General story Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

10 things to know about Millennial Mormons

Here are some key findings about the current Mormon population, based on the 2016 Next Mormons survey. I’ll be blogging about several of these findings individually over time, but for now here is a handy infographic that encapsulates some main points.

Note that this is data only about currently identified Mormons (1155 in our survey), and not about former Mormons or those who have left the Church (541 in our survey). Their responses are tabulated separately.

One thing to note is that despite some hand-wringing in the Church about the perils of delaying marriage (see a recent article about this in the Ensign), there’s no evidence that either current or former Mormons are in fact delaying marriage–of those who get married, the median age for current Mormons to do so is 22, and for former Mormons it’s 23. They are, however, having smaller families.


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About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

20 Comments

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  • My adult children sure buck the Mormon millennial norm: 1 in 3 is active; 2 of 3 are married, only 1 of those married Mormon. I have 7 grandkids; do the math. All of my kids are registered to vote, none of them are party-affiliated. Two voted Trump; 1 voted Clinton. Even the active one mostly ignores conference.

  • Interesting as always. Thanks. Though I was an uncrackable nut to the missionaries I’ve always been interested in the LDS subculture both as a therapist and someone who is related to some Saints. The signs for what younger Saints are becoming are positive, but, the rule by old men is the LDS Church’s Achilles’ Heel. If they undertake another right-wing pogrom like that envisioned by Skousen it could be their undoing, or not.

  • Mormonism pushes a personal dichotomy of character that is both demanding and difficult to maintain for Mormon men, which is to be both very “macho” and yet very “sensitive” to all things spiritual and emotional. The church stresses emotional and spiritual availability to both genders and then often shows great insensitivity to the same members over issues, such as LGBTQ rights. The resulting yo-yo effect gets old for most, and unbearable for quite a few, especially guys who hate the emotional extremes.

  • Jana, maybe you’ve answered this already, and I missed it, but does this survey represent millennials throughout the Church (i.e. the worldwide church) or is it more narrow (i.e. millennial mormons in the U.S.)? Thanks for all you do. BA

  • “One thing to note is that despite some hand-wringing in the Church about the perils of delaying marriage (see a recent article about this in the Ensign), there’s no evidence that either current or former Mormons are in fact delaying marriage–of those who get married, the median age for current Mormons to do so is 22, and for former Mormons it’s 23. They are, however, having smaller families.”

    Delaying marriage longer and having smaller families is a good beginning for millenials who seek to fit their church’s teachings to the reality of their lives. Still, I can’t help but believe that 22 is still very young for anyone to be married. A minimum of 16 years is required to complete high school and college, so 22 is about the age they are when they graduate and begin their careers.

    This whole early-marriage smacks heavily of the unwritten rule that “only marriage legitimizes sex!” The Mormon Church still needs to get it’s head together about this, and realize that many committed LDS couples are devoted to both each other and their church. They very reasonably want to delay marriage and children until they become better established financially in their careers. What else can one expect from a church ruled by a bunch of impotent old men meddling in the bedrooms of passionate young couples?

    I’m not Mormon, but my questions are: Will millenial Mormons and future young adherents to the faith continue to support such an aging leadership of MEN to run their church? How long will it take them to start demanding much younger church leaders of BOTH sexes, whose lives are similar to average adults in the LDS Church?

    (Well, the current aged Mormon hierarchy isn’t given to wearing long, black dresses like the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Their thinking, however, is equally ossified!)

  • Or is this Millennial Mormons in UTAH. There is a huge delta between Utah Mormons, power cluster Mormons (San Diego, southern California, Idaho, and Arizona), and the rest. You really should look into how things stack outside of Utah and the clusters.

  • Any data on what percentage of LDS millenials (or millenials who were raised LDS) are active?

  • I read a report last week from the Pew Research Group that claimed 60% of millennials of all faiths, LDS included, are not following in their parent’s footsteps and are much less active in the relation they were raised in. It also said that they are not changing religions, they are just not interested. Although I appreciate the effort behind this survey (115 people), I am inclined to believe the Pew report is more accurate. Any thoughts?

  • You’d have to link to the study to figure it out, but I suspect Pews sampling methods and resultant sample reliably reflect trends among millennial Americans generally, but I doubt it includes enough Mormons to make predictions about Mormons specifically. This is because once you start breaking things down into specific groups, the sample of whatever sub-group you are working with becomes too small to provide any statistical validity.

  • What do you mean by the term “macho”? One dictionary describes macho as “a man who is aggressively proud of his masculinity.” As a convert of 41 years, I’ve not seen evidence of anyone “pushing” such traits directly or indirectly. I became a member at 20 and I cannot identify with any such experience. (Christ is the pattern for males to emulate.) Nor, has any LDS remotely mentioned it to me. How do you define/describe the Church’s insensitivity re LGBTQ rights?

  • Back in the mid-1990s, I had occasion to take my three kids to see various big archeological displays at BYU. On one occasion we toured the Harris Art Center after and saw some student art that would have offended most socially conservative Mormons; a ceramic piece featured 15 large erect phalluses arranged with 3 above 12. The simple etched title said, “Priesthood Power.” So, obviously, some BYU art student had the same cultural impression of Mormon hyper-masculinity and the Art professor had agreed enough to risk featuring that bold bit of art.

  • I am still firmly of the opinion that having sex with someone you aren’t committed to completely is a rather douchebag move.

    It just means you have no problem with using people and being used.

  • Rathje, pray-tell where do I say ANYTHING about “having sex with someone you aren’t committed to?”

  • Perhaps I’m mixing you up with another discussion I had where the other person was arguing the Church’s position on no sex before marriage was encouraging young adults to get married in order to have sex, and therefore rush it and not make responsible choices about it.

    It’s a common criticism of the Church, that says we ought to loosen up the restrictions on pre-marital sex so that young adults can conform more with broader society norms on informed choice in relationships.

    You’re correct that there is no basis to read this position into your written remarks.

    My apologies.

  • Since you are not “Mormon,” you shouldn’t be commenting on or passing judgments on the leadership of the church as being “impotent” and “ageing,” implying that they are out of touch without studying their teachings and their words. They are very much in touch. You think the Lord is out of touch? Doesn’t He know everything? Well, He’s in touch with the prophet. You have NO CLUE on the church leaders’ thinking because you do not study their talks, their actions, or their lives. NO CLUE. Yet you pass judgment. And the current prophet at age 94 can run rings around you and many Millenials, I guarantee it. (Just go study his life history and learn about his present life and what others say about his energy, stamina, and physical well-being. We’re talking about a man who still goes down the black diamond runs at ski resorts. Are you that active, coordinated, skilled, and physically fit?)

    Marrying young is a great way to go. Marrying older has disadvantages like having to change to a drastic different lifestyle from a self-centered, individualistic, career-driven, “financially stable” one to a relationship that requires complete unselfishness. That’s probably the biggie right there. Marrying young actually helps one’s college education. Being a poor, young married couple teaches good economics for a life-long experience.

    We do have leaders from both sexes. We have the oldest and largest women’s organization in the world—the Relief Society. We also have women general leaders in the Young Women’s program and in the Primary program.

    But of course, you don’t see those things and other things because your thinking, at least judging by your comment, is based and centered around sex, which I think is quite telling.

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