This is a difficult story for me to read. (frankly, a lot of the oral histories are hard for me to read because they focus so singularly on individual struggle and it sort of breaks my heart).
This is a difficult story for me to read. (frankly, a lot of the oral histories are hard for me to read because they focus so singularly on individual struggle and it sort of breaks my heart).
A personal aside... I was called to serve in the Zürich, Switzerland Mission in 1980. The mission president (now deceased, I think), was called to serve in that mission just a few months before I arrived. Over the course of the next year or so, he sent home so many young elders who just “didn’t believe good enough” that the general authorities over that mission put him “on probation” so that he was required to consult with a general authority before he sent anyone home again. This was exactly the wrong sort of notoriety he wanted, as he was sure this calling as mission president was meant to groom him for a leadership position in the Utah Republican Party when he returned home. (There was an odd number of sisters in the mission, so I was paired with his missionary-aged daughter from time to time, which is how I came to learn these things.)
Serving as a mission president so far away from Utah and its political scene was torture for him, and he did not have the wherewithal to deal with doubting elders. Some of those elders were my friends, and I worried a great deal about their fate after they were sent home. Unfortunately, because of the gender differences and the undeserved shame they bore, we could not stay in touch.
Eventually, this mission president decided I should be sent home, too. A general authority intervened and had me transferred to a different mission to finish out the last six months of my time.
Mission presidents are human, too.
Riess’ next chapter is titled “Rites of Passage and the LDS Temple.” She includes a *lot* of oral histories in this chapter - the statistics are about attendance, recommend status, preparation, and garments.
“Something about the temple is not ‘clicking’ with Millennials and GenXers,” she says, “and both data and interviews suggest that concerns center around exclusion and women’s roles.”
(It probably doesn’t help that the filmmaker who recently updated the temple film was just outed for sexual abuse.)
One statistic in this section has gotten a lot of attention here in Utah among the more orthodox: “only one in twenty older Mormons approve of shedding garments during vacations or women’s menstruation, but among Millennials it’s one in five.”
There are many more details shared in this chapter for those who may have additional questions. Personally, I’m not all that interested in temple statistics.
That story of the missionary who was sent home for health reasons is almost exactly what happened to one of our sons. For awhile, we thought he might die. I wrote about it in the beginning of this ride report:
He was swept away by his mission, completely loving the people and sense of purpose. When he came home, we held out hope that he could return to missionary work so he wasn't released for a long time and kept up his routine of dressing like a missionary and doing his scripture study.
A few years later, he began doing the research on the church's history that led him and his brothers and their wives out of the church. It had a profound effect on our family.
Thank you for posting the link to your ride report. Fascinating. 👍🏻
(PS - It was really fun to stumble upon you and jdg talking about his Secret Santas! Ho Ho Ho. 😎 🤫 )
CHANGING DEFINITIONS OF FAMILY AND CULTURE 1
In chapter 4, Riess explores the topic, “Single Mormons in a Married Culture.”
“Mormons have the highest rate of marriage of any Christian group in the United States, which can make it lonely and painful to be in the unmarried minority.”
“Mormons are about a third more likely to be married than the members of the general population, which is statistically very significant.”
Riess compares US marriage data from 1960 and today (see below), and shares that the median age for Mormons to marry “is holding steady at 22.”
In one of her personal interviews, the subject declares, “...single women are pitied in Mormon culture - single men are condemned.”
One more statistic I found surprising: 26 percent of married Mormons had intercourse before they got married.
The rest of the chapter focuses on the pros and cons of single wards in the church.
We always used to say that Mother's Day was the hardest day of the year for our members. Many single women stayed home on the day, even very faithful ones. Even married ones who couldn't have children.
CHANGING DEFINITIONS OF FAMILY AND CULTURE 2
“Millennial Women and Shifting Gender Expectations” (Chapter 5)
“Mormon women are about nine points more religiously orthodox than men.”
“Mormon women are also nine points more likely to strongly agree that being Mormon is an essential part of their core identity.”
“Mormonism feels to insiders more egalitarian in practice than it appears to outsiders in theory.” (quoting Richard and Claudia Bushman)
After these general observations, Riess writes about a lot of generational differences. Here are the 2016 age brackets as she defines them: Silent Generation 72-88 years old; Baby Boomer Generation 52-71 years old; Generation X 37-51 years old; Millennial Generation 18-36 years old.
“...more than twice as many Millennials (59 percent) are bothered by women’s exclusion from the priesthood as Boomer/Silents (24 percent).” It’s particularly interesting to note the high percentage of Boomers and Silents who strongly disagree that they are bothered by women not holding the priesthood: 61 percent. “This is not a tepid opposition.” (When Riess presented a very similar prompt elsewhere in the survey, “Women do not have enough say in the LDS Church,” the older generations moderated their stance by 8-9 points, which could suggest that the term “priesthood” is a trigger for older Mormons.)
