In an interesting and informative book by Philip L. Barlow entitled “Mormons and the Bible” (xxxvii-xxxviii) the author quotes a religious knowledge study (“U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey,” The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, September 28, 1010, http://www.pewforum.org/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Survey-Who-Knows-What-About-Religion.aspx, May 11, 2012.)
The results weren’t encouraging. The church that scored highest on Bible knowledge was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called “Mormons”). Two other groups also scored near the top: atheists and Jews.
Some of this makes sense. Latter-day Saints gather weekly for three hours in contrast to the one or two hours by Protestants. They also send their teens for four years of release-time classes, totaling about 600 hours.
Confirmation in the early church took three years and roughly 300 hours. In contrast, today’s Protestant churches take teens through a double digit number of class hours and for adults this is reduced to perhaps ten or twenty. Perhaps twenty or thirty percent of church members read the Bible even occasionally and it is the exception that braves a confirmation refresher course or who frequents a Sunday morning Bible class.
Luther, in his Large Catechism, responded that people who study the Catechism once and then consider it’s pages unworthy of a repeat visit “should be pelted with dung.” I appreciate Luther’s knack for pungent memorable phrases. The Mormon Church is growing rapidly while most Lutheran Churches are not growing at all. This is not only due to the LDS army of over 80,000 missionaries, though we would do well to emulate their zeal for outreach.
The growth of the early church and the church of the Reformation was built upon a knowledge of scripture. From study of scripture comes conviction and from a failure to study God’s Word comes nothing but apathy and spiritual lethargy.
The current year of 2015 is still young. The Bible is the most marvelous of books containing vivid details about our gracious God who does not treat us as our sins deserve but according to his mercy. Why not read it cover-to-cover this year (just three or four pages per day)? Why not attend classes at church? Then renewed by God’s Word, let’s go and bring the message of the good news out beyond our churches’ walls to people everywhere, starting in our own neighborhoods.
I recall a man living in a house not more than 200 feet from the front door of the church I served in Denver. When I knocked on his door, he didn’t even know what kind of church it was! Faith comes by hearing the Word (Romans 10:17) but how will they hear if we don’t study the word and then go out and bring it to them?