Senior columnist for the Religion News Service Jana Riess said data suggests that millennial Mormons are not leaving the church in droves but feel the generational strain of shifting religiosity and politics.
Common non-Mormon millennial opinions and demographics vary widely when compared to millennial Mormons, according to data Riess presented from the Pew Research Center.
According to Riess, Mormon millennials are more likely to vote Republican than their fore-bearers, more actively engaged in their faith and hold much higher marriage rates than their contemporaries.
They also have better attitudes toward organized religions, tie with black Evangelicals for considering religion as a factor in life decision-making and increasing religiosity as they age, all of which differs from millennials generally.
Millennials generally, according to Riess, are less skeptical of institutions, very optimistic for the future, raised in cultural diversity, are familiar with women in the workplace and are the most religiously disaffiliated and least religiously active generation in U.S. history.
Millennials are also the most likely to obtain post-secondary education and least likely to marry young of any other generation in the U.S. They are also overwhelmingly likely to vote Democrat.
In apparent reflection of the generation, millennial Mormons also appear to value racial diversity, are increasingly tolerant of homosexuality and are marrying later than previous generation, but not as late as millennials generally.
Mormons generally are marrying less than in years past, with a marriage rate that fell from 71 percent in 2007 to 66 percent in 2014. Mormons still have more children than any other American religious group.
When it comes to retention, Mormons are better than average.
Sixty-four percent of Mormons who said they were raised in the faith are still affiliated. Some 36 percent of self-identifying Mormons polled who said they were raised in the faith no longer affiliate, and 21 percent of those do not identify with any religious sect.
Riess suggests, in part, that such retention is facilitated by a clear path of development for LDS faithful, culminating in singles wards. She sees them as good for membership retention by giving young Mormons a place to bridge the gap of childhood and adulthood as a member of the church. However, the most important factor of retention is parental example or transmission, according to Riess.
Riess suggested continual retention of young adults would need to include increased prominence of young adults in leadership positions, or leaderships positions that aren’t just in the singles ward.
Further, the lack of diversity in the church leadership and the upwardly trending age of leaders is often bothersome for millennials. Non-traditional families, which Mormon millennials are more accepting of, often feel alienated by the faith’s emphasis on traditional family units.