Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Are Mormons Depressed or Not?

Right when the idea of Mormon depression (using Utah statistics) was a given, another study has been done that challenge that impression. According to a Gallup poll on U.S. state "happiness", Utah ranks the highest with 62.9 points. There were 350,000 interviews taken about job satisfaction to health issues. The poll was conducted by Gallup in conjunction with Healthways and America's Health Insurance Plans.

Lets not get carried away. There are some cautions that those using the depression poll need to be careful of before making assumptions. Since Mormonism will most likely come up, it needs to be remembered that Utah residents are not all Mormons and not all Mormons are active members. There is also a curious fact about the numbers, as reported:

The survey, which takes about 15 minutes, involved 42 core questions. Those taking the survey could get a score of up to 100. The actual difference between states wasn't great: The average score for the highest-ranking state, Utah, was 69.2 points, while the average for the lowest-ranking state, West Virginia, was 61.2 points.

In other words, Utah is neither more depressed or more happy than anyone else in the United States. That means that, in all likelihood, Mormons aren't any mentally worse off than other people. It is hard to see how this relates to the other study that found, according to an ABC News article on the subject:

According to MHA, some 10.14 percent of adults in Utah "experienced a depressive episode in the past year and 14.15 percent experienced serious psychological distress. ... Individuals in Utah reported having on average 3.27 poor mental health days in the past 30 days."

Both studies, like all studies of this nature, are probably flawed in their own ways. Reporters have an even worse tendency to conclude causation where nothing concrete exists. In the meantime, I am going to remain happy that it appears (if past "logic" holds) Mormons are at least as happy as everyone else.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Infestation of Mormon Leadership

When something unusual happens it can be considered a coincidence. When it happens more than once a trend might be starting. In this case, Mormons are getting elected to leadership positions by other religious groups. That isn't to say that they are called to ecclesiastical positions any more than Mormons would grant a non-baptized person the Bishopric. Just like in the business world, however, top spots for finance and organization have Mormons picked as the leaders.

In one fascinating case there is Mark Paredes hired by The Los Angeles office of the Zionist Organization of America as an executive director. The duties of the office include promoting the State of Israel and fighting anti-Semitism. In the Q & A, Paredes explained:

Jewish Journal: At least two people have held your position since late 2006. What will be your formula for turning ZOA around?

Mark Paredes: I plan to bring together Jews, both religious and secular, who are proud to be Zionists, who are willing to defend Israel and the Jewish people, who want Israel to negotiate peace only with partners who have already renounced terror and incitement and recognize Israel, and who believe that Jews have the right to live in the Land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria. Belief in these principles transcends movements and the religious-secular divide, and it’s my job to organize events that will inspire our supporters and attract other defenders of Israel to the ZOA banner.

He doesn't leave any details as to how he is going to accomplish his goals, saying only he has "many weeks and months of hard work." It shouldn't take long to see if he is more successful than his predecessors. Recent leaders lasted only a few months. There is no available information in the article to determine why the others lasted such a short time. It is interesting that as a Mormon he was picked at all, although not extraordinary.

The second leadership position of interest is in Utah. Rev. Monsignor Terrence Fitzgerald, a friend of LDS Pres. Monson, has hired Mormon Brad Drake as executive director of Utah's Catholic Community Services. As reported in the Salt Lake Tribune:

"Our mission is not to proselytize or to make people Catholic, but to serve all those in need in any way we can," Fitzgerald said.

In addition to a good grasp of its mission, Drake brought something else to CCS: a lifetime of business experience capped by service in the nonprofit world.

He has "the ability and skills to manage a complex agency in difficult times," Fitzgerald said.

Why Mormons are getting picked in organizations controlled by other religions or if this is really a trend is hard to say. What this holds for future relationships is just as much a mystery. That this is happening during a time when Mormons are less liked than since the start of the 20th Century is heartening. At the least it represents discussions of "how wide the divide" should be scrapped for real working together.