The Dimensions of Religiosity

A Conceptual Model with an Empirical Test

James T. Duke, Marie Cornwall, Stan L. Albrecht, Perry H. Cunningham, and Brian L. Pitcher

James T. Duke, “The Dimensions of Religiosity: A Conceptual Model with an Empirical Test,” in Latter-day Saint Social Life: Social Research on the LDS Church and its Members (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1998), 203–230.

Marie Cornwall is professor of sociology at Brigham Young University. Stan L. Albrecht is professor of health policy and epidemiology at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. Perry Cunningham is research manager in the research information division of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah. Brian L. Pitcher is dean of the college of humanities, arts, and social sciences at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. This article was originally published in Review of Religious Research 27:226-34; reprinted with permission.


This paper develops and tests a conceptual model of religiosity. Particular attention is given to measuring the dimensions of religiosity among Mormons, but the model is adaptable to the study of religiosity within other denominations and groups. Six dimensions are theoretically derived by a cross-classification of three general components: religious belief, commitment, and behavior, and two modes of religiosity: personal and institutional. An empirical test of the model is reported using data collected from a large sample of Mormons.

After two decades of research attention, it is now generally accepted that the concept of religiosity is best treated as a multidimensional phenomenon. While some still argue against this conceptualization (e.g., Clayton and Gladden 1974), the weight of available evidence strongly supports it (see, for example, Lenski 1961; Glock and Stark 1965; Faulkner and DeJong 1966; King and Hunt 1972, 1975). However, in spite of this general agreement, there has been considerable variation in the content and number of reported dimensions. Such variation appears to be the product of different approaches to defining and measuring relevant dimensions, of different analytical methods, or of different populations examined.

Two general approaches to defining and measuring components of religiosity can be distinguished in the literature. The first essentially attempts to operationalize dimensions that have been conceptually derived. This approach assumes the existence of certain dimensions, then selects or constructs items believed to measure them. Included here are the work on Lenski’s four dimensions (Lenski 1961), Glock’s five dimensional typology (Fukuyama 1961; Glock and Stark 1965; Faulkner and DeJong 1966) and Allport’s intrinsic-extrinsic typology (Wilson 1960; Feagin 1964; Allport and Ross 1967).

The second approach is more directly empirical and involves looking for mathematical relationships among sets of items from a large pool of indicators. The most comprehensive attempt in this regard is the extended work of King and Hunt (King 1967; King and Hunt 1969, 1972a, 1972b, 1975).

This paper attempts to combine both approaches. We develop and test a conceptual model. Particular attention is given to measuring the dimensions of religiosity among Mormons. This research was the initial step in a broader research effort designed to examine the factors which influence development of a religious identity among Mormons. Although Latter-day Saints claim to be Christian, the distinctiveness of both Mormon doctrine and culture required the development of new measures of religiosity. However, we were also interested in developing an overall conceptual model of religiosity that could be “translated” for use among other religious groups. Religion is viewed here as a cultural system (Geertz 1966). Religious groups express religious meaning by means of words and phrases which convey very different symbolic meaning.

Developing a Conceptual Model of Religiosity

In a recent review of the concepts and indicators of religious commitment, Roof (1979) identified the need for a good analytic scheme to guide the interpretation of empirical findings. Such a scheme would (1) identify those dimensions which are of central rather than peripheral significance, and (2) provide the conceptual interrelationships which would specify how the dimensions add up to a comprehensive conception of religiosity. In developing a conceptual model of Mormon religiosity, we began with three general components—religious belief, religious commitment, and religious behavior. In addition, two modes of religious involvement were considered—the personal mode and the institutional mode. In the following section we will review some of the current empirical and theoretical work on the dimensions of religiosity to indicate how these general components were selected. We will then present the results of an empirical test of the resulting six dimensions.

The Components and Modes of Religiosity

The three components of religiosity with which we began are familiar to social psychologists who generally recognize the importance of making a distinction between knowing (cognition), feeling (affect), and doing (behavior). This distinction is not new to the study of religiosity. Hall (1891), Starbuck (1899), and Leuba (1912) made early distinctions between religious belief, religious feelings, and religious works or practices.

