The Widening Mormon Generation Gap

In her Flunking Sainthood posts, Jana Reiss has summarized some fascinating findings about Mormon attitudes toward the LGBT community. These statistics represent wide-scale shifts in attitudes in a very short period of time as well as double digit differences in attitudes between generations. I’ll review the findings from her posts below, but I recommend you read them yourself here and here.

Let’s start with the older data, from October 2016. This data was about the attitudes toward the Nov. 5 Exclusion Policy, nearly a year after its release. This was, for me, the most discouraging data set.

Two-thirds (71%) of active Mormons agreed (either strongly or somewhat) that church members who enter a gay marriage are apostate and should be subject to a disciplinary council.

  • 47% said they “strongly agreed”
  • 18% said they “strongly disagreed”

The generation gap for “strong agreement” is very telling. The Silent Generation (those who number among the apostles are mostly in this group) is much more strongly aligned with this position than the Millenials, and each generation has a reduction in agreement with a 13% drop between Silent Generation and Generation X (mine) and another 5% drop in the Millennials group. There is no data for post-Millenials, but the trend seems predictable.

Current 3G "strongly agree" LGBT policy part 1

This generation gap correlates with strong feelings that homosexuality should be accepted by society.  Only 38% of Silent Generation agree with that statement, but 56% of Millennials do (Gen X is in the middle at 47% agreement).

When it comes to the second facet of the Nov. 5 Exclusion Policy: barring children of gay couples from baptism and blessings, the enthusiasm and support for the policy drops across the board by 11 points while disagreement rises by 9. Interestingly, there is a strong divide between men and women with more women disagreeing with the policy to exclude children. Perhaps that’s a byproduct of identifying nurturing as the primary purview of one sex. In all, 42% of active Mormon women disagree either strongly (28%) or somewhat (14%) with the policy.

No surprise that Republicans are twice as likely to strongly agree with this policy (46%) than Democrats (23%).

Another unsurprising finding is that 63% of former Mormons strongly disagreed with the policy, and another 14% somewhat disagreed with it, for a total of 77%. The survey did not assess whether this was the reason they left the church.

Policy aside, there has been a significant shift between 2015 and 2016 in how Mormons feel about whether small businesses should be allowed a religious exemption from providing goods & services to gay couples, and now the (slim) oppose allowing a small business owner to refuse.

The Next Mormons Survey designed to measure generation gaps in attitudes and beliefs within Mormonism shows that twice as many Millennial Mormons support gay marriage (40.2%) than their age 52+ counterparts (20.3%). In similar findings (PRRI survey), we can see the shift in acceptance that was measured in just one year (2015-2016):

Our Shifting Gerontocracy

One thing I noticed in the data is that the Boomers were lumped in with the Silent Generation. I decided to look up some census data on these generational groups to put things into perspective. Here are a few interesting comparisons:

  • Silent Generation (born 1925-1945) were raising their children between 1946 and 1985. As parents, they saw Kennedy’s assassination, the Vietnam war, Watergate, the sexual revolution.
  • Boomers (born 1946-1964) were raising children between 1967 and 2004. As parents, they saw oil price wars, increased reliance on technology (microwaves, TV channels, and eventually cell phones), the ERA and bra burnings, and the fall of communism.
  • Generation X (born 1965-1980) are still raising children, starting in 1986 and going through 2020. As parents, we saw the emergence of the 24 hour news cycle, the continued rise of global terrorism, the inception of the internet, the beginning of the tea party and increased polarization of political parties, and an increase in global awareness and online connection.
  • Millennials will be parents from 2002 – 2037 and it remains to be seen the full scope of what they will experience.

Although the Silent Generation is the smallest population of all these groups by far (only 60% as many people as Generation X, for example), the Q15 comprise mostly (2/3) of this group, and now a handful of Boomers (1/3):

  • Silent Generation: Nelson (1924), Monson (1927), Ballard (1928), Oaks (1932), Hales (1932), Eyring (1933), Holland (1940), Uchtdorf (1940), Cook (1940), Christofferson (1945).
  • Boomers: Andersen (1951), Rasband (1951), Bednar (1952), Renlund (1952), Stevenson (1955).

Apostles are generally called between age 55 and 65, with a few outliers (as young as 53 or as old as 70). Given that target range, and an average age of 88 for apostles at time of death, here’s what the future looks like in terms of generational shift among church leadership:

  • Boomers will continue to be called as vacancies occur as late as 2029 and will generally continue to serve for 23-33 years.
  • The first Generation X leaders may be called around 2020 (age 55 for the oldest among the Gen Xers). Prime apostle calling age for Gen X is from 2020-2045.
  • Millennials could be called to apostleships between 2036 and 2062.

Looking ahead, we see that due to increases in life expectancy, the Silent Generation will have had a very disproportionate representation in church leadership when compared to the total populations of the four generational groups.

  • The Silent Generation has had 13 apostles, despite comprising only 50 million total Americans (all time).
  • We currently have 5 apostles who are Boomers, and we can expect another 6 to be called as vacancies occur. That’s 11 total compared to a 76 million person generation.
  • Due to these quirks in life expectancy, we can expect only 8 vacancies to be filled by the largest generation, my generation, Generation X. This is the first generation to demonstrate a strong shift in acceptance of gay marriage.
  • The Millennial generation will likely fill 10 apostle vacancies, compared to their population of 75.4 million. (similar to Boomer representation)

That means policies, doctrines, teaching materials, and to a large extent cultural mores and attitudes will have been set by that smaller yet long-lived generation, the Silent Generation. They currently comprise less than 9% of the general population, but 67% of the apostles. This is a feature of a gerontocracy: the oldest generation is always the one currently setting policy [1]; however, this data reveals that beyond that feature (or bug, depending on your perspective), this one generation will have an outsize representation compared to other generations.

