As The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) continues to receive heightened media attention, a new study focuses on the generous charitable donations and volunteerism of active Latter-day Saints in the United States. University of Pennsylvania professor Ram Cnaan and fellow researchers Van Evans and Daniel W. Curtis jointly published the study, titled “Called to Serve: The Prosocial Behavior of Active Latter-day Saints.”
Sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, the team of researchers analyzed survey data from 2,664 church-attending Latter-day Saints living throughout the country. Based on their findings, the authors concluded 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.”
According to the data, while the average American volunteers some 48 hours per year (4 hours per month) to charitable causes, an active Latter-day Saint volunteers 427.9 hours annually (35.6 hours per month) — a contribution worth an estimated $9,140 annually.
Of course, much of Latter-day Saint volunteerism is religious in nature; for example, congregants volunteer time to teach youth scripture classes or help prepare the chapel for Sunday worship, among other things. Yet, as the study points out, active Church members also dedicate 151.9 hours annually to serving in the Church’s social and community initiatives, such as Boy Scouts of America or the Church’s worldwide welfare and humanitarian aid programs. Aside from these efforts, the study found that individual members give an additional 34 hours annually to other social causes unrelated to the Church.
The results also indicated that 88.8 percent of active Latter-day Saints follow the biblical admonition to tithe (donate 10 percent of their annual income to the Church).
In addition to tithing, an active Latter-day Saint donates an average of $ 1,171 to non-Church related charitable causes per year. They also give an average of $650 to the Church’s social welfare program. In short, an active member not only donates, on average, a full 10 percent of their income to the Church, but donates $1,821 to other social and community causes.
“Overall we found that [Latter-day Saints] are the most prosocial members of American society,” the study said. “Regardless of where they live, they are very generous with their time and money.”
The published findings further indicate that these “prosocial behaviors” are reflective of Latter-day Saint teachings, which emphasize service and charity. Indeed, members believe Jesus Christ commands His disciples to both serve and love one another. This sublime teaching continues to resonate with Latter-day Saints around the world. In a recent address, Church President Thomas S. Monson taught, “As we look heavenward, we inevitably learn of our responsibility to reach outward.”
He further stated: “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.”
Latter-day Saint Volunteerism Infographic