Read the previous section in this report, Introduction and Overview
Personal Faith Crisis Report Sections:
Section Table of Contents
IMPETUS & RESEARCH TEAM
When working with large, multi-national corporations, it is not uncommon to have $1 million+ research budget for obtaining statistically significant data designed to inform and guide the organization’s brand strategy. Without such a research budget, our team recruited a group of Ivy League volunteers trained in statistics, sociocultural modeling, and anthropology. This initial “data collection” team was later supplemented by an unpaid group of faithful LDS scholars, educators, and professionals who helped refine the group’s strategic recommendations.
This Faith Crisis ethnographic survey consists of 3,086 responses.
All respondents believed at one time the LDS Church was “true” but most no longer believe this to be the case.
Survey respondents consisted of self-selected participants who were recruited via social media over the course of two weeks in October 2011. Total respondents = 3,388, 302 of whom were removed due to incomplete data. Given the lack of budget, the survey sample was not randomly selected. The study does not claim to be predictive in nature or of statistical significance. That said, the data collected are considered a robust ethnographic study of the Faith Crisis cohort and many points of this analysis are indicative of the experiences of many people in the Church who pass through a crisis of faith.
For a future study—to scientifically establish a correlation between Church history and disaffection—our team would like to locate a random sample of Saints and then monitor their reading habits and Church activity over a sustained period. But even without this more extensive research, we believe this ethnographic study provides an undeniable link between issues related to Church history and loss-of-belief.
- Younger members from the survey over index as struggling with Faith Crisis—with Gen X and Millennials comprising 84% of respondents.
- The sample skews slightly more male than female.
- Faith Crisis respondents tend to be more educated than average.
- Despite Faith Crisis skewing to the highly educated, members with lower- levels of education are also affected by Faith Crisis.
- Based on education levels, we can assume many of the members losing faith are members of means and experience.
- The income data suggest Faith Crisis is moving through all income strata (including those on the lower end of the income range).
- 43% earn more than $80,000 per year (significantly higher than average).
- Nearly 30% earn six figures or above (significantly higher than average).
- When factoring median income for these Faith Crisis respondents, the Church incurs an estimated tithing-revenue loss of $281 Million over ten years (at $2.5 million per chapel, that represents a theoretical loss of 112 chapels).
After losing faith, just under half of the disbelieving members continue to attend Church—with 20% continuing to attend weekly.
- 71% of those who lost faith did so within the last 8 years.
- Loss of faith correlates with mainstream Internet access, broadband, and social media, and mobile Internet adoption.
- Note: While anecdotal evidence suggests a recent dramatic rise in disaffection, this data is not necessarily evidence of that rising trend as other factors (i.e. lower desire over time to stay involved / respond to a survey) may contribute to self-selection bias.
REASONS & REPERCUSSIONS
Survey respondents were asked to identify the reasons that led to their loss of belief (respondents were able to select multiple “primary factors.”)
As indicated in the below chart, the top factors for loss of belief are highly correlated to each other and pertain specifically to the Church’s key historical truth claims:
- Joseph Smith
- Book of Mormon
Interestingly, factors traditionally cited as reasons for loss of faith (offense, desire to sin) rank least relevant among these Faith Crisis respondents.
DISCLOSURE TO OTHER PARTIES
- In general, the believing spouse of a member experiencing a Faith Crisis tends to be aware of his or her struggling spouse’s Faith Crisis. Church leaders and friends tend to be less aware.
- Young members are least likely to disclose their Faith Crisis to Church leaders: only 2 of 203 teen respondents (less than 1 percent) state their Church leaders know “most everything.”
- Members in their 50s and 60s are least likely to disclose to their spouse (5 percent less likely than all ages).
- For those who disclose their Faith Crisis doubts, many report feelings of “social excommunication” from LDS family and friends.
- Over fifty percent of active members in Faith Crisis report moderate to severe cost to relationships and their individual emotional health.
ACCUMULATION LEADS TO DISBELIEF
An accumulation of several historical and social issues—not just one single issue—often correlates to a loss of faith.
When bearing a nominal amount of “shelf issues,” many members continue with strong faith and active Church participation. Accumulating additional social and historical issues can lead to the weakening—and then catastrophic failure of the member’s faith.
FEELINGS OF BETRAYAL
For many, it’s not only the historical issues themselves, but the sense of betrayal that accompanies the discovery of new information that contradicts previous beliefs. The below quotes help illustrate the deep sense of disappointment and betrayal felt by many:
SURVEY KEY FINDINGS
- The significant majority of survey respondents represent long-term members who were (until recently) actively engaged and holding leadership and other callings.
- Members in faith crisis tend to be married, more educated than average, and earn higher-than-average incomes.
- A little less than half of these disbelievers remain active in the Church, while over half no longer attend.
- The majority of those who left did so in the past seven years.
- Among historical issues, the Book of Abraham and Polygamy/Polyandry are the most significant factors leading to loss of belief.
- Although some factors rate higher than others, respondents indicate the exposure to several factors (historical + social issues) collectively led to their disbelief.
- Spouses tend to be aware of the Faith Crisis issue. Church leaders and friends tend to be less aware.
- Members in Faith Crisis who attend Church regularly tend to suffer the most mental and spiritual anguish as a result of their discovering these issues.
- For many, Faith Crisis extracts an extremely high cost in spousal and familial relationships.
- A strong sense of betrayal often accompanies a member’s loss of faith.
Read the next section: faith crisis stages. The other sections of the Faith Crisis Report are broken into the following pages: