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Why Mormons Leave (Part 5 of 6)

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….

Why do Mormons leave the church? Dr. Jana Riess and Dr. Ben Knoll tell the results of the largest random sample of ex-Mormons.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Dr. Riess and Dr. Knoll.

299: Out of the Box Mormons

298: Comparing Mormons by Generations

297: Surprising Mormon Responses

296: How to Randomly Sample Mormons

 

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Revelatory Whiplash (Part 3 of 4)

(Updated-Fixed mp3-link) When the Nov 2015 policy was announced, many LDS Church members were hurt to learn that children of gay parents couldn’t be baptized, and gay couples were considered in apostasy. Fast forward to April 2019 and the policy was reversed, causing joy among some church members, and pain from other dues to the quick nature of the change.  Still others were outraged at the reversal.  Some church members may have felt a bit of revelatory whiplash at the sudden changes.  Dr. Greg Prince will talk more about the pain caused by the Policy and its reversal.

GT:  I know, some people made an interesting observation last night at your book signing, that there was not a single mention of that [in General Conference]. Why do you think that was?

Greg:  I think that’s because they had good input from Public Affairs, that if you’re going to announce something like that, which is not real cheery news for the institution, because you’re erasing something that people thought was permanent, when you called it a revelation three years earlier. The way to do it, essentially, is what the government does when it has bad news, you announce it after five o’clock on a Friday afternoon, so that by Monday, people have pretty much moved on. By announcing it a couple days before General Conference, and then not mentioning it, it became non-news. I think that was a good move on their part.

GT:  So, I know a lot of people, I know that I was very happy with the announcement. But I know a lot of people have been just as upset, and I think the main reason why is because there was no apology. I know Elder Oaks is often quoted as, “The church doesn’t apologize.”[1] Do you think it would have been a Public Relations win if the church had said we know there’s been some damage done here, or do you agree with Elder Oaks, “The church just doesn’t apologize.”

Greg:  No, I don’t agree with that. I think they should apologize on multiple things, and it would have been a P.R. win, if they had said humbly, “We apologize for the damage that this has done,” because demonstrably it did a lot of damage. Families were ripped apart. I think there’s good evidence that more than a few people took their lives over this, and you can’t undo that by reversing the policy. That’s the real residual damage of this thing. It’s not like okay, we went there, now we’ve come back, now let’s go on and life goes on as it did before, but it doesn’t. You step in something and you step out of it, but you still got it in your shoes, and that’s where we are? How do you undo that kind of damage? It also creates a dilemma that may even affect the orthodox church member more than the progressive church member, and that is, “Wait a minute, you told us this was revelation, and now three years later, you’re saying it’s back to where we were?”   That creates a real dilemma.

GT:  I have actually seen some orthodox members say, “I think the church is now in apostasy.”

Greg:  Yes. It’s an unforced error, but, nonetheless, it’s something that they’re going to have to deal with, and it has repercussions because it affects the whole brand of revelation.  If people thought that something being called revelation conferred permanence to it, now it becomes much more relative, and it has a ripple effect beyond that particular revelation. It calls into a question other [revelations] and say, “Well, how unchangeable is the rest of it?” In my mind, changeability is bedrock for Mormonism, but it’s something that makes most church members really nervous. They will embrace the concept of continuing revelation, but they’re really hesitant to accept change. It’s a paradox.

[1] See https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=2122123&itype=cmsid

Check out our conversation….

The reversal of the 2015 Exclusion policy earlier this year has caused a bit of revelatory whiplash among more orthodox Church members.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Greg.

284 – The Christian Right & LGBT Fight

283 – Mixing Church & Politics in Gay Fight

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The Christian Right & LGBT Fight (Part 2 of 4)

It’s not just the LDS Church that has had a difficult time dealing with gay rights.  The Christian right is struggling with the issue as well.  Dr. Greg Prince serves on the Board of Directors for a Methodist seminary near Washington, D.C.

https://youtu.be/FmaaUqUBHw4

Greg:  The Methodists have a heap of trouble on this. In February of this year, they had what is termed a Called General Conference. They normally have general conferences once every four years. But they can have a special conference, and they did it for one issue, and that was LGBTQ. There were really three elements that they were considering during this conference. One is how do we deal with religious talk about gays? Do we brand them as apostates? Do we brand them as sinners? The second was, will we allow the ordination of gay clergy, and the third was, will we allow the performing of gay marriages?

The Conservatives prevailed, and that was primarily because of Africa. Forty-five percent of the delegates to the conference were from Africa, and that vote which was strongly homophobic, combined with the delegates from the American South prevailed, and it put the Methodist Church in a more homophobic stance than they had been prior to the conference. The other alternative that was put forward and voted down, was called the One Church proposal, and that was written primarily by the head of our Board of Governors. So, he was front and center in the debate, and he and other delegates from Wesley were just devastated with the outcome. It puts them in a much more difficult position, organizationally, than the LDS Church right now, because there’s a very real possibility of permanent schism, that the United Methodist Church might not wind up being very united anymore. They’re trying to work out some kind of a compromise that can avoid that, and when I went to the board meeting earlier this week, Tom looked at me and he said, “I never thought I’d see the day when the Methodists would make the Mormons look progressive.”

In our next conversation, we’ll talk about how the Christian Right deals with gay rights, and specifically discuss what happened in the Prop 8 battle in California.

GT:  Okay, so, by November, the church with a coalition of the Catholic Church and some other organizations–now, one of the things that I found interesting last night was you said that that the Mormon Church combined with the Catholic Church and some evangelical organizations for some sort of a front organization, and then you said that they all said, “Well, we’re behind you,” but they weren’t.

Greg:  This went back to 2000, and it was reminiscent of Lucy and the football.

GT:  Okay.

Greg:  I won’t lift up the football this time. And every time Charlie Brown fell for it, and every time she lifted up the football and he wound up on his back. So in 2000, the other churches said, “We’re in this together,” but the LDS Church wound up carrying all the water.  In 2008, they said, “No, this time, we’re really in this together,” and the LDS Church wound up carrying most of the water. Because the money was given to a front organization, it’s very difficult to figure out how large a role church members played in financing Prop 8.  The best estimates are at least 50% of the $40 million, that the Yes on 8 Movement collected came from Latter-day Saints. It could have been substantially more than 50%, but we know that much just from reverse engineering because the donors’ contributions were registered with the California Secretary of State, and a group of innovative church members looked at that list and started disseminating it to their network throughout the state, and identifying church members and then tabulating the amount of money collectively that hadn’t been given by them.

Check out our conversation….

The Christian Right is also struggling with gay marriage. Greg Prince tells interesting story about the Methodist Church.

Don’t miss our previous conversation with Greg!

283 – Mixing Church & Politics in Gay Fight