Mormonism's Future: Influential Beyond the Numbers

This is occurring at the same time that Mormonism is experiencing similar dynamics of generational change that are affecting all the other religions in America. Whereas an older generation of Mormons was characteristically doctrinaire and inward-oriented, the younger generation is more activist and socially engaged. Solid data is hard to find, but many younger Mormons are experiencing discontent and anomie with a church that offers a strong internal culture but relatively little structural connection to local non-Mormon communities, and in which the messages they hear at church, especially about marriage and sexuality, are nearly the polar opposite from what has become normative in the general culture. Furthermore, Mormonism will have limited appeal to major segments of the U.S. population so long as its image continues to be that of a white, suburban, middle-class, conservative church.

These challenges notwithstanding, Mormonism will continue to thrive as one of America's most prominent and successful religious minority communities. Mormonism is an amazing self-replicating system, and will continue to make Mormons. The strength and commitment of the core membership of any LDS congregation would be the envy of virtually any other religious denomination.

The question and challenge facing Mormonism in 21st-century America is not whether it will thrive, but what it will uniquely offer beyond its particular doctrines and rituals of salvation. There are many possible paths ahead, but it is not inconceivable that the Mormons of 21st-century America might become like the Jews of 20th-century America — concentrated in numbers but disproportionately influential because of a core set of values that fosters an ethic of serving and transforming not just their internal religious community but also the nation and the world.

8/5/2015 4:00:00 AM
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