Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Elder Marlin K. Jensen Confirms Mormon Attrition Rate At Its Highest Percentage Since The 1837 Failure Of The Kirtland Bank

A recent Pew survey entitled "Mormons In America" triggered some skepticism on the more prominent LDS blogs. Some questioned the findings that 77 percent of Mormons in America attend church every week and that 79 percent of Mormons pay tithing as too high, considering that the Church itself estimates that around 50 percent of Mormons tithe.

It appears that a General Authority has confirmed the skeptics, at least in principle. KTVX Channel 4 reported on a Reuters article which revealed that Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the First Quorum of the Seventy showed up at a religious studies class at Utah State University in Logan, Utah in late 2011 and openly admitted that attrition among members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has accelerated in the last five or 10 years. Elder Jensen further stated that not since the 1837 failure of the Church-owned Kirtland Safety Society Bank in Kirtland, Ohio, have such a high percentage of Mormons left the church.

Elder Jensen, who is also the official Church Historian, did not provide any specific figures on the rate of attrition. Furthermore, although Elder Jensen also did not provide a demographic breakdown, the Church is particularly concerned about its younger members, who are considered future missionaries; it has been said that attrition is greater amongst young people. Census data from some foreign countries show that the retention rate for their converts is as low as 25 percent. In the U.S., only about half of Mormons are active members of the church, according to Washington State University emeritus sociologist Armand Mauss, a leading researcher on Mormons. Sociologists estimate that out of the 14 million Mormons worldwide, only about 5 million are active. The LDS Church has not officially commented on the Reuters article yet.

Causes: Three causes for the sudden uptick in attrition identified in the Reuters article include controversial Mormon history, scientific studies refuting some historical aspects of the Book of Mormon, and the lingering effects of LDS support for California Proposition 8. Because the Book of Mormon is presented as both a spiritual document and an historical document, some Church members are startled to find articles on the Internet using science to contradict it. Some researchers claim horses weren't introduced into the Western Hemisphere until the arrival of the Spaniards, and extensive DNA studies have failed to find any genetic link between Israelites and American Indians so far.

Corrective Measures: LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson has launched a campaign called "The Rescue" and made it his signature initiative, according to Elder Jensen. The effort includes a new package of materials for pastoral leaders and for teaching Mormon youth that address some of the more sensitive aspects of church doctrine. In addition, the Church continues its "I am a Mormon" ad campaign, which includes features stereotype-busting Mormons who are Black or single parents; this has helped boost chat sessions on Mormon.org to more than a million in the last 12 months. And to better reach out to gays after the tempest over Proposition 8, the Church supported a job and housing anti-discrimination measure in Salt Lake City, saying that opposing discrimination was a separate issue from same-sex marriage.

The Presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney is also having an impact. "There have been discussions at LDS church headquarters about both the positive and negative aspects of Romney's presidential bid," a person briefed on the talks said. "One concern is that Romney's campaign could further energize evangelical antipathy toward the church. Another concern is that he could take positions that would complicate the church's missionary efforts in the U.S. or other countries such as in Central and South America." But on the positive side, the person said, "having a Mormon president could raise the church's profile and legitimize it in other countries."

Some Mormons are exercising personal initiative to stem the attrition. On Mormanity, Jeff Lindsay announced that he's starting a website called Mormons Come Home, on which he'll be posting the stories of LDS members who drifted away and then returned. One of his objectives is to inspire members to be more patient, loving, and understanding toward those who have left. One of the most common complaints by Mormons who leave the Church is that they're shunned after their departure. If they're willing to leave the Church alone, we must be willing to continue fellowshipping them, but just as much on their terms as ours.


Anonymous said...

Related story:


Another one bites the dust.

Don said...

One of the problems I continually see is what I call the "Ex-Rockstar Syndrome". When one is investigating our Church, they are barraged with a seemingly never-ending series of visits and invitations from missionaries and members of the ward. He/She is a "Mormon Rockstar". However, the attention starts to diminish (sometimes rapidly) after Baptism. Fortunately, when I joined the Church six years ago, I had a very wise and attentive Bishop. But, when I moved to a different ward a year later, I was just like everyone else. They didn't know I had been a "star"! I have to admit, I was a bit lonely.

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