Understanding Mormon Disbelief Survey – March 2012 Results and Analysis

This survey represents the first in a series of surveys that will explore the beliefs and practices of current and former Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). We recognize that there are many different decisions and experiences in the lives of Mormons. Our initial area of exploration will be related to reasons that Mormons question their belief in the Church or experience a “crisis of faith.” We are hoping that church members will feel comfortable sharing the results of this survey with family, friends, and church leaders to help build great awareness and understanding of these issues that affect so many LDS church members.

Many believing Mormons never experience a faith crisis, and many Mormons who do experience a crisis of faith do not ultimately lose their faith in that process. Some Mormons who leave the Church, especially some converts, end up leaving because they were never fully integrated either socially or spiritually to begin with. In future surveys we hope to explore some of those contrasts in more detail. However, with this first survey, “Understanding Mormon Disbelief,” the goal is to bring greater understanding to issues with Mormons who lose belief in the Church after at one time having held a firm belief. This process of losing belief or experiencing a faith crisis is what Mormons may refer to as having “lost their testimony.” While the phenomenon of losing faith is common across all religions, there are certain truth claims and cultural factors which are specific to Mormonism. This survey was intended to shed light on some of those unique contributors, as well as to provide further insight on the openness and perceived costs associated with disbelief within the Mormon community.

Although it is unclear exactly how many Mormons lose faith each year, our observation is that the number appears to be growing in developed countries (e.g. the United States, Europe). There are several factors which may be leading to this, but the widespread availability of information on the internet seems to be one of the key contributors to the acceleration. Whether or not the total number of disbelievers has reached a significant level, we believe that the “worth of souls is great,” and that each individual matters. We believe that there are individuals in faith crises who are suffering unnecessarily because of a lack of understanding and empathy. We have seen the pain and struggle in the lives of many of our friends – not just those who have been through a crisis of faith, but to their loved ones and the overall Church community. We hope this survey gives an unbiased voice to some of their concerns and feelings.

We also believe that many faithful, believing members of the Church may wish to better understand their fellow brothers and sisters who have struggled with or who are currently struggling with a faith crisis. For those who wish to “mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort,” we believe that honestly understanding the real issues is an important early step. Our goal is to create an open awareness of what those real issues are, and to continue the dialogue around what can be done to build compassion and understanding.

During the process of this survey, we have learned a great deal about the shortcomings of our own survey methodology, and we plan to address many of those shortcomings in future surveys. Indeed, if we have learned one thing, it is that we still have much to learn. Nevertheless, we also feel that many of the insights from this survey will provide preliminary empirical evidence that can further the understanding of those struggling with faith in the Church. Some findings will confirm the obvious, while others may come as a bit surprising.

Full Understanding Mormon Disbelief Survey Analysis – March 2012

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