The cognitive component is the religious belief or orthodoxy component. Glock (1962) called this dimension “ideology,” Stark and Glock (1968) later labeled it “orthodoxy,” and King and Hunt (1975) called it “creedal assent.”

The affective component is the feeling dimension and encompasses feelings toward religious beings, objects, or institutions. The term religious commitment has been used rather loosely in the literature, but our use of the term to label the affective component is not entirely inconsistent with the work of Becker (1960), Selznick (1949), and Kanter (1968). The problem with these definitions is that they emphasize only the behavioral aspect of commitment at the expense of understanding the affective component. More consistent with our approach is that of Hans Mol (1977) who argues that commitment is an important mechanism for maintaining a religious identity and defines it as “focused emotion or emotional attachment to a specific focus of identity” (1977, p. 216).

The behavioral component is “acted out.” Church attendance, financial contributions, frequency of personal prayer and scripture study, and religious and ethical behaviors are all included in the behavioral component of religiosity.

Religiosity also consists of two modes of religious involvement: the personal mode and the institutional mode. The literature on religiosity is replete with such a distinction. Dittes (1971) made a distinction between religion in a relatively explicit mode—public, social, institutionalized, and formalized—and religion in the more subjective mode—deeply held personal attitudes, values, loyalties, and commitments.

Sociologists have frequently made a distinction between these two modes of religiosity with concepts like “meaning and belonging” (Greeley 1972; Roof 1979), “private and public” (Davidson 1975, 1977), or “moral and calculative” (Etzioni 1961), and “religious group involvement” vs. “religious orientations” (Lenski 1961).

The personal mode is comprised of religious beliefs, feelings, and behaviors that find their source in personal and individualized religion. This includes the acceptance of doctrinal orthodoxy drawn from a broader cultural milieu (i.e., general Christianity as opposed to doctrines of a particular sect or denomination), feelings and commitment toward God, and religious behavior (personal prayer, giving to the poor, and encouraging others to believe in Christ).

The institutional mode is comprised of the religious beliefs, feelings, or behaviors related to formalized and institutionalized religion. The institutional mode includes acceptance of religious beliefs which are unique to a sect or denomination, personal feelings and attachments to a particular church or congregation, and participation in religious ritual and worship services.

A cross-classification of these two constructs: (1) the modes of religiosity (personal vs. institutional) and (2) the components of religiosity (belief, commitment, and behavior) provides a classification scheme for identifying six distinct dimensions of religiosity: traditional and particularistic orthodoxy (cognitive), spiritual and church commitment (affective), and religious behavior and participation (behavioral). Within each mode there exists a sequential interaction among the three components. That is, in order to be committed to God, one must believe in Him, and commitment to God influences religious behavior. On the other hand, in order to feel committed to a church or organization, one must believe it to be a good and viable organization, and commitment to the organization influences participation and acceptance of the behavioral norms and expectations of the organization.

The general relationship of these six dimensions to other attempts to identify the major dimensions of religiosity are indicated in table 6.1. Each of the six dimensions will now be described more fully, and our initial effort at their operationalization will be discussed.

Dimensions of Religiosity from the Conceptual Model

Belief. We have labeled the cognitive components of religiosity traditional orthodoxy and particularistic orthodoxy.

(1) Traditional orthodoxy. The cognitive component of the personal mode of religiosity is one of the most frequently measured dimensions of religiosity in the literature (see table 6.1).

Traditional orthodoxy is defined as belief in traditional Christian doctrines such as the existence of God, the divinity of Jesus Christ, life after death, Satan, and the Bible. These are beliefs that are not unique to Mormonism. Acceptance or rejection of such beliefs are independent of affiliation with a particular religious group or institution.

The traditional orthodoxy scale consisted of five items:

a. There is life after death.

b. Satan actually exists.

c. The Bible is the word of God.

d. I believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ.

e. I have no doubts that God lives and is real.

