In 2016, one of the main motivating questions The next Mormon survey was the one in the title: Why Do People Leave The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? In particular, why do young people do it?
Equally important, why do some people stay?
And so on. I wanted to know so many things!
I strongly suspected that people did not leave for the reasons some Church members attributed to them: they wanted to sin, were too lazy to live the gospel, or were easily offended. But I also suspected that the reasons weren’t just limited to the LDS experience, that it wasn’t just a question of what the Church was doing or not doing that caused people to leave or stay. We are living in a special historical moment in which disaffiliation from religion is more frequent with each passing year, and Mormons are a part of that moment.
I was very proud of the research that Benjamin Knoll and I did with the 2016 Next Mormons Survey (NMS) and with the book that came out of it. But since 2016, there has also been. . . a list.
A list of questions that we would have liked to have asked the first time and that we did not ask (the additions of “slap of dope” to the survey).
And a list of the questions raised by our first results, because in addition to providing us with excellent data, the 2016 survey only prompted more curiosity.
It’s been five years and today Benjamin Knoll and I are starting a two-week Kickstarter campaign to fund the next wave of this research. You can see a short video about it here, and decide if you want donate to the project.
When it comes to former Mormons, some of the new leads for investigation include:
- What is the usual departure schedule? How long does it take? Does it happen spurts or all of a sudden? The 2016 survey found that for most people leaving, the delay was at least six months. What happens during this period?
- In 2016, it became clear that feelings of being judged or misunderstood by Church members contributed to many people’s decisions to leave Mormonism. What were, in particular, the problems associated with such a judgment?
- What role do post-Mormon podcasts, retreats, and support groups play in the release process? How is this experience different for people who left in the past ten years compared to those who left decades ago, before such communities existed on a large scale?
- How (and when) do people leaving the Church choose to tell their families about it? (In my oral history interviews so far, a surprising number of people had not actually spoken to their families yet. Getting real data will help us find out how common this is.)
- How many former Church members continue to have positive relationships with close family members who are Mormons? How many have strayed from their families?
- What are the circumstances and traits shared by those who report the “easiest” (relatively speaking) experiences of leaving the Church? And on the other hand, what are the circumstances and traits shared by those who have endured the most pain?
- What can current Church members do or say to better understand those who have left and to maintain loving relationships?
- How does the perception that former members have of their departure change over time? Are the reasons they give for leaving when they leave still the reasons they give years later, or does their interpretation change over time?
- Are people more likely to leave the Church when their ward or branch is having difficulty retaining members?
- Are converts more likely to leave than people born in the faith?
These are just a few of the questions in Wave 2. The research will also try, like last time, to learn all we can about current Latter-day Saints, including new avenues for research:
- Has the Covid-19 pandemic changed the beliefs and practices of LDS in the United States, and if so, how? How supportive are the limbs for vaccinations and mask wearing?
- How have Church members responded to the political polarization of the past five years, including on topics such as Christian nationalism, President Trump’s election fraud allegations, and LGBTQ rights?
- What do people think of recent changes that have been implemented in the Church, such as a two-hour block of meetings, the ability for missionaries to speak with their families weekly, and the fact that women can testify of the ordinances of the Church? temple?
- How does a college education contribute to better member retention, and is it important that a person has attended a Church-owned university or simply attended a college or university in general?
- What are the generational differences among members, including Gen Z, some of whom are now in their early adulthood?
As you can see, we have a lot of great ideas for new survey questions. But as the costs of research have increased over the past five years, this time around we need to raise more money to make it happen.
If you want be part of this effort, you can receive a range of awards, from getting your name in to the acknowledgments of the Quit Mormonism book Ben and I are writing to the right to add a question to the 2021 survey or to have access to the 2016 dataset for a full year before it goes public.
I don’t want to spam my readers, friends, or family members. (This morning I wrote an email to my sister-in-law, who donated last time, to let her know that if she wanted to donate again, it would count towards every family Christmas present from from now until the end of time.)
Cause I hate asking for money and I know y’all busy people I squeezed this Kickstarter campaign in just two weeks. It will end on December 22, one way or another. If we have raised $ 35,000, the research will go ahead. If we haven’t done so, the investigation can’t take place. It’s that simple.
So I hope you will want to be part of this team. Thanks for all you can do!
What the LDS Church wants to know about young adult Mormons
Do Mormons Leave the Church Because They “Have Been Offended”?