The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church

The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church

American Millennials--the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s--have been leaving organized religion in unprecedented numbers. For a long time, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was an exception: nearly three-quarters of people who grew up Mormon stayed that way into adulthood. In The Next Mormons, Jana Riess demonstrates that things are starting to change....

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Title:The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church
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The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church Reviews

  • Cristina Rosetti

    This book is game-changing for the way scholars talk about Mormonism and the Mormon experience. Many older scholars and members of the Church may be surprised by the NMS findings, including the reasons people leave and the things they find rewarding.

    However, for anyone who has ever had a beer with a Mormon, the book will not be too surprising. And for the beer drinking Mormons, it may even be validating.

  • Jen

    I can’t say I learned a lot from this book, but I found the study so interesting and insightful. And at times surprising! I enjoyed seeing where I fit in, and it did cause me to ask a lot of question myself. Why am I a part of this church? What do I agree with? Disagree with? What could possibly entice me to leave? It was a good chance to examine myself.

    So far—it would take something huge to get me to deny my faith. And while I am not always 100% comfortable with the institution, I am a firm bel

    I can’t say I learned a lot from this book, but I found the study so interesting and insightful. And at times surprising! I enjoyed seeing where I fit in, and it did cause me to ask a lot of question myself. Why am I a part of this church? What do I agree with? Disagree with? What could possibly entice me to leave? It was a good chance to examine myself.

    So far—it would take something huge to get me to deny my faith. And while I am not always 100% comfortable with the institution, I am a firm believer in the doctrines of the church.

    I liked the combination of statistical and anecdotal analysis, and it was well written.

  • Zarin Ficklin

    Since this book is largely about minority groups in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I should preface how I fit: I’m male, white, and married; I live in Utah, feel confident in my beliefs, and consider myself an “active member” — which is different from many of profiled member groups, including: women, LGBTQ, nonwhite, and single members. Since I didn't identify with many of those groups' struggles,

    was great at building empathy.

    This book focuses on a study that

    Since this book is largely about minority groups in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I should preface how I fit: I’m male, white, and married; I live in Utah, feel confident in my beliefs, and consider myself an “active member” — which is different from many of profiled member groups, including: women, LGBTQ, nonwhite, and single members. Since I didn't identify with many of those groups' struggles,

    was great at building empathy.

    This book focuses on a study that polls members (and former members) about a variety of topics ranging from why people stay in or leave the church, how different generations interpret policies, and political leanings. My ward is predominantly Millennial and Baby Boomer, so it was insightful to see generational differences broken down in numbers. It’s easy for me to equate my church experience as the norm, so seeing the broad data was useful, especially so in a church that relies on multi-generational relationships.

    I would recommend this to church leaders and many members, but not to everyone. While I found the data and analysis mostly objective, there is an emphasis on content that is critical (in the form of empirical data, interviews, and some author analysis). I think it’s important for potential readers to understand the distinction between church culture, policy, and doctrine. During President Nelson’s leadership and the rise of Millennial there have been a lot changes and critiques are mostly focused on culture and policy.

    As a church member, there’s a careful balance between improving church culture vs. “steadying the ark.” The same balance exists in sustaining and supporting in church leadership and organization while acknowledging imperfection and fallibility. It's worth considering what amount of searching for and emphasizing issues can be damaging (or distracting) to faith — and how do you balance that while not turning a blind eye to problems?

    For someone who is wrestling doubts, reading stories about why people left the church will probably not help build faith. But for leaders, it can be very productive to better understand why people leave. And to be fair, there is also insightful content about why people stay in the church. Basically, I recommend being in the right headspace while reading — I think in matters of faith readers will often find reasons to feed their doubt or faith depending on what they are looking for.

    Overall, much of the content was fascinating. I highlighted over a hundred passages and it was especially helpful to better understand minority groups I’m not a part of. People interested in this book should also check out

    and

    .

