Last week I presented at the 2016 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium. The title of the presentation was “Faith and Doubt in Contemporary American Mormonism: A Quantitative Empirical Perspective.”

Here is the abstract as it appeared in the program: Much has recently been made about the intersection of faith and doubt in contemporary American Mormon culture. While discussion of this topic often relies on anecdotes and supposition, this presentation will contribute a different perspective by giving an overview of an empirical statistical analysis of the 2012 Pew “Mormons in America” survey. Specific topics will include: 1) what types of Mormons are more/less likely to express doubt?, 2) how do doubts affect other religious or social behavior among Mormons?, and 3) what role might political beliefs play in either driving or mediating doubt?

Last week Jana Reiss discussed some of the presentation on her blog. Other interesting findings include:

  • Mormon doubters are distinguished primarily by religious (not demographic) characteristics.
  • Mormon doubters are about as satisfied with their lives as wholehearted believers.
  • Mormon doubters are similar to wholehearted believers in many ways in their religious attitudes and behaviors but clearly different in others.
    • For example, a clear majority of Mormon doubters still believe the basic fundamental teachings of the LDS Church.
  • About 10% of “ideal” Mormons (active, temple-recommend holding, full tithe-paying, etc.) are doubters. (This is similar to other research on the subject.)

For interested parties who were not able to attend, the full presentation, including visuals and comments, can be downloaded in this PDF file: CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

Thanks to Lindsay Hansen Park and everyone for their efforts in organizing the symposium this year!

Benjamin Knoll is a political science professor at a liberal arts college in central Kentucky. He is a seventh-generation Mormon (on his mother's side) who finds meaningful religious and spiritual expression in a variety of traditions, practices, and contexts. He's a married father of three girls.

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