Utah is no longer majority Mormon, a new paper published this month in the Journal of Religion and Demography estimates.
Since its inception, most of Utah’s residents have been members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Now, less than half (42 percent) identify as members, according to an ABC4 report on the research findings.
“That’s markedly lower than previous media reports citing the church’s numbers, which put the percentage of Mormons in Utah at around 60 percent as recently as 2020,” according to the report.
Lead author on the study and University of Tampa sociology professor Ryan T. Cragun told the outlet researchers were “not trying to say that the LDS church is wrong,” but were rather “using very different approaches to gather this information.”
Researchers surveyed roughly 1,900 Utahns in the summer of 2022 and asked a variety of questions, including about religion. They used a method called “quota sampling,” which means researchers had quotas for different demographics to align with official Utah census data.
Researchers initially were more curious about Utahns views on science until they saw the results on religious self-identification, according to the report.
“This seemed like a newsworthy little finding for us, because we actually have data to show the state is not actually majority Mormon anymore,” Cragun said.
Researchers said in the paper that figures released by the LDS church are less reliable when it comes to figuring out who actively identifies as Mormon because the church counts members as anyone baptized into the church.
“Aside from a few who are excommunicated or formally ask to have their name removed, members remain on church rolls until they die, or until their 110th birthday if their whereabouts are unknown,” the paper states, according to the report.
Researchers also noted how more people, especially young people, are leaving the church. The church reportedly declined the outlet’s request for comment on the research findings.
“Almost a third of people who are raised LDS today leave the religion,” Cragun said. “That’s our current best estimate.”
The paper largely points to three reasons why the state is no longer majority Mormon. Chiefly, people from other states who are not Mormon, like California, have migrated to Utah over the past few decades, according to the report.
“The second major trend is secularization, as evidenced by the proliferation of coffee shops and breweries in Utah. In the late 1980s, LDS members would retain 95 percent of their children in the church, Cragun said. Today, that figure is now around 67 percent,” the outlet reported. “The third factor is fertility, as Utah no long boasts the highest birth rate in the nation. Fewer children growing up in the church — along with more of them leaving the faith — results in Utah becoming less Mormon over time.”
Cragun said he expects to see the percentage of Utahns who identify as Mormon continue to decline. He also expects the percentage of religiously unaffiliated Utahns to increase, according to the report.
“As the percentage of LDS declines, it becomes easier for people to leave,” Cragun said.
Cragun said that while he is confident in the research, other researchers need to do a true probability sample to verify their findings.
Michael Wood, assistant professor of sociology at Brigham Young University, who was not connected to the study, agreed, telling the outlet that “further research with a more robust sampling method is needed to confirm the findings.”
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