Riess next writes about the impact of the 1995 First Presidency Statement, The Family: A Proclamation to the World as it relates to issues of gender identity. Eight of the survey respondents self-identified as “transgender” or “other.” All eight are former Mormons.
She wraps up the chapter with discussions about family size (Gen Xers and Millennials--especially those outside of Utah—are choosing to have fewer children) and education attained.
Finally, there is this:
“Three-quarters of LDS Millennials were raised by working moms, more than half of those mothers working full time.”
When I first joined in the church, it was very common to hear encouragement for mothers to stay at home to raise their children. I don't remember hearing that for a long time and in our stake we have a lot of working mothers.
Not that I'm being critical; who doesn't admire a woman or man who feels their children are so important they want to forgo or take time off from a career?
I grew up with a full-time Mom. We are very close to this day (even though I have left the church and she clings to the church.)
I waited to go to work until my kids were in school and I found a job with flexible hours so I could adjust things around my family’s needs. My husband worked from an office at home, too, so he was also always available to the kids.
Now, my daughter and son-in-law are both in training for such a demanding career, that this year I am taking care of my 6yo grandson 24/7. Last year, his other grandparents on the East Coast had him 24/7.
My daughter receives much more scorn than my son-in-law does about this.
I am *very* concerned about the absence of strong emotional ties between these parents and their child. Is that just my personal perspective, developed in my own personal bubble? I hope so.
His parents rationalize this with, “Chinese parents do this all the time—send their kids to grandparents in China for years at a time while they pursue advanced degrees in the US.”
I have told the parents I cannot do this for another year. It is breaking my heart to see him grow up and not know his parents. On the other hand, I’m sure I provide more stability and emotional support than they can. It is an awful conundrum.
I think we live in a different world where strong long-distance connections can be created and maintained through Skype and FaceTime. My toddler grandson FaceTimes his aunt in California at least weekly, and their connection is strong based on our family reunion this weekend.
Having said that, I wouldn’t want him deprived of both parents for years at a time. I don’t know if I would have agreed to the “we can do our own thing if you babysit for the next year.” But it’s so hard to say: for some careers you can’t even continue in it unless you get an advanced degree.
His parents call using FaceTime 3 or 4 times a week. They are either at school/work, or in bed when they call (They, too, are living in different cities for training. So all three of them are separated.) Grandson probably answers 1/2 the time. They do not know that he is choosing not to answer.
When they call, inevitably the first question is “How are you?” and then “What did you do in school today?” Both non-starters for a six year old. I could probably spend 20 minutes answering both those questions if they asked me about him. They don’t. They are too tired or too overwhelmed (probably both) with the challenges in their own lives. Gifts they send do not appeal to the child—they don’t even know what he likes.
I had forgotten how much *time* it takes to be a good parent. Being a good grandparent is very different. At this stage in life, being a good grandparent is totally where it’s at for me. Being a proxy-parent is rough, though I love this little guy to the moon and back.
CHANGING DEFINITIONS OF FAMILY AND CULTURE 3
“Minority Mormons and Racial Attitudes”
“Mormons’ views on race are complex...and the experiences and views of Mormons of color defy easy characterization.” Reiss shares a lot of oral histories in this chapter, but there are a few statistics that are also discussed.
“Although Millennials are the most racially diverse of all Mormons, with two in ten being nonwhite, they are not as racially diverse as non-Mormons of their generation; among Millennials in the US population generally, more than four in ten are nonwhite.”
“In many of their religious beliefs, Mormons of color are similar to white American Mormons, and sometimes more devout. Ninety-two percent say they are either very active or somewhat active in the LDS Church, compared to 85 percent of whites; they report equal rates of weekly prayer and slightly higher rates of daily scripture study.”
“Nonwhite Mormons are more likely to have served a mission for the LDS Church: nearly six in ten have done so, while only four in ten white Mormons have. This is especially impressive considering that more than half of nonwhite Mormons (54.5 percent) are converts and presumably were not brought up with the goal of serving a Mormon mission.”
“...nonwhite Mormons are considerably less likely to live in Utah; only 8 percent do, compared to nearly a third of white US Mormons.”
Six full pages are devoted to a discussion about the priesthood ban that was in place until 1978. About the rescinding of that doctrine, Reiss says, “In Mormonism, such a clear and specific disavowal of earlier prophetic teachings is astonishingly rare, so the Church was clearly making an effort to reject white supremacism.”
“two-thirds of white Mormons say blacks are responsible for their own condition if they are behind economically, and two-thirds of black Mormons indicate instead that it’s the result of racism.”
