When it comes to being generous with time and money, Americans who are not Mormons can learn from Americans who are.
A new study from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis explores Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints culture and explains LDS members’ volunteering and charitable giving-habits.
It is the first study focusing on giving and volunteering practices of Latter-day Saints that has been carried out within LDS wards by a non-church-affiliated university.
The researchers are Ram Cnaan , a professor in Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice ; Daniel W. Curtis, a student earning his Ph.D. in social welfare ; and Van Evans from IUPUI.
"Called to Serve: The Prosocial Behavior of Active Latter-day Saints" is the largest and most detailed study of its kind. Researchers surveyed 2,644 active Mormons in Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Michigan, Utah and California.
Overall, researchers found that members of the LDS Church are the most "prosocial" members of American society.
"Regardless of where they live, they are very generous with their time and money," Cnaan , an expert in faith-based social services and the lead researcher, said. "Through a theology of obedience and sacrifice and a strong commitment to tithing and service, Latter-day Saints are model citizens."
One of the Mormons’ basic beliefs is that they are called by God to serve others. Thus, practicing members of the LDS Church act under the belief that they are called to give time and expertise to church, society and humanity, the study says.
Researchers found that active members of the LDS Church volunteer and donate significantly more than the average American. When it comes to the time they spend volunteering, the average adult American LDS member contributes as much as seven times more than that of the average American.
An average American Latter-day Saint provides almost 430 hours of volunteer labor annually. This equates to approximately 35 hours per month. In comparison, the average American volunteer provides about four hours of volunteering per month.
The researchers divided their volunteering-related findings into four groups: volunteering for religious purposes within the church, church-affiliated volunteering to meet the social needs of members, church-affiliated volunteering to meet the social needs of people in the community regardless of LDS membership, and volunteering outside the church to assist people in the community.
The most common volunteer activity of Latter-day Saints is within the ward, or local territorial division, and for religious purposes, which accounts for 57 percent of their volunteer time. Nearly 95 percent of the respondents report performing 242 hours of religious volunteering annually. This includes performing a "calling" from the church, a set of specific responsibilities or duties a member of the church has been asked to handle. A "calling" can range from cleaning the church building to leading youth groups to serving as a ward leader.
As a part of a larger "culture of service, which begins as soon as an individual joins the LDS Church," according to the study, respondents view callings as positive experiences.
The study reports that 86 percent of respondents saidd that they are currently serving a calling.
LDS members also volunteer to perform social responsibilities within the ward, which amounts to 22 percent of the Latter-day Saints volunteer time. This includes activities such as leading a church-affiliated Boy Scout troop, making meals for another member of the ward or helping a fellow member move into a new home. Nearly 94 percent of the respondents reported volunteering this way.
The least frequent volunteer activity is social volunteering outside of the church, equating to almost 8 percent of the Latter-day Saints’ volunteer time. Nearly 62 percent of the respondents indicated that they volunteer outside of the church. On average, an active Latter-day Saint provides 34 hours of social care outside the ward that is geared toward the community.