Most US Mormons approve of church’s LGBT exclusion policy, study shows

Print More

(RNS) How do Mormons and former Mormons feel about the LDS Church’s exclusion policy that branded same-sex Mormon couples as “apostates” and banned their children from baby blessings and baptisms until they are 18?

As we mark the policy’s one-year anniversary, I wanted to release some of the preliminary data from The Next Mormons survey, which I have been running, as it relates to how Mormons of different generations in the U.S. feel about the policy in particular and homosexuality in general.

Here are three main takeaway points:

  1. In the sample of current Mormons, most either “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” with the policy, but younger people are considerably less likely to strongly agree, especially women.
  2. Also, the second part of the policy — the part that bars children of same-sex marriage from baby blessings and baptisms — is noticeably less popular than the first, which defines Latter-day Saint adults who are in a same-sex marriage as being in apostasy.
  3. Among the former Mormon sample, both halves of the policy are wildly unpopular, with the majority saying they strongly disagree.

Excluding same-sex couples

Overall, 72 percent of current Mormons either “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” with the first part of the policy (branding same-sex Mormon couples as apostates), with only 28 percent saying they disagree.

entire-active-sample-on-policy-part-1

However, the nuances are worth exploring. When compared with people born before 1965, millennial Mormons (young adults born from 1980 to 1998) show a drop of 20 points in the number who “strongly agree” that same-sex marriage should trigger a disciplinary council and possible excommunication. Members of Generation X are also considerably less enthusiastic about the “strongly agree” option than their parents.

 

“Active Mormons by generation who ‘strongly agree’ with Part 1 of LGBT policy (apostasy, etc.)” RNS graphic by Jana Riess, The Next Mormons survey, 2016

“Active Mormons by generation who ‘strongly agree’ with Part 1 of LGBT policy (apostasy, etc.)” RNS graphic by Jana Riess, The Next Mormons survey, 2016

Overall, then, with the first part of the policy, the data show that Mormons predominantly express support, but that support gets weaker from one generation to the next. The boomer/silent generation respondents sound certain and confident in their agreement; the younger generations less so.

This generational divide becomes even sharper when we look at a different question: the percentage who agree that “homosexuality should be accepted by society.” This is a question that Pew Research asked in 2007 and 2014, so we have some data to which we can compare these answers.

Though Mormons as a whole have shown another double-digit jump since Pew last asked the question in 2014, millennials are still the only generation of Latter-day Saints to crack 50 percent support: More than half say homosexuality should be accepted.

rev-active-by-generation-acceptance-of-homosexuality-copy

Excluding children of same-sex couples

Among all current Mormon respondents, support for the policy is substantially less enthusiastic when we look at whether the church should bar children of same-sex marriage from baby blessings and baptisms.

Overall, there’s a 12-point drop among the entire active Mormon sample in the percentage of people who “strongly agree” (from 50 percent to 38 percent) and a 9-point rise in the percentage who either strongly or somewhat disagree (from 28 percent to 37 percent).

Much of this falls along predictable fault lines. Mormons who hold a current temple recommend are significantly more likely (57 percent) than others to say they strongly agree with barring children raised in same-sex families from blessings and baptisms. Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to strongly agree.

One surprise in the data was a sharp gender divide. Seventy percent of men either strongly (42 percent) or somewhat (28 percent) agree with the the policy, but only 58 percent of Mormon women do.

In fact, 28 percent of active Mormon women “strongly disagree” with the policy about children — a 12-point jump from the men who say they strongly disagree. Another 14 percent of women “somewhat disagree.”

Considering that this is a policy that Elder Russell M. Nelson spoke of as “revelation from the Lord” earlier this year, it’s significant that 42 percent of active Mormon women — women we know from other data points are very orthodox in indices of religious belief — say they disagree.

Former Mormons

A final observation: If active Mormons either strongly or somewhat agree with the LGBT policy, the opposite can be said for our smaller sample of former or inactive Mormons: They almost universally hate it.

Seventy-four percent of former Mormons either strongly or somewhat disagree with branding same-sex couples as apostates, and 80 percent disagree with barring those couples’ children from blessings and baptisms.

In both cases, the respondents who said they “strongly” disagree far outweighed the more tepid “somewhat” disagreement.

“Former Mormons’ opinions on LGBT policy 2 (baby blessings).” RNS graphic by Jana Riess, The Next Mormons survey, 2016

“Former Mormons’ opinions on LGBT policy 2 (baby blessings).” RNS graphic by Jana Riess, The Next Mormons survey, 2016

 

One interesting difference among the former Mormons is that for them, it’s not millennials who are leading the way toward a gentler stance toward LGBT individuals; All generations in the former Mormon data have negative feelings toward both halves of the policy. In fact, the oldest former Mormons had some of the highest rates of disagreement with banning children from infant blessings and baptism.

Here’s something I wish we had asked in the survey but didn’t: how many people in the former Mormon sample became former Mormons because of this policy.


RELATED STORIES:


A few caveats: This is still a live survey, meaning we haven’t  finished collecting all of the data. The final results may be slightly different, but we are close enough to the planned sample size for currently identified Mormons (collected to be representative of Mormon demographics for gender, age and geographic location) that we can speak authoritatively, if not perfectly, about the results.

Second, there are two sets of data: one from self-identified current Mormons (currently at 1,254 respondents) and one from former Mormons (currently at 611 respondents and 535 for the policy question). We treat the data separately.

And third, these findings are one part of a much larger project that compares four generations of Mormons and former Mormons in many areas of religious belief, social attitudes and religious practice.

(Jana Riess writes the “Flunking Sainthood” column for RNS and is working on “The Next Mormons,” a book project that includes a survey of Mormon attitudes on a host of issues)