We lose many young people from inactivity
I’m probably still banned over there, but Keepapitchinin had a really neat article on a section from the 1961 teacher training manual in the church. It was about the number of young people who were inactive in the church, and of the role of teachers in reaching out to them (that wasn’t being met). In the past, to estimate inactivity, I have mentioned using analytical procedures like comparing looking at Aaronic Priesthood holders over 21 (who therefore never received the Melchizedek)…but what was interesting was realizing that those metrics have been used for quite a while…with shocking results.
To an extent, I agree with Ardis:
The reasons why young people leave church — or The Church — may evolve to some degree. But even without current statistics to precisely measure the leave-takers, even without polls and surveys to find out why young people leave (or why, at least, they say they leave), it seems too easy, too trendy, to place undue responsibility on the internet, or on LGBT issues and other assumed 21st-century tensions. No doubt those are factors in individual cases. But the people who leave because they found “all the history they were never taught” are represented by those who left when they found philosophy or science at college in the 1950s; those who leave because they differ with the Church on Prop 8 are represented by those who left over Civil Rights issues in the ’60s or ERA in the ’70s. And there are always those who, like those spoken of in the 1961 manual, were not visited, were not helped by their brothers in the Church earlier in their lives, and simply drifted into inactivity.
I don’t know whether or not the comparisons (e.g., Prop 8 leavers now align with one with Civil Rights or ERA leavers) listed are one-to-one, BUT one thing I will say is I think many ex-mormons overestimate the role of the internet, of discovering history, etc.,
I mean, I just don’t think most teenagers are looking at that stuff. I think the blogging exmo population is very different demographically than probably the majority of people who become inactive (or are considered to have left the church).
That doesn’t mean I think that “laziness” and “desire to sin” necessarily provide the full story either. Rather, I’ve grown fonder of explanations like the fact that the church isn’t as compelling to teenagers. Maybe these teens are not lazy, but bored?
Obviously, faithful members who blog are probably just as non-representative as ex-members who blog, but the thing that I’ve really noticed is that these people are able to find something compelling from the church through other things than the 3-hour block. Seth R recently wrote his brief history (testimony???) at MSP, and what he wrote was interesting:
I absolutely love Mormon theology. I find people like Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to be absolutely fascinating and powerfully compelling men. A lot of the heroes people pick are honestly so freaking boring. Bland, milquetoast wallflowers who don’t have enough charisma to even suggest anything meaningful. I used to kind of subconsciously feel this way about LDS heroes.
Until I actually studied their lives. Wow… I just find it absolutely delicious that God would manifest himself through men so controversial. This is not the “safe” religion I learned in seminary. This is powerful, potent, mind-bending stuff. I think it has the potential to change the way humanity thinks from here on out through the ages. And I get to be in on it – on the ground level. It’s an absolute privilege for me to be a part of this religion, and I can’t wait to see how it shapes up.
Rather than the common refrain, “If they only knew x, they would leave…” for him, the controversy made the church appear in a completely different (far more intriguing) light. Boring, bland, and milquetoast are bad for Seth, as I imagine they are for many of the people who drift into inactivity. The only problem is…there is no doubt that not everyone will react as Seth does.
So the question is: how does the church present itself as offering powerful, potent, mind-bending stuff without chasing people away?