  • The Silent Generation will have had 2.5 times the per capita representation of the largest population group, Generation X.
  • The Millennials will have half the representation per capita that the Silent Generation has had.

Of course, not all Silent Generation are in lock step on these issues either. Everyone is still an individual with his or her own perspectives. And yet, generations norms, trends and assumptions are certainly factors in worldview and problem solving.

Discussion Points

The survey results are revealing of a growing chasm between church leadership and membership as well as prospective converts. How you interpret these results probably depends on your own perspective, given the differences between the sexes, generations, and political lines.

  • What, if anything, in this data did you find surprising?
  • Do you think this portends an inevitable shrinkage in membership? Will change come too slowly for rising generations?
  • How do you predict change in member attitudes for the coming years?

Discuss.

[1] Discussed here by Kevin B.

Comments

  1. themaninstripes says:

    “Two-thirds (71%) of active Mormons agreed (either strongly or somewhat) that church members who enter a gay marriage are apostate and should be subject to a disciplinary council.”

    M surprised this number is so low. The Lord, through his prophets, has stated that marriage is between a man and a woman. Anyone doing otherwise should be held to account for their wayward actions.

  2. Angela C says:

    Man in Stripes: How do you propose “holding people accountable” for their values and beliefs? Inquisition? Auto-da-fe?

  3. themaninstripes says:

    I didn’t propose that they should be. I think they should be held accountable for ACTIONS, which is what we normally see. Most disciplinary councils I’ve heard of dealt with what someone had DONE, not, just what they believed.

  4. My brother and I (on the border of Gen X & Millenial) were discussing this concept a few weeks ago. Our question was, “What is the future Millenial apostle doing right now?”

    He is probably a stake president in South America or Africa right now…or is a recent graduate of an advanced degree from the Ivy League. Probably not teaching CES though…I think their influence on Church leadership saw its apex with Packer (and Eyring to some extent).

  5. Michael H says:

    I just finished reading yesterday’s MormonLeaks release, and I will be genuinely sad when the current generation of General Authorities passes and takes with them phrases like “realm of agnosticism” or statements like “I do not think they are born with it.”

  6. Michael H says:

    Ok, sorry. Not “genuinely sad.”

  7. Tiberius says:

    A common mistake made with this type of punditry is assuming stability in opinions across the life course. While it’s tempting to make armchair prognostications based on snapshot surveys, people’s attitudes change as they get older (usually in the more conservative direction), so yes, it always looks like the democrats are about to be swept into power by hordes of young liberals, then we have to deal with traumatized liberal family and friends when the inevitable doesn’t happen (Reagan, Trump, etc.).

    Anybody presuming to make predictions based on polls need to take age as well as cohort effects into account. There are several papers that have done this for both political positions (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00324728.2011.628047) and religiosity (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2010.01510.x/full), both of which suggest that the religious and the GOP aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and I suspect that the same goes for orthodox Mormons–especially since I’d bet that liberal Mormons disproportionately leave, making the Church as a whole more conservative due to selection.

  8. Happy Hubby says:

    Will change come too slowly for rising generations? – I think it already is the case and it looks like the gap getting wider for the next while. All of my GenX kids said bluntly that the Policy change on gays in 2015 was “Stupid”. They all used the exact same word even though they were not in earshot of each other when they mentioned it.

    I am very interested in Jana’s book she is working on.

  9. The exclusion policy is going to cost the church a generation, if not more. My own children, born and raised and sealed Mormon, will not likely stay if this is the hill the church wants to die on.

  10. themaninstripes says:

    The exclusion policy isn’t going to cost the church anything. It will simply be another tool to help sift the wheat from the tares.

  11. The fact that you are comfortable calling my children tares is part of the problem.

  12. themaninstripes says:

    I didn’t call anyone a tare.

  13. James Stone says:

    GenXer here. The underlying assumption of this article is that the policy is due to old, white, conservative men running the church and not the direction the Lord has given his servants. People are free to draw their own conclusions, but I still have yet anyone give a convincing argument using the scriptures and words of the prophets that same-sex relationships are part of the Lord’s eternal plan.

  14. I honestly can’t tell if themaninstripes is a self-righteous member of the church or an anti-Mormon troll who’s trying to drive people from the church.

  15. Comparing the total number of apostles from a given generation to the total size of that generation is not a useful measure of anything. The population of the US has nearly tripled since 1925. (The world population has increased by a little more than triple over that period.) As each generation is larger than those before it, it is to be expected that the per capita representation among apostles would decrease. The only other option is to increase the size of the quorum over time (or, I suppose, to shuffle people through the 15 seats more quickly). Peter’s generation had 12+ apostles called despite only being 50 million or so people across the whole world!

    Counting the total number of apostles from a generation is also not useful when a generation is not of a fixed length. I was recently reading about a the “Xennial” generation, which was defined as encompassing people born from 1977 to 1983. If you make the generations small enough, you might not get any apostolic representation, regardless of how many of us there are. The hypothetical micro-generation I’m inventing right now from 1941 to 1949 is 8 years long, but only has 1 apostle!