(2) Particularistic orthodoxy. Stark and Glock (1968) used religious particularism to imply a narrow and precisely defined sphere of persons who qualify as properly religious. But particularistic orthodoxy is given a slightly different meaning in this model of religiosity. This dimension refers to acceptance or rejection of beliefs peculiar to a particular religious organization. Mormonism is well known for its distinctive doctrines. Particularistic orthodoxy for Latter-day Saints would include acceptance of such doctrines as the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith as well as the current Church president, and the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

A comparison of Dimensions of Religiosity with Dimensions Found in the Literature

Four items were used to operationalize particularistic orthodoxy:

a. The president of the LDS Church is a prophet of God.

b. The Book of Mormon is the word of God.

c. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on earth.

d. Joseph Smith actually saw God the Father and Jesus Christ.

Commitment. Two commitment measures are identified in the model: spiritual commitment and church commitment. The distinction between the two is in the object to which commitment is given.

(1) Spiritual commitment. Spiritual commitment is the dimension of religiosity which encompasses the personal faith relationship with the transcendental. It is the affective orientation of the individual towards deity and is a personal, subjective mode of religion. It is also a dimension that has been generally ignored in the empirical research on religiosity (see table 6.1).

The following five items were developed as indicators of spiritual commitment:

a. My relationship with the Lord is an important part of my life.

b. The Holy Ghost is an important influence in my life.

c. I love God with all my heart.

d. I am willing to do whatever the Lord wants me to do.

e. Without religious faith, the rest of my life would not have much meaning.

(2) Church commitment. The affective orientation of the individual toward the religious organization or community has also received only limited attention in the literature. Church commitment encompasses the attachment, identification, and loyalty of the individual toward the church organization or the religious community.

The following five items were developed as measures of church commitment among Latter-day Saints:

a. Some doctrines of the LDS Church are hard for me to accept (–).

b. I don’t really care about the LDS Church (–).

c. Church programs and activities are an important part of my life.

d. I do not accept some standards of the LDS Church (–).

e. The LDS Church puts too many restrictions on its members (–).

Behavioral. The two dimensions of religiosity contained in the behavioral component are called religious behavior and religious participation.

(1) Religious behavior. The personal mode of religious involvement is defined as those behaviors which are by nature religious, but do not require membership or participation in a religious group or community. For example, personal prayer, scripture study, giving to the poor, and encouraging others to believe in Christ are all behaviors which are expected of religious people.

Eight items were identified to measure religious behavior:

a. I try hard to carry my religion over into all my other dealings in life.

b. I live a Christian life.

c. I share what I have with the poor.

d. I encourage others to believe in Jesus.

e. I seek God’s guidance when making important decisions in my life.

f. I forgive others.

g. I admit my sins to God and pray for His forgiveness,

h. Frequency of personal prayer.

(2) Religious participation. The sixth and final dimension of religiosity is probably the most frequently measured dimension in the literature. This dimension has been variously referred to as “associational involvement” (Lenski 1961), “ritual involvement” (Stark and Glock 1968), or the “cultic” dimension (Fukuyama 1961). Religious participation has generally been operationalized as frequency of church attendance or attendance at worship services, although it has also been operationalized as participation in church organizations and amount of financial support given to the church (see table 6.1).

Because of the organizational intensity of the LDS Church, religious participation might include any number of behaviors: (1) attendance at auxiliary or priesthood meetings, (2) attendance at worship services, (3) acceptance of a church “calling” and hours spent in that calling, (4) temple attendance, and (5) financial contributions.

Three behaviors will be included in the factor analysis reported in this paper:

a. Frequency of attendance at sacrament meeting.

b. Frequency of attendance at Relief Society/priesthood meetings.

c. Percent of income paid as tithing.

Another participation behavior which is more private than meeting attendance or financial contribution is also considered here. Home religious observance is a frequently discussed religious behavior expected of dedicated Mormons. It is a more private aspect of religious participation in that it occurs in the home and is more difficult for outsiders to monitor, but it is behavior that is expected of “good” Latter-day Saints. Four items were used to measure the level of home religious observance in families:

a. Frequency of family prayer (other than blessing the food).

b. Frequency of family religious discussions.

c. Frequency of Bible reading or reading of other scriptures.

d. Frequency of family discussions about what is right and wrong.

The Peripheral Dimensions of Religiosity

As noted in table 6.1, there are several dimensions of religiosity which have been left out of this conceptual model: (1) communal involvement or congregational friendships, (2) the intellectual or knowledge dimension, (3) the experiential or religious experience dimension, and (4) the consequential dimension. These dimensions have been excluded because they can be conceptualized as either an antecedent or a consequence of religiosity, but are not indicators of religiosity per se (Cornwall 1985).