  • Christopher Angulo

    This is a must read for anyone affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The results were expected in many parts, but some, literally made me gasp out loud. It helped me deepen my understanding about the portion of the Church that is at its prime right now (the Millennials), and the effects that older generations had upon the younger generations. Hopefully, this book will be used by many in teaching positions to better reach and strengthen our brothers and sisters in the r

    This is a must read for anyone affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The results were expected in many parts, but some, literally made me gasp out loud. It helped me deepen my understanding about the portion of the Church that is at its prime right now (the Millennials), and the effects that older generations had upon the younger generations. Hopefully, this book will be used by many in teaching positions to better reach and strengthen our brothers and sisters in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It is still an enjoyable read, even you don't plan on using its material to improve your ward or family. It will help you see yourself in different ways by allowing you to juxtapose yourself with the experiences and beliefs of others.

  • Richelle Wilson

    When I first heard Jana Riess was undertaking research about Millennial Mormons, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait for this book to be released. And lucky for me and my grad student budget, they had a copy in the Madison Public Library system. I wish there were still due date logs in the back of library books so I could know how many other times it’s been checked out already, or if I’m the first. Even more, I wish I could know who the other local readers are. Because the truth is that the audience

    When I first heard Jana Riess was undertaking research about Millennial Mormons, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait for this book to be released. And lucky for me and my grad student budget, they had a copy in the Madison Public Library system. I wish there were still due date logs in the back of library books so I could know how many other times it’s been checked out already, or if I’m the first. Even more, I wish I could know who the other local readers are. Because the truth is that the audience for this book is a little hard to define. It’s written in such a way that it’s wholly approachable to non-specialists and folks who don’t know much about Mormonism. But the topic seems so niche—so “inside baseball,” as another reviewer mentioned—that I wonder who’s picking it up outside of the Mormon reading community. Hopefully some other religious studies folks are taking notice, too, since I think Riess’s findings are important and have broader implications for religion in 21st-century America.

    The research in the book is based on the Next Mormons Survey, a Qualtrics questionnaire administered to 1,696 current and former Mormons, along with personal interviews conducted with 63 additional Mormons (not respondents of the survey). Riess details in the final section of the book how they secured a fairly representative sample (and corrected for imbalances with a method called poststratification, p. 242), and she is quick to note throughout the book when a given sample size is too small to generalize or draw definitive conclusions from the results. While reading, I was impressed with how forthright she is in explaining her methodology, discussing how the findings compared with previous research undertaken by Pew and others, and pointing out any limitations or areas that could use further analysis.

    Throughout the book, Riess is most interested in illuminating the experience of Millennials by comparing survey results across generations (Boomer/Silent, Gen X, and Millennial). She also does a lot of current Mormon/former Mormon juxtapositions, and given that the final chapter is “Exodus: Millennial Former Mormons,” it’s clear that another prevailing concern for her is disaffiliation. This is central to any discussion of younger Mormons because Millennials are leaving the church in greater numbers than previous generations, so issues of faith crisis and disaffiliation are key to understanding Millennials’ experience. Even for those who stay, they are much more likely than their parents to have Mormon spouses, siblings, and friends who leave. This is one of the many reasons I think all Mormons, especially leadership, should spend some time with this book.

    Many of the findings in

    may seem intuitive and, therefore, unsurprising. However, I think it’s important to have supporting evidence for folk wisdom that circulates (and there’s a lot of that in Mormonism). In some cases, prevailing “common sense” beliefs are debunked by survey results. For example, though church leaders have long worried about the corrupting influence of college campuses, it turns out that more education correlates with greater church retention and even orthodoxy. (The one exception cited is women with an advanced academic degree, who are actually more likely to leave, see pp. 106–107.) Another interesting finding is that Millennial children of stay-at-home mothers were more likely to leave the church as adults than those with working mothers (pp. 107–108). Of course, the point here isn’t to shame anyone for their choices, but it’s interesting to note that the fears surrounding mothers entering the workforce in the latter half of the 20th century turned out to be unfounded.

    Other findings in the book are what you might expect, but often with a little twist. Even the headline issue, that Millennial Mormons are leaving the church in greater numbers, is paired with the finding that Millennials who do stay are both devout

    more likely to express doubt than their elders. The key is not to misinterpret that doubt as necessarily signaling a lack of faith or commitment, but simply a feature of Millennials’ religious lives. Riess does a masterful job of describing such generational characteristics (some of which may immediately sound the alarms for many older Mormons) without resorting to clichés, offering the reader a path to sympathy and understanding for the reported beliefs and behaviors that may deviate from expectation.

    Speaking of which, the most surprising thing about this book for me was how much uncertainty in LDS teachings was expressed in the overall survey results across all generations. Even foundational Christian belief statements like “God is real” had lower reported levels of full certainty than I would have expected: 86% of Boomer/Silents, 76% of GenXers, 68% of Millennials (p. 17). I’m not a social scientist, so I don’t know the best practices for extrapolating these statistics, but I think this means it’s possible that up to 30 out of 100 members of a given ward or stake aren’t 100% sure God is real. That’s huge. That matters. I’d say it requires a different approach to testifying and ministering than the current status quo.

    The reported uncertainty is even higher for LDS-specific teachings. For example, the statement “The LDS First Presidency members and apostles are God’s prophets on the earth today” has full confidence from 67% of Boomer/Silents, 55% of GenXers, and 53% of Millennials (p. 19). Those numbers seem low to me, even as someone who knows a lot of Mormons with varied beliefs, but it’s unsurprising that many would normally keep quiet about these doubts because of enormous pressure to perform faith and belief in a certain way, especially depending on your family, friends, and job/education (for example, being at a Church-owned school).

    This particular faith tenet—the authority of church leadership—is a recurring theme of

    as issues of authority and obedience appear to be at the root of Mormon doubt and disaffiliation, especially for Millennials. Even among LGBT former Mormons, who could readily cite LGBT issues as their primary reason for leaving, top concerns also included “the church’s lack of financial transparency; emphasis on conformity and obedience; strong culture of political conservatism; and excommunications of feminists, intellectuals, and activities” (142). “In other words,” Riess writes, “for LGBT Mormons, leaving the church is never ‘just’ about LGBT issues per se. It’s that those issues strike at the very heart of Mormon ideas of authority” (142).

    The twin issues of authority and obedience were also relevant in the discussion of evolving gender roles. See chapter 5 for more on this. For now, I’ll just leave you with the money quote about the importance of having women in church leadership: “Why does women’s religious leadership matter? … [W]omen who attend congregations in which women make up at least half of the religious leadership have higher levels of religious belief, identity, and ‘efficacy’ (confidence that their opinions matter in their congregations) than other women. This effect is not limited to how women feel and behave religiously, but extends to other areas of their lives. For example, the presence of women as religious leaders in female respondents’ childhoods contributed to better educational and socioeconomic outcomes for those women as adults, even after controlling for other factors. The positive results were particularly marked for women with more liberal theological and political views—the very ones who may be, in Mormonism at least, more likely to simply leave the church than to continue to chafe at restrictions they feel within it” (100).

    Other major themes treated include missionary experience, the temple, gender, race, and social and political views. I was especially interested in the chapter on single Mormons (ch 4) because I’ve been swimming in those waters for a long time, and I think it’s also a major site of resistance for young Mormons because of how never-married “singles” (who make up about 20% of the adult church) are treated and counseled by both membership and leadership, at the local level all the way to the top. The pervasive church message that single adults are “just biding our time until we get married, and that’s when our ‘real’ lives will begin” (78) is devastating to unmarried Mormons in their 20s, 30s, and beyond as they spend precious years and even decades in this “waiting” phase, wondering what their purpose is and making major life decisions (career, education, travel, city/state relocation) based on an anxious calculus of what is most likely to lead to marriage. Many single women in the church move to Utah or stay there long after their college education because they believe, or are told, that the dating pool is better there. Consider, though, that while there are more never-married Mormon men than women nationally, “[i]n Utah, never-married women who were active in the church outnumbered their male counterparts by more than two to one” (77), challenging conventional wisdom for single women to flock to Utah for marriage prospects within the faith.

