refused to water down the gospel. It got to the point where I told this believer he was a Luke warm christian who cared more about what people thought rather than what God said. This person finally was feed up with me preaching the truth and telling him he was a Luke warm watered down lazy believer. I simply refuse to bow down to the wims of man, Jesus Said be Hot or Cold, not Luke warm. I choose to be Hot and on Fire, while knowing I am not perfect and make mistakes.

  4. I tried taking the quiz, I found a quiz that was only 15 questions, the article says 27 questions, out of the 15 question quiz I took I got 2 wrong, and one was about the supreme court and what they said. That is in some ways not a question of "religion" it is what the courts will or will not allow and what we can or cannot do.

  5. f_melo says:

    I don´t remember where i read this, but someone once made the point that the LDS don´t study the Bible – they study the manuals that take people through some of the Bible passages (maybe it was you, setfreebyJC, that said it, i think).

    So, just like you said, they will learn factual parts of Bible history but their interpretation of it is usually warped to fit into JS´ theology – and they will mix it with the "Book of Moses" and "Book of Abraham" while using "Book of Mormon" cross references, and that´s how they accomplish the "The program that is designed to get ahead of the member's individual reading and study (and/or replace it) so that when a Mormon reads certain passages, they are altogether thrown off the trail by their prior brainwashing. "

  6. caedmon says:

    I took the 15 question quiz as well and scored 93%. However, many of the questions were not Biblical literacy questions, but questions about church history and other non-Christian religions. So, I think it's unfair to accuse Christians of Biblical ignorance based on this survey.

    One of the questions was "What was Joseph Smith's religion?" Interestingly, 7% of self-identified Mormons got it wrong!

  7. RalphNWatts says:


    Why take someone elses' word for how we teach the scriptures. Look it up for yourself with the actual manuals found at

    Here you will find that the Institute mauals go through the OT and NT almost verse for verse and chapter for chapter. The same goes with seminary.

    It is only the Sunday School classes where select passages/stories are taught rather than the full chapter, most likely due to time constraints.

    So yes, we do teach the full Bible and not just spot picked verses, however we teach it from our perspective/interpretation, not yours.

  8. Thomas says:

    FYI, the entire report (and the entire quiz) is available at

    Among interesting snippets that didn't make it into the basic report:
    About 90% of people identifying as Mormon knew when Mormonism was founded, who Joseph Smith was, and what the book of Mormon was essentially about. Among all other groups, no one broke the about-60% mark and most were much lower.
    Less than half of hispanic Catholics knew Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Of all people who got it wrong, Nazareth and Jerusalem were essentially tied.
    Somewhat less than half of Protestants could identify Martin Luther (Jews were the most likely to know this).

    I would agree with most of the comments above about the overall lack of religious education at least among people who ID themselves as Christian. Buried in the report, however, is the fact that evangelicals scored a relatively close third behind atheists/agnostics and LDS, really probably not a bad showing for as wide a net as the term "evangelical" casts these days.

    What would have been more interesting would be to ask more LDS-specific questions: where was Jesus actually born? When was polygamy repudiated? When did blacks get the priesthood? From what languages are modern Bibles translated from (and what language the Book of Mormon)? Don't know if such a survey has ever been done, even in the LDS church, but the results would be interesting.

  9. f_melo says:

    Ralph, i was a member of the church and did attend seminary and institute classes, so i don´t need to take anyone else´s word for it. All i remember in seminary was the teacher either reading or teaching from the manual and asking us to read selected passages that were used as support for a doctrine. I don´t ever remember actually just opening the Bible and reading from it letting the text speak for itself.

    In institute we had a dumbed down study of the scriptures where the lessons talk more about the doctrines of the "restoration" than deal with what the text actually says – and again, we only read selected passages that served to prove the point the manual was making.

    As to your manuals, i recommend everyone here to go to that link you posted, so they can see how they study the manuals instead of the Bible itself. Thank you, you just proved my point.

