I’ll put up my next post on Mormon ways of knowing shortly. In the meantime I just wanted to touch upon some things I’ve written at my blog on LDS retention. I’ll not go over my main analysis again. (You can read it at my blog: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4) What I wanted to go into is just how hard it is to figure out how well the Church actually is doing in terms of retention. I will only deal with the Church population in the US. If knowing what is going on here is hard, knowing what is going on in the international Church is probably a lost cause.
First it seems like most of what I’ve read comes from just a few studies. The best and most informative is the ARIS self-identification study which has statistics for 1990, 2001 and 2008. They have a separate report with the information on Mormons broken out and analyzed. (They also have a report on the rise of the Nones – which is probably as important since half of those leaving Mormonism appear to join the Nones) What’s best about the ARIS study isn’t just the three periods allowing us to identify changes but the relative size of the samples. The 1990 survey interviews 1742 self-identified Mormons our of 113,723 people total. The 2008 survey had 783 Mormons out of 54,461 people. That isn’t quite as good (more than half as few) but still enough to give some reliability to the study – especially considering the overall survey size.