Do young and old Mormons feel the same about Church teachings and culture? How similar or different are they? Dr. Jana Riess and Dr. Ben Knoll discuss the results of their recent survey of Mormon attitudes and we’ll learn how similar or different we are based on age. What are differences in Mormons by Generations?
Benjamin: And so oftentimes in the book, we combined Baby Boomers and Silent Generation into a single category, because they tended to look similar on a lot of things. Whereas Gen Xers and Millennials tended to look similar on a lot of things. The breakdown seems to be between the Baby Boomer and Gen X generation. The trends that the Millennials show were often continuations of things that started or became more pronounced in the Gen X generation, which I thought was really interesting.
GT: All right, so how are the Gen Xers and the Millennials similar? I think Millennials are even more different, right? How are they more different?
Jana: Well, they are not quite as politically conservative. They are not flaming liberals by any stroke of the imagination. They’re still Mormons. And so, they’re more conservative than other people their age, but they are less conservative than older Latter-day Saints, politically. And I think in terms of their religiosity, they are, again, in between. So, Millennials as a whole in the nation are the generation that we’re seeing to be most likely to disaffiliate of any generation that we’ve been tracking, in American history. But for Millennial Mormons, yes, they are more likely to disaffiliate than their older counterparts, but less likely to do so than other Millennials. So just think of them as kind of in the middle of these two things. But they’re more supportive of LGBT rights, not as supportive as other Millennials.
We also talked about Millennials’s attitudes about LGBT and the Church, and even referenced Greg Prince’s recent book, Gay Rights and the Mormon Church.
GT: Yeah, he thought that they would double down for about 15 years. So, it was definitely surprising. I asked Greg, a little bit about how many people left the church? He said, in the first year 60,000 people, which is just…..
Jana: He and I talked about this as well, and we’re not finding that kind of evidence.
GT: Oh, really?
Benjamin: Well, that’s one that we’re going to have to take a little bit further look at. So, this happened, it was in 2015?
Benjamin: Right. And our survey was literally, just the year afterwards, and so for people to say that they’re former Mormons in here, that would have been only a year for that to have happened. There just weren’t that many people in the survey that we saw identifying as a former Mormon, who had left just in that 12 months before the survey was conducted from when the event first happened there. So, it’s difficult for us to be able to definitively put a number on that one way or another.
GT: Well, I guess I do have another question. If you look at 60,000 divided by 15 million, that’s a fraction of a percent, right? And how big was your survey of Mormons?
Jana: We had 1156 currently identified and 540 former Mormons.
GT: So would your survey even be large enough to ascertain? I mean, 60,000 sounds like a big number. But, in my statistics class, I always say rates are much better than counts. So, as far as a rate that would be a tiny fraction. Would you even be able to notice that in a survey of 1100 people?
Jana: Matt Martinich, who is much more advanced on church statistics than just about anybody else, would say no. That’s not enough to move the needle, as he would put it.
What are your thoughts about shifting generational attitudes in the Church? Is the exodus following the November 2015 Gay Policy a big number, or just a blip?
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