    In terms of marital status and disaffiliation: “Statistically, single people are more likely to leave Mormonism or become inactive than married people” (81). I suspect this is because single people don’t feel like they have a place in Mormonism. This goes beyond any general social sense of feeling different or marginalized, damaging as that is in itself. It even goes beyond the insulting infantilization of young single adults (see p. 88). Single members are made to feel that they genuinely don’t matter as much in the church, and further that their entire lives are inferior—an unhappy prelude to a more joyous, realized life with spouse and children, which we’re told in the church is our raison d'être. As one woman shared in her interview, “I was facing a life of not ever having love or companionship or sex or children. … I just knew that I couldn’t stay [in the church]. I did not agree with the expectation that if I was single, I had missed the boat” (78). There is so much I could say about this topic, but I’ll sum it up this way: This chapter is SO IMPORTANT for all Mormons to read and discuss. It’s not just about asking a few single people to “be patient” or “wait for eternal blessings”; this is a big enough phenomenon that Mormonism needs a full overhaul on how we talk about families and what it means to live a happy, full life.

    And honestly, that’s kind of the takeaway of the entire book. We’re facing big changes in how Americans (including American Mormons) approach family life. Think, for example, of the shrinking size of Mormon families (which is both reported in this book and

    ). Neither I nor Riess, I suspect, would characterize this as a “decline” in American family values or a sign of national moral failing, but a basic reality having to do with deferred marriage timelines, changing notions of work and career expectations, stagnant wages, decreased access to homeownership, etc. All of this is paired with a more generous definition of what “family” is to Millennials (especially unmarried ones), including extended family, ward members, neighbors, and friends. Instead of clinging desperately to its post-WWII commitment to the nuclear family, the church has an opportunity to do what it did back then and respond to the cultural realities of its members at this crucial time in American and religious history. Convinced? Not convinced? I suggest reading

    either way, as it offers valuable insight for members, leaders, and researchers of the LDS faith community.

  • Amber

    Results and analysis of the Next Mormons Survey, which Riess created to help determine how attitudes in the Mormon (yes, I know I'm not supposed to use that handle any more) church are changing generationally.

    What I loved:

    I find it difficult to find unbiased looks at the membership of the Mormon church and this was a super fascinating glimpse in that direction. My major issue was the fact that in her analysis of this snapshot survey, the author did not give enough weight to the fact that the re

    Results and analysis of the Next Mormons Survey, which Riess created to help determine how attitudes in the Mormon (yes, I know I'm not supposed to use that handle any more) church are changing generationally.

    What I loved:

    I find it difficult to find unbiased looks at the membership of the Mormon church and this was a super fascinating glimpse in that direction. My major issue was the fact that in her analysis of this snapshot survey, the author did not give enough weight to the fact that the respondents were just simply different ages, and attitudes and beliefs change with age. You can't directly compare millenials to baby boomers and say that attitudes in the church have changed. Those same millenials may change as they get older.

    What I learned:

    From my experience, the Mormon faith is a 100% faith and I was at times surprised by the lack of homogeneous orthodoxy on various pillars.

    A favorite passage:

    "The racism she felt in her midwestern stake wasn’t that different from racism she experienced elsewhere in American culture, but it actually hurt more “because I expected better. If this was ‘the true church,’ then we were expected to be better.”"

    "Theologically, believing in prophets whose teachings have undermined your very existence is challenging in a way that most heterosexual Mormons will never have to experience. In other words, for LGBT Mormons, leaving the church is never “just” about LGBT issues per se. It’s that those issues strike at the very heart of Mormon ideas of authority."

  • Karen

    The subtitle of this book was quite misleading - it sounds like a book about Millenials trying to activate change in the Mormon church. Actually, this book is a statistical analysis of a survey of roughly 1200 current and 500 former Mormons on a host of different topics, looking at the variance of answers by generation (Boomer, GenX and Millenials).

