Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of The Gallup Poll believes that even despite a significant decrease in the number of Americans who profess to be a part of any religious affiliation, there exists the possibility of the dawning of a religious renaissance in America.

With more than a million Gallup interviews as background material, in his new book God is Alive and Well, Newport argues that the aging of the baby boomers, the influx of Hispanic immigrants and the links between religion and health could help usher in an increase in faith in America.

Newport was recently interviewed by Religion News Service and was open and candid in his remarks about his Southern Baptist Roots, why he feels mainline Protestants need to have more babies, and why employees should reward employees who attend church.

First, he stated that he wrote the book because he thinks that religion is important in America today. He further stated that Gallop Poll research has shown this to be true, and he wanted to get empirical data about religion into the hands of people, rather than the usual speculation.

He himself grew up in a religious background, and he says that he has always found it fascinating. His grandfather, Frank Leavell, who was convinced that it is important to reach out to college students, is credited with founding the Baptist Student Union. His grandfather was also one of nine brothers, all of whom were involved in religious service in one way or another – one was a missionary to China, one was a pastor, one was president of a New Orleans Baptist seminary. His father was a Southern Baptist Theologian and Minister. He currently attends a Presbyterian Church in New Jersey and admits that his religious convictions differ somewhat from those of his forebears.

When asked, “What’s the single most important trend in American religion today?” he replied:

One trend that I’m asked a lot about is the rise of the “nones,” about which there’s a huge amount of publicity, but which is often misinterpreted. When Gallup asked the question about religious identity back in the 1950s, almost zero would say they have “none.” People would say “Baptist” or “Catholic” even if they were not particularly religious. Now, 18 percent of Americans, according to Gallup polls, say they do not have a particular religious identity. That doesn’t mean that 18 percent are atheists — only 5 or 6 percent say they don’t believe in God — but people are changing how they express their religiosity. [1]

He went on to make the following remarks concerning the religiosity of America:

If you look at age, the baby boomers are approaching 65-85 years old, which we’ve seen as the most religious age group for decades. It’s a reasonable expectation that the huge group of boomers is going to become more religious, and because they are so big, they’ll make the country more religious in the aggregate.

 

In addition, the country’s increasing Hispanic population tends to be more religious. Religion has been correlated to health, so more people may seek out religion because it’s good for them. And Americans are migrating to states that are more religious, which tends to make (the travelers) more religious. [1]

His overall conclusion is that  if America were to become more religious, it would become healthier.

Mormon Scripture Study of God the FatherUsing all of this as a backdrop, how does Mormonism, one of the fastest growing religions in America, fit into this new trend of religion in America? Is there an increase in the number of Mormons in America? And, if so, how is the increase impacting the way people view religion in general?

Even with the recent “Mormon moment” which occurred mainly as a result of Republican Candidate, Mitt Romney, a devout Mormon, campaigning for the office of President of the United States, many Americans still know very little about the Mormon faith. They have learned a little more, but still some of the basic “understandings” remain as “misunderstandings” at best, and many views of the religion continue to be skewed, exaggerated or flat-out wrong.

One question in particular that continues to remain at the forefront of discussions is whether or not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church) are Christians. Mormon theology does differ from mainstream Christian theology in several key teachings — including the Godhead, revelation, and the use of additional scriptures. Mormons, for example, do believe that the Godhead consists of God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. They further believe that these are three distinct personages, and that they are one, but one in purpose and in mission, not one in the same.

Latter-day Saints also use an additional volume of scripture called the Book of Mormon which they testify is Another Testament of Jesus Christ. They further testify that the Book of Mormon does not detract from the teachings of the Holy Bible, but indeed enhances their understanding of the sacred scriptures. Latter-day Saints believe and teach that both the Bible and the Book of Mormon testify of the love that the Savior has for each of us and His purpose and mission.

The Bible, particularly the King James Version, is part of Mormon canonized scripture, along with the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. The Bible is used in classroom discussions, quoted in sermons and is essential to the worldwide missionary outreach.

The official name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for Jesus Christ is the center of Latter-day Saint devotion, belief and practice. They believe and teach that He is the Christ – the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind.

Another big misconception about The Church of Jesus Christ is that some people believe that all Mormons live in Utah. While the Beehive State is indeed densely populated with Mormons (62 percent), some neighboring states are as equally populated. Still, Latter-day Saints are spread across the United States in small pockets of believers and congregations. There are also members living in more than 100 countries, and their numbers are increasing rapidly in Latin American countries and in Africa. In fact, there are more Mormons outside the United States (8.2 million) than in it (6.2 million). Therefore, worldwide, there are only about fourteen million Mormons. That’s fourteen million among a global population just reaching seven billion.