    It’s late, and this is coming out snarkier than I want it to, but if there is any meaningful measure of apostolic representation of a generation (which is a somewhat arbitrarily defined designation to begin with) it has to be years of apostolic service per year of that generation. Perhaps some weighting could be applied for time spent as president of the Church, or in the first presidency. Regardless, performing statistics on a group of 15 people by binning them into groups based on birth year is always going to be a murky process.

  16. James Stone, I doubt anyone could give a convincing argument using the scriptures and words of the prophets that same-sex relationships are part of the Lord’s eternal plan. However, there are arguments convincing to many that the scriptures sometimes interpreted to prohibit such relationships have been misinterpreted, leaving a scriptural silence as to committed, monogamous same-sex unions. Some of my gay Mormon friends have also pointed to Elder Packer’s statement, “Romantic love … is not only a part of life, but literally a dominating influence of it. It is deeply and significantly religious. There is no abundant life without it.” (Eternal Love, p. 4.) They have argued that they are incapable of such romantic love in a heterosexual relationship, but capable in a same-sex relationship which can therefore be as deeply and significantly religious as a heterosexual marriage. Some have found that argument convincing. I wouldn’t expect you or the Q15 to find it so, but I am necessarily agnostic on the subject while perceiving a number of things about the exclusion policy as unnecessary and un-Christian and possibly ill-motivated, even without going so far as to say that same-sex relationships are part of the Lord’s eternal plan.

  17. James Stone, if you are speaking of the exclusionary policy, I don’t think one needs to think same-sex relationships are part of the Lord’s eternal plan to find scriptural argument against a policy that says children cannot be baptized because of what their parents may or may not have done. For example, D&C 20:37 – And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.

    I don’t see anything there about exceptions, regardless of whether or not you believe same-sex relationships are sinful.

  18. There’s another question I wish were asked, having to do with confidence in the church and its leaders. I speculate that whether or not people agree with the policy (in whole or in part), confidence has taken a big hit. How many people are answering “agree” or “strongly agree” but had to think about it? I think that for those groups the “had to think about it” didn’t happen, a decade ago.

  19. Angela, I don’t have answers to your questions. I am not sure how the Church will change or not change. I hope we don’t lose millennials or anyone else.

  20. Will we ever accept the fact or theory that god knows that same sex attraction is due to “pollutions” prophesied in bom?
    Why doesnt any speak of this possibility?
    Is it not politically correct?
    Mercury fillings, vaccines etc all effect hormones and sexual production

  21. Corbin, Some believe that theory disproven by records of same-sex attraction in humans long before such pollutions as mercury fillings, vaccines, etc and by observation of same-sex attraction in numerous other species without such fillings, vaccinations, etc. Regardless of political correctness, it is not to be expected that such a theory to which there are numerous counter-examples doesn’t gain much traction.

  22. Tim,

    It’s funny how the goals of those two categories align, isn’t it? I think the primary difference is that trolls at least know they are trolls, while the self righteous can indulge in some of the worst sorts of pride and judgment–even cruelty and hatefulness–and tell themselves that that is what godly love looks like. It’s worse than simple hypocrisy in certain respects: the hypocrite is a cynic who preaches X, all the while quite consciously ignoring it in his own life. It is play acting. The self righteous man accomplishes the madder, subtler feat of convincing himself that his vices are actually virtue. They can “torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience,” (C.S. Lewis, The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment).

  23. How much of this is the United States, Canada and western Europe? I see the majority of Church growth occurring in South and Central America, Africa and Asia. They do not seem near as concerned with LGBTQ issues as do people in the U.S., Canada and western Europe. Will this even be much of an issue to the Church as a whole?

  24. Tiberius: Your point about shifting ideologies as people age doubtless has some validity, although that assumes that all conservative principles trend the same way, not just fiscal views. There was a book title I read at the airport once: “If Liberals Ran the World, They’d Be Conservatives.” I assume that’s the point you are driving at, and in that limited sense I agree with you. People who embrace the status quo and the ones who’ve helped create it and who benefit from it.

    But when it comes to social conservativism, I don’t believe it’s correct that these views shift in the same way. For example, non-racists don’t become racist as they get older. Do socially progressive views about women and gays behave like fiscal attitudes, trending more conservative over time as the worry for financial security increases, or do they behave like prejudices that weren’t formed at an early age and cannot catch on now that the person is older? Do you really think that today’s Millennials will shift their views and reject homosexuality when they are octogenarians?

  25. It is not consistent that people grow more conservative as they grow older. Even the most conservative supreme court justices tend to become slightly more liberal as time goes on. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/supreme-court-justices-get-more-liberal-as-they-get-older/

  26. I’d be reluctant to draw general inferences from the behavior of the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s equally as likely that their behavior is simply consistent with Lord Acton’s dictum that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  27. Mark B., Nice one. Liberals are corrupted Conservatives. Helpful. Christlike.

  28. It is true that people tend to shift more on some issues than others over time, so it’s a question of which issues those are. 30 years ago SSM wasn’t on anybody’s radar and was controversial within the gay community itself, but at that point everybody was sure that the abortion debate would be pase in the future. So nobody really knows, but if I had to bet I would assume that the fact that liberals leaving the Church more (although I wouldn’t be surprised if alt-right men are disproportionately leaving the Church too, but that’s pure speculation on my part), rapid Church growth in more conservative areas of the world, Church (and religious) decline in more liberal areas of the world, plus the fertility advantage of conservatives, all add up to the Church not making any huge shifts leftward on social issues. While conventional wisdom might hold that the young people are generally disgruntled about Church leadership and the policy-that-makes-complete-sense-for-exactly-the-reasons-Christofferson-outlined (doesn’t roll off the tongue as much as “exclusion policy”), there’s no evidence for that in any random, large-N surveys, and when liberals bring it up and cite anecdote it reminds me of when, as an elementary school student, I was sure that Clinton stole the election because nobody that I knew in Utah voted for him. The liberal Mormon community is a very selected minority group; only a few weird conservative trolls like me show up on these boards.

