Jana Reiss: The Next Mormons

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.

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The Challenge of Honesty

The Challenge of Honesty: Essays for Latter-day Saints, by Frances Lee Menlove, edited by Dan Wotherspoon

In the inaugural issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought in 1966, Frances Menlove bravely wrote: “The very nature of the Church demands honesty, which is inherent in its mission to seek truth. What are the motives behind dishonesty? Perhaps it is the desire in everyone to protect that which they love. If one admits to past disasters, misdirection, failings, then it is possible to wonder if the Church is not in some way faltering now. But if we believe that truth and knowledge have limitations, we must welcome diverse opinions, even criticisms. Only by honestly receiving and scrutinizing all positions can we come close to an understanding of the truth.” 

These words remain as fresh and bracing today as they were nearly fifty years ago. The sixteen other essays and devotionals in this collection, some published here for the first time, are equally bold, exposing injustice masked as God’s will. They contain an underlying theme of personal integrity and striving for spiritual transformation. They stand perceived wisdom on its head in the same way that scripture so often does. Readers will want to share these essays with family and friends but will also find the concepts again and again occupying their own private thoughts.

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