    We live in a world with a lot of hyperbole when people are talking about various issues, so it was refreshing to read something with some statistical

    The subtitle of this book was quite misleading - it sounds like a book about Millenials trying to activate change in the Mormon church. Actually, this book is a statistical analysis of a survey of roughly 1200 current and 500 former Mormons on a host of different topics, looking at the variance of answers by generation (Boomer, GenX and Millenials).

    We live in a world with a lot of hyperbole when people are talking about various issues, so it was refreshing to read something with some statistical basis. My biggest surprise is that nothing in this book was hugely surprising to me. The survey is a snapshot, and it all makes sense in the context of the time we are living in.

    She also included personal interviews, which had less of a strong methodology. Interviewees were people within one degree of separation fo her -- a friend's friend, for instance. She used these interviews as a way to personalize the statistics and tell a more readable story, but I questioned how truly representative they were. As my daughter learned in her history class today, "You can never attribute one person's experience to an entire group of people." Each person's path is unique, even within definite demographic trends.

    Her preface and conclusions seem to emphasize that the book is about Millenials leaving the church, and she wonders what the church will decide to do about that, but she also reminds us that 'although it's tempting to fixate on what the LDS CHurch is or is not doing as the primary explanation for those membership losses, ... a major explanation for disaffiliation is the changing religious landscape in America. Mormonism is not an island." Given that landscape, though not emphasized, the statistics regarding those who do continue in church participation is impressive.

    How these statistics do or don't change over time will be interesting to see - after all the Millenials, by definition are still very young with a lot of life left to live.

  • Robert D. Cornwall

    I have been fascinated with the Mormonism from an early age. My family visited Salt Lake when I was a child. I remember visiting Temple Square. There was a museum that told the story of the Mormon trek across the country to Utah. There was the Tabernacle with its famed organ, which we heard played. Then the Temple itself stands out, especially to a child of about eight. We were good Episcopalians, so we had no interest in joining, but the story was intriguing. Over time a number of friends were

    I have been fascinated with the Mormonism from an early age. My family visited Salt Lake when I was a child. I remember visiting Temple Square. There was a museum that told the story of the Mormon trek across the country to Utah. There was the Tabernacle with its famed organ, which we heard played. Then the Temple itself stands out, especially to a child of about eight. We were good Episcopalians, so we had no interest in joining, but the story was intriguing. Over time a number of friends were Mormons. They were good people. They were loyal friends. Later on, as I entered my teenage years, my interest in history led to my reading of Fawn Brodie's biography of Joseph Smith -

    . After I became active in Pentecostal churches I began to look deeper into the theology, and the evangelical critiques. I would even debate the missionaries who knocked on our door.

    I offer this up as a foundation for my decision to ask for a review copy of Jana Riess' "The Next Mormons." The subtitle is enlightening and a bit misleading. It is a book about how Millennials are changing the LDS church, but it is more than that. Riess holds a Ph.D. in American Religious History, though she has devoted her attention to journalism rather than the academy, invites us to take a deep dive into the current state of the LDS church.

    Standing at the base of the book is a sociological survey she conducted, with help, which is titled "The Next Mormons Survey. Riess and political Scientist Benjamin Knoll created the survey, which focused on 1,156 Mormons and 540 former Mormons of all ages. Thus, this is a comparative study. Riess writes that "We wanted to understand who Mormons are, what they believe, and what generational differences may pertain among them.

    One thing stated up front is that the LDS church, while still growing, has slowed down Whereas it was growing at about a 5-6% clip per year in the 1970s to 1990s, more recently it is growing at about .05 percent. Growth yes, but barely. In other words, the same challenges affecting other traditions are starting to hit it as well. Part of the change is to be found among millennials.

