Religion enhances mobility toward American dream, LDS Church says

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 20 2013 12:15 p.m. MDT

This June 29, 2012 file photo shows an aerial view of the Salt Lake City skyline. A recent Washington Post column mentioned Salt Lake and the LDS Church in a discussion about social mobility.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Drawing from an observation in a recent Washington Post column, a blog posted on the LDS Church's Newsroom website suggests a variety of ways in which people of faith "nurture social capital in their efforts to make the world a better place."

The Newsroom posting refers to Fareed Zakaria's Washington Post column about declining social mobility in America, which is detailed in a new study by economists at Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley. The study confirms recent analysis that many European countries are doing a better job of helping poor people climb out of poverty to economic success.

Among the most intriguing elements of the study, Zakaria wrote, is that "the most important correlation in the Harvard-Berkeley study appears to be social capital."

"Cities with strong families, civic support groups and a community-service orientation do well on social and economic mobility," Zakaria said. "That's why Salt Lake City — dominated by Mormons — has mobility levels that compare with Denmark's (cited earlier in the column as one of the international leaders in social mobility)."

According to the Newsroom posting, social capital is "one of the values that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lives by."

"What's more," the Newsroom article continues, "this same social capital is greatly boosted by religion."

The posting features several previous commentaries on MormonNewsroom.org that "explain how Mormon faith and practice help create strong families and robust communities" and illustrate how "it's not only Mormons" who are generating this kind of social capital. For example, a reference from the church's recent posting on "The Relevance of Religion" notes that "religion builds social capital."

"Research shows that more than 90 percent of those who attend weekly worship services donate to charity," the article continues. "Religious observance is linked to higher civic involvement, connected to truth and correlated with the neighborly virtues of charitable giving, volunteerism and altruism. Churches of all kinds bring communities together and provide a space and setting for individuals to serve people they otherwise would not.

"According to Rabbi [Jonathan] Sacks, religion 'remains the most powerful community builder the world has known.'"

Email: jwalker@desnews.com

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