Whether it's a multimillion-dollar airline or a small emergency-supplies startup, a surprising number of businesses around the world are established and/or run by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also called Mormons in popular culture. Of course, believing in a certain religion, or none whatsoever, doesn't predestine a person to be great at any profession (unless they're a Calvinist, I suppose). But it is interesting to see how a religion's focus on certain areas and attributes of its members can create an environment that is conducive to cultivating strong leaders.
Here are nine characteristics that many Latter-day Saints possess that explain why they produce so many Stephen R. Coveys and J.W. Marriotts from such a small population.
They give service regularly. Latter-day Saint congregations don't have paid ministries. Their local leaders are regular people who don't need to have religious degrees or formal training to be called to positions of leadership. They just need a willingness to serve. They give their time not for compensation but to help their fellow men. In addition, ordinary members are called upon to give talks, teach classes, organize events and do many other tasks that lay members are usually not asked to perform in other churches. This gives them frequent opportunities to learn and grow.
Many of them serve missions. Many great business ideas have been spawned by young Latter-day Saints' experiences serving missions. Not only do they grow accustomed to persevering in the face of opposition, they also notice a lot of unfulfilled needs and unique ideas that could be transported from one culture to another. That's how the name "Napoleon Dynamite" was inspired, for example.
They value hard work. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn't a passive church. It often asks ordinary people to offer a great deal of time and work with little thought of personal benefit. When they receive welfare from their church leaders, Latter-day Saints are asked to give their time in service of others. That way, they don't become complacent about receiving aid, and they still have opportunities to work and boost their self-esteem while they look for ways to improve their situation.
They seek education. Latter-day Saints are among the best-educated churchgoers in the United States. They are taught to gain the most education possible so they can better take care of themselves in an ever-changing world. The Church of Jesus Christ set up a Perpetual Education Fund more than a decade ago to allow low-income people in many countries to receive interest-free loans to get an education. They then pay the loans back over time so others can enjoy the same opportunities as them. This encourages innovation worldwide.
They believe in honesty. Latter-day Saints believe they will be held accountable for all their words and actions one day, so they do their best to be honest with everyone they do business with. It's helpful when you can trust that another person is trying to be completely forthright with you. Of course, no one is perfect, and some Latter-day Saints fall short of this ideal, but the fact that most are striving toward it says a lot about their character.
They strive to be self-reliant. In general, Latter-day Saints try not to be a burden on others. They value their independence and this independent thinking leads to creative ideas and the will to make them happen.
They encourage personal responsibility. Everyone in the LDS faith is accountable to someone else for their actions, whether it's a leader, spouse, parent or God. This focus on taking responsibility for one's own actions leads to a desire to consistently improve and not shirk duties.
They are taught to be prepared. The Boy Scout Motto "Be prepared" is a big part of Latter-day Saints' culture. Preparation is emphasized in many areas, including food storage, finances and emergencies. They try to have a backup plan in case all else fails. This is useful when dealing with sudden changes in economic conditions and other things related to business.
They are charitable. Latter-day Saints are probably the most charitable demographic in the country. They're not just in it for the money when they start businesses. They're driven by a higher purpose to help people around them, and being successful monetarily gives them the means to help the poor. One of their tenets is, "Are we not all beggars?" meaning that everyone depends on God for everything they have, so it's not right to withhold help from those who need it.
It is nice to see the positive influence that one organization can have on so many people, and the influence those people have on the world.