When it comes to interfaith marriage, is there anything that Jews can learn from Mormons? Most Jewish leaders would not relish this comparison. After all, what does a liberal, cosmopolitan group of immigrant grandchildren have in common with this American-born collection of conservative Christians? Well, more than you might think.
For one thing, they make up a similar percentage of America’s population (about 6 million people), with larger concentrations in a few places — Jews in major metropolitan areas, Mormons in Utah and other Western states. Mormons, on average, do not match Jews in terms of their wealth or education levels, but the former have been gaining and now seem to occupy a disproportionate number of elite positions in government, business and academia.
But one way in which they differ dramatically is that Jews are America’s most intermarrying people and Mormons its least. According to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey 27% of Jews were married to someone of a different faith, compared with 12% of Mormons.
Some observers would dismiss this fact as a reflection of the religiosity of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when compared to the religiosity of American Jewry. But a survey I commissioned in July 2010 of almost 2,500 people (including an oversample of members of interfaith couples) found that there was no correlation between childhood religious experience and the likelihood of marrying out.
People who described their families growing up as “very religious,“ people who attended a religious institution “once a week or more”and people who attended some form of regular religious education were all just as likely as the rest of the population to marry someone outside their faith.
I did find that the older you are when you marry, the more likely you are to marry out.