American Millennials--the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s--have been leaving organized religion in unprecedented numbers. For a long time, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was an exception: nearly three-quarters of people who grew up Mormon stayed that way into adulthood. In The Next Mormons, Jana Riess demonstrates that things are starting to change. Drawing on a large-scale national study of four generations of current and former Mormons as well as dozens of in-depth personal interviews, Riess explores the religious beliefs and behaviors of young adult Mormons, finding that while their levels of belief remain strong, their institutional loyalties are less certain than their parents' and grandparents'. For a growing number of Millennials, the tensions between the Church's conservative ideals and their generation's commitment to individualism and pluralism prove too high, causing them to leave the faith-often experiencing deep personal anguish in the process. Those who remain within the fold are attempting to carefully balance the Church's strong emphasis on the traditional family with their generation's more inclusive definition that celebrates same-sex couples and women's equality. Mormon families are changing too. More Mormons are remaining single, parents are having fewer children, and more women are working outside the home than a generation ago. The Next Mormons offers a portrait of a generation navigating between traditional religion and a rapidly changing culture.
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This 2016 survey asks surface-level, non-controversial questions about LDS religiosity, staying, leaving, active, inactive, etc. Yet, the data doesn't delve into or examine the family rifts that happen when people question or leave all together. Small snippets relay a few respondent's personal experiences but that's it. The scope was also narrow, US-specific, and excluded the FLDS contingent.
I was also disappointed by the low number of BIPOC, converts, and gender-related experiences. Missions are such an integral part of the LDS experience, but this book doesn't dig into the effects of those trips on the missionaries and the communities they're embedded in after missions end. The book just covers data around missionaries active status after they return.
The anecdotal stories from select BIPOC and female-identifying respondents were fascinating and the best, most insightful parts of this book. Sadly, that was a very small part of the overall piece and LDS as a whole.
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