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  • Writer's pictureJacob Hansen

Is the Church Good? - Fruits of the Gospel

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

Is the church good?

Notice that this is a different question than “is the church true”. Obviously, the veracity of the truth claims of the church are important, but it’s one thing to be involved a mistaken enterprise and it’s another to be involved in a harmful enterprise. It’s like the difference in believing in Santa vs believing in ISIS. One leads to happy Christmas mornings based on naivety and the other leads to people being burned alive in cages. While many truth claims of the Church can be hard to demonstrate objectively, the effects of internalizing and living ones life in accordance with the restored gospel are demonstrable. So when we examine key markers of human well being and thriving (IE, health, relationships, financial stability, charity, education, life satisfaction, social cohesion etc) what does the data say about Latter Day Saints when compared to the general population?


Latter Day Saints have significantly longer lifespans and demonstrably better overall health than the general population.

Results show that following the restrictive Mormon doctrine generates beneficial effects for the health. Habits related to toxics and food, as well as social support, from family and Mormon community are an important basis for good health. On the other hand, not following the prescriptions or leaving the group, opposed sexual identities or not fulfilling the roles associated with women are associated with worse mental and physical health.

Life expectancy was 77.3 for LDS males, 70.0 for non-LDS males, 82.2 for LDS females, and 76.4 for non-LDS females. For those alive at age 80, the remaining years of life expected were 8.2 for LDS males, 6.5 for non-LDS males, 10.3 for LDS females, and 7.1 for non-LDS females. Years of life expected increased more so among non-LDS after we removed deaths associated with tobacco use from the life table. A comparison between LDS and non-LDS of the adjusted life expectancy estimates indicates that although differential tobacco use explains some of the higher life expectancy in LDS, it only accounts for about 1.5 years of the 7.3 year difference for males and 1.2 years of the 5.8 year difference for females. Higher life expectancy experienced among LDS not explained by tobacco-related deaths may be due to factors associated with religious activity in general, such as better physical health, better social support, and healthier lifestyle behaviors. Religious activity may also have an independent protective effect against mortality.

“Utah’s success also shows up in health data. Utah’s cumulative case fatality rate—arguably the most important measure of pandemic success—measures 0.63 percent (compared to the national rate of 2.87 percent) and ranks lowest in the nation (as of this writing in October 2020).6”

Community/Social Relationships.

Latter Day Saints have much higher levels of social connection both within and outside of the church. They give just as much time to community volunteering outside the church as non members do, while, on top of that, volunteering in the church huge amounts of time. The result is that they volunteer their time an astounding 7 times higher than the national average. In addition, Latter Day Saints financially give as much as or more than non LDS Americans in addition to giving 10% of their income to the church at higher rates than any other religion in America.

“Scholars who study volunteerism know that Utah, the only state where a majority of citizens are Latter-day Saints, has the highest rate of volunteering and the most volunteer hours per capita in the nation (Corporation for National and Community Service, 2010). In fact, according to this source an average resident of Utah volunteers 89.2 hours annually followed by an average resident of Alaska who volunteers for 55.1 hours (Corporation for National and Community Service, 2010). As such, volunteering is an important aspect of life in Utah and the Mormon tradition, yielding larger volunteer commitments than the rest of the country.”

“Finally, the least frequent volunteer activity is devoted to social volunteering outside the church. This form of volunteering amounts to 7.8% of Latter-day Saints volunteer time. This activity was reported to be performed by 61.9% of the respondents. On average, an active Latter-day Saint provides 34 hours of social care outside the ward that is geared towards the community annually. If this were the only volunteer activity of Latter-day Saints, it would equal the national average of volunteering of all Americans (Corporation for National and Community Service, 2010).… An average Latter-day Saints provides 27.7 hours monthly or 6.4 hours weekly. Given that an average American volunteer provides about four hours of volunteering per month, an average adult LDS member with household and work responsibilities contributes seven times that amount of their time to volunteering.”

Significantly more Latter-day Saints are full-tithers (88.8%) than any other group. Nationally, in 2011, only 4% of the population reported fully tithing their income. In addition to the 88.8% of Latter-day Saints fully tithing, 5.9% reported that they partially tithe. Latter-day Saints also donate to causes other than tithing. Through the church, on average, a Latter-day Saint donates $650 a year to social causes and an average active Latter-day Saint also donates $1,171 a year outside the church. Taken together, an average Latter-day Saint pays full tithing and donates $1,821 to social and community causes.