    In regards to the particular issue at hand, I assume that people will continue to grow more accepting of LGBT individuals, but I suspect there’s a bigger gap than most of you realize between not being a jerk to somebody in high priests quorum and same-sex sealings/de-sexing Heavenly Mother. I think the assumption among some on the left that LGBTQ+ issues are one solid, linear piece will lead to a lot of inaccurate predictions. Time will tell.

  29. True conservatives are progressive about all the right things. Civil rights, for instance. (Take George Romney as a good example of this.)

    Conservatives used to know that separation of church and state was a societal good. True conservatives embrace and accept scientific discovery, knowledge, and data. It is thus perfectly conservative to want and desire fellow citizens who were born gay to have the same human and civil rights as citizens who were born heterosexual, and for those LGBTQ citizens not to be discriminated against based on that characteristic either by the government in terms of their civil rights or by fellow citizens in the rights-based and rule-of-law based economy. This is the separation of church and state: if the church believes God requires people not to live in homosexual relationships, the church is free to preach to its adherents and to society at large that those relationships are against God’s will and they shouldn’t live in them. But as a productive and involved beneficial participant in civil society (and enjoying all the rights guaranteed by that intentionally pluralistic civil society), the church doesn’t force nonbelievers, through legislative action, to obey the sectarian demands of that church.

    In other words, it is perfectly conservative for an individual or a cohort (like Millennials) to believe their church leaders’ statements that it is against God’s will to live in homosexual relationships while at the same time supporting the rights of LGBTQ citizens in their civil, intentionally pluralistic and rights-protecting society to enter into same-sex marriages if that is their choice. It is a completely harmonious and perfectly acceptable conservative position to take. Many would also consider it common courtesy — don’t try to take away (or oppose) other people’s civil rights unless you’re happy to have your own rights trampled by legislative majorities seeking to enact the sectarian dogmas of their particular denomination into laws targeting your own religion or other fundamental rights.

  30. Ignoring the spiritual aspect of this topic…. I am of the view that anything but a conservative approach leads to far more problems than what we are currently exp.

  31. Bravo, john f!

  32. east of the mississippi says:

    Please do not include us Baby Boomers with the Silents, those are our parents… and no.. they don’t get it. We protested, grew our hair long, and listened to Beatles records… and realized there needed to be change.

    And there will be… someday…

  33. Dear East: when we (Gen X) look at the tatters of our economy — yes, stronger than ever for the 1% but worse for everyone else — who do you think we think is responsible? Who moved us from the stakeholder economy/society of the Silent Generation to the short-termism of the shareholder economy/society of today? When did this shift happen? Does it begin with Ronald and end with Reagan? Is its capstone Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract with America”? Did Gen Xers vote for any of that? Did Gen Xers vehemently fight against single payer healthcare in the 1990s? Did the Silent Generation get rid of pensions? Did the Silent Generation introduce hostile takeovers, activist shareholders/investors, hedge funds, securitizations of sub prime mortgages or myriad other derivatives meant to socialize egregious financial risk while funneling immense but ill-gotten gains into the hands of the 1%? Or was that the Baby Boomers, including many boomers who had long hair, marched for change, then became CEOs of investment banks and, because of greed, stole from their descendants’ generations?

  34. One interesting thing that I am seeing is that the split between top leaders’ views and local ward members views is widening. In older wards, this split may not be apparent. In younger wards, it’s definitely widening quickly. That growing gap is behind the efforts of many individuals to create a space for ideological variation on social issues. It’s a grass roots effort out of necessity. We’ll see how effective it is in time.

  35. Angela C – I agree with you, and the efforts need to be accelerated. The last several months in my ward have been 5th Sunday lessons and High Counsel talks along the lines of “Don’t rock the boat, and don’t get off the boat”, “There is nothing you can read on the internet that will answer questions about the Church, the answers are in the scriptures”, “There is a difference between holding to the rod and clinging to the rod”, etc., etc. Not a single lesson on one of the Gospel Topics Essays. In the meantime, those exiting the doors are younger married couples and couples with younger children. The future of the Church. But I guess that is ok, no need to change our approach, they are just tares.

  36. “There is a difference between holding to the rod and clinging to the rod” — that is a truly pernicious one, and meaningless.

  37. Interesting post Angela. Am I surprised by anything in the data? Yes, that the proportion of Millennials that support the LGBT policy part I is as high as 40%. I would expect it to be lower. I’m not sure one should expect a radical shift in policy in the future, even as these millennials are becoming GA’s, especially with the tendency to become more conservative with aging.

  38. James Stone says:

    Gotta love all the comments suggesting that the church change its doctrine in order to retain members. God’s church is designed to change our hearts and mind–not the other way around. There are dozens of examples the Bible and Book of Mormon where the Church of Christ ceased to exist because of the hard hearts and blind minds of it’s supposed followers. It can and will happen in our day too–maybe not on a global level on on a more local level where wards and branches are consolidated or cease to exist because people find the cares and philosophies of the world more appealing than those of God.

