Sunday in Outer Blogness: Where Have All the Mormons Gone? Edition!

More and more Mormons are leaving the church — not exactly news, but it hit the news in a big way last week!!

This is largely because an important LDS leader admitted to Reuters that “attrition has accelerated in the last five or 10 years” — while refusing to give any actual numbers. Dan complained that Reuters didn’t name the sociologists who estimate the CoJCoL-dS active membership at approximately 5 million worldwide. Fortunately, lifelongguy is there with some helpful details! You can start by listening to this great Mormon Stories Podcast with a sociologist who has done extensive research on Mormon population growth/decline.

On a related note, Andrew S. complained about the media simply playing telephone with the story — but keep in mind that the media wouldn’t have a story here at all if they hadn’t been “playing telephone” with that absurd “14.1 million” figure. If they’d fact-checked/explained it from the beginning, it wouldn’t be news today that the number “optimistically includes nearly every person baptized,” while conveniently forgetting to mention the relevant information that “census data from some foreign countries targeted by clean-cut young missionaries show that the retention rate for their converts is as low as 25 percent.”

Andrew S reports on Evangelicals strategies for gathering up the formerly-Mormon lost sheep! I have to admit, Normanism seems a little more tempting.

Some related news came out at nearly the same moment: John Dehlin released the results of his survey on why people leave the church — indicating that discovering hidden, less-faith-promoting information is a big factor. The Washington Post coincidentally discovered some similar news. This led many people to discuss whether the CoJCoL-dS ought to knock it off with the (counter-productive) white-washing.

I don’t think the unsavory history is the whole story, though. I think a lot of people are willing to leave all sorts of issues on the shelf if Mormonism works for them. And the more the hierarchy micromanages the Mormon experience, the narrower the range of people who fit in. Make no mistake, Mormonism does work for many people — but unfortunately for LDS Inc., they’re targeting their advertising at exactly the demographic least likely to thrive in the CoJCoL-dS.

Then there was some sort of quibble over labels.

For the ladies, it’s interesting how little counts as a major breakthrough (and not just in the church). Note that if you need to hold others back to lead then you’re not really a leader. What if women were allowed in LDS authority positions? Women can be powerful!! (And there was a bit of a side-topic on what we’re teaching the kids.)

Wait a minute… All this news coverage — it’s because of Mitt isn’t it? Romney’s obstacle for this news cycle isn’t the whole Mormon thing — it’s how dang rich he is! As usual, it takes a sound-byte gaffe for it to become news, but it turns out that the uber-rich can’t always relate to the commoners — and people are starting to make a connection between being in the top 1% and being part of “the elite”. (Meanwhile, people are also starting to follow the CoJCoL-dS’s money too.) Oh, well, at least Mitt’s not a white supremacist

Now, personal stories!! Smorg has continued her tales of missionary encounters, then we have another step in coming out and three images:

One of the first things he asked me upon meeting me was if he looked gay… No he doesn’t and he liked that answer. I remember those days, but I have swung the other way now. Rather than fearing that I look gay I kinda get mad when people assume I’m straight…

Don’t forget to vote in the Brodies!!! If you can’t decide who to vote for, consider all of these campaign messages. 😉 And don’t worry — the William Law X-Mormon of the Year 2011 award will be next!!! 😀


C. L. Hanson is the friendly Swiss-French-American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! Follow me on mastadon at or see "letters from a broad" for further adventures!!

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6 Responses

  1. JJ says:

    We know a lot of people are leaving but I wonder if TBM members are taking notice yet. Is it enough to cause people to see the ripples, or it is all happening underground?
    I haven’t been back in such a long time but I doubt the awakening has hit my old ward yet. They were pretty staunch in their beliefs. I wonder if some areas are being more affected by people leaving than others. It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

  2. Brandon says:

    When I made my recent announcement public that I’d left the church, I had several TBM’s tell me that their brother-in-law or cousin or some other family member or friend had left. But I can’t say whether it’s registered with them as something major. No one seems to be intimidated by it. Rather, it’s reason to strengthen faith and redouble the effort.

  3. Alan says:

    Rather, its reason to strengthen faith and redouble the effort.

    Yes, in comments sections under articles about the disaffection, I’ve regularly seen TBMs say something like, “This is all the more reason to delve deeper in the faith.”

    I’m not sure what this means, though. I thought these disaffection problems were caused by people digging beneath the surface. What does it even mean dig even “deeper” into Mormonism? To reach that postmodern feel-good space that rational thought can’t touch?

  4. Brandon says:

    I think for a lot of people, “redoubling the effort” isn’t about looking deeper into Mormonism. It’s more about an inner commitment to NOT look at material that isn’t faith promoting and to never be swayed from the faith. Those who do look usually go through a period of doubt or questioning. Those who come out still LDS usually don’t interpret their faith in the same way they used to.

  5. Amy says:

    We all know the church will never publish the numbers on people who are resigning/stop attending. So, I am wondering, is there a way for us to stand up and be counted on our own? I’m thinking of something along the lines of a website where people can go list themselves as “resigned”, “no longer attend”, “no longer consider myself Mormon”, etc. If it doesn’t already exist, it might be nice to have someplace to start gathering this data without church involvement and a source where people can be directed.

  6. Alan says:


    Its more about an inner commitment to NOT look at material that isnt faith promoting and to never be swayed from the faith.

    If that’s the case, then the membership is just is guilty as the leadership for keeping people in the dark with regard to these historical issues causing disaffection. How can a leadership be blamed for a people’s ignorance when the people are intentionally ignorant?

    I guess the leadership could change the definition of what is “faith promoting” and what is not. But I’m sure that’s a delicate process.

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