“In terms of their social connectedness, they’re doing way better than than your average American. This has a whole host of benefits. We know that loneliness is incredibly damaging to your emotional health, to physical health, so being rooted in these communities, having people they can rely on to weather something like a pandemic, which for many folks was socially isolating, is just an incredibly good position to be in.”

“Big government” does not appear to have been key to Utah’s income mobility. From 1977 to 2005, when the kids in Chetty et al’s data were growing up, the Rockefeller Institute ranks it near the bottom in state “fiscal capacity.” The state has not invested a lot in fighting poverty, nor on schools; Utah is dead last in per-pupil education spending. This should at least give pause to those who view educational programs as the natural path to economic mobility. But “laissez faire” isn’t the answer either. Utah is a deep red state, but its conservatism is notably compassionate, thanks in part to the Mormon Church.

Overall we found that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the most prosocial members of American society. Regardless of where they live, they are very generous with their time and money. Through a theology of obedience and sacrifice and a strong commitment to tithing and service, Latter-day Saints are model citizens.

Financial Stability

Latter Day Saints are more financially stable than the general population. They are far less likely to be poor and far more likely be part of the self reliant middle class despite the churches 10% tithes and encouragement of single income households. Latter Day Saints who served missions are disproportionately successful in business. Interestingly, those who struggle financially in high LDS areas where the church and its members have significant influence on social programs, are helped more efficiently with less need of government programs. Private assistance and social capital in high LDS areas are more capable of handling economic hardships and have some of the highest levels of upward economic opportunity/mobility and lowest levels of income inequality.

“Harvard and the University of California (Berkeley) named Salt Lake City one of the best places in the country for upward mobility.”

“McArdle observes that in Utah the best ideas of conservatives and liberals come together in one delicious package: business friendly, opportunity friendly, but also highly committed to caring for the needy and helping them get back on their feet.”16 That “delicious package” is known locally as Utah’s secret sauce. In 2017 the JEC released “What We Do Together: The State of Associational Life in America.” In it they define associational life, share its importance, and describe how it has changed—in families, religious worship, communities, and work. This report laid the groundwork for numerous other studies to follow, including a 2018 study which included the JEC’s own social capital index. The JEC reviewed seventy county- and state-level indicators, then settled on thirty-two measures for inclusion in their state-level index, which includes indicators of family unity and interaction, social support, community health, institutional health, collective efficacy, and phil­anthropic health. If Utah’s secret sauce is the real deal, you would expect Utah to rank highly in the social capital index. True to form, Utah ranked highest in the nation.”

Bloomberg: Gods MBA’s: Why Mormon Missions Produce Leaders “Yet Latter Day Saints hold, or have held a disproportionate number of top jobs at such major corporations as Marriot International, American Express, American Motors, Dell Computers, Lufthansa, Fisher-Price, Life Re, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Madison Square Gardens, La Quinta Properties, Pricewaterhousecooper, And Stanley Black and Decker..

“For the 2019 period, Utah’s income measures tell a consistent story of nation-leading income equality at all levels: Utah, with a Gini coefficient of 0.4268, ranked first for income equality among states and the District of Columbia.8“

Family Relationships

Latter Day Saints are known as “family people” and it shows in the data. Latter Day Saints are less likely to divorce than the general population and divorce is even less likely the more active members are. Temple marriages have been shown to be as much as 5 times less likely to end in divorce than non temple marriages. These marriages result in more children than average and, contrary to research among other groups, this increase in the number of children correlates with more affectional relations within their families.

“Using a compilation of numbers from several national surveys completed in the past 30 years… Heaton said American Latter-day Saint women are overall happier about their pregnancies, have roughly one more child per family, and breast-feed more often than their peers. Among LDS members, women are better educated, marriages are slightly less likely to end in divorce, and members are less likely to die from heart disease or cancer than their peers overall.”

“Non temple marriages are about five times more likely to end in divorce than temple marriages.” Heaton, Tim B., and Kristen L. Goodman. “Religions and Family Formation.” Review of Religious Research 26, no. 4 (1985): 343–59.