“Overall, only about four in ten Mormons view racial diversification positively... This hold true for both Republicans and Democrats, for both men and women, and for all three generations... it even holds true for nonwhite Mormons, who are actually a bit less likely to view proliferating diversity optimistically... Despite Mormons’ general rejection of racial diversity as a positive trend, they do not demonstrate any unusual tendencies toward racism or discrimination in national surveys.”
“Nearly six in ten Mormon respondents felt that ‘immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents,’ while only four in ten indicated that ‘immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing, and health care.’”
“Many US Mormons, particularly ones who benefit from white privilege, often resist recognizing how much the LDS Church is tied to white American culture.”
Here in Silicon Valley I've attended 4 stakes, each with about 3,000 members. We have a fair representation of hispanics and Pacific Islanders and a handful of Native Americans. I remember a couple from India and a few Asians. I only remember one black in all my years here — a football player for the 49ers who graduated from BYU.
CHANGING DEFINITIONS OF FAMILY AND CULTURE 4
“Rainbow Fault Lines: LGBT Inclusion”
“Mormon views on homosexuality have undergone a rapid change just within the last decade... Overall, Mormons’ acceptance of homosexuality grew from 24 percent in 2007 to 36 percent in 2014 to 48 percent in 2016.”
“In 1969, then-apostle Spencer W. Kimball published The Miracle of Forgiveness, which shaped LDS attitudes toward sexuality for years to come, especially after he became the president of the church in 1973.”
“Kimball’s rhetoric established the pattern for future LDS discourse in four key ways: by referring to homosexuality as “unnatural,” by rejecting any attempts to normalize it under the law, by insisting that the church’s own stance would never change, and by omitting women from the discussion. (The possibility of lesbianism does not appear to have been on the author’s radar.)”
Three major changes have occurred since the Kimball era. 1. Homosexual orientation and homosexual behavior have been separately defined—the church does not excommunicate for homosexual orientation, but condemns homosexual behavior. 2. In the late 1980s, LDS general authorities ceased recommending that homosexuals “cure” themselves by marrying someone of the opposite sex. 3. In the early twenty-first century the church began distancing itself from conversion therapy efforts that promise to “cure” individuals of their same-sex attraction. Such efforts had ranged from the violent (electric shock treatments) to the emotionally abusive.
“In the 2010s, the LDS Church scaled back its involvement with the organization Evergreen, a ‘reparative therapy’ group that featured LDS general authorities on its board of trustees and as speakers at many of its conferences.”
[The ultimate irony: The Executive Director of Evergreen, David Matheson, just announced he is gay]
[Conversion therapy was the topic of a very controversial HB399, proposed during the Utah legislative session that ended just last week. Given the fact that the Utah legislature is 90% active Mormons, and the Church lobbyists took a neutral stand on the bill as proposed, and then as amended, it was a bit of a circus, including a sit-in outside the governor’s office and a letter of apology delivered by the lieutenant governor. The church-owned Deseret News reported on it.]
More from this chapter to come...
(Responding to my dad here...)
There was exactly one black family in our neighborhood and as far as I recall only one black student in my high school, so I’m not sure this was a church-specific thing.
That's a very good point. That black family (the Willinghams) moved out when Tyrone accepted the position of head football coach at Notre Dame. Blacks are rare in Silicon Valley and especially in tech companies.
Here's the breakdown of your high school today:
”Rainbow Fault Lines” cont.
“Throughout the 1990s and into the early twenty-first century, the church engaged in costly political battles [against same-sex marriage]. In 1998, in Hawaii, Mormons contributed a majority of the $1.5 million raised by opponents of same-sex marriage, while that same year in Alaska... ‘The Mormon Church in Utah contributed $500,000 to the pro-amendment campaign - the vast majority of that side’s funding. By contrast, amendment opponents were able to raise only about $100,000.’”
“In 2000, Mormons were also instrumental, along with Catholics and evangelicals, in passing traditional marriage measures in California (Proposition 22) and Nebraska.”
In 2008 (after the California Supreme Court struck down Prop 22), Prop 8 “left nothing to chance, moving to amend the state’s constitution... Of the $40 million raised to support Proposition 8, an estimated 50 to 70 percent of the initiative’s funding came from Mormon donors, who made up only about 2 percent of the state’s population.”
