Q: I was wondering if you could point me to the right place to find out research done or being done on LDS singles who are over the age of 30.

Q: I was wondering if you could point me to the right place to find out research done or being done on LDS singles who are over the age of 30. I would like to specifically find out the following information:

  • How many LDS singles over 30 remain active
  • At what age most singles tend to become inactive
  • How many males remain active versus women over the age 30 (single versus married)

I would like to find out more information but these three questions are most pressing. I attempted to contact the church office building but they said the statistics where confidential so I am looking for studies in the public domain. They did tell me that “pretty much if your over 30, single and male your inactive.” One bishop at a singles conference I went to said that between the age of 30 and 34, 50% of singles become inactive, but I am not sure if I am allowed to quote him on that. I am still trying to contact him. If you have any ideas or can be of assistance please let me know.

A: You are right that the data the LDS Research Division has on singles over 30 is confidential.  However, I (Ryan T. Cragun) have it on good authority (I cannot reveal my sources) that it is not accurate to say, “pretty much if you are over 30, single, and male, you are inactive.”  My confidential source said that it would be more accurate to say it like this, “If you are over 30, single, and male you are less likely to be active than females in the same demographic.”

Rick Phillips, the current President of the MSSA, did a little searching of numbers in a large, publicly available data set (the General Social Survey or GSS), and found some information relevant to your question.

From the General Social Survey, it is clear that married LDS over 30 attend church much more frequently than those who are not married (i.e. divorced, never married, widow[er]). This is demonstrated in the first table. The unmarried are three times as likely to say they never attend church as the married. These results are not surprising and conform to a wealth of findings about activity in other Christian faiths.

Married Not Married
Never6.3%17.4%
Less than 1/month18.9%22.7%
At least 1/month but lt 1/week15.1%22.7%
1/week or more59.7%37.1%

When broken down by gender, the positive effects of marriage remain, but married or not, women attend more than men.

Married Not Married
MalesNever7.8%28.2%
Less than 1/month23.5%12.8%
At least 1/month but lt 1/week15.0%28.2%
1/week or more53.6%30.8%
FemalesNever4.8%12.9%
Less than 1/month14.5%26.9%
At least 1/month but lt 1/week15.2%20.7%
1/week or more65.5%39.8%

I also broke the data down by age category to try and answer the question of when single LDS fall away. These conclusions should be taken with a grain of salt because some cells had very few cases, but it appears that single 30-39 year old Saints are a little more likely to be weekly attenders than 40-49 or 50-59 year olds. They are also less likely to say they never attend.

Church attendance (frequency)

Age

Never

Less than 1/monthAt least 1/month but lt 1/week 1/week or more
30 – 3910.526.321.142.1
40 – 4922.74.540.931.8
50 – 5919.023.828.628.6
60+19.627.513.739.5

A couple more members of the MSSA offered some suggestions.  Armand Mauss said,

As far as I know, I would think that Tim Heaton and some of his colleagues at BYU would be able to provide a lot of the necessary information on this topic, either from their own research, or from references to the professional literature, or both.  As for quoting something reported by a bishop in a singles conference, I would assume that it’s public information, and I see no reason that the figure can’t be quoted (though not necessarily naming the bishop who reported it). The 50% figure, furthermore, accords well with everything I have ever seen on the subject, and certainly it fits with the situation in my own ward and stake.

David Knowlton also suggested that you contact a researcher working on this topic who is currently at UVSC,

Jason Singh has been researching the issue of LDS disaffiliation for his M Phil thesis in sociology at Oxford and probably has some data on this.  He is currently teaching here at UVSC and is contactable through the behavioral science department.

Q: Mormon socio-political values and prior religious affiliations of Mormon converts

Q1: Duke, using survey data from the 1970s through the early 1980s, published some interesting comparisons between Mormon socio-political values and those of Americans in general (in which Mormons of that era held some surprisingly liberal attitudes about civil rights/liberties issues).  Albrecht (and Bahr, iirc) published some interesting information about patterns of religious disengagement and reengagement in the early 1980s as well. Are there more recent empirical studies that update these and show either continuity or change from the earlier findings?
Several MSSA members (Cardell Jacobson, Rick Phillips, and Armand Mauss) suggested the following book as a response to Q1:
Heaton, Tim B., Stephen J. Bahr and Cardell Jacobsen. 2004. A Statistical Profile of the Mormons: Health, Wealth and Social Life. Edwin Mellen Press.

Here is Cardell Jacobson’s comment on that book,

Tim Heaton, Stephen Bahr, and I published a book in 2004 (Mellen Press) that updates political and social attitudes of Mormons compared to the nation as a whole.  It also has some data on religiosity and trends, but nothing on those who join the LDS Church.  It is an expensive book.  Those interested might check for a library copy somewhere.

Armand Mauss also suggested the following,

Minimal data on such attitudes among Mormons during recent decades will be found also in the second half of Chapter 9 in my own The Angel and the Beehive (Illinois U. Press, 1994), where I have also excerpted tables taken from American Mainline Religion, by Wade Clark Roof and William McKinney (Rutgers U. Press, 1987), which itself could be consulted. Chapter 6 in that book compares Mormons with numerous other denominations as of the 1980s. My other book, All Abraham’s Children (Illinois U. Press, 2003) has some recent data on Mormons’ attitudes toward blacks in the last part of Chapter 9. That’s about all that comes to mind without doing any bibliographical searching of my own, which I trust the questioner can also do.

Q2: Is there any available research on the prior religious background of LDS converts? That is, which, if any, denomination(s) are LDS missionary efforts most successful in recruiting?

David Knowlton suggested the following regarding Q2,

While I have not been researching prior religious background of converts to Mormonism in Latin America, I have been researching the social segments Mormon converts come from and presented material on that at last years SSSR.  If the person is interested I would be glad to forward that manuscript.  It has been accepted for publication once I make a few changes.  Where I have worked the vast majority of the converts are from one form or another of Catholicism.  But since Catholicism occupies so much space in Latin America there is a need to look more closely at  “one form or another” and systematize it.  I have been using census data and so am looking more at socio-economics than the religious background per se.  That question remains to be answered.

Rick Phillips suggested the following regarding Q2,

The GSS has a variable called “relig16” which asks for Respondents’ religion at age 16. You could look at the religion of converts by pulling Latter-day Saints out of the GSS and doing frequencies for relig16. Stark and company have argued that movements like Mormonism have been most successful among the “unchurched”–people who may have been raised within a specific faith tradition, but who weren’t very strong in that tradition. Obviously, in Latin America, those people would have been nominally Catholic. Thus, worldwide it seems a safe bet that Catholicism is the modal religion from which converts come.  Also, for a recent and important article on religious switching using a nationally representative US sample with Mormons in the mix, see:  Darren E. Sherkat, “Tracking the Restructuring of American Religion: Religious Affiliation and Patterns of Religious Mobility, 1973-1998,” Social Forces 79, no. 4 (2001): 1459-1493.

And Armand Mauss suggested the following,

For Q.2, nothing special comes to mind. I have seen commentary, and maybe data, on denominational backgrounds of LDS converts, but not much, and I couldn’t run it down very easily. Maybe my big bibliography (with Reynolds), available through the MSSA website, would have some articles on this topic.The JSSR has carried some good articles on religious “switching” to and from various denominations (by Kirk Hadaway and others), in which I think Mormons were occasionally included. Probably the LDS Research Information Division would be the best source of such data on the religious backgrounds of LDS converts, if you could get someone in that agency to share it.  That’s my best shot without doing any special scouring of the various sources.