“The divorce from 5 percent to 10 percent lower than the national average of 50 percent”

Mormons also tend to have more children than other groups. Mormons ages 40-59 have had an average of 3.4 children in their lifetime, well above the comparable figure for all Americans in that age range (2.1) and higher than any other religious group. Overall, Mormon adults have an average of 1.1 children currently living at home, nearly double the national average (0.6).

“In the general population, as family size increases, so does coercive discipline. Affectional family relationships decrease. But research among Latter-day Saints shows an opposite pattern, with larger families reporting increased affectional relations” (Thomas, Darwin L. “Family in the Mormon Experience.” In Families and Religions: Conflict and Change in Modern Society, ed. W. D’Antonio, and J. Aldous, pp. 267–88. Beverly Hills, Calif., 1983.)

“With respect to divorce, it is clear that the most religiously committed Latter-day Saints have divorce rates considerably lower than the inactive or noncommitted Church members, even though Utah is one of the mountain and western states which have generally had higher than national average divorce rates…10 percent of men and 15 percent of women report divorce, compared to 21 percent of men and 26 percent of women who do not attend regularly.”


Not only are Latter Day Saints better educated than average Americans, they break with a trend among other religious groups. Unlike in the general population where more education tends to correlate with lower rates of religiosity, the better educated a Latter Day Saint is, the more likely they are to be more active in the church.

“Mormons are significantly more likely than the population overall to have some college education. Six-in-ten Mormons (61%) have at least some college education, compared with half of the overall population.

“Heaton and Jacobson’s research supports previous results that showed active Church members tend to have a higher level of education.“

Life satisfaction

It should be no surprise that a population that has stronger than normal family relationships, is healthier, financially more stable, better educated, more socially involved, and attached to a compelling, purpose filled religious narrative would report that they are, in general, happier and more satisfied with their lives than other groups. Yet, some still want to claim that the large number of studies that show Latter Day Saints as arguably being the happiest people in America, is just them lying or being delusional. This is classic gaslighting. There are a myriad of good reasons to believe the studies below reflect a genuine reality. The effects of the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints arguably produces the highest most sustainable levels of well being in America both on individual and social levels. Latter Day Saints will be the first to say we are not super-humans, we all fail regularly and sometimes spectacularly in trying to live our standards. We are trying to figure out life just like everyone else. But the correlation between positive outcomes and activity in the church on a general level is undeniable in the research data.

“This paper focuses on members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“Latter-day Saints" or "Mormons") who report particularly high well-being—some of the highest well-being of any religious group in America (Newport, Witters, & Agrawal, 2012a). Through the lens of positive psychology, I explore how Latter-day Saint (LDS) practices and teachings may foster well-being. By analyzing similarities between well-being theories and LDS doctrine and behavior, I identify five possible mechanisms through which Mormonism might increase well-being, including fostering prosocial behavior, a focus on family, purpose and meaning, autonomy and agency, and physical health.

“PROVO, UTAH - Is the happiest town in the whole USA..The residents are mostly young, outdoorsy and religious. And, if the latest Gallup-Healthways survey is accurate, they, along with neighboring Orem, boast the nation's highest overall sense of well-being.”

“Jews and Mormons have the highest well-being of any of the faith groups examined in this analysis, while those with no religious identity have the lowest overall well-being.” “Here are 5 reasons that Hunter thinks Mormons may have a head start on happiness.. 1) A Pro-Social Orientation 2) A focus on Family 3)Purpose and Meaning 4)Autonomy and Agency 5)Physical Health”

The happiest and healthiest states in the US, ranked: Utah = 5th place out of 50.

“The relationship between attendance and life satisfaction is strongest among Mormons… The difference between life satisfaction between weekly attendees and non attendees among Mormons more than doubles that among Jews. Overall it appears that the relationships between attendance and life satisfaction tends to be in religious groups that are more observant, Such as Mormons…”

But what about…

Depression and Suicide

Isn’t depression rampant in Utah? Perhaps, but is that correlated to Latter Day Saints or to the intermountain west? This is indeed testable. When you look at the correlation at a county or city level within Utah itself you find no correlation between depression rates or suicide rates and higher levels of LDS activity. This makes sense as religious participation has been shown to significantly reduce instances of depression and suicide in a variety of studies. This includes suicide amongst LGBT individuals. In fact it is found that LDS LGBT youth in Utah are less likely to engage in suicidal thoughts or actions than non LDS LGBT Utahans. It should be kept in mind that only about 20-30% of Utah is active LDS. Making quick judgements about the church generally based on a state where 80% are not even active LDS is just silly unless you can show that correlation continues among higher LDS cities and counties. Another factor to consider is that Latter Day Saints don’t self medicate via alcohol or other drugs so even if depression rates were equal we would expect that Latter Day Saints would show a higher level of prescription anti depressant use.