(1) Communal Involvement. While friendship choices, personal networks, and social belonging are likely to strongly influence religiosity (or to be influenced by religiosity) these concepts or variables are not a part of being religious. By placing communal involvement outside the core dimensions of religiosity we draw further attention to the need to study how personal community relationships influence the development and maintenance of religious commitment, belief, and behavior.

(2) Intellectual or knowledge dimension. Glock felt that “the religious person will be informed and knowledgeable about the basic tenets of his faith and its sacred scriptures” (1962, p. 98). But a certain amount of disagreement has existed about the centrality of this dimension to understanding religiosity. King and Hunt (1972b) concluded in their research that the knowledge of “Biblical tidbits” was a trivial aspect of religious life as compared to understanding of the Biblical message.

(3) Religious experience or the experiential dimension. Religious experience can best be viewed like other general life experiences as events which shape an individual’s world view. Thus, individuals who have “had a witness of the Spirit” or “felt the presence of God” may be more likely to exhibit higher levels of religious feeling, beliefs, and behaviors.

(4) Consequential dimension. The consequential dimension is probably the most highly criticized of the five dimensions of religiosity that Glock proposed (Fichter 1969; Payne and Elifson 1976). The major criticism has been that indeed the consequential dimension is a consequence of religiosity and not a dimension of it.

Core Dimensions

Figure 6.1 is a diagram of the relationship between the core dimensions of religiosity and those dimensions designated as peripheral. Friendship choices, religious knowledge, and religious experiences both influence and are the result of religiosity. The consequences of religiosity which include emotional and physical health, personal, marital, and family happiness, and spiritual well-being are the result of religious living, but they too may interact with and have an influence on one’s level of religiosity.


We will test our conceptual model of religiosity with data collected as part of a large-scale project on individual and family religious behavior among members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in the United States. Data for the project were collected using a 32-page mailed questionnaire. Respondents were randomly selected from the membership lists of 27 different Mormon wards (congregations) in all parts of the United States. These 27 wards had previously been chosen from a larger sample of Mormon stakes (typically made up of from six to twelve wards) which had been selected randomly from the different administrative areas of the Church in the U.S.

A membership roster was obtained from each of the ward units used in the sample, and a list of households was randomly selected from each roster. Using this procedure, a total of 32 active and 48 inactive families was obtained within each of the 27 units. Level of activity had been previously determined by the ward bishop, and inactive families were oversampled because pretest data had indicated that they would be less likely to respond to the study than would active families. One adult member in each household was designated for inclusion in the sample by a toss of a die. Children over the age of 18 were included in the sampling universe. When only one adult lived in the household or when there was only one adult who was a member of the Mormon church, that person was included in the sample. The final sample consisted of 1,874 members over the age of 18.

The questionnaire was mailed to all respondents with appropriate cover letters requesting their participation in what was described as one of the most important studies of Mormon religiosity ever undertaken. Follow-up postcards and additional copies of the questionnaire were mailed to nonrespondents over the next eight-week period. Adjusting for the 390 questionnaires that were “undeliverable,” the response rate was 74 percent from “active” members and 44 percent from “inactives.”

Follow-up telephone calls revealed that 40 percent of the nonrespondents could not be found and probably had not received the initial mailing. The rest were willing to respond to a short telephone interview. This raised the overall response rate to 64 percent (48 percent for inactives), excluding the phone interviews. The analysis which follows is based on the questionnaire data obtained from this group of respondents.

It should be noted that the telephone interviews revealed that the major differences between respondents and nonrespondents was that the nonrespondents were less religiously active. While this is important for some of the questions we wished to address, it has no important effect on this effort to examine the dimensions of Mormon religiosity.

Analysis—Testing the Model

The primary purpose of this data analysis was to determine whether the six dimensions of religiosity presented above are indeed unique dimensions and should be treated as such. Factor analysis was used to discover whether the underlying patterns of relationships among the various religiosity items is consistent with the conceptual model.

