Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mormon retention

Mormonism is an interesting faith. On the one hand, you would expect the church to have a difficult time holding onto its members since its claims are so bold. On the other hand, few members should leave  because the church does such a great job of developing commitment. Religion becomes the center of a Mormon's world; they can't imagine life without it.

Recently, I joined Facebook and within days had about a zillion friends. Many were Mormons who were childhood friends. I counted a total of 28 and proceeded to see how many had switched religions. Thirteen out of thirteen women have stuck with the faith--not one dropout in the bunch. The men are more independent: while 12 are the same, two described themselves as unaffiliated, and one has converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. (I'm not surprised that the first two say they're liberals, while the third one is conservative).

So 89% still call themselves Mormon. Now, I didn't know the beliefs of many of my schoolmates, and perhaps I was more likely to learn the religion of a devout person. If this is true, perhaps a higher percentage of mediocre Mormons have switched. Still, I'm impressed at the high level of retention.

Paleocons, HBD-ers, or whoever can learn something from Mormons. If you want to be successful with an unpopular image and message, be organized as hell--or should I say heaven?


Razib said...

some sort of selection bias. mormons have decent "churn":

Jim Bowery said...

I sure am glad the IRS threatened them with loss of tax exemption if they didn't admit blacks to the priesthood.

What would the world be like today if the good IRS hadn't saved us from the horror of white supremacist Mormonism?

KingM said...

I was raised Mormon and grew up in Utah as a member of a prominent family. My great-grandfather has a building named after him at BYU and his brother was governor in the 1950s. My uncle is CEO of the business started by my great-grandfather and it has about 500 million in annual sales. I have 23 cousins on one side of the family, and 17 on the other, plus myself and three siblings. That makes 44 of us.

We are lawyers, business owners, scientists, and the like. There are half a dozen too young to say for sure, but I can only think of three or four who are not accomplished either in their own right or through good marriage in the case of some female cousins.

I have one cousin on my mother's side who has left the church because his gay and one cousin from my father's side who has left the church. I'm the third.

That's a 93% retention rate. Why so many bright, educated people continue to believe (or profess to believe) what is an obvious fraud, I'm not sure. It's clear, however, that smart people can believe very dumb things.

Jim Bowery said...

Yeah the only thing worse than believing genes don't matter, is believing ridiculous myths that result in smart talented morally upright people having lots of children in healthy families.

The Mormons are our misfortune.

The Mormons are our misfortune.

The Mormons are our misfortune.

KingM said...

Jim, are you a Mormon? Because the entry requirements are really low. You could call the local missionaries and probably get baptized this weekend if you sounded sincere enough. By next pay check you could be paying 10% of your gross to the church.

After that, it's really easy. Just give up coffee and alcohol, spend 10-15 hours per week in church related meetings. Bear your testimony in front of the congregation every once in awhile. Fast one day a month. Make some quasi-masonic oaths in the temple after you've been a member for a year. That sort of thing.

Somehow, I doubt you'll do that.

KingM said...

One other thing. In the late 19th Century, the LDS church was comprised about 50% of northern European converts, primarily from Scotland, England, Denmark, and Sweden, and about 50% of New England families who had made the trek.

Modern converts are usually Latin American or are poor, single mothers, horny young guys in love with a Mormon girl, or people trying to claw their way back from addiction.

These people and their descendants will make up an increasing percentage of future Mormons.

silly girl said...


I think Jim is being a bit of a stinker, but he makes a salient point. People have to be indoctrinated into believing that having a large family is a good thing or they won't choose it. People of similar genetic stock to the early Mormons who stayed in the northeast have seen their birthrates fall to levels that are not only dangerous to their own group but to a generally civilized nation and world.

KingM said...

I think people will choose it. You can't stop evolution. We've decoupled sex from procreation. Give it a couple of generations and only people who really like children will still be around.

But yes, in the short run it stinks. I have four kids and am purely secular, but I also think about this sort of stuff more than the average person, plus I have a religious background of a people hoping to spread the faith through power of the womb. Most of my secular friends have either zero or one child. Neither of the two aforementioned apostate cousins has reproduced, while they have numerous nieces and nephews produced by devout siblings.

silly girl said...


I think your point is the bottom line. Eventually, generally only people who like kids will have them. Which really is how it should be. I think we are just in a transition phase. It shouldn't surprise us that the most able people generally were the ones who used birth control most effectively. It will likely always be a bit of a challenge to get less able people to use it effectively. When I say effectively, I mean use it to get the number of kids you actually want, whatever number may be. Less intelligent folk generally seem less able to both decide what they want and then actually make it happen even when given the tools.

Jim Bowery said...

KingM, you read what I wrote
over at Parapundit.com and came over here just to annoy me.

Admit it.

Jewish Atheist said...

I don't think there's a negative correlation between bold, ridiculous claims and retention. And I should know, since I grew up in a group with strong retention and bold, ridiculous claims. :-)

The secret to retention is physical segregation where possible, followed by very strong social segregation. Throw in negative consequences for leaving (losing your family, friends, and entire community) and you're nearly home free.

Groups that merely share beliefs rather than communities (e.g. Paelocons, HBDers) can't possibly have the same retention without becoming communities. If you want to match the retention of Mormons, you'll have to start forbidding your kids from associating with (let along marrying!) non-paleos, start sending them to paleo-only schools where they are indoctrinated daily into paleoconservativism, etc. You need to open paleo colleges, etc. And obviously it would help if you could convince your children that they must marry early and never use birth control.

KingM said...


I agree, but I'll go one better. I think the Mormons are beginning to stall because they're not weird enough. They've come to the point where they want to be liked, want to be known as the church of Donny Osmond, Steve Young, David Archuleta, and Mitt Romney. Clean, wholesome young guys.

It was back in the 19th Century, when Mormons tried to set up their own theocracy, practiced polygamy, and openly taught that the leaders regularly saw angels that people joined the church by the thousands, sold everything they had, and followed their leaders into the wilderness.

As proof, just ask a Mormon if they think they'll become gods after they die. Watch them squirm and equivocate. They're embarassed by their religion because they want to be liked. This will eventually turn them into a quirky sect of Methodists, with all of the retention problems suffered by other liberal congregations.

silly girl said...


In your experience do LDS try to get those who leave the church to come back like some groups do, or do they just accept that hey, you just aren't into to it and drop it?

One of my professors said his mother even on her death bed tried to get him back into the church. Not sure what church it was.

KingM said...

Oh, they definitely try to get you back. On the plus side, no shunning like the Jehovah's Witnesses do.

Molly said...

A lot of Mormons mentally fall out of the church but can't leave because the fallout is too great on family and social connections. They stay Mormon in name but don't believe. If you get the chance, see how many of your friends fall into this category.