“Latter-day Saint LGBT youth had an average Suicidal thoughts and behavior value of 0.57, while non-Latter-day Saint LGBT youth had an average of 1.09—nearly twice as high. The difference between these two means was highly statistically significant. For reference, non-Latter-day Saint heterosexual youth had an average STB value of 0.42, while Latter-day Saint heterosexual youth had an average of 0.23” - and “Latter-day Saint LGBT youth had the lowest levels of any LGBT group, even after adjusting for controls. For example, an estimated 10% of LGBT Latter-day Saint youth reported attempting suicide, compared to 21% of LGBT youth with no religion.… When it came to depression, LGBT youth benefited more from being Latter-day Saints, relative to having no religion, than straight youth did." and

Michael Staley, who works at the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner and is himself gay, and not a member of the Church has said: “Despite a general perception that many of Utah’s youth suicides arise from intolerance toward LGBT people promulgated (though not necessarily intentionally) by teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the state’s suicide prevention research coordinator says that may not be the case. “There’s no data to show that, period,” says Michael Staley, who works in the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner and is the first person who would know, since he leads an effort to collect, compile and analyze suicide information from around the state. …While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2016 that LGBT youth die by suicide at double the rate of their non-LGBT peers, Staley says data specific to Utah so far doesn’t validate the sexuality-religion narrative. “The people who are driving that narrative are going to be disappointed,” Staley says, while at the same time recognizing that “theoretically, it makes sense.” -

“Overall, results found Latter-day Saints were lower in suicidality and depression; differences were almost entirely explained by family connections and substance use (less so by community connections). Similarly, regarding suicidality and depression, LGBQ Latter-day Saints were significantly lower than or equal to LGBQ individuals of other religions and no religion.” - The suicide rate among active Latter-day Saint youth was lower than it was for peers from 1991-1995 when Rhetoric against homosexual behavior was far harsher than today. “Whereas most people leverage this data as easy evidence that Utahns are just more depressed (widely seen as a proxy judgment on Latter-day Saint teaching), that once again, simply does not account for all this other data above. Even more specific statistics by locality unsettles that story even more. For instance, geographic studies indicate that many areas in Utah with significant Latter-day Saint populations are less likely to use antidepressants. For example, Utah County has one of the highest Latter-day Saint populations in the state, but the Utah Department of Health reports that Provo—the largest city in Utah County—has the lowest antidepressant usage in Utah. Idaho also has a large per capita Latter-day Saint population, but it is below average for antidepressant usage.” “It’s possible that Mormons are not self-medicating with alcohol and drugs like some people do to combat depression. In addition, Mormons are more likely to seek medical help, evidenced by the fact that Utah ranks high for people seeking prescriptions for other things like thyroid medication or anticonvulsants or anti-rheumatics. It’s not just for antidepressants.” Also, Mormon women have more children and are thus more susceptible to post-partum depression.” -

“Active Mormons reported having the best health status and, consequently, the lowest levels of mental illness.” - “of nearly 2,500 young women finds that across all participants, more frequent religious attendance and a strong prayer life were significant predictors of lower rates of depression.”,in%20all%20major%20faith%20groups.

“Religious affiliation is associated with less suicidal behavior.”…“Higher levels of religiosity appear to be inversely associated with suicide.”…“We concluded that a high degree of religiosity acts as a protective mechanism against suicidal tendencies.”…“Religion plays a protective role against suicide in a majority of settings where suicide research is conducted.”