    Those asking for a more lenient policy regarding LGBT behavior aren’t doing it for the good of the church (read: more members on the rolls) but for their own selfish motives. They want to stop identifying certain behavior as sinful so they don’t have to be ashamed of or have to defend the gospel of Christ with their family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Instead of reconciling their beliefs with God, they want God to reconcile their beliefs with them. The scriptures are full of examples of what happens to the Church of God when this happens. It never ends well.

  39. As Talon said, “In the meantime, those exiting the doors are younger married couples and couples with younger children. The future of the Church. But I guess that is ok, no need to change our approach, they are just tares.”

  40. James Stone: God seems to disagree with your limited perspective. Despite policies, he keeps sending gay children to Mormon families.

  41. Bro. Jones says:

    The issue here is the same as with ethnic/geographic representation among leadership: the church membership may change or diversify to varying degrees over time, but there is absolutely zero pressure on our current leadership to choose successors who are unlike themselves. It may get slightly more difficult to locate white, conservative men with roots in the Western US, but it will likely never become impossible. So I don’t expect to see any substantial changes in terms of political beliefs or policies.

    On that note, one of the most socially conservative church leaders I know is a bishop who is a Millennial. I would not be surprised at all to see him rise in the ranks of leadership over the years, and anyone expecting that his relative youth might be reflected in differing views from older leaders will be disappointed.

  42. James Stone: clairvoyant, prophet, and seer. Knows the hearts and minds of others, the past, the future.

  43. James Stone says:

    @Angela C — Along with children who suffer from mental illness, genetic disorders, physical impairments, and many other natural man tendencies.

    @Brian — When you can’t argue their points, go straight for the Ad hominem attack.

  44. James Stone: you seem to be able to know the hearts and minds of people who disagree with you. I point out that you can’t actually do that.

    So . . . sure, call it ad hominem–or you could admit that you can’t actually can’t do those things and instead fall back on a rhetorical avoidance by claiming moral and intellectual superiority.

  45. James Stone, are you suggesting that people who suffer from mental illness, genetic disorders, and physical impairments are unworthy to be members of the church?

  46. James Stone says:

    @E Not at all.

    @Brian I was responding to the following two comments. It’s pretty obvious what their heart and minds are saying.

    “The exclusion policy is going to cost the church a generation, if not more. My own children, born and raised and sealed Mormon, will not likely stay if this is the hill the church wants to die on.”

    “In the meantime, those exiting the doors are younger married couples and couples with younger children. The future of the Church. But I guess that is ok, no need to change our approach, they are just tares.”

  47. I looked but can’t seem to decide whether the term “apostate” was actually used in the poll. I think that its use would be highly problematic in any poll, since it’s a bit of a loaded term. My background is such that I see its use in the Policy as being a technical term–meaning something along the lines of an act significantly outside the boundaries of our faith. But my experience is that many people in the Church use it more colloquially to indicate a Very Bad Person, or an outright enemy of the Church. I imagine one’s interpretation of that term along these lines could cause a misleading skew in the results.

  48. James, Thanks for pointing to me where you are basing your judgement on. The words that you quote, as I see it, don’t in anyway suggest, as you say:

    “Those asking for a more lenient policy regarding LGBT behavior aren’t doing it for the good of the church (read: more members on the rolls) but for their own selfish motives. They want to stop identifying certain behavior as sinful so they don’t have to be ashamed of or have to defend the gospel of Christ with their family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.”

    Instead, I see their words as quite the opposite: hoping for the Church to continue to grow. You might have different thoughts on the means, but to suggest these people are motivated by “selfish motives” and are basically cowards seems quite disingenuous and reading (projecting onto them) much more than is actually there.

  49. “The exclusion policy is going to cost the church a generation, if not more. My own children, born and raised and sealed Mormon, will not likely stay if this is the hill the church wants to die on.”

    This was me, James Stone, speaking about my family. In that statement, where do I say, or even imply, any of the pointed things you stated? Where am I working against the church? Where am I being selfish or ashamed?

    As Brian said, I am hopeful the Gospel is actually big enough to love my children, my family, and my brothers and sisters who do not look, think or move through the world the same exact way I do. I believe it is big enough. It causes me grief when people, “the natural man,” keep painting the lines tighter and smaller, until only people who approach faith *just* like themselves are included in the circle.

  50. At least the Church has clearly stated its policy and everyone knows what can lead to excommunication and apostasy. The progressives that run Google are not nearly as open minded as they claim to be and will fire anyone who expresses “wrong” ideas or opinions.

  51. Wow, Mark, that was quite the transition: Church policy to Google. Also, if you were a woman (or had more of an imagination?) maybe you could imagine why basically calling women incompetent might be seen as workplace hostility? I mean, there are conservatives who see that.

    Stay on target. Stay on target.

  52. My children were raised by a very conservative mother and a somewhat liberal father. Each of them is very sympathetic to LGBT issues and thinks the church is way off the mark regarding the Nov 2015 policy. My experience with the other youth in my ward is that 80%+ of them sympathize with LGBT causes – and I live in a pretty conservative ward.

    This past Easter my daughter (senior in high school) invited her bi friend to church for Easter services. This friend had said she’s looking for a church to attend. When my daughter invited her this friend said only Mormons don’t realize how hateful they are to gay people. It evokes the old saying of walk a mile in their shoes…

    While I do think people tend to migrate from liberal to conservative as they age, these numbers give hope to the possibility that overall church attitudes will change regarding same sex marriage. It took a while to learn that separate cannot be equal. Hopefully it will take less time to learn that exclusion doesn’t equal welcome.

