In a recent study by the Pew Research Center Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints) were rated as one of the most educated religious groups in a survey on religious knowledge. A fact even more intriguing considering that in addition to the Bible, church members also believe in three other books of scripture.
There four key reasons for their level of religious education. First; the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has always encouraged its members to study and to understand the doctrine. No one is expected to accept teachings on face value, so scholarship is a very important aspect of the Church. Sunday religious instruction starts as early as 1Â½ years of age and continues throughout life. In addition to classes on Sunday 14-18 year old youth in the church participate in religious education through the seminary program. Many of these school aged young men and young women participate in early morning seminary which requires them to attend seminary before they go to school in the morning. They memorize scriptures, and are encourage to think about an analyze doctrine.
Second; the church relies on a lay clergy, with no formal or professional training. Utilizing a lay clergy requires all members of the church to study and prepare as each one may be called on to lead or teach. The Church also has a very active volunteer missionary program. There have been over one million missionaries sent throughout the world and currently there is over 50,000 missionaries serving in over 300 missions throughout the world. This missionary effort involves hours of study and preparation and the challenge of teaching in a variety of situations, the end result of which is a well educated membership.
Third; the Church and its members have always faced opposition. When faced with opposition the natural response is either to wither before it or it motivates the recipient to learn more. The response for most members of the church is to learn more.
Fourth; in the early 1970’s the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints initiated an effort to make the scriptures more accessible and understandable, by printing and LDS addition of the scriptures. They organized the text onto columns with cross references to all of their books of scripture. They added a Bible dictionary and a topical guide relevant to Christian theology. This correlation significantly facilitated gospel scholarship and excitement about studying religion.
In the final analysis however, there is a price to be paid for the knowledge acquired in any pursuit. Elder John Widtsoe of the Quorum of the twelve apostles, In a Sunlit Land Deseret News Press, 1952, said “Theology became our best loved subject”. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, also a member of the Quorum of the twelve apostles in, The Teacher’s Divine Commission,” Ensign, Apr 1979, said “they pay the price of that study and thus make the written word a part of their lives.”