Recently it has been asserted by at least a few individuals, and one in particular who wrote into this blog, that all or virtually all Mormons are not interested in theological or spiritual issues, but are only culturally committed to LDS beliefs.
My response has always been that this is not upheld by social studies and indicative statistics, not to mention my own fairly broad and intimate, though certainly anecdotal experiences.
Well, the University of North Carolina just published a broad and probing in-depth study of American youth and their religious perspectives. Their results and conclusions are intriguing, to say the least.
In every meaningful measure of religious commitment, the LDS youth outstrip their non-LDS peers, often by staggering margins. Moreover, the study indicates that LDS families and Church support organizations are places where the youth study and discuss religious issues far more frequently than any of their peers. The study concludes by stating that so far as living and sharing their faith, and the positive results of dealing most effectively socialogically with the challenges faced by all youth, the LDS youth are faring best of all.
It is an amazing culture that breeds the kind of commitment found in LDS youth. For those of us who work with them, we know there are many who are committed and center upon the concept of 'coming to Christ'. Interestingly, the LDS faith is the only denomination whose members, as they become better educated, are more likely to remain faithful. Among Calvinists and all other religious groups, the better educated they become, the less likely they are to remain believing. That's not my anecdotal experiences. Those are scientific studies.
The ultimate irony of those who accuse the Mormons of being only culturally committed is that their own religious traditions actually rely on people remaining uneducated to remain believing. In other words, they must hope their flocks remain ignorant and uneducated, and therefore "atheological", whereas the Mormons want their people to be more educated to promote faithfulness. The charge of 'atheological-ness' among the Mormons is in fact 180 degrees off the mark. It is the need of those leveling such charges to pray for such a position within their own faith-tradition that their flocks remain uneduated, or else the pews will empty.
I was right. The charge of atheological Mormons was in fact a projection of the actual problems within their own faith. They apparently just assume since that goes on in their church, that is what happens in the Lord's Church. By their fruits, we do know them.
While pride will likely not prevent such gossip mongering from occurring in the future, (that is, false statements not based on anything other than hearsay and unfounded testimony) at least the facts are clear: Mormons not only are theologically oriented, but the more education and study they do, the more likely they are to believe and live their faith, something other denominations cannot say. But then again, Mormons are a peculiar people.