How Much Do Mormons Know?


In a recent article we noted the finding of a journalist that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are more likely than Protestants to be knowledgeable about the doctrines of their religious group.

There are some ways in which such a finding is to be expected. Many Mormon youth and young adults are educated in the faith in Institute of Religion and Seminary courses, and Mormon men may additionally receive additional training in the Missionary Training Center (not to mention, of course, the education all Mormons receive in their local wards).

At the same time, while Mormons can avail themselves of extensive educational resources and have been noted for their religious knowledge, it is also notable that their knowledge – while deep in certain areas of their faith – is nonetheless limited in its scope.

For example, a 2008 study conducted by Latter-day Saints found that Mormons have a significantly greater knowledge of the Book of Mormon than the New Testament: while almost 70 percent of respondents could identify a passage from Mosiah, and almost 60 percent a passage from 3 Nephi, less than 40 percent could identify a passage from Hebrews, and less than 30 percent could identify the martyrdom of Stephen in Acts.

At the same time, Mormons are also unaware of numerous teachings and developments within the LDS Church’s distinctive doctrine and history. One example is a series of false prophecies found in Doctrine and Covenants (as well as the Journal of Discourses and History of the Church) – not only are most Mormons unaware of these failed prophecies, but they are also unaware of the Bible’s teaching regarding false prophecy (see Deuteronomy 18:20-22; cf. 1 John 4:1).

Most Mormons are also unaware of the lack of archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon (and, in fact, the archaeological evidence disproving this central scripture).

The Book of Abraham – part of the Pearl of Great Price – presents an additional set of problems of which Mormons are generally unaware. Latter-day Saints are frequently surprised to learn that the papyri which Joseph Smith claimed to translate have been found, and in no way support Smith’s work.

Even the Book of Mormon itself is only somewhat known by most Mormons. Not only are people frequently unable to identify key texts from the work – the 2008 study found relatively few Mormons who could identify specific statements from Jacob and King Benjamin – but Latter-day Saints are also generally unaware of the over 4,000 textual emendations and anachronisms from the original 1830 Book of Mormon.

While Mormons may often know slightly more about the Bible than do most Protestants – a state that, as we mentioned in our earlier article, is indicative of several serious problems for Christians – their lack of knowledge regarding numerous important points of their faith and history provides an opportunity for ministry and outreach. Educating Latter-day Saints regarding some of the generally unknown facts about the LDS Church is a useful way to present the reliability of true Christianity.

Watchman Fellowship produces several resources to assist Christians in this outreach:

  • Witnessing to Mormons with the Book of Mormon: The manual in this teaching set contains photocopies of select pages from the original 1830 Book of Mormon with copies of the same passages from recent editions. Combined with the audio CD, this teaching set shows some of the more than 4,000 changes and anachronisms in the book of Mormon text.
  • Testing the Mormon Prophets: Formerly titled How Shaky a Foundation, this updated guide teaches a step by step approach for Christians to witness to their Mormon friends and loved ones.
  • Witnessing to Mormons with the Book of Abraham: In 1835, Joseph Smith obtained some ancient Egyptian papyri that he claimed to be able to translate. He told his followers that part of this collection included the actual handwriting of Abraham. In 1967, these Egyptian papers were rediscovered and re-translated proving that Joseph Smith did not get one word right.