Q. I was wondering if any of you had any idea on a way that I might be able to locate which wards and stakes in the U.S. have organized an interfaith outreach component to their Public Affairs committee?

A. The membership of the MSSA have a number of suggestions for how to get this information.

Here is Lynn Payne’s response:

I know a couple of things about how the Church is organized for interfaith outreach.  Each ecclesiastical area of the Church in the US (total of 11) has a public affairs office.  Each of these area public affairs offices coordinates local public relations work.  Each area public affairs office reports directly to the Public Affairs Department at Church HQ.  Outside of Utah most stakes have a stake public affairs director.  These stake leaders meet together regularly to plan public affairs work in their areas. Each area public affairs office has different priorities.  However, I am aware that the North America West Area (Los Angeles in particular) has had some fairly extensive outreach with the local Muslim community.  Public Affairs in L.A. has had contact with an Islamic Center in L.A., and several prominent individuals. The Los Angeles Public Affairs office  should have some handle on, or through their contact should be able to find out what units have created interfaith outreach groups.

Here is Richard Stamps’s response:

I have had some personal interaction with individuals in the Muslim community but never on an official basis. In our Grand Blanc, Michigan Stake we have had no official outreach program. One might contact the Bloomfield Hills or Westland Stakes in Michigan because of the large Muslim population in the Detroit area.

Here is Armand Mauss’s response:

I can add to what Lynn Payne has said. He is right that the place to go with inquiries about Mormon-Muslim and other interfaith relationships is to Public Affairs, not to RID. I happen to be the LDS interfaith representative for my stake in Orange County, where there is quite a large Muslim community. Accordingly, there is a long history of Mormon-Muslim relationships here, though I have only recently learned about them, because I have only recently been put on my stake public affairs committee.  One can get into the network involved in Mormon-Muslim relationships by contacting any or all of the following three people: Keith Atkinson (email available upon request), who is the LDS public affairs officer for California; Tom Thorkelsen (email available upon request), who is the main LDS interfaith representative for Orange County (CA); and Steve Gilliland (email available upon request), who is the interfaith rep for LA County. They have all been dealing with Muslim relationships for some years, and they know who else in the LDS Church has been doing the same. If someone were to start with them, he/she could learn of other informants through the “snowball” technique. I think they will prove very cooperative, and so will the public affairs people in SLC, whom Keith Atkinson can help her contact.

Here’s Mike McBride’s response:

Public Affairs in Orange County, CA, has also had interactions with Muslims in Orange County via local interfaith organizations.  In fact, just last Sunday was an open mosque day where mosques were open to the public and LDS were among those invited to tour and learn more about Islam.  This event was advertised in ward bulletins.  I also believe local Muslim leaders were among those who toured the Newport Beach CA Temple during its open house in Summer 2005.  The tours were coordinated via local Public Affairs personnel and interfaith organizations.  I know the PA director over Orange County and can pass along his contact info.

Finally, here is Donald R. Snow’s response:

One place to start would be with the Public Affairs Dept in the Church Office Building. They probably know what’s happening related to the Muslims around the world. I know that when we were in New York City as Directors of the NY FHC in 1999, Karl and Donna Snow were there as the Public Affairs Missionaries and they had lots of contacts with government and NGO (Non-Government Organizations) from the U.N. and around NYC. Among other things they sponsored a large dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria for the Arabic Nations Coalition. They had Elder Neal Maxwell come and talk and they presented a copy to everyone of the first volume of the BYU published translation of the Arabic philosophy series that they are doing. From what I understand it was a major success. I’m sure Karl and Donna Snow still have some of those contacts. They are back in Provo now after a couple of Humanitarian Missions to some of the African countries. Also, I imagine Dan Peterson at BYU would probably have information on some Muslim groups since he teaches Arabic and is involved with that translation series.

Q: What is the percentage of first-generation members among LDS Church membership (active or otherwise)?

A: Unfortunately, this question is not easily answered as the LDS religion does not publish these numbers explicitly.  The answer can be estimated from the growth figures found in the LDS Church Almanac as well as some numbers in a few other sources.  To calculate this number you would actually need all of the following information:

  • annual number of converts (available)
  • what percentage of the converts are “adult” converts, meaning they are the first members of their family to have joined the religion (occasionally available)
  • what percentage of the converts are “child” converts, meaning they are the children of existing members (occasionally available)
  • what percentage of each of the above groups leaves the religion every year (not available)

Only one of the above numbers is readily available, the annual number of converts.  That number is published in the LDS Church’s Deseret Morning News Almanac on a yearly basis (usually with a 2 year lag in reporting the numbers, i.e., in 2007 they reported converts through 2005).  The percentage of adult and child converts has been reported in the past (and used to be included in the same Alamanac, but is no longer).  Most recently, the LDS religion reported these percentage on their website here.

Because we do not have all of the data we would need to actually calculate the exact percentage of Mormons who are first-generation and second-, third-, fourth-generation and so on (i.e., 2nd-generation+), the best we can do is estimate this.  Gary and Gordon Shepherd did some of these calculations in an article published in Dialogue (Shepherd, Gary. and Gordon. Shepherd. 1996. “Membership Growth, Church Activity, and Missionary Recruitment.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 29(1):33-57.), which gives us a few key points of data that allow us to improve our calculations.

We can use our “known” information to estimate the “unknown” information.  Our “known” information includes:

  • annual number of converts
  • ratio of adult converts to child converts for three points in time – 2006, 2001, and 1960 (1960 data come from Shepherd and Shepherd 1996)
    • 2006 adult/child convert ratio: 3:1
    • 2001 adult/child convert ratio: 4:1
    • 1960 adult/child convert ratio: 1:1

If you use growth data going back to 1930 (which is about the average lifespan of people in the US) and estimated ratios of adult/child converts (assuming linear changes in the ratio over that time span), you can estimate the total number of first-generation and 2nd-generation+ members of the religion (see attached Excel spreadsheet).  The numbers you arrive at indicate that somewhere around 65% of Mormons are first-generation; ~35% are 2nd-generation+.

Keep in mind that these are estimates, not actual numbers.  This is a BEST GUESS based on limited data.  Additionally, these estimates should be qualified with some of the things we do know about Mormon growth.  First, based on the sociological literature and the work of some members of the MSSA, it is pretty safe to say that the growth numbers are exaggerated (see recent papers by Rick Phillips and David Knowlton).  Additionally, we know that second generation members are more likely to stay members than are converts (Hadaway, C. Kirk and Penny Long Marler. 1993. “All In The Family: Religious Mobility in America.” Review of Religious Research 35:97-116.).  Finally, it is very likely that these numbers vary by region, with the most second+ generation members in Utah, followed by the U.S., then other regions.  With all of these qualifications taken into consideration, more accurate estimates are probably something like: 40% to 50% of Mormons are 2nd-generation+; 50% to 60% of Mormons are first generation converts.