Excerpts for Triple Package : How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America

If there's one group in the United States today that's hitting it out of the park with conventional success, it's Mormons. Just fifty years ago, many Americans had barely heard of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and regarded Mormons as a fringe group. Now Mormons are one of the most successful groups in America. Overwhelmingly, Mormon success has been of the most mainstream, conventional, apple-pie, 1950s variety. You don't find a lot of Mormons breaking the mold or dropping out of college to form their own high-tech start-ups. What you find is corporate, financial, and political success, which makes perfect sense given the nature of the Mormon chip on the shoulder. Long regarded as a polygamous, almost crackpot, sect, Mormons seem determined to prove they're more American than other Americans.

Whereas Protestants make up about 51 percent of the U.S. population, America's five million to six million Mormons comprise just 1.7 percent. Yet a stunning number have risen to the top of America's corporate and political spheres. Baptists are America's largest Christian denomination, with a population of forty million to fifty million, about eight times the size of the Mormon population. The roster of living Baptist corporate powerhouses is not, however, eight times the size of the Mormon list. On the contrary, available data indicate it's much smaller.

Here's another data point: In February 2012, Goldman Sachs announced the addition of three hundred more employees to the thirteen hundred already working in the firm's third largest metropolitan center of operations (after New York/New Jersey and London). Where is this sixteen-hundred-employee headquarters? In Salt Lake City, Utah. By reputation, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton business school is one of the nation's best and most prestigious. In 2010, Wharton placed thirty-one of its graduates with Goldman--exactly the same number as did Brigham Young University's less well-known Marriott School of Management.

The real testament to Mormons' extraordinary capacity to earn and amass wealth, however, is the LDS Church itself. The amount of American land owned by the Mormon church is larger than the State of Delaware. The entire Church of England, with its grand history, had assets of about $6.9 billion as of 2008. The Vatican claimed $5 billion in assets as of 2002. By comparison, the Church of the Latter-day Saints is believed to have owned $25 billion to $30 billion in assets as of 1997, with present revenues of $5 billion to $6 billion a year. As one study puts it, "Per capita, no other religion comes close to such figures."