I picked up the Kindle version of Jana Riess’ new book The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church. and skimmed through it. The book contains data, charts, and personal anecdotes from an extensive study of over 1,000 LDS and former LDS millennials.
This is a groundbreaking book that we have anticipated for a while. I think this will be very helpful for LDS leadership to understand concerns and motivational factors for millennials (and many just older and younger) on why they stay or leave the church.
Riess and her co-researcher Benjamin Knoll used the definition for millennial as born between 1980 and 1998.
I hope to do a more thorough treatment of this research in the future, but for now, I will list some of the key takeaways I got through skimming through.
Millennials are not as sure about their testimony.
70% of millennials answered yes to “Do you know God exists and have no doubts about it?”, compared to 85% of Baby Boomers and 76% of GenX.
Millennials are less literal about their testimony.
For a question with literalness at the core, the range varied more. “Jesus Christ was literally resurrected and rose from the dead.” Boomers: 83%, GenX: 70%, Millennials: 57%. (these are all who self identified as Mormons for these questions–I’ll note if it’s including or isolating former Mormons or non-Mormons)
Millennial Mormons feel they are part of a culture of responsibility.
Due to being raised in larger-than-average families where they’re asked to pitch in for family duties more, and church activities like Scouts, service projects, and preparing for missions, LDS millennials feel they were raised with a higher than average responsibility level.
Millennials that served missions view them positively.
Here’s a cool chart that I loved showing the high regard both current and former Mormons have for their mission experience. This includes those who came home early and charts the answers for “very positive” and “somewhat positive” for the question What impact did your mission have on the following.
Millennials are not so sure about the temple and garments.
They came in much lower on all the questions related to how comfortable they are with the temple ceremony, wearing endowments, attending the temple often, etc. Interestingly, GenX’ers came in closer to millennials than the older Boomer generation on these.
Males doubt more.
Male millennials averaged about 10-12 points higher on testimony related questions, ie “Is the Mormon Church the only true faith”, “Joseph Smith was a prophet”, etc. For example, the question “God has a plan for my life and I will be happier if I follow that plan.” Males: 60% answered “confident and know this is true” compared to 73% of females.
Millennials differ from other groups in what they think is the best aspect of the Mormon Church.
Their top three: emphasis on Jesus Christ, families can be together, peace that faith brings in hard times.
Millennials vary most from older generations on social issues.
This is probably the key takeaway. They will not stand for female inequality, racism, and discrimination of LGBTQ. They range 20-30 points difference on these types of issues compared to the Boomer category.
Millennials don’t keep commandments as much: tithing, law of Chastity, Word of Wisdom.
For example 39% of self defined Millennial Mormons drink coffee compared to 24% of Boomers. GenX’ers are more in line with Millennials on this, at 40%. Blame the Millennials’ parents I guess.
Millennials trust their own personal authority more than church culture on traditionally Mormon but non-commandment topics.
Not surprisingly, Millennials are much more likely to trust their own moral authority and go against the mainstream on topics like: watching R-rated movies, voting Republican, viewing America as superior, Sabbath activities, etc.
When people leave the Mormon Church, they often turn atheist.
Only 47% of former Mormons answer “Confident and Know This is True” to the question “Is God real?”
When women leave: more likely because of judgement/social issues. When men leave: lack of positive experiences in church, faith crisis.
When former Mormons were asked what could have helped you to stay, the top answers for females were: “if ward members had been more loving and less judgmental” and “if the church had more inclusive positions on social issues such as same-sex marriage or women’s roles n the church.” For males, the top two answers were “if I had more enjoyable experiences attending church” and “if the church had provided better answers to my questions on faith crisis”.
So, through Jana Riess, the Millennials have spoken. I think part of the difference in these polls is simple age difference. As we age, we have different perspective and different things are important to us. But I think a lot of this is a very real perspective difference that Millennials have, which if the church wants to remain strong in future generations, it must adapt and grow.