American Millennials--the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s--have been leaving organized religion in unprecedented numbers. For a long time, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was an exception: nearly three-quarters of people who grew up Mormon stayed that way into adulthood. In The Next Mormons, Jana Riess demonstrates that things are starting to change.
Drawing on a large-scale national study of four generations of current and former Mormons as well as dozens of in-depth personal interviews, Riess explores the religious beliefs and behaviors of young adult Mormons, finding that while their levels of belief remain strong, their institutional loyalties are less certain than their parents' and grandparents'. For a growing number of Millennials, the tensions between the Church's conservative ideals and their generation's commitment to individualism and pluralism prove too high, causing them to leave the faith-often experiencing deep personal anguish in the process. Those who remain within the fold are attempting to carefully balance the Church's strong emphasis on the traditional family with their generation's more inclusive definition that celebrates same-sex couples and women's equality. Mormon families are changing too. More Mormons are remaining single, parents are having fewer children, and more women are working outside the home than a generation ago.
The Next Mormons offers a portrait of a generation navigating between traditional religion and a rapidly changing culture.
Riess (The Prayer Wheel), a columnist for Religion News Service, captures the attitudes and beliefs of American Mormon (and former Mormon) millennials in this substantial work. Riess bases the book on a 2016 survey she conducted with nearly 2,000 participants and expands on the survey data with in-depth personal interviews. What she uncovers are generational differences in the practice of Mormonism most notably that millennials appear to be more heterodox in their adherence to religious expectations, such as dietary codes and church attendance, than older generations of Mormons. Riess also examines the factors that lead to increased retention and engagement from millennials, such as family ties, a college education, and seminary attendance, and the reasons millennials cite for leaving the religion, such as feeling judged or misunderstood. Finally, the research reveals that millennials are more likely than older generations to be bothered by the traditional roles of women in the church, the treatment of LGBTQ members, and the evidence of historical or contemporary racism. Though based on rigorous research, the book remains accessible to the lay reader due to interviews and informal introductions. Riess goes light on theory, but she is responsibly cautious in her conclusions and analysis, providing unique insight into the modern evolution of Mormonism.