    I went to that link because i was curious to see how they handled Isaiah 43:10:

    "Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me."

    The institute manual completely dodges that verse. Here is what it says:

    "(16-24) Isaiah 43:4–10 . The Gathering of Israel Is a Universal Event

    Isaiah used east, west, north, and south (see vv. 5–6 ) to symbolize “all the nations” ( v. 9 ) throughout the world to which Israel was scattered and from which she will be gathered. The promised gathering is to be brought about in the last days by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (See Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 18:228; Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 2:181–82.)
    In connection with this promise, read Notes and Commentary on Isaiah 42:17–25 , concerning the servant who sees and hears and will open the eyes and ears of those who will be gathered.

    (16-25) Isaiah 43:13 . What Was Meant by the Words “Let It”?

    According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the whole phrase should read: “I will work, and who shall hinder it?” (JST, Isaiah 43:13 )."

    (if anyone else wants to see the rest of it, go to:

    "So yes, we do teach the full Bible and not just spot picked verses"

    That´s not true. Your own manuals prove you wrong, anyone here can see that for him/herself.

  10. f_melo says:

    Doing a little search on Isaiah 43:10 in the seminary manual… once again, verse 10 is dodged, it is like it doesn´t exist:

    "“… Your Holy One, … your King” ( Isaiah 43:3, 14–15 ).

    Although these chapters call the children of Israel to repent and return to the Lord, they are filled with hope in the promise that the Lord would receive them if they would choose to follow Him and that He has power to save and redeem them from all their sins and afflictions.

    Although the messages of these chapters can certainly be applied to our day, they had special meaning to the Jews who were captive in Babylon about 150 years after Isaiah’s death. They had been taken captive because they, as a people, refused to repent of worshiping idols. They needed the saving and redeeming power the Lord offered, and they especially took courage in the promise of King Cyrus of Persia as their deliverer (see Isaiah 45 ) and in the prophesied destruction of Babylon (see Isaiah 47 ).

    Understanding the Scriptures

    Isaiah 42:1–7

    Bring forth judgment ( vv.1, 3 )—Make right any wrongs, bring about justice

    Lift up ( v.2 )—Shout

    Have set judgment ( v.4 )—Made right, see that justice is done

    Isaiah 47:5–10

    Daughter of the Chaldeans ( v.5 )—People of Babylon"


  11. Martin_from_Brisbane says:

    I don't know anything about the survey, but I'm willing to accept it's findings (with shame).

    Possibly its because I'm just about one page from finishing reading David F Wells' book 'No Place For Truth, or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?' (Eerdmans/IVP, 1992). In Wells' analysis, Evangelicalism has capitulated to modernism, in which the search for truth center's on the believer's individual experience rather than the objective, public inverentions of God in human history (notably, the call of Abraham, the Exodus, the Davidic Kingdom, culminating in the incarnation of Jesus Christ). One of the other posters here has pointed in this direction by distinguishing between head knowledge and heart knowledge (to be generous, I'll interpret that as meaning that it's no good knowing about the Gospel unless you put it into practice, but on the other hand you'll find scant support for this kind of psychologizing in the Bible). The sillier forms of this capitulation to modernism are expressed in the Shopping-Mall like churches (the Crystal Cathedral?) in which believers are invited to a smorgasbord of finger-food and delectations.

    Wells concludes by calling for a reformation of Evangelicalism. He claims that Evangelicalism needs to re-calibrate its theological compass, starting with a rediscovery of the God of the Bible, who stands in stark contrast to the mores of the prevailing paganism of popular culture. (If you don't know the differences, I suggest you start getting tooled up).

    Sorry about the long-winded rant, but I find myself agreeing with Wells, especially in the context of our dialog with Mormons (and their emphasis on testing truth based on subjective experience – the infamous internal 'witness').

