Mormon Volunteerism

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Mormon volunteerism, the efforts of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been noted and lauded in the press and in various studies. Because of the extent of Mormon volunteerism, the state of Utah has been judged the most "volunteering" state in America.

How Mormons Volunteer

Mormon volunteerism

The Church of Jesus Christ has no paid clergy. Just as in the Primitive Church of Jesus Christ, people are called to serve from their everyday vocations (Jesus called fishermen and publicans to be apostles). Most "callings" are temporary, but many entail an extreme amount of work, stretching the talents of those who serve and giving them leadership opportunities and group experiences. Everything in the Church is done by volunteers, except for various paid positions, for instance, in IT or construction worldwide.

In addition to fulfilling their callings in the Church, Mormons also participate in community service, humanitarian aid projects, and in the welfare program of the LDS Church to help the poor and needy.

Mormon Volunteerism is Remarkable

A study was conducted by University of Pennsylvania professor Ram Cnaan and fellow researchers Van Evans and Daniel W. Curtis by surveying 2,664 church-attending Latter-day Saints living across the United States. The study found that active Latter-day Saints "volunteer and donate significantly more than the average American and are even more generous in time and money than the upper quintile of religious people in America.” [1]

According to the research done in the study, an active Latter-day Saint will volunteer approximately 427.9 hours annually compared to the 48 hours annually of the average American. They also indicated Latter-day Saint members make considerable charitable donations. In addition to the tithing donations, an active Latter-day Saint donates an average of $1,171 to non-church related charitable causes per year and donates $650 to the church’s social welfare program. Nearly 90% percent of active Latter-day Saints follow the biblical admonition to tithe (donate 10 percent of their annual income to the Church).
The researchers have concluded that “overall we found that [Latter-day Saints] are the most pro-social members of the American society. Regardless of where they live, they are generous with their time and money.”

President and Prophet Thomas S. Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ has said,

“To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves. No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow man. Service to others is akin to duty, the fulfillment of which brings true joy. We do not live alone — in our city, our nation, or our world. There is no dividing line between our prosperity and our neighbor's wretchedness. 'Love thy neighbor' is more than a divine truth. It is a pattern for perfection.”

The Mormons and Civic Life Event

"The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life recently (beginning 2012) held a roundtable discussion with journalists, scholars and policy experts on some of the latest research on Mormons and their place in American society and public life." [2] Those present at the seminar discussed the findings of the Pew Forum's study on Mormons in America, aiming at Mormons’ church-based volunteering and charitable giving.

The first presenter was Ram Cnaan, the director of the Program for Religion and Social Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania. He presented the findings of a new survey on volunteering and charitable giving among Mormons. First, Cnaan cited the findings from many studies on volunteerism among Americans in general. About 30% to 50% of Americans volunteer — and those who do volunteer do it for about three to four hours a month. Statistics from the Corporation for National and Community Service show that Utah has the highest rate of volunteering.

For the Pew Study a 14-page questionnaire was devised, extremely detailed. The questionnaire asked about every type of volunteering and giving possible. The study was conducted in four regions — Philadelphia, Michigan, California, and Utah. The study was anonymous — no names were on the questionnaires, but the papers were handed out in the late hours of the Mormon 3-hour block of worship at Mormon meetinghouses to members 18 and over, so these were Mormons who at least attend church services.

Because there is no professional clergy in Mormonism, members have temporary Calling, or areas in which they are asked to serve. "...almost all members of the church are expected to fulfill a calling. This is a culture that is very unique. I didn’t know about it before. At the time of the study, about 86% reported that they were fulfilling a calling. So almost every member who is for a while in a congregation, a ward, would be expected to fulfill a calling." The study found that less than 1% of Mormons refuse callings each year.

The study found...

For religious activities, people give on average 242 hours. For church-affiliated volunteering to help meet social needs of people in the church, 96 hours. For church-affiliated activities helping people outside the church, 56 hours. And for activities outside of the church totally, 34 hours.

This is an average of 36 hours of overall volunteer service each month for church and community.

If we take the value of the hours volunteering for an average member of the Latter-day Saints, it’s about $9,140 annually.
The study divided donations into three things: secular giving — that’s money that is given outside the church — then welfare giving within the church, and extra religious giving. And when we say extra, it’s on top of tithing. For secular giving, meaning giving money to worthy causes outside of the church, an average person in the church gives $1,171.Nearly three-quarters of Mormons say that working Giving to welfare through the church — $650. And on top of tithing — $203 per person for religious activities — 88.8% of members of the church that we interviewed reported that they provide full tithing.
To conclude, we found a group of people that are most generous in our society. Through their theology of obedience and sacrifice and strong commitment to tithing and service, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints are the most pro-social members in American society. We couldn’t believe the findings. But that’s what we have. [3]

Greg Smith of the Pew Forum said the following, "Helping the poor is essential to what it means to being a good Mormon. I was struck by the number of Mormons who say working to help the poor and needy is essential to their religion. It is precisely those Mormons who are the most committed to the practice of their faith — those people who say they attend church regularly, who say they pray every day, who say that religion is very important in their lives. It’s precisely that group of Mormons who are most likely to say that providing assistance to the needy is an essential part of what it means to practice their faith. Similarly, Mormons who have served a mission are significantly more likely to say it’s essential to provide aid and assistance to the needy." [4]

One thing discussed at the forum is what causes members of a congregation to volunteer. It was agreed that social bonds formed at church lead to more giving and more volunteerism, and it doesn't matter what religion the congregation is practicing for this to occur. Mormons have a high level of social networking within their congregations, probably because of all the service they do for each other, and this in turn creates more desire to help and to give.

Mark Farr of National Vision and Public Engagement said the following: "I used to run all the faith-based volunteering for Points of Light, and it was anecdotally completely true across the country that the LDS Church always shows up. They are absolutely there more than anyone else. So they really are good at it."

"Just in general, the fact that the church runs its own welfare program for church members — and by welfare program, I mean the church owns farms and ranches, and it produces food that’s distributed to those who are in need, mostly within the church — sometimes beyond the church, but mostly within the church. That’s all an ethic of self-sufficiency so we don’t have to rely on government."

David Campbell, the Mormon in the group, said the following: "So the way I think most Mormons would answer that question is that their theology doesn’t choose between faith and works; it combines both."

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