    The book is divided into three parts. Part One focuses on foundations. In three chapters, Riess notes the continuity of religious belief, but even here there is change. What is continuous across generations is that they believe Mormonism gives them peace, they affirm the idea of eternal families (a strong element within its attractiveness) and the emphasis on Christ as savior. When it comes to believing in God, there is a strong affirmation, but older generations are more certain than younger ones. Having laid out the basic religious/theological affirmations, Riess moves to the Missionary experience and its implications for Mormon life. It is interesting that Millenials are much more likely to have gone on missions than earlier generations. Finally, she takes us on a tour of the rites of passages, such as baptism, temple endowments, and ordinations, all of which occur within the Temples, and are open only to Mormons in good standing.

    I will note here that Riess shows tremendous respect. While she is a convert to Mormonism, she shows not only respect but objectivity. I should note that n the book she doesn't identify herself as a Mormon, and her references to Temple activities are based not on personal experience but the stories told by others.

    Part Two focuses on "Changing Definitions of Family and Culture. As anyone who knows something of Mormonism, this is a culturally conservative religious community. It values family above all things. But there are some cracks showing, even if Mormon Millennials are becoming more liberal than their parents, they still are generally more conservative than their peers. The four chapters in this section focus on single Mormons, who are trying to make their way in a faith community that emphasizes marriage and child-bearing. There is a chapter on Millennial women and the way they are navigating shifting gender expectations. Again, they are more conservative, generally, than their peers, but cracks are showing. Women are still excluded from leadership, but there is some pushing going on. There is an important chapter on minorities and racial attitudes. This is quite illuminating. The LDS church is and has been largely white, and until 1978 excluded African American males from the priesthood and Blacks generally from the Temple rites. In other words, you could attend "sacrament meetings" but not truly become a Mormon. Riess goes into the various defenses of this policy, shares stories of the challenges facing minorities, to this day, and the demographic numbers that reveal the challenges. Then, there is the role of LGBT folks within the church. Since the LDS churches were strong backers of Prop 8 in California that was designed to prevent marriage equality, and until just recently (since the book was published) overturned a ruling from 2015 that forbade the baptism of children of gay and lesbian parents. Things are still difficult, but there are changing attitudes, especially among Millennials.

    Finally, in Part Three, Riess focuses on Passages of faith and doubt. Here she focuses on religious practices among the upcoming generation. What do they find important and valuable? Interestingly, on some issues, they are more traditional than earlier generations. At the same time, they are more likely to show doubt. There is a chapter on social and political views, comparing current and former Mormons. The chapter on attitudes toward Religious Authority is quite revealing. Millennials are less likely than older generations to trust their own spiritual feelings but are more likely to trust local leaders over general authorities. In fact, there is a lot of distrust of these general authorities. The final chapter n this section speaks to the perspectives of Millennial former Mormons. Why did they leave? Where do they go from there? Interestingly men are more likely than women to seek a different religious home. Both in general, most former Mormons don't look to join other religious communities. They may even continue attending sacrament meetings, but stop going to the Temple and wearing the special Temple garments (Riess discusses these garments, but not in any detail). It is attitudes toward them that she is interested in, not telling us much about them.

    As she concludes the book she raises the question. To what degree will the LDS church adapt and accommodate to changing mores and views. Because they value continuing revelation, they have been able to adapt over time. There is both an other-worldly dimension to Mormonism, and a pragmatic side. The church has sought to keep these in balance. The question is, where will this lead them. The question of LGBT inclusion is an important test case. She notes that what until recently was seen as an asset -- the focus on the traditional family -- is now coming into question. How will they navigate this going forward? This is how Riess closes: "The LDS Church has accommodated change before, and it can do so again. The issue is whether it will choose to." (p. 235).

    As I noted at the beginning. I have long been fascinated by the Mormon church and its story. Personally, I find many of its beliefs and practices odd and counter to everything we know about history and science. What is interesting is that Mormons are generally well-educated and that the more educated they are, the more devout. So, while I may not understand how one embraces doctrines I find odd, I know that the same is said of some of the positions I take.