  53. As a conservative leaning individual I love to read and learn from progressive leaning church members. Thank you for maintaining this forum where ideas can be debated. We all don’t have to agree to enjoy the benefits of a civil society.

    I always try to be thoughtful and take some time to think before I post. I imagine everyone is thoughtful and reasoned before submitting a reply.

    I would love to comment more, but too many progressives attack conservative opinions here. Shouldn’t we all be more kind and generous before we assume the worst motives to people with ideas we disagree with?

  54. Mark, as the person who responded directly to you, I’ll respond.

    While I genuinely admire willingness to learn from other–(I talk politics quite often and amicably with one my best friends in my current ward, a strong, strong libertarian)–I have a difficult time understanding how you, a conservative leaning person, contextualize you own comment, which attacks the “progressives” at Google, followed by a complaint that “progressive attack conservatives” here when they simple counter your attack.

    I admit, however, I have a fault of responding to drive-by attacks with a little too much snark. And I’m sincerely sorry for that. I’m working on it. I guess the got sense from your comment about Google, that you really aren’t interested in the conversation at hand, but you just wanted to snipe at those “progressives.” Perhaps I was mistaken. Also, the policy wasn’t clear from the beginning, though it has been edited to be so. Also, it wasn’t supposed to be public. So I’m not sure your initial comment even really is contextualized correctly, though I understand how you might have felt it was.

    Sorry for an offense.

  55. Happy Hubby says:

    @mark L – AMEN!
    I wish more conservative members would come and discuss items. But way too many people don’t know how to have constructive discourse.

    When I see someone that does not want to engage others to both learn and to influence, but instead wants to say “I have it figured out. Let me tell you how you are so so wrong” and then do a mic drop. I look at them as someone that does not have confidence in their position. Instead they have to put up a shell as if they tried to understand or give an inch to the other position or their weak position might be in jeopardy.

  56. James Stone – There was a time when the Church changed its doctrine to retain it’s assets. Is it really such a stretch to believe it would do it again to retain members? Or do you believe the worth of bricks and mortar is greater than a soul?

    Having said that, my comment did not advocate for a change in doctrine to retain members but for a change in approach to how we discuss difficult issues and outreach to a certain demographic that is becoming disaffected.

  57. It’s apparent gay marriage and the church’s policy is a polarizing issue across generations and American political ideologies. My mind moves here:

    *The church has demonstrated high levels of pragmatism in the past, adjusting policies by revelation or by policy revision, but also because the social timing of these changes assured the church’s longevity and positive growth.

    -Declaration I & II are examples of paramount importance to this discussion when asking the question on what issues and under what circumstances is the church pragmatic or universally imperativistic.
    -The church has made significant changes to the temple ceremony over time. One such change in the late 1980’s removed some vivid symbols for violating the covenants made therein. If I recall correctly, the explanation for the change was to shorten the endowment ceremony; although, I was relieved when those sections were removed because I found them to be so disturbing. The change also took cannon fodder away from church critics who at the time claimed the church was cultish in its practices. Two birds killed with one stone.
    -The church has proven to be culturally accommodating on what might be considered lesser issues (like the time a couple must wait between a civil and temple marriage in European countries where civil marriages are required), but seemingly immovable in the states.
    -The standing of women in the church has dramatically changed over the past 100 years. While they don’t hold the priesthood, they bear responsibilities today similar to what may have been considered the providence of the priesthood in the past.
    -The church’s stated understanding of what it means to be gay has shifted significantly over the past twenty years.
    -Gender dysphoria is another area not talked about a lot, but one that will present the church with another, perhaps more complicated, round of policy clarifications as this condition is better understood. This is an area that stands to further inform church policies related to gay marriage as our understanding of gender and sex–what it means to be a man or a woman–expands.

    My point is this: We tend to view issues like gay marriage and its prohibition by policy to be a universal imperative. While this issue may seem to fall into the “will never, ever be changed,” our history gives me pause. Another question I ask myself is will I support and allow our prophets, seers, and revelators to enact policies or revelations that are seemingly unimaginable to our current understanding of God’s plan.

  58. Michael H says:

    I think that Mark L has a good point about the more traditional or conservative voices in these comments often getting shut down or labeled as coming from a troll. Surely not everyone who comments on this blog using the same Brethren-defending logic as countless other members of the Church I know are trolls.

  59. Michael H – I’ve been coming here a long time and my experience has been that defending your position be it conservative or liberal is perfectly acceptable using the scriptures, the words of modern prophets, or any other source up to and including your own personal experiences.

    What is not acceptable is to show up on this blog, have your paradigms challenged, and then call into question and/or call to repentance the permas and other commenters. It is perfectly fine to challenge their assumptions and the validity/merits of their arguments. It is not ok to call into question their testimonies and suggest that their exit from the Church, or their children’s exit from the Church is desirable. This will ultimately get a person banned by Steve Evans, the Judge Dredd of this blog: Judge, Jury, and Executioner.

    Above all else we need to remember we are guests here and act accordingly.

  60. Toad, contrary to the supposed truism that people start to get a little more conservative as they age, I’ve observed the opposite in many — people who exhibit a strident, reactionary posture they believe is “conservatism” in their youth and young adulthood as their intellectual involvement consists primarily of parroting pretty extreme views of parents or past opinion leaders but then, after learning more, gaining more experience, interacting with more of the downtrodden of the world (and, perhaps more importantly, seeing first hand what “the rich” are really like and how they’ve gotten their wealth), begin to become more open-minded, accepting, tolerant, and “liberal” toward the poor as they age.

