Why do Mormons leave the LDS Church? Dr. Jana Riess and Dr. Ben Knoll have put together the largest random sample of ex-Mormons and tell us why Mormons leave. What did they learn?
GT: That’s pretty awesome I’d say. I know John Dehlin did a survey awhile back. Were your results similar to his?
Jana: Not at all, and I want to point out that this is part of the difference between a nationally representative survey and a sample that is of a targeted population. Their study, which is really helpful and interesting and well done, they would be the first to tell you, I think, that it’s not a nationally representative sample of all former Mormons. If you look in the really helpful breakdown of who was in that study, they have a very affluent population and a very well-educated population. So, the fact that what they’re finding is that these people are very interested in history, and they’re very interested in some of these more controversial issues about Mormon theology. Well, in part that is because this is a very affluent and well-educated population, and in part, it’s because this is a population that has been fielded through social media affinity groups that are interested in those questions, right? So, it’s a self-selecting sample, and I think that’s an important thing to keep in mind. That does not mean that it’s not valuable for understanding that important population, but it’s not generalizable to everyone.
GT: What are some of the reasons that people choose to disaffiliate?
Benjamin: I suppose the first thing to clarify is, we’ve got information amongst those who chose to disaffiliate for specific reasons that aren’t necessarily just simply lifecycle, adolescent disaffiliation, which is the biggest one right there.
GT: The biggest one is just, “Well, I’m a teenager, I don’t want to go to church.”
Benjamin: This is what people in America and Europe do. When they’re teenagers, they tend to just [quit going.]
Jana: Right, or younger.
Benjamin: Right, yeah, exactly. Yeah. So, a lot of former Mormons are in that same category. They are people who just for one reason or another, just weren’t that interested anymore.
GT: Church is boring.
Benjamin: Yeah, they went on to do other things. Some of them rejoined the church later. Some didn’t. We’ve got some information in the survey about like, what are the lives of former Mormons like? The ones who leave for these historical doctrinal issues tend to have a former Mormon life that’s a little bit different than those who just leave because they just went inactive when they were teenagers, got married to someone who’s not a member, that never really went anymore, because their family’s diverse. So, it’s important that we say, just like within the Mormon community, there are different groups of people and diversity and how it’s expressed, it’s the same thing with former members as well.
Are you surprised? On the internet we often hear people publicly claim they lost their testimony due to church history. We don’t hear about these people that quietly leave. Find out what else they said (like politics.) Check out our conversation….
Don’t miss our other conversations with Dr. Riess and Dr. Knoll.