Patterns of Conversion to and from Mormonism

In late July, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life published “A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S.”, based on an extensive survey of American religious life taken in 2007.

One finding of the survey caught my attention. I have not seen any data documenting rates of deconversion from Mormonism since 1983 (Albrecht, Stan L. and Howard M. Bahr. 1983. Patterns of Religious Disaffiliation: A Study of Lifelong Mormons, Mormon Converts, and Former Mormons. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 22 (4) 366-379.).

So I was quite keen to see what is happening now, 25 years later. It seems that about the same number of people are leaving Mormonism as are affiliating with it.

According to the Pew report, about a quarter of current Mormons (26%) are converts to the LDS faith. Of those, about half were raised Protestant, a quarter were raised Catholic, and one-in-five were raised without any religious affiliation. In other words, 20% of all Mormons are converts from either Protestant (13%) or Catholic (7%) churches.

On the other side of the equation, Mormonism has a 70% retention rate, meaning that three out of ten people raised Mormon no longer identify themselves as Mormon. What happens to the 30% of Mormons who leave their faith? Half of them convert to a new religion, while the other half become unaffiliated with any faith group of any kind. In other words, 15% of those raised as Mormons have since become part of some other religious group.

To learn more about the Pew Center’s report on Mormon life, see The Pew Forum.

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