  61. What I don’t get is how just a few data points are used, out of the entire number of changes made, and are offered as proof that the generation is “out of touch”. How many other changes have been made, that these generations have lived through and been part of instituting, that we just discard as “well that’s just common sense”.

    It’s ageism to see a group you disagree with and decide it just because they’re old. What would the excuse be if they were all young and made the same decisions?

  62. In the early 20th century when the term “Mainline Churches” was coined, those churches (Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Episcopalian, etc.) comprised the majority of American Christians. Now in the early 21st century, they’re a shrinking minority.

    Why the shift? In a word, fertility. Conservative congregations took in refugees from the liberal churches, sure. Holier-than-Jesus, I’m-spiritual-but-not-religious types left the liberal churches to become “nones,” yes. But the greatest factor in the decline of the mainlines was that their conservative counterparts married younger, had children earlier, and thus had a total fertility rate advantage of one additional child per woman.

    Liberalism/Progressivism is unbelief-adjacent, and the liberal churches are quite literally dwindling in unbelief. The wages of sin is death.

    We TBMs may be naive, blind-faith-having rubes, but we’re fecund naive, blind-faith-having rubes.

    https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/324189?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

  63. Frank Pellett: “What would the excuse be if they were all young and made the same decisions?” Honestly, that’s one of the questions in the data from where I sit. I struggle to imagine how 40% of Millennials were OK with the exclusion policy in 2016. Really, that number is astounding. There are some geographic areas that are still retrograde in terms of social norms (e.g. rural Idaho, which is maybe all of Idaho), but even in Utah, gay-straight alliances in the schools are a norm. Being gay is not the slur it was back in the 80s. And when gay people are accepted for who they are, they are known, and relationships lead to empathy. The exclusion policy is bereft of empathy.

    The underlying question here is how much social change in the church is top down vs. grass roots, and as the generation gap increases (which is a mathematical certainty due to our system for selecting new leaders), how much disconnect is too much? Having said that, I certainly see that not all the Q15 are lock step on these issues–but their Overton window is to the right of the membership’s, and Wikileaks keeps revealing just how different some of these perspectives are from succeeding generations’.

  64. Wilhelm – does death pay minimum wage or above scale?

  65. Yeah, that latest “Wikileaks” release is concerning.

    I’ve lived for several years in Eastern Idaho, and I’ve noticed that even if many young adults are still anti-gay, most LDS teenagers are not. The older members in EQ complain about their kids being okay with gay marriage. Teens have friends, or at least classmates, who are openly gay. Places like Idaho are just a few years behind the curve, but they’re catching up.

  66. Talon – Death is the wage.

  67. I just can’t imagine this post being different for any given time period in the whole history of the Church. All we need now is a matching “kids these days” post.

  68. Frank P: LOL. I’ll sit on the porch and shake my cane at the passing world in solidarity with you.

  69. Wilhelm – Understood. Follow up question, is death divisible like Bitcoin?

  70. Just to add a minor data point. I am a millennial, religiously liberal. My spouse is religiously conservative. Yet we both agree that because of the Nov 2015 exclusion policy, we will stand in solidarity with our gay family members whose children can’t be baptized until they are 18. Our children will be raised actively in the church, but will not be baptized until they are 18.

    We expect to be judged, misunderstood, ridiculed, evil-spoken-of. I don’t think people on the outside can know just how incredibly sad and heartbroken it makes us to have to do this. But — and the church and Gospel engendered this in us — we have to follow our convictions. And trust the words of Elder Christofferson justifying taking away the blessings of church membership, priesthood, and the gift of the holy ghost from children, “when a child reaches majority, he or she feels like that’s what they want and they can make an informed and conscious decision about that. Nothing is lost to them in the end if that’s the direction they want to go”. I just hope that is the direction they will want to go when they reach “majority” age.

  71. Well, if we have until 2036 for Millennials to be called as general authorities, they have 19 years to:

    1. Test out their ideas to see which ones actually work, and
    2. Refine their worldview by defending it against the criticisms of the subsequent generations.

  72. Ageism isn’t pointing out that the old, in the church, are waging bloody war against the young. The war itself is what’s ageist.

    The fruit of our modern-day prophets is kids hanging themselves, and/or being kicked out of their homes when they turn 18. It’s a one-sided war; all the casualties are being suffered by young LGBTQIA+ persons. And it’s not hard to see why, just from reading this thread. The church is filled with self-satisfied assholes, who close their eyes that they may not see, their ears that they may not hear, and their hearts so that they will not contemplate what it’d be like to be in their children’s place.

    They are literally damned. They will not progress eternally, because they have stopped themselves up in this life. There is light and knowledge available to them on gay, lesbian, transgender, intersex, asexual, and other minority issues, much of which they have only to ask a person like this in order to receive. But instead of being humble and teachable, like the children that Jesus said to let come unto him, they’re standing guard to keep all those children away. Just because those kids’ parents are “eunuchs from the womb.”

    It would be better for them that a millstone be hung about their necks, and they be cast into the depths of the sea, than that they be subject to righteous judgment. A just god will not recognize them, no matter how many times they call him “Lord, Lord.” And they would not be comfortable in his presence, nor with the company that he keeps.

    If we’re going to be all judgmental of each other here, let’s make sure it’s righteous judgment. Let’s make sure that we’re on the side of justice.

