Whither Mormonism?

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Some interesting hints emerge from a brand new survey of American Mormons by Rick Phillips and Ryan Cragun, using the 2008 ARIS data and carried out under Trinity College auspices. Overall, and contrary to the claims of the LDS Church, there’s been no proportional growth in the American Mormon population over the past two decades; it’s remained a constant 1.4 percent of the U.S. pop. So chill, evangelicals.

The most important new data have to do with the study’s identification of demographic and cultural differences between Mormons in the Mormon Culture Region (MRC) of the Mountain West (aka Zion) and those outside, who now constitute close to half of the entire Mormon community. Thus, politically, Mormons throughout the country are very Republican, but whereas the ratio of Republicans to Democrats in Utah is over nine to one, elsewhere else it’s little more than three to one.

Among the more striking demographic findings is that whereas outside Utah there are equal numbers of Mormon men and women, in Utah there are three women for every two men. The explanation appears to be the flight of young Mormon men from the church–perhaps because they don’t want to serve as missionaries? Whatever, the shortage of marriageable Mormon men places a considerable burden on marriageable Mormon women–but I suspect the LDS Church won’t have recourse to their old-time remedy for bringing surplus females into the ambit of marital life.

Here’s guessing that as Utah continues to become less Mormon (now down to 57 percent), Mormonism in the MRC will begin to look more like Mormonism elsewhere–less Republican, less exotic, and possibly with less emphasis on missions. Anyway, check out the study for yourselves.

  • I think your take on the impact of ‘mission’ aspect on LDS demographics is incorrect. I don’t see the data showing the number of missionaries in relation to the number of LDS members dropping. So, I don’t see men leaving because they don’t want to be missionaries or that the church is going to put less emphasis on Mormonism.
    It could be (and my on supposition is unencumbered by data too 😉 that men leave Utah in search of work? LDS men are more likely to enter the workforce, with the birthrate of MRC Mormons, perhaps they don’t have the jobs in Utah that are needed.
    Whatever the reason, it’s interesting.

  • Mark Silk

    Utah’s been a prosperous place over the past couple of decades, and currently its unemployment rate is 7 percent, two percentage points below the national average. So outmigration in search of work seems an unlikely explanation–especially since the U.S. Census shows more men than women in Utah. So it’s not that there aren’t enough men in Utah, it’s that there aren’t enough Mormon men.