The 34 religiosity items presented above were factored using principal component factor analysis with VARIMAX rotation (SPSS-X). Because of the number of cases with some missing data on one or more of the items, pairwise deletion of missing data was used. Two criteria were used in determining the number of factors and factor loadings for each item: (1) an eigenvalue greater than 1.0, and (2) a factor loading greater than .45 on any one factor.

Five factors were produced: a belief factor, two commitment factors, and two behavior factors (table 6.2). The first factor explained 42.6 percent of the variance in the items (eigenvalue = 14.5). The spiritual commitment items, several of the religious behavior items, and two of the traditional orthodoxy items loaded on this factor. The behavior items which loaded on this factor included encouraging others to believe in Christ, seeking God’s guidance, admitting sins to God, and frequency of personal prayer. Two traditional orthodoxy items (belief in divinity of Christ and the existence of God) loaded on this factor as well. Note that the religious behaviors which load on this first factor have more to do with man’s relationship to God (encouraging others to believe, seeking guidance, admitting sins) than with man’s relationship to man (living a Christian life, sharing with the poor, forgiving others, etc.). Furthermore the two belief items which load on this factor apparently measure saliency or strength of the belief as well as acceptance or rejection of the belief.

The second factor accounted for 8.1 percent of the variance (eigenvalue = 2.8). All of the belief items (except for the two mentioned above) from both the traditional orthodoxy and the particularistic orthodoxy dimensions loaded on this factor. Four of the religious behavior items load on the third factor with the religious participation items.

The fourth factor contains the home religious observance items exclusively, while the church commitment items loaded on the fifth factor. Note, however, that the item “Church programs and activities are an important part of my life” loaded on the religious participation factor rather than the church commitment factor.

Table 6.2: Varimax Factor Pattern of 34 Religiosity Items
Traditional Orthodoxy     
Believe in divinity of Christ.68    
Have no doubts God lives.54    
Life after death .61   
Satan Exists .68   
Bible word of God .52   
Particularistic Orthodoxy     
President is Prophet .75   
Book of Mormon .74   
LDS Church true church .71   
Joseph Smith saw God and Christ .76   
Spiritual Commitment     
Relationship with Lord important.76    
Holy Ghost important influence.63    
Love God.78    
Willing to do God’s will.63    
Life has no meaning without faith.64    
Church Commitment     
Some doctrines hard to accept    .53
Don’t care about the Church    .76
Do not accept standards    .76
Too many restrictions    .53
Programs and activities important  .56  
Religious Behavior     
Encourage others to believe.58    
Seek God’s guidance.71    
Admit sins to God.73    
Frequency of personal prayer.57    
Carry religion over  .53  
Live a Christian life  .61  
Share with the poor  .68  
Forgive others  .48  
Religious Participation     
Attendance at sacrament meeting  .51  
Attendance at priesthood/R.S.  .53  
Full tithe payer  .51  
Home Religious Observance     
Family Prayer   .75 
Family Religious discussion   .83 
Read Bible or other scriptures  ..74 
Family discussion about right/wrong   .78 

Recognizing that the results of a factor analysis often has as much to do with what other variables are in the model as it does with the structure of a particular scale, two other factor analyses were conducted on the data. The belief and commitment items were factor analyzed, and the behavior items were factor analyzed separately (see tables 6.3 and 6.4).

A factor analysis of the belief and commitment items produced three factors (table 6.3). The first factor was again the spiritual commitment factor with all items from the spiritual commitment dimension and two items from the traditional orthodoxy dimension loading strongly on this factor. The five items on the church commitment dimension loaded on the second factor along with items from the particularistic orthodoxy dimension. These items loaded on both the church commitment factor and the belief factor. And finally, the third factor is a belief factor with the Mormon belief items and the traditional Christian belief items loading on the same factor.

One further factor procedure was conducted on just the belief items. Two factors were produced consistent with the model: a traditional Christian belief factor and a Mormon belief factor.

The loading of two belief items with the spiritual commitment items is somewhat problematic. It may be that these two items load with the commitment items because they measure saliency of belief in God and Christ as well as belief. We suspect there would be less overlap with the commitment items if these items were rephrased slightly. For example, rather than “I have no doubts that God lives,” the item might be rephrased “I believe in God.”

