Last Friday the results of a Gallup Poll about Mormonism was released to the public. The survey included the opinions of 1,018 adults solicited nationwide at the end of February via telephone.
The results of the poll show that 46% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the LDS religion while 42% hold a favorable opinion of that faith.
The results of the poll are precise and pretty interesting, providing a detailed look at how different cross-sections of our society view Mormonism. The two “key findings” the Gallup News Service put at the top of the list are these:
- Americans who are more religious (as measured by frequency of church attendance) and those who are Protestant have highly negative views of the Mormon religion. The differences in views of Mormons among groups defined by their church attendance are significant. There is a net negative view of -21 points among Americans who attend church weekly, contrasted with a net positive view of +10 among those who seldom or never attend church.
- Protestants are significantly more negative in their views than Catholics, who are the most positive group by religion.
The two most frequently occurring categories of impressions of Mormons among those who have unfavorable opinions would appear to be the long-time association of the religion with polygamy (mentioned by 20% of those with unfavorable opinions) and top-of-mind impressions based on the Mormon religion’s beliefs and doctrines. These responses suggest that the negative impression held by many may be a fairly straightforward result of disagreements on doctrine.
Please note that all the Gallup Poll questions asked about the Mormon religion, not about the members of that religion. Keep that in mind when reading the above synopses; the impressions noted by the Gallup News Service were not actually “impressions [or views] of Mormons,” but impressions of the religion. The unfavorable opinions were centered in doctrinal issues.
Mormon Church-owned Deseret News reported,
LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter issued a brief statement Friday afternoon in response to the poll.”Many religions in the world are not well understood, and we believe that the survey reflects the fact that many people know little or nothing about the doctrine, teachings and values of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” he said.
I disagree with Mr. Trotter. I think the survey reflects that those who place a high value on spiritual truth claims (doctrine and teachings) — those who, by virtue of consistent and committed church attendance, are at least somewhat aware of the doctrinal differences between Protestant Christianity and Mormonism — are the very people who hold unfavorable opinions of the Mormon religion.
Of those polled who expressed an unfavorable opinion of Mormonism, 40% had top-of-mind impressions that fall into the “Beliefs and Doctrine” category, while only 25% of the “favorable” group mentioned doctrine. I don’t think a better understanding of the theological beliefs promoted by the LDS Church would improve the Church’s public image — certainly not among Christians, anyway. And this is as it should be.
God calls His church to be a discerning people. When it comes to belief systems, we are to test the prophets (Matthew 7:15-20), try the spirits (1 John 4:1), and discern what is the good and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2).
I’m all for the idea of providing people a better understanding of the doctrines and teachings that comprise Mormonism; not in order to elicit unfavorable opinions of the LDS Church, but rather to help people discern the differences between Mormonism and biblical Christianity. And this so they might live in obedience to the Word of God, that they might choose to “walk in the light, as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7).