WASHINGTON – Nearly 90 percent of Mormons reported tithing regularly, new research shows. Researchers who presented their findings on the charitable habits of members of the Church of Jesus Church of Latter-day Saints are confident in the reliability of the responses from Mormons surveyed.
Ram Cnaan, director of the Program for Religion and Social Policy Research for the University of Pennsylvania, told The Christian Post that although his research did not verify the responses from Mormons surveyed, other studies indicated that the data could be trusted.
"There are enough sources that say that they are not cheating. Are a few cheating? Sure, in every group. But I don't think that it happens generally with large numbers," said Cnaan.
"Self-interest in this group didn't apply, which goes against all economics principles."
Cnaan presented the findings of his survey of Mormon charitable habits at an event on Thursday at the Pew Research Center's lunch and roundtable discussion. His questionnaire was 14 pages long and was filled out by approximately 2,600 Mormons from across the country.
Titled "Mormons and Civic Life: What the Latest Research Reveals," the presentation was part of a series of events sponsored by the Pew Research Center that sought to bring journalists and scholars together for discussion on timely topics of religion and public life.
The percentage of tithers (those who give 10 percent of one's income to churches and charitable groups) in the LDS church is significantly higher than among born-again Protestants. A Barna Group survey in 2008 revealed that only 9 percent of born-again adults tithed the previous year. Among evangelicals, the percentage was higher at 24 percent.
Notably, a 2011 survey among leaders in the National Association of Evangelicals found that 58 percent of them do not believe the Bible requires Christians to tithe.
Meanwhile, the LDS church states on its website that Mormons must give 10 percent of their income to the church. "The Bible indicates that God's people followed the law of tithing anciently; through modern prophets, God restored this law once again to bless His children. To fulfill this commandment, Church members give one-tenth of their income to the Lord through His Church. These funds are used to build up the Church and further the work of the Lord throughout the world."
Cnaan explained that one study he used for his research surveyed around 2,000 Mormons, inquiring about their tithing habits. One question in the cited study asked respondents "if somebody gave you a Christmas present of $1,000 do you have to tithe."
"There is no ruling about it by the church. About half of the people say you have to tithe, half the people say you don't have to tithe," said Cnaan.
"They asked them much later did it happen to you that somebody gave you a financial present over Christmas and some people said yes, some people said no. There was no correlation between what people said should be done and what happened to them."
In addition to Cnaan, other speakers were David E. Campbell, associate professor of political science at Notre Dame University, and Greg Smith, senior researcher for the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life. The talk was moderated by Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life.
"With a member of the LDS leading the field for the GOP nomination, media and public interest in all things Mormon is very much alive these days," said Lugo in his remarks.
"There has been a lot of discussion in the last months about the religious beliefs and political attitudes of Mormons. But there has been relatively little discussion about Mormon civic engagements."