  73. “The exclusion policy is bereft of empathy.”
    Policies don’t really have personal emotions. I have never seen a church policy that demanded me to be bereft of empathy. Scripture, which demands that love, charity and kindness to be my personal emotional response rules supreme.

    Remember that the policy is identical to the policy for polygamist families. I saw that one at work. Latter-day Saints in my area had a great deal of empathy for children of polygamist families. We followed the church policy, yet many joined the Church and are fine members of the Church today. I know of one polygamist family in which ALL of the children joined the Church and most even served missions.

    One thing that polls do not do is provide interpretation. Most teens I work with (I teach high school history and government in Utah) have a fairly sophisticated and nuanced perspective on SSM and the policy. These measurements in no way pick up on that development. Also many have a modern libertarian perspective on government. So factor that in. I completely disagree that the policy will bring the end of a generation’s participation in the church. It may bring about a more nuanced approach, but I don’t see the extreme interpretations some have made from this data.

  74. To say that the policy is bereft of empathy is to say that the people who made the policy lack empathy. Old Man makes a very poor misreading by not recognizing this. The fact that those who made the policy appear to lack empathy is a thing that troubles many people.

    In my experience speaking with young people who are staying in the church, they generally stay in spite of the policy, not because of it. If their views about the policy are nuanced, the nuances are usually about explaining the origins of the policy, not about its application or the principles behind it. Those nuances of explanation often tend toward the same ideas that this OP deals with—generational differences.

    The policy was apparently copied by rote from the policy toward polygamous families, but it is not otherwise comparable. The policy on same-sex married families entirely lacks the same historical and cultural background—arguably, the historical and cultural necessity—as the policy on polygamous families. Therefore, the justification for the SSM policy can’t be obviously the same, nor can its application. The justification for the policy certainly does not explain itself. It is a problem that the general authorities have not laid out a principled justification for the policy.

    It is undoubtedly true that many young people will stick with the church, and thank God for that. However, a great many young people have already left and others continue to leave. This represents a massive loss to the church. It is a very strange thing to lightly pass over that development in the name of “nuance.”

  75. I assume that all church members who criticize the gay policy only want to help the Church be successful and continue to grow converts and long time families into faithful disciples of Christ. So take the following with all the love and respect of a fellow saint.

    I must live in a completely different universe. It is impossible for me to see any hate or bile among Church leaders at all levels. Do progressives really believe that the Prophet is a hateful, bigoted meany? Who is only interested in “sticking it to the gays.” Church leaders are still very open to welcoming everyone. I know numerous tender parents who weep over their wandering children. These parents will probably never lose their faith in God or their children.

    Church leaders really do live in the same world as the rest of us. I’m sure they are even aware of the Bloggernacle. They are listening to all our voices and opinions. But the warning voice keeps coming back against the popular culture. It takes great courage to preach against popular opinion. Was it any different with Moses, or Isaiah, or Lehi, or Joseph Smith?

    Maybe there was a time when parents turned their rebellious children away, but what do we preach today?

    Please forgive me if I have said anything offensive.

  76. ” I’m sure they are even aware of the Bloggernacle.”

    Reason #3 of why I’ll never be called to preside over anything.

  77. “Do progressives really believe that the Prophet is a hateful, bigoted meany? Who is only interested in “sticking it to the gays.””

    No. I’m sure there are those out there that think this, but they are a very, very minor portion of ‘progressives’ (whatever that means) from what I can tell. My concern is that all of us (not just them) see the world through a glass darkly. And that their age means that their glasses are colored by the culture they grew up in which absolutely did view gays through a lens of hate and bigotry. Does that mean they themselves are hateful though? No. But when I read statements like the recent wikileaks where Elder Perry is paraphrased as saying that to help gay youth “Give them association with manly things” or later “I do not believe they are born with it. It is a temptation like any other,” I’m left very, very aware of their biases (and that E.Perry at least didn’t really believe the statement the church has forwarded about homosexuality not being a choice). And how those biases can mean suffering for individuals and families.

  78. Mark L: Lacking empathy is not the same at hating. Lacking empathy is based in ignorance and lack of experience whereas hatred is more deliberate and personal–wishing to do harm to another person or group of people. Lack of empathy makes someone unaware of how things impact others. It’s a failure of imagination and personal experience. It’s not calculating or hateful. It’s simply unaware of its own privilege, the privilege to be unaware of others’ circumstances and feelings and to make decisions without regard to those impacts.

    Another example of lack of empathy is responding to BLM with “All Lives Matter” or even “Blue Lives Matter.” It’s not that all lives don’t matter or that police shouldn’t be protected. It’s that black people are at systematically greater risk, and those risks are not imaginary.

  79. renverseur says:

    This may be partially tangential, but I must point out that all this furor and commentary is based on the results of a survey question which is distorted and biased. The issue in the “Christian wedding cake baker” cases which gave rise to the survey question is not refusing service to gays. In all of the high profile cases to date (including the Masterpiece Bakery case which will be heard by SCOTUS next term), the vendor was willing to service gay customers. The objection was only to being forced by law to service one particular kind of event, a gay wedding, to which the vendor had religious objections. This critical distinction is completely obfuscated by the survey question. Personally, I suspect that phrasing the survey question accurately would have significantly altered the results.

    This is not to say that attitudes on LGBQT issues are not changing. However, I agree with the commentator who cautioned against basing broad “the sky is falling” conclusions on a single snapshot survey at one point in time, and add that even more caution is in called for when the survey is biased in phrasing its question.

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