The item “Church programs and activities are an important part of my life” loaded with the religious participation items rather than the church commitment items in the full factor procedure. However, when only the commitment and belief items were factored, this item loaded with the church commitment items. It is not surprising that this item loads with the church participation items, since those people who attend church may be more likely to participate in church programs and activities as well. In further research this item could be rephrased as well. One possibility is to emphasize the importance of the Church, rather than its programs and activities (i.e., The Church is an important part of my life).

Table 6.3: Varimax Factor Pattern of Commitment and Belief Items
 IIIIIIMeanStd. Dev.# of Cases
Traditional Orthodoxy      
Belief in the divinity of Christ.68  4.64.75899
Have no doubts that God lives.55  4.61.97902
Life after death  .674.62.72909
Satan exists  .714.56.79906
Bible the word of God  .604.51.72904
Particularistic Orthodoxy      
President is Prophet .54.674.44.90906
Book of Mormon word of God .54.654.42.88905
LDS Church true church .63.574.211.11905
Joseph Smith saw God and Christ .51.694.37.86908
Spiritual Commitment      
Relationship with Lord important.81  4.34.94907
Holy Ghost important influence.74  4.041.19902
Love God.79  4.53.82903
Willing to do God’s will.73  4.151.04893
Life has no meaning without faith.72  4.081.26906
Church Commitment      
Some doctrines hard to accept .68 3.401.49901
Don’t care about the Church .65 4.321.23853
Do not accept standards .78 3.921.40884
Too many restrictions .64 3.911.12902
Programs and activities important .56 3.281.46900
FactorEigenvaluePct. of Var.Cum. Plt.
Table 6.4: Varimax Factor Pattern of Religious Behavior and Participation
Religious Behavior      
Encourage others to believe.72  3.761.28888
Seek God’s guidance.76  4.081.15910
Admit sins to God.80  4.041.21905
Frequency of personal prayer.62  5.092.22905
Carry religion over.59.52 3.811.27907
Live a Christian life.54.46 3.901.04905
Share with the poor.54  3.98.96859
Forgive others.65  4.02.91909
Religious Participation      
Sacrament meeting attendance .88 3.451.67886
Priesthood/R.S. attendance .88 3.391.75856
Full tithe payer .79 2.08.88843
Home Religious Observance      
Family prayer  .683.602.45876
Family religious discussion  .813.631.85877
Read Bible or other scripture  .743.101.96880
Family discussions of right/wrong  .844.371.90873
FactorEigenvaluePct. of Var.Cum. Pct.

When factoring just the belief and commitment items, the particularistic orthodoxy items load with both the belief items and the church commitment items. However, the same results are not found when factoring all the items together (table 6.2).

A factor analysis of the 15 behavior items produced three factors as well (table 6.4). The religious behavior items loaded on the first factor. However, carrying religion over into daily life and living a Christian life also loaded strongly on the second factor with the religious participation items. As in the first factor analysis, the four home religious observance items load strongly on a separate factor.

The results of these factor analyses suggest the following: (1) There are three distinct components of religiosity. Factoring produced a belief factor, two commitment factors, and two behavior factors. Future efforts to measure religiosity should pay particular attention to the distinction between the cognitive or thinking aspects of religion, the affective or feeling aspects of religion, and the behavioral dimension. (2) Certain religious behaviors are apparently more highly correlated with the affective dimension than with other religious behaviors. That is, religious behaviors which are associated with man’s relationship with God loaded with the spiritual commitment items while those behaviors which measure man’s relationship with man loaded with religious participation measures. (3) Of the six dimensions of religiosity, the least independent dimensions are the two belief dimensions (traditional vs. particularistic orthodoxy), and the spiritual commitment and religious behavior dimensions. The belief items do split into two factors when only those items are entered into a factoring program. However, the spiritual commitment and religious behavior items load together even when these items are the only ones entered into the factoring program.

On the basis of the factor analyses, seven scales were created using the 34 religiosity items. The religious behavior items were divided into two scales: religious behavior and Christian behavior (see table 6.5).

