Why is the LDS Church Losing Millennials? Here are some reasons, and how WE can do better.

Why are millennials struggling to stay active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? The generation born from 1980 to 1998 has a retention of 46% according to Jana Riess in her book The Next Mormons: How Millenials Are Changing the LDS Church, which is a drop from the normal 75% retention rate.


Riess's study showed that out of the 1,156 LDS members and 540 former members surveyed, 90% still believe in God. So why are millennials leaving the Church? Riess gives three reasons why:

#1 - They stopped believing that there was one true church

#2 - They were not able to reconcile personal values with those of the Church

#3 - They did not like the emphasis on conformity and the role of women


So what do we do with this knowledge? You can tell that President Russel M. Nelson and other General Authorities understand what is going on and are making adjustments


For example, church services have gone from three hours to two.  Home and visiting teaching programs shifted to "ministering" with a lack of reporting and business-like attitude. Also, missionaries can call home weekly rather than twice a year. The endowment has undergone major changes to become more friendly to women, and the Church youth programs have been structured. Plus there has been a profound emphasis on interfaith outreach and cooperation from the top LDS General Authorities. 



But even with all of these changes, church activity is declining with the younger generation. What is the missing piece to this puzzle? I stumbled upon a blog article recently called Jesus Doesn't Want Us to Teach the "Ideal" and I felt it encompassed many of the problems that fringe members deal with each week that cause them to eventually leave the Church. The author of this blog says that:


So many times, when I or others have expressed that a particular way that a message at church has been framed or presented is hurtful or irrelevant to a swath of the congregation, the response is something along the lines of “well, we have to teach the ideal.” So basically, it comes across as a giant “You’re not good enough. Church isn’t for you."



How many members feel like they don't fit the mold and that they don't feel comfortable coming to Church? 


Jesus didn’t tell everyone to gather around while he preached a sermon about how the Pharisees, the religious elite, were so great and pleasing to God and how everyone should just go be like the Pharisees. He did the exact opposite. He called out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees – they were obsessed with conformity and details but missed the point of the gospel.


Jesus instead spent His time being friends with those on the margins – the women, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the children, the mentally ill. He left the ninety and nine in search of the one. He preached love and redemption to them and welcomed them into His kingdom. He said that they would have an honored place in his kingdom – that though they were the last on earth, they would be the first in heaven. He gave them all the same invitation: “Come, follow me.” And they did.


We are not members of the church of the 1950s-style middle-class American nuclear family.  We are members of the church of Jesus Christ. We should behave and teach accordingly.



So how can we be better and accept those who feel like they are not accepted in the Church? The author of the blog gives three examples on how we can be better:


#1 - Center All Lessons and Talks on the Principles taught by Jesus Christ.
Jesus is relevant to everyone. And resist the impulse to turn a talk or lesson about “faith” into “how do we help our children develop faith?” or one on “prayer” into “how do we pray for our husbands?”. By covering faith or prayer, those who need to teach it to or pray for others can certainly apply those principles to their lives, but people in other life circumstances can apply it to theirs as well.
#2 - Stop the JUDGING! By asserting that certain marital statuses, careers, numbers of children, places one has served a mission, etc. are ideal or superior to others, we are implicitly judging those who are different as less-than. Only God knows the hearts of the people, and only God knows whether that person is following the path divinely laid out. And even if it turns out that unrighteousness is the reason for someone’s circumstances, the way to help is to love and serve, not to judge and condemn. We should love people back to God, not shame them back to God. God wants a broken heart and a contrite spirit as gifts, but he doesn’t want us to be the ones doing the breaking for others.
#3 - Embrace diversity of experiences and circumstances in our wards and stakes. We’re not all cookie-cutter, and everyone has something to bring to the table. Take some time to have a real, honest conversation with someone who is different from you. If you married young, talk to a single sister in her 40s. You’ll find out that being single at 40 is nothing like being single at 20, and you’ll learn something. If you’re from Utah, talk to someone from another part of the country. And if you’re not from Utah, talk with someone who is, and discover that not all Mormons from Utah are “Utah Mormons”.


What are your thoughts on this? How do YOU think we can do better?


To read the full blog post called: Jesus Doesn't Want Us to Teach the "Ideal" then CLICK HERE


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** The opinions and views expressed herein belong solely to Tyler Carpenter and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of Cedar Fort, Inc.