    So, why read this? My reason would be, it will help you understand your neighbor. You might not agree, but it will help you understand. This is an academic study, with a lot of numbers and charts and graphs. However, Riess is both a good scholar and a good storyteller (see her memoir

    ). Thus, it is accessible scholarship.

  • Talena

    The results of this study are not surprising, but I'm glad someone did the research so people can review actual facts and numbers. The book is statistic heavy and hard to read. And pretty boring given that most of the results are expected. (I only read it because I was interviewed for it). Read an article about the research, you'll learn just as much and won't waste so much time. Sorry, this review sounds very negative even though I truly appreciate the work that was put into the research and pr

    The results of this study are not surprising, but I'm glad someone did the research so people can review actual facts and numbers. The book is statistic heavy and hard to read. And pretty boring given that most of the results are expected. (I only read it because I was interviewed for it). Read an article about the research, you'll learn just as much and won't waste so much time. Sorry, this review sounds very negative even though I truly appreciate the work that was put into the research and presenting the findings to the public. Good job, researchers!

  • Holly

    Lengthy, detailed analyses of the statistical findings of an online survey of 1,156 self-identified Mormons and 540 former Mormons with the interest, time and stamina to respond to 130 or so questions assessing their relationship to Mormonism. Because the questions interrogate how much respondents believe and support LDS doctrine and policy, discussions of LDS problems and mistakes are a major focus.

    This is a work that exemplifies insider baseball. It will be valuable to people who are invested

    Lengthy, detailed analyses of the statistical findings of an online survey of 1,156 self-identified Mormons and 540 former Mormons with the interest, time and stamina to respond to 130 or so questions assessing their relationship to Mormonism. Because the questions interrogate how much respondents believe and support LDS doctrine and policy, discussions of LDS problems and mistakes are a major focus.

    This is a work that exemplifies insider baseball. It will be valuable to people who are invested in the institutional well-being of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, either because they want to see the church stop hemorrhaging members, or because they find its policies on things like gender or the rights of LGBTQIA+ people intolerable and are working anxiously to persuade the church to change those policies.

    Despite the fact that it will appeal primarily if not only to insiders, it seems to have been written for an audience of extremely ignorant outsiders: it's replete with extensive, minute explanations of LDS policies, practices and doctrines that will be redundant and unnecessary for anyone familiar with the church. The constant lengthy (and occasionally inaccurate*) explanations of things I have known for years if not decades, combined with the copious statistical data, made this unbearably tedious for me and essentially unreadable.

    *a few examples of errors:

    page 35: "[Religious training] starts with Primary, which until 1980 was a weekday after-school activity that was more about doing crafts and singing songs than imbibing doctrine." No. I attended after-school Primary; Riess did not. It involved plenty of "imbibing doctrine," in that there was a religious lesson every week, and while there were crafts, they were emphasized more during the summer, when Primary was on a weekday morning and lasted 90 minutes instead of an hour. It's true that in 5th and 6th grade girls were taught to embroider, crochet and knit, and we were expected to embroider a pre-printed pattern on a banner also printed with the 13 Articles of Faith, but we were also expected to memorize all 13 and prove that we could recite them verbatim from memory.

    The book would have been better--shorter, more accurate--if Riess had not included the commentary about what Primary was before 1980.

    page 57: "if all your extended family and close friends were LDS, a temple wedding was a celebration everyone could attend, with no feelings of loss or grief at anyone being excluded." Nope! I was a bridesmaid in a couple of temple weddings I couldn't attend, because even though I was a faithful Mormon at that point, I was only 19 and not allowed to go through the temple because I wasn't getting married or going on a mission.

    page 82: "Getting married in the temple is predicated on both partners either being virgins or having undertaken a repentance process under a bishop's supervision to qualify them for temple worthiness." Again, nope. Neither virginity nor repentance is required for someone who previously had sex only within marriage but has since been widowed or divorced and remained celibate thereafter.

    I suspect I would have found other errors had I not lost patience with the work and become unwilling to read it quite so carefully.

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