So, why is so much attention being drawn to this one religion in America? Politics and pop culture are perhaps two of the main reasons that Americans have become so intrigued by the Mormon Faith.

Mitt Romney and John Huntsman were in pursuit of the White House. Glenn Beck was among the nation’s most controversial news commentators. Stephenie Meyer had written the astonishingly popular Twilight series about vampires. Matt Stone and Trey Parker had created the edgy South Park cartoon series–which included a much- discussed episode about Mormons–and then went on to create the blatantly blasphemous and Saint-bashing Broadway play The Book of Mormon. It has become one of the most successful productions in American theater history.

 

Meanwhile, more than a dozen Mormons sat in the US Congress, among them Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader. Mormons led JetBlue, American Express, Marriott, Novell, Deloitte and Touche, Diebold, and Eastman Kodak. Management guru Stephen Covey made millions telling them how to lead even better. There were Mormons commanding battalions of U.S. troops and Mormons running major U.S. universities. There were so many famous Mormons, in fact, that huge websites were launched just to keep up with it all. Notables ranged from movie stars like Katherine Heigl to professional athletes to country music stars like Gary Allan to reality television contestants and even to serial killers like Glenn Helzer, whose attorney argued that the Saints made him the monster he was. The media graciously reminded the public that Mormon criminals were nothing new, though: Butch Cassidy of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fame was also a Mormon, they reported. [2]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints has reached sufficient numbers–permeating every level of American society on the strength of its religious values. Prominent politicians, authors, athletes, actors, and newscasters are the natural result of the fruit of the organic growth of the Mormon religion.

In a span of 10 years, LDS membership exploded from 4.4 million to 11 million. This may be the reason why in 1998 the Southern Baptist Convention held its annual meeting in Salt Lake City. The Mormons–a misguided cult in the view of most traditional Christians (Baptists in particular) –had to be stopped. However, they were not stopped. In 2002, four years after the Baptists besieged Temple Square, the Winter Olympic Games came to Salt Lake City. The Mormons were once again in the spotlight, waving to the media cameras, and appearing as the media described them — “normal.” The LDS Church capitalized on it all. It made sure that every visitor received a brochure offering an LDS guided tour of the city. Visitors from around the world read these words: “No other place in America has a story to tell like that of Salt Lake City–a sanctuary founded by religious refugees from within the United States’ own borders. And none can tell that story better than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” [2]

Why has the Mormon faith become such a popular and newsworthy religion in America?

The truth lay within Mormonism itself. What the Saints had achieved in the United States was what Mormonism, unfettered and well led, will nearly always produce. This was the real story behind the much-touted “Mormon Moment.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had risen to unexpected heights in American society because the Mormon religion creates what can benevolently be called a Mormon Machine– a system of individual empowerment, family investment, local church (ward and stake level) leadership, priesthood government, prophetic enduement, Temple sacraments, and sacrificial financial endowment of the holy Mormon cause. [2]

 

Plant Mormonism in any country on earth and pretty much the same results will occur. If successful, it will produce deeply moral individuals who serve a religious vision centered upon achievement in this life. They will aggressively pursue the most advanced education possible, understand their lives in terms of overcoming obstacles, and eagerly serve the surrounding society. The family will be of supernatural importance to them, as will planning and investing for future generations. They will be devoted to community, store and save as a hedge against future hardship, and they will esteem work as a religious calling. They will submit to civil government and hope to take positions within it. They will have advantages in this. Their beliefs and their lives in all-encompassing community will condition them to thrive in administrative systems and hierarchies–a critical key to success in the modern world. Ever oriented to a corporate life and destiny, they will prize belonging and unity over individuality and conflict every time. [2]

Mormon doctrine is inviting. The community that it produces is both enveloping and elevating. The lifestyle it encourages is empowering in nearly every sense. Mormons rise in this life because it is what their religion calls for. Achieving. Progressing. Learning. Forward, upward motion. Success, visibility, prosperity, and influence follow. Management, leadership, and organizing are the essential skills of the faith. This is what has attracted so many millions, and has enabled Latter-day Saints to have such a tremendous impact upon American society and the world.

Additional Resources:

Mormonchurch.com

Basic Mormon Beliefs and Real Mormons

Jesus Christ in Mormonism

Understanding Mormonism

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This website is not owned by or affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called the Mormon or LDS Church). The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the position of the Church. The views expressed by individual users are the responsibility of those users and do not necessarily represent the position of the Church. For the official Church websites, please visit LDS.org or Mormon.org.

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