    We need to rediscover God as He has revealed Himself through the objective, public history of Israel, and as interpreted, and given meaning, by His Word, the Holy Bible.

  12. setfreebyJC says:

    exactly 🙁

  13. f_melo says:

    If they did a survey like you suggested among LDS the results would be abysmal. They don´t care about doctrine anymore – it´s all about serving the "Lord", and all the members focus is turned to church activities. I´ve heard many times in the past leaders saying that you receive a testimony of the church through serving in it. It´s all about feeling good and active.

    The scriptures and doctrines are mostly used to motivate people to actually do some work for the church and to serve in whatever responsibility they are called into.

  14. f_melo says:

    "(and their emphasis on testing truth based on subjective experience – the infamous internal 'witness')."

    About that – i strongly recommend this article:

  15. liv4jc says:

    I recently purchased an LDS Scripture app for my iPhone and have been going through the LDS teaching manuals. I would like to refute Ralph and agree with f_melo that the LDS manuals are not an in depth study of the Bible. The LDS manuals are nothing but a cursory look at Biblical passages meant to do nothing else than lend credence to the perverted teachings of the LDS church, almost as if to say, "look, it's right here in the Bible, too!" For example, in chapter 8 of the Preparing for Exaltation manual (I know that this is different from the OT manuals, but the same methods are used there, too) the teacher is told to prayerfully study John 14:2, 1 Corinthians 15:40-42, Revelation 7:9-10, as well as the corresponding LDS scriptures. As most of us know 1 Corinthians 15:40-42 are the verses JS mis-interpreted to justify his Three Kingdoms of Glory doctrines, after receiving a revelation (recorded in D&C 76) after "interpreting" John 5:29. Now why would the LDS church want their members to only read verses 40-42? Because if you read the entire chapter, and better yet the entire letter to the Corinthians, it becomes obvious that the subject Paul is speaking about is the corrupt mortal bodies of Christians in comparison to their future glorified bodies after the resurrection or Christ's return, whichever comes first. There is not even a hint that he is speaking about future heavenly kingdoms. He uses the differences between the Sun, Moon, and stars in verses 40 and 41 merely as an example building upon his previous example of the differences between the flesh of humans, animals, birds, and fish in verse 39. Why aren't there four degrees of glory as there four examples given between the flesh of humans, animals, birds, and fish? The verses following 40-41 make it plainly apparent that that Paul was speaking of mortal, perishable bodies verses immortal, imperishable bodies only. Not degrees of glory. JS was merely using the Bible to promote his perverted theology, and any teacher in the LDS church who doesn't open his eyes and read scripture according to its plainly intended meaning is doing nothing less than leading the souls of men to hell. Think about that and read John 5:29 in context Ralph.

  16. setfreebyJC says:


  17. miketea says:

    I agree the Mormon manuals are woefully inadequate. Any Bible student would be shocked by what Mormons leave out of their much-vaunted Bible courses. I spoke to a Mormon recently who was stunned to find out that Hebrews, beyond 5:1-5, continued to talk about priesthood and the temple for the next five chapters and carefully developed an argument that was totally alien to him.

  18. GoodWill says:

    The reason Isa. 43:10 was not addressed is because, to Mormons, it is not controversial or ambiguous. We understand that the Gods act as One. They are one in purpose, always have been, always will be — the One True God.

    Most Christians have no difficulty conjoining the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost into one, co-eternal, ever-existent Trinity…even as they reverence the scripture which says "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever." Yet, clearly, Jesus is NOT the same yesterday, today and forever. He once had no body, then was mortally incarnate, then immortally incarnate. This is NOT the same.

    Yet these same Christians claim Jesus is God and NOT a "changeable" Being. Go figure!

    Most Mormons decline to argue these things. Obviously, many scriptures address God's nature. Just as no one but my mortal father may be my sire, no God but our God can be our Father or our Savior. There can be only one — for all of us. For we are ALL His children. He is our only God, THE only one possible.

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