Phillips: Only a foolish social scientist predicts the future. The most firm prediction we can make is that as the religious demography of Utah comes to resemble the religious demography of a typical state, the church activity of Utah Mormons will come to resemble the church activity of Mormons in a typical state. The good news is that those who stay are staying largely because they are personally committed to the cause. With respect to the sex ratio imbalance, there is preliminary evidence that women’s patterns of religious apostasy are beginning to resemble those of men.Latter-day Saints in the “mission field” are fond of saying that where Mormons are a small minority, one must stand on one’s own testimony. If this is true generally, it will probably be true within Mormonism.
We suggest that the mandate to serve a mission forces the hand of young men in Utah, and essentially “outs” those who don’t want to go as less committed to the church.
Being thusly “outed” then lowers the costs of, and provides a pathway for, eventual disaffection.
So I tracked down sociologist Rick Phillips, who with Ryan Cragun has authored the forthcoming study on the sex ratio disparity among Utah Mormons.
Both scholars are past presidents of the Mormon Social Science Association.– JKR RNS: You note that Mormonism has the worst sex imbalance ratio of any church except the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The “shortage of Mormon men” we’ve heard so much about lately is far worse in Utah than it is in the rest of the nation.
RNS: Your research suggests that the increasingly imbalanced sex ratio among Utah Mormons is like the canary in the proverbial coal mine: this is a sign of something bigger, that Utah Mormons are actually becoming less religious.You attribute the gender gap to a growing trend of apostasy among Mormon men. Phillips: There has been a general secularizing trend in the United States for the past 25 years.People are abandoning organized religion in large numbers, and those with no denominational affiliation now constitute about 20% of the population.The stigma of failing to serve a mission in some Utah towns was severe, and had serious social consequences.This is well documented in the sociological literature. Non-LDS friends and others who have chosen not to serve missions are more abundant, and provide refuge from disapproval.Associates at work, school, and in the community are also likely to be co-religionists in this setting.