Columns Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

The Mormon kids are all right

This week I’ve been poring through the page proofs of The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church, which Oxford will release in March. It’s been exciting to see the typeset, finalized book, almost ready to go.

This week was big for another reason. The book’s website is finished, thanks to Benjamin Knoll! There you can find out about the survey (including answers to fundamental methodology questions about how this data was collected), download a copy of the survey wording (which makes for great small group discussions IMO), and follow topical links to every blog post, media interview, and journal article that discusses the results we’ve published so far.

And . . . drum roll . . . although the pub date is still six months out, we already have final cover art. I simply love it:

The Next Mormons (Oxford University Press, March 2019)

What tickles me most about the cover is that the designer has intuited one of the most crucial themes of the book: young adult Mormons who are still in the LDS Church are devout in many ways — for example, as the image would suggest, they exhibit some of the most devotion to the scriptures of any generation. (It’s a little hard to tell, but that’s a four-column book she’s reading. Scripture Mastery for sure!) In their spiritual practices Millennials often demonstrate a hunger for depth and relationality. They had the highest rates of home and visiting teaching, for instance, back when that was still a thing. They are also the generation of Mormons most likely to report regularly sharing their faith with others.

And yet in other ways, particularly in their observance of the Word of Wisdom, consumption of explicit media, and greater likelihood of having tattoos than older Mormons, Millennials are a different breed. They are not practicing your grandmother’s Mormonism. They are almost equally likely to be Democrats as Republicans.

So the way the cover subtly hints at this with the reader’s black fingernails is absolutely spot-on.

Moreover, the use of the pink is symbolic to me of some of the shifts I’m seeing in the data. Younger Mormon women are more traditional than other women their age but not nearly as traditional as the Mormons who’ve gone before them. Change is underway. A majority say they are bothered by the fact that women don’t hold the priesthood, and about half report wanting a marriage where the husband and wife both work outside the home and share the responsibility for child care.

And those are just the women who remain affiliated with the Church. Among former Mormon women, the Next Mormons Study found that the Church’s emphasis on traditional women’s roles was a significant source of discontent for women who had left.

The book also chronicles that the overall tide of such disaffiliation is rising, for both young men and women. I’ll address this more fully when we get closer to publication, but for our purposes here let me say that Mormonism used to retain about three-quarters of people who were raised in the fold. Now we appear to be keeping about half, for a variety of reasons. That’s not terribly unusual in today’s religious climate, but it is of course a concern to many parents, bishops, and seminary teachers who are wringing their hands and wondering what is causing the exodus.

As I have been talking about this research to groups of Mormons around the country (tonight in Tucson!), I’ve been so impressed by the questions and observations of the people who show up, especially young adults. If we alienate them, it’s our loss; I feel it keenly. But here’s the thing: the Mormon kids are all right. They may not look like you and act like you, but they are people of strong faith.

 

 

 

About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church," which will be published by Oxford University Press in March 2019. She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

20 Comments

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  • Jana, congratulations. I look forward to the publication. Quite a few of your summary statements are dead-on with my family.

  • Hmm, that title is already outdated.

    Reminds me of when Bjerk released an album titled New Internationalist in the era of globalism- internationalist was a buzzword when the Boeing 747 jumbo jet was brand new in 1969.

    ‘Mormons’ and ‘LDS Church’ are yesteryear’s terminology.

  • Gay Mormon kids are definitely not all right. Like children indoctrinated into every other homophobic religious organization, they are very much in danger of absorbing the teaching that there’s something wrong with them, leading in far too many cases to suicide.

  • And get them off their bikes and onto Bird Scooters…also out of those hot clothes during summer-time missionary travels.

    It makes me hot just looking at those long-sleeve black and white clad young LDS’ers on their bicycles in 90 degree weather.

  • Maybe you’re projecting, in my Mission and every other Mission of which I’ve known returned missionaries, we took off our coat jackets and wore short sleeved shirts when the weather got into the upper 70s.

  • Hmm, what leads them to suicide is their actions- no filthy behavior = no guilt.

    It’s people like you encouraging teens to sin who cause the problems.

  • Homosexual actions are sins.

    You need to stop encouraging people from performing gay sex acts because the burden of guilt falls upon you and the political enablers that created this hell on earth.

    At no other time in human history has being gay been pushed by media like it is now and those messages cannot go unpunished by the judge of all.

    You need to stop encouraging young people from pursuing perversions.

  • Ummm…When did I encourage anyone to perform any sex act?

    And you didn’t answer my question: Is being homosexual a sin?

  • According to their Book of Mythology only homosexual ACTS are sins; nowhere else in the Bible mentions that BEING gay is a sin.According to their book gay sex is mentioned along with other ‘sins’ that receive no where near the attention or condemnation.

  • Why are homosexual acts sins? Because someone with an ax to grind in a book of dubious authenticity says so? Think for yourself. How does gay sex between consenting adults harm you or them? Do you think gay sex should result in criminal charges?

  • You believe that a 9 year old commits suicide over being gay because of his sexual actions?

    You’re an ass and it would be best for all if, as Jesus said, a millstone was tied around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.

  • My daughter is extremely bright, and I’ve been pushing her since she could talk towards STEM fields. I envision girls in her generation will be dominating the workforce like no other generation. Yet, as she enters middle school and starts thinking about what she wants in life, she says she wants to be the best stay-at-home mom. Her mom works part to full time, and only one of her aunts is a stay-at-home mom. I asked her where she got this idea, and she says she and her friends (none of whom are church members) talk about it all the time. They want to start having kids at age 25 (about 5 years younger than millennials) and they want 4 children (more than double millennials) so that each child will have a playmate and no middle children. I see this as the pendulum on the feminist movement swinging back hard, but this time girls are demanding the traditional life for themselves, not because society pressured them into it. I thus find myself somewhat hesitantly (due to my generation’s culture) but also naturally (perhaps due to nature?) encouraging her to seek a partner who will be able to support a household on a single income (doctor, lawyer, etc.). I still want her to have the ability to go out and dominate in the workplace if she chooses, but traditional home life calls for traditional gender roles.

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