Riess recounts a lot of recent history and includes several personal interviews in this chapter. She also does a lot of cross-referencing of other studies. She has sections on “Living Beyond the Binary,” “LGBT Mormon Religiosity,” and “‘The Policy’ and Same-Sex Marriage”. (“The Policy” refers to the Nov 2015 announcement that any children of church members who are in a same-sex marriage are barred from being baptized or blessed.) Clearly, this chapter has required a great deal of her attention. I really can’t convey the gist of this chapter in spotty excerpts, as there is so much important information here. At the end of the chapter, though, she says this:
“...among all Mormons, opinions about same-sex marriage had reached a tipping point between 2015 and 2016. In 2015, two-thirds of Mormons (66 percent) opposed same-sex marriage, and in 2016 barely half did (55 percent). This eleven-point erosion of opposition, and a corresponding eleven point spike in support (from 26 to 37 percent), occurred during the exact period in which the church’s official position against same-sex marriage was made abundantly clear through its November 2015 policy changes. Even as the church stiffened its posture, the rank and file softened theirs, contributing to a growing disconnect between the leadership and the membership.”
[I just realized photos of tables like this are probably not legible since we can’t expand them in Cake yet... I’ll still attach them since we hope to see this change in the future.]
I just realized photos of tables like this are probably not legible since we can’t expand them in Cake yet...
Android and desktop users can expand the table in their browser. From the iPhone Cake app, I can click the share icon for your post and then paste the link into a browser to expand the table.
That's pretty fascinating. I don't know what I expected but I agree with the word choice of strongly. I didn't see data like this in California but my take was it was polarizing. I have good, faithful Mormon friends who hold extremely strong views both ways. @slamdunk406 got me involved in a few of these debates on Facebook as even members of the same families engaged with each other in pretty heated ways.
I am surprised to not see a bigger spread among generations. The impression I had was the spread was much larger.
”The Policy” placed a line in the sand that has had a huge impact on the culture here in Utah. The polarization you may sense in CA is actually very evident here in Utah. Just after the announcement is when mainstream conversations about hordes leaving the church also began to surface.
This is just conjecture, but perhaps the fact that Salt Lake City ranked #7 on the list of LGBT cities in the US in 2015, along with its Center of Mormonism status shows that there are a LOT of Mormon families who have LGBT family members? The Policy gave rise to a great deal of consternation among the residents here—nonmembers and members alike, and may have pushed some people into inactivity and disassociation.
Maybe this is what @Chris is sensing:
PASSAGES OF FAITH AND DOUBT 1
“Navigating Religious Practice for a New Generation”
The NMS data showed that when it comes to daily prayer, Millennial Mormons are less religious (65 percent) than Boomer/Silent Mormons (76.5 percent). However, the numbers for weekly prayer are closer (80 percent to 88.5 percent).
“38 percent of all Mormons read scriptures every day” with little variation between generations.
“Millennials have the highest rates of literal belief in the scriptures of any generation: 45 percent agree that the ‘scriptures are the word of God and are to be taken word for word,’ almost a ten-point jump over the Boomer/Silent group.”
“Millennial men edge out their elders as having been the most faithful home teachers of any generation, with 56 percent saying they went at least once a month. Millennial women say they did their visiting teaching at almost exactly the same rate as Boomer/Silent women.” (46% and 45% respectively)
43% of Millennials who describe themselves as “very active” had not attended church in the last 30 days. (Boomers/Silents: 10%; GenX: 29%)
“It seems fewer than half of American Mormons faithfully observe a literal prevailing interpretation of the Word of Wisdom.... about a third of current Mormons report consuming coffee (35%), while a quarter (25%) have drunk alcohol or nonherbal tea. Nearly 17 percent of Mormon respondents smoked or chewed tobacco. One in ten consumed marijuana. Just 3 percent of Mormons reported injesting psychedelics, while slightly more have used other illegal drugs such as cocaine or heroin (5 percent).”
“...nearly a quarter (23 percent) of Mormon Millennials report having at least one tattoo. This is lower than the percentage of Millennials in the general population (38%), but higher than the rate the LDS Church would like to see, which is zero.”
“About four in ten Millennials have seen an R-rated film or watched a mature television program in the last six months, and almost as many have played graphic video games or listened to songs with explicit lyrics.... Given the fact that GenXers’ consumption is the highest of any generation for mature television and nearly equal to Millennials’ for R-rated movies, we should be careful about assuming that Millennials will content themselves with a diet of Disney as they age; GenXers did not.”
“Overall, the rates for viewing pornography (both “soft” and explicit) among all Mormons in the NMS increases from about one in twenty in the older generations to just under one in five among Millennials.... Even though pornography exposure among Mormon Millennials is significantly higher than it is for their grandparents, this is still low compared to their non-Mormon peers.”
“Respondents were asked which of the following options best described their charitable donations to the LDS Church: regularly giving 10% of their before-tax income; regularly giving 10% of their after-tax income; giving less of their after-tax income; rarely giving money; or never giving at all. If we combine the first two categories together, more than two-thirds of Mormons declared themselves to be full tithe-payers.”