An item-scale analysis based on the covariance matrix was then used to test each set of items for homogeneity. Cronbach’s coefficient of homogeneity (alpha) was calculated for each scale. This coefficient is the ratio of the covariance among items on a scale to the total scale variance in relation to the number of items. It is an estimate of the internal consistency or reliability of the scale. It is assumed for the purpose of this paper that an alpha coefficient of .75 and above is indicative of sufficient homogeneity among the items to constitute a scale. Table 6.5 presents the coefficient of homogeneity and the correlation of the item with the scale when that item is deleted for each item in all the scales. The smallest alpha for all scales was .75 for the Christian behavior scale and .76 for the traditional orthodoxy scale. If the two belief items which loaded on spiritual commitment are deleted from the traditional orthodoxy scale, the alpha drops to .71. Therefore, we chose to retain all five of the original items in this scale. The largest alpha among all scales was .93 for particularistic orthodoxy.

Table 6.5: Item Analysis of Religiosity Scales

Traditional Orthodoxy (.76)1



I believe in the divinity of Christ.3 


I have no doubts that God lives.3 


There is life after death.4 


Bible is the word of God.4 


Satan actually exists.4 

Particularistic Orthodoxy (.92)4



The president of the LDS Church is a prophet of God. 


The Book of Mormon is the word of God. 


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on earth. 


Joseph Smith actually saw God the Father and Jesus Christ. 

Spiritual Commitment3 (.88)



My relationship with the Lord is an important part of my life. 


The Holy Ghost is an important influence in my life. 


I love God with all my heart. 


Without religious faith my life would not have much meaning. 


I am willing to do whatever the Lord wants me to do. 

Church Commitment3 (.80)



Some doctrines of the LDS Church are hard for me to accept. 


I don’t really care about the LDS Church. 


I do not accept some standards of the LDS Church. 


The LDS Church puts too many restrictions on its members. 


Church programs and activities are an important part of my life. 

Religious Behavior3 (.83)



I encourage others to believe in Christ 


I seek God’s guidance when making important decisions in my life. 


I admit my sins to God and pray for forgiveness. 


Frequency of personal prayer. 

Christian Behavior3 (.75)



I try to carry my religion over into all my other dealings in life. 


I live a Christian life. 


I share what I have with the poor. 


I forgive others. 

Home Religious
Observance5 (.87)

(.72)Frequency of family prayer 
(.85)Frequency of family religious discussion 
(.72)Frequency of Bible or other scripture reading 
(.62)Frequency of family discussions about right and wrong 

1A coefficient of homogeneity (Cronbach’s alpha) is shown for each scale.

2The item-scale correlation, with that item dropped from the scale.

3Item(s) had five response alternatives describing respondents’ religious feelings and beliefs ranging from “not at all” to “somewhat” to “exactly.”

4Item(s) had five response alternatives: “strongly disagree,” “disagree,” “not sure,” “agree,” “strongly agree.”

5Item(s) had seven response alternatives: “never,” “a few times a year,” “monthly,” “a few times a month,” “weekly,” “a few times a week,” “daily.”

An examination of the standard deviation for individual items (see tables 6.3 and 6.4) reveals that the belief items have the least amount of variance. Four of the five traditional orthodoxy items have standard deviations less than .80, and all of them have a mean greater than 4.5 on a five-point scale. A similar pattern is found for the items on the particularistic orthodoxy scale. Three items have a standard deviation of less than 1.0, and all four items have a mean greater than 4.25 on a five-point scale. It is apparent that very few of the respondents in this sample can be categorized as non-believers. Rather than disagreeing with the belief statements, respondents were more likely to indicate that they were “not sure.”

The items on the spiritual and church commitment scales have more variance. The means for the spiritual commitment items range between 4.04 and 4.34, and the standard deviations range between .82 (I love God with all my heart) and 1.26 (Without religious faith my life would not have much meaning). The means for the church commitment items range between 3.28 (church programs and activities are an important part of my life) and 4.32 (I don’t really care about the LDS Church), and the standard deviations range between 1.12 and 1.49. All of these items are based on a five-point scale.