The idea that Utah is #1 in porn use is based on one limited study that only measured paid subscriptions and a whole myth was created by this. There actually has been a LOT of research done on porn use that compares data between different states. Utah is almost always near or at the bottom. The idea that porn use among members of the church is way higher than the general population is just a lie pushed by people who are either ignorant of the data or who have an agenda to push. “Utah is not significantly higher than other states in regards to pornographic search terms; and in regards to the most common search term, it is dead last. For eight of the ten search terms Utah falls below the median” - “Page Views Per Capita on Pornhub (2014): Utah is 40th” “As demonstrated.., the preponderance of studies reports far lower rates of porn use in religious individuals compared with non-religious individuals. In fact, comparisons between religious and non-religious rates are not even close. While this may be true of secular and religious populations generally, could Utah somehow be an exception? Not if you’re paying attention to other relevant evidence specific to Utah. In at least three more recent analyses, Utah’s porn use ranks between 40th and 50th among states

Plastic surgery

There is a narrative out there that because of the high numbers of plastic surgeons in Utah this means that the Church causes women to obsess with their bodies. The idea is well handled by researcher Meagan Kohler. “The research paper concludes that “Utah is among the top states in the nation for [cosmetic surgery] procedures,” but it fails to supply any supporting data. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons only shares total numbers of procedures by region, not state. Utah’s region contains 12 other states, including California, which consistently ranks in the top ten for plastic surgery-related searches, according to data from Google Trends. Concluding from this data that Utah is a top state for plastic surgery is a fallacy of division—the fact that the region Utah is included in accounts for the largest total number of procedures does not mean Utah itself has higher than average rates of plastic surgery. It may simply be the case that Utah is geographically lumped in with other states that do.”


There are a lot of terrible forces at work in this world. Lots of forces that reduce human well being and social cohesion. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is not one of them when you look at the data. So why do some people have such vitriol and place such efforts into attacking The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. At worse, it's a delusion that produces healthy, happy, family oriented neighbors whose worse crime is to dropping by unannounced with some cookies and an invite to the church softball game? The rabid vitriol toward this demonstrably pro-social group of citizens is likely rooted less in an objective look at the actual data and has more to do with personal resentments.

No intelligent Latter Day Saint would claim we are better than anyone else. We are struggling to deal with life just like the rest of the world and reprehensible things are done by individuals in our church frequently. However, is this in spite or because of the Church and its teachings? What the data suggests is that when looked at over a broad range of pro wellness and pro social behaviors, Latter Day Saints are arguably doing better than any other group in creating individual wellness and social human cooperation, not through government force, but voluntarily because of there love of God and their fellow man. And what about those who just laugh? Isn't "Mormonism" a joke? Well, when the whole world is seeking happiness, relationships, safety, health, social cohesion etc etc and you find a group that arguably is doing this better than any other group, this merits at the minimum some respect or perhaps even serious attention and consideration. But perhaps you simply think all religious notions and miracles are nonsense. Fair enough. But what about those who do believe in the God of the Bible? Are Latter Day Saint beliefs in angels, visions and sacred records really so beyond the pale when compared to stories of a man who walked on water, turned water to wine, cast out demons and rose from the dead? For those who believe in Jesus perhaps they should consider what he said about how to evaluate people who would come claiming to be prophets in his name. He could have just said “there will be no more prophets in the future”. But instead he said this:

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit… Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

So what are the fruits of faithfulness to the restored Gospel? Is God at work here? Perhaps it’s time to seriously consider it. I personally invite all to come and see. There is a reason these things happen. I don’t expect anyone to join our church but I would expect all people of good will to take us seriously and at least at one point in your life take the 5 missionary lessons and hear what we have to say from our own mouths by our formal representatives. Would it be fair to judge gays, or women, or muslims or black people or any group based primarily on the opinions of outsiders? Come let us explain who we are and what we are. No one is obligated to accept what we believe, but ultimately I think the data suggest that something is going on here and a person of good will and intelligence should at some point be willing to hear us out before rendering a final judgement.

I personally am who I am because of my faith. It enriches all aspects of my life and none of the data above surprises me at all. You lose nothing by learning our side of the story and if nothing else you can say that you (unlike so many others) actually took the time to explore another perspective that, based on its real world effects, is worth understanding.

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1 Comment

AJ The LDS Political Theological Talk Show
AJ The LDS Political Theological Talk Show
Feb 02, 2022

My name is AJ Hill, and I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. I lost your debate against Kay, and I'm still trying to figure out what she was saying that was relevant. Not the degrade what she was saying so much but you had such great stats that anyone who would come up against the stats would not farewell anyway no matter who it was. I would love to be a part of your show at any given time in the future, so if you feel the warm and fuzzy just drop me a line and we'll set up a zoom call.

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