One thing we have always wished the Mormon Church (or someone) would publicize more is the remarkable fact that as an American Mormon, the more education you have the more likely you are to be active in the Church. (The reason it is remarkable is that it is opposite of the correlation in most Churches, where the more educated you are, the less likely you are to attend church.)
The correlations might suggest that LDS (Mormon) doctrines may appear to some to be more logical and intellectually compatible than the doctrines of other Christian churches. Whether people agree with that or not, the publication of this kind of polling data always leads to interesting discussions and gets us to ask thought-provoking cause-and-effect questions like: Are Mormons more active in their Church because they are educated, or are they more educated because they are active in their Church?
The same cause-and-effect question comes into play on a broader scale with the recently released marriage and family studies from the Pew Research Center and the National Marriage Project from the University of Virginia. (see the excellent Deseret News article from Dec. 27 ). Both studies show a very important and very recent and very pronounced shift from the historical norm of less educated Americans being more church and family oriented than their more educated counterparts. The Pew study shows 64% of college graduates currently married while only 48% of High School grads (who have not graduated college) are married.
Among the 58% of Americans who have high school degrees but no college degrees (a group referred to by the studies as “middle Americans”) divorce and co-habitation is up, as is pre-marital sex and births to teen aged moms…. while marriage, church attendance, and employment are down. Among more educated Americans, the trends are reversed.
Other related studies show that those who never marry, or those who divorce and don’t remarry, do significantly less well financially (have a 75% wealth reduction) compared to married individuals.
So which are causes and which are effects?
We are dealing with four elements here: 1. Education, 2. Faith and Religion, 3. Economics and Wealth, and 4. Marriage and Family.
There is a tendency to view the world in economic models-so you might say “A bad economy and high employment causes less education, and both lead to less marriage and family know how and a departure from faith.”
But wouldn’t it be equally logical to say “Those with less education have a harder time getting good jobs and supporting families or living a traditional or religious life.”
And religionists might argue well by saying, “Faith and church activity teach family morals and ideals which include education and lead to economic stability.”
There is validity and truth in all of these statements, but none of them are as cause-and-effect logical as a statement suggesting the family as the basic bond and unit of society, of the economy, of religion and of education. “Stable families and committed marriages provide the environment most conducive to religious faith, to educational achievement and to economic success.”
The biggest problem in “middle America” is the breakdown of marriage commitment and of stable and prioritized families. Kids growing up in fractured or nonexistent families have less chance to stay in school, less chance to have and hold a job, and less role models and life-style models that center on church and community.
In our view, the “coming together” of faith, education, family, and relative prosperity-and the research that shows that improvement in each leads to improvement in the other three-is good news indeed! And it is even better news when we acknowledge that the starting place for better education, better faith, and a better economy is better families!
New York Times #1 Bestselling Authors Richard and Linda Eyre are the parents of nine children and, by coincidence, the authors of 9 internationally distributed parenting and life-balance books. They lecture throughout the world on family related topics. Their new book, On The Home Front, is now available at Deseretbook.com and many of their works are now available for free at EyresFreeBooks.com