Scale scores were created for each of the dimensions by taking the mean of scale item totals. Stark and Glock (1968) argued that two measures of religiosity are independent of one another to the extent that they share less than half of their variance. Using this criterion, a correlation coefficient between two dimensions of religiosity should not exceed .70. The correlations between the eight dimensions of religiosity are presented in table 6.6. Rather than create a scale of the religious participation items, attendance at sacrament meeting was selected as a single item to represent religious participation. Percent of income paid as tithing and attendance at Relief Society/priesthood meeting are highly correlated with sacrament meeting attendance, and the correlation of these items with the other religiosity scales are very similar to the correlation of sacrament meeting attendance with the same scales.

All the correlations are relatively large, although most of them fall below the .70 criteria. The size of the correlation between spiritual commitment (SPIRIT) and the religious behavior scale (RBEH) is most problematic. The strong correlation (.82) indicates the two scales are measuring only one aspect of religiosity. However, such a strong association also gives evidence of the reliability of the spiritual commitment scale. The Christian behavior scale (CBEH) is highly correlated with the religious behavior scale, but appears to be fairly independent of all other religiosity scales. CBEH shares less variance with both traditional orthodoxy (TRAD) (r = .47) and spiritual commitment (r = .68) than does RBEH. Based on these considerations, we decided to use the Christian behavior scale as our measure of personal religious behavior.

The pattern of correlations between the two measures of religious participation [home religious observance (HRO) and sacrament meeting attendance (SACATT)] and the other six scales is somewhat similar. Note, however, HRO (a more private dimension of institutional religiosity) is less correlated with both measures of institutional belief and commitment than SACATT.

Table 6.6: Correlation Matrix of Religiosity Scales

The greatest amount of independence between the religiosity dimensions is found between the two modes of religiosity. That is, the correlation between traditional orthodoxy and particularistic orthodoxy is .63, the correlation between spiritual commitment and church commitment is .55, and the correlation between Christian behavior and sacrament meeting attendance is .57.

On the other hand, there is more shared variance between the affective, belief, and behavior dimensions within each of the modes. In the personal mode, spiritual commitment is strongly associated with Christian behavior (.68) and traditional orthodoxy (.69), although traditional orthodoxy is less correlated with Christian behavior (.47). In the institutional mode, Church commitment is strongly associated with attendance at sacrament meeting (.69) and particularistic orthodoxy (.71). Furthermore, particularistic orthodoxy is correlated .66 with attendance at sacrament meeting but is correlated .41 with home religious observance.


The major purpose of this effort was to first identify a conceptual model of religiosity and to then test the multidimensionality of religiosity among Latter-day Saints. The following conclusions can be drawn.

(1) Using .70 as a criterion of independence, seven of the religiosity scales can be considered sufficiently independent of the others to constitute separate dimensions of religiosity. The high correlation between the church commitment scale and attendance at sacrament meeting is somewhat problematic, but this is because of the item “Church programs and activities are an important part of my life,” which factored with religious participation. The correlation between church commitment and particularistic orthodoxy is also high, but again it is because one item (the LDS Church is the only true church) loaded on both factors in the analysis. In future efforts to measure Mormon religiosity, it may be necessary to modify these items somewhat or replace them with others. It appears, however, that this first attempt to conceptualize and measure the dimensions of Mormon religiosity has been fruitful.

(2) The emergence of a Christian behavior scale that is more independent than the original religious behavior scale (all religious behavior items together) and more independent than the revised religious behavior scale (behaviors relating man to God) is an important finding. More attention should be given to measuring behaviors which are emphasized in the teachings of a particular denomination or sect in addition to measuring religious participation. Particularly, attention should be given to what the organization teaches about how members should treat their fellow beings: forgive others, give to the poor, be honest with others, judge not, love thy neighbor, etc.

(3) The greatest amount of independence is found between the personal and institutional modes of religiosity, while the most overlap is found among the three components of religiosity. The belief, commitment, and behavior components may be more strongly associated with one another because of the sequential interaction between components within each mode.

Our analysis clearly supports the contention that religiosity is best viewed as multidimensional. The model developed from our review of the literature on the dimensions of religiosity appears to be generally useful in studying Mormons. Questions about the applicability of the model to the study of other religious groups await further study. We think the dimensions identified should have some direct adaptability to the study of religiosity within other religious faiths, although the particular scale items may require some translation.


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