Have you ever met an LDS person? Have you ever been around a large group of LDS people? They are some of the most chipper, cheerful, optimistic people around.
I’m not saying we’re not prone to depression, because we are, or that we’re immune to stress, because we aren’t, but we do tend to put on a happy public face. It goes beyond projecting happiness to the world, though. Speaking for myself and people close to me, we also seem to bounce back from difficulty more quickly than others. I’ve certainly met a few Mormon cynics and misanthropes, but even these people seem to have a certain confidence or contentment about them. [This is just a personal observation. Feel free to disagree.]
I have lots of thoughts as to why this is that I won’t go into because while I obviously like to write about my religion on this blog, I don’t exactly write about my religion. So here’s a nice secular explanation:
The LDS church is very community oriented and being part of a community makes people happy. LDS people are connected. Like a lot of religions, Mormonism comes with built-in friends and family. I like to poke fun at my family by telling them if they stay in their largely LDS town much longer, they’ll soon be related to just about everybody else by marriage. Even out here in Chicago, where I’ve got no family at all, I still have a support system. This system benefits even those who are hesitant to rely on non-familial ties or who don’t jump straight away into the Mormon lifestyle. When I was younger I spent several years distanced from the LDS church. I would move to a new city and lackadaisically attend services and purposely try not to make friends and then I’d suddenly need something – help moving, a ride, medical assistance – and I’d make a call or two and assistance would appear in the form of a few always eager to serve and definitely smiling Mormons.
Social science backs up this anecdotal claim. Apparently, researchers noticed the link between happiness and religiosity awhile ago. The survey I linked to shows that these increased happiness levels can be attributed to the social networks people build within their congregations, rather than to any spiritual or other benefits that come from religion. This conclusion comes from the fact that people who are religious but less socially connected to their congregations are not as happy as well-connected people. So it’s more about friends than prayer, although this particular study does suggest that church friends are “special” in that they tend boost life satisfaction more than a secular friends.